In verse 16 we read, “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.” The next two verses contain a threefold explanation of our commitment to God. The Israelites declared that they were going: (1) to walk in the way, (2) to keep the decrees, and (3) to obey the Lord. In response the Lord promises that the Israelites are: (1) [Their] people, (2) going to be set in praise, fame and honor, and (3) a people holy to the Lord their God. For me, the challenge is not believing in God’s promises, the challenge is lving my life in a way that is worthy of God’s promises. To walk in the way of the Lord, to keep the Lord’s decrees, and to obey the Lord are no small tasks.
When ancient people were trying to implement a certain belief system into their lives, they would walk around chanting or mumbling the words of their holy stories to themselves. Because the stories or scriptures were passed down orally, the memorization of the texts was important. I think it is interesting that the scripture that informs my spiritual life and daily decisions are the passages of scripture that I know by heart. I may not know then verbatim, but I have meditated on them enough that the general gist of their text is firmly implanted in my heart and soul. One of the spiritual disciplines that intrigues me the most is saying the Jesus prayer. In the book The Way of the Pilgrim, a man is taught that his prayers should be constant and never ceasing. In Psalm 1 the text says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The word for meditate literally means to mumble or to recite to yourself. The Hebrew word hagah literally means to moan, growl, speak, or mutter. In the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of the Tanakh, the word is translated as study.
All this to say, that I think for me, part of upholding my end of the bargain with the Lord is to absorb the Scriptures so that I can’t help but be influenced by their meaning in my day to day life. This brings me closer to realizing my dream of living on Venice Beach, literally on Venice Beach. I could walk around mumbling Scripture to rhythm of the oceans lapping waves, the seagulls calling their praises, and the soft sand cradling my every step. Please, understand that I am being serious: I plan one day to live on Venice Beach. I only hope that when the time comes, I am stil sentient enough to hitch a ride across the country without too much problem. Despite its problems, what a free way to live, with none of the societal pressures, the only concerns are bodily and spiritual. Interesting to me that many of the booming spiritual revolutions are happening in homeless communities. Something to ponder.
I can’t say anything better or more intelligent than some words from the Dalai Lama in his book, The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. He says in a chapter called “Love Your Enemy”:
If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience, and understanding. By developing greater tolerance and patience, it will be easier for you to develop your capacity for compassion and, through that, altruism. So even for the practice of your own spiritual path, the presence of an enemy is crucial. (49)
It is important to concentrate on the negativities of anger and hatred, which are the principal obstacles to enhancing one’s capacity for compassion and tolerance…God created you as an individual and gave you the freedom to act in a way that is compatible and in accordance with the Creator’s wishes—to act in an ethical way, in a moral way, and to live a life of an ethically disciplined, responsible individual. (50)
There is an idea in Buddhism of something called offering of practice (drupai chopa): of all the offerings you can make to someone that you revere—such as material offerings, singing songs of praise, or other gifts—the best offerieng you can make is to live a life according to the principles of that being…One of the great yogi’s of Tibetan Buddhism, Milarepa, states in one of his songs of spiritual experience, “As far as offerings of material gifts are concerned, I am destitute; I have nothing to offer. What I have to offer in abundance is the gift of my spiritual practice.” (51)