Monday, August 31, 2009

nothing from the outside

Why wash your hands and mouth?
Why chant with a mouth full of fraud?
Kabir says, Search in the heart, in the heart alone.

I’ve been down at New Camaldoli for the last two and a half weeks, first on retreat with the brothers, then just hanging out––reading, hiking, eating well, enjoying the brothers’ company and the communal prayer, getting kind of re-charged from the months before and prepped for the months ahead, touching base with the “Mother Ship.” My time there ended with me giving a three-day retreat on the life and teachings of Fr. Bede and Abhishiktananda. Besides the four conferences and showing the biographical films, I was asked to preside and preach for Sunday Mass as well, as an end of the retreat and my time there

It was the Gospel from Mark 7, where Jesus and his disciples are being criticized for not purifying themselves before they ate. And Jesus says, “Nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come from within are what defile.” It really turns things around for anyone who thinks he or she can climb to heaven merely by the ladder of religious observance, to hear Jesus say that. It was especially shocking for the Jews of Jesus’ times since so many things were forbidden or restricted by the Law. But Jesus, as always, is pointing out that the real issue is something deeper. The practice of ablutions or of abstaining from certain foods, like the practice of fasting or any other spiritual practice, is really about something deeper. What is that something deeper?

Maybe this one other example will give us a first hint, still in the realm of food. I had a friend who was struggling with her weight, but even more than that she knew she was struggling with compulsive over-eating. She had started working a 12-step program around her eating issues, and she said to her sponsor how she was going to feel so good when she was skinny. And her sponsor said to her, “This isn’t about being skinny. This is about freedom.” It wasn’t what was going into her that was the real problem; it was what was coming out of her––the craving, the longing, the grasping. It’s about looking for something outside of us to make us feel good inside of us.

Don’t think advertisers don’t know this, how to exploit our natural drives for sustenance, for procreation, for building. We’ve been reading a lot lately about what scientists are calling “conditioned hyper-eating,” how food companies have made an insidious science out of this. They even boast of knowing how to set up the craving in us and even tap into the addictive cycle, tap into natural pleasures and turn them into traps. So, yes, again, it’s about freedom. We could be tempted into simply diving into Joseph Campbell’s injunction to “follow your bliss” or some kind of nebulous freedom of the children of God. But I must say, from my experience it takes us quite a while actually to find that authentic bliss, just as it takes us a long time to shake off the shackles that bind us and find that freedom. How can you tell someone who is addicted to alcohol, drugs, or to fat and sugar, or caffeine or nicotine, or shopping or pornography, to follow their bliss? Our bliss, like our real self, is hidden under our compulsions, under what Evagrius calls our “passions,” the disordered drives, the accumulated layers of conditioning and habit.

There is a reading from the Katha Upanishad that Abhishiktananda and especially Fr. Bede quoted countless times, and I’d like to bring it up in this context too.
The Self-Existent One pierced the senses
and therefore we see outer things and not the inner Self.
Rare discriminating people who desire immortality
turn their eyes away and see the indwelling Self.
The Sanskrit words used here are very interesting: the word which is translated here as “pierced”––vyatrnat––actually means more like “destroyed” or “killed” or at least “injured”: the Self-Existent One (that is, God) destroyed or killed or at least injured the senses; and so we look outside of ourselves and do not see… what? The antar-atman––the inner atman, what St. Paul or St. Peter might refer to as our “spirit” or “the inner person.”

A Yoga teacher I studied with in India used a very evocative image once. He said, “We are always eating the world, even with our eyes and our noses; we are grasping and grabbing and hauling things into ourselves. We live outside of ourselves, thinking that something from the outside is going to make us happy.” And as he said that, I thought of the climax of Augustine’s Confessions, his own conversion experience, when he says to God, “You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you… On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light.” God is within us; we are on the outside!

This is where healthy approach to asceticism and the spiritual life begins. (We are also of course in the brackish waters of the age-old dialectic between faith and works here––which the letter to James addresses head on––but healthy asceticism it seems to me is our co-operating with the movements of grace. This is what comes out of us––our response to that grace.) A first movement is somehow simply stripping away the accumulated layers that are not really us, which of course is based on a basic optimism, a belief that there’s something good about us, ¬¬created, as we are, in the image and likeness of God, and that there’s something good inside of us, so that even our “injured senses” can be conduits of the divine, and even if our nature is “fallen,” grace can and will and does build on it. As the Amritabindu Upanishad teaches,
Driven by the senses the mind becomes impure;
but when the senses are under control, the mind becomes pure.
Driven by the senses we become bound;
but with the senses mastered, we become free.
Now, by under “control” and “mastered” we don’t mean suppressed, oppressed or repressed. We mean brought into right relationship; we mean that they sacrifice their autonomy to the deepest part of us, where the Law of God is written on our hearts, the deepest part of us that, as Paul says in Romans 7, already agrees with the Law of God.

St. James teaches famously that everything we have––“every worthwhile gift, every genuine benefit––comes from above,” that is, it’s a gift; it’s all grace. But then he goes on to say that if all we do is listen to the Word that has been implanted in us without acting on that word, “we are deceiving yourselves.” So I wonder if we could also say that not only does nothing outside of us make us impure, but nothing outside of us is going to make us holy either. It’s not just the gift; it’s the affect that that gift has on us; it is how we let it transform us; it’s how we co-operate with grace; it’s how we let that become a power in our lives that makes the difference, as James adds, it’s how we “welcome that Word”––in other words, it’s what comes out of us.

A final movement, those glorious words of Moses we also heard: “What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” This has to be heard also in the context again of St. James. How close? Implanted in us, that’s how close. In this context, it’s hard not to remember St. Paul quoting Deuteronomy 30 in this regard in the letter to the Romans: The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart; or Jeremiah prophesying that the days are coming when God would make a new covenant––I will write in on their hearts. On the one hand both Paul and James use this teaching to call people to faith in Jesus––if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead. On the other hand, Paul, similarly to James, argues that just receiving the Law will not save anyone. That’s why he can say that when unbelievers––those who do not declare with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe with their hearts that God raised him from the dead––do what is written in the Law, they show that the Law is written on the heart. (This, by the way, becomes the basis of the Catholic teaching on natural law.)

This also becomes in some way the foundation of the teaching of Vatican II in Nostra Aetate, the document on dealing with non-Christian religions, that the “Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in other religions”; and why we have “a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and the doctrines which, although differing in many ways from our own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all people.” This is why the Church, urges us to “enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions;” while witnessing to our own faith and way of life, we “acknowledge, preserve and [even] encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians…”

It’s this basic optimism about the human race that gives rise to such folks as Abhishiktananda and Bede Griffiths. I’m so happy to even be an acolyte in this great procession, to be part of this optimistic lineage.

Monday, August 17, 2009

creative encounters

It is generally agreed that no religious movement can come into being or develop without having contact with other established faiths or denominations which are bound to leave their impress upon the new creation of thought and emotion.
(A.J. Arberry, from Sufism; An Account of the Mystics of Islam)
I’m on retreat now with my brother monks at New Camaldoli. (If I post this I will be being slightly disobedient: the prior has asked us to not use the computer much, if at all, during retreat.) Besides getting renewed and refreshed in the extra silence and solitude that we provide each other during retreat time, and the excellent conferences given by a holy old monk from France, Père Ghislain, it has been a really good time of reflection for me about the work of this past year, and this summer especially. This summer has been a season of creative encounters, even more than usual.

It started with me attending the Four Winds meeting with our prior Raniero way out in Carmel Valley in mid-June. The Hermitage has for some 17 years now belonged to this council along with the Window to the West center of the Esselen tribe, Esalen Institute, and Tassajara Zen Mountain monastery. What unites these centers is the Ventana Wilderness, and the group comes together four times a year––at the solstices and equinoxes––to discuss advocacy issues for the wilderness as well as to share spiritual practice. I’d forgotten that that was my first instance of actual inter-faith encounters, doing sweat lodge with Little Bear and going at least once a year to Tassajara. It has been seven years since I have been involved, since I moved to Santa Cruz, but I finally made it a point to be at the last two. For me, the highlight of this one was again a sweat lodge. Some of them in the past have been brutal (one of our monks actually had blisters on his ears and shoulders after one some years ago); this one was only intense. I enjoyed it immensely, and especially enjoyed being around the energy of the people of the Esselen tribe. What I carried away from the day with me the most was this: I always try to teach about the importance of re-incarnating the spiritual life, how important it is that the body be involved in the spiritual life––sariram khalu dharma sadhana!––and I do make some mention of our relationship to the earth as well, but not nearly enough. I realized during the sweat lodge this time that we actually cannot really understand the body if we don’t understand the earth, the ground from which it comes. That taught me something valuable and left me hungry for more.

Then Br. David Steindl-Rast and I did another event for Boulder Integral Life, which was well attended and well received, and I thought we were better prepared than last year as well. Besides the marvelous hospitality of Nomali, Jeff and Ross, at the end of that time we got another nice long visit with Ken Wilber at his home in Denver. (A snippet of our visit is on YouTube, though it’s all of Ken speaking. I was reminded of Ronald Reagan’s visit with the Pope. Afterward he said, “It was a good visit. We exchanged views. And his views were, obviously, better than mine.” There is also one video of me singing a song from the concert the first night of the conference.)

After that I was for the better part of a week in Chicago. Actually I say Chicago but really I was in an air-conditioned bubble near O’Hare Airport, at a pastoral musicians’ convention. It was the polar opposite of the sweat lodge. I have a lot of friends there, and it is as always great to see them, but I have a hard time warming up to the environment of events such as that, so large and electrified, and so detached from earth. From there I scooted along the south shore of Lake Michagan over to Notre Dame and did a concert in a nice venue for the third year in a row called ND Vision, for high school students.

Then David and I did a weekend at Esalen, pretty much the same thing we did in Boulder but more relaxed. I think it went really well. I’ve been stepping out more and more, daring to talk about the universals of the spiritual life. This workshop was not designed for Christians but was specifically called “The Universal Call to Contemplation.” Though we never asked anyone’s affiliation (as is my want) I know for a fact that we had folks from many different paths, from yogis to Iranians Jews. There was at least one person, a Catholic, who did not like me using this approach, and we had a couple of very difficult exchanges about it. It is work I take very seriously and work that has to be done very carefully, but it is definitely the work I want to do, to find our common ground, to explore the universals. Overall, though I’ve not seen the official evaluations, folks were well pleased and I was too.

With some friends I attended the Chautaqua gathering up at Mount Madonna in mid-July. I may not do it justice in describing it, but it is a gathering that aims at exploring new models of education through re-negotiating the social contract of the classroom. It is led by Ward (SN) Mailliard, educator-entrepeneur of Mount Madonna School, with the legendary anthropologist Angeles Arien, and the well-known consultant (how do you describe him?) Peter Bloch, the author of “The Answer to How is Yes.” I enjoyed it a lot, especially because many of the attendees were my friends who had spoken highly of the gathering and I was happy to learn what is “working” them.

Then I led another silent retreat at San Damiano, Danville, this one definitely focused more for Catholics or other Christians, but still from the universal perspective. And then I was able to slip away for an overnight, at their invitation, to Tassajara. It was the first time I had been there in seven years as well, and I was so happy to be there. I had a couple of good conversations with the regulars and summer workers, I did a musical performance for guests and student workers I the afternoon, I had a couple of good sits in the zen-do, and of course relished the incredible cuisine. The highlight of the time though was spending the morning hiking and talking (and playing blues guitar––go figger!) with a Japanese Zen monk. His English was rudimentary but he and we did okay. I’ve been kind of fixed on Dogen-zenji lately, so it was good to talk to someone close to the source. He is also, at least up ‘til now, a celibate monk. The Japanese Zen tradition for the most part has married monks and priests. (There is a long conversation about the difference between monk and priest, and vows and ordination that I have had a number of times, but it’s too subtle for here and now…) Anyway, this does make him a but unique, dedicated mainly to meditation––not merely training in the monastery so that he can go back to a village temple and perform weddings and funerals; he, like Sunryu Suzuki, wants to teach people za-zen. It is always a surprise to Americans to find out that za-zen is more a phenomenon here than there. And so, he has been loving “American za-zen!”

Last big thing was a talk I did for the Pacifica Institute. This is a Turkish Muslim group dedicated to promoting inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue. I first met some of the folks from this group at our Tent of Abraham gathering last Fall, and they subsequently invited me to come and speak to them about my own faith journey, monastic life, and my experience of and interaction with Islam in my travels. I thought about this talk for months but, oddly for me, I wasn’t sure if I would even write anything down. They had also asked me to sing some songs, so I thought I might improvise the whole thing, sing songs and tell stories. But Saturday morning before the talk that evening, I sat down and wrote for about two hours, borrowing the title from Bro. David’s book with Philip Kapleau, about “The Ground We Share.” And I was glad I did. Perhaps I’ll post the rest of the talk later, but for now I’m just gonna include here below my opening remarks, because they sort of sum up where I am at with this theme of universality. These remarks contain in them a little bit of Boulder, Esalen, the sweat lodge, Tassajara, and all the creative encounters of this summer.

* * *

My main influence has been Fr. Bede Griffiths who taught about what he called the Universal Call to Contemplation, which means that every person is called to share in the grace of the contemplative life, mystical union with God––not just “professional religious” such as monks and nuns. This Universal Call to Contemplation also means that at the heart and at the summit of all the world’s great religions there is a contemplative-mystical core. Here is how he put it in an interview for the video “The Human Search”: “…when we get beyond the multiplicity to unity, we find a common tradition, a common wisdom that we all share.”

In the scholarly world this is known as the perennial philosophy, but it is not a notion shared by everyone. Some rather think that we start out with a problem and our religions are our way of solving that problem, the problem of death, the problem of evil. But I prefer this approach, that we start out with an experience, and our religions, our faith traditions, are our way of understanding that experience and letting that experience transform our lives; then our faith traditions are our way of passing that experience on, articulating it through language, ritual, song, dance and art. As that experience starts to get expressed one person’s version of it looks very different from another’s, and that should be no surprise. For all of his teaching about the universal call, and the universal wisdom Bede wrote in River of Compassion:
The Buddhist nirvana and the Hindu moksha are not the same, nor are they the same as the Christian vision of God. So the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Muslim and the Christian are all experiencing the ultimate Reality but experiencing it in different ways through their own love and through their own traditions of faith and knowledge. There are obviously various degrees as well. There is a tendency to say that there are no differences anymore, but I do not think that is true.
And beyond that he added, beautifully:
In a sense, the experienced of the ultimate truth is different for each person, since each person is a unique image of God, a unique reflection of the one eternal light and love.
Now, that need not negate our efforts at understanding each other and finding common ground. Our sangha in Santa Cruz has as part of its mission statement that we aim “…to understand the experience of Ultimate Reality as found in all the world’s spiritual traditions.” In order to do that, I need to really try to enter into someone else’s experience of ultimate reality as much as I can. My friends know that there are a few words that really raise my hackles, and they are, “It’s all the same.” No. We have very different experiences and I want to respect those differences, understand them as legitimate expressions of an experience of the Divine, and even uphold them as someone else’s vehicle for union with God. That’s when the real work starts, finding “unity in diversity.” To use other words of Fr. Bede from Return to the Center:
I have to be a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jain, a Parsee, a Sikh, a Muslim, and a Jew, as well as a Christian, if I am to know the Truth and to find the point of reconciliation in all religion.
And so the journey to the center... The challenge for all of us, each of our religious traditions, is to re-discover the depth of our own tradition, the original inspiration. Fr. Bede said,
That is the hope for the future: that religions will discover their own depth. As long as they remain on their surface, they will always be divided in conflict. When they discover their depth, then we converge on the unity… (A)s you go deep into any religion, you converge on the center, and everything springs from that center and converges at that center...
I find this very exciting, because I have been convinced by thinkers greater, holier and wiser than I that we are entering into a new phase in the history of the planet. Without getting into it too deeply here, some call it the second axial period. Whereas the first axial period was marked by a birth of a sense of the individual spiritual path, individual ethical responsibility, the birth of the rational mind and self-consciousness, this new period will be and is already marked by a sense of global consciousness. We are now aware that every tribe, nation and religion in some way shares a common history, and that is making us realize that we belong to humanity as a whole and not just to our specific group, be it ethnic, social or religious.

Part of the challenge of this new consciousness in this new period of history is horizontal: cultures and religions (and they often go together) meet even on a surface level and enter into what Ewert Cousins calls “creative encounters.” But those creative encounters are not going to make of us one bland world religion; we borrow the phrase from the great paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin––this convergence gives birth to “complexified collective consciousness.” That’s a mouthful, eh? What it means is that true union diversifies; our union, the convergence of our centers of consciousness gives birth to more creativity. At the same time, again borrowing from Teilhard, “everything that rises will converge,” that is, everything that is reaching for spirit will eventually meet.

From a vertical perspective (and this is why the cross is a universal, archetypal symbol), this new consciousness is not only communal and global––the horizontal axis, it is also ecological and cosmic. So it is also necessary for us, all cultures and religions, to plunge our roots deep into the earth in order to provide a stable and secure base for future development. This new global consciousness has to be organically ecological, supported by structures that ensure justice and peace. So at the same time, we also need to band together to “bring about a new integration of the spiritual and the material, of sacred energy and secular energy into a total global human energy.” (Ilia Deleo, Christ in Evolution, 28) Thus the need for dialogue, community, and relationship––“well-worn paths between huts”––with a growing awareness that each person and each group is something of the whole, and is bringing a valuable part of the conversation.

Let me end my remarks with this quote from A.J. Arberry in his book on Sufism:
It has become a platitude to observe that mysticism is essentially one and the same, whatever may be the religion professed by the individual mystic: a constant yearning of the human spirit for personal communion with God. Much labour and erudition however have also been expended upon the attempt to shew how one form of mysticism has been influenced by another; while proof is often difficult or even impossible in such elusive matters, it is generally agreed that no religious movement can come into being or develop without having contact with other established faiths or denominations which are bound to leave their impress upon the new creation of thought and emotion. …While mysticism is undoubtedly a universal constant, its variations can be observed to be very clearly and characteristically shaped by the several religious systems upon which they were based.
With that in mind, we can talk about the ground we share…

Sunday, August 16, 2009

tending toward god

To live toward God alone
and to hold oneself in God’s presence.
To leave all to attain peace.
To choose silence for grasping the Word.
To be that disciple ever ready
for a word, a command.

To see the universe
in its true measure,
the universe as a point of light,
a mere grain of sand transfigured by Love.
To know that each thing is in God
precious and pure.

(from a French hymn in honor of Saint Benedict)

In the Roman tradition we celebrated a great feast yesterday, the feast of the Assumption. This is actually the second time I’ve preached on it at New Camaldoli, my home monastery, and hence this will also be the second blog I’ve written on it (see August 14, 2007, if you’re so inclined). My favorite description of the feast of the Assumption apparently comes from a little kid who was asked what the feast of the Assumption was and answered, “This is the day when we assume that Mary is in heaven.” Actually that’s not a bad place to start.

I’ve been reading Ilia Delio’s new book recently, “Christ in Evolution” and, though not only for that reason, become quite taken up lately thinking about evolution––not just the evolution of the material world, but of the evolution of consciousness, and spiritual evolution. (Of course hanging out at Esalen with David Steindl-Rast will do that to you as well.) I’m especially fascinated by how evolution has affected our understanding of Christ and Christology. And I was also thinking about the Assumption in the light of this evolutionary thinking. (All the quotes to come will be taken from Ilia’s book.)

In an older world-view and in an older theology, we tended to think that the world came forth from God perfectly formed, unchangeable, just as it is now. (Some even go so far as to suggest that even the fossils were created as fossils.) Of course Darwin turned all that topsy-turvy, and the debate still rages between evolution and creationism or intelligent design. Growing up a liberal Catholic, I never once heard anyone say that there was any conflict between theism and evolution. It was something like “intelligent evolution. Nor have I heard of any conflict from the last popes. As a matter of fact when theology gets a hold of evolution, we begin to understand creation not simply as “something that happened at the beginning of time but … rather the continuing relationship of the world to its transcendent ground.” In the hands of someone like Teilhard de Chardin, suddenly evolution is not just biological ascent, not just a movement toward more complexified life forms; it’s not merely an urge to evolve new and more complex biological forms: it’s a movement toward greater consciousness, the emergence of mind in the universe, and, more importantly for our purposes, it’s a movement of matter to spirit. There is mind embedded in the physical fabric of the cosmos and that consciousness is leading the whole evolutionary process to a culmination in the human spirit. This of course is where we meet the likes of Sri Aurobindo and more currently Ken Wilber. Christians sees Jesus as the apogee of that movement, the union of matter and spirit. Matter, which is alive with energy, evolves to spirit, and the human person is matter come to consciousness. Teilhard wrote that evolution tends toward an Omega point, and Christians call that Omega point “Christ.” (I was impressed to find out that Omega Institute in New York, that progressive think tank and center for human potential was named so for Teilhard.)

In other words, for this reason we can “assume Mary is in heaven.” If Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, as St. Paul says, was only the first fruits, that means that the resurrection is the anticipation of what is intended for the whole cosmos––which is groaning and in agony while we await the redemption of our bodies––and our bodies are the second fruits. And Mary’s body is the first fruit of that second harvest.

It’s not the Mary did not die. This feast was celebrated as early as the 5th century in the East and in Rome, where it was known as the dormitio. We don’t necessarily claim that she didn't die, but that she “slept.” But by adding that she was assumed body and soul into heaven Christianity claims incredibly that her flesh was preserved immune from the corruption of the tomb. What this means of course is that another human being has shared the triumph over death, and is glorified after the pattern of Jesus; and thus she becomes the iconic image of the woman clothed with the sun in the book of Revelation, another sign pointing to Jesus who is in turn pointing the way to the Father. In other words, even death is not an annihilation. Just as “Jesus is not annihilated on the cross but lives in a radically transformed mode in the presence of God for eternity,” so what happens in Jesus also “anticipates the future of humanity and of the cosmos: not annihilation of creation but its radical transformation through the power of God’s life-giving Spirit.”

In other words, Christ having risen from the dead, we can “assume that Mary is in heaven.” We can also assume that we are meant to share this transformation, along with all creation.

The question remains, how? How do we make ourselves available to this? The readings from the vigil Mass of the feast make it very clear. First there is a reading from 1st Chronicles about the ark of the covenant, asking us to see Mary as the new “ark of the Word.” That is coupled with that shocking Gospel from Luke when Jesus says rather than blessed is the womb that bore him and the breasts that nursed him (Mary) but blessed is anyone who hears the word of God and keeps it as a treasure in the heart. Blessed are all those who are arks of the covenant, who make room in their virginal hearts for the Word. I’m on retreat with the monks right now and that tied in beautifully with what our retreat master, a beautiful old French Benedictine named Fr. Ghislain, said to us yesterday, about St. Benedict being and we monks needing to be disciples ever ready for a word, a command. (See the hymn above.) And even more, another phrase he used played right into my hand. We read the Magnificat, Mary’s canticle from the Gospel of Luke again as the Gospel. We hear that canticle over and over again, evening after evening, because we sing it for evening prayer every night in our tradition, so that we can barely hear it anymore. But suddenly it came alive again when I translated “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit finds its joy in God” to Fr. Ghislain’s phrase, “my whole being tends toward God.” This is the evolutionary movement in me, and it’s really love, it’s eros. My whole being is evolving toward spirit; my whole being is tending toward union with God if I but follow its tendency; my whole being, as St Basil wrote, is in the process of becoming God, whatever that means! This tending, this kind of evolving transforms my whole person––spirit, soul and body, and nothing is left behind, and my real self hidden with Christ in God is not annihilated, even at death, but enters ever more deeply into communion with the Divine who also leans toward me––who “looks upon his servant in her lowliness.”

This evolution is going on in us here and now, whether we are aware of it or not. And a feast like this urges us to be aware of it, to lean into our own tendency toward God who is leaning toward us, and to allow that evolution to take place in us ‘til we are assumed––spirit, soul and body––into the life Divine.

I know I wrote this before, but in this light it seems a propos to mention Aurobindo once again. As it turns out, his birthday was also August 15th, and when India finally won her independence, someone wrote to him remarking that wasn’t it wonderful that India should have won her independence on his birthday? He replied that it was even more wonderful that India would have won her independence on the feast of the Assumption when a mortal was assumed into the Life Divine, which he thought was the destiny of all humanity––that was the point of his integral yoga. He wrote:
The physical consciousness and physical being, the body itself must reach a perfection in all that it is and does which now we can hardly conceive. It may even in the end be suffused with a light and beauty and bliss from the Beyond and the life divine assume a body divine.
That’s a pretty good assumption, too.