Another True Tale from the Mysterious East

Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

LONG SON PAGODA, NHA TRANG, VIET NAM: The Long Son Pagoda’s huge white Buddha is visible throughout Nha Trang and beyond.  The pagoda is dedicated to the Buddhist monks who gave their lives or were killed protesting the repression of the Diem government. Thich Quang Duc Perhaps the memory of Thich Quang Doc’s self-immolation in 1963 played a part in my seeking out this place.  More likely not.  There was simply something compelling about the gigantic, utterly peaceful presence of the 79 foot tall Buddha that led me to taxi away from resting at our hotel and to the base of Trai Thuy Hill, to look up in awe and then begin the climb (120 or 152 steep steps, depending on which guidebook you believed) to the statue.

Half way up there was to be a great reclining Buddha created by a Thai sculptor.  I never saw it on my way to the top.  The only diversion from my climbing: a covered platform off to one side housing a great bell, a stone bench under it, attended by a monk who motioned me toward the bench.   Was I really ready to willingly break my momentum?  Apparently so, for I found myself going down steps to reach the platform then climbing up steps to take a seat on the bench.

Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang








From the waist up I was within the bell surrounded by messages taped up by previous sitters: notes, poems, sections of sutras, wishes, thanks.  I began to feel myself to be part of a large, ancient and contemporary culture of gratitude.

Inside the Long Son bell, Nha Trang

My shoulders relaxed as did my belly and legs.  My breathing, stimulated by the climb and my fears that this was more than a 71 year old with my feet could handle slowed down into a warm and gentle rhythm.

The monk sounded the bell.  A deep, low, almost soundless vibration surrounded me like a loving embrace.  He began to chant softly.  Twice more he sounded the gong as the chant continued.  All the lunacies of the climb and of aging and of all the rest of the neurotic package I’d brought with me from home vanished.  Writing now, two months later, the ease of that moment remains with me.

The rest of the walk up felt both brief and easy.  The hilltop was filled on two sides by snack and souvenir vendors, some worshipers, some tourists and some folks just hanging out.  Both the “legitimate beggars” and the “scam artists” the guide books had warned against were absent or on a break.  Built into and around the hilltop were containers for the cremated remains of generations of monks and believers.


Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

The statue itself rested atop a pedestal large enough to contain a shrine room where another monk assisted those wishing to light incense.  I removed my shoes, entered in silence  and bowed at the altar.  The vibration of the bell below was still inside me.

Inside the Buddha base, Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

Walking joyfully back down the steps I came upon–no surprise, right?–the enormous reclining Buddha.  Clearly the universe had known I wasn’t ready for it on the way up.  There were several folks admiring and interacting with it including honeymooners who were being photographed touching Buddha’s elbow for luck.

Couple touches the Buddha for luck, Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

I made a note to do that once the elbow was cleared and began photographing the enormous statue from various angles.  I moved in close for a tight shot of the Buddha’s face.  That was when it happened.  The right eye winked at me!  There’s no other way to say it, just as there is no way to explain it.  As I looked at the crystal clear image on the camera’s viewing screen, the right eye of the great stone reclining Buddha statue winked at me!  It did!  I looked directly at the statue.  No second wink.  Back at the screen.  No wink.  I switched to “memory,” but, of course, I’d not taken a picture.

Winking Buddha, Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

I virtually skipped down the remaining steps, My smile growing with each stride.  At the base of the hill, just outside the pagoda, I got into a singing, giggling goof with three Vietnamese souvenir-sellers, then rode back to the hotel on the back of a motorbike through what seemed to me to be remarkably calm and well directed Nha Trang rush hour traffic. There’s a picture of me with the cyclorickshaw driver, but that’s not what this is about.


























































Published in: on March 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm  Comments (4)  
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Secrets of the Seder from Rabbi Jacobson to You!

Here’s the link:

Here’s who it’ll link  you to:

Rabbi Simon Jacobson knocks me out!  A Lubavitcher  who could just as easily be a Zen Roshi or a Sufi master or a Christian mystic, here he presents an understanding of the Passover Seder, the holiday ritual featuring a meal or meal surrounded by ritual–your choice–guided by his desire to reveal the relevance of the holiday and to show–with true Kabbalistic understanding–the spiritual/psychological reality depicted in historical events.  If you can spare an hour 34 minutes and 36 seconds of this busy time, please click on the link and listen to him tell it.

If not, or as a less than scholarly introduction to it, here are my notes.  Yes, I took notes while I listened:

5 Ways to Transform the Seder

Introduction:The central theme of Passover is the freedom represented by the Jews leaving Egypt 3324 years ago, relevant today as spiritual liberation and psychological liberation from restraints imposed by our fears, passions and inhibitions, by our feeling the need to be self-protective or dishonest, restrictions which constitute any block to our being fully realized human beings.

The 5 steps are marked–cleverly enough–by 5 words beginning with S, E, D, E and R:

SPEAK     All are encouraged to speak out, to not submit to the will of oppressors by holding silent.  In the Pesach (the Hebrew word for the holiday which means the mouth that speaks) ritual 4 children ask questions relating to the meaning of the holiday.  One of them is described as the wicked child, the one who asks, “What’s all this crap about anyway?”  That child is needed as much as the others, so he is invited back year after year.

EMPATHY     The holiday begins with an invitation to ALL to be welcomed, for ALL to sit at the Seder table and be part of the celebration.  Life is not just about me!  The matzoh, the unleavened bread, represents humility, just as bread which has risen is inflated like ego.  The bitter herbs, symbol of suffering, are placed at the center of the Seder table.  The center in Kabbalah is reserved for compassion or empathy, so this positioning speaks for itself.  As to it’s relevance for us, focus on another’s struggle liberates us for the moment from self-concern.  Thus empathy yields the ultimate self-benefit.  Empathy leads to the greatest happiness.

DIP     There are several moments in the Seder when dipping or immersing occurs.  We dip our fingers into salt water, our matzoh into the sweet haroset or the bitter horseradish.  We count out the plagues by dipping our fingers into the wine.  Symbolically here’s where we get into the wonderful mysticism that unites Judaism with Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and the Hindu faiths.  The dipping represents our immersion, our being intimately and sustainingly in deepest connection to the sea of life, to interdependence, to oneness with all.  It bespeaks selflessness, ultimate seamless and non-duplicitous reality.  It is letting go and being  truly “in the zone.”

EDIFY or ENLIGHTEN     When we speak, do we edify and illuminate the topic?  Or not?  In my interactions with others am I drained or empowered?  Do I drain or empower them?  Hmm…

REMEMBER     Passover reconnects us with the past, with our personal and cultural histories and traditions.  It connects us to eternity.  Memory allows us to transcend time and space and thus to reach the great ultimate reality.  It connects us to that which truly matters.

Passover fuses body with soul, ritual with spirituality, tradition with relevance.

*   *   *

How does this tie in with your traditions and beliefs and what you’ve figured out about life?

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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I am not “The Bicyclist”

Judy: Are you riding these days?  Interested in joining me tomorrow?

Goldberg: I won’t be available until 2.  Does that work for you? 

Judy: Probably not but I will let you know if that changes.

*   *   *   *   *

Now that I’m finally getting older, I’m beginning to actually realize it when life lessons get handed to me on an unmistakable platter.  In the past few months I’ve been simultaneously blessed and challenged and delighted and rocked with unmistakable insights into what’s real. This is another part of that story.

And this was how this started: a simple exchange of emails between me and a bike-riding partner since maybe 1986.  The unusuality of it:  I didn’t respond with my usual and unequivocal

“Yes, yes, o yes.  We can ride.  I must ride.  Whatever…whenever…oh yes, just say when and I don’t care where and I’ll be there because (ta dum!) I am The Bicyclist!

Already something was going on.  Only I didn’t know it.  I just figured,

Hey!  I’ve got something to do around noon.  Either she waits or she doesn’t.  Either way–with her or alone–I’ll  still ride, ’cause I am The Bicyclist.

OK, so wearing my non-bike-riding civvies, I get on my beaten, blue Ross commuter bike and spin slowly up Amsterdam Avenue to 96th Street and my meditation group.  I’d not been there for three weeks now because of a trip to Israel (more about that, you can be sure, later), the land where life got handed to me several times, and I   was truly looking forward to reuniting with some remarkable folks engaged in a remarkable practice.  Still, the back of mind was filled with images of me in my bicyclist suit, sitting astride my bright red Klein road bike (bright red) riding perhaps across the George Washington Bridge, onto the road we cyclists call (incorrectly) River Road and north.  Remember, I am The Bicyclist.

 I’m not going to give you all the  intermediary details.  I hate it when people do that to me–I’m a ‘Punch Line’ kinda guy–and even if you’re one of those folks who thrives on details, I ‘m willing to risk your wrath here.  The meditation starts.  It’s the Shaking Meditation in the tradition of Ratu Bagus

that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  Loud, rhythmic music, quiet individual mantra-chanting to bring the mind back to focus whenever it drifts off to things like being The Bicyclist, some groaning and laughter and, above all, rapid full-body shaking all dedicated to whatever I can conceive of that has vastly more power than I do.  In my case that’s God.

OK, so here I am shaking and mantrasizing and suddenly–out of absolute and proverbial Nowhere–the thought leaps into my head:

I am NOT “The Bicyclist!”


     I’m not?

          I’m not!


                                     I’m really not.  I’m just a guy who, along with doing countless other things on a regular basis,  rides a bike.  It’s not who I am.  It’s–at most–just one thing I do.  It’s not my identity, and I am certainly not somehow more worthy and successful when I ride a bike and less worthy and a failure if I don’t.  I’m just someone who sometimes rides and sometimes doesn’t.  In fact, I’ve just put a halt to receiving far too frequent emails labeling me a “Legend of the New York Cycle Club” in an effort to get me to attend a club reunion for which I’d already bought my ticket a month ago.  I’m not  him.  I’m just me.

O, flippin’ wow!

This truth realized causes the root question to arise:

What identities do I subscribe to?  How much of  how I see myself is based on trying to live up to certain stereotypes or, for the psychoscholars among us, archetypes that have been planted in my head over the years?  How much joy, misery, frustration and self-congratulation arise from my living up to or failing to live up to these sets?

And, of course, me being me, I suspect I’m not alone in this, so I turn it to you:

What identities do you subscribe to?  Who do you tell yourself you are?  What does it cost/profit you to believe it?

*     *     *     *     *

Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 9:51 am  Comments (7)  
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Some thoughts on the year past

Don’t get me wrong.  I was born a Jew and I’ll not only die one but it’s a sure thing–Buddhist meditation, love of Jesus, devotion to Krishna, the Tao Te Ching and the wisdom of the Koran notwithstanding–I’ll still spend all the time between those two events being a Jew.  This isn’t about that.  It’s about making use of Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish new year, and it’s companion, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.  This is the time of year when we traditionally take account of the past year to identify and atone for our sins.  Another way to see this is that this is the time when we clear away the trash of the past, the ego-based guilts and sadnesses of the past twelve months, to clear space for God’s grace in the coming year.

Those of you who’ve been following this blog pretty much know of my bigger blunders, those conflicts ultimately based on my (at the time) sincere belief that I was right and someone else was wrong.  I’ve tried to write about them in ways that indicate that, at least in hindsight, I was no longer being taken in by my own sense of superiority, righteous indignation, hope or fear.  I hope that came through.

There’s been another attempt to escape from egocentricity.  Simply put: a reaching out to make this blog a bit more about us and not about just me.    Frequently I’ve included in my email announcements the hope that you’d contribute comments.  There was a request that you write about your work or submit a six word autobiography or supply a caption for a photo.  Recently I posted Goldie Silverman’s Rosh Hashonah poem, Tashlik 2000.

I found an unexpected ally in in this pursuit, Facebook, using it to reconnect with several of the folks I knew and in some cases undoubtedly offended (or at least irritated) as an angry, moody,  drug-propelled film editor or an equally arrogant student or club bike rider or even family member.   I identified presenting myself as open to take the shit accumulated in the past  as a form of atonement: to be ready for and willing to accept that a significant part of the world wasn’t waiting for me with bouquets of fresh picked chrysanthemums and gracious welcoming smiles.  Each time I sent out one of those Friend requests my mouse finger trembled.  Blissfully, several responded warmly to my befriending requests.  In a few cases there have been actual reunions with the expressed intention of maintaining contact in the future.  In other cases there have been no responses.

All that said, in the Facebook words of Fredric D. Rosenberg, who’s said it so well and will probably not hurt me for quoting him without permission,

This is going to sound strange, but if I hurt you in any way in the last year and have not apologized and made amends before now, I am sorry. I will try to do better in the future. Let the fast begin.


Published in: on September 27, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Comments (5)  
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Diamonds and Dollar Signs

Spectator at Pathmark Gospel Choir competition

Sometimes you just get lucky. You don’t have to figure anything out, because people before you did that and got it right. Let me tell you what I’ve got in mind.

One of the many things I learned from 100_2865.jpgAb, my guide in Morocco is that, being a gift from Allah, Moroccans did not criticize the weather. By implication they understand everything that we think of as delivered by fate, luck or the indifference of nature to actually be a gift of God and therefore unassailable and undoubtedly for us. Further, they see it as their job (and, or course, ours) to figure out not so much why they’d been given that particular blessing as how best to use it. Not an easy task sometimes — holocausts , child molestation, tsunamis, insomnia and rain on weekends come to mind–but our job nonetheless.

Had I not somehow lucked into meeting Ab and subsequently reading out of the mainstream and into the mystics, this beautiful attitude and I might never have crossed paths. The mainstream religious understanding most of us grew up with often depicts the reverse, urging us instead to lobby God to do what we want.

“Dear God, please do what I want. If You do, I’ll be real good…amen.”

That said, recently I’ve been struggling with a couple of those gifts. The result: I found myself saving up a bunch of rants (Remember that word. It pays off later on) to dump in this space. The first of which began:

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. For that matter, if you meet anyone who writes poetry, kill them too. Yes, I’m going through something. It began yesterday at the Rubin Museum of (Himalayan) Art, a Buddhist poetry reading. See, I don’t understand poetry. In fact it generally drives me and my self esteem into the same hole most of America’s mortgages are in right now. But rather than put it on me, I choose to hate poets.

Then there the actual Buddhists. img_0477.jpg I have a picture of the Dalai Lama on my desk and, yes, I do feel like he’s actually looking at me with the most incredible combination of warmth, understanding and encouragement. And yes, I’ve read a bunch of stuff and I meditate daily and go on week-long meditation retreats, but when it comes to all the basics of Buddhist thought, for me it’s like being back with the poets. I think I’m closing in on things when I retranslate the basic concept of “no self” as no ego, but, if that’s right, why the hell don’t they just say No Ego?

Then there’s the part about life being suffering. The truth be told, I’ve been having a ball the last bunch of years. I live indoors (with heat in the winter) and am madly in love with my wife and, in an admittedly different way, most people I meet. My job is fantastic, my health is remarkable (when I’m not crashing my bike into things or being crashed into by them. And I’m far enough removed from that first bunch of years that they don’t hurt any more.

Furthermore, I’m convinced that brief pleasures damned well do satisfy and delight for their little minute. When I remember I’m only here for a little minute, that seems sufficient. Only if I expect or demand or require more of them–and only then–do I suffer. So I don’t do that. So, no suffering.

So why am I carrying on like this? I love ee cummings and Ryokan and some of William Carlos Williams and I even write some (although I deny it) poetry and I hate poetry. I meditate and read the Buddha and img_0481.jpgPema Chodron and anybody named Suzuki and I can’t stay meditatively focused beyond two breaths. I only get pissed about that once in a while, and I can’t follow a dharma talk (a Buddhist non-sermon) all the way to the end. Sometimes I want to blame it on the concussion (May 5th, bike crash, blah blah blah…) but all this predates that, so I’m really stuck with that being me.

Then there’s the mystery of the blog. Just as I didn’t know why I was involved with poetry or Buddhist thought and practice, I didn’t know why I’d taken to putting my brain product onto the internet. I thought I’d found the answer in “The Gentle Rant” on Matt Munisteri’s web page.


Mr. Munisteri plays great guitar and writes songs you just want to keep hearing. Writing about song writing he said:

One great thing about a song is that it doesn’t have to be fair or definitive. It doesn’t have to be researched or objective. Usually its only job is to take its subject – perhaps even one examined many times before – and hold it up at that particular angle where only one side, in a particular light, can be seen, and then purport that one side as the only one that matters or contains even a shred of truth. Then, for a couple of minutes, it is definitive. If we’re lucky a song’s bridge (release) will tip its hand, and then we’re really in delicious territory. Sometimes its subject is love.

Reading The Gentle Rant I discovered this: I write this stuff because I just want to. “This is what it looks like to old Goldberg.” As long as no one writes back to the contrary (there is a Comments section, but no one uses it for real comments) my stuff reigns. Whoopee!

But once again, dear reader, I was wrong. The words I post for you never really represent the thoughts I’d begun with–the thoughts that carry the “right” label. It’s actually the act of writing that I love! By putting thoughts into words I discover things I didn’t know when I started writing. Often I end up writing contrary to what I’d originally intended. Look at what you’ve just read! Not to mention the one which was to be at the heart of this posting.

Go back to the picture at the top: The title and the guy wearing a hoodie covered with diamonds and dollar signs at the Pathmark Gospel Choir fest. Given the usual set of stereotypes–the old material v. spiritual dichotomy–this would seem like irony, like a deliberate set-up on my part to undercut the spiritual nature of what was being presented on stage. The truth be told, that was my initial reaction. The process of writing, however, has moved me along to a truer truth:

The man was there listening to gospel music.

My initial reaction was an ego creation, an interpretation, the result of a collection of historically conditioned and not particularly joyful neurotransmitters banging into each other under the self-superior direction of yours truly. On the other hand, the simple reality of sitting with a man listening to gospel music and a whole Winter Garden filled with people listening to gospel music…


Thanks, God.

Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 10:50 pm  Comments (3)  
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Word on the street has it that a whole bunch of folks are just dying to find out what I believe in. A Jew, a Buddhist, a Zen practitioner who seems excessively fond of quoting both Jesus and Mohammed, a praiser of the Bhagavad Gita…  Well, the answer is just this simple (ready?): I believe in the living G-d who not only created all but actually is all–me, the snow on the street outside my window, the spaces between computer keys, my wife Bobbie’s love of family, the family’s love of Bobbie, Stalin’s toilet paper holder, the last time the Hartford Chiefs played class A baseball at Bulkeley Stadium, the reason Anna Nicole Smith led the life she led–even the idea that there is no G-d–and anything and everything else I or you can or cannot put into words.  I do not believe that G-d drew back to leave space for G-d’s (no personal pronouns when I speak of G-d. No anthropomorphism here.) creations. It’s all one. It’s all G-d.

Is it workin’ for ya?

This is my belief, and while beliefs aren’t subject to proof, there may be something to be gained–a kind of validation, which, of course, you wouldn’t need if you REALLYby believed–by measuring them against a standard of utility.  Sometimes the usefulness of a belief is obvious.  If I believe–even in a jaundiced, limited way–that the tv weather prediction is correct and dress accordingly, it will usually leave me better protected against the elements than should I not. If I believe that carrying an umbrella will in fact prevent the rain from falling–as opposed to only falling on me– I’m on slippery ground.

The Mad Hatter Principle

So, is my belief in G-d at all useful? Damned right it is! But before I get into that, this is the time to expand a bit on just what it is that I understand as G-d. This, by the way, is the privilege of the writer. Remember the Mad Hatter: “When I use a word, it means what I want it to mean.”G-d as described in the Abrahamic religions–for me–gets complicated, messy and confusing. All the good versus evil stuff. The shoulds and shalts versus the better nots and flat-out don’ts make me uneasy when I look at the world. I get twisted around Lucifer, the angel who became the devil and clever enough to con G-d into impoverishing, torturing and killing the children of his sincereworshiper, Job. This is neither omniscience nor love in my human understanding of such things. It also sticks me with the ancillary belief in free will: G-d saying, “Hey, it’s your ball. Run with it, but remember: it’s actually my ball, my rules; I’m ref and there is no video replay challenge.” And then there’s the question of tsunamis: do they have free will? I know there are those who’ve attempted to reconcile these things, but what they’re selling I’m not buying.

Back to utility. There is an article in a recent NY Times Sunday Magazine describing science’s probe not into G-d but rather why I and others believe in G-d. The idea is broached that such a belief might make evolutionary sense if it actually had some relevance to survival. Now keep in mind that survival to science means no more than staying alive for as long as possible and, while doing so, having babies. Other concepts, like quality of survival, are ignored in this article but are of great significance to those of us actually involved in surviving. [The idea that science at this moment doesn’t even acknowledge existence, let alone survival, on the spiritual realm (what the Kabbalists call the 99% world) will be the subject of a later diatribe.] To my recall the writer concludes that there is no survival value in believing in the existence of G-d.

The “wait-a-minute’ moment

Not involved in survival?! Feh! It is patently obvious and unmistakably clear that my belief in G-d–whether expressed in terms of the powerful Father, the loving Son or the impersonal, interdependent, co-arising ever-changing universe, is about not just survival but survival in the most successful, glorious and (dare I say it?) blessed way possible.

It’s like this: My belief is that I was intended whether my biological parents intended me or not. (Yes, family members who might be reading this, I know full well that I was indeed intended by John and Frieda and dearly welcomed at that!) I am an integral part of this totality. The totality is designed for me to be a part of it. In fact it would be a significantly different place without me. All I could possibly need is here and available.  Now that’s love! 

This belief is what sustains and encourages me when I don’t feel loved and connected to others, am between paychecks, while walking alone through dimly lit garbage-strewn streets at 3 a.m. without benefit of weaponry or bodyguards or even when I’m lying in the street after being run down by a car. The 23rd Psalm in action.

My belief in G-d reduces stress on biological, psychological, social and spiritual levels. It leaves me feeling like the boss’ beloved, protected and well-prepared-for-the-task-at-hand son in the midst of an ever-new and challenging and satisfying job. Always in just a bit over my head, surely,  while surrounded by teachers, resources, competitors, compatriots, friends, enemies and bystanders. Ready, willing and able to take chances. Not guaranteed success and at the very same time protected from any real failure.

How can I beat it? The intoxicating combination of joy and fear, like a first date or standing in line for your turn on the rollercoaster or warming up before the big game or–and I can only imagine this one–rushing to the hospital to be delivered of twins. My belief in G-d is my reality. What’s yours?

Published in: on March 17, 2007 at 5:40 pm  Comments (4)  

Here’s your assignment…

on-the-train.jpgNot long after Rosh Hashonah last year I started attending Wednesday night lectures presented at a local schul by Rabbi Simon Jacobson. He calls them “gatherings,” by the way, but since none but he talks, we all know it’s a lecture. He speaks from the perspective of a Chassidic kabbalistic scholar well versed in contemporary science and culture. His axioms are in remarkable harmony with what I know of Christianity and Buddhist thought, making him a messenger of what I’ve heard referred to as pre-religion. (His website:  Check it out. It won’t convert you, but it will get some lovely creative thought going.)

Last week Rabbi Jacobson talked in part about finding our own “mission statements,” a few carefully chosen words to describe our place and purpose–maybe “function” is a better word–in the world, our relationship to and participation in all that exists.

Why do this? Perhaps because we are more directed and efficient when we know where we want to go and why we want to go there and what we’d like to accomplish along the way. This, of course, assumes that we have missions. Based on my own history of some things feeling “right” and others “wrong” for reasons I can’t always articulate, I believe that I do have a mission. Knowing what that mission is (and at this point I have a fair suspicion)  allows me to choose the apparently difficult over the (also) apparently easy.   For instances, I was able to choose to spend the morning meditating at the zendo rather than sleep in and to return home by climbing seven flights of stairs rather than by riding the elevator.  A deeper instance would be going back to school at age 49 in order to change careers at age 51–in that case returning to my mission after a 25 year deviation.

Rather than leave us alone with this potentially daunting task, Rabbi Jacobson offered a simple formula for unearthing our mission statements: to review four aspects of our lives and history:

1. Personality. What is yours?

2. Opportunities. What possibilities have occurred in your life? Look at what you’ve chosen.

4. Places. Where have you been? Where are you now–geographically speaking.

G-d, the rabbi says, hides in these things. The sum of them is your mission.

He suggests that you think about things, make your lists, do your various understanding practices in the quiet of early morning or late night just before falling asleep. Perhaps this might even spill over into dreams to add yet another dimension to your search.

 Give it a shot and–should you feel like sharing–drop it in the Comment box.

Published in: on February 24, 2007 at 2:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Answers to the three questions


“The true purpose of humanity in general, and of every human being,  is to connect with the Light of the Creator in greater and greater itensity, and eventually to literally become one with the Light.  But creating this connection with the Light is not simply a matter of gaining access to it.  Making ourselves ready to receive the Light means ‘preparing the vessel’ into which the Light will flow.  It means taking positive action in the everyday conduct of our lives, and observing the rituals and practices that the Creator has provided as tools for our transformation.  It means replacing desire to receive for ourselves alone with desire to receive in order to share, and loving others as we love ourselves.”Now the test: 1. Who wrote this? (This is the kind of question that depends on very specific information being available to you.  That you’ve come across this in the past, of course, is only a matter of chance.  In actuality, it’s being tested on something you were never assigned to read!  If I were you I’d skip it except to perhaps enter a brief note of protest re the presenting of such an obscure text for identification.)

2. What school of thought might it represent? (Hints: The concept of “Creator” pretty much eliminates philosophies and religions which do not posit a “Creator.”   “…observing the rituals and practices that the Creator has provided as tools for our transformation” also eliminates certain candidates.   Beyond that you’re on your own.)

3. What do you think of the ideas in this quotation? (The truth be told, this is the one for all the marbles.  The other two questions are just lead-ins, although they are the only two to be answered in a subsequent posting.)  Use the “comment’ box to submit your replies (Notice I didn’t say “answers.”)

(Imagine a few days passing to allow time to think about the questions…OK, time is up, here come:)

The three questions answered, November 10, 2006

The author of the quotation is Rav P.S. Berg, dean and codirector of the Kabbalah Center, in his book, The Essential Zohar.

The author is Rav P.S. Berg.  The book is The Essential Zohar, a very well done summary of that 22 volume tract, the central text of Kabbalah.

Just as it suggests the Christian worldview to those more familiar with Christian mysticism, when the cultural/historical details are left out it also reads like a Buddhist work.  In fact Berg’s introduction makes specific that Kabbalah, while coming form a Jewish culture, is not part of the Jewish religion.

The more I read in the areas of religion and spirituality, the more firmly I believe that there is one universal truth presented thru the filters of various cultures.  Stephen Mitchell’s quite wonderful book, The Gospel According to Jesus, really brought this home to me.

There is great comfort in believing this, allowing me to escape the trap of making value judgments re choosing which understanding is “best.”  Once understood that the essence is to be found in stripping away the cultural specifics of any one, all become equal.

As that remarkably wise woman, Barbara Kaminski Straite Goldberg once said, “I believe the words of G-d.  It’s those of people I have trouble with.”

Published in: on November 14, 2006 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment