Saturday, February 16, 2013
In a week, 34 of us leave for India. We will visit places where Paramhansa Yogananda lived, the holy city of Benares, a Himalayan cave, the Taj Mahal, the Ananda center in Delhi, and Swami Kriyananda at the Ananda Community in Pune.
Now we are full of eager anticipation but we hope to return in late March with our hearts as full as our luggage! Pilgrimage is an ancient tradition. It is a rite of purification and carries the hope of spiritual rebirth. Where God has come to earth and shared our human drama through the souls of those who are fully realized as His children, spiritual and purifying vibrations linger yet still. They are activated by the loving hearts of His devotees and a channel of grace thus remains open at such places through which divine blessings flow.
So too the life of Jesus though long ago remains fresh and alive to those “with ears to hear” and hearts that love. The New Testament portrays Jesus Christ as both compassionate and forgiving, but also sharp and unforgiving toward the hypocrites and exploiters of others. “Be ye wise as serpents but harmless as doves” he is quoted as saying.
Natural and moral law imposes upon the awakened conscience of sensitive and intelligent humans relatively clear guidance as to how to live and be healthy, happy and at peace with oneself. It’s not complicated, though, given the temptations life affords, it’s also not necessarily easy.
With hard work you can get a good education, a decent job, attract a satisfactory life partner and more or less, with some luck and a lot of “steel on the wheel,” enjoy the “good life.” But it’s a narrow pathway and you’d best not go overboard with any of life’s pleasures and indulgences and you’d be “better be good, for goodness’ sake!”
You don’t need religion to feel in tune with the Golden Rule and to be a basically good, hard working, unselfish, and decent person. But if you depend only upon your own pluck and luck to keep it together, you’ll always be looking over your shoulder lest the shadow of misfortune be pursuing you. You’ll never know when the axe comes down on your comfortable life. And if it does, where will you be then?
Jesus was criticized by those pesky ‘ol priestly Pharisees, hypocrites and “white sepulcres” (whitewashed on the outside but nothing but a rotting corpse on the inside!). He dined with the down and out and the sinners of his time. A woman, a known “sinner,” hearing that he was at the house of a rich but notorious villager, came and wept at his feet, anointing Jesus’ feet with costly oil. Jesus explained that he came not to heal the healthy but those ill with the disease of delusion. He said, simply, that “her sins, though many, are forgiven, for she has loved much!”
I doubt the “loving” to which he referred to was in relation to her “sinning.” No, her love was her recognition of her unworthiness in relation to her recognition of his sacred and divine vibration as her only salvation. In this she showed herself above Jesus’ host that evening who failed to conduct even the most rudimentary gestures of honor and hospitality to Jesus.
The poignant story of the centurion who, loving as he did so greatly his own servant, and having an intuitive recognition of Jesus’ spiritual power and presence sent someone to ask that Jesus heal his servant. The centurion knew that it was taboo for Jesus (a Jew) to enter the home of a Roman and stated simply that “You need but say the Word, and my servant will be healed!” Jesus was astonished at the faith of this Roman, when so few of his countrymen could come close to doing the same.
And for the woman caught in adultery, Jesus asked the gathering crowd (eager to stone her to death in accordance with the law), “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” One by one they walked away. When only she remained there with Jesus, he said, “Neither do I judge thee. Go and sin no more.”
In his final hours before his crucifixion, he spoke to his disciples as friends and commanded them to love one another as he had loved them.
Jesus’ life displayed little regard for the niceties of rite and rituals. He wasn’t against such things for he, too, went to the temple at feast days. But he lived and roamed the countryside telling stories of God’s love and forgiveness. But He was not merely a preacher. He was practical and forgave not just “sins,” but illnesses and diseases, even, in a few instances, the fatal disease of death.
Paramhansa Yogananda has come into this new and modern age with a message and mission for a culture of people of greater sophistication, education, opportunity and interests than those of Jesus’ time. But we are frenzied and much burdened with restlessness. To us he brings the peace of meditation; the comfort of God’s presence within ourselves. The antidote for the confusion and complexity of our age is found in the temple of silence within. There, in the only true temple there is, we can commune in peace and love with our God.
True “communion” is an act of love. Yogananda said “You must make love to God!” And when the time came for him to leave this earth he gave this counsel: “Only love can take my place.”
The only true love we can have for one another is the love of God. For it arises not from desire or attachment but from the wellspring of divine and unconditional love within.
Our is a democratic age. Cooperation and friendship are the way to find fulfillment and to stave off the ill effects of ruthless competition and destructive nationalism. This cannot be merely the behavior of a merchant, seeking a mutual benefit society. To be lasting and to be satisfying, it must arise from the natural love of the heart. God, in our age, will be seen not so much as Lord and Savior, but as our divine friend. By extension, therefore, we would do well to see all people as our divine friends.
Swami Kriyananda has commented that the primary reason to love is because by loving we find greater happiness than by hating, resenting, or refusing to forgive. But we cannot love everyone in a merely human way, for we find a natural affinity to some and a spontaneous antipathy towards others. Divine love expressed outwardly will often be seen more as respect, fairness, forbearance, and cooperation. It is not merely an act of will but an outpouring from within.
“If ye be my disciples, love one another!”
Let us take these words of Jesus to heart.