Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Is Sacred

A Zen teacher recently stated that, “The whole world is sacred.  So everything that is in it is sacred.  How do we designate things as sacred?  Sacred is simply the act of declaring it so in our hearts.  Ideally to all things.”

Many of us might have difficulty accepting that all things are in fact sacred.  We are used to being far more discerning and selective about what we consider to be sacred.  Sacred is to give an object an added meaning and value well beyond its intrinsic function.  It can be applied to secular as well as religious objects.  Designating an object as sacred can cause us to focus and draw out our thoughts, energies and feelings in a responsive manner not otherwise possible.

So the religious person sees the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail as objects which embody the whole of that particular religious Founder himself.  A house of worship is defamed when attacked by warriors or vandals because one believes that is where God and humans come together.  The burning of a book of religious teachings instigates rioting by true believers in the words of the sacred Koran.

Secularly we designate as sacred those lands and buildings where great tragedies or suffering occurred, seeking through such a designation a way to somehow make sense, if not mentally reverse, what happened there.  So “Ground Zero” in New York City and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City are memorialized as sacred places to try to compensate for the incomprehensible acts that happened there.  Similarly, the battlefields of Gettysburg, Normandy and countless other such sites, and the killing ovens at Auschwitz and numerous other places of slaughter, are given high sacredness in direct counterbalance to the lowliness of humans’ descent into inexplicable inhumanity.

Nationally, our patriotism gives an almost mystical cloak around one of the few remaining copies of our Declaration of Independence, or a tattered 200-year-old American flag flown at Fort McHenry.  Patriotic pilgrimages are made to the places of great events – Valley Forge, Appomattox, the USS Arizona – just as religious pilgrimages are made to the holiest of spiritual places the world over.  In each and every profession or art form, those objects that constitute the ultimate iconic achievements of those endeavors are treated as if godly themselves.

Meanwhile, on our Native-American reservations and in Buddhist meditation halls, sacredness is not subdivided into a selection of particular objects peculiar to the individual person.  All things are from the Great Spirit Creator, fulfilled through Nature’s Life Force, made universal in application by all forms of earthly life.  All life appreciates all other forms of life, and respects the inherent value and purpose in each.  Thereby, all that we see, touch and know is made sacred.  Even when we are called upon to interfere in an object’s natural course of being – as when we must terminate a life or mar the face of God’s earth – one does so with care and empathy.  Because the sacredness in us honors the sacredness in all other things.

So what is sacred to you?  And if it is not “everything,” what are you leaving out?