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JayemThe Rich Man


Recall the parable of the rich man who comes to the Master seeking entrance into the Kingdom. Falling on his knees, the rich man begs for salvation. On-lookers, assuming the great compassion of the Master, quietly anticipate His reaction: a hand placed lovingly on the man's head, a few gentle words imbued with wisdom, and acceptance of this new disciple.

The Master pauses. The crowd stills. An eternity seems to pass as He stares down at the rich man motionless at his feet. Finally, He roars so quickly and abruptly that several women in the crowd gasp in surprise:

"Go, and sell all that you own, and follow me."

The rich man looks up, quite startled, for he had been certain that the Master would be moved by his act of piety.

"Master," he mumbles, "I have worked long and hard for all that I own. Must I give up my most cherished possessions?"

The Master's gaze seems to pierce the rich man. He lifts his head to face the crowd and cries out:

"Surely, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom!"

Abruptly, the Master turns and walks away from the stunned man on his knees, who somehow knows imploring the master is useless. He suddenly feels very, very poor.

The crowd murmurs amongst itself.

A man who had been close to the scene, turns to a woman carrying a small child. She recognizes him as the part-time employee of her cousin who owns the meat shop just off the town plaza.

You can't devote yourself to worldly gain alone. After all, you can't take it with you." Satisfied with his interpretation of what he has heard and witnessed, he continues on his way.

Near to the village well sits a man with long hair and a beard. He sits cross-legged, leaning on his walking stick. The villagers had grown used to this ascetic sitting in deep meditation in the moonlight more often than not.

"Beware the lure of riches. No, sacrifice of this world is absolutely necessary." Content the Master would agree with him, he closed his eyes. The slight movement of his lips meant he was chanting the names of God he had learned in his pilgrimage to India.

As the crowd was dispersing, one man seemed overwhelmed managing three small children. His wife labored to keep up, her hand on her painful low-back, belly large with child.

The man spoke to his wife, though it was hard to tell if she was listening. Actually, it had been that way for quite awhile.

"Well, it was interesting. But the Master wasn't talking to me. After all, I can barely make ends meet in this dog-eat-dog world."

Dismissing it all as irrelevant to his hard life he, too, continues on his way.

The spiritual path requires steps that cannot be circumvented. Knowing this, the Master looked into the rich man's soul, and - discerning what was real, but hidden - spoke the revelation of his next step.

At some point, we must go and sell all that we have. Yet, this has nothing to do with material objects. No, we cling far more tightly to especially two cherished possessions.

The second of our most cherished possessions is Certainty; those unconscious perceptions and beliefs we have acquired on our way, like flecks of dust silently alighting on our easy chair.

With these, we weave a bubble of safety against the vast Mystery of Life itself, and will often argue or even go to war (as individuals or nations) rather than allow this bubble to be questioned. The threat stirs deep fear.

Our first most cherished possession is the unquestioned sense of the "I" who possesses certainty. That is what rests in the center of the bubble, and how viciously (though unwittingly) we will defend it.

But the Master speaks to us, saying, "Go, and sell all that you own."

We must, indeed, surrender our "possessions", not because it will make things better, but because nothing else can be done. This is a major stepping stone in the journey, and we know we are there when our foot lands upon it. It is a choiceless choice.

Still, fearful of the uncertainty surrender of these priceless possessions entails, the contraction in the core of our being - often called 'ego' - recoils.& It chooses some form of distraction, cleverly makes excuses, or even outright attacks upon whomever the Beloved may use to deliver this stepping-stone to us, such as the Master.

This deception to which we desperately adhere grows yet more subtle when we declare ourselves to be on "the Path". We become unwittingly selective, continuing to operate from the same old tired state of mind: 'Awakening sounds great, as long as I get to call the shots!'

After all, we may end up having to discipline ourselves. We may (dread the thought) have to struggle, and become familiar with the true uncertainty in which we live and move and have our being. Even worse, we may have to feel all the crap we have disowned, burying it deep into the very sinews of the body itself.

We are the rich man. Hiding our insincerity while we grip so tightly the bubble we have invested so much energy in building and maintaining, we approach the Master (who may appear in many guises), seeking Grace. Before Him (or, Her) we stand naked: there is no such thing as privacy, though we may believe there is.

Faced with such profanation, the Master turns and walks away. True compassion is, and must be, ruthlessly uncompromising, for anything less will fail to transform the soul from repository of ego to an open channel for the very Mystery and Love that GOD IS.


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