Take it or leave it.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Nearly 250 million Americans, as part of a worldwide population segment that currently stands at over 2 billion people, I'm speaking of Christians, start each day (or at least one day, at some point in life) with "The Lord's Prayer," also known as "Our Father," in which the supplicant asks the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread."

What does this mean? Of course we ask for the food we eat, since without it we wouldn't be around for very long, and what use would God be to us then? But as more and more people are interpreting religious wisdom not just literally but also symbolically, making these sacred teachings deserving of the word wisdom rather than merely nonsense, the phrase can also refer to "that bread of grace and inspiration upon which depends the life of the spirit," to use the words of 20th century literary heavyweight Aldous Huxley.

Huxley wrote these words in a war-tormented world, where getting one's daily bread, the literal grain-based variety, was no small achievement, and certainly no given. There weren't many gluten-intolerant people walking the streets at the time of the Second World War, let me tell you. If someone hands a starving person a loaf of sourdough it's down the hatch, no questions asked, or complaints voiced, and bloat and gas be damned, if gluten does such a thing. I'm told it does.

Today we live in the land of plenty, but we still honor the farmers - and increasingly the food scientists - responsible for putting food on our table. But there are also those who permit themselves to be fed by the bread of grace that gives life to the spirit, and who teach others to do the same. These are the tillers not of the soil but of the soul. They are the writers and the teachers of the world. I don't recommend practicing these things for a living. Believe me I've tried both. There's no money in either. Not many are like me who can make do with very little (who live the life of renunciates, and who live in our childhood home - hey, it beats a cave); the average person is a householder, with many a bill to pay and a mouth to feed. This evening I'm due to see an old family friend whose wife just gave birth to their fourth child. Imagine. Four more than I'll ever have.

Huxley wrote the above comment as an introduction to Swami Prabhavananda's translation of the Upanishads, those ancient Hindu scriptures the essence of whose teaching is: "He who sees all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, hates none."

You too can bring this forgotten message out of the dim regions of the remote past and demonstrate for others how to see the Eternal in all things, to move behind the veil of Maya, which clothes Reality in coats of light and dark, knowledge and ignorance; how to take the inward step into Absolute Reality that ignites the heart and unites each one of us - that Reality so like the sun, which illuminates all things, gives life and nourishment and shines equally on the so-called naughty and the nice, the sinner and the saint, while remaining unaffected by the actions of either.

You don't have to write a book, or translate a book, or comment on a book, as have the Huxleys and the Swamis of the world, and the little old Mes. Your life is your message, stamped in your actions and imprinted in your thoughts. Your thoughts, words and deeds speak clearer and more resoundingly than any concept you could put on the page, because who you are is no mere concept. You are the changeless reality, the "That by which all else is known" of the Upanishads. Be That, and books can be damned.

The function of the teacher is really twofold. You can explain scriptures, so-called Truth, in spirit as well as in letter; but more important is to teach by living example - by your daily acts, casual words, sometimes even by silence. Because the purpose of teaching and studying is the same as the purpose of living - not so much to inform the intellect, but to purify and enrich the soul.

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