Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The fruit of silence is prayer


Here is something short by Mother Theresa. I found it really profound. Below is my attempt to draw out its meaning

The fruit of silence is prayer
The fruit of prayer is faith
The fruit of faith is love
The fruit of love is service
The fruit of service is peace

Real prayer, or deep prayer, comes out of silence, or emptiness as the Buddhists call it. This has to be experienced, it cannot be described. So the starting point for both Buddhism and Christianity is the experience of silence or emptiness. To the best of my knowledge and experience, the most efficient way of attaining more than a fleeting experience of this is through meditation.

Prayer is the expression of the insights arising from the experience of silence. The outward expression of prayer is a representation of the insight. It is usually in language but can also be visual, musical, etc., or an action. Often we are guided by the representations of others who have been there before us. Doctrine, theology, religious beliefs, are, when properly understood, meant to provide a framework for us to correctly represent and understand the insights from emptiness. Without a framework to help us it is unlikely an individual could progress very far in their lifetime. These frameworks are a scaffolding built over many generations and containing guidelines for representing deep insights developed by individuals who both achieved these states and had the genius to effectively represent them to others (but even these geniuses stood on the shoulders of giants, and the collected representations of generations)

Faith, as described elsewhere, is a confidence that your beliefs are true. True faith can only come from direct experience arising from emptiness. When this experience corresponds directly to a representation, then one may develop faith in that representation. However, confusion can arise because the experience from within silence can move very quickly to a representation, causing the person experiencing it to develop faith in the representation instead of what it represents. In Buddhism this insight has been represented in a number of different ways. One is someone who mistakes a finger pointing at the moon for the moon. In Christianity it is expressed through the often misunderstood idea of idolatry. Today, many Christians commit the sin of idolatry by believing that the bible is the word of God. God speaks only through silence. The bible is a collection of representations that have been useful for some people, at some time, in a particular context. It can continue to be useful if properly understood, but believing the bible is the literal word of God is idolatry and a terrible sin (ironically, this is all in the bible)

If everything has gone well up to this point, the fruit will be love or compassion. That is, the unfolding of emptiness in our lives leads directly to compassion. From a Buddhist perspective this is due to a reduction of ignorance, which is what prevents us from living in accord with our experience of silence. Ignorance also prevents us from having experiences of emptiness so as we lift ourselves out of ignorance we experience more, we gain more insight into our representations and are more confident in them. Fewer wrong representations and greater confidence in the right ones lead us to act more directly out of emptiness, which is to love. The expression of silence is always love.

Service to others and to ourselves (through our practice) is the natural and outward expression of love. The result of living in this way is peace

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