God acts within every moment
and creates the world with each breath.
He speaks from the center of the universe,
in the silence beyond all though.
Mighter than the crash of a thunderstorm,
mighter than the roar of the sea,
is God ' s voice silently speaking
in the depths of the listening heart
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April 08, 1994
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Excerpt from A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell
The Hebrew word for psalm is mizm'r, which means a hymn sung to the accompaniment of a lyre. But when the ancient rabbis named the anthology that we know as the Book of Psalms, they called it s'fer tehill'm, the Book of Praises. That is the dominant theme of the greatest of the Psalms: a rapturous praise, a deep, exuberant gratitude for being here.
The mind in harmony with the way things are sees that this is a good world, that life is good and death is good. It feels the joy that all creatures express by their very being, and finds its own music in accompanying the universal rapture.
Let the heavens and the earth rejoice, let the waves of the ocean roar, let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains rumble with joy, let the meadows sing out together, let the trees of the forest exult.
Thus the Psalmists, in the ardor of their praise, enter the sabbath mind and stand at the center of creation, saying, "Behold, it is very good." This is the poet's essential role, as Rilke wrote in a late poem; when the public wonders, "But all the violence and horror in the world -- how can you accept it?" Rilke's poet says simply, "I praise."
The praise is addressed to whom? to what? When gratitude wells up through our whole body, we don't even ask. Words such as God and Tao and Buddha-nature only point to the reality that is the source and essence of all things, the luminous intelligence that shines from the depths of the human heart: the vital, immanent, subtle, radiant X. The ancient Jews named this unnamable reality yhvh, "that which causes [everything] to exist:' or, even more insightfully, ehyeh, "I am." Yet God is neither here nor there, neither before nor after, neither outside nor inside. As soon as we say that God is anything, we are a billion light-years away.
How supremely silly, then, to say that God is a he or a she. But because English lacks a personal pronoun to express what includes and transcends both genders, even those who know better may refer to God as "he." (Lao-tzu, wonderfully, calls "him" "it"
There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.)