Sunday, January 23, 2005

"The Lover of Truth" - a guest post by Johanna

I once wrote in an email to Johanna, "I think every person who writes a blog hopes that it will be read by intelligent people with interesting ideas of their own." Johanna's comments have been so incredibly beautiful and thought-provoking that I wrote to ask if she would like to try her hand at a full-length post. This is the result.

I hope we will be seeing more of Johanna's writing in the future.

Having mulled this over a while, I’ll see what comes up. But first, I’d like to quote the great Indian sage, Ramakrishna, who puts much of this succinctly… and it’s also in direct relationship to the recent large conversation over at Morning Coffee, and in general to what appears on Guerilla Orthodoxy.

"To worship God in order to generate material success or to be victorious in some litigation is not the sign of a true practitioner, who simply remains open to whatever gifts of abundance flow spontaneously and mysteriously from Divine Reality. This attitude of grateful receptivity does not preclude working hard at some honest occupation. Yet even when engaged in personal effort, the lover of Truth experiences the miraculous flow of Divine Sustenance, and therefore can never be obsessive about earning or saving money. Such a person becomes constitutionally incapable of being obsequious, servile, slavish, or deceptive in order to receive material or emotional compensation of any kind. The ecstatic lover cares only for Truth, not for money, adulation, or power.

"Nevertheless, surprising abundance often comes to such a person. The true lover humbly regards even minimal subsistence as a gracious gift from the vast storehouse of Divine Abundance. These true lovers no longer even instinctively reach out to grasp, becoming instead sheer receptivity. They are capable of receiving Divine Grace through a single glance, breath, or heartbeat – even through tribulation.

"The Bhagavad Gita describes this person as 'one who remains spontaneously content with whatever comes.' The person who loves Truth alone, free from any self-centered motivation whatsoever, can gratefully receive the gifts of basic sustenance or immense wealth from any direction whatsoever. By not desiring it, this person purifies it and uses it generously for the common good."

Now for the Three Temptations…

First, self-preservation, self-interest, self-importance, that primal instinct of humans to cling to life, as if it is all there is. Totally ordinary to do this, by the way. I operate on this basic assumption most of the time, if I’m really clear about what I’m doing. And realizing that makes me aware of how little I trust in or even remotely understand the Christian mystery of resurrection. But it does give me a clear direction to open myself to, even if I don’t have much of an idea of how to do that. It’s not so much something I decide as it is an attitude of ceaseless self-inquiry.

Second, the will to power. I was so struck by the particular choice of your description, that "kiss my hand, acknowledge my dominance" thing from the Church. What immediately came to my mind was something about attachment… if you are attached to the exoteric form of these gestures within the ritual, it can seem extremely offensive. But within the practice of cultivating obedience to and true faith in God it is merely another opportunity to play with and test your relationship to all of that. Esoterically, mystically (and this is one of the very wonderful things about Orthodoxy, that these levels are real and alive within the heart of the Church) it is not merely obedience to some outside authority; what we really obey is our deep understanding that truly we do not have life on our terms. Where I see it working for me is when I can have the humility to mold myself to what is, rather than demand that what is mold itself to my desires. It’s kind of like one of the basic tenets of pure rock climbing: "Never alter holds. Leave them as you found them. If you can’t do a problem as it stands, come back later when you can."

Third, messianic destiny. Yea, we all have that drive to "throw ourselves down and prove how special we are," to some degree or another. Is my even posting this diatribe just another form of that? I know it is just so hard (but ultimately so freeing) to admit to ourselves how great God is, how completely inexplicable and how incredibly small we are, for all of our pretensions of greatness and human attainment. To totally strip down the security of our personal beliefs and stand naked in our vulnerability before Existence… this is not an easy or comforting state. This is fear of God, a most profound declaration of not knowing the answers.


alana said...

Oh yes! Very well said. It is in the moments that I am totally free from desiring that others think of me in a certain way that I can truly be myself and truly worship God. And this so totally relates to the stuff being discussed over at morningcoffee.

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