Creation is celebrated as a sacred source throughout the world’s spiritual traditions.
We have considered Jewish sources, Hindu sources, Christian sources. Let us listen now to Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
He reminds us what it is we are looking at when we look deeply at just one flower.
When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it.
Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flower. Without time, the flower could not bloom. In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements: it has no independence, individual existence.
Of course we are the same way: Each one of us carries a 13.8 billion-year existence in us, so when we encounter one another we ought to be awed by the experience.
And when we encounter ourselves! No wonder self-knowledge is a journey that takes a lifetime. After all, every hydrogen atom in our bodies has been in existence for 13.8 billion years—imagine how many stories they have to tell us alone.
What a pity when culture distracts us from this deep self-awareness by its titillating bonbons.
Everyday we encounter the cosmos. It is our bodies, our food, our air, our everything. Thich Naht Hanh tells us:
In East Asia, we speak of the human body as a mini-cosmos. The cosmos is our home, and we can touch it by being aware of our body.
This understanding is called microcosm/macrocosm in the West. We also touch the cosmos by our awareness of all other beings and their interconnected origins. Our bodies our are link to the cosmos. All the food we eat is sunlight, therefore it is cosmic food.
Says Thich Naht Hanh:
One thing is made up of all other things. One thing contains the whole cosmos…. A piece of bread contains sunshine…. Without a cloud, the wheat cannot grow. So when you eat the piece of bread, you eat the cloud, you eat the sunshine, you eat the minerals, time, space, everything.
This would seem to speak volumes about the Last Supper and the breaking of bread in its memory and the sharing of wine. The Cosmic Christ becomes Cosmic food.
Like Christian mysticism that sees every being as another Christ, so Thich Nhat Hanh recognizes that all beings in the animal, plant, and mineral world are potential Buddhas.
Indeed, for a Buddhist, the supreme fullness of being human is to be awake (“Buddha” means the “awakened one.”) A Buddha is someone who is awake. But what is more valuable than being awake to the present moment and the present place?
To be awake is not only not to be asleep—it is also not to be in denial which is a kind of choice to be asleep and that can lead to peril.
Queries for Contemplation
Thich Naht Hanh points out that we touch the cosmos by being aware of our body. Do you agree? Do you practice that?
A “Buddha is someone who is awake.” Are you awake? Are you another Buddha? (And Christ? And Image of God?)
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit