Sunday, February 28, 2016: Ten Irrational Ideas, Suffering, and Love


Prelude: Secure Yourself to Heaven – Indigo Girls

Chalice Lighting World Chalice Lighting for February
—Rev. Dr. Ian Ellis-Jones Australian and New Zealand Unitarian Universalist Association

We light this Chalice, a living symbol of the one Life that animates and sustains all things and all persons, the one Life in which we all live and move and have our being, and the one Life which perpetually gives of itself to itself so as to become the many.

By means of the light of truth and reason, and the warmth of fellowship and compassion, may the many come to know themselves to be not only interconnected with each other but also indivisible emanations of that one great Light which enlightens all Life and which can never be extinguished.

Song: Come, Come Whoever You Are
Come, come, whoever you are
Wandererer, worshipper, lover of leaving
Ours is no caravan of despair
Come, yet again come(5 times)

Principles of Unitarian Universalism:
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Story: Three Simple Rules

Once there was a rich man in Thailand. His name was Chulong. He was a very rich man. Yet he wanted more riches, more money.

One day he was walking in his garden. He saw a strange bird in a bush. It was very small. But it had very beautiful and colorful features. Its voice was also very sweet. Chulong had never seen such a bird in his life. He slowly went near the bush unseen. He caught the bird. Now the bird began to speak.

“Why have you caught me?” the bird asked.

“I want to make money. I can sell you for a big amount,” replied Chulong.

“But you are already rich. Why do you want more?” asked the bird.

“Because I want to become richer and richer,” replied Chulong.

“But do not dream of making money through me!” said the bird. It further added, “You can not sell me. Nobody will buy me, because, in imprisonment, I lose my beauty and my sweet voice.” Then it slowly turned into a black bird. The beautiful features were now looking like the feathers of a crow.

Chulong hopes of making money were shattered. He said angrily, “I will kill you, and I will eat your meat.”

“Eat me! I am so small. You will not get any meat out of me,” replied the bird.

Chulong could not answer. The bird then suggested, “Well set me free. In return I shall teach you three simple but useful rules.”

“What is the use of the rules? I want only money,” said Chulong. He was irritated.

“But these rules can profit you greatly,” added the bird.

“Profit me! Really? Then I shall set you free. But how can I trust you? You may fly away,” said Chulong.

“I give you my word. And I always keep my word,” said the bird.

Chulong wanted to take a chance. He released the bird. It flew up at once. Then it sat on the branch of a tree. Its color started changing. It became beautiful again.

Chulong asked, “Now teach me the rules.”

“Certainly,” said the bird.

Then it added, “The first rule is Never Believe everything others say. The second rule is Never be sad about something you do not have. The third rule is Never throw away what you have in your hand.”

“You silly bird,” shouted Chulong. And he added, “These three rules are known to every one. You have cheated me.”

But the bird said, “Chulong, just sit down for a while. Think about all your actions of today. You had me in your hands, but you threw me away. You believed all that I said. And you are sad about not having me. The rules are simple. But you never followed them. Now do you see the value of the rules?”

So saying the bird flew away and disappeared from his sight.

Offering and Response (Unison)
For the gifts which we have received—and the gifts which we, ourselves, are—may we be truly grateful. Yet more than that, may we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.

Metta Sutta – Monks of Abhayagiri Monastery in California

SERMON: Ten Irrational Ideas, Suffering, and Love – Lisa deGruyter

John Hall talked about love a couple weeks ago, and last week we talked about commandments and principles, the Golden Rule and loving your neighbor as yourself. The Metta Sutta is part of what the Buddha said about that. When I was growing up Baptist, the emphasis almost always was the love doctrine, loving your neighbor as yourself, and not sin and damnation. We read the Love Chapter from Corinthians then, and I’m going to repeat it.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:1-10)

Hinduism says:

What sort of religion can it be without compassion?
You need to show compassion to all living beings.
Compassion is the root of all religious faiths.
(11.Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 247)

Islam says:

A man once asked the Prophet what was the best thing in Islam, and the latter replied, “It is to feed the hungry and to give the greeting of peace both to those one knows and to those one does not know.” (21.Islam. Hadith of Bukhari)

My favorite may be from Jainism

“Have benevolence towards all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the indolent and ill-behaved.” (Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 7.11)

So, those are rules, or principles. The story this morning told us that the value of rules is only to be had by following them. Last week in the parking lot discussion after the service, we talked about how hard it is to love those who are not lovable. It is something that I struggle with, to not judge and to love even those who seem evil. It is one thing to know the rules, and another to be able to follow them. Today I hope to give you two practical techniques to help to follow the rule of lovingkindness and compassion.

Albert Ellis was the founder in the 1960s of what he called Rational Behavioral Therapy, and is now Rational Emotive Therapy. I read his book A Guide to Rational Living when I was in my 20s, and it changed my life. Core to his system were ten irrational ideas, which have since been expanded to twelve, but I’m going to read you the original ten.


  • It is a dire necessity for an adult to be loved or approved by almost everyone for virtually everything he or she does.
  • One should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving in virtually everything one does.
  • Certain people or bad, wicked, or villainous and they should be severely blamed or punished for their sins.
  • It is terrible, horrible, and catastrophic when things are not going the way one would like them to go.
  • Human unhappiness is externally caused and people have little or no ability to control their sorrows or rid themselves of negative feelings.
  • If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome, one should be terribly occupied with and upset about it.
  • It is easier to avoid facing many life difficulties and self-responsibilities than to undertake more rewarding forms of self-discipline.
  • The past is all-important and because something once strongly affected one’s life it should indefinitely do so.
  • People and things should be different from the way they are and it is catastrophic if perfect solutions to the grim realities of life are not immediately found.
  • Maximum human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction or by passively and uncommittedly ‘enjoying oneself’.

Key to Ellis’s therapy was the idea that we cause ourselves grief by believing and repeating these ideas to ourselves. I like the way he stated them as irrational ideas, rather than positive statements like “You don’t have to be loved or approved of by everyone” because, really, if you repeat affirmations without identifying and stopping the irrational thoughts, you aren’t getting anywhere. And stated the way they are, said out loud rather than silent thoughts, they seem irrational and overstated, but also familiar, and we realize we have been overstating things in our heads.

I think these irrational thoughts are almost all examples of what the Buddha said was the cause of suffering: craving and ignorance. Craving, sometimes called clinging, desire, or grasping, goes beyond simple wants like hunger, thirst, the need to be warm and safe and not in conflict with others, to an obsession – to obsessive and irrational wants. And ignorance is the inability to things as they really are – and to overcome ignorance we need to recognize the physical and social realities of the world, so that we can satisfy those basic needs, but also to recognize our irrational ideas.

The third part of ending our suffering, after eliminating craving and ignorance, is to eliminate ill will.

Which brings me back to love.

We cause ourselves and others grief by judging ourselves and them harshly. And how can we love ourselves or others if we are continually telling ourselves how things should be, how people should behave, that is it terrible, horrible, no good, very bad when we or other people don’t live up to those ideas, that bad things happen and we must feel terrible and have no control over how we react, or that bad things might happen and we must worry about them.

When we think of loving others as ourselves, do we set too high a standard for loving them? Do we instead think of how we love significant others – our lovers, partners, children, family? Does loving someone always mean being willing to sacrifice for them, putting them before us, buying them candy and flowers? Do we need to have warm fuzzy feelings for everyone? Do we need to have warm fuzzy feelings for ourselves? Is self-love a matter of self-esteem, of thinking that we are competent, adequate, and achieving, and loved by everyone? Is loving yourself arranging things so that you get as much enjoyment as possible?

When I was growing up and my church taught about love, there was always a discussion about the two Greek words for love that are used in the Bible. There is phileo, brotherly love, as in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, which is that warm fuzzy feeling you feel for friends and family. But the word used for God’s love for people, and in the Love chapter, which is agape. (There is also eros, erotic love, which is not used in the Bible, and another word, sterge, for family love, either).

Christian theology usually talks about agape as the highest form of love, sacrificial love, in line with God sacrificing his son for people. But are we really supposed to sacrifice for others, even those who are themselves grasping, greedy, and hurtful to others? Should we wish that they succeed, no matter what? What if agape is, still, the highest form of love, but is really not sacrificial, but the kind of love in the Metta Sutta – a constant wishing that all beings are happy, safe, healthy, and at ease. If we believe in God, do we believe in a God who will shower blessings and Mercedes Benzes on us, or just one who wants us to learn to be free from suffering?

If we have given up grasping beyond our simple needs, it becomes much easier to love others as ourselves. If we don’t judge others, and don’t feel we have to put their needs above ours, but just wish them well as we wish ourselves well, safe, happy, and at ease, without clinging, grasping, or ignorance, others’ needs are not a tremendous burden to us. We don’t have to overcome our resentment of their bad behavior, but know that it is causing them suffering, and wish that they overcome it. It gives us a sense of fairness, that others are no more nor less important than us – if they or we are suffering, it is because of grasping and irrational thoughts.

So, the second practical technique is the Metta meditation, which was developed from the Metta Sutta. It was the chant we heard earlier, and I’m going to read it again, and then we will do a guided Metta meditation.

Metta Sutta

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:

Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

“Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness” (Sn 1.8), translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013,

Metta Guided Meditation

Let us read our covenant, which is on the back of our order of service, in unison

Our Covenant

Love is the doctrine of this church,
The quest of truth is our sacrament,
and service is our prayer.
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom,
To serve others in community,
To the end that all souls shall grow
Into harmony with creation,
Thus we do covenant with one another.

Song: Here on the Paths of Every Day 180 (HCL)

Joys and Sorrows

If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it; or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared, now is the time for you to speak.

For the joys and sorrows that haven’t been spoken, but which remain in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts.
These joys and griefs, spoken and unspoken, weave us together in the fabric of community.

Silent Meditation

Song: Go Now In Peace (3 times)
Go now in peace, go now in peace
May our love and care surround you
Everywhere, everywhere, you may go

Closing: The Work continues by Martha Kirby Capo
Our time together is finished, but our work is not yet done:
May our spirits be renewed and our purpose resolved
As we meet the challenges of the week to come.
The chalice flame is extinguished
Until once again ignited by the strength of our communion.
Go now in peace.


One thought on “Sunday, February 28, 2016: Ten Irrational Ideas, Suffering, and Love

Comments are closed.