Monday, December 15, 2014

Did Jesus Die for our Sins?

Forgive me my own, instinctive reply: if He did, I hadn't sinned yet. And, besides, I've done my share without a lot of interference from Him! ha, ha, for me.........and now, for a more serious treatment:

We are taught that the Fall of Adam and Eve made it necessary for God to send his only begotten son to redeem us. That God's supreme act of "so loving the world that God sends his only-begotten" is part of the covenant between God and man. And, that, as in sacrifices since ancient times from around the world, Jesus is the "Lamb" of God being sacrificed on the altar of redemption and forgiveness.

As my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, used to quip (on this subject): "It may well be that Jesus died for our sins, but there's sure been a 'whole lot of sinnin' ever since.

As a yogi, I am taught (as my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, affirmed from his tradition) that the guru can take on the "karma" (i.e. the sins) of a disciple. Presumably not ALL the karma, but enough to speed up the salvation (aka moksha, or liberation) of the disciple. Saints down through the ages have shown that they can take on the karma in physical ways upon their own bodies. Swami Kriyananda stated that this gurus do often towards the end of their lives (I suppose for obvious reasons: to clean things up before they go).

In the Old Testament, Elijah, at the end of his life, gave the mantle of his spiritual power to his disciple, Elisha, who requested it. Paramhansa Yogananda, upon meeting his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, asked that he be given the power to know God. There "ensued," his autobiography stated, an hour long (silent) tussle because the word of a guru is "law" and armed with the power to bestow the cosmic vision, the guru must first seek divine benediction.

So, as a yogi, I have no essential issue with the general idea that "Jesus died for our sins." I have no doubt that Jesus took on the karma of his disciples by doing so. He gave an example to all time on how to deal with spiritual tests of every kind: with acceptance of God's will, with love for whomever might deliver the unpleasant opportunity, with equanimity, and with faith and divine attunement unto death. His greatest miracle was to "forgive them for they know not what they do."

Jesus' resurrection is the symbolic victory our souls experience when we meet our tests with these same right attitudes. For therein, the power of our innate soul-divinity is raised from its slumber and bit by bit we grow and wax strong in Spirit.

But: "the sins of, like, the WHOLE WORLD?" Ah, c'mon now! That's a stretch, ain't it? Indeed!

Swami Kriyananda, quoting Paramhansa Yogananda from whom he was taught in person, said that the difference between an "ordinary" saint (even a jivan mukta: one is liberated but not yet totally free from past karma) and a savior (an avatar), is that the avatar has the spiritual power to liberate many souls, not just a handful of close disciples.

Thus we see, over two thousand years disciples of Jesus who are truly great saints: St. Francis, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Anthony of the Desert, and in modern times, Padre Pio and Therese Neumann. An avatar, whether by later centuries long since reincarnated, remains eternally accessible to true devotees through the Infinite Consciousness of God (the Eternal Now) and can even be materialized into flesh and blood form by the devotee's devotion.

But, again: the WHOLE WORLD? No! Disciples........true disciples (not pledge card membership ones, merely)....YES, some at least!

Let's back up into the realm of metaphysics now, before we leave you. "Adam and Eve" represent not only the "first humans" created by God but our own initial incarnation as pure souls, made in the image of God. Their choice has also been ours: time and again; lifetime after lifetime.

The echo of this initial stage of our existence is the innocence of childhood in which the "fruit" (consciousness) of the tree of good and evil (i.e., duality -- esp. our ego consciousness which recognizes the eternal competition between male & female principles and archetypes)--has yet to be "eaten" (absorbed into our attitudes and view of life).

The Redeemer is our soul's innate divinity. It is reawakened by the guru (including the teachings of the guru which may take an initial form in the teachings of religion). When that memory of our soul's purity is stimulated and nurtured by us, the inner light of the soul is born in the dark manger of the cold night of prayer, meditation and withdrawal from ego-active desires and ambitions.

This innate soul divinity "takes on the sins" of our world, our past karma. Though crucified by the tests and trials necessary for our purification, the soul accepts all as from God for its own awakening. In this stage, and as our soul longs for and attunes to God through the guru (Jesus, Buddha, Yogananda, etc.), the guru renders inner guidance and help. To what extend the guru "takes on our karma," cannot be easily known. The very fact that an avatar, free from all karma, comes again and again into human form, experiencing the burdens of human life and taking on the path of awakening, to some degree, each time, is sufficiently good karma (not needed for the guru's own soul) for many guru-attuned souls. The very fact that a true guru gives a teaching, techniques and models an ideal life, is also an investment into the Good Karma Bank that the disciples can cash their Karmic Checks upon.

But make no mistake: there's no free ride! The depth, the intensity, the intelligence, and the sincerity of our efforts is what attracts this grace: the guru's power--the guru's mantle!

Remember: in God all are equal; we are One! Thus the reality of our separateness is evanescent. We did not create this world of maya (delusion and satan). It is no surprise therefore that as God's power created this cosmos, it is God's power that redeems us. And this is "the good news." We may have made badly informed choices over many lifetimes but the error is not completely ours alone! The dice of creation are, however, loaded with God consciousness.

This is an aspect of why devotion to God is the key. Our devotion draws the succor, the help of God in human form, to which we can relate from our own human form. And though God is an Infinite Power and not essentially anthropomorphic, He has created us and is, indeed, our very essence. We must ascend from where we are: bound by ego consciousness. Thus, God in seemingly human, egoic form, comes to help us unmask our soul's eternal and non-egoic nature.

The indwelling presence of God in creation is what is referred to as the "only begotten son of God." On the one hand, the realization of this aspect of God (the Son, of the Trinity) is crucified by our ignorance over many lives, on the other hand, it is our irrepressible soul-Spirit that takes on, with assistance from God in the form of the guru, this past karma and works it out in order to shed the self-limiting but essentially insubstantial ego. Twice-born and twice crucified, you might say! It all balances to the Cosmic Zero of God!

This, then, is the Good News! God, through the guru, is our Redeemer and has been born both in outward human form time and time again and, then, by our acceptance, in His second coming: in our hearts.

Happy Christmas: may the Christ within you be born again and again, be nurtured and grow to maturity, in the silent, still manger of daily meditation and devotion.

Swami Hrimananda