It is fascinating how truth reveals itself from many sources. While re-visiting the Zen Buddhist story of the tiger and the berry I was reminded of the Kabbalistic understanding of our role in the universe.
The Zen story is available in many variations. Essentially an individual (usually a man) is being chased by a tiger and finds himself at the edge of a great and dangerous precipice. He climbs down on a vine and is essentially hanging by a thread over a cavernous drop. (there is often another tiger waiting below). While the tiger is menacing him from above, two mice begin to gnaw away at the vine. Although death is in the air, the man spies a juicy berry on the vine., Letting go with one hand he reaches for the berry. Ah, so delicious.
Various interpretations of this story essentially lead to one conclusion. Life is unpredictable, death and suffering inevitable. We must enjoy beauty and sensuality when we can. We must also not allow the weight of pain and suffering we endure to blind us to the moments of beauty and joy which are present around us. The inability to find joy in the midst of suffering only diminishes our own experience of life. An unopened gift cannot be appreciated.
The Kabbalistic metaphor which I blogged nearly four years ago (January 14, 2008) relates to the notion that we, human beings are "God's taste buds" in the world.
Kabbalistic thinking challenges the notion that we are born as evil, incorrigible sinners. It also challenges the belief that sensuality and pleasure are corrupting, negative forces in the universe. In fact it asserts just the opposite. God, the Universe, Ultimate Mind, evolution etc., etc., granted living beings the ultimate gift–the enjoyment of our senses. It is the reward for being alive. It is the antidote to all the suffering that "flesh is heir to".
And furthermore, it proposes that this is not only a gift for us–but for God ! We are the surrogates for God. Through us, through our sensual enjoyment, God experiences his Creation.
We are "God's taste buds in the World". This is one of Kabbalah's most powerful notions–we can choose how we interpret our experiences. We can "spiritualize" the world of our senses.
But, of course, their are risks and caveats that apply to all human experience. Sexuality is a gift. We can choose to share it with others in a compassionate, caring, nurturing way. Or we can use it as a tool, a weapon, a vehicle for horrendous evil.
Our ability to enjoy food and drink can be an enlightening, spiritually fulfilling experience or it can become a substitute for our longings, emptiness and despair. Unhealthy obsessions can lead to obesity, anorexia, and a multitude of physical and psychological illness.
The material world of objects and possessions can be enjoyed and offer an opportunity for charity, sharing and gratitude. Or they can become the source of obsession, hoarding, competition and perversion.
Our sensual experiences are ours to embrace. Our goal is to recognize them as spiritual gifts.