"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" by Father Seán ÓLaoire

In earl 1995, I was invited to give a series of seven lectures at the Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto.  I titled the series, “Will the real Jesus please stand up?”  During the preparation period for the series, while I was meditating one day, I had a very powerful vision of Jesus.  Before the meditation began, I had been reading the famous passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except through me.” So, now that I had him “in person”, I asked him, “Did you really say that?” He replied, “Yes, I did.  Because the only way is love; the deepest truth is love; and the whole point of life is love. Anybody who wants to find the father needs to walk only in love.”  And then, without any prompting from me, he went on to say, “And the Buddha is the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except through the Buddha. Because the only way is compassion; the deepest truth is compassion; and the whole point of life is compassion. Anybody who wants to find the father needs to walk only in compassion.”

It was Last Supper time.  Jesus, having lived for about 12,000 days, now had less than 24 hours left – no time to fiddle about with literalists, in spite of the Apostles’ best attempts to “ground” his flights of fantasy.  There is a hint of impatience as he attempts to elevate the thinking of both Thomas and Philip in the following exchanges.  Thomas: “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way!” This prompted the rejoinder I’ve spoken about above, “I am the way…” Then literalist Philip asks, “Lord, show us the father and that will be enough for us.”  An exasperated Jesus replies, “Philip, have I been with you all this time and you still don’t know who I am?  When you see me, you see the father.”

He’s at his deepest, most profound and most mystical at this stage.  Why? Oh why, did his disciples, then and now, oafishly try to reduce these enlightened teachings to membership in the human clubs called, “churches”?

Throughout his private life, beginning at age twelve, when he debated the scholars while “lost” in the temple, and, especially, during his public ministry, Jesus was answering the four great questions – namely, “Who is God?”, “Who am I?”, “Who is my neighbor?” and “What is my mission?”  The enlightened answers to the first three questions can actually be given in the same, single word – LOVE. And the answer to question #4 – what is my mission? – is, “to come awake!”

On the road to Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And then “Who do you say that I am?” The Gospels don’t record the third, even more important, question that I believe he also asked, “Who do you [my disciple] think that you are?” Jesus knew who he was, who the father was, who his neighbor was and what his mission was. And his mission was to awaken, first his disciples and then, through them, all humans to the same conclusions to which Jesus himself had come.  Alas, we still have a long way to go; and the very leaders who should be opening themselves and their “flocks” to the true answers, have retreated into fundamentalist fear and demonized the mystics who took Jesus at his word.

Let me revisit the notion that the mission is “to come awake.” Real love is actually very difficult to attain unless one has first awakened.  What passes for love, in a pre-awakened person, is either mawkish sentimentality or else just favoring one’s family and friends.

When Gautama Siddhartha – who was not a priest and had no business in the preaching trade – was challenged by the “real priests” (the Brahmin caste) to say what gave him the right to speak on spiritual matters, he simply said, “I am buddha” – literally, “I am awake.”  It became his nickname just as Jesus was given the nickname, “Christ.” The Buddha’s right to preach came precisely from the fact that he was awake; he had pierced the fog of maya.  This immediately resulted in unconditional compassion which is simply unconditional love-in-action.

Jesus himself would tell many parables about being awake e.g., “If the householder knew at what stage the thief would break in and steal, he wouldn’t go to sleep.”

Another word for “being awake” is the Hindu notion of “Self-realization.”  The Christian equivalent is “Salvation.”  But salvation is grossly misunderstood by church teachers who see it as an action of redemption [literally “buying back”] from the grip of Satan, occasioned by the mythical story of Adam and Eve disobeying Yahweh in the Garden of Eden.  The solution? Get baptized, profess Jesus as your personal savior and bingo! you’re saved.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus did not come because an irascible divinity demanded innocent blood to satisfy his anger at being disobeyed.  Jesus came as an avatar, accepting incarnation with all its limitations, temptations and vicissitudes, and yet never forgetting his divine nature.  He was awake as he came in, awake as he lived in his human spacesuit, and awake as he committed his soul, on the cross, into the hugging embrace of his father.  This is why he could say, “It is completed; mission accomplished; I never went to sleep; I never forgot who I am, and why I came.”

There is only one sin – and it has nothing to do with the ten commandments of Moses – it is to never attempt to awaken to one’s true, divine nature.  If I opt to stay asleep, then I have two choices.  If I am a “Religious” person, I will only believe in a transcendent, punitive deity and I will serve him in fear, so that I may dodge the fires of hell.  If I am an atheist or an agnostic, then I don’t really care about this Superman-in-the-sky, and I will live my life by the world’s values. But if I awaken at any stage of incarnation, I will immediately recognize that only God exists.  I will smile and offer Namasté (“the God in me recognizes and honors the God in you”) to everything that I encounter, from a wave breaking on the beach, to an acorn full of the promise of growing up to be an oak tree, to the wrinkled old lady, in the back seat of the church, fingering her rosary beads.

The truly liberating message of Jesus is that life is a dream which the ego is having, the ego is a dream that the soul is having, the soul is a dream which the Spirit is having, and Spirit is a dream which Source is having.  Everything that exists is simply God-in-drag.

That was the message Jesus urgently tried to deliver on the last night of his life to his motley crew of fishermen, housewives and tax collectors.  And some of them got it. Later, however, subsequent generations of church leaders would try to domesticate this outrageous heresy, rein Jesus in, and present us with a sensible theology of fear, obedience and the security of being “saved.”

"The Realization of Love" - (chapter 5) Sadhana – The Realisation of Life A Book on Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore

PART 5 (of 8 part series)
We come now to the eternal problem of co-existence of the infinite and the finite, of the supreme being and our soul. There is a sublime paradox that lies at the root of existence. We never can go round it, because we never can stand outside the problem and weigh it against any other possible alternative. But the problem exists in logic only; in reality it does not offer us any difficulty at all. Logically speaking, the distance between two points, however near, may be said to be infinite because it is infinitely divisible. But we do cross the infinite at every step, and meet the eternal in every second. Therefore some of our philosophers say there is no such thing as finitude; it is but a māyā, an illusion. The real is the infinite, and it is only māyā, the unreality, which causes the appearance of the finite. But the word māyā is a mere name, it is no explanation. It is merely saying that with truth there is this appearance which is the opposite of truth; but how they come to exist at one and the same time is incomprehensible.

We have what we call in Sanskrit dvandva, a series of opposites in creation; such as, the positive pole and the negative, the centripetal force and the centrifugal, attraction and repulsion. These are also mere names, they are no explanations. They are only different ways of asserting that the world in its essence is a reconciliation of pairs of opposing forces. These forces, like the left and the right hands of the creator, are acting in absolute harmony, yet acting from opposite directions.

There is a bond of harmony between our two eyes, which makes them act in unison. Likewise there is an unbreakable continuity of relation in the physical world between heat and cold, light and darkness, motion and rest, as between the bass and treble notes of a piano. That is why these opposites do not bring confusion in the universe, but harmony. If creation were but a chaos, we should have to imagine the two opposing principles as trying to get the better of each other. But the universe is not under martial law, arbitrary and provisional. Here we find no force which can run amok, or go on indefinitely in its wild road, like an exiled outlaw, breaking all harmony with its surroundings; each force, on the contrary, has to come back in a curved line to its equilibrium. Waves rise, each to its individual height in a seeming attitude of unrelenting competition, but only up to a certain point; and thus we know of the great repose of the sea to which they are all related, and to which they must all return in a rhythm which is marvelously beautiful.
In fact, these undulations and vibrations, these risings and fallings, are not due to the erratic contortions of disparate bodies, they are a rhythmic dance. Rhythm never can be born of the haphazard struggle of combat. Its underlying principle must be unity, not opposition. Read More...

"The Problem of Self" - (chapter 4) Sadhana – The Realisation of Life A Book on Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore

PART 4 (of 8 part series)
At one pole of my being I am one with sticks and stones. There I have to acknowledge the rule of universal law. That is where the foundation of my existence lies, deep down below. Its strength lies in its being held firm in the clasp of comprehensive world, and in the fullness of its community with all things.
But at the other pole of my being I am separate from all. There I have broken through the cordon of equality and stand alone as an individual. I am absolutely unique, I am I, I am incomparable. The whole weight of the universe cannot crush out this individuality of mine. I maintain it in spite of the tremendous gravitation of all things. It is small in appearance but great in reality. For it holds its own against the forces that would rob it of its distinction and make it one with the dust.

This is the superstructure of the self which rises from the indeterminate depth and darkness of its foundation into the open, proud of its isolation, proud of having given shape to a single individual idea of the architect's which has no duplicate in the whole universe. If this individuality be demolished, then though no material be lost, not an atom destroyed, the creative joy which was crystallized therein is gone. We are absolutely bankrupt if we are deprived of this specialty, this individuality, which is the only thing we can call our own; and which, if lost, is also a loss to the whole world. It is most valuable because it is not universal. And therefore only through it can we gain the universe more truly than if we were lying within its breast unconscious of our distinctiveness. The universal is ever seeking its consummation in the unique. And the desire we have to keep our uniqueness intact is really the desire of the universe acting in us. It is our joy of the infinite in us that gives us our joy in ourselves. Read More...

" The Problem of Evil" - (chapter 3) Sadhana – The Realisation of Life A Book on Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore

PART 3 (of 8 part series)
The question why there is evil in existence is the same as why there is imperfection, or, in other words, why there is creation at all. We must take it for granted that it could not be otherwise; that creation must be imperfect, must be gradual, and that it is futile to ask the question, Why we are?

But this is the real question we ought to ask: Is this imperfection the final truth, is evil absolute and ultimate? The river has its boundaries, its banks, but is a river all banks? Or are the banks the final facts about the river? Do not these obstructions themselves give its water an onward motion? The towing rope binds a boat, but is the bondage its meaning? Does it not at the same time draw the boat forward?

The current of the world has its boundaries, otherwise it could have no existence, but its purpose is not shown in the boundaries which restrain it, but in its movement, which is towards perfection. The wonder is not that there should be obstacles and sufferings in this world, but that there should be law and order, beauty and joy, goodness and love. The idea of God that man has in his being is the wonder of all wonders. He has felt in the depths of his life that what appears as imperfect is the manifestation of the perfect; just as a man who has an ear for music realizes the perfection of a song, while in fact he is only listening to a succession of notes. Man has found out the great paradox that what is limited is not imprisoned within its limits; it is ever moving, and therewith shedding its finitude every moment. In fact, imperfection is not a negation of perfectness; finitude is not contradictory to infinity: they are but completeness manifested in parts, infinity revealed within bounds. Read More...

"Soul Consciousness" - (chapter 2) Sadhana – The Realisation of Life A Book on Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore

PART 2 (of 8 part series)
Facts are many, but the truth is one. The animal intelligence knows facts, the human mind has power to apprehend truth. The apple falls from the tree, the rain descends upon the earth - you can go on burdening your memory with such facts and never come to an end. But once you get hold of the law of gravitation you can dispense with the necessity of collecting facts ad infinitum. You have got at one truth which governs numberless facts. This discovery of truth is pure joy to man - it is a liberation of his mind. For, a mere fact is like a blind lane, it leads only to itself - it has no beyond. But a truth opens up a whole horizon, it leads us to the infinite. That is the reason why, when a man like Darwin discovers some simple general truth about Biology, it does not stop there, but like a lamp shedding its light far beyond the object for which it was lighted, it illumines the whole region of human life and thought, transcending its original purpose. Thus we find that truth, while investing all facts, is not a mere aggregate of facts - it surpasses them on all sides and points to the infinite reality.

As in the region of knowledge so in that of consciousness, man must clearly realise some central truth which will give him an outlook over the widest possible field. And that is the object which the Upanishad has in view when it says, Know thine own Soul. Or, in other words, realize the one great principal of unity that there is in every man.

"The Relation of the Individual to the Universe" - (chapter 1) Sadhana – The Realisation of Life A Book on Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore

PART 1 (of 8 part series)
The civilization of ancient Greece was nurtured within city walls. In fact, all the modern civilizations have their cradles of brick and mortar.

These walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. They set up a principle of "divide and rule" in our mental outlook, which begets in us a habit of securing all our conquests by fortifying them and separating them from one another. We divide nation and nation, knowledge and knowledge, man and nature. It breeds in us a strong suspicion of whatever is beyond the barriers we have built, and everything has to fight hard for its entrance into our recognition.

When the first Aryan invaders appeared in India it was a vast land of forests, and the new-comers rapidly took advantage of them. These forests afforded them shelter from the fierce heat of the sun and the ravages of tropical storms, pastures for cattle, fuel for sacrificial fire, and materials for building cottages. And the different Aryan clans with their patriarchal heads settled in the different forest tracts which had some special advantage of natural protection, and food and water in plenty.

Thus in India it was in the forests that our civilization had its birth, and it took a distinct character from this origin and environment. It was surrounded by the vast life of nature, was fed and clothed by her, and had the closest and most constant intercourse with her varying aspects.

"Who Was Mary Magdalene? [SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE]" James Carroll by

From the writing of the New Testament to the filming of The Da Vinci Code, her image has been repeatedly conscripted, contorted and contradicted

The whole history of western civilization is epitomized in the cult of Mary Magdalene. For many centuries the most obsessively revered of saints, this woman became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance. Yet she was only elusively identified in Scripture, and has thus served as a scrim onto which a succession of fantasies has been projected. In one age after another her image was reinvented, from prostitute to sibyl to mystic to celibate nun to passive helpmeet to feminist icon to the matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty. How the past is remembered, how sexual desire is domesticated, how men and women negotiate their separate impulses; how power inevitably seeks sanctification, how tradition becomes authoritative, how revolutions are co-opted; how fallibility is reckoned with, and how sweet devotion can be made to serve violent domination—all these cultural questions helped shape the story of the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth.