It’s a nice idea, the thought of letting go of addiction to pleasure and aversion to pain, the thought of moving away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and moving on to our true gift and home in the Tree of Life. But how do we accomplish that?
We accomplish this by practicing, practicing and practicing some more letting go of our judgments and reactions to people, things and events around us and replacing these reactions with deep understanding and compassionate service. History and the great traditions provide us with vivid and powerful examples, examples worth emulating.
In 3073 BCE, the Hindu author of the Srimad Bhagavatam wrote about Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu:
Whenever truth is forgotten in the world, and wickedness prevails, the Lord of Love becomes flesh to show the way, the truth and the life to humanity. Such an incarnation is an avatar, an embodiment of God on Earth.
Some three millennia later, Jesus is quoted as saying (John 14: 6-7, NRSV):
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.
These are not competing, but rather mutually affirming statements. The point of both of these writings, one from over 5,000 years ago and one over 2,000 years ago, is that incarnations have always happened to demonstrate the way forward, the way between the trees, the way to true life.
What is an incarnation, an avatar? It is someone in the image of God, God in the image of someone. And if what our Hindu author says is true, you can bet there were not just two. In fact, when would that be, when “truth is forgotten in the world, and wickedness prevails”? Or more accurately, when would that not be?
You, my friend, were created in the image of God. When you choose the path of a good and strong guide, when you practice letting go of ego and attachment, when you practice compassionate service of others, you, too, become the way, the truth and the life. You are that exemplar of the path.
And don’t get lost in the divinity trap. Was Krishna divine? Was Jesus divine? Yes, yes! And you were born with that same Buddha nature – created in the image of God. There is neither pride nor shame. And worship of them in our traditional sense is foolishness. True worship is to follow, to practice, to become, to be the way, the truth and the life for the next person, created like you in the image of God, just behind you on the path.
From the Mundaka Upanishad, Part III :
1Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree, intimate friends, the ego and the Self dwell in the same body. The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life (read here “knowledge of good and evil”) while the latter looks on in detachment.
2As long as we think we are the ego, we feel attached and fall into sorrow. But realize that you are the Self, the Lord of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.
3When you realize that you are the Self, supreme source of light, supreme source of love, you transcend the duality of life and enter into the unitive state.
4The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all. Seeing him in all creatures, the wise forget themselves in the service of all. The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest; such as they are the lovers of the Lord.
The Upanishads, Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran, 1987, 2007, The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation
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