Are You Wanting To Be Great Or Are You Wanting To Be Whole ?
Rev. Peter E. Bauer
Political campaigns can generate a lot of discussion, and controversy. This year's Presidential campaign, of course, being no exception. What is unique is that this year's election is raising for voters a theological question- namely, do you want to become great or do you want to become whole?
Religious traditions have spent time and ink discussing the tension between these two polarities. Consider Jesus' admonition to the disciples, when they are discussing among themselves who is the greatest among them:
" The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." ( Matthew 23:12 )
This mentality can cause a barrier to unabashed, take no prisoners, relentless upward mobility.
Regarding wholeness a possible definition could render as follows: wholeness might mean being well in spirit, mind and body. In Paul's letter of encouragement to the Christians living in Thessalonica, he addresses an aspect of their wholeness when he prays for them:
"Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Wholeness: Wellness Devotional and Scripture 1 ...www.faithandhealthconnection.org/1-thessalonians-523-24-wholeness-w
Other religions have also noted what can be prescribed as the prescription to spiritual health and enlightenment versus extreme attachment to the material world. In Buddhism , there is the laughing Buddha, also known in China as Ho-Tai or as ( Mi-Fo-La ). According to an article:
" He is not directly related to the historical Buddha. Ho Tai was, according to one legend, a monk who would always carry a bag full of candies, which he gave out whenever he met up with children. He was always joyful (hence he is referred to as the Laughing Buddha). And because he was a monk, and because some Asian languages use the same word for monk as they do for Buddha, there has been confusion that he is a form of the historical Buddha. "Who Is The Laughing Buddha? - The Buddha Gardenhttps://www.thebuddhagarden.com/who-is-laughing-buddha.html
Rev. Joshua Snyder, Minister of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church, San Antonio, TX observed regarding Ho-Tai that he was once asked how does one achieve enlightenment . Ho-Tai laughed and dropped his bag of candies. Ho-Tai was describing the process of detachment, of becoming empty and not being trapped by objects. Snyder made the distinction that a believer in Thervada Buddhism believes in " individual " enlightenment (Sermon "Ho-Tai And The World To Come " ), where as one who would follow Mahayana Buddhism would advocate " enlightenment" for all people., for all sentient beings.
There has been an argument presented that our country currently needs to aspire to being great, and that this is more important than being whole. Here is the voice of the materialist , the belief that everything can be made better if one has lots of possessions, lots of resources economic and other wise and of course, lots of power.
Jesus, Ho-Tai and others would argue that it is better to be whole; that spiritual peace, enlightenment is found in being unattached, by being open to the spirit, "the still small voice. B" Jesus noted:
"What does it benefit a person if they should gain the world and lose their own soul ? " (Mark 8:36 )
Perhaps, the paradox of being great and being whole is not intractable. Maybe the koan, or the puzzle attempting to reconcile opposites, suggests that we can struggle with being great and whole and arrive at a new stage of intuitive enlightenment.
Maybe, if this enlightenment could occur, perhaps the discourse of this current Presidential election could change for the affirmative.
May it be so.