Summary: Sunday, December 3-Friday, December 8, 2017
Underneath the very real differences between religions and peoples lies a unifying foundation. (Sunday)
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. (Monday)
“When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition.” —James Finley (Tuesday)
God is a mystery of relationship, and the truest relationship is love. Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them. (Wednesday)
How can we learn to draw from the deep aquifer, the common Source of Love for all religions, without denying the goodness of our own small spring? This is the marriage of unity and diversity. (Thursday)
Jesus and Buddha both speak about anxiety, attachment, grasping, craving, and self-absorption. Christians and Buddhists can help each other remember the teachings at the core of our faiths. (Friday)
Practice: The Eightfold Path
The Buddha said again and again, “I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering.” As I often say: If you do not transform your pain, you will almost certainly transmit it. All great religion is about what you do with your pain. The Noble Eightfold Path describes the Buddha’s way to transform your pain. The Buddha said, “Wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there.” 
Thich Nhat Hanh writes that the Dharma, “the way of Understanding and Love . . . teaches us to recognize suffering as suffering and to transform our suffering into mindfulness, compassion, peace, and liberation. . . . The teachings of the Buddha were not to escape from life, but to help us relate to ourselves and the world as thoroughly as possible.” 
James Finley describes the Eightfold Path:
The first two steps of the Eightfold Path are Right View and Right Thinking (“right” meaning effective in evoking happiness and inner peace). These two are associated with the notion of wisdom. They help us ground ourselves in this wisdom of the Eightfold Path.
The next four of the eight steps—Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence—are the paths of the moral precepts. Do not confuse this with being “moralistic.” The intuition of the Buddha is that one will not come to this inner peace unless one grounds one’s life in an inflowing and outflowing love. This is the core of what it means to be moral.
Jesus also taught an outflow of love when he said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Love is the outflowing way that we must relate to God and to everything [because everything flows from God] and the outflowing way we must relate to each individual person.
Practicing Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence expands our realm of conscious freedom to choose love. God cannot and will not give us any gift that we do not want and freely choose—usually again and again.
The last two steps are Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. The Buddha felt none of this would work without deep meditation practice. 
While some people allow themselves to be changed through great love or great suffering, a meditation practice helps us stay receptive and open. It preserves and sustains what we learn in love and suffering.
Gateway to Silence:
We are already one.
 Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Broadway Books: 1998), 49.
 Ibid., 7-8.
 James Finley, exclusive Living School teaching. Learn more about the two-year program at cac.org/living-school.
For Further Study:
Richard Rohr and James Finley, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD, DVD, MP3 download
Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), CD, MP3 download
Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014)
An Advent Meditation
As we enter Advent, a season of expectation and preparation, CAC core faculty member James Finley offers a short video meditation. What does the story of Jesus’ birth teach us about how God is present in our lives? “God is unexplainably born in our hearts moment by moment, breath by breath.”
Watch the video (about 7 minutes) at cac.org/faculty-advent-messages.
Introductory Teachings from CAC’s Core Faculty
Our teachers share a wealth of wisdom drawn from both their own lives and centuries of the Christian mystical tradition. If you are new to this path or would like to introduce someone to the contemplative way, see our recommended reading lists, featuring the writings of Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley.
Learn more at cac.org.
Rebuilding Christianity “From the Bottom Up”
Drawing from his own Franciscan heritage and other wisdom traditions, Richard Rohr reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal the foundations of contemplative Christianity and the universe itself: God as loving relationship.
Each week of meditations builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Watch a short introduction to the theme “From the Bottom Up” (8-minute video)—click here. If you’ve missed earlier messages, explore the online archive.
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Center for Action and Contemplation