Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jesus Christ: the ONLY?

Religion has been plagued by sectarianism and no religion has been so organized and so intellectually self-enclosed and bullet-proof than the traditional Catholic Faith. A recent conversation with my ultra-conservative Catholic priest and brother served only to remind me of both the limits of the intellect and the dangers of the sheer magnetism of two thousand years of accumulated tradition and self-enclosed logic.

The trouble begins with Jesus' use of the personal pronoun "I" in his statement that "I am the way, the life, and the truth" (not an exact quote). It continues with states like "upon my church I shall build my church and the powers of darkness shall not prevail against it" (approximate quote). An entire theology has been built around such quotations, and, added to that, the testimony of (church-ordained) "saints" adds proof to the pudding!

Paramhansa Yogananda, a great yogi who came to America and who brought a new dispensation of a broader vision of divinity and truth, showed how Jesus' words and teachings can be understood in a broader context. Yet the weight of tradition and the apparent testimony of the saints would seem to shun any new interpretation or understanding. Add to this the fear of the "anti-Christ" and associated breakdown of traditional values and you have a retrenchment from which there seems no return, no reconciliation, no hope for raproachment.

From my brother's point of view, there isn't any such bridge. There is no way to reconcile. Theirs is the only way, and the rest of us are condemned to you-know-where or, with some theological fine print, can be saved by natural living and grace based on our ignorance and God's mercy.

The combination of the erosion of traditional ("Catholic" or "Christian") values and the emergence of Eastern religions with their overarching and universalist tendencies makes for trouble all 'round. It drives the traditional Christians crazy to think that Buddha or Krishna might be elevated to the stature of Jesus Christ!

No blog article is sufficient in length to tackle these questions. For reference I direct your attention to Swami Kriyananda's book, "Revelations of Christ," or Self-Realization Fellowship's (shortened) "The Yoga of Jesus."

The gulf that divides east and west (universalist vs dogmatist) is a very deep one. We mustn't fool ourselves into thinking reconciliation is just around the corner. We of metaphysical persuasion tend to be non-violent, even pacifist, but not so (many of) the representatives of orthodox religion.

I told my brother I would rather love him than argue with him. But he never seems to give up on his insistence that the Catholic Church is the only one true church and after the anti-Christ and the dark days to come it will emerge victorious!

Rather than argue our way through the Jesus' teachings, why not find it in our hearts to unite in our love for truth, our dedication (self-sacrifice) to serving God and higher ideals, and in our personal life of prayer, meditation, and introspection? Are not the so-called traditional Christian values essentially universal ones?

Sadly, however, the path ahead of us is not a bed of roses. While mainstream religion has largely ignored us, laughed at us, scorned or condemned us, its response will be much more intense when the time comes that it feels threatened by those who dare to meditate (without their sanction) and who see in all faiths the underlying unity of truth.

As unpleasant as it may seem to many of us, we must be willing, at least, to stand up for a truth that is needed on our planet today. We are all children of the Infinite One God. All life, all faiths are but a manifestation of that One consciousness. Life has but its purpose the realization that we are but sparks of the Infinite Flame.

There is no real argument among the great Ones who come to declare the eternal truths. Even if saints encourage their followers to be true to the faith they are born in, an examination of their lives finds them preoccupied with ego-transcendence and love for God. A new dispensation of revelation has come in answer to the prayer of sincere hearts that a universal understanding in matters spiritual be found that is comparable to the universal acceptance of natural laws discovered by scientists.

This new revelation, like the "new" science that replaced medieval superstitions and blind beliefs, is not intended and need not destroy the faith of traditional religionists. In fact, it can free them from the narrow confines of sectarianism. Let each faith honor its own tradition while it yet sees its beliefs and rituals in the broader vision of God's love and wisdom.


Nayaswami Hriman