Blessed are the poor in spirit

(I am currently reading a book called, “Wisdom Jesus” by Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008).

This teaching really spoke to me, I hope it speaks to you as well.

I realize that this interpretation of Jesus's teaching is probably not what you grew up with in Sunday school. So what I'd like to do now is to review some of those familiar teachings of Jesus— the ones you learned as a child—and see if you hear a different sort of ring to them when we approach them not as little moral lessons but as radical calls to the transformation of your consciousness. We'll begin with the most well-known of these teachings, then move into turf that is perhaps much less familiar.

If you were raised Christian, you are probably familiar with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). They’re one of the most commonly memorized texts in Sunday school (along with the Ten Commandments and the Twenty-third Psalm). These eight short sayings (called “beatitudes” because they all begin with the phrase “Blessed are . . .”) layout Jesus’ core teachings in a wonderfully concentrated and compelling format. Let’s consider each of these nondual teachings in turn.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:
From a wisdom perspective (that is, from the point of view of the transformation of consciousness), “poor in spirit” designates an inner attitude of receptivity and openness; one is blessed because only in this state is it possible to receive anything

There’s a wonderful Zen story that illustrates this teaching. A young seeker, keen to become the student of a certain master, is invited to an interview at the master’s house.

The student rambles on about all his spiritual experience, his past teachers, his insights and skills, and his pet philosophies. The master listens silently and begins to pour a cup of tea. He pours and pours, and when the cup is overflowing he keeps right on pouring. Eventually, the student notices what’s going on and interrupts his monologue to say, “Stop pouring! The cup is full.”

The teacher says, “Yes, and so are you. How can I possibly teach you?”

In one of his most beautiful insights, the contemporary Christian mystic Thomas Merton once wrote, “At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God.” 

Wisdom teaching has insisted that only through that point of nothingness can we enter the larger mind. As long as we’re filled with ourselves, we can go no further.

Slow down and get away from life’s hectic pace. Leave it all behind you and empty yourself as you walk with us.

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