Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jesus Christ: Part 2

When Jesus Christ declared that "I and my father are One," the outraged priests and scribes wanted to stone him for blasphemy. Jesus' retort was to quote the Old Testament, "your scripture" as he put it, the eighty-second Psalm (verse 16) in reminding them that the scriptures declare it for all of us in saying "Ye are gods." In the gospel of St. John, Chapter 1, verse 12, John writes that "As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God..." As Paramhansa Yogananda put it, Jesus came not to merely show us who he was, but who we are potentially as souls.

From time to time, a visitor to Ananda, or a student in one of our classes, seeing the pictures of the masters (which includes Jesus) upon our altars, will comment to the effect that "How can anyone worship another human being?" This response has several levels: one is the ego's stubborn refusal to admit perfection as a possibility for the obvious fact that the ego, being far from perfect, is thereby threatened or judged. The other is related to the first and is simply that who among us has ever experienced or seen perfection in another human being? And, isn't it boasting, presumptuous, and vain to declare perfection in oneself?

Yet the testimony down through the ages in every scripture and from every great saint is that we are children of God, children of the Infinite, perfect souls, and destined for immortality!

How then can we reconcile the affirmation of our soul's perfection with the face we see in the mirror "the morning after?" What is the most helpful attitude to have towards Jesus Christ, Yogananda, or any of the great saints and saviors of humanity? Are they but messengers or prophets but otherwise not notably different than you or I (perhaps having been blessed and chosen by God)?

Isn't that the prevailing view Moslems have for Mohammed? Do not many Buddhists refuse to "pray" to Buddha for the fact that each one must seek nirvana on his own and for the fact that Buddha, having extinguished himself in nothingness is, well, nothing? Is not the Buddha-nature inherent in each of us? Do not the Jews still condemn the heresy that any man can be God?

But do not the Hindus worship Krishna or Rama and many others as incarnations of Brahma, or the Deity? Are not many of their saints deemed incarnations of one form of divinity or another?

Paramhansa Yogananda offered a reconciliation of these seemingly opposing points of view. Jesus (and other great saints), he taught, is a soul, like you and I. Down through many incarnations that soul achieved its promised immortality by gradually becoming less and less identified with the personality and body of any specific incarnation and more and more identified with the overarching spirit of its own soul nature, and then progressively, with the consciousness of Spirit underlying all creation, and finally with the eternal Bliss nature (God) out of which all creation was manifested.

In this view, then, the distinction of God vs man is a false one, at least in the ultimate sense. In the "meantime," however, and so long as our soul is yet identified, even in part, with one physical form and incarnation, we live separate from our Buddha nature and thus experience some sense of loss or dis-ease in our hearts.

The purpose of this creation, Yogananda and others have declared, is that the creation awaken (however gradually) to its own divine nature and that individual souls realize that nature (not merely intellectually) in actual and permanent fact and beatitude.

So what do we mean, then, when we place pictures and images of saints upon our altars? It means that we see these souls, which we consider perfected or Self-realized, as doorways to the ultimate Bliss which is God (and which is our own, true nature and destiny). How can any of us know whether any other soul is indeed Self-realized? Well, realistically speaking, we can't. So at the very least, we can view these images as symbols for the promise of immortality or for the potential of perfection that awaits us in the unfolding process of greater and greater soul-identity.

More than this, however, is implied by our devotional attitude towards Self-realized saints. Yogananda taught that when the soul achieves Oneness in God it isn't destroyed but perfected in Infinity. The "memory" of that soul's journey and character remains unique in Eternity and can be called forth by devotion and attunement as a unique channel or doorway to the vast and impersonal Bliss-filled Spirit beyond all form and vibration. For embodied souls it is far more satisfying and helpful to approach the Infinite through another, human form with whom we can, literally, identify, hear or read his words, see examples of how to live in daily life, and to receive techniques and ways to work toward ego transcendence.

It is also God's "law" that we do so for the simple fact that such a "law" affirms that we, as souls incarnate in these bodies, are yet perfect and to deny the possiblity of Self-realization incarnate is to deny our very nature and the very purpose of creation itself. The "law" of love says that we are taught and helped by one another. The process of achieving Self-realization incarnate then comes through the transmission of that consciousness from one egoless ego to another aspiring ego. To seek it directly from Infinity, disincarnate, is to transcend the "law" and reality of the creation, dual in nature, and appearing in the divine romance of I-Thou in the process of achieving Oneness.

There are certain signs that are given to suggest that a given spiritual teacher has achieved Self-realization. In this world of duality, however, these are not absolute, either. In the life of Jesus, such signs include the Star of Bethlehem (being a symbol of the star seen in the forehead, part of the spiritual eye), the visitation of the Magi from the east, raising the dead, fogiveness of his enemies while on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead after his crucifixion.

In the Bhagavad Gita other signs given in a general way include the ability to go breathless at will, to enter a state of samadhi at will, to have unblinking eyes (as an indication of such state), to walk without casting a shadow, and to walk without touching the ground. These last two signs are no doubt more symbolic than actual, though levitation and dematerialization of the body are certainly among such signs, at least potentially.

Whether a spiritual teacher attracts millions of followers or is the founder of one of the world's great faiths is also at least a general indication but just as many people once believed that world is flat (and that doesn't make it so), so too the adoration or beliefs of millions is far from a definite sign. But Yogananda stated that perfected beings do sometimes live in isolation or without public recognition for reasons that remain hidden from view.

In truth, however, the issue isn't who is the best or greatest saint, but who is a good disciple of truth! Who strives assiduously to offer himself into the divine hands as a willing, intelligent instrument of peace. Who sets aside his own desires, opinions and needs for a greater good in the name of God?

The greatest sign of spirituality is not to be found in miracles but in the miracle of the transformation of our iron-footed and ages-old egotism into the flower of love for God and love for God in all.

A blessed Christmas to you all,


No comments: