Volume 5 - Issue 04 APRIL 2007
One day Jesus took his close disciples, Peter, James and John up on a high mountain. There Jesus revealed to these disciples a glimpse of His Divine effulgence. As the men watched Jesus was transfigured. His appearance changed so that His face shone like the brilliance of a million suns, and His clothing became dazzling white. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter blurted out, “Lord, this is wonderful! If you want me to, I’ll make three shrines, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
This Divine experience was too much for Peter and he wanted it to be permanent. But even as he said it, they were taken up in a cloud of bliss. In this Super-conscious state they heard the Primordial Sound of Silence saying: “This is My beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with Him. Listen to Him.” This heightened experience gave the disciples a spiritual shock. They fell face down on the ground. Jesus, the all compassionate Mother came and resuscitated them. “Get up,” He said, “don’t be afraid.” With His gentle touch, the disciples came back to normal consciousness and when they looked they saw only Jesus with them. (Matthew 17:1-9)
Jesus instructed the disciples not to tell anyone about their experience until He has been raised from the dead. That is until He has shown the world that He has power to lay down His body and to take it up again. (John 10:18)
This Divine experience instilled in the hearts of the disciples the truth of the Divinity of their Master. “Yes, He is the promised Messiah, the One who is to come”. However, one more doubt lingered in their minds. The prophets of yore had given unmistakable signs that will herald the coming of the Anointed One. One of these is that the great Prophet Elijah who lived 850 years before Christ will come again to prepare the way for the Messiah. “Behold I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great day of the Lord”. (Malachi 4:5) “Since this prophecy has not been fulfilled”, the disciples wondered in their minds, “why does Jesus claim to be the Promised Messiah?” And as they descended the mountain, they mustered the courage to ask Him: “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”
Jesus, the master of time, told them that Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist but people had not recognized him and he was being badly treated. (Matthew 17:12 ; and 11:14)
In the drama of John the Baptist - the reincarnation of Elijah - and Jesus the resurrection of the Christ, we see the twin play of reincarnation and resurrection. Resurrection is the realization of who we are. Since our essence, our true Self is the very essence of all things, created and uncreated, resurrection is the knowledge and totality of all things. Reincarnation is the ignorance of who we are. It is the delusion that identifies the unbounded Immortal Spirit with the limitations of the body-mind complex.
Resurrection therefore, is the consummation of reincarnation. The very purpose of birth is to overcome the cycle of rebirth. We are born to learn how not to be born again. Our Beloved Swami once said in one of His discourses in Brindavan that the greatest gift one can give to a Mother is not to be born again in the womb of a mother.
Within this process of emancipation we are faced with the intricacies of fate and freewill, the play of karma and grace and the enigmas of suffering and death. How can we overcome death? When Jesus says “Unless you die, you will not live” (John 19 :3), what exactly did He mean? What is death? What is it that must die? What is it that reincarnates? What is it that resurrects? What is it that is not born and does not die?
Through history Humanity has battled with these mysteries from age to age. However hard one may try to grapple with these questions, the final elixir lies on that resurrection day: that early morning Sun-day, when the Effulgent Sun of the Atma rises from within our hearts. Then all doubts will dissolve as the mist disappears with the dawn of the morning sun. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. (Luke 12:2) This presentation is not aimed to give a blueprint answer to the above questions but to dare you to dive into that depth of your being wherein there lie no secrets.
The Story of John the Baptist who was Elijah
The conception and birth of John the Baptist was a Divine Miracle. It all began with a Jewish priest, Zechariah, who lived when Herod was king of Judea. (37 – 4 BC) Zechariah was a member of the priestly order of Abijah. His wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
One day while Zechariah was engaged in his priestly duties in the temple, he had an unusual experience. An angel of the Lord appeared to him with this message: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:5 -13)
Zachariah doubted the message of the angel Gabriel because he could not understand how his wife who has passed the age of childbearing could give birth to a son. Because of this unbelief, Zachariah was struck dumb by the angel and was not to speak again until the Holy child John was born. It was on the eighth day during the naming ceremony that Zachariah spoke again to the delight of all to disclose the name which the Angel had given to the child: “He is to be called John”. We were told that the child John grew up in the Spirit and Power of God and stayed alone in the wilderness living a very austere and simple life. Jesus said that John neither ate nor drank anything. (Matthew 11:18)
Jesus in the Womb of Mary visits John in the Womb of Elizabeth
After six months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was again sent by God to a virgin named Mary to announce to her the good news that she was to be the chosen Mother of God - she was to bear the Divine Child, Jesus. After this message, the Angel told Mary that her relative (cousin or aunt) Elizabeth who was said to be barren was going to have a child in her old age and is now in her sixth month.
For nothing is impossible with God! Mary who was then pregnant with the Divine Child Jesus hurried into the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth . When Mary greeted Elizabeth, we were told that the child in her womb leapt for joy. Even as a fetus in the womb of his mother, John recognized the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. In other words, Mary must have stayed to help Elizabeth until John was delivered. (Luke 1:56)
John was the One who Announced the Divinity of Jesus
Before Jesus began His public ministry in Israel around the age of 29, people thronged to John in the wilderness where he was preaching and baptizing by the River Jordan. The people were curious to know the identity of John. They were wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ, the Promised Messiah. John flatly denied it. “I am not the Messiah,” he said.
“I baptize you with water but there is someone among you who is more powerful than I, One whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” They then asked John whether he was Elijah or one of the prophets. John said, “No, I am not”. (John 1:21) It is interesting to notice that John did not know that he was Elijah. But Jesus who has merged with the principle of time knew who he was. John’s state is the common experience of many who have not reached the super conscious state of being where one is able to see all things - past, present and future.
When finally Jesus appeared on the scene, it was John the Baptist who announced His Identity to the world: “Behold! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Soon a man is coming who is far greater than I am’. From now onwards, He must increase and I must decrease”. (cf John 1:29 ff)
Jesus was Baptized by John
Jesus went to John to be baptized. Baptism is a Jewish/Christian religious ritual symbolizing the new birth in the Spirit. It is an outward sign which initiates the spiritual aspirant on the inward path that leads to the resurrection of the Eternal Immortal Spirit. Jesus once said, “The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.”(John 3:5)
The water used in the ritual of baptism represents the cleansing process that leads to the inner purification of the heart. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. John baptized with water. But Jesus baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit. Water can cleanse only the outside. That is why the baptism of John is regarded as incomplete. But the spiritual agents of fire and the Holy Spirit that represent Christ’s baptism purify from within and without and makes the inside one with the outside. This is initiation into the highest state.
John was surprised that Jesus was coming to him for baptism. He knew Jesus was clean both inside and out. He protested saying, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness."
Then John consented. In this way we could say that John the Baptist was the Guru of Jesus who initiated Him on the path of the Spirit; just as Lord Rama was initiated by Sage Vashishta and Lord Krishna by Sage Sandeepani. They took upon themselves a Guru, not because they needed one, but because they want to teach humanity the necessity of spiritual initiation on the path of liberation.
After His baptism, as Jesus came out of the water, the heavens were opened and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with Him.” (Matthew 3:17)
John Imprisoned by King Herod
Herod Antipas (born 20 BC) ruled over Galilee and Parea where Jesus and John the Baptist concentrated their ministries. King Herod had violated the Old Testament Jewish law that forbade the marriage of a man to his brother’s wife. (Leviticus 18:16) Herod had snatched away Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip while Philip was still alive.
John the Baptist openly denounced this marriage saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” As a result, Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him by all means. Herod feared John because all the people believed John was a prophet. As a compromise to his wife, he had John put in prison around AD 30 or 31.
John Doubts the Divinity of Jesus
While John was in prison, naturally he would have prayed to Jesus to free him from the shackles of those who wanted to kill him. John knew very well that Jesus had the Power to free him. But Jesus was totally silent about John’s predicament. Only one who has been behind bars would understand the agony of John the Baptist, whose life was hanging by a tread. What didn’t John do for Jesus? He has been righteous from the womb. Jesus said John was the consummation of all the prophets put together. John had sacrificed every drop of blood and sweat for the mission of Jesus.
For the sake of Jesus he spent all his life in the austerity and the dangers of the wilderness neither eating nor drinking. The very reason of his birth was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. This mission he carried out with his entire Soul and Heart and Strength. On the physical plane, John was a blood relation of Jesus. What other conditions could a devotee fulfill to draw the compassion of the Lord?
The big Atmic question is “Why didn’t Jesus do anything to help John?” Sometimes devotees cry to the Lord in the anguish of their suffering but all that they experience is an impenetrable Silence. Can the One who made the ears not hear? Can the One whose very essence is pure Love be indifferent to the anguish of suffering?
This condition raised a number of doubts in the mind of John. He has already heard the mighty works that Jesus was doing. So he sent his disciples who came to visit him in prison back to Jesus to ask Him: “Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him: ‘Blessed is he who does not loose faith in the Son of man. ’” (Matthew 11:6) The test of true faith is that unconditional and unwavering devotion to the Lord in the midst of the contradictions of reason. Indeed it is impossible to please God without faith. (Hebrews 11:6)
The Beheading of John the Baptist
Herodias’s hatred for John the Baptist was unquenchable. She could not settle for just his imprisonment. Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias had planned to have her daughter, Salome, dance before Herod and his guests. Salome’s dancing pleased Herod and his dinner guests and in an impulsive passion, Herod promised her under oath that he would give her anything she asked for, up to even half his kingdom. The little girl went to her mother and said, "What shall I ask for?" "The head of John the Baptist," she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter." Immediately Herod regretted his rash promise, but because of his oath and because he didn’t want to back down in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. So John was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they told Jesus what had happened.
So ends the story of John the Baptist as far as the Human mind can perceive it. It is a very sad story from the limited human perspective that sees only a part of the whole. The story of John the Baptist as it stands now leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It creates a lot of contradictions about God as we are taught to see Him - All Loving, All Knowing, All Powerful, All Just and Omnipresent. It evokes a feeling of angst, disgust, and revenge towards life and towards being. Why did Jesus tell us, “Love your enemies?” Can this Love truly be genuine when we find ourselves in the practical situation of John the Baptist? Why did Jesus tell us, “Do not judge”? In the existential situation of John the Baptist, how is it possible not to pass judgment on Herod and Herodias?
So far we have looked at the story from the perspective of John the Baptist, which is also our own perspective, the human point of view. The human mind can only see fractions because its very nature is fragmentation. The Spirit sees all things because its essence is Totality. Let us now see the story not from the human fragmented points-of-view, but from the Divine Holistic view-point where all points, past, present and future converge.
The Big Atmic Question: “Why Is God Silent?”
The present Life is a short interlude in the vast infinite span of Life.
Although John the Baptist was totally ignorant of his past, Jesus knew him even before he was born. The Lord said to the Jewish Prophet Jeremiah, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Lord Krishna said to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita “You and I have gone through many births. I know each one of them but you are ignorant of them”.
How is it that Jesus and Krishna knew and can see former births but we can’t even remember exactly the details of what happened in our lives ten years ago, nay, we can’t even recall everything that took place just a day before? When such is the case with the happenings of a single day what shall be said of the events of past lives?
We find ourselves in this situation because we are operating on a level of consciousness which has a very small memory capacity. This is the waking state consciousness, commonly described as the conscious state. Everyone has three other levels of consciousness which remain untapped by most people. These three include the sub-conscious state, the unconscious state and the super–conscious state (Turiya).
Beloved Swami has offered many simple explanations to these levels of consciousness in His Divine discourses. The first level of consciousness, described as the conscious state relates to the waking state. During this state we see the sun that illumines various objects and the moon that plays a similar role at night. Hence we conclude that the sun and the moon are responsible for the things we see during the day. But when we are dreaming, we also see many things. However, the sun and the moon seen during the waking state are not there during the dream state nor is any other type of light. Yet in the dream state, we can see an entire world, namely the dream world. What is it that illumines that world? This dream state has been described as the sub-conscious state. In the subconscious is stored all the information of our past lives to the last minute detail.
In the deep-sleep dreamless state, there is absolute darkness. There is neither knowledge nor wisdom in that state. But a further inquiry will lead us to the question of how we know that it is dark? What is the light of awareness that enables us to see and know this darkness? The deep sleep state has been referred to as the Unconscious state. The unconscious state is beyond the mind. It is the undisturbed stillness of bliss and is associated with the causal body that veils the Supreme Self. It is the total absorption in pure bliss without an object. In dreamless sleep we are able to contact this level of consciousness which gives utmost rest and freshness to the body-mind complex. When we wake up from deep sleep we feel quite refreshed and energized. To become conscious of the unconscious state (Consciousness of Unconsciousness) is to attain that undisturbed stillness of silence behind the multiplicity of sound.
There is a fourth state which transcends all these other states. This may be described as the Super-conscious state or Turiya. In this state of awareness, you are able to see everything, everywhere and enjoy bliss supreme. Those who have realized this state of consciousness are the masters of time and space. They are everywhere, they know everything and they can do anything.
These four levels of consciousness are in everyone just as butter is in every drop of milk. The fact that one has not realized the butter in the milk does not mean that it is not there. In the same way, the fact that one cannot see one’s past lives does not mean that one is only appearing for the first time in this terrestrial universe.
When we see only one life time out of millions of other life times how can we give correct judgment? This is the limitation imposed by the mind. Only those who have merged with the principle of Divinity can give correct judgment. Since Jesus has said that John the Baptist was Elijah in his former life (850 years back) let us now dig into the sands of history to discover the hidden fossils that will unravel the mysteries of God’s Silence and explain some of the mysteries of reincarnation.
The Untold Story of Elijah
Elijah lived and prophesied around 850 BC during the reign of King Ahab. He was one of the greatest prophets Israel ever had. Many great miraculous signs and wonders were attributed to him including raising the dead to life. At the end of his life, Elijah’s body did not go through the natural process of death and decay. Instead his body was dematerialized into pure energy in what the bible refers to as a chariot of fire. (2 King 2:11) Such was the greatness of the prophet Elijah the Tishbite.
One of the greatest confrontations that Elijah faced during his ministry as a prophet was the battle for the religious freedom of Israel. Israel as a nation worshiped Yahweh the God of their ancestors. They entered into an agreement (covenant) as a people with Yahweh who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Yahweh was to be the personal God (Guru) of the people of Israel on one hand and on the other, Israel was to obey the laws of Yahweh which include the Ten Commandments and a more extensive list of laws that were written down in the “Book of the Covenant” ( Exodus 21 :1-23).
King Ahab went and married a foreigner, Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal the King of Sidon. When Jezebel moved to Israel she brought Baal, the God of her people which she worshipped. As time went on she forced her husband to make Baal the state religion. Pretty soon, almost all of Israel was worshipping Baal and this violated the covenant Israel had made with Yahweh.
Although God is One and can be worshipped and appropriated in different forms, God wants us to stick to One Form and One Name. Without singleness of mind and that unshakable faith in the chosen Guru, it is impossible to control the wayward and wavering nature of the mind. To penetrate that level of consciousness where we are one with God we must stick to the chosen Guru.
Real idolatry lies in the wayward nature of the mind to jump from one Guru to another at the least dissatisfaction of one’s expectations on the Guru. Devotees nowadays find faults with their Gurus and hop from one Guru to another. The fault is not with the Guru. The problem is with the mind of man. True Masters will never yield to the vicissitudes of the mind of the devotee. Masters are one. Follow one Master.
Their task is also one, namely to destroy the expectations of the disciples. Devotees run to a Guru with a heap of desires. But the Guru’s one desire is to make the disciple desireless. When the devotee cannot surrender to this action of the Guru, how can the goal of life be reached? The result is a trail of Gurus and before long the devotee will start boasting on how many gurus he has come across!
It is true that treasures are hidden in the womb of mother earth. But when you do not drill at one point, how can you hope to reach the depths of the treasure? One-pointedness of mind, heart and strength is the greatest commandment imposed on the people of Israel so as to reach that promised land of supreme peace, bliss and beatitude. “Listen O Israel, Yahweh is One. And you shall Love the Lord your God (Yahweh Adonai) with all your Mind and with all your heart and with all your strength”. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
This was the mission of Elijah: to turn the hearts and minds of the people of Israel to their Guru, Yahweh and to follow his teachings. It was a battle which he fought with religious zeal.
The Great Confrontation on Mount Carmel
The religious cult of Baal was flourishing in Israel because it had enjoyed the support of the state. The prophets of Baal grew by leaps until there were 450 of them. Elijah was the only prophet of Yahweh that was left. Finally Elijah was able to convince the King to hold a religious contest between the prophets of Baal and himself which was to take place on Mount Carmel.
King Ahab gathered all the people and the prophets of Baal together on this Mountain. The agreement was set by Elijah. He said to them “You call on the name of your Baal and I will call on the Name of Yahweh; and the one who answers by fire, let Him be God over the people of Israel. And all the people answered, it is well spoken.” (1 Kings 18:24)
The prophets of Baal made everything ready and prepared their sacrifice to Baal. Then they started praying and calling on Baal to come and consume the offering with fire from above. They prayed from morning until noon dancing round the altar they had made until they were exhausted. Then Elijah mocked them saying: "Shout louder! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!”
So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords so as to appease Baal to answer their prayers. They raved all afternoon until evening, but still there was no reply, no voice, no answer.
Then it was the turn of Elijah. Elijah built his altar according to the tradition of Jewish religion. He led his sacrifice on the altar he had made and told the people to dig a trench round the altar. After they had done this, Elijah commanded the people to pour gallons of water on the sacrifice until the altar ran through with water and overflowed the trench.
Then Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “Oh Adonai, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am Your servant. Prove that I have done all this at Your command.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust and licked up all the water in the ditch! When the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!” (1 Kings 18:38 )
Elijah Beheaded the 450 prophets of Baal
When this happened, Elijah commanded the people “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and had them killed there. (1 King 18:40) This act was a breach of the agreement that Elijah made with the people and the prophets of Baal. This was also not the will of Yahweh. Elijah succumbed to the temptations of religious fanaticism.
When Peter, one of the closest disciples of Jesus drew his sword to fight the Roman soldiers who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to him: “Peter, put away your sword, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52). This is the immutable law of Karma. We reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7) There are certain seeds that take time to reap their fruits.
It is not at the time you sow the corn seed that you reap its harvest. Some seeds produce their harvest annually. Others are biannual and yet others take a much longer period to bear fruit. It is foolish to think that one’s thoughts, words and deeds have no consequences because one does not experience their effects immediately or in one’s present life. The effects of certain actions may take many lifetimes to manifest. This was the case with Elijah who was born John the Baptist as we will find out.
The Path of Elijah's Soul - Life to Life
When Queen Jezebel heard what the Prophet Elijah had done to her prophets she vowed to put an end to the life of Elijah. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying: “So let the gods do to me and more so, if I make not your life as one of them (the prophets of Baal) by this time tomorrow” (1 Kings 19:2). Jezebel had this desire ingrained in her mind. She pursued Elijah to take away his life. Elijah fled for dear life.
But this desire was not fulfilled in that present lifetime. Beloved Swami has said that there are three reasons for a man to be born again. One is the sin, the second is an unfulfilled desire or some experience and the third is lack of knowledge or ignorance. It can also be a combination of the three. The residue of lifetimes of desires, activities and experiences which have been thrust back into forgetfulness (that is into the subconscious mind) by subsequent events makes an impact on character and personality. One’s actions, habits, talents, relationships and dispositions date back to previous births. Herodias’ hatred for John the Baptist sprang from her desire to kill Elijah in her past life as Jezebel.
Elijah prayed to God as he ran away from the hands of Jezebel. He fled for forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God and there he had an experience of God’s presence. He was not to die in the hands of Queen Jezebel in that lifetime.
However, the consequences of one’s actions are inescapable. They can be postponed but the soul must pass through its purifying tunnel to learn the lessons of self evolution. In extreme situations, God descends in human form to cancel the effect of these sins by taking them upon Himself.
This happens only when there is total surrender on the part of the devotee or when Mother Earth groans in the burden of man’s collective sin. The prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus thus: “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah chapter 53, who lived around 700 BC). There are so many instances where Beloved Swami has taken upon His Body the sufferings of His devotees.
Today also, when Mother Earth is at the verge of total destruction due to the weight of the age of wickedness (the Kali Yuga) the Sai Avatar has promised that no major destruction will occur. Today we experience the joy of Mother Earth as the Sai Avatar walks bare footed on its bosom. Every day we watch Mother Sai take upon His Body the negative energies of our collective consciousness.
Some weak minded people say: “Why can’t Swami heal Himself. He healed others but He cannot heal himself”. These are the same minds who said to Jesus, “Come down from the cross. You claim to be God but you cannot come down from the cross”. (Matthew 27:40 – 41)
But think of it! The Avatar knows that one of the major reasons for His incarnation is to heal the wounds of our transgressions by taking them upon Himself. How foolish it is for us to challenge the Avatar to heal Himself! If He Heals Himself then we are dead. Ramana Mahrishi, the sage of Arunachala was dying of cancer.
One of His devotees prayed to Him in many tears: “Oh Ramana, I cannot bear this suffering of yours. Please give them to me. Let me bear them on my own body”. Sweet Ramana looked at her with such tenderness and said: “Who gave it to me in the first place?” Yes! The Avatar is our reflection! His Sufferings are our sufferings. Whatever He does or undergoes is for the good of man. The grace of God neutralizes the effects of our Karma.
The Play of Karma: What Goes Round Comes Round!
Jesus, the master of time, told us that John the Baptist was Elijah. The word of the master is absolute truth. We do not need to inquire further on that. However, from good inference, we can see the same environment of Elijah’s time reenacting itself in the whole drama of John the Baptist. King Ahab was reborn as King Herod. Queen Jezebel came back as Queen Herodias. In the past Ahab went against the law of the Israelites to marry a foreigner, Jezebel, who brought so much trouble to Israel by imposing a foreign religion on them. In Jesus’ time, Herod, who had been King Ahab, also went against the law to marry the wife of his brother Philip.
Before then, Elijah had condemned with venom the action of Jezebel which finally led to the great confrontation on Mount Carmel. Later, John the Baptist spoke vehemently against the marriage of Herod to Herodias because it was unlawful in the sight of God. Previously, Jezebel had nursed a deep revenge to take away the life of Elijah because he had killed her prophets. As time went on, Herodias found an opportune moment to realize her dream which she had nursed 850 years back.
Why did God remain silent? Because without resolving our karma we can not be set free. For everyone must give account of every single word uttered. (Matthew 12:36) God remains the Silent Witness in this drama. Jesus knew that if He freed John the Baptist from prison with His Divine Powers, He would not be doing any good to the spiritual emancipation of John the Baptist. Jesus also knew very well that if he had freed John, it would have only been a temporary terrestrial freedom and that John would have to come back again to clear the consequences of his actions. And this Divine opportunity might take another 850 years to come by!
Now we understand why Jesus told us to love our enemies! Now we have a glimpse as to why Jesus told us never to pass judgment. How can I love my “enemy” when I do not know that my “enemy” is my greatest friend in every sense because he helps me to clear my debts? Without this “enemy” I cannot be free! Or how can I judge another when I know that in judging another I condemn myself? Whatever happens to me, I have attracted to myself and that which I attract to myself works for the emancipation of the Self from the tangles of the non Self. Everything that happens to the Self is a gift from the Self to the Self for the highest good of the Self, which is Self liberation.
It now makes sense why Jesus the all knowing master said: “If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other as well and if anyone asks for your tunic, give him your cloak as well. (Luke 6:29) When we react to actions we repeat the chain of action since action and reaction are equal and opposite. If I slap you and you slapped back and I retaliate and you revenge and I hurt you and you hit me back; we shall never escape the wheel of birth and death. The stings of death and birth are destroyed through non – reaction. We must act but we must never react.
Just do it!
It is called action in inaction
… For the sake of IT
Man is born in Karma. Man dies in Karma. Man also works his way to God through Karma.
What is it that is born? - Body
When Jesus said - unless a person dies, he will not live! - He was referring not to the physical death of the body but to the dissolution of the mind in the Oversoul. Physical death involves the disintegration of the five elements that compose the physical body. When the mind becomes united with the subtle body, we say the person has lost consciousness. He does not hear; you call his name, he does not respond. Ether (Sound) the first element has merged back to ether.
Next, the person stops breathing. That is when the doctors declare him dead. But this was not the time he died. It was only the moment that the second element, air relating to the sense of touch, had merged back to the universal breath. After this, the third element fire disintegrates. The body grows cold starting from the feet.
Fire relating to the sense of sight has gone back to Fire. When this happens, the fourth element, water, which relates to the sense of taste, begins to drip from every pore and hole. That is why the doctors put the body in a cold chamber. Finally, earth which pertains to the sense of smell merges back to earth, dust unto dust. The body is either buried or cremated.
When the physical body which is made up of the five elements which in turn relates to the five senses, the five sense organs and the five organs of action, thus disintegrates, the vital force is withdrawn to the subtle body which is composed of the mind. In fact the process is the other way round.
When the vital force is withdrawn to the subtle body, the mind, the physical body disintegrates. The mind does not die with the death of the body. Because the mind is the treasure house that stores one’s memories, experiences, habits, desires, expectations etc, and this information is not wiped out with the death of the physical body.
It remains in the memory chip of the sub conscious mind and are transmitted from birth to birth. Those who are able to tap into the roots of the sub conscious mind know the truth of their former lives. When the mind, lower and higher, is freed of this pile of information, there is no birth and there is no death. This is why the Christian mystics have referred to this path of mental transcendence as the “cloud of unknowing” and the Eastern mystics have also described it as the “negative path: not this, not that.”
Swami has given a very beautiful analogy. Here we have a seed of rice with its husk. If we plant the rice with its husk it will germinate and give rise to many grains of seed. If we plant the rice without its husk, it will never germinate again. The husk is the mind. The rice is the body. As long as the mind persists, rebirth is inescapable.
Immediately the husk of the mind is removed, the body has no power of rebirth. When this happens the Atma resurrects in its true formless state. This is the spiritual equation: Man minus Mind equals God. God plus Mind equals Man. The ability to “diemind” that is, this dissolution of the ego - which is the root of all mental activities - is the alchemy that transmutes man to his Divine state. This is the meaning of the resurrection. It is also the meaning of the Cross: the cutting of the “I” right across. Without the Cross, the death of the ego-consciousness, there is no resurrection. Herein lies the very essence of Christianity and indeed of all religions.
The Best, Easiest, Surest, Fastest, Safest And Most Enjoyable Way To ‘Die–Mind’
Many spiritual masters have said that it is with the mind that you can conquer the mind. And this is true. But nay, it is very difficult. Why? Naturally the mind does not want to die. How then can you trick it into destroying itself! How difficult it is for the thief to catch itself. Sage Ramana Maharshi told the story of the thief which is the mind who donned the cloths of a constable in search of itself, the thief. Nay, all the actions one performs are done through the mind. All words uttered must pass through the gates of the “I” consciousness. All rituals, japas, tapas, and spiritual exercises are done through the instrumentality of the mind.
How then can one destroy the mind through these means, since one requires the mind to do them? The truth is that these spiritual exercises can only purify the mind. They can only make the mind very sharp to penetrate inner subtleties but they can never succeed in eliminating the mind. We need the grace of God to end the mind.
Even when one has succeeded through rigorous spiritual exercises in emptying the mind of all thoughts and desires, yet that tiny root-seed-impulse, the seat of ego-consciousness, the sense of I–ness from which all thoughts germinate, will still persist.
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was troubled by this problem. How can the mind know God? One day he was having a walk along the shores of the ocean lost in silent contemplation. As he walked, he met a little boy who had made a very small hole beside the sands of the shore and was transferring the waters of the ocean into the little hole.
Augustine was puzzled when he saw this child. He stopped and asked the little child what he wanted to do. The boy told him that he wanted to transfer the ocean into the hole he has made. The saint was amused by the child’s audacity. He told the child that it is a mere waste of time.
First the hole is not big enough to contain the waters of the ocean and secondly, even if it were as big, it will take the child uncountable lifetimes to transfer the waters with the little cup in his hand. The child then raised his head and said to the saint: “So also it is for the mind to understand God!” Immediately the child disappeared and Augustine realized it was Jesus who had come as a little child to teach him this lesson.
How can you understand That
That which has no bottom
Who can gauge the depths of the Heart
Who can confine the infinite Spirit
Deep is calling on deep
Dare to Let God do it
There is a simple way out. And because this way is very simple, it is very easy since it allows you be at ease and at peace throughout the process. Allow God to kill the mind. Don’t try to kill the mind. You might not succeed over a trillion million life times. Instead, allow God to do it. In the first place only God can do it because only He has the Power of mental dissolution. God is the Master mind. Only the master can set the slave free. Secondly it takes Him no time. Swami has said that He can give Self liberation in a twinkle of an eye. Dare to let God do it! This means that you have to give your mind to God. When God Himself fights the war then not only will you be sure of victory, but you will also enjoy the war. The war will be fun. This is because you will be unaffected by whatever happens since the Lord is your shield. You will remain calm and equal minded in cold and heat, day and night, sorrow and joy, loss and profit because you know you are in that Divine zone where you are totally screened from the dualities of the mind. This is also the message of the Bhagavad Gita.
King Janaka Gave His Mind to Sage Astavakra
Beloved Swami tells a beautiful story to illustrate this path. Once upon a time, King Janaka sent round a message inviting scholars and Pundits, sages and saints and yogis and Mahatmas to teach him the knowledge of Atma.The king was looking for the best, easiest, surest, fastest and most enjoyable way to die – mind. He announced: "In the time it takes me to climb on to my horse, one should be able to give me full knowledge of the Absolute."
The Sages and Scholars were worried, as they felt "This is going to be a severe test for our scholarship and learning." No one dared come and offer to satisfy the King's demand.
Meanwhile, a very young sage by name Astavakra entered the kingdom. While he was nearing the capital he saw the scholars and rishis assembled there. They were looking worried and despondent. He asked them, "What is the cause of all your worries?" They explained their situation and he said, "Why should you be scared about such a small thing? I can solve this problem." So saying, he entered the court of King Janaka. He said to the King, "King, I am ready to teach you the knowledge of Atma, but it cannot be taught in this palace which is full of rajas and thamas. First I must take you to a Sathwa (Serene) area."
They took a few horses and soldiers and left the palace. On reaching a lonely spot, Astavakra told the king, "I am now going to teach you the knowledge of Atma. I am the preceptor and you are the disciple. Are you ready to accept this relationship? If you agree to this, then you have to make the offering the disciple has to give to the Guru (preceptor). Only after you have made your offering will I start my teaching." King Janaka told Astavakra, "The attainment of God is the most important thing to me. So I am ready to give you absolutely anything you want.” Then the Guru told the King: "I don't want anything except your mind." King Janaka answered: "I offer it to you; up to now I thought this was my mind but from now on, it is yours." Then the Guru brought a horse, made it stand, and asked the King to sit down on the ground in the middle of the road of his kingdom. He left the king there and retired into the forest to sit quietly under a tree.
Janaka Achieves Self-Realization
The soldiers waited for a long time for the return of the king but neither the king nor Astavakra came. They wanted to know what had happened to them, and one by one, they went to find out. They found their king sitting in the middle of the road with a horse standing nearby. The king had closed his eyes and was absolutely still. Astavakra was nowhere to be found. They were rather afraid that Astavakra had cast some magic spell over the king, making him lose his consciousness. They went to the prime minister and brought him to the king.
The prime minister called the king, "Oh King! Oh King! Oh King!" but the king did not open his eyes or respond in any way. The prime minister and all other courtiers were alarmed as they could not rouse the king or give him any food or drink. They were wondering what to do. Left with no alternative, the prime minister sent the chariot to bring the queen, thinking that if she called the king, he would respond to her entreaties. The queen came and pleaded. But the king remained unmoved.
Meanwhile, the soldiers went in search of Astavakra in the forest. They found him sitting under a tree in total peace. They took hold of him and brought him to the place where the king was sitting. Astavakra said, "The king is safe, he is all right. You may see for yourself." The ministers, the queen and others told Astavakra: "He has not opened his mouth or eyes." Astavakra went close to the king and spoke to the King." Immediately the king opened his eyes and replied, "Master."
Astavakra questioned the king, "The ministers and the queen have come; the soldiers and many others have come and all have tried to talk to you; why did you not answer them?" The king replied, "Thoughts, words and deeds are associated with the mind. As I have offered my mind entirely to you, first I need your permission before uttering a word. What authority do I have to speak to anyone or use this mind in any way? I have offered it to you; it is yours. I won't do anything without your permission and command." Then Astavakra said to him, "You have attained the state of God – Realization.”
There and then Astavakra asked him to place his foot upon the stirrup to mount the horse. By the time he had climbed the horse and placed his other leg over the horseback, he received the experience of the Bliss of Divine self.
As was the case with Astavakra and Janaka so also with Krishna and Arjuna. Some spiritual seekers will surely raise the question: how do I give my mind to God? Does it mean I should cease all thinking processes or sit like King Janaka in total stillness all day long? Let us look at it from another view point.
When you Remove the Thread, the Cloth Cannot Persist!
What is it that makes an action good or bad? In other words, what is it that makes an action binding? When we inquire into the matter we discover that it is not the action in itself that makes it good or bad but the circumstances surrounding the action. These circumstances are seven: who, whom, why, when, where, what, and how. These circumstances are the attributes of the mind or fruits of action and they alone make an action good or bad. For example, the act of urination is neither good nor bad in itself. But when one urinates inside the church or the mandir everyone will cry sacrilege! Here it is not the action of urination that is the problem but “where” it was done. If it were a one month old baby that has performed the same action, people will not frown at it because the “who” has changed.
The secret of selfless action (egoless action) is to surrender the seven circumstances of action to God. When we give these mental categories, the six Ws and the single H to God we discover that we have given the entire mind to God.
The first is the “Who”. You must feel that God is the doer of the action. Since God is carrying you and your burden (and the ONLY burden is the mental burden) isn’t it foolish to still laden your heart with the load? Sage Ramana put it so beautifully: what will happen, will happen no matter how you make it not to happen. And what will not happen, will not happen no matter how you try to make it happen. Knowing this allow that which is meant to happen to happen and that which is not meant to happen not to happen. By trying to make that which is not meant to happen to happen and that which is meant to happen not to happen we simply get entangled in the endless wheel of karma. This is the ignorance that binds man from birth to birth: to think that you are the one that makes things happen. God is the doer but pretends not to be doing anything. Man does nothing but pretends to be doing everything. This mentality has to be given up. Allow Being just by being! Be a channel of that which must happen. Do not worry about that which is not meant to happen. Therein lies the bliss of Happiness, the union of the soul. Let go of life’s worries and enjoy the thrill of riding in the wings of total surrender to the Lord. God is doing all these! You are not different from that God. Relax! That is when things truly happen!
The second is the “Whom”. You must feel that God is the recipient of every action. Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to any of these little ones, you do it to Me!” And since you and God are One and the same it follows that whatsoever you do to anyone, you do it unto yourself. Hence the golden rule: “Do to others what you would want done unto to you”. To realize that there is indeed no other is to attain that mental transcendence where there is no longer any difference between the “who” and the “whom”.
The third is the “How”. We must feel that God is the means of every action. God is the great Provider! God is also the providence. In His treasury, nothing is lacking. When we give God the “How” of every action, our lives become a stream of Divine miracles and surprises! “With God all things are possible”. (Matt 19:26)
The fourth is the “Why”. We must feel that God is the reason for every action and His reason is that Love that is beyond reason and knows no season. We must accept everything that happens to us as a Divine precious gift of Pure Love meant for our highest good. In this way our lives become a divine song of praise and thanksgiving. The scriptures say: “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16)
The fifth is the “When”. We must feel that God’s time is the best for every action and God’s time is the Now. To give God the “When” of our lives is to live in that stillness of the Present where we experience the Power of God’s Presence which is Omnipresent. “Be Still and Know that I AM ”. (Psalm 46: 10)
The sixth is the “Where”. We must feel that God is the background Presence of every action. Everywhere is in God! In Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
The seventh is the “What”. We must feel that God is not only the efficient cause of every action but also the material cause of action. God is not only the Goldsmith, God is also the Gold.
These seven circumstances of action are the thread with which the cloth of the mind is woven. When these threads disappear the mind cannot persist.
But as long as we dictate to God the “who”, “whom”, “how”, “why”, “when”, “where”, and “what”of our lives, birth and rebirth is inevitable because the thread will always be woven into a new cloth
Elijah failed to see God (whom) in the 450 prophets of Baal. He failed to realize that God is the recipient of every action. That was why he slaughtered them. Hence he had to be reborn to learn the soul-lesson that whatever you do to others, you do it to yourself because there is no other. When we surrender the mind to God by surrendering these mental categories, we have indeed destroyed the very seed of sin and death. When we remove the thread with which the cloth is woven, the cloth also disappears.
In the same way, when we surrender the operations of the mind:
This imperative to understand;
The good news of the seven circumstances of action is that we don’t need to surrender all of them at the same time. Once one of the circumstances is given up, the rest will naturally fall apart. When we surrender the “who” for example, the “what”, “whom” etc, will naturally give way. When we give up the sense of doership - “It is no longer I who lives but Christ living in me” as St Paul would put it, then the rest of the mental categories will disappear. If God is the doer (the Who), then He will also be the provider (the How) and He will determine the “when” the “where” the “whom” and the “why”.
Again if we choose to give up the “when” and live in that stillness of Silence where we experience the essence of God’s Presence we discover that the mind will automatically evaporate. The mind cannot persist in the Silence of the Now! The same applies to the rest of the mental categories. Because they are intrinsically connected, once one is destroyed, the rest loose their power to bind.
At this holy season of Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of life immortal, we pray for the grace to give our minds to God:
The author of this story, Father Charles Ogada, is a Catholic Priest of the Order of the Holy Ghost Fathers. He is presently teaching at the Sathya Sai School Ndola, Zambia, run by Mr. Victor Kanu.
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- Heart2Heart Team
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Vol 5 Issue 04 - APRIL 2007
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