Saturday, January 22, 2011

Infinite Christ: Part 2. Chanting is Half the Battle!

A hundred years ago women were fighting for the right to vote. Imagine that! It seems incomprehensible now to us, doesn’t it? A hundred years ago a person, village or nation of another race, language, culture or religion were suspect and even proper objects for destruction and theft.

In our recent Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi Tribute, we revisited the fact that it was only fifty years ago a black person couldn’t eat in the same restaurant, use the same public restrooms, or public transportation waiting rooms or seats as whites.

Today fanatics blow themselves up and innocent bystanders in the name of God, expecting thereby to earn entry to the pearly gates.

So it is no surprise that some followers, perhaps most followers of Jesus Christ and self-appointed representatives of his teachings, proclaim Jesus Christ the greatest, indeed, the only son of God!

[By the way: the placement of Jesus’ picture here on the altar at the Ananda Meditation Temple (in the middle and slightly above the others) does not signify a stature greater than any other. It’s artistic… fact, really, it’s the ladies who do the flowers who insist upon it!  ]

In this week’s Sunday Service reading, the metaphor which Paramhansa Yogananda gives is that of the wave and the sea. No mere wave can claim to BE THE SEA. Jesus may have realized his Oneness with the Father but he himself never claimed to BE THE FATHER, as a result, thereby. He made constant reference to his doing the will of the Father in a variety of circumstances, including his healings of others. He promised to send the HOLY SPIRIT. Jesus consistently deferred and referred to a reality far greater than himself.

He promised his disciples that they would do the same things as he, greater things than this, he said. St. John in the same first chapter of his gospel (quoted in the reading) said, as we so often quote here at Ananda in accordance with Yogananda’s teachings, “That as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God!”

In today’s quotation from the bible St. John says the “world was made by him.” So, I ask you, did Jesus Christ, the man, live in a human body BEFORE the world was created? Absurd. Elsewhere he said, “Before Abraham WAS, I AM.”

The divinity of Jesus, therefore, belongs to the ages. It supercedes its own appearance in the human being known as Jesus. To be “only begotten” (a phrase Jesus himself never used, according to the New Testament), refers to this overarching divinity which Yogananda and others call, variously, the Universal Christ Consciousness. This refers, inter alia, to the underlying divine consciousness that not only created the world (in the beginning) but lies immanent, or inherent, latent, at the heart of every atom of creation.

It is the “son” because, in terms of the Trinity, this only begotten divinity is the offspring of the Father which “is in heaven” – meaning which is “above” and transcendent of creation, untouched by creation. Just as a playwright can write the story, the hero and the villain, the buffoon, and himself be none of them, as they are but a creation of his mind, so too God the Father Transcendent, the Infinite Spirit, perfect Bliss, remains untouched.

He leaves unto the other two aspects of Himself, the Trinity, the work of creation: the Mother (a Virgin, pure and untouched by the creation which she manifests) does the housework through the holy, divine vibration (the “Word”) which underlies all differentiated manifestations; and the only-begotten son of the Father, the Christ Intelligence, hidden and unseen in the womb or center of every atom of creation gives the intelligence and the impulse (and in humans, the free will) to carry on the work of creation from within.

All great prophets come and express universal truths, clothed in the language and the metaphor of their times and their people, addressing their particular needs at a particular time. Each represents a ray of the divine and universal truth and none, like the wave, can claim to be the “final” Word.

It is the mother, this vibration to which I would like to turn today. We have here this weekend David Eby. David, a professional cellist, has dedicated his life to exploring and sharing the music of Ananda, written by our founder, Swami Kriyananda. He guides the musicians and singers of Ananda Village and elsewhere in their technique and attunement.

Music has the power to change consciousness for the fact of its vibratory power. Music is its own language and is a universal language. It uses the tools of melody, harmony, and rhythm, but its seed language is consciousness and the vibration of consciousness.

I was saying to David that when I was a teenager and listening to rock and roll, e.g. the Beatles, I usually couldn’t understand the words owing to the noise of the music. In many songs, in fact, the words are only carriers, hosts as it were, to the underlying message. I love you, yeah, yeah yeah! Gadzooks….. and yet, we may laugh, but isn’t that the basic theme of most of the world’s folk and popular music? Is not love what makes the world turn ‘round? Human or divine, debased or platonic……

Music is far more important to the upliftment (or the degradation) of consciousness than we, with our proud intellects and insistence in being guided solely by reason, are able to admit.

We can turn that to our obvious advantage. For Paramhansa Yogananda taught that “Chanting is half the battle!” A yoga pose can change our state of mind or our mood; meditation can help us transcend anxiety and fear; so, too, can chanting (aloud or mental) can raise our consciousness.

Few can practice yoga or meditation more than a small percentage of our waking hours. But everyone can at least mentally chant “half the time!” Think of it! Half the battle!

This goes also for the music of Ananda. Chanting, defined narrowly, is not always enough. Our minds crave variety (how many old Beatles songs “pop” into my head?). Our minds like to chew on the words of music and understand them. We want to dwell on their meaning, extract their practical advice, and be moved by their inspiration.

“Brave were the people” “Walk like a man” “Father, now that I wander with Thee” what wonderful melodies and meaning we have been given. “Still your mind if you want to pray” as we sing to the Egyptian goddess, Isis (as a form of Divine Mother)!

If you struggle with finding the time, overcoming the resistance, or going deep into meditation, don’t give up but add to your efforts chanting, for it is half the battle! Ananda has a collection of CD’s (also at East West Bookshop) for your IPOD, MP3 player, car, or home! Don’t wait. Soon you’ll be halfway there.

Aum, aum, aummmm.......

Jesus Christ and the Infinite Christ

Before considering the nature of a Jesus Christ in his human form, let’s consider the nature of a Jesus Christ in his divinity. In the gospel of St. John, Chapter One, John writes, of Jesus: "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."

In this chapter — the most cosmic or metaphysical of all the gospels — St. John does not even use Jesus’ name, although the context (contrasting with John the Baptist and the Baptist’s role vis-à-vis Jesus), makes it clear that the words are referring to Jesus.

How could it be that Jesus Christ made the world? This would mean that Jesus existed before the world was created? Surely he would not have existed then as a human: with a human body and personality? Jesus was not declaring, “Hey, dude, I’m, like, THE MAN who created all this!”What an absurdity.

When Jesus made declarations in the first person, such as, “I an the way, the life and the light. No man comes to God except through me” (a paraphrase on my part), he was not making an egoic claim. True, some of his followers have interpreted these words in sectarian terms and have used them to justify putting down the founders and gurus of other faiths.

Even for the “blasphemy” for which he was crucified (“I and my Father are One”), it is clear in Jesus’ own words that he spoke in reference to his divine and overarching nature, not his human personality and body which had been named Jesus.

Just as a wave of the ocean cannot claim to “be the sea,” so, too, no human being can claim to BE GOD. One might affirm (or indeed speak from the realization of a Jesus Christ) that one is a child of God but cannot claim to be God Himself. Waves of the sea partake in the sea but cannot limit or define the sea itself.

Jesus referred frequently to the Father as the source of his inspiration and guidance to do and say what he taught and did. Near the end of his brief ministry, he also spoke of sending the Holy Spirit. So even in this, one can see that Jesus saw his divine nature as part of a greater, Infinite consciousness. He was in no way limiting God to himself. (And therefore he could not have limited God to appearing only in the body and personality of Jesus Christ, born in a tiny mud ball of a planet at one miniscule point in time, place, and history!)

Divinity appears in human form as a conscious, or Self-realized, manifestation of the same divinity which lies at the heart of all creation and which is our own true, if higher, Self. God appears in the form of his saints and saviors (meaning fully realized souls, or avatars) to give the promise of our own immortality and to help awaken souls to our divine destiny to also become one with the Father.

As St. John declares in that same first chapter: “As many as received Him, gave He the power to become the sons of God.” How much clearer can it get?

The stages of enlightenment are found by retracing our steps-not backwards in time or form (like having to go back to being monkeys or amoebas)-but upwards through the spiral staircase of the inner, astral spine to heaven (cosmic consciousness).

First we are awakened to the existence of divinity in human form. “Whom do men say I AM?” Then, through the magnetic exchange of a divine level of consciousness through the vehicle of the guru’s human persona (not merely while incarnate but afterwards as well, through disciples, teachings, stories and ultimately through inner attunement: "at-One-ment").

As this divine consciousness grows within us from the seed of its birth in the human heart, we begin to feel and perceive its subtle, vibratory manifestation in all creation (known as the “Word,” or the “Aum”).

Past this we begin to perceive the silent, still Presence or Witness centered at the heart of the primal, creative vibration. This is the “only begotten” consciousness of the Father that can be found IN creation. This is known as the Universal Christ Consciousness (or Intelligence) which in Sanskrit is the Kutastha Chaitanya.

Only by re-uniting with these two manifestations of the Holy Trinity can we finally ascend to the third (and seed consciousness) that lies beyond all vibratory spheres: the Father, or, the Infinite Spirit whose nature is pure Bliss. This nature, which is our own nature and the nature of all things in creation, is described as Ever-Existing, Ever-Conscious, Ever-New Bliss (or Satchidanandam).

Thus, our spiritual journey should begin with an openness to God’s presence in his saints and the masters. We should, as Krishna counsels in the Bhagavad Gita, learn at the feet of such teachers the truth teachings of wisdom and right action. We should learn the art and science of meditation that we not limit our journey to the intellect, or even to good words alone.

We should strive to commune inwardly with that Divine Presence that is, as Jesus taught in answering the question, “Where is the kingdom of heaven,” “within you.” Without concern for time and progress, we should strive to fulfill the two great commandments which can make us free: Love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love thy neighbor AS thy Self.

Blessings to you,   Nayaswami Hriman