Yes, I confess, I am a Christian!
I studied many other faiths. I feel in accord with Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. I even have empathy toward the brighter side of Islam. And of course, how could anyone not have a kindred feelings toward Taoism?
I’ve taught classes pointing out we are all related when we climb up to a certain rung on the ladder of spirituality.
So why am I not more ecumenical?
Why then, is Jesus my way?
It’s really simple.
Of all the religious founders, Jesus was unique. He gave his life crucified on a cross to save sinners.
A Hindu’s Observation
An East Indian professor and statesman, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, observed back in the pre-World War-II days that the West was already becoming more spiritual. He said that,
The indifference to organized religions is the product not so much of growing secularism as of deepening spirituality.
The problem is that Christian churches usually base their faith on what makes sense intellectually — on what they believe we ought to believe.
But the founders of religions did not give rational messages. Their call was from their hearts to our hearts, to something in our spiritual nature we know but can never explain.
Religious founders all suggest codes of behavior that are about peace, love and virtue.
The differences arise among their followers interpreting how we are to put these morals into our life.
Are you supposed to kneel and bow to the East five times a day? Or genuflect and cross yourself as you approach the altar to sip wine and eat a wafer?
Do you quarrel over what Jesus or Buddha really meant or did? Is the Bhagavad Gita a story about a real war on the battlefield of Kurukshetra; or just an allegorical inner war in our struggle with error?
It Is None of These
Nor is it about inconsistencies in the Bible, or about the violence in the Bible, or walking on water or turning water into wine.
The founders were all trying to give followers a strategy for finding their true human Self.
They all took this very seriously.
The Self-awareness I am speaking about is hidden from us beneath layers upon layers of repressed ideas, and shrouded agendas, deep below the threshold of consciousness.
To reach full Self-awareness it is essential to access this darkness, to defeat and surpass it.
To reach the dark realm is a huge labor. And frequently it is assumed that this is the essence of Self-realization. That is a very dangerous assumption. I’ve heard many psychotherapists advocate that acting out our dark side is who we are! Big, big, dangerous mistake!
Those who succumb to this thinking are those who are not chosen for the light beyond their dark inclinations. We all have this dark side at the first level of our subconscious. We must get beyond it.
Each religious founder gave followers instructions in how to conduct this inner search. It was first to the dark level, then to the keys to transcend the darkness and see light beyond.
Adopting the moral code of one’s chosen faith is to aid us to get past our dark inclinations.
But, as scripture has it, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
No one wants to trudge this path. It is difficult because we first must face our hidden dark side. We all have one. And have denied that it exists. We all have much higher ideas of who we are. And we do not want to rock the boat about this.
However, at our deepest level it is true that we are a source of light. But, the path to it is ridden with dark obstacles we must navigate past in order to reach this brighter side of ourself.
The “path” constitutes a moral code that if we adhere to it gives us closer and closer glimpses of the good beyond.
It was one thing for Jesus to offer the Great Commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
It is quite another for us to live it, and to put it into everyday practice.
This was where my faith began.
Jesus was not just the founder who showed us The Ultimate Way — The Cross. He lived it.
For a long time I got lost in how the story is told. I mean, I questioned the wording and the details. I finally tried getting the essence of Jesus’ life message. It mattered little whether historically he was crucified on a cross or nailed to a stake.
The point he made is that He lived his life as “The Way.” The sacrifice on the cross was The Way. The Ultimate Ideal Way. A way, that because we are frail human beings, a long way from perfect, we can only try to emulate, though we will always fall short. We can make progress, but not perfection.
The Heavy Burden
All we can do is try. Then try again after we fail. Again and again.
This is the way to achieve Self-awareness, to find our truly good person we are beneath it all. By sacrificing our own clinging to our selfish ways we keep ourselves from the Self-realization we all want, even if we aren’t aware of it.
We’ve all known others, and may even experienced it ourselves, who’ve said about a dying child, “I’d rather God took my life, than my poor suffering child.”
But face it, that is The Way that Jesus meant when he said things like, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
No other religious founder — not Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, Shankara, Confucius, Lao-tzu — has demonstrated this ultimate expression of Love for all mankind.
Scholars argue over whether Jesus said or did this or that, whether he married Mary Magdalene, whether the words of the Gospels have been amended, whether he walked on water or turned water into wine, some even deny he was resurrected.
All of this is just “so much straw” as Thomas Aquinas said about his own massive works near the end of his life.
And even if all these critics are true, the story is powerful enough to have drawn thousands of millions to try to live it.
And who among them is righteous enough to judge whether their trying was sincere enough or wrong-headed. Isn’t that just an excuse not to have to try doing so oneself!
Just how much intelligence does it take to find fault? I mean, compared to what it takes to try emulating the sacrifices of Jesus and his martyred followers? Or even to try sacrificing a bit of one’s self-centeredness to help another who suffers?
So, hand it to Jesus — true or myth — I can’t think of a better, truer story to try to live by. None of us — not me, for sure — can live up to it. But, we can try and try again after every failure.