A couple months ago, I quoted Max Weber in a sermon. That Weber passage -- from his 1915 essay, "The Social Psychology of World Religions," has been much with me ever since I discovered it while preparing for the sermon in which I cited it. Here's what Weber says:
“The fortunate person is seldom satisfied with the fact of being fortunate. Beyond this, he needs to know that he has a right to his good fortune. He wants to be convinced that he ‘deserves’ it, and above all, that he deserves it in comparison with others. He wishes to be allowed the belief that the less fortunate also merely experience their due. Good fortune thus wants to be 'legitimate' fortune.”Recognizing that we are, in fact, built this way helps us notice -- and resist -- the tendency when we see it arising in us.
Good fortune is just good fortune. We have no right to it. We don't deserve it. It isn't "legitimate." But our minds are built to be drawn toward the trap of convincing ourselves otherwise: that we deserve what we've gotten. When we see this trap clearly we can avoid it. Neither good fortune nor bad fortune are deserved or earned or warranted.
It's grace all the way down!
Yours in the faith we share,
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I.C.Y.M.I. (In Case You Missed It)
The May 8 Service, "R.E. Sunday: Gather to Grow":
The May 15 Service, "What's Your Class?"
PRACTICE OF THE WEEK
From Norman Fischer’s Training in Compassion, Trainings #15-19: Grow Five Virtues: Determination, Repetition, Owning Your Nobility, Reproaching Your Demons, Aspiring to the Impossible. This week: #19, Aspiring to the Impossible.
In the Zen tradition, practitioners regularly recite “The Four Bodhisattva Vows”: Beings are numberless; I vow to free them all. Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them all. Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them all. The awakened way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
These are certainly impossible to fulfill. But why not have aspirations so lofty they are impossible to fulfill? We’d be selling ourselves short if our aspirations were any less lofty. The trick is to keep on making effort in the direction of fulfillment of the aspiration. You need not imagine you will ever complete the job. You will always have more to do and always be spurred on by the strength of your commitment.
To commit to something you actually could accomplish is such small potatoes for a lofty, sacred human being like yourself. Many people are wealthy, famous, skilled, or all three. Much more difficult and much more wonderful is to be someone committed to compassion, to service, to love.
So imagine it. Imagine that everything you do, every action, every social role, every task, was just a cover for, an excuse for, your real aspiration: to free every being, end every delusion, learn wisdom from every moment – and spread goodness wherever you go.
Spiritual practice is not something we do in addition to the rest of our life. Practice is our life. It is the way we live. We can live by striving toward unfulfillable vows.
See the full post: "Aspiring to the Impossible."
Here it is, your...
MOMENT OF ZEN
#121: Shaking the Tree
Raven called a special meeting of the Tallspruce community to announce that Porcupine was to become a teacher.Verse
"Porcupine has shaken the old crab-apple tree and brought down some tasty little fruits," she said solemnly. "He'll share them if you like."
Black Bear said, "I'm afraid I'll get poked with his quills."
Raven said, "That's the risk."
Mole said, "I'd like to hear from Porcupine."
Porcupine said, "Actually, I don't poke. You poke yourself."
Black Bear said, "How can I avoid poking myself?"
Porcupine said, "Don't mess with me."
Teachers and students, friends and lovers,
Robins, glaucous macaws,
The local stream, the distant hills, the vast ocean,
The trees: oak and birch, poplar and larch,
Pine, cedar, dogwood, and all the rest,
And all the rest, the great blue planet:
To love is not to seek to merge,
Nor to embrace, nor to be embraced by,
But to be infused with the vivid certainty
That separation never happened and couldn't.
The fact is already accomplished,
Teachers and students, friends and lovers.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith GarmonPREVIOUS ☙ NEXT ☙ INDEX
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