Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vision Five

PROLOGUE
How does our individuality and desire play a key part of being "godly?" Is Heaven composed of drones who are exactly alike, or do they all differ from each other?

It is my assertion that there is a commonalty, and that is their desire to relate with each other in a spirit of joy. In other words, "Heaven” is not about taking orders or doing everything the same way. In fact, you could say that is “hell.”

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

Herein lies the definition of “righteousness” and “good works.” If it is something that interests us, we are passionate about it, and it is aligned (or “at-one”) with God’s will and purposes, then this is righteousness. It comes about as a change of one’s heart, and opening us up to the realization that the Gospel is “fun and exciting” because it brings the most important component of all to the table: DESIRE. It is not a matter of one waiting to be told what to do, but creating because it brings joy to ourselves and others. There is no "economy" here. I do not take actions based on the hope of a reward or an exchange of my "good deeds" (what Nephi calls "merits") for "blessings."

Look at the following 5 examples of people who had been “born again.” Take notice of what immediately follows the change of heart:

ENOS
Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them. 

ALMA
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

KING LAMONI
And it came to pass that when they had established a church in that land, that king Lamoni desired that Ammon should go with him to the land of Nephi, that he might show him unto his father.

SONS OF MOSIAH
Now it came to pass that after the sons of Mosiah had done all these things, they took a small number with them and returned to their father, the king, and desired of him that he would grant unto them that they might, with these whom they had selected, go up to the land of Nephi that they might preach the things which they had heard, and that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites.

THREE DISCIPLES
And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.

Notice that none of these were instructions, commandments or promptings. They all DESIRED it with their hearts. They weren’t waiting on the Lord to tell them what to do. They acted upon it, (or in one case, were hesitant to express it, but the desire couldn’t be contained). Also, notice that it was not to gratify some sort of lust or their pride, or to receive something in exchange. Their desires were at-one with God’s will. 

The scriptures say that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Have you thought about what that means? From the Lectures on Faith it is clear that faith is a "principle of action." If it is a principle of action, whose action is it? Must you do something, and if so, what? What action must you take? What is the role you occupy in faith?

The Lectures on Faith also say that faith is a "principle of power." What does that mean? Whose power? Is there a relationship between the action of man and the power of God?

Think of any great example of faith in scriptures and apply these questions to them. It can be as simple as David and Goliath, or as complicated as Elijah. After you have studied the example, ask yourself, "what action did the man or woman take? Why did they act in that way? What was the intention? How was God's power used? Who controlled the power? More precisely, from what source did the power come? Is this principle of power connected with priesthood? If it is, then when any person exercises faith as a principle of power, are they exercising priesthood?

We, by “doing” things based on a desire that is aligned with God, are exercising “Priesthood.” Or, in other words, we are behaving as the brotherhood of high priests behaves, who exercise faith out of their desire to bring people to Christ. What, then, is this “power of God?” Belief. The gods are such because they believe Christ’s story. This is their power. And we too, if we deny ourselves of all “ungodliness” can be “perfected in him” because his grace is sufficient.

2 Nephi 2:25-27:  
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

D&C 121:36-37: 
Many are called, but few are chosen…That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

"Priesthood" is that we are acting based on the desires of our hearts, which will be unique for everyone. The things that come as a result are “righteous” works, or acts of faith. What a freeing discovery this is! It means that I can be myself, and pursue the desires of my heart… and not doubt that they “don’t count.” Christ does not care about counting. He cares about our hearts. Anything we create out of this place: belief, desire, and being at-one with God’s plan or theme, makes us “godly.” This is the power of the gods. This is the priesthood. This is good works and righteousness. This is faith.



THE VISION
I was in a very large room, and all about me people were busily scurrying in every direction. They all seemed to have urgent business and were quickly moving to run errands or take care of business. Oblivious to them, I saw a group of people in the center of the room at a large table, that extended beyond my view. The people sitting were enjoying some sort of festivities, which included a great banquet. They were laughing and enjoying each other while they feasted.

In the middle of the long table sat the Savior! I knew it was Christ, not because of what He looked like (although I suppose He had a beard and fit the common description, it just didn’t seem important), but by how He FELT. There was a presence of pure joy coming from Him. He was laughing and engaging those around Him. I really wanted to be by His side, but it seemed there were no seats available.

I went ALL THE WAY to the end of the table (which seemed like miles away), looking for a place to sit down at the feast, but found nothing. A bit dejected, I returned back to where I started and realized that there, directly in front of Him was and open seat! I sat down and He continued talking and laughing with the others, not in some gregarious way, but like He was completely engaged and connected to them. Then, if for only a second, He stopped, then turned His head and looked directly at me, then SMILED. My heart felt like it was on fire!! Not even in my dream of Zion did I feel such joy!

THE SONG

Excerpts from The Living Gita, A commentary for modern readers by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Note: “Bhagavad Gita” means “Song of God.”

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Commentary: When you go to a teacher saying, “I know a little bit, can you add a little more?” or, “I know, but can you verify it?” you are just going there to check your capabilities, not to learn anything new. If you want to learn, go empty and open. “I’m an empty cup; please pour in all you can.” If you go with a cup already full, even if the teacher pours something good, where will it go? It’s not that she or he is miserly; the teacher would like to pour, but it will overflow and go to waste. So empty your cup.”


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Commentary: Sometimes people say, “Probably, it’s too late for me now. I don’t know how long I will live to practice these things. I don’t have much time.” Or, “I’m too old to do all this. I’ve wasted my life.” But here the Lord gives confidence to such people:

Krishna: In these practices, no effort made is lost, nor are there adverse effects. Even a little practice of this dharma protects one from great fear.


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Krishna: The one who has trained the mind to stay centered in equanimity, in this life, has cast aside both good and evil karma. Therefore, by all means practice Yoga; perfection in action is Yoga.

Commentary: I often quote this sloka as a definition of Yoga. “Yogah karmasu kaushalam;” Perfection in action is Yoga. An act becomes perfect when you do it with all joy and without expecting anything in return. All other acts, however wonderful they are, however beautiful they look, whatever religious label they get, are imperfect acts, because they will affect the mind. Then you are not free from the feeling of profit or loss.

You might ask, “Why can’t I do something and get some merit? You say to let go of all results, but what about good results? What’s wrong with that?” Lord Krishna’s reply is that whether they are good or bad, they are going to bind you.


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Krishna: Arjuna, in the beginning I gave the world a two-fold path: the way of discerning wisdom (Jnana Yoga) and the way of selfless action (Karma Yoga).


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Krishna: It is better to do your own dharma (calling) even imperfectly, than to do someone else’s dharma perfectly. Even better to die in your own dharma than in another’s, which brings great fear.


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Commentary: It’s okay, just flow. Feel the unseen hand directing you every minute, taking you along from one thing to another. Know that it’s always unplanned by you and for the good of everybody.


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Commentary: The minute you feel that you want help and guidance, someone to save you, [mercy even], then the savior comes. And nothing can stop Him from saving you; neither land nor sea. Even the sea will part. All scriptures also have their esoteric meanings, over and above the story itself. When God wants to help you, nothing can stop Him. That’s the promise that God gives… The only thing is, you have to follow [and believe] Him.


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Krishna: With the keen blade of knowledge, sever any doubts due to ignorance that you may still hold about Atman, the true Self, which abides in your own heart… Stand up Arjuna!


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Krishna: A person can rise up through the efforts of his own mind; or in the same manner draw himself down, for each person is his own friend or enemy.


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Krishna: Arjuna, I am the taste in pure water, the radiance in the sun and moon; in all scriptures, the sacred word OM; the sound of silence; and the virility in men. I am the fragrance of the earth, the brilliance in the fire, the life in all beings, and the purifying force in austerity. Know me, Arjuna, forever present as the origin of all beings. I am intelligence in those who are wise, and splendor in all that is beautiful. I am the power in strength, that is untainted by passion or personal desire. In fact, I am the desire in all beings, Arjuna, when desire is in accord with dharma [one’s calling, virtuous teachings].


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Commentary: If you have faith, you can see God in everything. He’s not at just one particular temple or church that’s decorated with gold, silver and velvet. You can worship God anywhere. There isn’t just one place or one form for God. We should know that. Unfortunately, many people, and even some religious people misunderstand. Then they don’t really experience that spirit. They simply read the scriptures and take them literally. They miss the spirit of teaching by holding onto the letter of teaching. Letters have their own limitations. The spirit will reveal more to you than the letter.


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Commentary: Likes and dislikes are caused by either wanting to get happiness or not wanting our happiness disturbed. But both of these attitudes are caused by lack of knowledge that we have happiness always and it need not come from outside. Nobody can make us happy; nobody can make us unhappy. Happiness is always in us. The moment we forget the truth of our own true Self, we are deluded and begin to look for it from the outside.


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Krishna: The fruit of good actions is a pure and harmonious mind. The fruits of impatience ultimately are pain and suffering. And the fruit of inactivity is ignorance (mistaking the unreal for the real).


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Krishna: The wise speak of an eternal Asvattha tree (sacred fig) with its roots above and branches here in this world. Its leaves are the Vedas (holy scriptures). Whoever understands this tree knows the most sacred wisdom.


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Krishna: I am present in everyone’s heart. Thus, I give rise to memory and understanding – or take them away. In fact, I am that which is to be realized ultimately: I am the zenith of all sacred scriptures.


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Commentary: When you feel to give something to someone simply because you feel it is right to give it, and there is no thought of receiving anything in return, and it is given at the right moment, at the right place to the right person, then it is pure giving.


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Krishna: When the agent of an action (the individual) has let go of attachment to the fruits and (thus) is free of the egoistic feeling of separateness, yet is still full of enthusiasm and fully committed, then that agent is not affected by (so-called) success or failure.


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Commentary: God just gave you a little intelligence and is waiting to see if you are intelligent enough to use it properly by linking your intelligence with His. You’re still free to keep it separate and say, “It’s mine. I’m just going to play with it and do everything myself.” But the truly intelligent person will link his or her intelligence with the higher intelligence.


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Arjuna: My delusion has been destroyed. Through your grace, Krishna, my knowledge is returned. I now remember the way. I am free of doubt, and strong and steady (on the path). From now on, I will act according to your words.


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Vignettes:

Bring Him Home

Maurice Duruflé: Requiem




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Next post: Sunday, July 6