Interfaith Studies: The Purity of Our Being
from the scriptures of the world come harmony, peace, accord
The Purity of Our Being
by Dr. Sheila Benjamin
All of us are faced with a variety of situations which can provide us with great learning or can produce great pain. The choice is always ours as to which direction we turn our attention. Use your memory for a moment here: think of a situation which at first seemed like a great obstacle which you felt you would never overcome. After awhile, maybe after praying, meditating or talking with a good friend, you began to see your challenge. You could recognize the advantages and learning you could add to yourself as a result of choosing to focus on the positive side. Through this reflection and examination you came in touch with the powers of reasoning within you. Finding a solution gave you an opportunity to summon your creative thinking into action. You reached within yourself to draw out compassion, love, or some other productive qualities. By setting your heart on the uplifting, on the greater benefits for all, you discovered that there is always some good in a person or situation. Through your reaching for the Purity of Self you melted the impurities of your negative or fearful thoughts.
You may think Well its easy to look back on that specific situation because its over, but what about now? Memory can be one of our best friends when used with understanding. Some people misuse their memory and choose to remember pain, holding on to false images of themselves as being weak. They have forgotten who they really are. They have forgotten that they are children of God. God has promised to believers ...beautiful mansions in Gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is good pleasure of God: that is the supreme felicity. Islam . . Quaan 9.72
It is important to be aware that the way we think and direct our attention affects the world in which we live. Our thoughts are powerful. The images we hold within our minds affect our lives and the circumstances and situations in which we find ourselves. In the Christian religions this truth is stated, As you sow, so shall you reap. If you are positive and caring towards others, those same types of people and situations will be in your life. The opposite is also true; if you are negative and gossip about others, you can bet that someones talking about you. It is our responsibility individually to care for the way in which we think. It is our duty to strive toward understanding our true nature as spirit, as light, as a Being of Our Creator. When humanity as a whole becomes aware of the truth that our thoughts have power and are real, we will quicken our evolution. This requires a disciplined mind. With will power and attention we can direct our minds to create and expect the best outcome in each situation. We are children of a Greater Being, and every time we expand our thinking to be more positive and create, we gain greater awareness of our relationship with Our Universal Parent.
Within us is a vision of greatness. We each have great potential and every situation we encounter gives us a chance to give more of ourselves. We learn more about who we are as we strengthen our commitment to accomplishing our individual mission in life.
The purity of our being is within us. When we create, we discover the great truths and great laws that govern the whole Universe. In each of us is the perfect seed of Our Great Master. When we cultivate within our hearts the burning desire to discover, to know ourselves, we awaken the creator within. The light of Self knowledge only requires our love for life. There is a quote from the scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism which expresses this truth very well. O Lord, You have hidden Yourself in the body of a Human Being. What a mystery!
Rev. Dr. Sheila Benjamin is an ordained minister in the Interfaith church of Metaphysics and has been teaching applied metaphysics in the School of Metaphysics since 1978.
©1995 Vol. 13 No. 2
by Rev. Sheila Benjamin
Our Creation is made so perfectly because throughout our calendar year we are given opportunities on the many religious holidays and national holidays to remember who we are and why we are here. On each of these days, we are able to reflect upon the past year and the many gifts we received and be truly thankful. Its through this thankfulness that we are able to give from ourselves in the most brilliant ways. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran says this about giving: You give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give. There are those that give little of the much that they have and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gift unwholesome. And there are those that have little to give and give it all. These are the believers of life and the bounty of life and their coffers are never empty.
In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth and each day he added to that creation and each day he blessed that creation. Then he created man because out of all the things that he created there was still an emptiness, there was still a void. God yearned to be able to share all of what he had for which he was purely thankful, and so he created man in his image and his likeness, and he gave man everything that he had. He gave man dominion over the fishes and the cattle and over the birds, and he gave man light. Through remembering the beautiful gifts, existence and free will, your Creator has given you, you remember that there is purpose that far exceeds you, only you, in your life.
If this is hard to grasp, then do this: every time you offer yourself in service to another, take a moment to receive the true beauty of your gift by gazing upon the face of the person receiving your service. You will see the reflection of your beauty. The degree or size of your gift does not matter, because when it is from your heart another person is aware, and they will express their thankfulness in their eyes, and in their smile. This exchange will aid you to always want to give because it adds a brilliance to your light, to your life, to your existence.
In the western world most of us were raised on Christian ideas and were able to study the life and lessons of the great teacher Jesus the Christ. Jesus whole life was dedicated to his Father, to his Maker, God. It was through Gods love that He gave his only begotten son. Throughout Jesus life there were many people who wanted to follow Jesus and be like him. There is a teaching in the Bible in Matthew Chapter 16, verse 24, Jesus then said to his disciples if a man wishes to come after me he must deny his very self, take up his cross and begin to follow in my footsteps. Whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process? What can a man offer in exchange for his very self? A Son of Man will come with his Fathers glory accompanied by this angels. When he does he will repay each man according to his conduct. I assure you among those standing here there are some who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man in their kinship.
Oftentimes people hesitate to give because they fear that there will not be the time for themselves. It is so simply yet completely stated in this passage that those who give will find a time when the Son of Man will come to them, and they will be repaid for all that has been given. This occurs when the giving is from all of you and not only from your possessions. When you give from your heart, from a place of thankfulness for all that you have and for the opportunity to be able to give knowing that another will benefit from your gift, you are full of love and light. And whatever you have given increases more than ten-fold, and the understanding and the wisdom that you gain from it is eternal.
There is a passage in the Tao Teh Ching that speaks of the eternal and Heaven and earth. Have you ever noticed that those creations which we know came from God last forever? For example, the sun comes up, the moon every month moves through different phases, these things are eternal. They never fade away. These creations are for man and the other forms of life for in the beginning we were given dominion. The Tao speaks of this. This chapter is called Dimming the Light, Heaven is eternal, earth is durable. The reason why they are eternal and durable is that they do not exist for themselves. This is why they can long endure, therefore the sage putting himself behind finds himself in front. And placing himself beyond his concerns finds himself well preserved. Is this not because he is unselfish. For the very reason that he is unselfish he is able to find self fulfillment. If you have ever been around individuals who are greedy, they have a heavy vibration and it is difficult to be around them. It is difficult to want to give to them. But it is a joy to be in the presence of those individuals in your life who have been giving to you and others.
There is a Buddhist parable called The Rabbit in the Moon. It is about a wonderful hare. This hare lived in a great big forest. Though there were animals that were stronger that this hare, because he was so filled with love and light and willing to share his deepest wisdom with all who crossed his path, even the strongest bear or lion would befriend him. The hare had a circle of friends and whenever they would gather together the hare would share his thoughts and vision with them.
One day the hare said to his friends, Tomorrow let us fast, and whomever comes to our door we will offer all the food we have to them. The monkey thought that was a good idea, the wolf thought it was a good idea, and so did the water weasel.
That evening on their way home each of them hunted for food that they would have to offer their guests the next day. The monkey on his way home came upon a great mango tree. He climbed to the top of the tree to get the most ripe and juicy mangos. Before he picked them he asked, To whom do these belong, to whom do these belong? When no one answered, he picked them thinking to himself I have a good gift to give my guest tomorrow and if no one should come to my door the next day I will have them for myself.
The water weasel on his way home went along the river where he came upon some fish that had been left there by a fisherman. Before he took the fish he asked, To whom do these belong, to whom do these belong? When he received no answer, he took them to his home thinking this is a great offering I have. I am a good weasel and if no one should happen to come to my house I will have good fish for the next day.
On the wolfs way home, he came upon an old house and went inside to find some bread and meat that had been left behind. He asked, To whom do these belong, to whom do these belong? When he got no answer, he took the bread and meat thinking I will give this freely to whomever comes to my door and if no one comes I will eat these the next day.
The hare looked and looked for something that he could give and could not find anything. He was very sad because he had nothing to offer. Then he had a great idea, I am food! I will offer myself! And with that he was filled with joy.
As in all forests, in this one there was an angel who watched over and was aware of all that was going on within her forest. She said, I must go down to the forest and test the sincerity of these creators. So she disguised herself as an old beggar man. She went to the monkeys house and knocked on the door. When the monkey answered the door the angel said, Have you any food? I am so hungry.
The monkey said, I have fresh juicy mangos right here, sit right down.
I will be right back, she exclaimed.
The angel of the forest went to the water weasels house and knocked on the door and when he opened it she said, I have not eaten in many days and I am so hungry. Have you any food to give me?
The water weasel said, Yes I do. I have some fresh fish just for you.
I forgot something, I will be right back, said the angel.
She went on to the wolfs house, knocked on the door, and when she was greeted she exclaimed the great need she had for food. The wolf very generously offered her the meat and bread that he had gathered. Once again she excused herself and went on to the hares home. She knocked on the door and the hare very joyously invited her in. She said, Have you any food? I have not eaten in days and will die if I dont get any food.
The hare said, Yes I do. You only need to create a fire and you will eat.
The angel created a fire with her powers and the hare with great delight jumped into the flames. He was very puzzled for the flames did not scorch his hide; they were cool and comforting. I dont understand, said the hare. These flames are cool and do not burn my skin.
The angel said, Hare, look into my eyes. I am not an old beggar man. I am the angel of the forest and I have come down to test your sincerity. You, hare, are the most giving of all I have encountered. The others gave because you asked them to, but you were willing to give all that you have. You are truly a great being. With that she created a silhouette of the hare in the moon and we can still see his image on the full moon, in memory of his brilliance and his joyfulness of giving.
The individuals in your life who have given to you from a point of thankfulness, knowing they had something of value to give, are the ones you remember. You remember the gifts that they gave to you because they were so valuable to you. The gift was so eternal, it lived on forever, maybe beyond their lifetime.
It is important that we remember who we are, that we are a creation of a Creator. Remember that you are the spark of light that resides within each individual in this world; then it is much easier to give because you understand how it returns to you and that you are never empty but fulfilled.
There is a passage in the Bhagavad Gita on spiritual discernment. It speaks of remembering, of being able to get in touch with that part of yourself, your I Am, who you truly are. Then further unto Arjuna spoke Krishna, the blessed Lord, saying, Listen now to my words O Arjuna and thou shalt learn how having thy mind filled, fixed upon me and observing the yogi teachings thou shalt of a variety know me without a doubt. I shall instruct thee in this wondrous wisdom and knowledge without reserve or withholding and when thou learnest these teachings then shalt thou have acquired that knowledge which leaves nothing else to be known by man. But a few men upon the thousands of the race have sufficiently discerned to desire to obtain purification, and of this few the successful seekers are so rare that there is but one and that one knows me in my essential nature. In my nature are to be found the eight fold forms known as earth, water, air, fire, and nobler nature, the nature or principle which supporteth and sustaineth the universe. Know this as the womb of creation.
Remember that we are complete in ourselves and that whatever we need is within us. The way to be aware of this truth is through giving. You have heard that it is better to give than receive, but it is important to have both. When you give knowing that what you have to give will bring to you greater understanding, you are living in harmony with the Universal Laws and the way in which God created you. He created you to be compatible and to live like Him, to be in His image. Remember that when God created you, He gave you everything that He had. He gave you free will so you could accomplish all things.
When you give, give from your heart and give freely. Keep in mind the complete Law -- Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and all will be given unto you.
Sheila Benjamin is an ordained minister in the International Church of Metaphysics, teacher, and field director for the Oklahoma and Texas centers of the School of Metaphysics. A certified psi counselor and a recreational therapist, she resides with her husband in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
©1994 Vol. 12 No. 1
Love and Patience
by Dr. Sheila Benjamin
When two or more are gathered in his name, there is love.
-- The Wedding Song
It is easy to experience love when we are gathered together in a church, temple, or synagogue as a congregation. It seems natural to express compassion as we watch the ten oclock news and discover that in the city of Chicago, nineteen children were found living in conditions unfit for an animal. We wonder what we can do when we hear on the radio that an earthquake has hit California and that, as a result, a three-story apartment building has become two stories. Our heart reaches out to those who live in Tibet, being punished by the Chinese for worshipping in the way their hearts yearn, and we stop supporting Communist China by refusing to purchase their goods.
At these moments we remember the love that has brought us into being and we are gathered in His name. Why is it so hard for us to recall this compassionate love that dwells within each of us as we sit scornfully looking at the person who sits across from us at the office, the one who chews on his pen or the one who circulates in the cafeteria picking into everyones lunch? Why does this person drive us insane? We find ourselves talking badly about these people, thinking somehow we are right in doing so. Does God judge so harshly as he waits for us to open our minds and hearts to Him?
There is a passage in the Bible that says If you want to avoid judgement, stop passing judgement. Your verdict on others will be the verdict passed on you. The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you. Why look at the speck in your brothers eye when you miss the plank in your own? (Matthew Chapter 7:1-4). When our hearts and minds are filled with compassion we are able to rise above the habitual actions of the physically entrapped self and salute the divinity within.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama graced the United States with his presence, wisdom, playfulness, and compassion when he addressed the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in August, 1993. Following this, he continued his tour through the States, teaching his lessons on patience to many. His teachings included this from one of the many Buddhist scriptures Whatever good, such as acts of generosity, and worship of the Suchatas I have amassed during a thousand aeons will all be destroyed in a moment of anger. There is no evil comparable to hatred, no practice as noble as patience. In all matters of ways will I earnestly learn to be patient. If my heart is tormented by hatred, my mind will never be at peace. I will neither find joy, or wellness, sleep, nor respite. We often find ourselves filled with patience as we teach a child how to put on his coat or tie his shoe. Mothers have a great deal of patience and love for their children as they teach them the necessities of life, the ways of treating others, the manners to express when in the company of strangers.
There was a woman who lived in Czechoslovakia with her husband and five-year-old daughter. Because the conditions were poor in their country, they had decided that it would be best to move to the United States. The mother was concerned for her daughter, thinking this change would be difficult for her, especially because of the language difference. She sat down with her daughter and explained to her that the United States was a wonderful country that would have lots of things for her to do, but, she said, The people there speak a different language than you. They may not be able to understand you, and may make fun of you because you speak differently.
The little girl looked at her mother with a very puzzled look on her face. Then she asked her mother how did the cats in the United States speak. Her mother said Meow, Meow. The little girl asked her mother how dogs spoke in the United States. The mothers reply was Bark, Bark. The little girl sat on her mothers lap with a bright, big smile on her face, and said, How did the cats and dogs learn to speak Czech? When the family moved to the United States the mother found her five-year-old barking and meowing with the other children.
This story displays the openness and the freeness from obstacles that children have. They are able to communicate with one another, even if the words they use are different sounding. They understand the language of the soul, which is in images, and rely on their telepathic communication. Their memory of who they are and their connections with their inner Selves is fresh, untouched by prejudice, gossip, and obstacles. Therefore their urge for oneness is great. They play with one another, seeing no difference in color.
Jesus spoke of entering life as a child, filled with openness, delightfulness, and curiosity to know. It was this same curiosity that aided the child who moved from Czechoslovakia to the United States to be excited about her venture.
When we are in the presence of a great teacher, master, guru, someone whom we see to be truly enlightened and filled with compassion, we are moved, inspired, and filled with respect and reverence. It is important for our own evolution to stimulate our imagination and curiosity, and to practice living our lives in the same ways we imagine this great being to live, thus transforming ourselves. It is not important if you hold a title. His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said, I am a simple monk. The importance is the radiance of your light, the expansiveness of your consciousness. If you are looking for eternal life, then give of your ocean of wisdom, forgive those against whom you have held grudges. Others will attempt to emulate your shining example. It is through their efforts of being like you, that you live forever. The physical world in which we live for a short time is temporary, it is what we build in our hearts that is forever.
One of the qualities of patience is receptivity. When you open yourself to find what it is you truly possess and when you listen to the needs of your heart, then you are patient with yourself and you are open to learning. There is no room for impatience, frustration and anger. We begin to see the beauty that dwells within that person we work with, who at one time drove us crazy, and find ourselves reaching out to aid that person.
There is a quote from the Upanishads which helps us to remember to love ourselves and be patient with ourselves for it is through knowing the Self that all things have meaning and are dear.
Filled with Brahman are the things we see,
Filled with Brahman are the things we see not,
From out of Brahman floweth all that is:
From Brahman all--yet is he still the same.
Lead me from the unreal to the real.
Lead me from the darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
The next time you find yourself becoming impatient with another or with yourself, pray for the awareness that can give your soul what it is you are craving to understand. It is from your Self that you will find the peace and understanding you are needing.
Sheila Benjamin is an ordained minister in the Interfaith Church of Metaphysics, a teacher, and the field director for the Oklahoma and Texas centers of the School of Metaphysics. A certified psi counselor and a recreational therapist, she resides with her husband in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
©1995 Vol. 13 No. 3
Light the Source of Our Being
The idea that each of us is a part of the one great light is a teaching found in religions around the world. Although it is more openly stated in the holy works of the Eastern religions, light is also used in the Bible which is the scripture most commonly used in the West. Some examples of Biblical references to light are:
Genesis 1:4: Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
Luke 11:36: If your whole body is full of light and no part of it in dark, it will be as fully illumined as when a lamp shines brightly for you.
John 3-21: Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
Light symbolizes our awareness of who we are, why we are here, and where we came from. The nature of our light is love. It was out of the light and love of our Creator that we were caused to be. We can ponder these thoughts of our origin and agree on the truth of these words; however, it becomes so easy to forget who we are and that our existence has a purpose which is greater than the job we perform, greater than the talents we possess, greater than the positions we hold within our home. This greater purpose is rekindled when some situation or experience in our life captures our attention and arouses the sweet memory of who we are: when we experience a beautiful sunset, or when we reach out and help someone in need and they thank us not only with their words but with their eyes. In that moment of honesty we recognize our true nature as light. We feel the peace, tranquility and strength of our God and the reality of Eternal Life.
Light is an essential part of the teachings of all the world's great religions because light symbolizes our awareness of Self. The whole purpose of our existence is to become more aware of who we are. Our purpose is to continue to brighten the light of our Self, and to give our light (awareness) to others. This is the meaning of the following scripture from the Bible, Matthew 5:14:
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
You might wonder why light is used as such a powerful symbol. If we walked into a room which was dark and strange to us, it would be quite difficult to move around in the room. It would be difficult to identify or find anything in this room due to the absence of light. When we turned on the light we would be able to find a pathway that was clear for us to move and we would also become aware of what was in the room. We can turn on the light in our own minds by taking time each day to cause our thoughts to slow down and our minds to become calm. In this state of calmness, we can then contemplate and get in touch with the light that is who we are. When we practice stilling the mind each day for even a short period of time such as five, ten, or even thirty minutes, we begin to discipline our thoughts and deeds. Our efforts begin and continue to bear fruit. We move forward, gaining understanding and truth which leads us to our home within ourselves.
In the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita there is a chapter entitled The Good and Evil Natures which gives us ways to ensure that we are on the righteous path:
These be the characteristics and nature of those who are walking The Path that leadeth to Heavenly Rewards -- these are the marks of Good Character and Destiny. Fearlessness have they, and Purity of Heart. And a steady attention to the Life of Wisdom. And Charity, and Self Mastery, and True Religious Inclination, and Earnest Study and Temperate Living. Truthfulness and Freedom from Anger, and Freedom from Evil Speaking of others. Love and Compassion for all beings.
It is important to remember that we live in a world with others and as we build deep and harmonious relationships with those who are around us, we become deeper in touch with ourselves. We begin to realize that no one is a stranger. When we reach this state we can begin to understand the true meaning of oneness, of all being a part of the greater one, the greater light.
I once knew a man who introduced his wife by talking about the many ways in which she added to his life. He talked about the strengths that each gave to the relationship and the common ideals which had given life to their union. He described this as The One. He said, "we each have a separate body, and our own lessons which we are learning; therefore, there is individuality. However, it is because we have no walls which separate us from each other that we are able to create the ideal of One with our love, our thoughts, and our deeds." A beautiful ritual which supports this idea is the lighting of candles at a Christian wedding. Both the man and the woman have their own separate candles which they light, and with their individual candles, together they light a greater candle which symbolizes their union. The uniting of lights symbolizes each soul adding to the other soul's life.
You can practice dissolving walls of separation with this simple practice: for a moment, become aware of your breath. Observe the breath as it enters your body and as it leaves your body. Our breath, even though we take it for granted, is what ties our soul to our physical body. Though it appears formless, the breath has the power of life. This is a Universal Truth; it applies to everyone, it applies to all of creation. When we think about the difference we perceive between ourselves and others, we can recognize that it is our own opinions which create these walls. If you find yourself filled with criticism, prejudice, and opinions, take in a deep breath and remind yourself that we are all light and that our quality is love. Remember that we have the same universal needs just as we all need the breath to exist.
There was an eight-year-old boy who was talking about how he enjoyed watching the news. When his aunt asked him why, he said, "because I want to know what is happening in the rest of the world." This seemed like such a deep thought for an eight-year-old to have. If we all were interested in others who live within our neighborhood and who live within our state, it would help the evolution of humanity and the consciousness of all of mankind. This one child gives us hope for a brighter future.
Throughout this month, contemplate on doing good each day, remembering that your true nature is only good. Each day, before you lie down to rest, review your day and see what good you have done for others in your environment. After a few days of such self inquiry, you will begin to feel the joy of life.
©1994 Vol. 12 No. 4
Rev. Dr. Sheila Benjamin is an ordained minister in the Interfaith Church of Metaphysics and has been teaching applied metaphysics in the School of Metaphysics since 1978. She is currently writing a book on the power of friendship. For information about how to become a member of the Interfaith Church of Metaphysics, contact the School of Metaphysics National Headquarters in Windyville, Missouri.