By Jagath Asoka –
I invite you to take a break from mundane things such as petty-party-politics and pay attention to things that will remain as mysteries forever, because no one can know these things; we are moving in a world of images and concepts and none of our reflections touches the essence of these mysteries; perhaps, we can experience them.
There is only one way to look at mundane things that are going on around you: With aloof amusement because soon you will forget everything, and everything will forget you.
Even a Buddhist must ask, “Is it possible to live my life that is modelled on Christ’s or to live my own life as truly as Christ lived his: betrayed, denied, mocked, crucified, and abandoned?What is the driving force behind your own life? Does the public opinion or the moral code stands behind your action, or is it your unconscious personality, which is a mystery? Just like the Buddha and Christ, are we what we always were?
Recently, I did a small survey and asked, “What is the actual meaning of the word ‘Christ’?” I am not going to reveal the results of my survey for obvious reasons. Go figure!
If the divine experience is lost, God is dead, and the mystery has faded in you, what is next for you?
Probably you have heard or read the following: The son of God died; this is believable because it does not make sense. And after he was buried he rose again; this is quite certain because it is impossible.” Wow! Surely, this kind of thinking is not for the faint hearted.
If you are a Christian, the grace of God is everything to you; you are puny, so always be mindful of your impotence; the death and resurrection of Jesus brought salvation. In Buddhist soteriology, when the ego disappears, man redeems himself; a Gnostic would say that the divine substance hidden within us is known only to a very few. When you look at what is happening everywhere, it seems like “God is really dead; He is not pretending to be dead. Who is going to resurrect Him?”: at least psychologically. The Old Testament God is like a sea of grace on fire. In the Old Testament, Yahweh revealed himself in Nature; sometimes he was cruel; in the New Testament, God became man: Now, man is God, and God is man.
If you are a Buddhist—I invite you—visit an empty, old church; if you are a Christian, visit an old Buddhist temple on a full moon day when people are not around. You will experience numinosum which will alter your consciousness. When there is religious sentimentality instead of the numinosum of divine experience, then you know that religion has lost its living mystery. For most people, creed and dogma may not after all have any meaning in their lives. There are people who have had an immediate experience; they would not submit to the ecclesiastical authority. For dogma to survive, dogma must be a living thing which is capable of change and development.
Is Jesus God? This is a theological question, and I am—a student of religion—cannot answer that question. My views on religion are not based on creed, dogma, devotion, or faith, but on my own experience. Around 2.4 billion—out of 7.6 billion people—would say, “Yes, Jesus is God.” Though I am not a Christian, how Jesus became God fascinates me, and I plan to be a student of religion for the rest of my life. If I must bet, I would go with Blaise Pascal to satisfy both contingencies: existence and not existence of God.
The claim that Jesus was God separated early Christians from Judaism. Why did Christianity spread through the pagan world so rapidly? Was Adonis, the archetypal dying-and-rising god, a prefiguration of Christ? Was the Osiris-Horus-Isis myth a prefiguration of the Christian legend of salvation? Why did the pagans embrace Christian symbols with such alacrity? Was it because they were similar or sometimes identical? If Emperor Constantine had not converted to Christianity, or Emperor Asoka had not embraced Buddhism, all of us would probably be pagans or Jews; certainly, I would be a pagan!
Throughout the history, there have been numerous ways that people have understood the divinity of Jesus. The Trinity, which is a mystery to me—there are three distinct persons, namely, God, Jesus, and the holy spirit, yet there is only one almighty God who manifests in all three persons—was not the view of Jesus or the followers of Jesus during Jesus’ life time.
The basic historical questions are very simple: When did the followers of Jesus start believing that Jesus was divine or God? The sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John about his divinity do not make much sense from a historical point of view; theologically, of course. When they started believing that Jesus was God, what did they mean? Was Jesus co-eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and identical with God, God the Father? First it was homoiousia then homoousia. In addition to being fully divine, Jesus is fully human, so the Trinity is a revelation of both God and man: man is God, and God is man. Some people think that other peoples’ religions are fiction: They think only their religion consists of facts.
Throughout Christian history there have been several ways that his followers have understood how Jesus is God. As far as history is concerned, what people thought of Jesus’ divinity has changed over the years. The divinity of Jesus changed from the beginning with Docetism, Separatism, Modalism, and the Trinity. I have no desire to explain these concepts because most people do not give a hoot about these concepts, but these concepts will edify, illuminate, and tantalize you. In Christianity, God and Satan are separate: Two separate seas, a sea of grace and a sea of fire.
The Shadow is very much a part of human nature. When the learned try to repress the demons within them, they force the demons to revolt. A small evil becomes the Devil if you disregard and repress it. Are you weary of bad people of the world, especially when you are one of them? A Buddhist would say the gods and demons are truly within him; they well up from unknown depths and reveal themselves to us through our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Know your gods and demons because they have an effect on you.
Every deep realization of humanity arises from the suffering of the body and soul. All people suffer, but not all pity themselves: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. All of us die, but not all of us die whining: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!”
Whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Muslim, if you can help it, please never preach your belief! I think God and Christ would hate exaggeration.
I know that I am an omnireligiophile and a perpetual student of religion. If you know in what form a man can experience God, please let me know.
Merry Christmas. And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness, for auld lang syne.