The story of Jerimiah takes place several hundred years after the story of Solomon. He was the son of a high priest in Jerusalem. Things had become very degenerate since Solomon. When he was a child, God came to him in a dream and said he would be a prophet. When he got older and was about to become a priest himself, he decided he wanted to marry. But the king ordered her family into slavery because they failed to pay a debt. God then came to him again and had him say in front of the temple that if people did not mend their ways, God would pass his judgment. The king of Jerusalem heard this, Jerimiah’s father turned his back on him and Jerimiah left the city so that he could go marry the woman he loved. God came to him in the desert and told him that he shall not marry nor have kids, but instead he should return to Jerusalem and tell the king it was not too late to repent, but if he failed to do so Babylon would come and destroy the city. When Babylon came, the old king died, and his son was given up to the king of Babylon to save the city and a new king was crowned who was to pay tribute to Babylon. Later the new king changed his mind and said he would not pay the tribute thinking he could form an alliance with the Egyptians. God then had Jerimiah tell the new king that his alliance would fail and the city would be attacked, but to save the city and the people everyone should surrender to Babylon. The king and his general refused this, threw Jerimiah in prison but then the alliance with the Egyptians failed and Babylon came and attacked again just as Jerimiah had predicted. The king then asked what he could so, and Jerimiah said it was too late, he would become a slave. Jerusalem fell, the city burned, and the king and his family were taken to Babylon where all but the king were killed. The king was blinded. Knowing of Jerimiah’s deeds, the king of Babylon ordered him freed, and Jerimiah predicted that the temple would eventually be rebuilt, both in Jerusalem and in men’s hearts.
As a Kadampa, what can I learn from this story?
- Once again, this theme of being a prophet comes up. We need to learn how to open up lines of internal communication between ourselves and our Spiritual Guide. Through training in faith, pure motivation and emptiness we can do this. We need perfectly reliable guidance in every moment of our life, and with training we can have it. Sometimes, we will be called to do absolutely crazy things (like returning to Jerusalem to tell the king he is doomed…), but if we have faith and rely sincerely we can accomplish any spiritual task given to us. Nowadays, we don’t do things that are conventionally crazy, but we can nonetheless be inspired by the stories of the prophets and their willingness to follow the directions of God even though it meant great loss.
- If our actions are negative, it is just a question of time before doom will strike. The reason why Jerusalem was destroyed was due to the collective karma of the beings who inhabited it. Because they lost their moral discipline, they lost their refuge and therefore became subject to attack.
- Once negative karma has begun to ripen, the best thing to do is accept it and transform it. Of course it is best to purify negative karma before it has ripened, but once it has there is nothing that can be done. The negative karma of having Jersalem destroyed was activated and set in motion. Jerimiah encouraged everyone to accept their fate and surrender to it because if they fought, they would be killed. Within the Dharma, in every situation either we have some control or we don’t. If we have some control, we should change things. If we do not, then we should accept/transform.
- Sometimes things need to be destroyed in order to be rebuilt anew. People had lost their way and it had reached the point where there was no reforming them. In such a situation, it is better to just scrap everything and rebuild anew. This may sometimes happen in our spiritual life where everything about the life we have is destroyed, but this frees things up for a new life to start anew. This happens during our lives, and it happens as we pass from one life to the next. We should accept this when it happens and focus on looking forward to building a new, better world.