Tag Archives: Caroline Brazier

Live up to the Light thou hast…

The first gleam of light, ‘the first cold light of morning’ which gave promise of day with its noontide glories, dawned on me one day at meeting, when I had been meditating on my state in great depression. I seemed to hear the words articulated in my spirit, ‘Live up to the light thou hast, and more will be granted thee.’ Then I believed that God speaks to man by His Spirit. I strove to lead a more Christian life, in unison with what I knew to be right, and looked for brighter days, not forgetting the blessings that are granted to prayer.

Caroline Fox, Quaker Faith & Practice 26.04

The experience of Pureland Buddhism is that we develop appreciation. This is not just for what others have given us, or for the world we inhabit, though these are important. The central practices and teachings are grounded in an attitude of appreciation that goes beyond the worldly to the transcendent. The practice is deeply rooted in the sense of other-ness, an appreciation of the reality of a measureless beneficent presence beyond the limits of the self-world. This practice… centres on devotion to Amida Buddha, the immeasurable expression of Buddha in the universe. It is a practice that expresses deep joy and gratitude, that reaches out in the wistful longing expressed by yugen, and that gratefully allows the practitioner to rest in the knowledge that despite their imperfections, they are blessed.

Caroline Brazier, The Other Buddhism

We have seen that the Jesus Prayer involves body, mind and spirit – the whole of man. If the whole person is  given to God in prayer, then it reflects the greatest commandment of all, to love… The cosmic nature of the prayer means that the believer lives as a human being in solidarity with all other human beings, and with the animal creation, together with the whole created order (the cosmos). All this is drawn into and affected by the prayer. One believer’s prayers send out vibrations and reverberations that increase the power of divine Love in the cosmos.

Br. Ramon SSF, Praying The Jesus Prayer (Marshall Pickering Christian Spirituality Series, now sadly out of print)

So often we despair, feeling little, and isolated, and unable to help in the face of the vast and manifest suffering of our fellow creatures, animal and human. We know that we can love, and yet it seems such a little thing. The tears we weep from love seem so small, and impotent; yet they are salty, and not one of them is lost (Psalm 56).

We are not alone: we are connected at the deepest level of what we are. In mind, with all the years of others’ thoughts, and words, and music that have gone to make us who we are; in body, with all that is made – we are, literally, stardust; in spirit, with Spirit itself and so with each other. The Light that is the very Ground of Being streams through us all. All who live. Look into a cat’s eyes. Listen to the sparrows. Kiss your lover’s hand. Here is God.

It just happened?

In her beautiful book The Other Buddhism, Caroline Brazier tells the story of a swarm of bees who return years after their removal, to their home in the roof above her mother in law Irene’s bedroom window, the morning after her death. Caroline and her husband had walked into the garden, among the trees and plants Irene had so loved, at the very moment the swarm arrived and settled. She writes:

Why did the bees come? What brought them to Irene’s window that morning? Why did we go into the garden? Why did I look up? The questions bring further questions. Answers do not come. And if they do, perhaps something is lost.

No answers.

In their arrival, the bees help me to touch something beyond expression. I cannot say why they arrived at that point. I have no metaphysic or natural explanation to fall back on. The timing seemed to belie coincidence, and yet my practical mind finds no reason for their coming. They speak to my being in a different language.Their presence resonates with ancient stories of portentous occurrences. It connects me with feelings and intuitions that go beyond words. Like the rising of a snipe [she is referring to Saigyo’s poem ‘The First Winds of Autumn’], the bees are as messengers of the gods.

Stepping onto a different path we go beyond our rational minds into another kind of knowing… We feel held by a deep bodily knowledge of truth, without having words to ascribe to the process of knowing. This is the foundation of faith, and faith is the starting point and the end of the spiritual journey…

Beyond the ordinary is the unseen. Beyond the extra-ordinary the unseen becomes a little more visible, but yet remains shrouded in its own mystery. Faith involves the recognition of a world beyond self… It is the acceptance that forces shape our lives which we do not and cannot understand…

CG Jung, with his passion for explaining spiritual things, came up with the term “synchronicity” to describe what he termed an “acausal connecting principle”, in which, following discussions with the theoretical physicists Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, he related the concept to relativity theory and quantum mechanics.

Jung may or may not have been right – despite Marie-Louise von Franz’s plea for further research, no one to my knowledge has seriously explored the theory’s implications – but what he was speaking of resonates with the life of faith on more than one level.

We recognise synchronicity by a deep instinct. Something within us cannot ever quite accept that things “just happen”. We think of people, and they suddenly ring up out of the blue. We ponder whether we are called to some role or occupation, and within a few days receive a job offer. Most strikingly, we pray, and in Tennyson’s words, “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of…”

Increasingly, my heart is “held by a deep bodily knowledge of truth, without having words to ascribe to the process of knowing.” Yet my own knowing is for me deeper and more sure than any awareness of fact, or academic discipline. I long for this path, for the flying up of snipe in the marsh at evening, for the voice of the tide along the sand as the sun sets.