Friday, April 3, 2015
(I interrupt the 3-part "What If I were President" series for today's inspiration, Good Friday, 2015)
Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?
This question is among those that challenge established dogma: not just in religion, but in science, art, culture and business, we find little " 'ism's" or cliches that get repeated down through generations (or even centuries) that gradually lose touch with their original or deeper meaning, if indeed, they ever had such!
An example of an absurdity that springs to mind is the response-question "How could Jesus have died for my sins two thousand years before I committed them?" (Please don't attempt to answer that with another absurdity!)
Yet even in this seemingly absurd but oft-quoted dogma there lies a mustard seed of truth: great saints of the stature of Jesus Christ are said to take on the "karma" (translate: "sins") of their close disciples. Just as a rich parent can pay off the debts of his wayward (but presumably repentant) son, so a great saint can take some of the burden of a disciples' karma, or so it is taught in the yoga tradition.
Now, a paradox here, too, is that it is the "good karma" of a disciple to have this burden lifted! Good karma means the disciple has put out effort of the type that would have this result!!!!
St. John, the beloved disciple, wrote in Chapter 1 of his gospel a famous statement oft quoted by Paramhansa Yogananda (author of "Autobiography of a Yogi"): "As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even those that believe on His name!"
Whatever the meaning behind becoming a "son of God" may be, it is clear that a powerful grace or blessing attends one who "receives" the guru. By "receive" must be meant to be open to the teachings, the guidance, and the vibration and consciousness of the guru, and, where and however appropriate, to serve the guru's work.
Do you see, now, how each of these phrases is fraught with deeper meaning even if the words are simple: "die for our sins"....."take on the karma"........"receive Him".........simple words but not necessarily obvious meanings.
Let's take this further in what seems the direction of absurdity: can I "receive" my Lord and Savior (i.e. guru, whether Jesus Christ, Buddha, Lord Krishna, Yogananda, etc.) AFTER the time in which he (or she) lived?
What does it mean "lived?" Mystics down through ages report the living presence of great saints and masters long after their passing. Some are reported to have resurrected their former bodies, whether in vision or in flesh!
Christians pay reverence and worship to Jesus Christ two thousand years after his life on earth. They have no problem praying to Jesus today; nor does a devout Hindu to Lord Krishna, etc. etc.
So, we must conclude that, to them, YES: I can still "receive Him"and thus I can still be a recipient of divine grace through my attunement: by following in His footsteps and teachings.
Have you noticed "the catch-22" yet? To be "saved" (whatever that means) you must "receive Him." The phrase "even those that believe on His name" certainly suggests a fairly easy pathway to salvation. Is there, then, a "free lunch" here? Are the loaves and fishes of grace miraculously multiplied and distributed?
What about the law of karma? Whew! Are YOU as confused as I? (Gee, I hope not!)
Let me digress (just for a 'minute'): Paramhansa Yogananda taught that true baptism takes place when our consciousness is uplifted into God consciousness. This isn't the only form of "baptism," but for my purposes it is the essence of what he taught on baptism. In "yogi" terms this is translated to say that when we enter a state of superconsciousness (a feat achieved not only with devotion and right action but specially enhanced by the science of advanced meditation techniques, such as kriya yoga), we experience a kind of temporary baptism. Repeated dunkings into the River (or Tree) of Life in the astral spine gradually deepens and renders increasingly lasting (and eventually permanent) our attunement with God.
As God comes to earth through the human vehicles of souls like Jesus Christ who are sent and who have become God-realized ("one with the Father"), it is God, then, who gives to us the teachings and now, in this age, the science of yoga by which we can accelerate our path to freedom in God.
Thus to "receive Him" is really meant to be uplifted into and toward God-consciousness. Our effort, it has well and often been said, is met by an even greater effort by God to reach and uplift us. Yogananda gave this mathematical formula of 25% our effort; 25% the effort of the guru on our behalf; and 50% the grace of God. And yet, even having belief (hopefully leading to true faith) in the living God in human form ("in His name") brings some grace...according to St. John.....it is, potentially at least, a beginning.
The point here, and in every tradition, no matter how differently or vaguely expressed, is that we are "not saved by effort alone" but by grace. But both are needed. But as the power of God required to manifest this universe is far, far greater than our own, and as we did not create ourselves, so too our effort can never be but a portion of the total energy required to free us (from our past karma; our "sins").
Now, back to our subject:
Did Jesus DIE for our sins? He certainly didn't "deserve" to do so!!! If he hadn't "died for our sins," would He be powerless to uplift us, then, or now? What, then, is the connection between His crucifixion and our "resurrection?" Why didn't Buddha die for our sins?
He was not crucified BECAUSE we sinned. Jesus' death on the cross serves as a dramatic act and symbol of how we should meet the tests of our life: as He did......with forgiveness and equanimity and faith in God....."into your hands I commend my Spirit." His dramatic death and subsequent resurrection illustrate the power He possesses to help free those who “receive” Him. It was not necessary to be illustrated so dramatically but it was the divine will so that, in subsequent centuries, millions might believe “in His name.”
The night before his death, he prayed, briefly, that the bitter cup of his death be taken, but he immediately affirmed "Thy will be done." By this he showed us he was not a God-made puppet, but flesh and blood. When he called out from the cross, "Elias, why have you forsaken me," he showed that he, too, could, however temporarily, experience the separateness from God that is our own, deepest existential form of suffering.
Neither his prayer for relief nor his cry of loss of God-contact suggest that he was any less than a God-realized soul. Rather, it shows that those great ones who have achieved Self-realization sacrifice, to a degree, their hard-won God-bliss by taking on human form. By this act, they too feel the pangs of human life even as they are, nonetheless, free from past karma compelling their incarnation. This is, as it were, Part 1, of their gift to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.
Jesus died on the cross that we might know how to carry our cross and how to overcome our past bad karma--our sins. In that sense, YES, he died to show us the way to be free. But Part 2 is our effort for he, like other avatars (saviors), has the power to lift us if we will but “receive” them into our hearts, minds, daily action and souls.
Part 3 is the transforming baptism of grace that lifts and purifies us. When it does we look back and realize that, while essential, our effort was but a small part of the power of redemption.
A blessed Easter to all,