Wisdom and Compassion

In the beginning of his letter to the scattered Christians, James urges them to pray for wisdom. Paul Knitter, in his book, Without the Buddha I Could not Be Christian, talks about pranja and karuna –wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom brings us into being awake, being open the the movements of the Living One in our cosmos and in our hearts. The Living One is flaring forth bringing all things to completion in the Christ. Wisdom, the feminine side of the Living One, is teaching us that all is one. As Merton discovered on the streets of Louisville at Fourth and Walnut, we are one with all other folks. When we peel away the labels which separate us, wisdom teaches us that we all are created in the very image and likeness of the Living One. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus groans deep within his gut when his opponents ask for a sign. Are they blind or just stupid—he has just fed 4,000 people! Buddhists would eschew the labels I have just used and just say that they are ignorant—not knowing, not filled with wisdom.

The image and likeness, the imprint of the divine within us, is love, the energy that fires the cosmos and our hearts. Wisdom—seeing deeply—requires karuna—compassion. As Jesus trod the roadways of Israel, he saw poverty, destitution and sickness. More than once he was moved deep within his gut with compassion toward the suffering. The Buddha was given a series of sights which opened him to compassion for those who were suffering. The Prophet—Muhammad–in his business travels saw sickness and suffering and sought justice to alleviate human misery. Compassion compels us to do whatever we can to alleviate human suffering and misery because we “see” as the Living One sees.

James instructs us to pray the prayer of faith because such prayer awakens us and opens us to the presence of the Living One. We gain wisdom when we place ourselves in the presence of the Living One and marinade in Love. Richard Rohr teaches about real prayer:

The word “prayer” has often been trivialized by making it into a way of getting what we want. But I use “prayer” as the umbrella word for any interior journeys or practices that allow you to experience faith, hope, and love within yourself. It is not a technique for getting things, a pious exercise that somehow makes God happy, or a requirement for entry into heaven. It is much more like practicing heaven now. Such prayer, such seeing, takes away your anxiety for figuring it all out fully for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. At this point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with you, and you are not afraid of making mistakes. (Daily Meditation, 2/13/12)

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