So central is Creation in Thich Nhat Hanh’s view, that if we fail to penetrate it we will fail to find the ground of being behind it. If you are not able to touch the phenomenal world deeply enough, it will be very difficult or impossible to touch the noumenal world—the ground of being.
It is telling that Thich Nhat Hanh uses the term “ground of being” which is his favorite name for God. He got the term from theologian Paul Tillich but Tillich got it from Meister Eckhart who lived seven centuries before him. Thus there lies an exciting link between Thich Nhat Hanh and Meister Eckhart. Thich Nhat Hanh is reminding us that behind and within the depth of the phenomenal world there lurks the divine presence.
Existence itself is a kind of miracle and we ought to wake up to it. Our true home is in the present moment. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. The more we learn about our capacity to walk, and what a gift that is, and about the green earth, and what a gift that has been and how long in the making, the more literally we can take Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice. The technique is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, that the only moment to be alive is the present moment.
How like Jesus’ teaching this is, who told us that the reign of God is among you and whose many parables were to underscore the simplicity and the diversity of the reign of God, which at times was like a mustard seed, at times like leaven, at times like a net, at times like a gathering of sheep and goats. An everyday thing, this kingdom/queendom of God! And yet so rare because we have eyes and do not see, ears and do not hear.
Like the Buddha, Jesus taught that humanity has to wake up to see differently, to realize how close to heaven we already are. Our relationship to Creation is a kind of test of that wakefulness.
Meister Eckhart discourses on Jesus’ teachings on the nearness of God’s kingdom/queendom this way: God is equally near to all creatures. The wise man says in Ecclesiasticus: God has his net, his hunter’s ploy, spread out over all creatures (cf. Ho. 7:12; Ezk. 12:13). Thus all people can find him in everything, so long as they can penetrate this net filled with creatures and keep God in mind and recognize God in everything….The person who knows God most truly is the one who can find him equally in all things.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 43f.
For Eckhart quote, see Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, p. 138.
Queries for Contemplation
What does “Ground of Being” mean to you as an understanding of the Divine?
Dwell on Thich Naht Hanh’s teaching about what a miracle is—to live in the present moment on the holy earth. Let this meditation cover over you and embrace you.
Are you one of those of whom Eckhart speaks who “can find God equally in all things”?
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