Easter And The Dharmic Life
One day, a little over half a century ago, I was sitting in a coffee house in the wonderful city of Old Jerusalem. The table where I sat looked through the open front onto a cobbled street. This was the street I had come to see and to walk along. Its name was the Via Dolorosa, which means the Way of Sorrow. This is the street along which Jesus of Nazareth walked carrying his heavy cross on that first Good Friday some two Millennia ago. His back was covered with blood from the metal tipped whips with which he had been scourged and there was blood on his face from the crown of thorns that had been forced into his scalp. Though a man of strong build, he had been greatly weakened from the torture he had suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers and his cross was heavy. Story tells that he fell over at least once during his journey up the hill to the place called Calvary or Golgotha. Having reached that summit, he was nailed to the cross he had carried and remained there suffering until the sun set on that first Good Friday. Then, as bodies were not permitted to remain on a cross on the Jewish Sabbath, which was the Saturday, Jesus the Christ was killed by a spearthrust by the Roman legionnaire named Longinus. The corpse was taken down and Jesus was carried by his great uncle Joseph of Arimathea and his friend, another devotee of Jesus, named Nicodemus. They put the corpse in the private tomb in the garden of Joseph’s house in Jerusalem. Then a large stone was rolled in front of the tomb, closing it off. Finally a squad of soldiers from the Temple troops was placed on guard at the entrance of the tomb.
All was quiet throughout the Saturday, the Sabbath, but early Sunday morning brought the beginnings of the final act of this world drama, out of which a great religion was born. Somehow the stone had been rolled back and the tomb was empty. Nobody was there. A little later in the day, Jesus walked through a closed door into a room where some of his disciples had gathered. His physical body had been transmuted into a subtle body which some have called a spiritual body, a body of glory and a body of light. This is a phenomenon that Sathya Sai Baba has demonstrated many times. That is, he travels through walls or closed doors in his subtle body and when necessary lowers its vibration to create a solid body that can be felt by human hands and can be seen by normal human eyesight. Some days later, after communicating with his disciples and others, this body of Glory, this body of Light, ascended to the highest spiritual realm as Lord Rama and others have done.
What, if anything is the significance of this Easter story to you and to me? “Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected to save all mankind,” write the Christian theologians. “But,” preach the Christian evangelists, “To be saved you must believe in Him, in Jesus.” I want to take you, if you have not gone there already, a step deeper into this great, important question. In fact, Sathya Sai Baba has already shown us that step if we can take it. He teaches us that we are all one and I feel that most of us accept that, even though we may not have experienced it. But if we ordinary humans are all one beneath the surface, then surely Godmen are also all one and they are aware of it. Sathya Sai Baba has shown himself in the forms of Rama and Krishna and Dattatreya and Jesus. All physical forms are but the clothing of one Godman, one Avatar of God. Sathya Sai Baba has indicated, not only by taking the form, but in other ways, that he and Jesus are one. Once on the Christmas day platform at Prashanti Nilayam, I said a few words about the several different names Jesus had been known by when he was on earth and afterwards. One of these was Isa, which he was called in India and the Middle East. Sathya Sai Baba opened his own discourse by saying the true name of Jesus was Isa the letters of that name also make the word Sai. Isa and Sai are one. So the Godman who can save us from our iniquities and lead to the goal does not have to be named Jesus or Isa. Today his name is Sai and by his loving grace, his infinite mercy, he is leading us on to our spiritual home. But why, you may ask, did the all-loving Godman in the body named Jesus or Isa have to suffer the Via Dolorosa and the Crucifixion?
Long before the time of Jesus, in the temples of ancient Egypt, men went through the ritual of crucifixion as an initiation to the highest. But why did one have to go through it in agonising actuality on the human stage? Was it simply that a great spiritual Light should come into the dark world of the west under the Roman Empire? It was that and more than that. Spiritual masters such as Rudolf Steiner have given interesting esoteric reasons why the Crucifixion of Jesus is for the benefit of all humanity, but here I would like to give only the explanation given by our own great Master, who, as I said earlier, went through it all himself in an earlier body. And why do I say that you and I are today treading the Via Dolorosa, treading it voluntarily as the Godman did two thousand years ago? We have come through a certain doorway in consciousness from the ordinary self-consciousness of mankind to a level where we have become aware of the purpose of our lives and where we are going. We know that our destination is union with God. We know that we are treading the path to our spiritual home. We have discovered, too, beyond all doubt that we are two people. Each of us is at least two people, one the obvious self-assertive one who makes a great deal of noise on the stage of life, what Sathya Sai Baba calls the personal ego. We have inherited this from a long way back when we were parts of the animal consciousness. This was necessary for that phase of life but now, with our feet on the spiritual path, we realise that this ego who dominates our lives is really an anachronism. He is an anachronism and an impostor who belongs to a past time. He has no place in eternity. But the other Self does belong to eternity. He has been buried away in the dungeons of falsehood and maya, in the darkness of our ignorance for so long that we seldom hear his voice. And when we do, we call it ‘conscience’. It is, in truth, the voice of God and is therefore the root of all consciousness. We now know that the ego self has to be eliminated in order that the God Self can take command and guide us into that spiritual harbour which is our destination. But it is not an easy struggle while our feet are on this slippery and narrow path. Some have named it the razor’s edge. Jesus himself said that it was a way that was strait and narrow. I am calling it the Via Dolorosa.
Sathya Sai Baba has said that pleasure is just an interval between two sorrows and here we know the purpose and meaning of sorrow, hardship and adversity. We know their meaning and their value in helping our faltering footsteps up the slippery, rough, cobbled road to Calvary. We know that we must strive here to live the dharmic or sacred life that will take us in the shortest possible time to the cross on the hill and what lies beyond it. Sathya Sai Baba makes a cross with his two forefingers and states that the cross stands for the final death of the personal ego. When this false ego is finally annihilated from the body, which is its tomb, there will arise that glorious eternal spiritual Being which is our true Self. And this, as the Godman Jesus illustrated, will be able to communicate with and inspire his brother men who are still on the human path, to arise and become part of the one God.
So this great drama of Easter is important to every one of us because it illustrates what every human being must go through before he comes to his glory. It is our model. It seems to me that we must strive with all the divine will that is in each of us to live the life of dharma, the special sacred life, as we strive with brave hearts and divine understanding towards the cross of final victory that stands on the hill. We all know and we are all striving to practice those five divinely human values, those five bright beacons that our Lord has given us to keep our feet on the slippery way. I just want to say here that it behoves us to delve as deeply as possible into their meaning.
Take, for example, the first one, Sathya or Truth. It was Jesus who said, “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.” What is this truth that will set us free from our bondage? For me it is the fundamental truth of oneness. If we can reach within the glittering lights of diversity and take hold of this truth of oneness and strive to live it, then we are well on the way to freedom.
The last of the five beacons is Ahimsa or Non-violence. That seems fairly straightforward, but is it? One of our greatest Godman leaders, Lord Krishna, encouraged the violent destruction of a large part of the Kshetria caste in order to rid the world of a group that had grown evil beyond redemption. He was cutting down the diseased tree, as Sathya Sai Baba says. But Krishna encouraged the right understanding and the right attitude when necessary violence must be carried out. We know that life must be destroyed in order for man to eat and to live. When our hands are doing violent acts, from the chopping up of spinach, through the cutting down of a tree, to the slaying of men in battle, we must do it with love and reverence, without any violent feeling towards the form of life that we needs must destroy for a greater good. For all forms of life from a blade of grass to the greatest sage are a part of God. I feel it would be true to say that the more we can follow the life of dharma, the more we can weaken our false ego as we try to tread the narrow path, less painful will be the final crucifixion of the ego.
Here we have the key to true Shanti. While our feet and hands are playing their part in the tug of war between good and evil, let our minds be in the eternal, the infinite. A line from an old prayer says, “There is a power that maketh all things new. It lives and moves in those who know the Self as one.”
May that power grow in us all as we struggle up the Via Dolorosa with the great vision of oneness before us.
Reference:: “The Lights of Home” by Howard Murphet
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