Prince Five Virtues
A service about the values we hold dear
and how being open can help better world for all.
Welcome and Announcements
Good morning. Welcome to the _______ Unitarian Universalist Congregation where we join together in the search for deeper meaning and richer connections. Our service today is about our shared values as religious seekers. Our story “Prince Five Weapons” is adapted by Rev. Douglas Taylor and Ann Kadlecek from a traditional Buddhist tale.
Opening Words by George G. Brooks
All that quickens sympathetic imaginings,
All that awakens sensitivity to others’ feelings
All that strengthens courage,
All that adds to the love of living – belongs to us.
May our spirits be quickened and enriched,
strengthened and enhanced
by our being here together.
*Doxology (#381 SLT) Composite based on Isaac Watts
From all that dwell below the skies
Let songs of hope and faith arise;
Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung
Through every land, by every tongue/
*Covenant (#473 SLT) by James Vila Blake (adapted)
Love is the spirit of this congregation, and service is its life.
This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love, and to help one another.
*Chalice Lighting by Alan G. Deale
The light of this chalice is a frail thing.
It can be snuffed out by the winds of cynicism and apathy.
May its little flame be a reminder of the power of the spirit.
Let us rededicate ourselves to providing light
that lifts our hearts and increases the world’s joy
*Hymn #86 (SLT) Blessed Spirit of My Life
Joys and Sorrows
Story “Prince Five Weapons” (an adapted Buddhist tale) Part I
Prince Five Weapons’ parents were a king and a queen in India, long ago. And when this little boy was born, they asked a fortune teller to predict what his life would be like.
The fortune-teller predicted that the little boy would become an expert with five weapons – that he would become the greatest master of these five weapons throughout India. So the king and queen named their son Prince Five Weapons.
His parents thought… if he’s going to be an expert with weapons, we’d better get him the best teachers. So they found the best schools and sent him to learn how to use weapons.
And there he learned to use a spear, a bow and arrow, a club, a dagger and a sword.
And when he finished his training, he was the best in his class at every weapon, and his teacher was so impressed that he gave the prince one of each of these powerful weapons to take with him. The young prince was very proud.
After graduation, he set out on the long journey back to his home town. On the way, he came to an unfamiliar forest. The people of the nearby village warned him not to walk through that forest because it was haunted by a gigantic, scary monster. And not just any gigantic scary monster, but a really unusual monster that was covered with this horrible, sticky icky goo. He was called the big sticky scary monster. And if he catches you, the villagers told the prince, the monster will eat you up.
But Prince Five Weapons was feeling pretty confident – after all, he just graduated as an expert in five weapons. “I can protect myself.” he said, “I’m not worried.” So, he went into the forest and sure enough – the big sticky scary monster appeared, growling at him.
But Prince Five Weapons wasn’t scared. He took out his powerful bow and arrow. With his expert skill he launched his arrows, but the arrows just stuck right to the hair of the monster. And when the monster shook himself, the arrows fell harmlessly to the ground.
Then he drew his fearsome sword, and struck the monster with its blade. But the sword just got stuck like it was suddenly glued to the hair of monster. One by one, the prince’s weapons met this same fate – none of them seemed to be able to harm the monster at all.
Now the weapons were gone, but Prince Five Weapons was not defeated. He knew he was strong, and could kick and punch and fight with his bare hands! So he punched with his left fist and his right – but they got stuck. Then he kicked with his right foot and his left! But they got stuck too. Finally he butted the monster as hard as he could, with his head. But his head got stuck too. He was completely stuck, and all he could see in front of his eyes was icky sticky gooey monster fur.
(I wonder how he might have felt. Maybe he was a little scared now? He might have felt hopeless, like, “This is it, I’m doomed? There’s nothing I can do?”)
Prayer (#519 SLT) by Rabindranath Tagore
Hymn #1002 (please remain seated) Comfort Me (vs 1, 2 & 5)
Story “Prince Five Weapons” (an adapted Buddhist tale) Part II
We left Prince Five Weapons with no weapons stuck to the big scary sticky monster. Did he feel vulnerable? Was he frightened? Did he think he was doomed? Well, I don’t know exactly how he felt or what he thought, but I do know what he did. The prince did not give up. His courage never failed him.
In that moment, Prince Five Weapons realized he had other weapons he could use. His courage was on the top of that list. His courage was like a weapon he could use to overcome this monster.
The big scary sticky monster reached his hand around to pull the prince from his sticky fur and eat him. To avoid the monster’s grasp, the prince quickly wiggled and twisted himself deeper into the tangle of icky sticky gooey fur, so the monster could not pry him free. The prince was resourceful. He was using something that had been a disadvantage before as an advantage now. Resourcefulness was another of the prince’s new weapons.
Prince Five Weapons thought about his situation. He was deeply entangled in the icky sticky fur of the monster, so he was safe for the moment. But he needed a way out. The prince called out to the monster, “I have weapons that you don’t know about – they are inside of me so you can’t see them. One of my weapons is sharp like a diamond. And if you eat me, you will suffer great pain until finally you die.” Here, the prince was talking about his sharp, diamond-like intelligence; but the monster did not know that.
The big sticky scary monster actually paused. He had never met anyone so persistent, who, after losing every single weapon somehow still sounded confident. It made the monster wonder if maybe what the young prince said was true. Maybe the prince really did have more weapons on the inside. Maybe these weapons really would make the monster suffer and die if he ate him. Deep down the monster began to be afraid.
He gently pulled the prince from his sticky fur and set him free. Not only that, but the monster, having met his match, grew to respect the young prince. And the prince grew to have compassion for the monster. His compassion became his next great weapon. His compassion helped him see the monster differently.
As the story goes, Prince Five Weapons taught the monster the ways of enlightenment, transforming the big sticky scary monster into the peaceful guardian of that forest. In doing so, the Prince discovered his final weapon, wisdom.
After telling the people of the land that the forest paths were now safe, the young prince continued on his journey home. As a young man, the prince had thought he would be known for the five physical weapons he was trained in: the spear, bow and arrow, club, dagger, and sword. Instead he became a great king known for his five virtues, his five weapons within: Courage, Resourcefulness, Intelligence, Compassion, and Wisdom.
Congregational Reflection “What are your ‘weapons’?”
What are the virtues you have at your disposal when you navigate difficulty in the world? Take a moment to consider and name for yourself a few virtues you would claim. Perhaps you will consider one of the virtues listed in our story like Courage, Compassion, or Resourcefulness. Or perhaps you will pick a different virtue for yourself such as Patience or Kindness. We invite you to think about this question “What are your ‘weapons’?” while you listen to the music.
We invite you now to turn to a few people near you in the sanctuary now and share what you are thinking about, listen to the ideas of the people around you. Do you notice any similarities, any surprises?
Homily Part one: Courage by Rev Douglas Taylor
There has been a resurgence of Superheroes in popular culture. As a kid I remember when they went from comic books to tv shows and movies. Now, superheroes are everywhere. As a kid I remember wanting to be a superhero. With one group of friends I would play the Flash when we formed our superhero teams.
several years back I was at a week-long camp session at Unirondack. I think it was a family Camp session. Each evening the counselors would have a fun activity, one of them was something called “Wish Night.” For Wish Night you would write down a wish and then a few nights later, on Wish Night, someone would grant your wish. As it works, you would have received someone else’s wish to fulfill in the space of a few days’ time.
I wished for there to be a superhero comic book with me as the superhero. I waited with anticipation for two days to find out what my wish-granter would do. I built my hopes up quite beyond what is realistic. I imagined the person granting my wish would spend hours drawing amazing pictures of me with whatever superpower they had settled on: Super-strength? Super-speed? X-ray vision, time-manipulation, or simply flying. Whatever it was, it would be awesome.
I imagined the person granting my wish would have me saving the world, would create a perfect nemesis, and would have snappy dialogue for this fabulous comic book.
This was all very unrealistic of me. My wish granter would need to have been an amazing artist and writer, and somehow have more than just a few hours of free time, as well as access to more resources than our humble camp Art Shop.
Wish Night finally arrived and when it was my turn I learned that my wish-granter had created a pretty-good 12-panel stick-figure comic book about our favorite comic book superhero: Listening Man. At first, I was disappointed. Hear me out. My fellow camper had created a very wonderful gift for me, thoughtful and creative.
But at the time I did not really understand what superheroes are all about. I was still looking for the super-human powers, the abilities that defy physics but are so awesome. I had not learned the secret, yet, about the real power of superheroes.
Here is the secret: The best superheroes, the stories that draw people’s interest, that make people read and watch over and over – the powers they wield are not the point. Sure, the powers are what hook us, the powers are when fire our imaginations. But really, it is the flaws and failures that make the stories compelling. It is the humanity and the basic virtues we really identify with.
Superman in indestructible, but he is in love with Lois Lane and can’t tell her. Wonder Woman can do anything, but she trusts the wrong person and is almost defeated because of it. Iron Man tries to make the world a better place, but he keeps getting in his own way with his alcoholism and arrogance. And through it all – the best part of these superheroes is what they do with the powers they have: the virtues of courage and compassion. What makes them ‘good’ is not their power, but what they do with it.
Like Prince Five Weapons, the ‘weapons’ he carries within himself prove far more important than the ones he had strapped onto his belt when he ventured into the unfamiliar forest. Like Spiderman, who is told by his Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” What matters is what we do with what we’ve got. What good are all the superpowers in the world if we don’t have the courage to step into the difficulties.
So, look out! Listening Man is here. Anyone can ask you how you are doing today, but Listening Man actually cares about your answer! He has empathy for you.
Video Brené Brown on Empathy
In this 3-minute video, Brené Brown talks about the difference between empathy and sympathy, and why empathy takes courage.
Homily Part two: Empathy by Rev Douglas Taylor
“What makes something better is connection.” If you ae not familiar with Brené Brown, I encourage you to watch a TED talk or youtube clip of her work soon. Dr. Brown is a public speaker, writer, and research professor from the university of Houston School of Social Work.
“What makes something better,” she tells us at the end of this clip about empathy, “is connection.” What she is clarifying with that sentence is the same thing I am trying to say with my message about superpowers. Whether we are trying to save the world from Dr. Evil’s death ray or we are simply concerned for a friend who is in a difficult place – the answer is the same. Any special powers we have will be ancillary to the deeper solution. Sure, our superpowers or special knowledge or expertise will be important in some way, but more important will be the virtues we have as our ‘5 weapons within.’ When Prince Five Weapons connected with the monster, a transformation was possible from monster to guardian.
The heart of our Prince Five Weapons story and of this whole service is Courage. Courage is the greatest virtue because it allows all the others a chance to arise. I have heard it asserted that the prayer for courage is the only prayer that never goes unanswered. For Prince Five Weapons, his courage allowed him to keep trying to defeat the big sticky scary monster even when all his physical weapons had failed him. His courage kept him trying to overcome the monster, to help the people, and even – though it was not his initial goal – to help the monster.
Our courage is the opening to everything else. But think about this for a moment – the reason we need courage is because we are vulnerable. We need courage because we are scared, because we are open and might get hurt, because there is real danger. In some cases, we are choosing to be vulnerable. We are open, and it is through this opening that we can be hurt. And … it is through our openness we can grow.
Vulnerability can be a strength. Remember what Brené Brown was saying in the video. Empathy is about sharing in the suffering of another. It fosters connection. It is about being open. It is about being receptive rather than protected, sharing rather than shielded.
Do you want to be a super hero? Do you want to make the world a better place? Dr. Brown said, “What makes something better is connection.” What connection are you willing to make? How will your courage lead you to be open, to be vulnerable? What connection will you make? How will you take that step to build trust, to have faith, to act with courage and strength in the world?
On Dr. Brené Brown’s website, there is a quote from her about courage in large font dominating the top of her page. I went there looking for particulars about her, where she worked and such. What I found was a large quote sitting boldly at the top of her page, waiting for me. “Courage is contagious.” Brown said. “Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.” Let us move forward together, open and vulnerable to world, ready to serve, ready to be of help – but more than that – ready to connect.
In a world without end,
May it be so.
*Hymn #1015 (STL) I Know I Can
*Chalice Extinguishing (#456 SLT) (unison) by Elizabeth S. Jones
We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,
The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment
These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
Benediction (#463 SLT) by Adrienne Rich
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, and with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.