Monday, December 23, 2013

Renounce and Rejoice

by Greg Marzullo

As Moses is standing before God for the first time, the Divine is trying to convince our all-too-mortal hero to take on the mantle of leader. 

In one of Moses' backpedaling moments, he says, "O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."

God respons, "Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"

This reminds me of the Isha Upanishad, a beautiful text coming out of India. The Upanishads are a series of works that, as translator Eknath Easwaran describes them, are like snapshots from the edges of expanded consciousness. We can think of the Upanishads as postcard someone sends to the people back home - it whets the homebody's appetite with the promise of exotic locales and glorious experiences. The person sending the postcard from Upanishad-land, however, is sending it from heightened states of awareness to someone just beginning on the spiritual path.

In the Isha Upanishad, the opening lines are: 

"The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all. The Lord is the supreme Reality. Rejoice in him through renunciation. Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord." (Translated by Eknath Easwaran)

It's almost too easy to make the obvious interpretation that all things belong to God. We don't actually own anything in our lives; we're all just one or two paychecks from being bereft of any financial support. However, "All belongs to the Lord" can also mean all attributes, all actions we take, all experiences we set in motion.

Feel like you're a fantastic student? Renounce and rejoice!

Proud of that great case you just won? Renounce and rejoice!

Finally got the role you've wanted in that play? Renounce and rejoice!

Nothing belongs to you. You're free of all fetters surrounding ownership, and so is Moses. He has nothing to worry about. So what if he's not the best talker around? God points out that it's not Moses' own words that will have the desired effect - it's the voice of God that will pour out of him. In a similar moment of what God later says to Job, Adonai reminds Moses that nothing he does originates from himself. It all comes from and returns to Ha-Shem.

As long as Moses tries to take the wheel from God, he will feel ill-equipped because he is. His strength lies in his ability to let Ha-Shem roll through him. In fact, it's much later when Moses, in blind anger, disobeys God's command and strikes the rock for water instead of talking to it that God bars his entry into the holy land. 

Renounce and rejoice. Nothing belongs to you. No thing, no person and no ability. You're not in the driver's seat, which means you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. 

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