Saturday, April 3, 2010

A New Dawn - Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010

On this day (the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox) each year, we celebrate Easter as a commemoration of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion some two thousand years ago.

This event though distant in time and space remains for millions of people worldwide, a day of joyful celebration. I wonder, however, how many give any thought to its meaning. I imagine that for most it is a holiday replete with church-going, sartorial splendor, colorful decorations, family gathering and, of course, eggs, chocolate, and feasting. No harm in any of this, of course, considering what else most people usually do with their free time, but surely there's more to it than that!

I believe that the Easter holiday persists due to some deeper joy, some deeper celebration, that we feel even if we do not take the time to contemplate it. The sunrise symbolizes a new dawn, a new beginning. The Vernal Equinox during which Mother Nature puts on her colorful array brings hope for new life, for success in our efforts, and for harmony and cooperation in our lives. The fresh buds of Spring hint of the promise of a bountiful harvest to come.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ goes far beyond the diurnal awakening of nature, however! While appropriately coincident, the latter remains locked into the cycles of unceasing flux while the former reveals a transcendent and eternal Spring. It is not easy for us, armed with our college degrees, our rational science, and our skeptical pragmatism, to seriously accept that one who is pronounced dead can rise again after three days into a living body that, at the same time, can be de-materialized at will or transported over space and through walls. Yet do not the invisible radio, television, and cell phone waves resurrect life-like to our sight and hearing the living presence of others far away? Do not even these, however familiar though not well understood, hint at a power far greater than the power of the five senses? Do not the wonders of the invisible atom and its entourage of quirky quarks and pesky particles hint of undreamed of worlds and powers? Does not the vastness of space, the existence of billions of galaxies, and the fathomless epochs of time awaken in us hints of immortality?

In the Self-realization line of Christ-like masters, the immortal Babaji has lived in his physical body for untold centuries and promises to retain his form for the duration of this age (which he does not define but which can only be far beyond our lifespan). Babaji's life is chronicled in Paramhansa Yogananda's famous life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," in which he describes the deathless Mahavatar's consciousness as beyond comprehension. In that same book, he describes how both Lahiri Mahasaya and his disciple Swami Sri Yukteswar (the latter being Yogananda's guru) appeared to close disciples after their deaths, Lahiri's body having been cremated and Sri Yukteswar's, buried. In 1952, the director of Forest Lawn Mortguary attested to the fact of Yogananda's own body remaining uncorrupted by decay for nearly a month -- a first in the annals of modern mortuary science. In Europe and throughout the world are revered the undecaying remains of saints, testimonies, albeit shocking to see, to the saintly consciousness of their former inhabitants!

Despite the extraordinary testimony of such Christ-like souls, we, each and individually, have an opportunity to contemplate the mystery and the gift of resurrection in our own lives. For surely the celebration of Easter must have some personal, and indeed redemptive, significance in our lives?

Swami Sri Yukteswar counseled thusly: "The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now." Easter resonates with us joyfully because on a higher than conscious level we know that we are not bound forever to our past actions and to our present self-limiting definitions. We yearn for redemption from egoity, from suffering, from limitations of all kinds. Even science with its continuous advances in the speed and distance of travel and instant communication offers hints of our potential for omnipresence and expansion of consciousness. Our successes and past pleasures, too, are but fleeting and are no guarantee for the future. Their ephemeral nature incites in us sadness and remorse as well as ever fresh desires.

We seek a lasting peace, an Eternal knowing and security, an unbroken and ever-new joy. We know instinctively that disease and failure and suffering are but temporary (even if self-inflicted) impositions on the fulfillment that surely is our very own.

Even if in Christian theology the resurrection of Jesus was but a miracle, there exists an inextricable link between his crucifixion and his resurrection. Even if the crucifixion has more greatly occupied the inspiration, devotion, art, and imagination of Christians, the resurrection remains its fulfillment. In Chapter 30 (The Law of Miracles) of the aforementioned "Autobiography," Yogananda explains the process of life force control by which a true master can materialize a physical body, or bring back to life one who has died. As our modern inventions, which we take for granted now, would seem like miracles to a medieval peasant, what we think of as the miracle of Christ's resurrection is understood by the scientific men (and women) of God-realization.

The crucifixion, for all of its drama and shocking intensity, nonetheless symbolizes for us the manner in which we should accept the tests, trials, tribulations, and suffering that comes to our body, mind, and ego through the experience we call living. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." When on the cross, he cried out "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" Jesus knew of the manner of his impending death and, for a moment, attachment to the body and human nature, prompted him to take pause. On the cross, too, he had a fleeting experience of the withdrawal of his omnipresent Oneness with the Father and felt the bleakness of mere egoic consciousness, as well as, of course, the intensity of physical pain. Nonetheless, the triumph of his Spirit did not have to wait until the resurrection three days later. From the cross itself he gave blessing to those who humiliated and killed him. From the garden itself before that, he humbly submitted to the will of the Father. He did not require, for himself, the testimony of bodily resurrection but did so for the upliftment and faith of true disciples then and for the ages.

It is in this manner that resurrection comes to all of us: faith in God, acceptance of God's will, and blessing to all, even those who misunderstand or dislike or hurt us. While Jesus' story is obviously high drama, our own, however invisible or uninteresting to others, is surely high drama for us. How little it takes to upset us or to trigger in us fear, irritation, or anger. How self-preoccupied are our thoughts and the motivations behind our words and actions.

The resurrection is no mere miracle. It is the fruit of love for God. Our innate response of celebration in the "light" of the Easter holiday is our soul's response to the promise of our immortality and our ever-new joy as children of God. For this we were created, for this we seek, and to this shall we be re-born forever. The daily free-will, faith-guided, and love-inspired crucifixion of our body-attachments and ego-protective affirmations is the price for everlasting glory in God-consciousness. Our journey to God-realization is the greatest story ever told, the grandest spectacle ever beheld, and has the happiest of endings.

Happy Easter to you this and every moment of every day.

Om, Christ, Amen........Joy to you, Hriman