I enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to explore Hinduism a bit in worship yesterday. From centering with some sitting yoga at the beginning, to talking about kolams and mandalas with the children, to sharing some Hindu prayers, to sharing more details about the religion in the message. All of that is just too much to do in this short blog, but if you’d like to hear the full message, please click here.
Last week I talked about passing over into a different religion and coming back to one’s own with new insights. So, let me share my favorite part of Hinduism that brings back to center stage a core principle of spiritual truth and Christian spirituality… looking within.
The Bhagavad Gita says, “[T]ruly wise persons are in the world but not of it. They may be very busy with earthly matters but their heads and hearts stay in solitude. They are connected in this way to the Atma (soul) within.” We hear a similar concept in the Bible (1 John 2:15-17), “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.”
In Hinduism, each person is charged with the spiritual journey of recognizing the “truth” that we are all in this world, but not of this world. Everything in this world is passing away, it is all impermanent, all an illusion (maya). This journey is an interior adventure, it involves delving deeply into one’s soul, learning and growing and connecting to the Divine within.
So, too, the passage from 1 John encourages followers to “not love the world or things in the world.” It seeks to remind us that everything in the world, everything we desire and want, is something that is perishing – our looks, our physical desires, our stuff – and we need to get beyond that to really experience the love of God.
However, in my humble opinion, Christianity has not done a good job of encouraging people to look within for this experience of God. Instead, Christianity has traditionally emphasized belief over inner transformation; practice over relationship with God. This misplaced emphasis on belief and practice, has always put answers outside of ourselves instead of inside. People pray for God to magically take away desire, or anger, or jealousy, or guilt, or disease, without having to do any tough interior work around why we are the way we are, and why we feel the way we feel.
Then there is the list of things to do to be a good Christian and have God bless our lives… worship every Sunday, ask forgiveness, go to confession, take communion, study the Bible, feed the poor, etc. Except that all of these things can be done without any personal transformation. Marcus Borg has said, “you can believe all the right things and still be a jerk.” Bingo. It has to be about the interior journey.
The key for Hindus is personal spiritual growth, it means looking inward and discovering a transcendent reality from within. It’s a good reminder to get past the distractions of the world and remember who we are.