The Bodhi Fig Tree Journey

The Bodhi Fig Tree Journey

Legend has it that the Buddha sat under a fig tree on the day that he attained enlightenment. Perhaps this is too broad a saying; I don’t think enlightenment can be fully attained in one earthly lifetime. I believe full enlightenment will take a human soul thousands or millions of years and journeys through multiple spiritual dimensions. At any rate, meditating under the fig tree was an important part of the Buddha’s spiritual journey. This particular tree, ficus religiosa, now bears the name “Bodhi tree,” Bodhi meaning enlightenment in Sanskrit.

500 years later, another of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders had an encounter with a fig tree. Yeshua cursed a fig tree on his journey to Jerusalem during the end days of his earthly ministry. Matthew 21 and Mark 11 both tell this story. In both accounts, Yeshua saw a fig tree that was not bearing fruit, and he cursed it. During the same journey, he went to the temple and overturned the money tables.

At least that is the way the story goes in church. I think it was more like this: Yeshua became very angry at the sale of sacrifices going on in the most holy of places. Yeshua could not stand to see the oppression of the poor and the merchants turning the sacred into a sale. Coins flew to the ground like a hail storm, and doves flew overhead, confused at their sudden freedom from smashed cages. Goats ran out of the temple and down the street, somehow intuitively aware that their lives had been spared. People screamed, and the money changers cowered and cursed under their breath. Someone ran to get a priest to come help.

At the same time, something magical happened. According to the gospel of Matthew, the blind and the lame came to the temple and Yeshua healed them. I am sure the religious leaders were very angry at the destruction of their property and the disturbance inside their kingdom. But, somehow, they did not lay hand on the great healer while the sick flocked around.

What does all of this have to do with the fig tree? I believe that Yeshua was making a prophetic sign when he cursed the tree. He was saying that Israel had turned from her spiritual roots and become a fruitless tree. She no longer had the fruits of compassion and spiritual wisdom, the two greatest qualities that the Buddha also taught as the path to enlightenment.

See the connection? There is much debate as to whether Yeshua knew Buddhism or studied in India or any of these other intellectual questions. No doubt Buddhist thought, as well as many other religious and philosophical thoughts, permeated the Judean atmosphere of the time. The writings of Paul as well as world history readily demonstrate this. But whatever physical connection existed, there was certainly a spiritual connection between the ideas of the two great teachers.

So, the Buddha sat under a fig tree, and learned deep spiritual truths on his journey to enlightenment. Later, Yeshua cursed the fig tree on his journey to justice, as a sign to the people to turn back to the spiritual truths, namely the truth of compassion toward the poor and oppressed. On this same journey, Yeshua made the ultimate sacrifice of his life for the sins of the people. Maybe that is partly why he was so upset to see sacrifices both cheapened and made inaccessible by the money system. Money, and the oppression it brings, cannot exist alongside the holy, and caused the fruit of Israel’s tree to die.

Interestingly, Yeshua later told another parable about a fig tree (Matthew 24:32-42). He told his disciples to watch the sign of the fig tree, that when the leaves come out we know that summer is near. In the same way, we should watch out for the coming of the Son of Man, the establishment of true justice, and the end of earth as we know it now. Yeshua preached over and over that the greatest use of a person’s life is to inwardly prepare for the kingdom of heaven. Similarly, the Buddha taught that we must journey inward to the state of nirvana, overcoming ego, desire, want, and pain on the way. Similar teachings, deep spiritual truths. Both framed by a lowly fig tree.

Welcome to the journey of the fig tree, my friends.

 Photo used freely, courtesy of adrahon on stock.xchng

I Know Why the Willow Weeps

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This is an excerpt from a novel which I am currently writing, but I think it is timely to post this in light of the continuing destruction and strife which our country is facing under the government shutdown.

***

I know why the willow weeps.

The willow is a sensitive soul that sees all and carries all. More than all the other trees, she feels a burden for humanity and for the state of your earth. She does not fear her own destiny, but she fears the destiny of the human heart.

Once upon a time long ago, the willow stood tall and her branches reached toward the sky, like all of the other trees. She lived in the green garden with the Tree of Life. She gently watched over Creation as she soaked in the deep secrets. Dewy teardrops would sometimes gather on her leaves as she felt so grateful and overwhelmed by awe at Creation and the great Author of Life.

One foggy morning, when the mystic clouds hung low in the sky, an angel came to earth with an important announcement. “Today, the Sleepers will be woken,” she said, “and the gates will be opened between the spirit realm and the physical earth. The Creator has ordained that the Sleepers be given another chance to follow the path of love and harmony, the path of the Kingdom.”

All of the trees trembled in excitement at the chance for rebirth and redemption. But the willow knew that this plan was also very dangerous. She had studied about the Sleepers from the Tree of Knowledge and the Akashic records.

The Sleepers had once been awake. They were beautiful beings, crafted directly from the light and the breath of the Creator. They were made in the image of the highest spirits of the Counsel. Indeed they were the sons and daughters of the gods, and they were called the Lightons. Yet, they had turned away, too quickly away, from their noble birthright and followed the destructive paths of greed and pride. Instead of following the true Kingdom path of servanthood,love, and sharing all to the abundance of all, they had set up hierarchies and little kingdoms with little thrones of power. Their light grew ever dimmer in their quest for power and control.

Eventually their thrones reached to the heavens and upset the balance of the whole spiritual universe. Great raindrops fell from heaven as the Creator cried at what had become of those beings so lovingly created with the Creator’s own life-breath.The teardrops flooded the universe and put the Lightons into a deep sleep of millions of years.

Now the counsel had decided to grant the Lightons another chance. This time they would be placed in the earth realm and take on physical bodies to hide their light. The greatest peril, and also greatest gift of the journey, is that they would forget who they were. Their reset memories would allow them a clean slate to pursue once again the path of love and harmony for which they were created and which remained the greatest desire in their deep spiritual inner places.

The willow was the most prophetic of all the trees. Some said that she could see things even beyond the knowledge of the Tree of Life, but she would never claim this for herself. As she pondered the awakening of the sleeping Lightons, she looked forward through time. The images made her branches quake in fright.

She saw wars and bloodshed over land. She saw young ones starving in the cold of the night with no mother to protect them, and she saw old wise ones laughed at, stoned, and burned by their villages in a mockery of their knowledge. She saw buildings go up as steel thrones. She saw a system of bartering and sharing morph into a system of power traded in currency called “money”. She saw the spirits of the Lightons flicker and dim until they completely forgotten that they even had a spirit, and they abandoned the very breath of the Creator inside of them. She saw them trade the great secrets for the love of power and greed once again. She saw the whole earth shudder and eventually die under the great pollution of hatred and greed.

With each vision, her branches tipped a little lower to the ground. Soon all her branches were falling down in a posture of weeping which she has assumed for thousands of years.

Yet, the willow remains a tree of green. Here tears may not be in vain. Despite all the wars, bloodshed, and destruction of the sleepers, the human race, the willow knows that a small flicker of hope remains.

It begins here with you and me. Make a choice for healing, love, and kingdom living.

Sleeper awake!

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