Be Receptive (or Be Open) — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Be Receptive (or Be Open)

The Beatitudes

Be Receptive (or Be Open)
Sunday, April 16, 2017

This week Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, reflects on Jesus’ eight blessings given in his Sermon on the Mount.

If you were raised Christian, you are probably familiar with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). They’re one of most commonly memorized texts in Sunday school (along with the Ten Commandments and the Twenty-third Psalm). These eight short sayings (called “beatitudes” because they all begin with the phrase “Blessed are . . .”) lay out Jesus’ core teachings in a wonderfully concentrated and compelling format. Let’s consider each of these nondual teachings in turn.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:3

From a wisdom perspective (that is, from the point of view of the transformation of consciousness), “poor in spirit” designates an inner attitude of receptivity and openness; one is blessed because only in this state is it possible to receive anything.

There’s a wonderful Zen story that illustrates this teaching. A young seeker, keen to become the student of a certain master, is invited to an interview at the master’s house.

The student rambles on about all his spiritual experience, his past teachers, his insights and skills, and his pet philosophies. The master listens silently and begins to pour a cup of tea. He pours and pours, and when the cup is overflowing he keeps right on pouring. Eventually the student notices what’s going on and interrupts his monologue to say, “Stop pouring! The cup is full.”

The teacher says, “Yes, and so are you. How can I possibly teach you?”

In one of his most beautiful insights, the contemporary Christian mystic Thomas Merton once wrote, “At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God.” [1]

From time immemorial wisdom teaching has insisted that only through that point of nothingness can we enter the larger mind. As long as we’re filled with ourselves, we can go no further.

Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a pure heart, O God.

[1] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Image Books: 1968), 158.

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 42-43.

Image credit: View from the Mount of Beatitudes, between Capernaum and Gennesaret, Israel.
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