When You Kneel at the Pew

 

Today, the subject of ‘Immortality’ is never raised in respectable circles, especially so in the West. An announcement of preparation for such a search would likely get you a doubled-prescription for Prozac, the world’s best-selling anxiety drug.

But the subject is in fact at the very heart of the Christian West [and aren’t we all it’s children in one way or another?].

Apostolic authority from Deacon to Pope has its legitimizing root in one event. The event of Jesus rising from the grave not just in spirit, but ‘In Flesh and Blood’, his meeting with the apostles, and his choosing of Peter as the first Pope, the rock [Petra] on which the Church was to be built. Christianity as we know it begins here.

Jesus’ ‘Resurrection in Eternal Life’ as testified to by the apostles was the Miracle that begat the formal Church. In the much cited line from Romans: ‘If you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved‘.

The Resurrection of Jesus in ‘Flesh and Blood’ was the affirming seal that legitimized the new apostolic Church. If you question the apostles and their authority the entire spool unwinds [and Magus and Mark and Mary Magdalene did some serious unwinding ].

When you kneel at the pew, you kneel to this, the central Christian affirmation of Salvation in Christ. Rebirth [Re-natus] into Eternal Life. In other words, ‘Immortality’.

‘The Unborn, The Unarisen’

 

The summary sound-bite of organized religions runs: ‘Immortality is Eternal Life’.

From the ‘In Flesh’ extreme [‘All Day Golf’] to some abstract eternal residence as Spirit by the side of God in a perfected heaven. All formal organized religions by and large offer the same plans. You pick the company and policy you like.

In the Tradition of Shūnyam there is no consoling advise proffered that you will ‘Live Forever’ [a thoroughly terrifying idea].

It is rather the issue of your claiming to have been ‘Born’ in the first place.

Staring at Shūnyam, staring as Shūnyam, things get a mite confusing. It no longer is clear what ‘Death’ means if you can’t find the file documenting your ‘Birth’.

The Unborn [Ajatham]. The Unarisen [Abhutam].

You might find yourself Immortal in spite of yourself.

 


The venerable Japanese Zen-Master Hakuin, at his moment of Satori: ‘How wondrous! How wondrous! There is no Birth and Death from which one has to escape; nor is there any supreme knowledge [Bodhi] after which one has to strive…all the complications [Koans] numbering 1700 are not worth the trouble of even describing.’

Amrityu: ‘The Other Shore’

 

The Mule always gets the carrot once the load is up the mountain and his legs have begun to buckle. There  is a prize after all. And it is: ‘The Other Shore’.

The ultimate intent of Yajna, of ceremonial sacrifice, was the gaining of Immortality [Sanskrit: A-mrityu; mrityu, as in mortalis, mort, mortal].

The pivotal verses that birth the first intuition of Shūnyam in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad are in fact a response by Yagnavalkya to Maitreyi’s query on Death.

Thereupon Maitreyi said: “Venerable Sir, if indeed the whole earth, full of wealth, belonged to me, would I be immortal through that?”

“No,” replied Yajnavalkya, “your life would be just like that of people who have plenty. Of Immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth.”

Then Maitreyi said: “What should I do with that which would not make me immortal? Tell me, venerable Sir, of that alone which you know to be the only means of attaining Immortality.’

The finale, the ultimate crown for those who began the search all those many years ago was to be more than trophy-wives and corner-offices.

They were looking for the biggest prize of all. Something called ‘Immortality’.

 


Yajna today stands domesticated as the Puja and ‘Immortality’ has been toned down to requests for an employable son-in-law. But that is another story.

‘Aham Bramasmi!’

 

The earliest declaration, without qualifiers or compromises, which reads: ‘I am Divinity!’ is found in the Vedic canon [1,500 BCE].

Aham Bramasmi!: ‘I am Brahman’.

Short, simple, take it or leave it.

 


Brahman is a complicated word and is not identical with ‘Divinity’ as commonly understood; but it is close enough and will do for now. [See: ‘That‘]

But in ancient Bharat, nobody got killed for saying it. In fact, quite the opposite. It became a cliched term, a pretense at philosophical depth from the incorrigibly callow.

In today’s India the phrase ‘I am Brahman said with enough gravity and vigor will get you a supplicant crowd by lunchtime and by sunset you will be settled in the Guru-Business. And there is no business quite like it.

See: ‘Varanasi

‘I Live; Yet Not I’

 

St. Paul, the passionate convert: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.

[Gal 2:20; Paul’s letters preceded the Gospels.]

The certitude that one is ‘Being Lived’ is normal for every serious Meditation Practioneer as he begins to lose his sense of separation, as he approaches the vicinity of  Shūnyam.

But then the vivid religious imagination of the prophet, an imagination steeped in regional, mythic and ethnic roots, comes to the fore.

Enter a God made in the image of the King, granting favor and demanding punishment, offering eternal life and asking the sacrifice of all temporal tethering.

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross‘. The closing lines of St. Paul’s translation of likely the first Christian hymn.

Deux Factus Sum

 

Al-Hallaj they say, pointed to a Rabbi for his inspiration. One crucified a milennia earlier for saying something very similar [Crucifiction; a regional, not a Roman punishment]:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life‘ [John 14:6]

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known‘ [John 1:18].

Deux Factus Sum: ‘I am become Divinity!’ This is the limit of St. John’s: ‘Spiritual Union between Soul and God’ [See: ‘Brought to Nothing‘].

The top of the mountain. You can’t get any higher than this.

 


The full King James Version:

‘Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.’