Thursday, September 11, 2008

All the rest is silence

I am mindful this morning of those among us who hold the lives of the men and women serving our country in their prayers, seeking the safe return of all who have been deployed;

I am mindful this morning of those among us who hold the lives of the civilian women and men and children affected by this war in their prayers, seeking their safety amidst the conflict;

I am mindful this morning of those among us who are filled with emotions - of sadness, of anger, of resolve, of doubt, of uncertainty - which seem to overwhelm them, as they seek a balance of spirit;

I am mindful this morning of those among us who feel disconnected, through their passionate understanding of either support or opposition, but who would welcome inclusive arms to embrace them even in their differences;

I am mindful this morning of our duty to hold, in thoughts and prayers and hugs, all those who choose to walk with us along the path of life, not only those with whom we agree but even more so those with whom we differ.

So, this is my prayer for the morning: that in our own community we find the wisdom, the courage, the connection, the acceptance, the all- encompassing love which is the essence and source of peace - that none be afraid.

Amen and Blessed Be,

The Rev. Dr. Randolph W.B. Becker of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists. Written on March 23rd, 2003.


Kuan Yin teaches that mercy and compassion are for everyone. I believe this is why her worship spans centuries, cultures, geography and religions. This Goddess dwells among us here on earth and she understands our grief, anger, fear and hopelessness. She does not preach, she listens. She does not demand our obedience rather she lets her own actions light the way for those that wish to follow her example. She is love, compassion and mercy personified and we need her now more then ever.

Kuan Yin does not pick and choose; her love is for all beings, including those of us who bring our troubles upon ourselves. One great example of this is the Joss House itself, which has been constructed not once, but twice. It was originally built in 1854 and it was destroyed in what is known as the Weaverville Tong War. The Tong War took place over the course of one terrible day in 1854. It involved many of the 2,000 Chinese people living in and around the town. The war began at dawn. By the sunset, the original temple was burning, ten Chinese miners lay dead and over thirty were wounded. The ironic fact is that the Chinese war was instigated by the white settlers in the town who stood by and watched it all happen. They even took bets on the outcome. You may well ask, "Why would these people allow themselves to be used in this way?" No one knows for sure.

Whenever I am tempted to lash out in anger, I think of that Tong War. It reminds me that compassion is a dynamic force. My tradition teaches that this force must be directed outwardly, as well as inwardly, in order to be effective. For me, this means that I cannot fight intolerance or prejudice directed towards me with more of the same. I can defend myself and my loved ones, never you fear, but I can do so in a way that leaves my integrity intact. More then once the thought of Kuan Yin has kept me from playing the fool in someone else's game. This is what is meant by right action. It does not mean "no action" or "reaction", it means action that is taken from a position of wisdom, understanding and strength.

Human beings tend to react rather then act. They can also mistake kindness and compassion for weakness and gullibility. Kuan Yin teaches otherwise. This is why she is shown with the water of compassion, the sword that cuts through, the dragons of wisdom and the crown of empowerment. All these must all be used together for right action to occur. The fact that Kuan Yin is also portrayed with so many arms does not surprise me. It takes a Goddess of outstanding strength to hold all the grief and love of this world. On those days when I feel fearful, misjudged or under threat I use the various aspects of Kuan Yin to guide me. She stands for courage and the willingness to extend help to those in need, regardless of the cost to ourselves. When a community comes together as we have done, they embody Kuan Yin. Then the whole, as they say, exceeds the sum of all it's parts.

This world we live in is so unsafe and changeable and yet it is also so very beautiful, the beings in it unique and precious. We have good cause today to remember that.

..."Namaste" is the Sanskrit word which means, 'I bow to the divine in you". One says this holding the two hands together in a gesture of respect and unity. It is often used by Taoist-Pagans as a greeting that honors our connection to the divine, to one another and to all life. To you I say "Namaste". May the blessings of Kuan Yin be with you and yours.

Sia Vogel, September 23, 2001

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