Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From ‘The Golden String. An Autobiography’ by Bede Griffiths

The most radical change which has taken place has been in the understanding of the temporal and historical character of the Bible and the Church. The Bible, instead of being regarded as a fixed and final revelation of God to man, is seen as a historic process in which the Word of God is being revealed under changing historical conditions, shaped by the historical, psychological and cultural circumstances of a particular people

Shakespeare’s despairing cry in King Lear

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,
They kill us for their sport

….. three other books ……. The Bhagavad Gita, the Buddha’s Way of Virtue (a version of the Dhammapada) and the Sayings of Lao Tzu (a version of the Tao Te Ching) …… the influence of these books upon my life was later to be immense, and I still look on them as the three greatest books of spiritual wisdom outside the New Testament …….. their doctrine seemed to me practically identical with that of Christianity as I understood it. From this time the Buddha and Lao Tzu took their place in my mind with Socrates, Spinoza and Marcus Aurelius, along with Christ of the Sermon on the Mount, among the great spiritual leaders of mankind.

The constant aim of Greek culture, as of the Chinese and the Indian, had been to keep the power in the hands of the “wise man”, the philosopher, the Brahmin or the Mandarin, and after him with the nobleman or aristocrat, and by this means the character of their culture has been preserved. In Greece as in Rome and in modern England, the rise of a plutocracy had transferred the power to the merchant, and the decline of culture into material civilization had followed.

……. Now I was made to renounce my own will, to surrender, the inmost centre of my being. Each renunciation had been dragged out of me painfully against my own will. I had struggled against it and felt it as an invasion of my being by an alien power. There was indeed something terrifying in this power which had entered into my life and which would not be refused. It had revealed itself to me as love, but I knew now that it was a love which demanded everything, and which was a torment if it was resisted. Once the surrender had been made, that power took over the direction of my life. I had been striving to come to terms with it, to allot it a certain place in my life but it had shown me that it would accept no compromise. I had wanted to keep my own will and to direct my own life; but now I had been forced to surrender. I had placed my life in the hands of a power which had been infinitely beyond me and I knew from this time that the sole purpose of my life must be to leave myself in those hands and to allow my soul to be governed by that will.

I could never doubt after this that behind all the accidents of this life, behind all the pain and the conflict, there was a definite power at work which was shaping human destiny. The pain and the conflict arose from the resistance of the human will to this power, and this resistance in turn was due to our blindness. We were held captive by the material world, the world of reason and common sense; only when we had broken with the illusion of this world and faced the reality which was hidden in the depths of our being could we find peace.

… from a Christian point of view the importance of Indian philosophy can hardly be over-estimated. It marks the supreme achievement of the human mind in the natural order in it's quest of a true conception of God.

The idea of God which is found in Sankara, the great doctor of the Vedanta, is almost identical with that of St Thomas. According to him God is sacchidananda, that is, absolute Being (sat), absolute knowledge (chit), and absolute bliss (ananda). He is eternal, infinite, unchanging, incomprehensible, the One “without a second”. ……. Before this inexpressible mystery we can only say, “Neti, Neti”, “Not this, Not that”. And yet, and this is the very starting point of all Indian thought, this absolute, incomprehensible mystery of Brahma is one with the mystery which lies at the heart of our human life. Brahma is the Atma. He is the true Self of every man; each of us can find his true being only in God.

And so the whole movement of Hindu philosophy culminates in the practice of Yoga, the search for “union” with God. It is not like Greek philosophy primarily a speculative theory; it is, …… a way of salvation. It's purpose is not merely to know about God, but to know God as God knows himself, to participate in the divine nature.

…… the Indian concept of the Atma is the Chinese idea of the Tao. The word Tao simply means the “way” …….. it came to be used absolutely for the Principle which governs the universe. It is the beginning and end of all things, at once transcendent and immanent, sustaining and directing all things by it's inherent power and yet so utterly beyond them that it cannot even properly be named.

If we are ever to find peace either in ourselves or in the world we shall have to learn again that ancient wisdom which alone can give man peace with nature and with God, and which was summed up by Dostoevsky in the words of the Prior of the monastery in which the Brothers Karamazov met: “Brothers, have no fear of men’s sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of divine love, and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf and every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”

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