Work

When you were poor
you did not sprawl among poppies
on the banks of the stream
singing, "I am rich! I am rich!"
No, friend, you did some work.
And now that you are on fire
with thirst for the Beloved,
do you fall on your pillow
like a bee into the rose, mumbling,
"I drown in the nectar of love"?
No, friend, you work.
You become this fire,
the thirst itself,
and do the deeper work
of begging!

Commentary: I realize that "beg" is a disturbing word, a jolt of awakening. If you don't like it, use the word "Yearn." But there is an ancient tradition of holy begging. In those times, beggars had great dignity. Their bowl was infinitely deep, their mind completely empty, their heart groundless. That kind of bowl can generate abundance from nothingness. That beggar is Buddha.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Evidently he saw no difference between beggars and kings. The Greek word he used for "poor" was "ptokos," which is more radical than "poor": it means "destitute, utterly empty, powerless." Grace flows easily into such bottomless abysmal yearning.

When you are in the presence of the Master, you surrender everything. You become destitute. You realize it was never yours to begin with. That is the perfect poverty of the true beggar. Then you can live by grace, like a king.

But I don't know what I'm talking about. If I did, I wouldn't be a beggar.