Monday, December 26, 2016

You are the light of the world

I was fortunate enough to attend a faith appreciation workshop at the Heartfulness mediation center this Christmas and I am so glad that I got this opportunity. Though I grew up in a predominant brahminical environment, I have always "known" Lord Jesus thanks to my early schooling when my headmistress "Ms. Rose" served as a huge example of inspiration, generosity, and 'public figure of respect' (though of course the school never ever did try to convert us or anything like that!). I have had some wonderful wonderful friends and neighbors who follow the Christian faith who have been the very epitome of joy, love and grace along the course of my life. I've also celebrated Christmas in my own way many times. One particular instance stands out in my mind....I must have been about 10 or so when I decided that I am being greatly deprived of celebrating the best festival of the year and that I must do something about it. So up I came up with a secret Christmas celebration plan - gathered all my friends in the garden, hung some nice hand made stars on the trees, pleaded mom to buy us some plum cake from the store, and lo, we had the best Christmas party in town set amidst some lovely greenery, wonderful smell of flowers, and a feeling of deep happiness. Oh, what joy that was - to finally have my own stars and celebrate Christmas (though I doubt if I really knew what Christmas was back then!!). I have also heard and read stories of Jesus, his many miracles and in recent times parallels of his life with Lord Krishna.

But I have always balked at reading the Bible. I have been very wary of words such as 'satan', 'sin', 'temptation', and 'evil'. They conjured up feelings of fear, suffering and negativity rather than the one of joy, abundance and positivity that I am used to in my own faith (or rather the way my faith was introduced and instilled in me by my grand parents, parents and my society through the beautiful and joyful stories of Krishna and Rama). I have also been witness to the scare and 'shared opinions' on mass conversions. So while Lord Jesus was someone I highly respected and 'believed in' (as in I kind of instinctively 'knew' him to be 'true' as much as my own Krishna or Rama), the Christian faith itself is something I viewed with suspicion and caution. So whenever I came across copies of Bibles in hotel night stands, or read the quotes outside churches or saw them on car rear glasses, I  did not pay much attention to them. For, I thought, that they after all will be filled with words meant to 'caution' and 'scare' than 'encourage' and 'enlighten'. But all that changed this weekend when were given this quote to interpret and understand in our workshop.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

When I read these lines, I felt a profound sense of truth and an instinctive understanding, a sort of  'familiarity', a realization that indeed the Divine is in all of us and it is but just waiting to be given an opportunity to shine through. Just a few days back, I had read this blog on "Total Giving, Total Living" by Sadhguru and it had struck a chord with me. As human beings, we are always calculating, measuring, wondering - either the materials, our emotions or our responses - how much am I giving, how much am I receiving, am I receiving less, are people loving me less, am I getting enough attention, am I doing too much, so on and so forth. Where is the grace? Where is the 'expectation less' giving? Even if we give 'without expectation', aren't we mentally patting ourselves on the back and feeling 'good' for being a 'do-gooder'? Is that bad? Who is the 'one' actually giving and who is the 'one' feeling good? If I give you what you desperately need, and I say not one word in acknowledgement of that act lest you feel indebted, but I secretly appreciate myself in the deep recess of my mind, and I feel soooo good, am I the one who "gave" you what you needed or are you the one who "gave" me what I needed? How do I give with a capacity where I do not even think 'I am giving' - the operative here being the "I". I guess that's the state one needs to work towards - to remove the I, to dissolve the I and to let the pure light of divine shine through. How does one "let our light shine"?

So many questions to ponder and so many thoughts to work through.

But coming back to the quote from the bible, I felt kind of startled - to know that such pearls of wisdom have been masked amidst words such as the one I mentioned above (which obviously I have taken a deep dislike towards!). Then I realized, perhaps it's the language and the time. It's the language that was used when Jesus lived and the idioms and generalizations of his time. Maybe those are the ones I am not liking and perhaps I should set aside my reservations with it and read the Bible. And as for Jesus, I think I should get to know him better - to give and to give so unconditionally, what must it have taken him (when I see him as a human, just like one of us, who walked and talked hundred of years ago) and what must he have done to let the light shine forth. Jesus has become an inspiration in my mind today - not as a Lord, God, or someone up there in heaven, but as someone who I can strive to be like, much like my Shirdi Sai and his life. Or the Adiguru Shiva.

And by some quirk of destiny, in the evening, I came upon a copy of the Bhagavad Gita which was opened to this exact page and verse that went
buddhir jnanam asammohah ksama satyam damah samah
sukham duhkam bhava bhutanam matta eva prthag-vidhah
ahimsa samata tustis tapo danam yaso yasah
bhavanti bhava bhutanam matta eva prthag-vidhah
In essence, what the above words state is that everything arises from him and manifests in individuals as per their actions and merits.

There seems to be a connection here somewhere - between my understanding of the quote from the Bible and this verse from Bhagavad Gita though I am not exactly sure what it is right now.

In any case, let us strive to let our lights shine through - whether it is Jesus, Krishna, Rama or Shiva who inspires you. Let us seek the highest that we know.

A wonderful holiday season to you all! 

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