Last Friday night, I handed a bag of extra sandwiches from work to two people that were sitting on the street corner with their life's belongings in a few backpacks. Another woman was talking with them about their day, and both of us began to walk away at the same time. She uplifted my kindness in giving that couple some food, and we began to talk as we strolled down University Ave.
This woman is Ani (meaning Eldest Sister) Phurbu Lhamo (meaning sister goddess), a Buddhist nun who spent her day in Berkeley breathing in the East Bay air and enjoying the food and energy that is in abundance here. She was wrapped up in layers of bright fabric and carrying a tiny, peaceful dog.
The more words that were exchanged between us, the energy in my soul buzzed. This journey through life can be lonely and fraught with miscommunication and judgement, but sometimes there are moments that hit you just right. The moments in which two souls mingle in interest for the other and in deep connection with the thoughts, passions, and needs of each other.
Ani Phurbu told me about meeting the Dalai Lama and shared the Dalai Lama's view that people should explore and dabble in many religious traditions but that it is important to stick with the tradition that you grow up in because it has been placed upon your heart and all religious rituals can be incorporated into any perspective or faithful life.
This was a breath of fresh air for me; it's often that in discussion with other Lutherans, I feel distinctly different from the typical Protestant Christian. I feel as if I am on my toes, waiting for someone to say, "Hey! What is that girl doing here? Shouldn't she go and try adhering to a different religion?" This has been on the forefront of my mind while I'm in the midst of a two week Christian Ethics course. Bonhoeffer wrote that for a Christian, the point of departure from where all ethical and moral principles come should be found in God's self-revelation found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This concept has been stated at least 10 times during every 5-hour class period.
Is Christ my point of departure in knowing how to be a moral and ethical person? No. For me, I can logically understand God coming down to Earth as a human and sacrificing God's human self for the sake of human salvation. It is beautiful to think that God had an experience in which God was able to experience human sorrows, joys, and pains. This is a sign of God's love for all human beings and for me, the story of Jesus Christ is not about Jesus but really points to God's love above all else.
Is God's love where my point of departure is? This is where I get a bit fuzzy. I know myself that God loves me and that all I have is what God gave me. I believe that every day God gives me love and my immediate reaction to receiving God's love is to pour it out into the hearts of others. This pouring out and giving of love manifests itself in many ways. I have hope for and care for the humanity of this Earth. This is where I feel that my point of departure lies: the humanity that lurks within every person of this world and the life that is present in animals, trees, and rocks. This life that flows through everything that I can imagine is where I appreciate who I am in relation to the other. The life that is outside of me is just as important as the life inside of me; therefore I am value and lift up another person's point of view just as I would my own.
Do I need other people to sit with me and share this same perspective? No. Do I feel confident to share this perspective in theological discussions in class? Working on it. Did it feel absolutely amazing to meet someone whose perspective is similar to mine? A hundred times yes. Thank you Ani Phurbu.