Stephen Mitchell on Heaven, Now, Present

Who among the now-middle-aged doesn’t remember the fervor of the Sixties, when young people believed that love could transform the world? “You may say I’m a dreamer,” John Lennon sang, “but I’m not the only one”. The messianic dream of the future may be humanity’s sweetest dream. But it is a dream nevertheless, as long as there is a separation between inside and outside, as long as we don’t transform ourself. And Jesus, like the Buddha, was a man who had awakened from all dreams.

When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, he was not prophesying about some easy, danger-free perfection that will someday appear. He was talking about a state of being, a way of living at ease among the joys and sorrows of our world. It is possible, he said, to be as simple and as beautiful as the birds of the sky or the lilies of the field, who are always within the eternal Now. This state of being is not something alien or mystical. We don’t need to earn it. It is already ours. Most of us lose it as we grow up and become self-conscious, but it does not disappear forever; it is always there to be reclaimed, though we have to search hard in order to find it. The rich especially have a hard time reentering this state of being; they are so possessed by their possessions, so entrenched in their social power, that it is almost impossible for them to let go. Not that it is easy for any of us. But if we need reminding, we can always sit at the feet of our young children. They, because they haven’t yet developed a firm sense of past and future, accept the infinite abundance of the present with all their hearts, in complete trust. Entering the kingdom of God means feeling, as if we were floating in the womb of the universe, that we are being taken care of, always, at every moment.

All spiritual masters, in all the great religious traditions, have come to experience the present as the only reality.

The Gospel According to Jesus – by Stephen Mitchell

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