Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Qualification for True Discipleship

Mary said to Yeshua, “What are your disciples like?”
He said, They are like little children living in a field that is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say, “Give us back our field.” They take off their clothes in front of them in order to give it back to them, and they return their field to them.
For this reason I say, if the owners of a house know that a thief is coming, they will be on guard before the thief arrives and will not let the thief break into their house (their domain) and steal their possessions.
As for you, then, be on guard against the world. Prepare yourselves with great strength, so the robbers can't find a way to get to you, for the trouble you expect will come.
Let there be among you a person who understands.
When the crop ripened, he came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!..........Saying 21 "Gospel of Thomas".

Mary Magdalene was the wisdom disciple of Yeshua and had always asked penetrating questions to the Master. Here she asks the Master what are the qualifications of a true disciple of Yeshua.
There are a number of elements which the Master says that would qualify a true disciple.
The first of these is that a true disciple realizes that he or she lives in a domain and whatever possessions that he or she may have does not belong to them and is willing to surrender the same without any inhibition. The temporal abode in which we spend our lives and all that the world has to offer are not ours to possess. Any attachment leads to a distraction from our intended path. True renunciation is a state of being in the world and yet be ready to relinquish all that the world has to offer at any point of time through a deeper understanding of material nature.

While this is the true, when we live in this domain which is not truly ours, we possess something very valuable and which can be lost if we are not on guard. The very nature of our attachment to terrestrial comforts and worldly offerings can distract us so that the powers of the material world can steal away our true possession. This true possession is our untainted consciousness or our Divine nature.

This is the reason that the Master warns severely that one needs to be vigilant and always alert so that the world does not steal away our Divine nature.

The two questions then that come to our mind are; if we are in a domain which is not ours, why are we planted here? And what is true detachment?

Bible scholars, Funk and Hoover refer to Mark’s saying in the canonical Gospel to find an answer. “As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come”………Mark 4:29. The field of existence is one of enrichment wherein the individual consciousness is planted to grow and mature to a higher level of existence. This concept is heavy in connotation of removal of Karmic imprints through spiritual practice so that there could be transcendence towards Divine nature. This is exactly what the Master says at the end of this saying. The maturing grain is shed of all trappings, including the field in which it grows, at the time of harvest into the Master’s granary from where it could be used according to the Master’s desire.

In order to understand the true meaning of detachment or renunciation one has to refer to the very first available dialogue in the “Gospel of Mary”. Here to question of Mary to the Master, “Will matter then be destroyed or not?” The Saviour said, “All nature, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
This realization is true renunciation as the dichotomy or duality of existence is resolved. The fundamental nature of all that exists is in the Divine plenum.

A true disciple of the spiritual Master has to have this outlook of total renunciation of all that aids in his or her spiritual maturing process so that when the time comes for the harvest the disciple is ready to be welcomed into the Divine domain which is one’s fundamental nature.

Love to you all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eucharist in the Early Church

In her paper “Metaphors of Sacrifice in the Liturgies of the Early Church” Stephanie Predew writes:

“With the fall of the Jerusalem Temple to the Romans in 70 C.E., the Jewish ritual setting for sacrificial worship was destroyed, and from the ruins of the Temple, two new religions emerged: what would later become Rabbinic Judaism, and what would later become Christianity. Both nascent religions grappled with questions of what would constitute their scriptural canon and what would constitute Mishnah and Talmud (in the case of Rabbinic Judaism) or creed and doctrine (in the case of Christianity). At the same time, the liturgical practice of each religion was evolving, and neither religion adopted or re-instituted a program of animal sacrifice according to Biblical (Levitical) law.

The liturgical practice of each religion came to focus around meal, prayer and study, although in different ways. Within Rabbinic Judaism, the Sabbath meal took place in the home; prayer and scripture study took place in the synagogue. Among Christians, scripture study, prayers and meals took place first in gatherings in private homes (the earliest sites of Christian worship) and then in churches. While the ritual practice of sacrifice was abandoned by each religion, Christian liturgy took up images of sacrifice and employed them in Christian worship. These metaphors of sacrifice were taken from scripture and from prior Jewish liturgical practice, but also entered the liturgy due to influence from---and perhaps mimetic rivalry with---Greco-Roman mystery cults.”

The early Christian scripture “Didache” written in parallel with the Gospel of Matthew was addressed to the Judeo-Christians with an additional accent on rituals. The opening declaration of the Didache is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles”

The Eucharist was understood in a more practical and esoteric way than in a pure mystical sense.

Based on recent research into Jewish prayer forms, Didache 9 seems to be based on the meal or Kiddush blessings in which a cup and bread are blessed at the beginning of a meal. The prayers in Didache 9 and 10 do not contain explicitly sacrificial metaphors in reference to the meal or to Christ himself. Jesus is referred to as God’s child (the same Greek word might also be rendered servant). Jesus is proclaimed as the agent of knowledge, faith and immortality, and this immortality is somehow bestowed in part through the spiritual food and drink of the Eucharist.

The prayer associated with the breaking of bread was:

"We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou hast made known to us through Jesus, thy child. Glory be to thee into the ages! Just as this broken bread was scattered over the hills and became one when it had been brought together, so shall thy church be brought together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom. For to thee belong the glory and the power through Jesus Christ into the ages..."

Ritual instruction was to exclude all who were not baptized.

"But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs."

The clear divergence from the current salvific sacrificial celebration to one of thanksgiving for the spiritual Gnosis made known through Christ can be seen in this early document. Apart from this intension, a prayer for unification, of the divided and broken consciousness of individuals who have received Christ wisdom, into one holistic and true understanding of the deeper mysteries of the Divine Kingdom, is also offered. The truly baptized are those who have not only received the baptism of water but also the baptism of the spirit and only they can receive this profound knowledge and partake in the ritual to truly understand its meaning.

Christ’s words are invoked to amplify this requirement when one is partaking in the true Eucharist.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces”….Matthew 7:6

Receive the Eucharist with this profound and deep understanding. It is only then that we will be able to internalize the deeper meaning of Christ’s words to elevate our spirituality to a new level.

Love to you all

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dieing to the Self

“When Mamiya, who later became a well-known preacher, went to a teacher for personal guidance, he was asked to explain the sound of one hand.
Mamiya concentrated upon what the sound of one hand might be. ‘You are not working hard enough,’ his teacher told him. ‘You are too attached to food, wealth, things, and that sound. It would be better if you died. That would solve the problem.’
The next time Mamiya appeared before his teacher he was again asked what he had to show regarding the sound of one hand. Mamiya at once fell over as if he were dead.
‘You are dead all right,’ observed the teacher. ‘But how about that sound?’
‘I haven't solved that yet,’ replied Mamiya, looking up.
‘Dead men do not speak,’ said the teacher. ‘Get out!’”……….from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

The sound of one hand is a classical philosophical tenet in Zen Buddhism. This is given to wean away one from conceptualizing or seeking higher levels of consciousness through a mental mode. The concept that it is impossible to produce a sound when one hand exists by itself is a precognitive imprint in our mind.

There are three states, that the teacher says, which are acting as impediments to the student in understanding the sound of one hand.
First is the level of effort he is putting in (nature of application), second, his holding on to material things, knowledge and to concepts (attachment to duality) and finally the very state of being continuously subject to the operation of the body and mind (analytical approach) this is the reason that the teacher says it would be better if he should die.

Now let us analyse how we can tackle these states to evoke a higher level of consciousness.
All our seeking and its related activity are conditioned from our past karmic imprints and the current life accumulation of cognitive inputs. While life is given to eradicated aberrations in the consciousness that was accumulated in our previous existences, attachments and the resulting actions create more hurdles in our spiritual progress. It is important that we have to die to these attachments and resulting actions, which are our natural tendencies, in order to elevate our consciousness to the higher level.

The moment we are asked; ‘what is the sound of one hand?’ our immediate reaction and thought is to associate a subject, object duality to produce an answer. From this results a question as to how one hand in itself could produce any sound. We also qualify sound as something that must be heard in a conventional sense. This is similar to the question ‘Does the falling of a tree produce a sound in the forest when no one is around?’ The moment we introduce a subject all the difficulties set in. Hence it is necessary to remove the subject from the field of enquiry. This is the reason that the teacher says ‘It would be better if you died. That would solve the problem.’
Though the student ultimately understood that he had to die to the self in order to come up with the answer, he could not transcend the subject, object duality and resurrects his subjectivity by verbally articulating that he has not yet solved the puzzle.

If he had remained in a dead posture without answering the teacher, the teacher would have been given the answer in silence in his very being.

This is the concept of dieing to oneself which many spiritual traditions speak off.

Love to you all