The challenge for us moderns often is seeing (or recognizing, admitting) the limits of our reasoning abilities. The mind can – if we allow it – become the greatest obstacle to our spiritual growth. (That said, I do still counsel that people of faith must govern their religious fervor with reason, but do read on.)
The materialists among us (was not Marxism, or at least Marxism-Leninism, also called dialectical materialism?) put their faith or confidence often times exclusively in science, and the concrete or material aspect of the natural world. These persons tend to reject the spiritual dimension of reality as the spiritual cannot be dissected and measured in the chemistry or physics laboratories. But, that does not disprove the reality of the spiritual realm or dimension of being.
In India, there are various types of yoga (originally the word meant to yoke one’s soul to the Divine, from the Sanskrit). Hatha yoga stresses bodily control and its practitioners often assume extreme bodily positions. Karma yoga is the path of works, i.e. charitable, constructive works and actions. Jnana yoga is the path of knowledge of the Divine. The idea being that you can develop spiritually and achieve a higher level of consciousness through the acquisition of knowledge and through philosophical reflection and discourse.
But, the mind and knowledge can only take you so far on the path towards God and higher consciousness.
Bhakti yoga, or loving devotional service to God, is the means that can help a seeker on his path to spiritual growth and a stronger faith in, and love of, God. This is important to consider. Too many moderns, especially we Westerners, demand physical proof of everything. Despite what we say, we are reluctant to accept anything on faith. (Oddly, this has not always been true of Western peoples. It is only from about the 17th century, that there has been an over emphasis on the rational, and the physical or material in Western thinking.)
“So what”, you may say.
If you have reached a plateau or a brick wall in your spiritual journey, you may want to reflect on what you are doing on that path, and on what you are failing to do.
How this ties into Christianity is that Jesus’ ministry was a public ministry. He was out among the people. Jesus was not a lone hermit living in a deep forest, or far away on a remote mountain top, or in a cave. Jesus’ actions were congruent with His words. And, that we ought to think on that. So many of us claim to have faith, but how authentic, how deep, how real is that faith? Is it a dynamic faith that enlivens us spiritually and helps us to live a more loving, more constructive, and less egocentric life? Devotional service to God includes helping other seekers and doing loving, charitable works to our fellow human beings. “Love, devotion and surrender” is a powerful phrase. By and through love we can devote our energies and our talents to serving God and others in the here and now. Surrendering our ego, and our worldly attachments can be spiritually liberating.
Consider that love is felt in the heart (or the more emotional side of our mind, if you prefer). You have to feel and experience that love to reach closer to God, and that is when you go beyond relying too heavily on the rational part of your mind. The spiritual can be known through experience, if you are open to it. (In fact, that last statement may be a “no-brainer” for many folks. Many persons believe that consciousness is spiritual in nature, and that it is not produced by electrical activity in the protoplasmic brain, but rather transcends brain. Of course, the neuroscientists, materialists that they are, reject this idea.)
Let us not just practice random acts of kindness, but let us be intentionally, purposely kind to all who we encounter. (Although, we clearly recognize that many of those around us are still imprisoned in a bodily level of consciousness and may not appreciate nor be able to reciprocate our kindness.)
Some food for thought for this Christmas season.
Our feature image tonight is a photo of a painting in a local department store. Even with the shadow cast by an overhanging plastic shelf, we see an impressionistic approach to painting a big city skyline. A close up view of the actual painting evokes thoughts of a modern urban metropolis. Monoliths of concrete and steel dominate the skylines of such big cities (Sao Paolo, Hong Kong, New York, etc.).
Having worked for years in the “financial district” of San Francisco, memories of lunch hour walks in the concrete canyons come to mind.
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