Spiritual leaders answer on nature

 Editor’s note: “Spiritual leaders answer” is a weekly column inviting Kaua‘i’s religious and spiritual leaders to share their doctrine’s perspective on a suggested subject. Every Friday a topic is printed inviting a response. Submissions are edited for content and length. Thoughts or suggestions for future topics are always welcome. Next week’s topic is community service. The topic at the end of the column is for the following week.

Lama Tashi Dundrup

Kaua‘i Dharma Center

This word spiritually applies to this phenomenal world in its entirety. It applies to the five mother elements that make up one’s body and are everywhere and in everything. These are earth, water, radiation, fire, air and space. Because they are timeless, with no beginning or end and the source of all life and good health, we in the human condition must adapt our lifestyles to be in harmony with them. They connect us directly through meditation, yoga and other spiritual disciplines to our natural mind which is beyond conception or judgement. This natural mind or ultimate level of one’s consciousness has five wisdom qualities or states of awareness which are inseparable from the natural world. These five are unity, positive activity, clarity, equanimity, and unconditional love and compassion for all beings and the natural environment. The complete union of these five mother elements and these father states of awareness results in complete enlightenment or buddhahood. Only humans can accomplish this state of mind where the universe and one’s mind become the same thing naturally. 

Rev. James Fung

Lihu‘e Christian Church

A precocious little girl had a question, “Is God married to Mother Nature?” I asked her what she thought. She said that God and nature seemed to work so well with each other. She was right.

God is the creator of the vastness of the universe and the mysterious force within the smallest particles of energy that make up the tiniest bits of life. Indeed, God and nature seem to work so well with each other!

One of my favorite poems in the Bible (Psalm 24) begins by saying, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof — the world and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods.” Our earth is just one of the many spheres of earth and vapor that circle an average-size sun as compared to other stars in the universe that are a lot larger. But it’s a wonderful world. A good place to call “home.”

One night last week, I stood in my driveway and gazed up into the night sky at the twinkling stars, reflecting how each one may be at the center of a planetary system so vast yet so far away that we may never know, but only imagine the worlds that God has created and sustains. And who knows what life forms exist in these far away worlds, and how those life forms may have evolved in the eons of their development?

 Nature has its fascinating and awesome beauty. And it is the God of mystery and power that is the creative and holy force behind it. It is this same God who asks us to cherish everything in the natural world — and to lovingly take care of it.

Rev. Dr. Nani Hill

United Church of Christ

The nature of the people who dwell in the upland village of Kilohana is to be steadfast in their love of God like the rock that wedges itself firm into the face of the mountain. They live harmoniously with their neighbors like the palm frond that dances in love with the wind to and fro. Through the grace of God this nature is instilled in their hearts as they walk lightly in the grass throughout the village doing good. Their knowledge of God’s nature is that God plants this goodness in their hearts as one villager proclaims to Kaula, the prophet who holds up their village house, “God is in my soul.”

There are times, however, when a villager’s soul is lost. Villagers who fall from God’s grace such as “fools, say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’” [Ps. 14:1]. These are people who have snuffed out the light of the kukui nut that shines on their life paths toward God. Instead these lost souls choose to walk the dark rainforest where heartless bird-catchers go. Their lives are distorted with disrespect and addicted sinning. Kaula affirms to such lost villagers that however much they struggle against their nature of goodness, God will endeavor to cloak their folly and drive their blindness of goodness out. The lost souls have a choice to see the sun rise over Kawaikini once again or continue to wander aimlessly in the dark rainforest only to be strangled by the vines.

One who loses one’s good nature and chooses to walk in darkness, turning one’s back to the blazing torchlight of God’s royal grace, lives a sad, sad life. 

Baha’is of Kaua‘i

God is the creator of man and all that nature encompasses. However, because man is also a spiritual and intellectual being, he is superior to nature. Nature is governed by laws that it cannot transcend. Man, on the other hand, can control nature by altering its laws and uncovering its mysteries. For instance, man can defy gravity through flight. He can hear and see people and events thousands of miles away. Through recordings and script he can document and preserve the past. 

Man, though unique from other living things, is still very much a part of nature. Man must acknowledge the interdependence of all created things and his reliance on nature for the sustenance and maintenance of his physical body. Man, therefore, for the sake of self-preservation, must accept his responsibility to preserve and conserve the resources in his environment. As the only created being with intellect, he also has a moral obligation to be the trustee of God’s creations.

The first quote from the Baha’i writings explains the superiority of man over nature; the second quote is from the document “Valuing Spirituality in Development” from the Baha’i International Community, describing mankind’s fundamental responsibility as the steward of nature.

“The animal is the captive of nature and cannot transgress the rules and laws thereof. In man, however, there is a discovering power that transcendeth the world of nature and controlleth and interfereth with the laws thereof. For instance, all minerals, plants and animals are captives of nature. The sun itself with all its majesty is so subservient to nature that it hath no will of its own and cannot deviate a hair’s-breadth from the laws thereof. In like manner all other beings, whether of the mineral, the vegetable or the animal world, cannot deviate from the laws of nature, nay, all are the slaves thereof. Man, however, though in body the captive of nature is yet free in his mind and soul, and hath the mastery over nature.”

“Baha’i Scriptures describe nature as a reflection of the sacred. They teach that nature should be valued and respected, but not worshipped; rather, it should serve humanity’s efforts to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. However, in light of the interdependence of all parts of nature, and the importance of evolution and diversity ‘to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole,’ every effort should be made to preserve as much as possible the earth’s biodiversity and natural order. As trustees, or stewards, of the planet’s vast resources and biological diversity, humanity must learn to make use of the earth’s natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, in a manner that ensures sustainability and equity into the distant reaches of time. This attitude of stewardship will require full consideration of the potential environmental consequences of all development activities. It will compel humanity to temper its actions with moderation and humility, realizing that the true value of nature cannot be expressed in economic terms. It will also require a deep understanding of the natural world and its role in humanity’s collective development – both material and spiritual. Therefore, sustainable environmental management must come to be seen not as a discretionary commitment mankind can weigh against other competing interests, but rather as a fundamental responsibility that must be shouldered — a pre-requisite for spiritual development as well as the individual’s physical survival.”

Topic for two weeks from today

• Will you speak to us on grandparents?

• Spiritual leaders are invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

• Deadline each week is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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