Wendy and I are clearly not very adventurous. On our daily walk, we generally just walk the streets of Dromore, but this week we decided to walk down the footpath at the top of Barban Hill near the Rugby Club. We were amazed how quickly we found ourselves in the countryside with the sounds of birds and the rolling green fields. It felt like we had stumbled on a little piece of heaven… it was really good for the soul. We’ll come back to that later.
There is a famous parable that comes from an important Buddhist Scripture that is known as the Lotus Sutra. The story goes as follows:
A poor man came to visit a wealthy friend. Late into the night, the two friends ate, drank, and talked. When the poor man went to bed, he fell into a deep sleep.
In the middle of the night, a messenger came to inform the rich man that he must go immediately to a distant land far away. Before he left, he wanted to do something for his poor friend to show how much he cared for him. But he did not want to wake his friend from such a deep sleep.
So the wealthy friend sewed a beautiful coloured gem inside the hem of his poor friend’s robe. This jewel had the power to satisfy all of one’s desires.
The next morning, the poor man awoke to find himself alone in his wealthy friend’s house. Totally unaware of anything that had taken place while he was sleeping, he wandered off.
The poor man travelled from place to place, looking for work. All the while, he was completely unaware that he possessed a priceless gem in the hem of his robe.
A long time passed until one day, by chance, the wealthy friend came upon the poor man in the street.
Seeing the man’s impoverished condition, the wealthy friend asked him:
“Why have you allowed yourself to become so poor? You could have used the jewel that I gave you to live your life in comfort. You must still have it, yet you are living so miserably. Why don’t you use the gem to get what you need? You can have anything you want!”
Bewildered, the poor man fumbled through the inside of his robe and, with the help of his friend, found the gem. Ashamed of his ignorance yet overcome with joy, he realized for the first time the depth of his friend’s compassion. From then on, the poor man was able to live comfortably and happily.
(Taken from https://buddha-stories.holova.net/2017/03/parable-of-the-gem-in-the-robe/)
When I was a teenager I remember hearing a very similar story being shared in a sermon by the minister of our church. In that story it was someone who lived for years in poverty unaware that they had been the recipient of a very large inheritance that they knew nothing of.
The basic premise or moral of the story is therefore not unique to the Lotus Sutra. The spiritual meaning of the story and other similar stories is this: Metaphorically speaking we all have a priceless gem that has been sown into the hem of our spirit. Each of us has is spiritually wealthy beyond our wildest dreams and expectations.
There are Divine riches that have been placed within us that most of us have little or no awareness of. We live as spiritually poor people, when all along the riches of God are within us. In the language of Buddhism, it is said that all people have the Buddha-Nature within them. In our Christian tradition, it could be said that we have the Divine presence or the Christ presence within each of us. It could be said we have the Christ-nature within each of us as those who have been made in the image of God. In Jesus words in Luke’s Gospel, he says we have the Kingdom of God within us.
And yet despite the fact that we have all these spiritual riches within us, we live as though we were spiritually poor. We live restless, discontent lives, often driven by anxiety and fear where we feel a deep lack within us and a constant sense that life is not right and not as it should be. We long for a deeper sense of peace, love, contentment and joy, but it continually eludes us. And yet, according to this parable and the teachings of many religious traditions, these spiritual riches have been ours all along.
In the Gospel story we read of the Women a the Well, which also comes to us as a kind of a parable. She goes to the well every day to fetch water, but all the while she has a deeper spiritual thirst that she doesn’t know how to satisfy. And as a result, it would seem that she had found herself living restlessly moving from one relationship to the next and never being truly satisfied and content.
In meeting Jesus, she learns that there is a Living Water that can quench her thirst that she has not been aware of before. Jesus makes her aware of it. He is able to share it with her because he himself is in touch with this living water of the Spirit. He knows how to access it. His life is lived drinking from the inner spiritual wells of living water on a daily and moment by moment basis.
How might we access this living water that Jesus offers the Women at the Well? How might we access the valuable gem that is hidden in the metaphorical hem of our spirit?
Different religious traditions have sometimes offered spiritual practices designed to help access this Living Water of God’s Spirit.
Many would suggest some kind of regular practice of sitting silence or stillness. Some might offer meditation techniques, becoming aware of the breathe, of sensations in the body or of deep listening to the sounds around us. Others might offer a practice of some kind of chanting that enables one to get out of the normal obsessive thoughts that get in the way of accessing the treasures of the spirit and the Living Water within. Slow meditative reading of Scripture, other spiritual writings and especially the gospel stories of Jesus is another way to access the spiritual treasure within and to begin to drink of the Living Water of the Soul, enabling us to feast on the Love, Joy and Peace that lies just beneath the surface and which is always with us, and which is our true nature as children of God.
I suspect that it may not always be the case, but going to Church on a Sunday should ideally enable one to touch the living waters of Divine Peace, Love, Joy that lie within us. If Church is not enabling us to experience week by week some degree of peace, love and joy, then something is wrong with the service and I would certainly value your feedback if this is not the case for you.
But even ordinary everyday activities can help us touch the spiritual treasures and the living water that lie within us. For some people gardening might be an activity that brings a deep sense of contentment, love, peace and joy in your life. For others, it might be taking a run, engaging in some kind of art or craft, perhaps staring out at the ocean, or for others playing a musical instrument or sitting quietly listening to inspiring and relaxing music. Or as Wendy and I experienced this week, going for a quiet, walk in nature, listening to the birds, watching the sun shine through the clouds and reflecting gently off the rolling green hills.
If we are not making time in some way to access the spiritual treasure of God’s peace, love and joy in our lives, then the alternative is getting lost ever deeper in our own obsessive thinking, worrying, fears, regrets and constant planning or the constant desire to get new and better stuff to fill the hole inside. To live in this place all the time is exhausting and deeply unsatisfying. But to drink from the Living Water of the Spirit is to find a deep contentment within, as the Women at the Well did when she uncounted Jesus and was able to drink the peace, love and joy that could be experienced just being in his presence.
The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did?’ I wonder if she might just as easily have said, ‘Come and see a man who has helped me to find love, joy, peace and contentment for the first time in my life’.
May God bless you as you make time with whatever may help you to slow down and touch that place of love, peace, joy and contentment in your own heart, The Living Water of the divine Presence, and the priceless spiritual gem within you!
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