Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resurrecting Easter from the Dungeon of Dogmatism!

I read in TIME MAGAZINE recently of a famous and popular fundamentalist pastor who has said that he feels Christianity is on the brink of great changes. Well, I, for one, hope so and I am happy to hear someone like him say as much, too! As Paramhansa Yogananda put it back in the Thirties and Forties, tongue-in-cheek, "Jesus was crucified once, but his teachings have been crucified daily ever since."

I do not intend to put down other sincere truthseekers and their credos. My purpose in these thoughts is to walk a fine line between "I come not to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill them" and "I bring not peace, but a sword." [Both are the words of Jesus Christ.] Truth is often at the center line between opposites. No one formulation of truth can be anything but an effort to explain a reality that is intuitive and unitive, and therefore, by its actual revelation, it "is, and it is NOT" (to quote the Indian woman saint, Ananda Moyi Ma).

We live in a world that contemplates vast vistas of time and space: the years of humankind's existence on earth keeps enlarging backward in time to millions of years. Space has become so vast in our calculations that it defies anything but the conclusion that the odds of advanced life forms such as exist on earth are nothing less than 100%.

So how can one have one foot in the modern "religion" of science and another foot in the religion of our grandfathers without falling flat on one's metaphysical face? How can one man who lived 33 years over 2,000 years ago on one lonely outpost of a planet on the fringe of one galaxy (of billions) be the savior of the world when most of the world before, during, and after this man's life never heard of him?

How can one misguided act committed in error, ignorance, passion, or delusion and in the minuscule boundaries of earth time and space condemn one's invisible spirit to an eternity of torture and suffering? Worse yet, for the simple fact of not having ever heard about this one man called Jesus Christ?

Is it possible we can embrace Jesus, his life and teachings, without condemning the rest of the beings of this planet and universe to hell? Each of us has for our neighbors and co-workers, people from other nations, races, and religions. Can we not see the obvious unifying needs and nature of all peoples as essentially no different than our own?

How, then, can true and original Christianity be resurrected from the tomb of ignorance? If Jesus truly lived, died, and was resurrected as the New Testament and its saints, martyrs, and sages down through ages proclaim and have given their lives to attest, surely, he must have been bigger in scope than so many of his self-proclaimed followers insist? There must be somewhere to be found a bridge, a life raft, to bring Jesus into the modern world and ever-expanding universe?

Fortunately, there is such a bridge, and surely not only one. But one such wayshower is the world renown yogi from India, Paramhansa Yogananda. His life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," inspires, delights, and educates millions on every continent from the day it was published in 1946 to this day, today. Yogananda represents a teaching and revelation that goes back beyond the dim veil of recorded history in the world's oldest continuous spiritual tradition: that of the rishis of India.

When the first English translations of India's hoary Vedas and other scriptures reached the shores of America in the early 19th Century, the so-called Transcendentalists (Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman) recognized the overarching wisdom and termed it a philosophy, not a religion. More correctly it should be called revelation, for philosophy is only intellectual speculation about reality, truth, and ethics. In India this body of wisdom has long been termed "Sanaatan Dharma," the "eternal truth (or "religion"). It implies that what is handed down is as universally applicable as the law of gravity which does not depend on man's belief or awareness to hold sway.

In accordance with aspects of all faith traditions and the teaching of metaphysics everywhere, this world and universe is said to be a dream, a visible manifestation of the consciousness of the Creator who remains as yet untouched by the dream, just as a playwright is no more good nor evil owing to the characters of his creation. The playwright's intention is to entertain and to educate. Both the audience and the actors know that it is but a play but the actors strive, nonetheless, to play their role as best as they can and according to the script and intention of the playwright.

All is God, there is none else. This doesn't deny the relative evil we encounter or enact, but that evil is evil because it takes our consciousness further from the experience and realization of God as the only reality behind all seeming and appearances. Evil is an affirmation of separateness. So, too, are ego-affirming attitudes, emotions, and self-gratifying or seeking actions. Good is good because it expands our awareness to realities larger than ego.

The only begotten son of God, therefore, is that spark of divine realization that is crucified by selfishness and resurrected by goodness. It appears in every age, as the rishis of India have proclaimed since time immemorial, in the living person of those beings who, in past lives (many lives), achieved the final victory of permanent realization of their Oneness "with the Father." Their appearance, as saviors, or avatars, is a personal and dynamic promise of immortality and the proclamation, once again, of the "good news" of our souls as children of God.

Jesus used the personal pronoun "I" in proclaiming his Oneness with the Father and for that affront to the ego-entrenched priesthood of his time, paid the ultimate (human) price: persecution and death. His bodily resurrection, like that of many similarly God-realized souls, gave tangible testimony to those with "eyes to see" that we are not the body but we are the Infinite soul, existing since eternity ("Before Abraham was, I AM").

The time has come to realize this divinity through the science of meditation and to put aside divisive dogmas and creeds. To recognize other Christ-like masters is not to diminish the God-realization of Jesus, but merely to make it truly "catholic" ("universal") and personal to each and every one of us though it take many lifetimes. This is the promise of sages down through ages and the promise of our soul's immortality that can be resurrected by our recognition of the Guru-preceptors who come to awaken our memory.

Let us not hesitate, therefore, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, knowing that it stands forever, today and yesterday, as a beacon of light, faith, and hope for all truthseekers everywhere.


Nayaswami Hriman