• http://www.amazon.com/The-Thomases-Road-Realization-ebook/dp/B009BATQUA/

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

References and Contents


1 The Holy Bible; the new revised standard version; Catholic Edition
2 Om, Gayatri and Sandhya; Swami Mukhyananda
3 Indian Journal of Spirituality, July-Sept 2001;Vol. XIV, No 3
4 More Than a Carpenter; Josh Mc Dowell
5 The Vedas; Sri Chandrasekhar Saraswati
6 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol III, Vol V
7 Divine Harmony; Arvindakshan Menon
8 Nineyum Thedy; Mario Joseph (Malayalam)
9 The Good News, Jan-Feb 2006 (The Intelligent Design Revolution, Pg 19)
10 Biblical Fundamentalism; Ronald D. Withrup, S.S.
11 Catholic Answers to Fundamentalists’ Questions; Philip St. Romain
12 Vatican Council II The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents(St. Pauls Publication, Mumbai)
13 Life in Abundance; Kurien Kunnumpuram, SJ
14 The Wisdom of Yoga; KP Bahadur


POST 1 /Chapter 1- Introduction
The Thomases’ Road to Realization?

Section I

POST 2 /Chapter 2- The start to questions
POST 3 /Chapter 3- Secular versus orthodox
POST 4 /Chapter 4- The four linked questions
POST 5 /Chapter 5- Other doubts linked to Jesus

Section II

POST 6 /Chapter 6- Towards building a relationship with God
POST 7 /Chapter 7- The Christian approach to God
POST 8 /Chapter 8- Self awareness as an approach to God
POST 9 /Chapter 9- The Vedic approach to God
POST 10/Chapter10- Intercession in the approach to God
POST 11/Chapter11- Prayer in the approach to God

POST 12/Chapter12- Conclusion
Destination Faith

chr 12- Destination...FAITH

Destination… FAITH

Questions generally come with a prefix, which is, ‘never-ending’! And so I don’t really expect the Thomases to have run out of questions by now. But I do suggest avoiding feeling guilty about having doubts, as that could lead to repressing them. It won’t help. Bring your doubts to the open and look for answers. With each new query we should remind ourselves that it is alright to have them and to start another search for answers.Those who look for direction in the bible will find that Saint Paul does suggest that we should test all things.

In fact, I feel that the contradictions within the myriad of religions are like a puzzle that God seems to have deliberately put in the world for us to solve. When the whole world is God’s play ground then how could God resist from putting a mystery to the search that leads to him. The search for the truth is the most challenging of puzzles. Thinking over it sharpens one’s mental abilities and the seekers level of intelligence rises which is very helpful for those who choose knowledge to lead to the truth. Another way to look at it is that lower level of understanding makes the same simple basic truth in all religions and philosophies seem so very different!

As the seeker unravels one mystery after another he would eventually find out that the mysteries are unending. His path of doubts may not end with a state of no more questions, but should end with a state of no doubts about at least one source of wisdom, so that any further question won’t shake one off that one tested answer. When that happens, questions would lose their sting and will not create doubts.

So Thomases, we do have to anchor our boat somewhere! We will have to affix our faith on to a tested source and then believe everything that comes from it! The doubters’ destination has to be faith, as only that can carry the extra measure that intellect alone cannot.

When I first wrote down all I had learnt in the form of question and answers, it was just for the sake of organizing everything and in the process getting the clearer picture. Just when I had written a short summary, my husband gifted me a book, ‘Conversations with God Part I’ by Neale Donald Walsch. It dealt with areas of my interest and expanded my view. But the real gift of the book to me was the way it drilled in the idea of ‘choice’, further than any other book had done before. I could see that what I had written was my choice of the way I wished to see the reality. But I also realized that I do not have to discredit my choice. ‘It can never be wrong. It is absolutely right from my perspective! It is how I see things reconciling all the perspectives that I have taken so far.

So I should have by now cleared every question I had in my mind? Well I guess there is still one question and the question is to my own self. It is the question that started me on to this search for truth and now as I conclude my search I have to give myself a clear answer. And the same old question put today to myself is -Do I believe the advaitic(literal meaning is ‘not two’) philosophy (which in essence implies that ‘tat twam asi’ or ‘that thou art’) as true? That is, though I have accepted as true that ‘everything is God’ (within an earlier query in section I), the question that still remains is whether I feel it is proper to declare it with a statement “I am God”.

My answer is both a yes and a no. Guess I have internalized the lesson of giving two contradicting answers and calling both of it true! I am prepared to explain it though.

I had misunderstood the advaitic philosophy when I was first introduced to it by my friend. It is because I could only see an arrogant lifting of the head as my friend declared that ‘I am God’! This expression was supposed to be the summary of the philosophy. This expression was given as an attack to the Christian philosophy that supposedly considered God as separate from man. I argued against this philosophy not merely to protect my beliefs, but because this philosophy was threatening to make me lonesome. I did not want this philosophy to be true because I didn’t admire myself too much and I didn’t want to be God!

From the book ‘The Wisdom of Yoga’ by K.P. Bahadur, I learnt that the import of this philosophy (advaitic) is that, the soul is identical to Brahman. Also that, ‘Brahman is the doer and the deed, cause and effect, creator and creation. It is the truth behind the universe of unreality. Brahman is all that there is’ (quoted from the book). The unreality mentioned in the book, I am led to believe means the false self which interprets the world in a particular way as to allot it a power to influence the self. When the true self is discovered the world becomes unreal, because the real self cannot be affected by anything. For example a circumstance is interpreted by the intellect as unpleasant and the false self consequently experiences pain and unhappiness. When the nature of the true self is realized as the imperturbable, circumstances and the world is understood as unreal having no power to influence the true self. Therefore the world and the emotion packed self become unreal and everything thus becomes a play of the only reality, the Brahman. This results in equanimity in all circumstances, which is called the experience of the spirit.

I believe today therefore,(and have confirmed through my study) that the ‘I’ in ‘I am God’ does not refer to the emotion packed, sensitive, weak human being that I am, rather it refers to the Being( the Spirit) within me, which witnesses all the play of the mind and the body. The Being who is so close, as to be me though I am deluded by the body to believe that this Being is separate from me! The Being, which is in my body, is linked to the Cosmic Mind. The more I give time to this Being, the more I can get linked to the Cosmic Mind and be led by it, but the more I ignore this being I choose not be led by it. This Being can be called my soul! There is something shifting between the body and the soul and for want of a better word I just call this something ‘choice’, the freedom of choice, to be the body or be the soul. But this Being is for me(and is me)yesterday, today and forever even when the choice is to not allow the body to be ruled by it and thereby experience being a mere Body.

The advaitic philosophy only asks me to choose to see this Being or in other words my soul as myself rather than see myself as the body. It is difficult because choice is enabled by the bodily aids of sight and experience. It is compounded by the fact that only the ‘body’ can be seen and emotions generated by the body make a rush to get experienced thus forever clouding the inner calm which is the state of the true self!

I would not have been afraid of the advaitic philosophy had I know then what I came to know later that my soul has different characteristics than my body. The soul is ever calm and is ever at peace. The advaitic philosophy only asks me to switch off from the tense chattering of the body and become aware more often of the calm within. As the period of ‘switching off’ increases, this Being will get more and more control over the body. Finally when switching off becomes easy and natural, the Being would have come to be in full control of the body and therefore rule the body. The body will have receded then, to become merely an instrument to the Being and thereby to the Cosmic Mind. When this happens within a person, he would say ‘I’, and would in fact be referring to the Being within!

The awareness of God within is required and is inline with what Jesus meant when he said, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’, and therefore if my understanding of the advaitic philosophy is correct, then it is no different from the Christian philosophy. I believe that the kingdom of God is within the crust of the illusory self that we have created and mistakenly call it our self. Therefore it becomes important that the awareness of the God Self be of the soul and not inclusive of the mind (of the body) that is the false self. Mind is of the mortal and ‘the mortal is no God’ as can be understood from Ezekiel chapter 28. It is Gods proclamation against the King of Tyre for comparing his mind with the Mind of God. A true awareness can be appreciated by the fact that it never brings in comparison and pride. Pride about one’s self as God is pride in the false self. Whatever is perishable is just illusory, and therefore not God as He is not illusion. God is the imperishable, who will be there even when the heaven and earth pass away. Therefore if the advaitic philosophy is summarized as ‘I am God’, then it is only true when a person speaks in communion with God in a state of total awareness, the awareness of being the whole forgetting all separations. Like the awareness of the ripple that it is water; the awareness of the ray that it is light. When that is not the case, I do not believe the statement to be true. Unless the separation from God is removed at least in terms of knowledge and understanding, the person is not in a position to be fit for the advaitic philosophy. He is yet to have this philosophy in his adhikara (the level of understanding). Each person according to his level of understanding takes a particular way to approach God and adopts a particular concept of God. This is called adhikarabheda as per Hindu philosophy. When one concept is understood and adopted, other concepts may seem wrong, but that is required for faithfully following the road of one’s adhikara. Therefore for one who does not fully grasp the essence of advaitic philosophy, it won’t be wrong to believe that God is separate from man (dvaitic philosophy) and thereby adopt the worship of a personal God to reach Him. While anyone who has fully understood the advaitic concept can definitely opt to use the affirmation ‘I Am’ or I am Infinite Being’ during meditation (not in general talk or in defining God to someone of a different level of understanding) for realizing the true self.(In fact the truth is that even dvaita and advaita will be found the same truth from different viewpoints to the one with experiential and not mere intellectual understanding of the truth.)

It would be interesting to know that dvaita and advaita are in fact the two marked trends of the same philosophy called Vedanta which in turn is based on the Upanishads (part of the Vedas)! Yet for the follower of advaitic philosophy dvaitic philosophy is wrong and for the follower of dvaitic philosophy advaita is wrong. But I would say both are absolutely right in their thinking as long as it helps them in what they aim for and as long as they do not try to force their concept on someone whose adhikara is different. Because the only thing wrong would be to make a person adopt something, especially terms like ‘I am God’, that he is not intellectually or experientially ready for.

Therefore I do think that instead of saying, ‘I am God’ it would be always wiser for the Mortal to say that ‘God is there in me’, so that neither the speaker nor the listener gets confused about the statement. Beyond all the illusions of the world and behind the illusory veil of emotions of each person is the eternal calm, the stillness that is the only reality, the imperishable, the God. Even the Hindu scriptures do not proceed by teaching everybody that they are Gods. Instead the three initial sections (the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aaryanyakas) of each of the four Vedas lead the simple man through rituals and cleansing, till he has grown in understanding and relationship with God and till he is ready to read the final section of the scriptures, that is the Upanishads where it is whispered into his ears (and is meant only for his ears) that tat twam asi (that thou art). I personally have not yet attained the 'perpetual' awareness to be a worthy student for the ‘Upanishad’ or in other words, for ‘the truth to be whispered’ in my ears. So for me what is true for now is that, God is in me. And yet my understanding of the advaitic philosophy does permit me to meditate using the powerful affirmation ‘I Am’ to discover the God in me. I have answered the question I put to myself and I hope that it is also clear to the reader as to why I said both a yes and a no to the statement ‘I am God’.

And so finally I reach the state where I have no more questions? Not really, there are still questions like, what could be meant by the promise of the resurrection of the body? Could it mean that the followers of Christ will undergo a transfiguration of their bodies, where the perishable body would be transformed into an imperishable body? After all, Jesus took up his earthly body, three days after death and ascended into heaven with the Body!?
Buddha longed for Nirvana. He did not want to maintain his separate identity within the body. He never desired to keep his body; he wanted to lose his identity in the oneness with God. Does that mean there can be different destinations to man after the death of his physical body? One, where the spiritual body is absorbed into the oneness of God and becomes indistinguishable from it; another where a separate identity (as a spiritual body) from the one God is maintained? Then could Jesus be calling us to another world where those who have learnt to let the spirit direct the Body, those who have mastered the (enjoyable but difficult to handle) machine called Body, can live for ever with a Body and that too an imperishable body? Saint Paul says as follows regarding the raising of the dead, ‘When buried it (the body) is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body.’ 1 Corinthians 15:44. ‘Those who belong to the earth are like the one who was made of earth (first Adam); those who are of heaven are like the one who came from heaven (the second Adam or Jesus). Just as we wear the likeness of the man made of earth, so we will wear the likeness of the Man from heaven. 1 Corinthians15: 48, 49’. Saint Paul also says that the mortal cannot possess immortality and therefore the mortal will be changed into the immortal (in an instant) when the time comes.
Also, why does Jesus say that I am going ahead of you to make a room for you, there are many rooms in my mansion? Could it be that the ‘life in abundance’ that Jesus promises is ‘a life for ever in an imperishable body’? The Bible does say that those who are baptized are actually baptized into the death of Jesus and so those who share in his death will also share in his resurrection. Maybe this question can be answered by a concept that many religions share, that is, the concept of Seven Heavens and even seven Earths or "the many worlds of space and time" (both Abrahamic and Hindu religions). From this concept it is understood that there are unseen universes where 'form' is, where there are angels and ascended souls. Even beyond these heavens is the state called "Nirvana" where there is no form.This I believe is the state called the Divine Throne which is said to be in or above the seventh heaven in most Abrahamic religions.

This question often is answered to people with the gift of visions, and so I cannot go further into with mere thinking; but there is one more significant controversy remaining which can be contended with reasoning.

Controversy regarding the logic of Synthesis

Yes! The truth is that even 'synthesis' has its own share of criticism. Since I have accepted synthesis and worked with it to find my own picture of unity within contradictions, I have to share the criticism meted out to 'synthesisers'. I read the book 'Hindu view of Christianity and Islam' by Ram Swarup (the author participated in our country's struggle for independence). In many parts it spoke very disapporovingly of Semitic religions (prophetic religions, that is, Judaism, Christianity and Islam) which is understandable given the ideological imposition of semetic religion onto the rest of the world (including India). The author quotes Ralph Barsodi (educationist and thinker) "everywhere in the world excepting Asia Minor, the three great Semetic religions..are intruders.....indigenous Asia is Brahmanist, Confucianist, Buddhist, Taoist; indigenous Europe is pagan"

I too believe that it is oppressive to force one's beliefs onto another Human who has equal rights to use his own discretion (discussion and dialogue are the respectful way to understand differences) and so I took much of the criticism with a pinch of salt. But I have to object when certain criticisms are very unfair.

Ram Swarup says 'Besides the rationalists, many seekers in the West had learnt to reject Christianity as an inadequate spiritual ideology. But under the auspices of Hindu Synthesisers (Hindu's who claim that all religions preach the same thing), it began to find a new acceptance.'
'They(synthesisers) misrepresented the spirit of different preachings by slurring over important differences and by making too much of incidental agreements'

Here(and often through the book) I can't help but feel that the author's anger against the Christian ideological oppression over the ages which he too witnessed and experienced, is speaking rather than a real understanding of the unifying features of the two religions. He doesn't seem to note that synthesis cannot be acceptable to rationalists and unbiased thinkers, if it is not a 'rational' synthesis.

The author speaks of Visuddhi marg which tells that the first four dhyanas(meditation) are charecterized by reflection, sustained application, joy, one pointedness and mindfulness. The fourth level of dhyana involves mindfulness and equal mindedness. This equal mindedness opens the door to many kinds of infinities. Beyond these infinities lies the nirodhbhumi of Patanjali Yoga or the Nirvana bhumi of the budhists.
He says that Higher Indian spirituality begins with the fourth Dhyana..whereas in prophetic religions the truths are restricted to the first two or three dhyanas.
He points out that on several occassions the New testament emphasises on faith, piety, joy..which are all truths of the first dhyanas.

But the author doesnt seem to realize that he has picked up few words in the Bible and on their basis he has 'synthesized' the prophetic (semetic) religions to Lower Indian Spirituality! He is very obviously himself guilty of unfair synthesis! There are more words in the bible than just faith, piety and joy! Often in all comparisions he seems to be speaking only in terms of the Yogic branch of Hinduism forgetting that it is just one branch of Hinduism, where Hinduism is like a huge tree with numerous branches and no branch claiming to itself anymore glory than that of being part of the tree. In choosing to speak only on the yogic branch he is choosing to be on the safe side and also is definitely not being a fair synthesiser. Synthesis by Ram Swarup aims to show, 'My religion is better' and speaks of the anger of the author, whereas synthesis by the 'synthesisers' mentioned by the author, has been with an open unbiased mind. In fact the Christian prayer experiences are similar to what is claimed in the Dhyana experiences'. The Christian Prayer groups and retreats focus on few hours or days exclusively of prayer and worship, and it is a very powerful meditation on 'Love for God'. The blessings of the Holy Spirit that are claimed to be received in such meditiations are true (and I speak as one who has participated in a retreat). This blessing is the same as opening up the connect with the Universal divine spirit (it can viewed as opening up of the Kundalini or the channel through the whole body that is in direct connect with the universal spirit). The spirit opens up essentially the gifts of Agape(godly) Love. Though in different names; all are seeking the 'Dhyana' and Divine connect, though this experience of 'becoming opened up to God' is referred differently in different religions. Of all meditations I have tried, I personally feel that focusing hours and days on one's own 'Love for God' is utmost powerful and it naturally brings in mindlessness without having sought it! And so it is totally untrue to say that Christianity is limited to only the lower dhyanas like sustained application of joy and not the higher dhyanas of mindlessness which opens the doors to the infinite.

There were numerous other instances, while reading the book by Ram Swarup that I felt that he is not doing a Just and total comparision. For example, when he speaks of the wrath of the Biblical God, he forgets of the wrath of Shiva the destroyer.
He also forgets the Hindu faith in incarnates when he doubts the intentions or incarnation of Jesus.

He questions the intentions of Jesus in his statements like in the following statement of Jesus-"Beware of false prophets who come to you in the sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves"(Jn.10.8. This is a verse which all Christians understand as a warning not to believe in everybody but rather to test them. The verse urges one to test with the question-Are they like wolves that devour up the innocent, or are they really like a sheep that symbolises peace and calm? But these very words have been made to look by Ram Swaup as if Jesus was jealous of attention to anybody else as prophet! Knowledge as always is an instrument in Man's hands which can be used for good or for worse. It can be seen that the words used to explain the same statement can make totally different impressions on the hearers and readers about the very same statement. And so, this is what I have to say for Synthesis as well. Synthesis if does good and brings peace (which is the state in which God exists) then it can to be accepted (with one's own discretion of course), if it brings discord and doubt, it is not to be accepted.

But before I end this answer on this note, I want to address my respect to all the authors whom I have read and expressed critically. I want to thank them because without their thoughts to guide my own thoughts, my own book would not have been complete
For example the beautiful statement by Ram Swarup regarding the Yogic approach , 'The man on the inner journey not only realises that God or Gods are within him, but he also realises that he is within them. On this path one meets many divine figures which are also truths of his own soul' To the authors doubts on the Historical truth of Jesus, his own statements are the answer. The Historical reality of Jesus is not outside but within as a divine presence and an ever present reality.

To come back to the question of the destination to which a christian is called, the honest answer is that I do not know ‘the Christian destination’. Logic fails me here but here is my challenge to believe what I cannot view even with any reasoning.
And so here are my personal statements of faith(not logic), ‘I have tested with the help of knowledge and reasoning the truth and promise of faith that the name Jesus represents namely 'of freedom from the binding to the world'. I will follow his command of love (for God, for neighbours) and wherever that leads me though I may not understand any thing about the destination. My destination faith is Jesus. Therefore I give up my oars to him and from now on he will row me forward and I will relax and wait patiently for him to reveal the destination he has prepared for me.’

I could have followed somebody else, considering my faith in all scriptures or looked towards other possible destinations, but the reason I have accepted Jesus(or the symbolic reality called Jesus that chooses by design of the universe to be part of the known world) as destination faith is that he was the only one who said, ‘This is my body which will be given up for you.’ I cannot think of anybody else with such selfless love. I would rather follow a so called lunatic who demonstrated such love for each man and who promised that his sacrifice has prepared a place for me in heaven, than follow any other person (or other symbolic realities) who might have attained the oneness with God but neither suffered for me nor promised me a place; or follow the disbelief (in Jesus and his promised destination) of a world absorbed in self love. Even in everyday life we follow the friend who promises to keep a seat for us at the theatre than another equally loved who tells the way to the theatre but makes no such promise. There may be many who ask us how we can be assured that he will keep his promise. The answer could be something like," It is because I know him as I know myself"

There is also another thing I am sure of and that is; faith does eventually get rewarded. ‘According to your belief be it done unto you’.

Jesus fulfilled the requirements of Thomas (for believing that Jesus had indeed risen) as we see in John20:27- Then Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not persist in doubt but believe.’ We also the Christian Thomases may have had some requirements to be fulfilled before we could believe in everything about Jesus. If Jesus has not by now fulfilled it then be sure that he will in time. Because Thomas had not even addressed his requirements to Jesus but rather, he only had said to the other disciples that he won’t believe until he put his finger to the wound in Jesus’ hand. And yet Jesus was listening. I believe that Jesus is always listening to our hearts too. Though we may not be aware (quite like Thomas) but the Lord is surely present, listening to our every doubt and ever prepared to clear it. We only have to be clear about what proof we want to help us believe. Jesus can’t be angry with us for doubting as most Christians believe. He only says that those who are able to believe without seeing are happier. And so we may doubt but we shouldn’t persist in our doubting and thereby persist in unhappiness. That is, we must search for answers and clear our doubts, because peace and faith is important to reach God. And peace and faith cannot come where doubts live.

Today I may not be free of questions but I am free of doubts. That is, I sure have reached a state where questions do not come with the usual baggage of discomfort and pain. It is because I have finally anchored myself to Jesus. I allow the questions to be answered in their own time because it is no more a life or death issue as I am in trusted hands. What I work towards now is to experience again the everyday communion with God that I had once lost. With my doubts put to rest I am in touch with my calm! I can now experience again what it was to be so happy as to want nothing but the company of God. No questions in the world are worth giving up this relationship. ‘I would rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light. I would rather walk by faith with Him than go alone by sight.’

Everything turns out to the good of those that trust God. For eventually I gained from having strayed from the path of faith, as I have come back stronger and more evolved in my thinking in a way that any sort of question, can no longer shake me off. Today if anybody says ‘advaita’ I can say ‘yes’, or dvaita( man and God are separate) and I would still say ‘yes’. If somebody says God is nirvikar (without emotion), I would say surely, and if somebody says God is love, I would say ‘absolutely’.

And if the question is, why God didn’t give just one answer to who he really is, then I have to point out that just as a country like India which is a myriad of cultures cannot be understood by visiting one state, how can God who is unimaginably more complex be understood in one statement. So lets not argue whether ‘I am God’ or ‘God is separate from man’. We need these and even more concepts to create a vast mosaic of ‘ideas about God’ and then view the picture to add an ounce more to our understanding of God. In any case what use is our understanding alone when we finally reach our death beds? Would our understanding alone prepare us to leave the life we love and go to where God calls us? To be prepared to go to God, we need to love him more than anything, and that can come only when we accept our intellectual limitations and work more towards building a relationship with Him. For it is only a strong relationship with God, that will help us at our death beds to feel that ‘I am not going away from my loved ones but rather that I am coming home to somebody who not only loves me most but whom I too have learnt to love the most.’ It is obvious why we are asked to love God above all else. It is, so that bidding the world adieu may not become too difficult!

Therefore we need to cross over to God in this life itself and that is possible only when we take the road of Faith and build the relationship with God; by finding time each day to meditate upon His Word and thus opening our inner eyes and then doing what is asked of us, even when our circumstances and intellect point to a totally different course of action. For example, if God’s words suggest that we should not let our heart be troubled and that we should have a merry heart, then we should at least remember these words in our trying circumstances. We will at least be definitely thanking God in our old age for these words that we obeyed, for the robust health, that a merry heart helps maintain! In the context of these particular words, it also becomes important that we clear our doubts about God as it is one of the major causes to a troubled heart! Moreover how can a person discover the 'perpetual calmness' within unless the person has an untroubled heart which is the result of an unshakable trust in a Power within and without!

My concluding suggestion to every Thomas and especially the Christian Thomases, is that whenever faced with any more of confusing contradictions, just bring to mind the Sun! God made the Earth go round the Sun, and yet it seems to us on Earth that the Sun goes round the Earth. It is not God’s fault or even our mistake that what is, does not look the way it really is. From out in the universe the former is true and for all practical purposes on Earth, the latter is true. One can choose to keep wondering and worrying about which the truth is as the majority of us have never seen the whole thing from outer space. On the other hand we could believe in the words of one reliable person who has actually gone there and thereby put to rest our doubts and thenceforth just enjoy the warmth of the Sun and all the blessings of life that it is to us; for after all that is what the Sun is for!

Today I personally choose the latter. I would rather experience the joy of the companionship of God every moment of my life than keep troubling my heart by worrying about contradictions and controversies. And so for me God is the name for the One Power that Holds all that exists and the one Power called God is also moving in me, and yet God is my loving Father on whom I lean. This is my realization.

SectionII-chr11 Prayer in the Approach to God

To build a relationship with God we must understand what each meeting with God feels like or in other words, we need to understand what is a Spiritual Experience. The teacher, who taught me about synthesis, also spoke about ‘Spiritual Experience’ as follows ‘to have a spiritual experience is to have forgotten oneself for a moment.’ He used to say that ‘even an artist immersed in creating his art form is undergoing a spiritual experience.’! This would imply that doing a work that one loves can be a medium to the spiritual experience, especially because it provides the all important ‘detachment’. Everything concerned with the self is out of mind when one is immersed, totally absorbed, in the work one loves. This work could be anything, writing, painting, music and any other as long as there is total immersion in it.

In fact music and dance are also powerful forms of meditation. Devotional songs are often considered the best prayer. Guru Nanak is known to have realized his beloved (whom he knew as Ik Onkar which is Punjabi for Om) through music. Shiva represents the energy in dance. Devotional dance brings out the energy in the being, connecting it to the powers of the universe.

On the other hand when there is nothing on which to devote one’s energies; the self and all its concerns come rushing. When the brain is not engaged in some productive work, it spends its energies by being destructive. It is aptly said that an empty mind is the devils workshop. An empty mind does think upon meaningless matters just to keep itself occupied, because it was created to be occupied. It spends its energies in aggression, possession, obsession, addiction, which are the time pass of an unengaged mind.

So whenever we find ourselves engaged in destructive thinking, we should realize that we are trapped in the worldly realm. To move again into the spiritual realm the easiest way is to find the right work and forget the self in the work. And so one can plainly conclude that Spiritual Experience through any approach must be the same as the experience of being immersed in a work of one’s choice! Somebody said very aptly that ‘Work is Worship’

What is the role of prayer in the approach to God?

‘All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets.’ Mr. Spurgeon.

What we seek is a perpetual relationship with God and not merely a one time spiritual experience. Perpetual experience is built by adding in one brick after another where each brick is a spiritual experience.To build a relationship there has to be a daily communication.This daily communication is Prayer. For communication there has to be speaking and also necessarily a period of listening. Prayer is therefore the means to this two way communication with God. Prayer is a daily communication with the unseen energy that drives the world. But prayer has so many ways and aspects that it has to be understood more deeply to become a real door to the unseen and so I am devoting a whole chapter to it.

Gratitude and prayer for others

Though today I believe in the importance of prayer above all research or study, it has not been always so. There has been a period in my life in which I did not pray at all. My prayers before that stage had been entirely for the fulfillment of my wishes or removal of problems that obstructed their fulfillment. I began to feel over time that praying for the removal of personal problems was only reminding me that I am in a problem situation and that it sort of only magnified the problem. Praying was to me like rolling in the gutter called ‘my problem’ leaving me feeling worse after prayer. That made me abandon prayer altogether. I was happier just being absorbed in ‘daily works’. I didn’t realize then that what was hurting me was not prayer but the manner and the topic of my prayer. I had a thinking that God should be giving only what I perceive as good for me. I was too immature to realize then, that believing in God means accepting everything that he chooses for us, even when we perceive it as ‘bad’.

Of course when life adamantly takes its own direction without consulting our wishes or dreams, we are left with no other option but to give up the importance that we accord to “my thinking, my dreams, my aims and myself”! But when that really happens finally, the need to sulk over ‘unpleasant’ happenings is gone, after all now one is not living in some constant expectation from life. When there comes such an acceptance of situations and a sincere gratitude to God for his wise decisions (which are albeit beyond our understanding), everything changes!

Whole hearted acceptance, changes one’s attitude and thereby the reactions to the ‘bad situations’. And suddenly as things change for the better, one may realize with a shock that 'non acceptance of life situations’ was the only thing that had gone wrong”.
Therefore today I believe that prayer becomes most helpful in the approach to God, when it consists of ‘gratitude’ and ‘prayer for others’ rather than mere demands. Gratitude, because it helps us remember that most of the things that happened during the day were good. It helps to realize how we fret over the single unpleasant occurrence in a day and forget the seven pleasant ones! If we think clearly, then the count of blessings each day will definitely be much more than the count of what we consider as unpleasant. These counts each day will surely make us breathe easy and relax, knowing that the day wasn’t that bad after all!

Prayer for others helps us see that our sufferings are so insignificant compared to what others suffer. Looking back into time, I feel that in our childhood we are able to empathize with the suffering of others, but as we grow older, we learn to put to mute our sensitivity to the suffering of others; because suffering is everywhere and we feel we can’t help anyway. But today I feel that we can in fact help. Somebody once asked me ‘how can God allow such suffering, why doesn’t he help?’ I personally feel that God has given us free will and he can help the world only if it is our common will that he interfere. Our will for God’s intervention is put forth when we pray. While reading tragic news in the paper instead of trying to move away our attention, we have to allow our eyes to well up with tears and pause a moment to pray for peace for the concerned people or souls. We may not know what is right for an individual, but prayer for peace and strength can never be an inappropriate prayer. In our own trying circumstances also we must remember that there are countless who might be in similar circumstances, and take our situation as an opportunity from God to pray for all in similar circumstances by using our own intensity of need.

What is the right thing to ask for another? I used to wonder, 'how can I be sure that what I am praying for the other person is proper or not, after all only God knows what is right for him or her'. We may pray for somebody’s recovery from a life threatening disease and it may not happen. And we may also think that anyway everybody has to die one day or the other! Personally, I used to find unanswered prayers very discouraging and therefore avoided praying for sick people. But later, when prayers again became a part of my life, I began to realize that in cases where I had pushed God, asking him to go in accordance to my wishes; I had experienced a definite feeling of despair all through. Whenever I have had such feelings, I have found that the prayer has finally not been answered. On the other hand, there are cases where I have experienced peace after repeated prayers. In such cases the prayers were finally answered. This difference may be because of factors like my own faith while asking something that seemed impossible or the intensity and sincerity of my demand, or even my willingness or unwillingness to accept whatever could be God’s own will in the regard. My personal feeling is that one major factor to it is that when the message, the response from the soul is something I am unwilling to hear, it results in the distress due to the non acceptance of the message by the conscious mind and yet a subconscious awareness that the specific request is not in accordance with God’s will. When the answer from the soul is favorable my conscious mind immediately hears and becomes assured and relaxed! This is where one has to remember that prayer is a two way ‘communication’. One has to keep the heart open for answers, and for that matter, whatever those answers may be! One has to become mature enough to keep in mind at all times that God’s choice is best. It is true that belief powers reality but if all belief turned to reality there would have been no space for God. When a strong belief does not become a reality there is more reason to believe in a God who decides whether what we are asking with our limited awareness, is in concurrence to what experience our soul is actually calling out to, for its growth. For we don’t know what we really are wanting, we can ask only from as far as we can be aware of, but the one who gives sees further into our soul. Therefore though it is true that what we believe has the power to come true, we must also remember that Jesus in his prayers always included “Not by my will but according to your will God be it done”. When the rod and staff of God guides us, we must remember that our pain is an indicator that it is a direction we must not take.

What I am suggesting here is that a check on ‘resultant’ feelings could avoid disappointment over unanswered prayers, as these resultant feelings may be an indication of God’s will in the regard. Having realized this, a subsequent acceptance of God’s will as the best would also prevent further distress and dejection. We should remember that when we pray we are in fact surrendering everything to God’s will. The only thing wrong that can happen after such surrender is our non acceptance of God’s will.
Another thing is that prayer for the sick need not be only for the recovery (as I used to think), but more importantly it should involve a prayer to God to provide the necessary courage to the person undergoing the trial and also to those close to him/her. Finally I have found that, regret for a seemingly unanswered prayer is more bearable than a regret of the like, ‘if only I had at least once prayed for that person’.

Asking for ones needs

Now personal prayer can surely also hold something for ones own person! Prayer helps us to define what we need and faith in god helps us to believe that we can get it. At the same time, surrender to gods will helps to ensure that it is not our limited conscious want but our expanded soul yearnings that find fulfillment. When we ask with this surrender, often we might find that things may happen exactly opposite to our beliefs but in the long run, what it eventually leads to, we realize is what we really needed. Even when we seem to be drifting, that really is not the case. We are always moving in the direction of our inner magnets drive. Remember “ All things work for good of those who love God” That is why giving prime importance to God will always lead us in the best direction possible for our lives however difficult the road might seem.

We can speak to God with abandon, as to a best friend. It could be about joys, worries, expectations, anything. Opening our mind in this way helps us become clear about our problem. But to avoid prayer from becoming just "the wallowing in the gutter called our problem" we should also find a solution and focus on it from that point on, to make the solution our reality.

An experience associated with bringing all the emotions to the fore; anger, envy, sorrow or whatever is that in this state of extreme emotions you might discover occasions of the other extreme within, the unperturbed calm which is like the calm centre within a whirlwind; and with this experience, comes an awareness of a remedy to the problem surrendered. To each person experiences during prayer differ, and no particular experience is supposed to be sought after. Every prayer opens its own doors and so prayer has to be always done for its own sake and not seeking a particular experience. Therefore even if one doesn’t get this awareness after the opening up; just a resolve that, ‘now that I have surrendered all in my mind to God, everything that will happen will be God’s will for me and therefore will be what is proper for me, and I will accept it gracefully’, will lead to the same result as would following the answer of the soul.

Prayer to achieve the communication from the other end for answers can involve silence, a form of meditation which is an effort to switch off the human mind and switch on to the cosmic mind. This can be experienced (as described earlier) as the discovery of the inner calm and silence after a period of mindfulness experiencing all emotions to its intensity; or it can be sought directly by focuusing on a single thing like breathing or chanting.

What about following community prayers and religious rules?

Community prayer is based on the verse that says that where two or more people are gathered in God’s name, there God is in the midst of them.

But of course, if any particular method doesn’t seem to help, one must surely experiment with other methods. On the other hand, once prayer has become a part of one’s daily life, any type of prayer would be of help. It’s like exercise. We find one or the other problem with a form of exercise, when we have just initiated into exercising. Once we get into the mind set of exercising daily, we find any form of exercise enjoyable. It’s also the purpose, that is, which part of our body we want to target, that decides which exercise to choose. So also, each stage of development of an individual may call for a different form of prayer. So it would be wisest to just go with what the mind is prepared for at present, rather than trying to identify with what the community is doing.

Something we should keep reminding ourselves is that we always have the freedom to choose. There might be dilemmas. Just as one might feel bound to say only a particular prayer every night, there might also be a compulsion to follow all the rules of the church to perfection. The rules (as well as the manner of prayers) of the church are to direct a man until he is no longer controlled by the flesh. When the spirit leads the man, the rules are not binding. ‘The Sabbath is for man and woman and not they for the Sabbath.’ The church and its rules are also therefore to serve man in his purpose for realization, not man made for the service of the church.

I am not suggesting that we need not follow the rules of the church, rather I am only suggesting that we do not have to become slaves to the rules. Though we may follow all rules sincerely, we should not become unduly upset or guilty over minor omissions for example missing a Sunday mass for something like attending a close friend’s party or for the preparation of an exam. It may seem unbelievable to some, but there are people who feel compelled to attend mass against all odds. If this is done for the joy that attending a mass provides, fine, but if it is a compulsion, it’s not so healthy. To avoid this compulsion it becomes necessary to be aware of the freedom that we have.

I understand the Christian religion as basically a liberating religion rather than a binding one. There is no ‘should do’ in Christianity because what it teaches is that, ‘it is not what we do but what we are, that is important’. A good heart can only lead to good deeds, for a good tree can bear only good fruit. I personally used to have a compulsion to follow all the sayings in the Bible without fail. But as I proceeded with different sayings, I became confused. Following one, made following some other saying quite impossible! With time I realized that since the different books of the Bible have a compilation of wisdom and wise sayings which sometimes seem to go against each other, obviously these cannot be ‘orders’ to be followed strictly; rather we are supposed to select the one that fits our particular circumstances using our own discretion. For example the Bible does suggest that we should give to the needy, like in Mathew 5:42- ‘When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him’. And yet the Bible also warns in parts of its other books that discretion should be maintained in the dealings with wealth. Therefore the call to help others need not compel us to give to every other person and probably get cheated and bankrupt in the process. The Bible does ask us to be innocent as a dove, but it also advices us to be wise as a snake. We have a duty towards ourselves also, and we do need to protect our interests by being discreet in our dealings and by being wary of people who may cheat. For it is also the Bible that says, ‘Give to the devout, but do not help the sinner. Do good to the humble, but do not give to the ungodly…..for by means of it they might subdue you; then you will receive twice as much evil for all the good you have done to them.’ Sirach12:4and5. Therefore if the Bible says at one place that we should give to everybody whatever they ask of us, it also at a different page reminds us of our duty to protect our own interests. We are asked to love our neighbour as ourselves and not more than ourselves. We need to take care we are not cheated or that we are not getting hurt in any obsessive philanthropy.

Jesus said that the commandments given by Moses; do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not murder and so on can be summarised as loving the neighbour as oneself. In saying so Jesus does not defy the commandments conveyed by Moses, but it can be seen that just as Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman to stoning, Jesus, I would believe, does not condemn acts where we have loved ourselves as much as our neighbour; where a self defence has led to murder, where hunger has led to taking bread from a shop, where preserving sanity in a difficult marriage drove a non lustful person to seek solace in a different relation. Laws and directives are where an act can be from clearly “black” or “white” intentions; whereas in reality the terms used to describe any act do not cover the intentions. Jesus said "You judge according to the flesh. I Judge no one" We judge according to who we are and not according to a wide perspective or our spirit's understanding, and so we can be often wrong. Jesus could see a person from human and from a spirit perspective, which is a complete perspective and if he ever judged, his judgement was correct. I feel scriptures only put directives for black and white issues and not for the grey areas because of the possibility of people using it as an excuse to sin. We have to always check that the equations are balanced where preserving one's body, soul and sanity led to an act which is otherwise a sin, rather than selfish intensions leading us, for God will check our hearts in all things.

It should also be noted that Jesus was firm that all laws of Moses should be kept and no word should be added to it. This firmness of Jesus should be seen in the context of the “new teachings” that Pharisees and Sadducees at the time were teaching which went round the laws creating loopholes by adding to the word of God and thereby even allowing for perversions and some forms of murder and abuse. This was why Jesus never minced any words while speaking against them.

Here it should be noted as mentioned earlier that even the Qur’an which suggests stern measures for certain acts goes ahead and says that if the person is regretful, be merciful. Therefore what one requires is not one word, one scripture, but rather the spirit to understand all conflicting words from the backdrop of context. Each person and each scripture has to be read with one’s spirit, with our hearts attuned to God, with knowledge of the context. A pure and clean heart is led in spirit and sees the truth beyond the veil of words. That is what being pure and clean while reading scriptures is all about, as without clarity we could be ‘hearing and hearing but never understanding’. We may wrongly follow words out of fear of going against written words even if it means going against what our spirit directed. But we must understand that our spirit knows all words from all contexts than we may ever read in a lifetime, and so it is to be trusted. In understanding a scripture in its spirit, we are not adding words to it. Yet fear is necessary to follow rules until our hearts are attuned to God. But only until that, for fear should not remain part of our nature when we love God truly.

I feel that the unhealthy ‘compulsion’ to follow rules and directions without using one’s own discretion, is due to an undue fear of God and also therefore everything concerned with God. This fear may also lead some to be unkind to a neighbor! Sometimes it leads an orthodox Christian to disrespect or put down another who has a different faith or who follows a different path. Or there might be occasions when a devout, disregard the needs of a visiting friend or neighbor in an obsession to follow all the religious rules. In occasions like these it is wise to remember the concept of ‘attithi devo bhava’ (the guest is God) and also ‘If you cannot love the neighbour whom you can see, how can you claim to love God whom you cannot see?’ as the bible tells us.

There is freedom from all laws for those led by the spirit.
‘Freedom is what we have- Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1.’ And so, whatever one does with a good intention is good. It is not your act but rather the thought behind the act that counts. For example sexuality is not a sin, it is part of our natural instinct but if we follow lustful expression of sexuality it become sin because it is selfish, whereas if we are pulled by our love for another to this expression, then it can lead one to a higher energy state, connecting us more to the positive energies of the universe. It is the intention with which sex is approached and not the act in itself that is good or bad. Tantra Shastra also affirms regarding sex that it only degrades the degraded, only harms the harmful, is only evil to the evil, but is a joy to the joyful, healthful to the healthy, illuminating to those who seek illumination. One should meditate before and after sex for the energy of sex to direct one to illumination. In everything, as ye seek, so shall ye find.

Even something like vegetarianism or even hardcore fasting can be considered under this freedom. Christianity has it that the non vegetarian is praising God by accepting what God has provided and the vegetarian is praising God by respecting the life that God created as sacred. Therefore the one who eats and the one who does not eat flesh are both at heart glorifying God. But when a vegetarian shuns a neighbour, just for being a non vegetarian, would that be really pleasing to God?

Likewise one can fast as long as it helps in the worship. In fact fasting has been used for ages to help in making prayer more effective. Denying food to the body is a deliberate denial of the body as the real self and thereby attention is shifted to the spirit. Fasting prods all our faculties to focus more on prayer and commune with God through the awareness of the real self. The whole purpose of the day of fasting becomes prayer and thereby the prayer becomes unceasing and immensely powerful. And yet, even Buddha gave up fasting when he found it was not helping. If a person is able to worship better on a full stomach, then that is what should be done. In everything we do, we should never lose sight of the purpose. Keeping a fast should not become more important than worshiping. Isaiah chapter 58 speaks about false and true worship. In verse 5 of the chapter, the people complain, that though they fast, God does not seem to notice. The answer given to them further in the chapter is, ‘Look you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice…., is it not to share your bread with the hungry.…, when you see the naked to cover them. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer….. Isaiah 58: 4, 6, 7 and 9.’ And therefore if we can do such service to our neighbour, if we can give something of what we have to others, we are in a way fasting.

But though we have freedom and though the rules of church or a procedure of prayer need not be followed out of a compulsion, it does not mean that we can ignore them totally. These should still be followed, keeping in mind the common good. Saint Paul has implied that though you (strong in faith) do not need to follow any rituals, yet you must do it for those who are weaker in faith. They should not become disturbed by your (a devout Christian’s) attitude and wander away even further.

Also following rituals are not always merely only the initial steps, towards the goal of realization, but one who enjoys prayer, can enjoy them and find them useful even when he has gone much beyond the stage of rituals. In fact there are some situations where ritualistic prayer becomes necessary. There can be occasions when all our belief power and all our prayers for peace or release from any issue goes unanswered. We do not know what is causing this relentless torment in our lives. We might not have done any grave sin to deserve the evil that we observe in our lives. On such occasions we must remember that god does not hear when there is sin in the family line and so we could even conclude that there are curses in the family. Here ritualistic prayer (like chaplets of mercy) for forgiveness of ancestral sin done with sincerity for a duration with fasting and faith helps to free from the binding powers of evil that is brought into a family line on account of ancestral sins.

Therefore the road to realization need not be like a ladder, it can be a peculiar web of a road where everything is enmeshed together, at every point. That is, where new learning is added on and yet the essence of the old remains, thus creating a more wholesome realm.

To get a hold of the core of this chapter, it would be good to look again at the example of the monkey who could not take his hand out of the surahi because he was not willing to let go of the peanuts. This example is such a powerful pointer and is packed with so many meanings that it can be used to understand the essence of this chapter as well. We want to think clearly and freely but we are afraid to let go of what we have been taught. We are afraid to let go of what has been drilled into our minds as ‘must believe’, ‘must do’. Unless we keep aside what we think we need to believe, because our church teaches us or the religion tells us, how can we think freely? What freedom do we have? What one’s religion, one’s church teaches or directs one to do, may be absolutely true but our belief would be so much stronger if we thought with freedom and found that what we have been taught is true. Doing with faith is always better than doing out of fear. Doing with freedom is better than doing out of compulsion.

Freedom helps in getting the right answers to all our questions. Answer to every question is buried deep within the soul. Whenever a question plagues the mind, shed all the ideas that the world has so far put in the brain and with a fresh slate ask the soul for the answer. The answer the soul gives is the one to be taken. But how do we know the Soul when it speaks? I do believe that the soul is always speaking to us but we choose not to hear it when we choose to follow preexisting beliefs and outside information. If one takes the exactly opposite course, that is, make a regular practice of discounting answers provided from the outside then soon one could be hearing from the soul!

For the Thomases, the skeptics, to experience God

The important thing for Thomas to remember when it comes to experiencing God is to forget trying to reach him through intellectual questioning alone. There is always a desire to know but the more we know the more we know that we don’t know. When we truly realize this, all our further questions will be quelled and we would know that the horizon can never be reached, and probably then we would realize that wherever we stand there is the horizon!

The question free mind is calm and in the stillness of mind one can better comprehend God. All Christians know the verse that says ‘Be still and know you are God’. A question free mind is therefore a prerequisite for the experience of God; for it is only undisturbed waters which can give a clear reflection of our face. That is why Jesus stresses that, ‘do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ For these are the major blocks separating man and God and not really a lack of a total comprehension of God.

Jesus has said ‘happy are those who have not seen, yet believe’. In saying this he told us the way to be happy, the way to the bliss that is God. The statement implies for us Thomases that it would serve us to allow faith to heal the questions that just cannot be resolved by any amount of intellectual efforts. If we are happy to think of God as a caring parent, then let us have faith that we are not wrong. He is that and more. If we could be happier by believing that God is ‘the true self’, then such a belief is not wrong either. He is that and more. For God, cannot be confined within our limited understanding. And so to give room to God we have to make space in our minds for that which is beyond our understanding. We have to allow God to be bigger than all the concepts that are within the grasp of intellect. Having thus given up ‘the insatiable curiosity’, we can move away from the endless road of questioning and finally park within the experience of happiness, everyday, by just opening up to God and asking Him for the joy of His presence. For God is not to be found at the end of the road of questioning. God is found by the daily practice of faith. Answers to questions, only increases the understanding of the ‘body’ about the ‘soul’. To ‘experience the soul’, the body has to recede to the background, which is only possible when we discourage an excessive leaning towards ‘thinking our way to the experience of God’. This is because thinking is a function of the body and of the mind and though it does help to 'understand' the mind of God, but to 'experience' the soul of the universe, the spirit of God, we have to forget our mind. Understanding helps to an extent, but when it stops being helpful, it implies that it is time to change track and give way to unquestioning faith. That is, when we reach near the unseen, guided by the seen, by our intellect, our mind, we have to abandon this ladder, push it away, because only then would we make the leap to reach and hold on to our destination. To push away the ladder and make the leap, the important ingredient is faith. That is why it said that belief is necessary to experience God. That is why Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Bible to 'Believe'

When faith in God puts an end to doubts and when love for God overcomes self love, mastery over the false self (which causes all doubts and selfishness by stressing on thinking rather than being) is achieved. And when one has really learnt to become a mere witness to one's own emotions with the help of any or all sorts of methods, then perhaps, could come the understanding that ‘the body is merely a machine which we have actually now learnt to handle!’ That is when the real self would start becoming obvious to us, and that would bring in moments of exhilaration which is often quite plainly called ‘realization’. The body then becomes the tool to the experiences of the higher energy through any means that we might choose with this one pure intention. Bliss will course through our system and slowly our continued and constant dedication to God gets rewarded by bliss taking over and become a more and more frequent experience. So much so that even the thought of God or any touching moment would raise our spirit to a 'high' till the ‘high spirit or high energy’ becomes a constant state of our being.

We would then know that mortal life is something like a painting. A painting, as we know, is not the reality but it opens our eyes to the beauty in the world that is there before our very eyes but we could never notice. In the same way the world and our body is not the reality, but it is the way to the joy of the experience of the only reality God. He is the deity in the temple of our body and is the truth we need to inroad to . Something like what Picasso said about art…

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth…Pablo Picasso

Monday, December 10, 2007

Section II-chr10 Intercession in the approach to God

Chapter 10

Intercession in the approach to God

Using intercessory prayers is not exclusively a Christian practice but is in fact also practiced by Buddhists! For Christians Jesus is the prime mediator between Man and God. But intercession for specific helps is also asked of those who have been declared as Saints by the Church. And of course, the most favoured intercessor is Mother Mary. There are many objections that are put forward against this approach to God. The major objection is that God can hear our prayers directly then why an intercessor. I looked for an answer to this and found it in the Bible. It says that the prayer of the pure is always heard. The prayer to the mother gives a confidence that there is someone full of grace and purity and also blessed by God who is praying with us; and therefore it also gives the confidence that our prayers will be heard, for the prayer of the pure is always heard.

Another thought that Thomases like me face is that, how can we be sure that mother Mary or the Saints are praying all the time for us at our request? But we Thomases also know the answer within our hearts that- if the courage to still believe, in what cannot be seen or known for sure, gives an assurance that for the rest of the 23 and a half hours in which one is not praying, the prayers are still vibrating in the universe, then why not believe in all of that! If one believes, then it is so, for to each man as he believes. But if one doesn’t believe, then it is not so. The prayer then rises half hearted and unsure and dies the death it calls to itself. Religion and rituals call on one to be brave. The brave decision to believe in any ritual can only bring benefits. It is an ‘only courage and all benefits equation’.
This is what I have understood. But there is also another strong objection that I personally held with respect to the reciting of the Rosary to Mother Mary.

What better way to explain this objection than putting down a typical prayer scenario in Kerala…….

The children have a get together at the ancestral home. It is evening and the oldest member Kuttiamma calls everyone to come to the prayer hall to recite the rosary. ‘Ooh, not today’, says little James. ‘No excuses’, says the man of the house Joyachhan. He is very strict and is very particular about reciting the rosary every night. So the prayer begins. Little Elsie starts the prayer and it takes the speed of a super fast express. ‘Slow down’, says Kuttiamma. ‘I don’t get the words if I slow down’, says Elsie and saying that she takes of again. After the prayer Joyachhan gets hold of his niece little Sara and tells her. ‘You were wringing your fingers and looking at them all through while reciting the prayer. You were not really concentrating on the prayer’. ‘Uncle’, says the little Sara with an expression of surprise on her face, ‘so you were looking at what I was doing all through the prayer! That means you were not praying either!’

Reciting the rosary is such an important part in a Catholic’s daily prayer life, but why not try something else when most participants are usually yawning through it all! What is the use of any prayer if it is done half heartedly, and just out of an obligation to do it? Why not try something different whenever established methods fail? Why do we adamantly hold on to methods even when it is obviously not serving its purpose? Are we afraid of giving up God’s supposedly ‘favoured’ method of prayer? Why are we not affected by the fact that the mind has already given up and the tongue is the only thing stuck with the words of the prayer?

Does the rosary really help in experiencing God?
Whatever the method of prayer it should obviously serve the purpose of praying. It is implied by Kabir Das in one of his couplets that just repeating some words like a parrot does not become prayer. This is what I always agreed with and therefore never really believed in reciting the rosary. I did not understand the rosary either. The words of the prayers were memorized to me, but, are mere words, all that one need know about any prayer? Someone has to give a glimpse to the import of the words and the spirit of the prayer. The assumption that it comes naturally is wrong. At least it was wrong in my case.

I first understood the spirit of the rosary a few years back, when somebody told me that, ‘when you surrender everything at God’s feet one by one with each bead of the rosary, then how can you avoid concentrating through it all.’ I realized then that the rosary need not be really an ineffective method of prayer; rather my state of mind and my lack of understanding while reciting the rosary was making the prayer ineffective. After that, I made a deliberate attempt at understanding the rosary (rosary for prayer help from mother Mary).

Prayer is a method of meditation, which holds both a process of coming closer to God and the means of experiencing Him. A proper prayer according to me has three steps. The first is gratitude. A grateful heart is closer to God, for it acknowledges God as the giver of all the blessings in our lives. The second step is unburdening. All our worries, wrongs, needs, pains, fears, we unburden at the feet of God. Then our problems are no longer ours but His and we can free our minds from them. God is the best listener. He does not judge our burdens, so we can unload our hearts without adding the worry of being judged! So the first step brings us closer to God, the second step frees our mind and heart and makes it ready for the third step. The third step is, being still and experiencing the glory of God within us!

I discovered that the rosary too holds these three steps! It calls us to meditate upon the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. While meditating on the joyful mysteries, I believe that there should be a moment of silence in which we thank God for the joys in our life. While meditating upon the sorrows that Jesus underwent, we should pause and unburden our own sorrows. Then while meditating upon the glorious mysteries like the resurrection, we should pause and experience the stillness that is the result of a free mind.

The rosary is often the part of daily prayer for Christians. When we recite the rosary daily what we will need is concentration, which is sharpest when we have an intense urge, desire in life and immense faith in rosary. We may also (in case of lack of any needs or sorrows) possibly get focus by saying the prayers super fast, and that is fine as long as we still get the import of the words. That is, if we are saying the Hail Mary.., we should feel the glory of the mother even if we rush through the words. And when we follow it with the Holy Mary.., we should feel our mother praying for humanity. Similarly for the first part of the prayer to God ‘Our Father..’,we should feel the Father’s will descend upon the world and the flesh, and for the second part of the same prayer ‘Give us today..’,we should feel God’s healing descend upon us. In the prayer to the Holy Trinity.., Gods fullness and power should be felt. When asking Jesus for his gift of forgiveness, we just have to believe that our sins are forgiven. And while reciting ‘The Apostles’ Creed’ at the very start of the rosary, it is utmost important to shed any new found doubt ant declare that we do believe! This prayer is important as it decides whether the rosary will bring to us what it promises. We have to believe to receive! And the most important thing required to believe, I feel is courage.
There is a poem in which the poet says…
I’d rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light,
I’d rather walk by faith with him than go alone by sight.

And yet as every human has the freedom to think and question, Thomas too has the right, to still wonder if mother Mary is important. Here it would be relevant to know that apart from the Bible, the holy book Qur’an too speaks of Mary. Not only that, she is the only woman figure mentioned in Qur’an! That makes her important! The name of the 19th chapter in Qur’an is Surat Mariam. When two holy books accord importance to one person, that person must be important!

And yet again Thomas can ask, ‘but a prayer especially to mother Mary?’ It is important that in reciting the rosary we do not forget that we are actually worshipping and praying to God the Father. We say the Lords prayer first, which is addressed to God the Father, following which we ask our mother Mary to take up our prayers addressed to God and finally we ask Jesus to lead all souls into heaven by the forgiveness of sins. Reciting the prayer with closed minds may make us feel that the prayer involves worshipping mother Mary. Our mother Mary is our help in prayer. She is the most pure and compassionate mother of Jesus ‘the Word Incarnate’ and thereby is our mother too. These factors make a sincere rosary a powerful prayer. And yet it is very important to know what the church has to say of prayer mediation through mother Mary. For that we should refer the Vatican II. ‘No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the Goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source’ (The Church, 62). Therefore it is my interpretation that the church apart from approving intercession is also expressing that it is alright to prefer to have only Jesus as the mediator. So we needn’t feel guilty if we do not recite the rosary and prefer other forms of prayer.

Though ‘the rosary’ generally is used to refer to ‘the rosary for prayer help from mother Mary’, there are also other prayers said with beads like ‘the rosary (to the Father) for mercy’ which can also prove to be very powerful. This Chaplet of Mercy is a prayer to Father, requesting Him to remember the suffering of Jesus on the cross and thereby have mercy on us and the world.

The rosary,can also be especially useful to concentrate where a personal prayer is found to fail, for example personal prayer said on bed sometimes could make the mind wander especially when thinking up occurrences of the day for which to be thankful, or for which one might need some guidance. So, one could use the rosary when not at the regular prayer corner and speak of needs or convey gratitude after every ten beads, to keep focus. After being unconvinced to use the rosary for a good many years, it was a period of distress that led me to the rosary and finally faith in the Mother and the beads and I found that intense need, leads to immense focus on every word of the rosary and the 15 minutes of rosary can lead to trance and brings out immense power. What I am trying to say is that it depends on each person as to what will suit him or her, the spiritual stage of the person, the level of devotion and need or even the time or place. The person is therefore the primary factor that determines the effectiveness of the prayer rather than the actual method of prayer. And so every possible approach to God, be it Intercession or any other, is absolutely effective as long as the seeker intends it to be!

Finally I wish to share why today I absolutely believe in mother Mary and the mercies of the rosary. The reason is mainly in the answer to these questions. What effects you more, your child's illness or your own? Which is easier to bear, your child's physical suffering or your own? My son broke a bone of his hand and I cried. I broke a toe bone in five pieces and I did not cry. All mothers will feel that mother Mary bore the sufferings of the cross as much if not more than Jesus. It wouldn't be wrong if I feel that mother Mary is in a way a partaker in the suffering for our sins."And a sword shall pierce through your soul also, (that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed..)" Luke 2:35, were the words of Simeon to Mary when he spoke of the sign Jesus would be. Another fact is that a woman's, a mother's heart is more compassionate, more affected when it sees others suffer. When the wine was finished at the wedding in Canna, Mother, a compassionate woman, wanted to help but Jesus born a Man was not affected and asked, "Woman what is it to you and me". Reflect that at that point Jesus addressed mother as 'woman'and I believe that address held meaning. At that point Jesus put the question to the point of view of a woman! Our sufferings is often bigger in Mothers eyes, than in Jesus' eyes. I therefore am led to believe that God who intended to understand mankind through a human birth,would not forget to consider a woman's view too. And so Mother, blessed among women, has all ears when she puts her, a woman's view, a mother's view to Jesus and he would then listen respecting her perspective as he did at the wedding in Canna.

Also in one of my most trying times, it was my mother and a whole lot of women who flocked to me, many uncalled, and prayed for me unasked. And when I then saw the vision of the protector cross, the first thing I felt and with conviction was that the vision was the result of the prayers, the intercession of the compassionate women hearts....

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Section II chr9 -The Vedic approach to God

Chapter 9
The Vedic approach to God

By ‘the Vedic Approach’ I am basically intending the stress on sound vibrations. That is, the usage of mantras and chants or more specifically, ‘chanting the name of God’ as an approach to God. Repeating a name that is sacred is supposed to help in bringing us closer to God. I personally do believe that every name that generates in us a sense of the divine does bring to us all the positive energies of the world. Negative thoughts are warded off by resorting to the repetition of a sacred name and one is assured of a shield of positive vibrations. For the Christian, the name could be Jesus. The Hindus do have a number of names that are used for chanting, but all these names for them imply the one God, the one word Om.

The Upanishad says that ‘he who meditates upon ‘the Supreme Purusha’ with the immortal word Om, is freed from all sins even as a snake is freed from its slough.’
‘Om is Sabda Brahma(the word Brahma or Logos) in the divine mind and therefore by the repetition of Om, one attunes oneself to the cosmic mind and is lifted up spiritually. When the human mind is thus attuned, it becomes a channel for the flow of inspiration from the cosmic mind. Therefore, Om is considered the holiest Mantra(mystic formula for sacred repetition) and is added at the beginning of all other Mantras.’

The Matras (phonetic constituents) of Om are ‘a’, ‘u’, ‘m’, which are symbolic of the beginning, middle and end of all the worlds, entities and concepts represented by them. We Christians know that Jesus has said that he is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. It becomes evident from these words of Jesus that he has infact said that he is the Word Incarnate or in other words the incarnate of Om(also dealt earlier in section I).

It is also obvious that even if a Hindu may not know the Word Incarnate they do know the Word. They have around 33 crore Gods but all of them are worshipped with hymns that begin with the word Om. It is because all these Gods are actually the representation of the innumerable powers of the one God. The Lord Ganesha is called Om-kaara swarupa(of the form of Om). That is, this Elephant God Ganesha is a representation of the letter in Hindi for Om. Every other name of a God, be it Mahesh or Vishnu or any other, is also the name for a similar concrete representation of some of the myriad powers or virtues of the one God.

The Vedas talk about so many Beings, because it is only through the agency of the many Beings that the One Being can be known.’

Therefore it can be understood that the Hindus are not basically idol worshippers (though they do use statues of Gods for worship) as is commonly misunderstood by Christians. The true Hindu worships the one Cosmic Mind through the repetition of the mantra Om.

A question cannot be prevented from coming up as an offshoot here. ‘Does this mean that it is not wrong to use symbols and idols?’ In even asking this question, I am sure every catholic does reflect that using symbols is actually something that we ourselves are not free from. Man is quite sight oriented. He needs to at least face a cross while praying. It could also be a photo of Jesus. Buddha discouraged the use of idols and symbols, but that could not prevent the followers of Buddhism from making statues of Buddha. The Hindu gurus do not really support the use of idols. What is wrong or right about idols?

A method that is helpful to one can be a hindrance to another in achieving the same end. I will take an example to explain this. Teachers in schools are asked to use stories to attract the attention of students to the subject. This is because children are more interested in stories than in subjects. When the subject finally becomes interesting to the student, he does not need stories. Idols of the crores of Gods and also stories linked with them are similarly an age old practice used only to attract the common man to God. It is required only till the interest in God is affixed and the relationship is built.

The problem arises when the simple man never rises above the stories, to glimpse at the real God; hence the universal call to give up idols and the blind faith in the stories related to Gods. Therefore using idols is not essentially wrong but it has been found to be misleading. That is why many Hindu Gurus question the practice of idol worship (even though there is nothing inherently wrong with using an idol for convenience) because it breeds ignorance in many regarding the true nature of God.

What exactly is called the wrong practice of idol worship?

The idol worship that the Bible speaks of is of certain tribes (of those times and those regions) that could not think of anything that is not visible and therefore called any visible thing as God and put their trust in ‘things’ rather than the creator of all things. They created the images of animals and considered the image itself as God! People belonging to the tribes that had such religious practices are referred to as ‘pagan’. Such practices existed before the main world religions were adopted.

Conclusions about a religion, on the basis of some practices of the adherents of the religion, may not be at all accurate. This is because some pagan practices or pagan influences in certain practices are found among the practitioners of today’s major religions too, which I should think is quite an understandable phenomenon. So a Christian would need to study the religious scripture (of concerned religion) rather than the general practices of the followers to be clear about the basic teachings of any religion. Therefore though the term ‘pagan’ is a blanket term used with abandon to the followers of any non Christian religion, yet I find its usage very unnecessary and misleading as it extrapolates the circumstances present in a different land onto other regions.

It should be remembered that if there is a mention of pagans in the Bible it refers to the certain tribes in Israel and around.
I mention this because someone recently explained to a group of people (including me) that “To God’s displeasure, Solomon married pagan woman that is Hindu women”! Such a blunder in statements, by Christians in position to teach, is the major cause that misleads the lay Christian to believe that the Bible considers Hinduism as a pagan religion. Just reflect a moment and think- was Hinduism present in the regions, the history of which the bible speaks? Therefore, it should be clear that the Bible does not make any comment on Hinduism. And so if we want to make any comment on Hinduism then we have to study Hinduism rather than search in the Bible for an opinion.

We Christians should take care that though we may reject a method adopted by a particular religion (or by the people who follow a particular religion), we should not go further and discredit the religion itself without understanding it in its entirety. We have to reflect on our personal lives and realize that facing an idol while praying, merely as a convenience and not in ignorance about the truth about God, cannot be called wrong; for it is not the act but the heart, the thought behind the act that matters. It is the person’s heart that makes a method right or wrong. The method itself is not to be blamed.

And so to avoid confusion ‘we should move from the surface and dwell in the depths’. What I mean to say is we must not be too quick to judge others or the religion they follow and should not be confused by merely the phrasing, or the language, to think that two religions are speaking about two different Gods or two different ways to God. We have to go deeper than that to see the true picture.

Coming back to the topic at hand, the true picture is that repeating ‘the sacred name’ is practiced in all religions, though to different extents; the difference being only in the names and not in the power the names represent. The basis behind this approach is the base of all creation, namely ‘vibration’, Om, or Word! ‘Chanting the name of God’ therefore definitely cannot be considered as too far removed an approach, from the Christian approach to God.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Section-II chr8-Self awareness as an approach to God

Chapter 8
Self awareness as an approach to God

Just as the daily exercise for remaining in God for the Christian is prayer, the daily exercise for the intellectual is self awareness. The very practice of the Christian but looked upon with more of reasoning can be explained as self awareness. ‘Satan’ for the Christian would here be called the ‘false self’ that prevents one from realizing the true self. The false self creates its identity based upon all the emotions the mind experiences. When one sheds the idea that the emotions are a part of one’s self, victory over the false self is achieved.

Self awareness is being aware of what one is not. For example-when feeling angry, affirming, ‘but I am not anger’. When feeling jealous, affirming, ‘but I am not jealousy’. It does not mean denying the existence of the feelings but only rejecting them as being part of the self. Self awareness therefore does not mean being without emotion; rather it means a perpetual awareness of what the true self is not. The cloud is not the sky. The feelings are only a medium to perceive events, just like sense organs are to perceive the world. Though open to feelings, one must be constantly aware that ‘just as “I” am not the senses, “I” am not the feelings’.

This can also be compared to the Zen method of ‘total rejection’. Shed one by one what you are not, and so what finally remains, is you!

It is also obvious from the above explanation of self awareness that it is very clearly the same as ‘being dead to the world and alive in the spirit’(which is the christian approach). Self awareness and total rejection is therefore evidently the same as the Christian approach to God! What I understand is that all the three approaches perceive and experience what comes of the world but differentiate it from the true self. That is, all the three approaches do not seem to reject the body by suppressing the experiences it generates but rather only see it as separate from the true self or even as a medium to experience the true self.

The Tao religion teaches two methods; total rejection and total acceptance. We have noticed (above) how total rejection is similar to the Christian approach, and now we look at total acceptance in terms of the Christian approach

Total acceptance is in a way similar to the Hindu philosophy of seeing God in everyone and everything, in all creation. Five years back this philosophy seemed very different from the Christian approach until I heard a speech by a locally well known person in Elappara region of Kerala. The Christian approach of loving the neighbour was dealt with in such a fashion that I realized that the wall we create between different religions has to be more or less imaginary and the result of not looking at the same teaching from different angles. I will elucidate that explanation (heard at Elappara) even further by putting it forth as a dialogue between two kids discussing what they were taught in catechism….

John: I will love my neighbour as myself from today. Richard, you are my neighbour, so I will love you as myself.
Richard: Okay, so we are one.
John is confused: If we are one, then we are not neighbours!
Richard: Never mind, we have a new neighbour, Sarah. We will involve her in our gang. We three will be one.
John is more confused: If we three are one then she won’t be a neighbour either.
Richard (now irritated): Now John stop where you are, if you go on like this you will involve the whole universe in this gang.
John is silent for a moment.
John: Richard if I do that then we wont have neighbours left to love!

John has evidently understood what total acceptance is! Total acceptance can therefore be explained as ‘seeing one’s own self in everyone and everything’. This method to the experience of God asks one to be aware of the self in totality as all of what it is. Therefore, though in different words and different perspectives, total acceptance and total rejection do seem to be the two major methods taught by most religions for the purpose of achieving self awareness and thereby the experience of God. Amazingly, such seemingly opposite methods lead to the one experience! And what is more, both these methods are evidently more or less the same as the basic Christian approach to God.

in summary, self awareness is the same as total rejection which is the same as the christian idea of being dead to the world and alive in spirit. Total acceptance is similar to the Hindu approach of seeing God in all that is, and again is similar to the christian approach of loving the neighbour as oneself.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Section II chr7-The Christian approach to God

Chapter 7
The Christian approach to God

To give a personal view of the Christian Approach, I am focusing particularly on ‘Body Spirituality’ a theology (body theology), the development of which was initiated in the late seventies by Pope John Paul II. The Christian approach I would thereby say involves seeking communion with the Eternal God through the communion with the Incarnate God. This spirituality begins with awareness and acceptance of the body as a means to experience the spirit. It involves being ‘sensitive’ to the experiences of the body, both happiness and pain, being therefore empathetic, leading to tearful prayers for oneself and others in the way that the Word Incarnate Jesus has shown by example. And so here the Body is the means to communion with the Incarnate God.

In other words the experience of the true self need not be just an out of body experience but can be experienced inclusive of the body when one realizes it to be the medium to experience the Goodness of all that has been created. At the same time this does not mean one has to lose one’s peace over the pains of the world; for one thing that Jesus always promised is ‘peace that the world cannot take away’.

And being dead to the world does not need to make life boring! One can retain the sensitivity to the world and yet be aware of the peace within. What this means is that it is possible for one to cry and grieve over one’s circumstance or over the sorrow of another, experience all that the Body creates in oneself and yet if there is the awareness of the imperturbable true self, then it makes one ever conscious of undisturbed peace within. This is what the communion with the incarnate God gives us, ‘a peace that the body experiences don’t take away' . This awareness of the "peace within"is developed during a focussed prayer time, which is to be practiced daily. This time of peace is the time when one affirms to being dead to the world and alive in the spirit. The life in spirit is described in Galatians. According to Galatians verses 22-25, ‘..The spirit produces love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The spirit that is approached in prayer is given the reigns to control the direction of life, thus affirming that nothing is required from life above or beyond the will of God, affirming that one is in fact,.. dead to the world.’

The Christian resorts to help from daily prayers (for oneself and just as sincerely for others) and reading of the Holy Word to maintain the sanctity of the new creation (dead to the world and alive in spirit) that he is. But it is obvious that being sensitive means being equally affected by what happens to others and not just one’s own self and it means praying for others with sincereity. This requires that one love the neighbour as oneself. Therefore loving one’s neighbour as oneself, is also the essence of the daily practice in the Christian approach to building a relationship with God’.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Section II- chr6 Towards building a relationship with God


Chapter 6
Towards building a relationship with God

Mere understanding of God is definitely insufficient. It should only be the forerunner to building the relationship with God, and so this book is incomplete without a consideration in that regard.

I have read somewhere that one can choose to be religious but one is spiritual whether one chooses or not. This statement expresses everything very simply for the seekers of the experience of the true self. It points out very clearly that the experience of the spirit is just a matter of being willing to experience it!

Religion helps discover one’s spirituality. It is the aid to realize one’s true nature as more than a mere body. When one is aroused to one’s Christ like self, the next step is to maintain the awareness. To make this awareness of the spirit or in other words the true self more prominent, one does need to practice. All ways suggested by the scriptures or by the realized souls be it meditation or simply prayer are therefore not aids to become spiritual, but aids to help the realization of being the spirit gain so much prominence as to be perpetually present

My personal quest has been for a way that might suit me and therefore which could also be a synthesis of all the seemingly very different ways suggested by different religions. This requirement is again to also reaffirm my faith that all religions are basically speaking of the one way through different or seemingly different approaches.

Before the quest to the way to experience God, one does need an idea of what the Goal, that is the ‘experience of God' could be like. Why have so many seekers given up all pleasures of the world for that one experience? God has put into man a leaning towards the pleasurable and therefore I have been led to a conclusion that the ‘ultimate’ experience of oneness with Him has to be something similar to the pleasurable experiences of the world. In fact some pleasure even greater than all pleasures or maybe even the peak or even confluence of all pleasures. It could therefore be an experience that can be achieved by maintaining in oneself a constant state of joy, peace, love, happiness etc which are already understood by every man of this world. It is possible therefore that all of these be it joy, peace, love are the little streams that lead to the sea, that is the ultimate experience, the peak.

For those who have experienced the bliss produced in the love union of man woman, it is possible to compare it to as being nearer to the bliss that union with the spirit would generate (as an aid to understand what has not been experienced)because a union engaged in out of love for the other person thinking the other person as higher and desirable, is a union of two souls or spirits. Mankind is made in the image of God and the bliss of their union could be taken as the closest similee to the bliss of the experience of the union with God. But of course the ultimate experience of oneness with God can be understood totally only when it is actually experienced but we now have at least enough reasons to look for it!

For starters, it is sufficient to begin with the understanding of what a person tuned in to the spirit will possess. This is made clear in Galatians verse 22,23; ‘..The spirit produces love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.’

This section is an effort to start with what we basically understand and slowly through it to be led to what we may not really be sure of now. I read a book recently which to my surprise showed me that I am in a way (totally unknowingly) the adherent of ‘new age spirituality’ with probably the only difference that I am not only celebrating pluralism but have also been looking for an inherent unity that I have believed to be present in even contradicting teachings and techniques. Within this section are considered certain approaches to the experience of oneness with God. As already said, I am presenting these not only to clarify the approaches as per my understanding and study but also so that the unity in these approaches may become evident.
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