Solomon was David’s son who God said would build God’s temple and home. Prior to David’s death, fulfilling the prophecy again of evil rising up in his own house, one of David’s other sons plotted to become King instead of David’s wish that it be Solomon. After thwarting the coup, David said he would spare his other son who plotted the coup since he did not want to kill his own son. But he said that Solomon would have to decide what to do. On David’s death bed, he told Solomon that if the other son plotted again to take the crown after David died that Solomon should kill him. After David died, the other son plotted again, but failed. Fearing for his life, he took refuge in front of the Arc of the Covenant. Solomon had him killed anyway as a show of his strength and seeing it as David’s will. After Solomon became king, God said he would grant him one gift. Solomon asked for the wisdom to rule over his people justly. God granted him wisdom and Solomon was to build the temple for God. To do so, Solomon had to have high taxes and use forced labor, but the people accepted this because they understood the purpose was good, namely to build the temple. Foreign architects and engineers were brought in to oversee construction, but eventually they were trained and replaced with Israelites managed by Jeriboham. Solomon eventually completed the temple and the people were very happy. But then Solomon felt like his life had no purpose, he was adrift. He then wandered out into the desert, and God spoke to him saying if Solomon remained true to the one true God then God would remain with him for the rest of his days, but if he started mixing with other Gods then God would take his kingdom away. News of Solomon’s wisdom and activities spread far and wide, and the Queen of Sheeba came to Jerusalem. David fell madly in love with her, and got her to agree to stay and be his queen. She became pregnant and Solomon said that this child would be his heir. After the child was born and Solomon announced his plans, the priests said it was against the law for somebody born of a non-Israelite to become king. Jeriboham counselled him that if he goes against the priests he will provoke a revolution since the people would never follow. So the Queen of Sheeba proposed that Solomon’s son go with her back to her land in Africa and become king of her people. Solomon agreed and sent learned people and lots of gold with her. The people resented that their taxes were going to fund the Queen of Sheeba’s kingdom. After she left, David fell into a deep depression. He then went out amongst some foreigners who were in Israel and began worshiping other gods. The priests warned Solomon not to continue, Jeriboham warned him not to continue, but Solomon continued anyways. It eventually got so bad that Jeriboham resigned in protest. On his way back to his tribe, Jeriboham was met by a prophet of God who told him that when Solomon died, God would give Solomon’s son one chance, but if he did not use it well then God would take the kingdom away and give 11 of the tribes to Jeriboham. The tribe of Judea would remain loyal to Solomon’s son. When Solomon heard of this, he ordered Jeriboham killed. Jeriboham fled to Egypt until he heard of Solomon’s passing. He then returned and demanded that Solomon’s son end the forced labor and reduce the taxes. Not wanting to look weak, Solomon’s son said he would raise the taxes and use even more forced labor. Jeriboham then asked the people who they would follow, and all but the tribe of Judea chose to follow Jeriboham.
As Kadampa’s, what can we learn from this story:
- If you receive an extremely difficult task from your spiritual guide (internally or externally), if you rely sincerely you will accomplish the task you have been given. Solomon was asked to build a temple, and in those days that took an entire nation to do. But through his reliance, Solomon succeeded. Ancient Israel had a temple project. We have the International Temples Project. Venerable Geshe-la wants us to bring the Kadam Dharma to the whole world and build a temple in every major city of the world. This is the external project he has given us, and like Solomon if we rely upon our Spiritual Guide, we will be led to complete his vision for Kadampa temples in this world. He also wants Kadampa schools all over the world. Until this vision is accomplished, like Solomon we should dedicate ourselves to the project of building these temples.
- After we complete major tasks, our job remains to serve the divine. After the temple was completed, Solomon’s job was to rule wisely over the kingdom. In the same way, at various points in our spiritual path we will be called on to complete certain external tasks, such as build up a Dharma center or even build a temple at a KMC. Once these physical tasks are complete, our job is to to then manage the spiritual community we have built wisely in accordance with the teachings of our tradition.
- Societies are best ruled by wisdom, not force. Everybody knows wisdom when they hear it, and the renown of wise communities spreads naturally. Those who have administrative power should be very mindful to use their power with wisdom, and to not try bring about outcomes through the force of their position. Instead, they should take the time to explain the wisdom of their decisions to those in the community so that the people of the community can come to appreciate the wisdom and assent to the decision as wise. With the assent of the community, force is never necessary. If we are an Administrative Director or Resident Teacher of a center, we can ask ourselves whether or not we use the force of our position to get our way? Sometimes this may be necessary in small doses on important issues that there is simply not time for everyone in the community to come to understand, but it is rare that this happens. At certain existential times, Venerable Geshe-la has had to be wrathful to make it clear to those in the tradition that sometimes we just need to go along with his wishes even if we don’t immediately understand why. But this happens only rarely and we accept it only because for all other times we are governed by seeing the wisdom of the rules we abide by.
- One of the most difficult parts of “ruling wisely” is managing the relationship with other traditions. Israel was a trading nation, so Solomon allowed foreigners to worship their Gods in Israel. But from his side, he only followed his own. This was a perfect example, he followed one tradition purely without mixing, but he respected all other traditions as valid for others. But in his depression at the departure of the Queen of Sheeba, he started to mix religions together, practicing several different ones simultaneously. He did this because he thought it was a deeper form of wisdom and a higher form of spiritual tolerance. But because he did so, it triggered sectarianism and fundamentalist attitudes within the Israelites, and they started no longer tolerating other religions in Israel. Then, because he continued to do so even more after this, he lost the love and support of his people and lost his kingdom. If we check, this is exactly the story of the Dalai Lama/Dorje Shugden issue. In the old days, everybody followed their own tradition purely without mixing while respecting all of the other traditions. After the Tibetans were kicked out of Tibet, the Dalai Lama tried to mix together all of the different traditions, practicing from each and calling all those who did not follow his way as being intolerant. This provoked sectarian attitudes amongst some of his followers who then persecuted those who did not follow his new way. As a result, he engaged in all sorts of harmful actions and wound up creating a schism in the Sangha. The correct way of approaching the relationship with other traditions is to in our own practice follow one tradition purely without mixing while respecting all other paths as being valid for those who follow them. This is a fundamental point within our tradition, and one that often gives rise to much confusion. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to discuss this topic in detail, so instead I include a link to a document I once wrote explaining the rationale for why we follow one tradition purely without mixing while respecting all other traditions. Following one tradition purely without mixing.
- Attachment can blind us to what is important and even cause us to abandon the path. Solomon was extremely attached to the Queen of Sheeba. The depression that followed her departure made him lose his path and he started mixing many different traditions together, even though he received some clear warnings directly from his priests, his closest advisor Jeriboham and even God himself. There are many many examples across all sorts of spiritual traditions where sexual attachment causes even the highest spiritual leaders to fall. Within our own tradition, we too have several very high profile examples of this. Gen-la Dekyong said at the Summer Festival last year that it looks like within our tradition that there is positive discrimination towards women since women occupy all of the most important posts within the tradition. She asked rhetorically, “what happened to all of the guys? Come on guys, you can do it.” Now she was trying to make a joke, and everybody did laugh, but for those who know the history this was a joke with double meaning. Sexual attachment kills more spiritual lives than probably any other delusion, or at least it does so in the most dramatic of ways.
Of course there is much additional meaning, but these are the main conclusions that I draw from the story.