16. By their Fruits

Being a novice meditator, 
my differentiations confuse me.

As I sit on my meditation cushion today I am surrounded by books. What began as a few books that my husband and I used in our research on the role of spirituality in the treatment of addiction has grown to a collection that our local library would covet. Books on everything from Atheism to Zoroastrianism have migrated from my desk, to chair, to couch, and across the hardwood floor, towards my meditation cushion. So here I sit surrounded by the works and words of scholars who have spent their lives studying the major religions of the world and of devotees who have spent their lives practicing their faith. Each book focused, in one way or another, on the quest for Enlightenment, as am I -- sitting here today on my meditation cushion. I look around at the books again. So many words.

Guided by my reading about, and increased interest in, Buddhist meditative practices, my meditation each morning now begins by "seeking refuge in the Buddha." Today as I speak these words and visualize the Buddha, the image suddenly changes. To my surprise, into the image hurries a figure that I recognize as Jesus. Somewhat out of breath, he says to me:

"Whatever are you doing? You can't seek refuge in the Buddha, you're a Christian."

Before I can respond, Buddha looks at me and says calmly, "I can show you the Way."

Jesus turns towards Buddha, and says firmly, "I am the way."

Buddha just smiles enigmatically and begins to describe his Eight-Fold Path to the relief of suffering. Before he can get to Number Two, however, Jesus begins to recite the sermon on the mount.

After a while they are talking over each other, their voices raised. Then, I watch in disbelief as they begin to push one another. I'm not sure who started it. I try my best to stop it by telling them that I have learned so much from both of them. Unfortunately, this just seems to make matters worse. Soon they are wrestling each other, and rolling about on the ground, their voices still audible, but their words no longer understandable. Then I see someone else coming into the image. It's Moses -- a little maturity sure won't hurt. In a booming voice Moses says:

"I am sent by God to bring God's people to the promised land. God has spoke to me and I have written down his words."

However, no sooner had Moses handed me the Torah when I feel someone tapping me on the shoulder. It's the Prophet Mohammad.

"I am the messenger sent by God, the Lord of all Being, the All-merciful, All-compassionate, here to guide you in the Straight Path," he says, holding out the Koran to me.

Before I can take it from him the fight between Buddha and Jesus intensifies and both Moses and Muhammad have now joined the fray. Then Tara enters and I breathe a sigh of relief; her feminine influence will surely defuse the situation. She smiles at me reassuringly, but then jumps right in. Before long she is joined by many other figures, many of whom I recognize from my readings as deities, saints, and icons of various kinds used by people throughout the ages as objects of reflection in their search for inner peace and enlightenment.

I watch in horror as they tug and pull and tumble over each other, rolling around on the ground. I try to see who's winning, but can't. Wait a minute, Buddha is emerging; no, wait, it's Jesus; no, wait, it's ... I can't make out who that was. All I see now are arms, legs, robes. Now these things too are losing their form, and now no matter how much I try I cannot differentiate one from another, all I see is a ball-like shape that begins to spin faster, faster, faster and faster, at a speed that is making me dizzy to watch. I turn away to regain my balance, and when I turn back I see that the ball has become a sphere of light that is getting brighter and brighter. At first it's hard to look at it because it's so intense, but I find that if I can just maintain my focus on the light I experience a state of such deep peace. I reach out my hand for it, fearful that it will get away from me, but as I do the spinning slows -- slower and slower until there, just beyond my reach, I see a shape, like a ball. No, wait, it's not a ball; it's an orange. The orange floats gently into my outstretched hand. As I watch, it begins to peel itself; like the petals of a flower unfolding, the rind opens, revealing the segments -- Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Moses, Tara, and the others -- right there in my outstretched hand.

I finish my meditation and go to the kitchen. I hold my breakfast orange in my hand and decide against separating the segments today.