Unknown year, July talk, Serial 00639

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The insight into this mystery of the spirit, and once and for all this spirit is the point where the spirit of man beats the spirit of God. And it's a great mystery, it's where we go beyond ourselves, you know, the body-soul, which is our ego-nature, and then we have this point of the spirit, this point of self-transcendence into God, and also the point of God's self giving to us. So it's this meeting point, and it's very mysterious, you can't speak of it properly, and that is what in the Hindu tradition they call Advaita. At that point there is a non-duality. You can think of God as separate from us, and our ego-nature, we're separate from God. The spirit, there's no separation, there is a communion. It's neither oneness nor duality, it's non-duality. And, as I say, you can't properly describe it, but it can be experienced.


The whole Hindu experience is the experience of the art of the spirit, the point of communion. And St. Paul has it there, you see, he says, the spirit helps us in our weakness, we do not know how to pray, and so the spirit himself intercedes but with sighs too deep to words. In our spirit we're open to this Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit knows us. It's the point where we are known and where we come to know ourselves. And it intercedes for us, we're exposed in our human weakness, and at that point of the spirit we receive this intercession, this movement towards God. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the spirit. The spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. So this mysterious work goes on at that point of the spirit, and it's beyond our normal consciousness, you see, that's the difficulty. Our normal consciousness, the rational human consciousness,


is of the sense world and the theory world around us. At this point we go beyond, and we enter into the cloud of unknowing, into that darkness, and these mysterious experiences take place there, and you can speak of them in different ways. Paul speaks of the spirit interceding for the saints. There is a movement of grace, you see, at work in the spirit, which is drawing us towards God all the time. And as we open to the spirit we become aware of that movement, and it takes possession of us more and more. And as we close to the spirit we become completely blind to it, and vast majority of people are completely blind to the fact that there is such a point of the spirit, and that there is this mystery beyond. But once we begin to discover it, we can open to it and we can withdraw from it. It's the whole point of human freedom is at that point in the spirit. And as we open it takes possession more and more, and it frees us from the ego.


The only thing that can free us from our limited human personality is that movement of the spirit. So this is a very key text of St. Paul. He had a very deep insight into this. The other great passage in the letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter 2, where he speaks of the spirit of man and the spirit of God, and how they impact one on the other. And I always feel this is the key, really, to prayer, to spiritual life as a whole, to awaken to that point of the spirit, and then to allow that spirit to work in us, to discover that movement of the spirit and to respond to it. The spirit calls us to that grace, and it's a pure gift. You can't get it yourself. It's a gift. And it is a gift which is always offered, always present. So we have to try to respond to it. We've been to the second letter to the Corinthians, one of these very personal letters of St. Paul.


And as you know, in his letters, which often shows great feelings of affection, of great solidarity with the people whom he's writing. And first of all, he says, called an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, simply our brother. There's a very deep sense of this calling by the will of God, at the end of the road to Damascus, changed his whole life. He was always conscious from that moment of being called to be an apostle and that Christ was living in him. Then he says, the church of God visited Corinth, that all the saints were in the home of Achaia. And the church of God at Corinth, you see, in the early church, they were very conscious, each community of Christians for the church. And it's a heaper insight today that we're accepting much more of the local church, the Catholic church isn't a big organization with a center with everything dependent on that. It's a communion of churches, innumerable churches gathered together


in the one communion of Christ. Recognize there's a center in Rome, but no more. It's a communion of churches. So the church of God in Corinth, you see, is that community of Christians which lives together in Corinth. And they're all called saints. Doesn't mean they were saints in our sense at all, by bare people, very often. But they were called to be saints, and by baptism you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to become holy. You may not live up to it, but that is your calling, and that is how it all sees them. And then he says, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. And I would like to point out, you see, that in St. Paul and in the New Testament as a whole, the word God always refers to the Father, because the Customs speak of Jesus as God. But it's not normal in the New Testament at all, and always St. Paul, God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Because the Father is God in himself, the absolute, infinite, transcendent one. And that is not unique to Christianity, the Father is present everywhere. And the Father reveals himself in the Son. The Son is the self-communication, the self-revelation, the self-manifestation of the Father. But they're not exactly being the Father. It's very important, you see, Jesus is not the Father, he's not God in that sense. He's God from God, if you like. He's God revealing himself, communicating himself. So it's God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and then he says, who comforts us in all our affliction, unable to comfort those who are in affliction. And the Christian life and human life is really always this polarity of comfort and affliction. We all suffer various ways physically, mentally, so many other ways, and we all get joy and comfort in so many ways. And St. Paul has a deep sense of solidarity


when we suffer, then we suffer with others, and when we're comforted, we're comforted with others. And I think that's very important because perhaps the greatest suffering people enjoy is that of loneliness. It's very obvious with a leper, for instance, a leper feels rejected. But millions of people feel themselves rejected, sometimes by their families, sometimes by society, sometimes by their religion, whatever it is. And that's a very painful situation when you feel you're rejected, you're not with others. And when you feel yourself accepted in one little community, one with others, then it makes a profound difference to your whole life. So he says, we share abundantly in Christ's suffering, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort. And this Christian community is a sharing in the life of Christ. You share in his suffering, you share in his resurrection. Tremendously deep sense of solidarity, but if we all meet to renew day by day, we're not isolated, we're members of one another, and eventually the whole human community,


because Christ is present in the whole human community and we're all members of one another, and when one suffers, others suffer, when one is comforted, as the world says, the others also are comforted, then our whole view is unshaken that as you share in our sufferings, you also share in our comfort. So, there's a great message in that. You see, the nature of the church is this communion in love. Communion in suffering, communion in joy, but basically a communion in love by which we share in the life of Christ, the love of Christ, which is God's life and love communicated, revealed and shared with us. It means that the revelation of God, the communication of the life and love of God in humanity, and that's what we all share in. As you know, he went through an extraordinary suffering


of being stoned and beaten and imprisoned and despaired of life again and again, as he says now, so utterly, unbearably crushed at the despair of life itself, he had the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. And that was the great lesson he learnt, really, that in all this suffering and trial we could gain this strength. That is something we do learn slowly with difficulty that as we learn to surrender ourselves, even the most tragic circumstances can become means of grace, of new life. And there is a great mystery in it, that even when you accept cancer or some disastrous disease, whatever, the whole thing can change. You can sometimes be cured and sometimes you simply learn to live with it and to experience the grace of God in a new way. So Paul had this very profound experience of life and death.


So on him we have set our hopes that he would deliver us again, again we get great faith and we get great hope. Then you must help us by prayer so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessings granted us in answer to many prayers. That's another thing we find in these early Christian communities, extremely strong sense of solidarity and prayer. Paul says again and again, I keep you all, I mention you all in my prayers, the authentic prayer. So that circulation of prayer is extremely important. We have it quite strongly in the church today, that we support one another by our prayers, and of course we often don't see any result. One has to live in faith. The prayer does have its effect, but no real prayer is without some effect. And strong prayer, the continuous prayer of many certainly has most profound effect in the world. And then he says our boastness of our conscience, we behave in the world towards you with holiness and Godly sincerity.


And of course the strength of prayer depends on this sincerity, this conscientiousness. We live according to conscience, then we have power in prayer. And of course when we don't live according to conscience then our prayer becomes empty, becomes worthless. Not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. And again remembering our prayer is not our own doing. We can use words and thoughts and so on, but the prayer comes from God. It's the Holy Spirit who uses those words and thoughts to affect His work in us. So always it's the gift of God. For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand. I hope you will understand fully as you have understood in part, that you will be proud of us. And then this begins, there was a great problem in this church in college. In the first letter it came up quite considerably. In the second letter it's even more serious, not easy always to understand exactly what was happening. But clearly there was a great problem there,


and some boy had to try and face it. So he says, we hope you will fully understand so that you can be proud of us in the day of the Lord Jesus. And this day of the Lord Jesus, he looks forward to the second coming, you see, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. And it's a way of speaking in a sense, because you see in a real sense, Christ in the resurrection is always present. He's present in our heart, He's present in the whole world. And when we are open in heart and conscience, we simply become aware of that presence, and death is simply entering into that presence. And the final coming is simply when the whole creation enters into that presence. Because it's always there, it's not something temporal, it's eternal. And so the coming of Christ or the presence, this eternal presence, always present in the heart, when we awake to it every day of our life. When we don't awake, then of course we lose sight of it


and we think this world is everything. That's really the core, and that's the meaning of this looking forward to the second coming, is simply being awake to the hidden presence, to the reality of that presence everywhere, everybody and everything. So Paul begins his letter by talking about the journeys he's making. I wanted to come to you, visit you on my way to Macedonia, come to have to you from Macedonia, and so on. It's not a very mundane affair, and he often tells us all about his journeys and his problems. And then he turns it round and he says, was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans like a worldly man, that is to say, yes and no, of course. Surely it's God, it's faithful.


My word to you is what being yes and no. So Paul was always aware that he was being guided in his journeys. Sometimes he said we planned to go somewhere and the spirit of God forbade us, so we went somewhere else. That is a very important principle. We tend to do our worldly business in a worldly way, but there is a way of seeking guidance in whatever one has to do. If one has to take a bus to Fritching, one needn't simply regard it as a merely worldly affair, it can be a divine guidance. You may meet somebody on the bus whom God wanted you to meet, and so on. So many things can happen when you don't simply take things in their worldly course, but see the hand of God, the providence of God, in the daily events of life. And that is how St. Paul acted. He saw God's hand in whatever he was doing. And this is what he calls saying yes to God. Surely it's God, it's faithful. My word to you has not been a yes and no. The Son of God, Jesus Christ,


was not yes and no, he was always yes. And to say yes to God is to open the heart to God, to respond to the call. Instead of doing a thing in a worldly way, I want to do this, I do that, and making an arrangement, you open it to God, to divine providence, and then you allow the providence to work in your life. Let's say yes to God. And the yes and no is when you plan your own things, and they go wrong and you have to keep changing and so on. But if you surrender it to God, and allow that guidance to come through, and it's very important, many people discover it, to learn how to surrender your life in that way, you get an extraordinary guidance. I know many people have gone, you know, without money or anything, in India and elsewhere, and they often told me extraordinary guidance. I remember one couple told me, they used to think to themselves, we're going to this town, now we would like to have a nice supper of this and that. And sure enough, somebody would offer them a nice supper,


which was what they wanted. It was quite extraordinary the way you surrender totally and then the guidance comes, and you're given what you need. So, there's really a great lesson in this, because we all are taking things for granted, we just take our meal for granted and what we're there to do, but there's some history of God's presence in it all. And when you respond to that, that's saying yes to God, you see. That is why we have to be amen to him, amen, or amen, you see, it's so great, it's saying yes to God. It's interesting, the word om, you know, it probably may have the same root as amen, you see, all this R, O, N, three letters, it's going to cover all the letter sounds of the alphabet. And in Tamil, yes is om, and that's the same as om, so om is really yes. It's like amen, it's saying yes to God, it's opening the heart to God,


so the om is that word which expresses our surrender to God. Just like Jesus says, amen, amen, I say to you, you see, it's got no particular meaning, it's not the affirmation, it's saying yes to God. It is God who established us with you in Christ, and as commissioner, God established us with you in Christ. You see, the whole thing is the work of God in Christ, that's how he sees it, and he's put a seal upon us and given us his spirit. You see, God the father, God is always the father, as we call, he establishes us in Christ together, he creates us, he redeems us, he orders our life, and then he puts the seal upon us, gives us the Holy Spirit, inner life, inner life, the love of God within. And that is how we live in the trinity, everything comes from God, everything comes through Christ, through the orders he would have asked, and everything comes in the spirit, the communication of the love of God,


the light of God into the heart. So that's the real Christian experience, and, you know, to live day by day, to live in the presence of God and the Holy Trinity, and for now it, for him, for me, is a eternal act throughout, in and through you. It's a secret. Questioner 2 So, the notice about this meeting, first of all, is the emotional atmosphere of it. We think of theology in very abstract, rational terms, but before theology is a personal involvement, we're very deeply involved emotionally with this community, and he expresses it very strongly.


And the whole of his thinking comes out of this experience of love and of pain and of conflict, because there's a great conflict in this community. He says, you see, I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit, but if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad if I have pain? It's not at all certain what the situation was. We have the first letter of the Corinthians, which is fairly clear, but there probably was another one and a visit, it's all a little confused. But there was certainly a very difficult situation there. You may remember in the first letter it says, one member of the community was living with his mother, stepmother, living with his stepmother, and this caused great scandal, as Paul said, he must be separated from the community,


and apparently that was done, and now they're calling him. I wrote, as I did, that when I came, I was marked with great pain by those who had made me rejoice, but I felt to all of you that my joy would be the joy of you all. You see, as I say, there's an emotional involvement in this, in the pain and the joy. I think it's very important, you know, because religion can easily become rather an abstract affair. As I say, theology is totally abstract and all of our moral theology is all abstractions, and we forget that human life is lived in an emotional context, we're all in emotional relation with one another, and Paul is living that out, living it very authentically. So he goes on to this whole problem of pain and joy. I wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears, not to cause you pain, but let you know the abundant love that I have for you, tremendously deep love, and it's the love of affection.


I mean, again, love, I could also become, you see, cold as charity, as a phrase, and charity can be very cold, but St Paul's is an affective love, and he's one of the very embracive people, and he speaks sometimes, I would like a mother to you, bring you forth, I would like a father to you, and so on. So, here, obviously, he's very much involved. And then he says, if anyone has caused pain, he's called it not to me, but in that measure, to you all. And then again, the sense of solidarity, see, we're all members of one another, and St Paul is profoundly aware of it. If one suffers, the other suffers, if one rejoices, the other rejoices. We're members of this community, this whole. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him or may be overwhelmed by sorrow. He said in the last letter, you see, let this man be expelled from the community and delivered over to Satan for the destruction of flesh,


that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. The idea was, if you were separated from the church, so you were delivered to the power of Satan, to the power of the world, you see, and yet the punishment could bring you back to realise your mistake and to be reconciled. And now he asks me, he should be reconciled, he should be forgiven and comforted. So I beg you, will you affirm your love for him? This is why I wrote and I might test you and know whether you are obedient to everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive, but I have forgiven, if I've given anything, it's been for your sake, in the presence of Christ. You see, again it's the whole world, this thing of pain and sorrow and sin and forgiveness is all done in the concepts of love and of the presence of Christ, you see, we can't interrupt presence. And then he says, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us, we are not equal to his design. And Satan is the power contrary to Christ, to love,


it's the negative force which everybody experiences, the shadow power, the dark force. And everywhere, in all human life, we always have the two powers, the light and the darkness, and in every human being there is the light and the darkness, and we have to face the darkness. Satan is there, Satan is a symbol of this dark power, this negative force, this destructive force in human life, and Christ, of course, is a symbol of the light, the truth, the love which is present. So, there's two contrary forces at work in everybody, in every community and in every situation, and we have to face both. It's not all darkness and sin, and it's not all light and truth. We all live in that duality, and we have to learn how to be very close to the one and the other and to face the darkness and to realize the light and the truth. We can go to the next one.


It's one of the more mystical, I suppose, writings, a great sense of interiority, of inner reality. And he writes here, you see, Do we need letters of recommendation? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men. And this idea, he brings it up, relates religion to the heart. You see, all religion has its external forms and rites and doctrines, but they're all means to turn the heart, the mind, towards the heart, to the inner reality. And the gospel isn't preached merely with words, it's communication to the heart. So he says, written on your hearts, to be known and read, to show that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. And in all religions you have this movement


from an exterior religion of rites and ceremonies, which are still necessary, you can't do without them, to a religion of the heart, an interior religion, where the inner meaning of rites and ceremonies are realized within. And so the religion is written on the heart, one of the turning points in the history of Israel comes with Jeremiah and the prophets, where they say that I will write your law, the law not on tablets of stone, but on your hearts. And that is turning away from that external law to the interior law, the law of the spirit. So that's what St. Paul is doing here. You see, he develops it all through this letter. Then he says, not that we are confident of ourselves to claim anything is coming from us, our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant. Again and again, you see, he refers always, whatever he's doing, it comes to him from God.


And here he refers to this new covenant, and that clearly goes back to Jeremiah, you see, and goes, he says, I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not with the covenant I made before, with this covenant I will write my law on your hearts. And the Christian belief is that the law of God, with Christ, came to be written on the heart. It's turned, becomes an interior religion where God dwells in the heart of each person. So, not in a written code, you see, but in the spirit. For the written code cures, but the spirit gives life. And that's always the point, you see, every religion has to have its written code. You have the law of Moses, you see, and we have our canon law, all the elaborate laws of the church, and the Muslims have theirs, and the Hindus have their shastras, and we were reading in Ramalinga Swamigal, you see, you all, people, you all fight and quarrel over your... He mentions all these things, people fight and quarrel over... philosophical dogmas, conflicting ceremonial,


sectarian practices, noisy debates on shastras, and the wars of the Gotras, the Gotras are the caste. And all these, you see, are the outer forms of religion, which you can't do without, but by themselves they become positively destructive. And in all religions these situations develop and cause all these conflicts and divisions. And in Christianity we've had all these different churches quarrelling one another all through the centuries. We don't get over it still. And it's all because we attend to the outer forms of religion and we lose sight of the inner reality, which is one. There is one reality in all religions, behind all religions, one reality behind all the Christian churches, that we can go deep enough into the heart and discover the universal presence, the spirit is present for every human being who is manifesting through these outer forms, revealing himself in a depth to each person. So our calling is to find the inner heart of all religion.


I was reading just recently an extract from a letter of Abhishek Tarnanda, not a letter, a journal of Abhishek Tarnanda, one of our two founders, where he says, my message is not concerned with any dharma, any religion, but returning to the source of all religion, discovering in Upanishads how the inner reality of human being, who is, what are you, you see, and in Christianity what is the inner heart of humanity, which is love. So there is a heart in each religion and that's what we have to discover. And then, as he says, each religion goes out from the source, it gets more and more adulterated as it goes on through history and society and other parts of the world, and again and again we have to return from the outer religion to the religion of the heart, rediscover this inner reality. That's really our calling today. Paul begins with a very striking saying,


we know that in everything God works for good for those who love him according to his purpose. It's very helpful to reflect on that sometimes, that God works for good in everything, God works for good for those who love him. It's pretty easy to believe it always, that things go wrong, but the more one believes it, the more one realises that one is sustained through all these negative forces. I think it's extremely important, because then it ups and downs in life, you think God has deserted me and God is absent and so on, but as you grow in faith you realise that there is a purpose in all situations, even the very worst, you see, you get cancer or whatever, you have an accident, you break your leg or whatever, it knocks you out at first, but once you begin to reflect, you discover the power of God and it's an extraordinary grace.


I'm sure this is true, it's not easy to believe, but for those who love him, everything works for good, there's quite no exception at all. Please reflect on that. And then he goes on to say those who before knew he was destined to be conformed to the image of his son. And this whole knowledge is important because, you see, we're all... we're not living in time merely, we're living in eternity, and in eternity God knows each person and has this plan, this will for each, which is to be conformed to the image of his son. Every human being is made in the image of God and we're called to realise that image. And that image is love, is truth, is grace, is joy, is peace, these are all assigned to the image of God, and we're all made in that image and capable of becoming that image, you see. And that is the call. Those who before knew he predestined, you see, eternally God knows each person and wills to be there,


he wills that grace, that fulfilment for each person. And again it's a great mystery, I don't know whether you see it perhaps in our eyes or in others, but it means that everybody has that call from God and everybody wills that grace that we are fulfilling for something each person which can't be fulfilled yet, they respond to that grace with God. And then those whom he predestined, he called those whom he called to justify and then he justified and thought of that. Here's the stages, you see, in eternity God wills each person, he wills us into existence, some say he loves us into existence, everybody is given existence from God, love of God. And then he calls us, each person receives some grace, some calling. It can be very obscure at first, you may not notice it, but something is growing all the time and you begin to discover its meaning. Those whom he called, he justified.


When do you begin to respond to that, and the justifications that they have, have a lot of meanings, historical circumstances behind them, but it simply means that you are open to the presence of God. When you are justified, you are establishing a true relationship with God. The sin is a quaking of that relationship, justification is restoration of this relationship, what is image? An image is something that reflects, it's an image called to reflect God. The sin disturbs that reflection, obscures it, and grace restores it, so we are reflecting God. Those whom he justified, he glorified. The final stage is when you reflect God and finally free from all obstacles and fully become that image of God, which is Christ. In fact, in the image we are all called to share that image, become that image, become that one reflection of God.


So it's wonderfully deep. As you know, in the letter to the Romans, the great heaven of the New Testament, it is tremendously deep inside, a small paracord, each person. A few minutes later... In this reading, it's important to pass the dispensation of the old covenant, the covenant made with Moses, to the new dispensation, the covenant of Christ. You see, one is having splendor and yet one that was fading away, one that was passing. And one came in letters of stone


and the other comes written in the heart. And I said I would write the law in their hearts. They said, dispensation of death carved in letters of stone and one came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness. Remember, when Moses came down from the mountain with ten veins and the law, his face was shining. It's not unusual that holy men often have this radiance in their face, and Moses had it to a great degree. And St. Paul says I have a sign of this brightness, this radiance, this splendor of the old law. And yet that was written in stone and was external. The old law is certainly external. And it was a combination of death, dispensation of death. And it's a negative law. Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery and so on.


It's a negative law which most people can't keep and therefore it causes death. That's always St. Paul's view. The law tells you what you ought to do but it doesn't enable you to do it. And grace enables you to do what you're called to do. So he sees it in this very negative way and then he compares that with the dispensation of the spirit. And the spirit is this inner reality. And I think I'll take this more widely. You see, it really applies to all religion. All religion has its laws, its customs, traditions, ceremonies, rites, doctrines also, formal doctrines. And all these are passing away. They're none of them the reality because the truth, the spirit of God is manifesting through these rites and so on but he is beyond them all. We were reading in Kabir, it's rather instructive, it's the same kind of idea, you see. He says, I'm neither in temple nor in mosque,


I'm as in Kaaba nor in Kailash. These are all holy places, you see, the temple is a holy place for the Hindu, the mosque for the Muslim, Kaaba is the sacred stone of Mecca, Kailash is the place of Shiva in the Himalayas. These are all holy places. And nor do I have rites and ceremonies or yoga or renunciation or these rites of religion. If you're a true teacher, you have to find me at once which will meet you in a moment. I am beside thee. God is the breath, the breath. In other words, spirit is the same as breath, you know. So God is the reality within everybody, within everything which is present in all and yet transcending all. And of course he is present in temples and mosques and churches and scriptures but he's present under a sign, under a limited form. And we have to go beyond the sign and the form, the tables of the law, to the reality, to the truth which is manifested.


So it has to have a universal meaning. It was splendid in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness far exceeded. It's going a little far to say that the old law was simply a dispensation of condemnation because obviously many of Christ's Jews followed the law and reached salvation through it. So St. Paul takes a very negative view of it, which is one aspect of it, that the law is very negative, it tells you not to do things, but it doesn't exactly enable you to do them, which is always the problem. And then he compares to that, you see, the dispensation of righteousness, which is not simply telling you what to do, but enabling, the Holy Spirit enables you to fulfil. St. Paul says somewhere that the Spirit enables us to fulfil the works of the law. We don't do it ourselves, but through that grace we're able to do it. And if what was paid became a spender,


what is permanent must be much more. And all rites and forms of religion are impermanent. None of them will survive. There won't be any sacraments in heaven. There won't be any dogmas or anything. These are the outer forms, and the reality, the truth, is always beyond the forms and will prevail forever. So we have to go always beyond the outer forms of religion, to the inner truth, the Spirit which is present in the forms, but beyond the forms. So really this is the secret of religion. And St. Paul, you know, was really facing what the very nature of religion is seeing beyond the external to the interior spirit, which is the Spirit of God, which is the truth, the reality of all religion. Now they take their cases to the courts to be judged by non-Christians.


How much fear is there? If the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more matters pertaining to this life? If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the Church? I say this to your shame. And can it be there's no man among you who can decide? So what he's saying is, the Christian people should decide their quarrels among themselves. They shouldn't have to go to the pagan courts. We've had similar things in India, you know. Not long ago, the group of Catholics in Madras brought a case against the National Centre in Bangalore. They had some windows there, which Jyotish Sai designed, where there were some Hindu motives. And so they brought a case against the National Centre in the courts in Madras for a Hindu judge. It's exactly what St. Paul is complaining of here. And luckily, the Hindu judge spoke in favour


of the National Centre, but they wanted it. So we have the same problem, you see. And there are two problems here. One is, you see, this idea that the Church is the Church of the saints. He says, You not know the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, neither the immoral or idolatrous or adulterous or sexual perverts or thieves or greedy or drunkards or violent or robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. Well, the Church is largely made up of people like that, you see. It's not a Church of the saints at all. It's a Church of sinners. And in the early Church, it was expected to be a Church of the saints, and to some extent it was. You had to be a Christian. It was a very great decision to make. You separated from the world. You became a member of this rather small persecuted community. You might have much to suffer. And so it was a holy Church in many ways,


but already, as you see, all these problems were arising. And gradually the Church had to realise that it was a Church of sinners. It's very interesting that until the second century, there were certain sins which couldn't be forgiven. Murder, adultery and apostasy, I think, were three. No Christian was expected to commit murder or adultery or possibly apostasy. And they couldn't be forgiven. And there was a special ruling that was made by Pope Callistus, I think, in the second century, saying that they could be forgiven. So that the early view was you were expected to be holy if you became a Christian, and you couldn't commit certain crimes. And that had to go, you see, and gradually the Church had to realise it's a Church of sinners. And this is one of the more mystical letters of St Paul.


St Paul was a very great mystic, I think you've got to realise this. And it comes out very clearly here. You remember he's discussing the Old Covenant given by Moses. And when Moses came down from the mount, his face shone. And when he went to speak to the people, he used to put a veil over his face because he's shining and he had the face of splendour of it. And so he says, we are very bold, not like Moses who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites may not see the end of the failing splendour. But their minds were hardened. And then he applies this in a novel way. When they read the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, that same veil remains unlifted because only through Christ has it taken away. And his idea is, you see, the Old Covenant was given by Moses and it had a limited value.


It couldn't bring you to the fullness of the truth. When Christ came, the fullness of truth was revealed. And as it were, the veil was taken away. But for those who don't see that, the veil remains. To this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds. But when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. As I said, you can apply this on a wider scale, you see. You can always read the scriptures and there's a veil over your mind. You don't see beyond. They always say about the Vedas, you see. You can read about all the Vedas and never discover the spirit by which the Vedas were inspired. And until you do that, you've not understood the Vedas. The same with the Bible. You can read the Bible beginning to end and not discover the word of God in the Bible. You're just reading the words. You don't find the word. And so with all the scriptures, you see, there's a veil. And unless the spirit passes through the veil, you don't discover the truth. When a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.


Now, the Lord is a spirit. And where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. This has upset a lot of people because it seems it's confusing the persons of the Trinity. Because remember, the doctrine of the Trinity was only evolved later, after the New Testament times. And quite clearly what he means is, when you discover the Lord, the word of God, you discover the inner meaning of the scriptures. You discover the spirit which inspires the scriptures. And so, again, it applies, you see, to every religion. You read the scriptures, the words. And when you recognize the Lord, then you discover the spirit in the scriptures. You discover the spirit which inspires the scriptures. And you get the real meaning. And there's a famous thing in the Upanishads where a teacher says,


a boy goes to study the Vedas. Well, the boy used to go when he was 12 years old. And he comes back at 24 and he's studied all the Vedas. Very learned, very conceited. And his father says to him, Have you learnt that by which we can hear what cannot be heard, and see what cannot be seen, and know what cannot be known? And the boy says, No, my teacher didn't teach me that. And what he's saying is, you see, as long as you simply study the Vedas, the outward form, you don't get the truth. When you get beyond the outward form, then you see that you know that which cannot be known by ordinary beings. You get the inspiration of the spirit. It's extremely important that every religion, you see, people tend to live by the letter. Now, it's good as far as it goes. It takes a long way away by the law. But until you go beyond the law, beyond the letter, and discover the inner dwelling of the spirit, you have not understood the meaning of religion. And that's what we all challenge to do,


is go beyond the letter and the law, discover the inner spirit within you. Because unless you find the spirit in you, you won't find it in the scriptures, and vice versa. And then he goes on to say, We all, with unveiled faces, behold the glory of the Lord, as being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to the other. You see, when you recognize the spirit in the scriptures, it awakens the spirit in yourself. When I say that one acts on the other, the spirit in you recognizes the spirit in the scripture, and the spirit in the scripture awakens the spirit in you. And so you're changed into his likeness from glory to glory. As you discover the indwelling spirit, a radical change takes place within you. You can pass from the physical, psychic level of being to the spiritual level. You discover the art, the karma, the supreme spirit within everybody and everything.


And when you awake to that, then this transformation takes place. And it transforms from one glory to another, you see. There's a tremendous, as transformation takes place, you get a new mode of existence. You discover things which you've never discovered before, and you open yourself to all these levels of revelation, of illumination. You see, glory is illumination, and what we call enlightenment, you see, is a state of illumination, of this passing into the goal. But this comes from the Lord who is the spirit. Only when the Lord is known to be the spirit, we know him. You see, again, you can worship Jesus, or Krishna, or Rama, or Swami, but as long as you think of them as isolated persons, limited beings, you're not finding the truth. Only when you see the eternal spirit in Jesus, and know him as the son, then you will know the truth, and then you'll undergo this transformation. In that sense, the Lord is the spirit. So there's tremendously deep teaching in this,


and that's reflected. ...Christians and others, and he tried to answer these problems. First of all, to the unmarried and the widows, as I said, it's well for them to remain single, as I do. And as you remember, last time, he said, I wish you were all as I am. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but many journey, there's a very strong call for celibacy in the early church. It is thought to be like a way of perfection, as he called himself part of it, and he encouraged others to do so. But on the other hand, if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. As I said, it's a lot of putting marriage down as a sort of second thing, a second vest, if you can't manage to be celibate. Today, we would put it rather differently, with the different callings, some are called to be celibate,


in the special grace of God, and others are called to marry. But it's not necessarily the same. And then, to the married, he gives charge that they should not divorce. Obviously, there he is following what has to become a general tradition in the church, based on the words of Christ. But then you have this very interesting problem, if a man is married to an unbeliever, or a woman is married to an unbeliever, what are they to do about it? And he has what's called a fall-out privilege. He says, if they can remain peacefully together, they can do so, but if they can't, then the unbeliever should be allowed to depart, and they can have a divorce. If the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so. In such case, the brother or sister is not bound to God's orders to be peaceful. And on the other hand,


he desires that they should remain married, and the children will be sanctified by the faithful being, the faithful one. It's a very interesting situation, and of course it arises today by people in the Hindus and others. And they still have the power, and rarely have a satisfactory answer to it. It's not easy for two people to sit in a place and live together. The problems always arise with the children. But Paul is obviously trying to consolidate as best he can. As he said, I say this not of the Lord, but of myself, in trying to find some answer to the problem of this time. So it's quite interesting to see the church was faced with these problems at an early stage. And it's a very simple answer to them, if you have to do the best you can. But the two things remain. One is, of course, the celibacy, which is very clear according to the church, which many despond all through the centuries. And the other is the holiness of marriage,


which comes out more than mentioned in the letter to Ephesians. And it's always been understood, and of course, divorce, if you will, contributes to that holiness of marriage, that consecration which a married one makes. As you know, this Feast of the Sacred Heart was introduced in the church in the 17th century. It's partly a reaction against Jansenism, a very severe doctrine which emphasized justice and God and His punishment for sinners. And these revelations were given to Sir Robert Mary Alcock to reveal this human love of Jesus. And love, of course, is something infinite and has many, many different levels of meaning and reality. And there is a spiritual love. The Holy Spirit is love. That is the infinite, the eternal love of God. Manifesting itself, communicating itself to us.


But in Jesus, that love becomes incarnate. It takes flesh. And this revelation has been of the heart. It's actually the human heart of Jesus. And one can take it as a symbol, if you so in a sense. But it's more than a symbol because love becomes incarnate and it affects our physical being. Love is not only spiritual, but it's also physical. And in the heart of Jesus, the heart itself expresses that love. There's no doubt that love, in ordinary circumstances, is experienced through the heart. The spiritual things manifest themselves in the body, in various parts of the body. And the heart, that's a very special place. And we relate it to the moment on the cross where the heart of Jesus was pierced with a spear


and blood and water came out, symbols of the sacraments of the Church. So there is a physical aspect to this love. The love of Jesus is a human heart which was pierced and which suffers and which has this capacity to manifest itself to all. So there is a physical aspect of the sacred heart. I think it's important to recognize it because human beings need some physical sign. Very few people who live in the spiritual world have their spirit manifested in matter, in the body. And the heart of Jesus is a revelation of this divine love become totally human, become physical, become incarnate. But of course it's much more than physical, it's psychological. And this is the deeper aspect of it. The heart is a symbol of this human love.


Human love is physical, human love is psychological. And again, it means that the love of God comes into our psyche, into our human being. Jesus reveals the love of God in a human being with its human limitations, but also with its human nearness, its closeness. And again, people need some sign that God is not too remote. You see, the danger of God is he can be very remote. He lives in heaven, he's far above us, beyond us. His spirit and we're not able to relate to him at that level. So God becomes incarnate to reveal himself in a human being, in a human love, in a human way. And that is very deeply meaningful because in other religions as a whole, the tendency is for God to reveal himself not in a fully human way,


very obvious in Judaism or in Islam. And in Christ, God becomes human and reveals himself with this human love, which is divine love manifesting in a human being in a human way. So I think we all need to realize this human love of Jesus, which makes all human love different. It means that there is capacity in us to love physically, in a physical way, which God himself is in physical love. You see, the love of a man or a woman is a physical expression of love, which is also an expression of divine love. And then the human heart of Jesus is the ordinary human love of human beings, men and women and friends, all these forms of human love have a divine quality. In the incarnation, the divine becomes totally human,


so it divinizes what is human. So our human love now has this divine quality, becomes something more than human. So this is very deeply meaningful because, you see, the danger of religion is, as I say, God can become too remote, he's beyond, he's above us all together, and then human love becomes merely human with all its problems. When the divine comes into the human and transforms the human, then something very profound takes place, and that is what people look for, something which will make their own human life, their human love, their human experience, something more than human, and opens it up to God, to truth, to an infinite and eternal love. So this is the mystery we celebrate, and it's infinite, of course. It has this physical level, it has this psychological level, and then it goes beyond, I suppose, beyond the human to the divine. It opens it up in the whole mystery of the divine.


And in the Gospel particularly, we read of this wonderful saying, I thank Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven, Thou hast revealed this into the babe. All things have been delivered to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father. No one knows the Father except the Son. Anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. So in that human love, and in that human being, but open to the divine love, to the divine being, to the transcendent, to the infinite. So it goes to every level of human existence, whether physical or psychological, it takes us beyond the spiritual and opens it up to the infinite, to the eternal. So this is the mystery of the Sacred Heart. It covers all these levels of being, the whole level of all human existence. That's why it's deeply meaningful, I saw it. Q. Sir, one has to realize that there is this point of view.


All this giving directions for the community, it's particular in a way, special to that community, that situation, but of course it also has a meaning beyond it. And we have to judge it in that light. It says, let everyone lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him and which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. And it applies, first of all, to circumcision, which you know that the problem in the early church was this question of the Jews and Gentiles. The Jew became a Christian, he was circumcised, but when the Gentile became, then in Paul's rule, and it gradually prevailed throughout the church, there's no need for circumcision. Circumcision was a sign of your belonging to the Jewish community, which was the covenant of people, God made this covenant with Israel, and circumcision is a sign.


So it's very important, it's a very life act, isn't it, that we assign our membership to the Christian community. Circumcision is a sign of your membership to the Jewish community, and still remains to this day. And when a Jew became a Christian, he went beyond the Jewish community, he entered into the Christian and was free, and when a Gentile came, there was no need for him to join the Jewish community, he could enter straight into the Christian, that was the way that prevailed. But neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything but keeping the commandments of God. That's going rather far, you see, I mean, circumcision was kind of sacrament, if I say that, baptism, a sign of this membership, and obviously these signs are not everything by themselves, they're only intended to assist you, and the commandments of God, to become a Jew was, to the precise circumcision,


was to be called upon to keep the commandments of God, of the old law, same way that baptism was called to follow the Christian law and the Christian path. So, I can't say that they're not anything, circumcision and baptism are signs, they're sacraments, and sacraments have their proper place, but everyone should remain in the state in which he was called, and then it takes the further stage about slaves and free men, as you know, in the Roman Empire you had this vast number of slaves, and the church didn't attempt to do away with slavery, Jesus himself said nothing about it, and Paul accepts it without question. Were you a slave when you were called? Never mind. If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity, for he was called in the Lord as a slave, the free man of the Lord. So, the idea was, if you could get your freedom, and it wasn't often difficult to get freedom,


you should try to do so, but otherwise you should simply accept it. In general, slavery was simply accepted as a norm, and St. Paul, I think, deals with it in a very sensible way, he says, he who was called in the Lord as a slave is the free man of the Lord. He might be economically, politically a slave, but your baptism and your belonging to the church made you a free man in the essential part of your nature in your relation to God and to your fellow Christians, you were a free man, but economically, politically, you remained in that state. Obviously, it was imperfect, and gradually slavery gave way, but the church made no great effort to get rid of slavery, and as you know, it was revived with the slaves from Africa brought to America, and it was a thriving slave trade among Christians.


There was only Wilberforce and others in England in the 19th century who realized it wasn't Christian, but the church did nothing about it. All of South America, the church patronized slavery right into the 19th century. So, it's been a very delicate issue. At first, it was simply accepted, and then somehow people began to feel that there was nothing against Christian teaching in being in a state of a slave. Then he said, you were bought with a price, do not become slaves of men, and he takes it at a higher level. You see, slavery is an economic and political situation, deprives you of certain economic, political rights, but it doesn't deprive you of your relationship with God, your freedom as a child of God, and St. Paul feels that's much more important, and that's why the church didn't pay so much attention to the question of slavery. A slave could be a free man in the church with all the rights of a Christian


and could have that freedom before God. So, I think one must understand the attitude they took. So, brethren, whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God, and that was the prevailing view. You didn't try to change your situation. Of course, we've done the same with caste in India. People tried to change people's castes. If you're low caste, you're in the church, you're untouchable, you remain an untouchable in the church. If you're high caste, you remain high caste. And, of course, we question that today, whether people should remain in the state in which they were, pretending the days are long, or, on the contrary, to say you should change your state, change the structures. So, we have a very different attitude today. And it's a good example, you see, Paul was living in a certain situation, time and place, and I think his regulations were very sensible in that situation,


and they prevailed in the church for a long time. But today we have a very different attitude. We say you can't simply accept unjust structures in society. We have to do something to change them, if possible. So, one has to see how to, again, interpret the Bible within its own context, and not simply to take it as a model for a different context. And today, as I say, we see things economically, systematically in a very different way. Questioner 2 In this reading, St. Paul gives us a kind of mystical doctrine of baptism, to rather take baptism for granted, sort of initiation ceremony, made members of the church. But he sees it much more profoundly as a mystical identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. Resurrection in the paschal mystery, that really is the center of Christian teaching, really,


that through baptism we share in the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Eucharist we renew it continuously. The whole Christian life is really death and resurrection. Death to the self, the ego, the limited person, and resurrection, the new life, life with God. So it's very deep doctrine, really. All of us were baptized, and Christ was baptized into his death. It made more vivid a more ancient way of giving baptism, when he went under the water. He went under three times, signifying you were dying to the world and to yourself. Now we just sprinkle the water. It's not so meaningful, but the ultimate meaning, of course, is the same. So we were buried with him by baptism to death, such as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and we too might walk in newness of life. Christian life is sharing in the resurrection. Already we see this, only at the beginning, obviously, but the understanding is that we share in the resurrection.


As I was saying, the real meaning of the Eucharist is precisely Christ is present in the resurrection. As we celebrate the Eucharist, we share in the new life of the resurrection. It's all very limited, of course, in our state, according to our own capacity, but all the same, the reality is there. The resurrection is present in baptism, and is present in the Eucharist. And if we have died with Christ, we shall live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again, death no longer will be over him. One can't emphasize too much, I think, that the resurrection is really the heart of the Christian gospel. Today we're very much concerned with social justice, being in the kingdom of God in this world, and it's quite right to emphasize this, but one must always balance it with the fact that we'll never have the kingdom of God in this world, we'll never have social justice in this world, you have to do what you can, but the resurrection is the real meaning of life.


It's only in the new life, beyond death, that we experience the fullness which is given us, which is life in Christ. So the death he died to sin once for all, but the life he gives to God. And the idea that the death of Christ really takes all humanity, all humanity is one, one man, and Jesus is that new man who takes on our human nature, dies in that human nature, and frees us from sin in that human nature. There is something in every human being today which is free from death. You see, that power of resurrection is offered to every human being in some way. We get it through the sacraments of the church, but there are other ways in which it can be shared. So everybody is called, is born in sin, separated from God, centered on himself, and everybody is called to new life in God, to resurrection, to this transformation. So you must consider yourself dead to sin,


alive to God in Christ Jesus. So that's really the Christian calling. Of course, most people don't go very far with it. They go on, they're not dead to sin, and they're not alive to God. But still, that is our calling, and people strive for it all the time, and sometimes we succeed in being ourselves and really being, living the life of the resurrection alive to God. And the Holy Family of Sisters, the Holy Cross of Sisters. Of course, when Jesus shows the demands of discipleship, and the central one is he who will lose his life, save it, and save his life, and lose it, for some reason or other, all the translations use this word life, where he should really be sold, suki, he who will save his soul shall lose it,


he who will lose his soul shall save it. And this is a central reality, that we all have this human nature, this limited human being, and we're all called to go beyond it, to transcend it. And natural tendency is to live in this world of the limited human being, limited human life. And most people are trapped in that. And that is why Jesus begins by saying, he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, nor son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. We're enclosed in this human family, and we're tied to it and bound to it, and it extends, of course, to caste, to race, to religion, to all these human limitations. And that is our human condition,


we're bound by all these limitations, and the call of the gospel is to go beyond them. It doesn't mean you have to reject them necessarily, they're good in their place, but their place is human and limited, and we're called to something beyond the human, beyond limitations, to this experience of God, that's the core of humanity, and everybody has it, and everybody's tied, and it grows up from infancy, of course, we're bound to our family, to our limits, human limitations, and we grow out of those, and we never get beyond it. The call of the gospel, the call of religion, is to go beyond these limitations, to experience the mystery beyond. And Jesus used a rather strange phrase, which was, he does not take up his cross and follow me, he is not worthy of me. It's a strange thing, because the cross was, as you know, was a means of execution in the Roman Empire,


which Jesus himself suffered, but before he suffered, it's doubtful whether the cross would have meant anything. He wouldn't tell an ordinary Jew to expect to have this be executed by the Romans. So maybe it's a saying which came somewhat later, but the meaning of it is, accept the burden of life, you see. Everybody has his own burden in life, and we have to accept that burden, which ultimately means to accept ourselves. And when we accept ourselves and our whole human condition, then we transcend it. When we accept it, we can transcend it. When we rebel against it, we're caught in it. And it applies to all human suffering, disease, for instance. If you have cancer, you have to learn to accept the cancer. When you accept it, it no longer becomes the burden, it doesn't destroy you, it can even liberate you. When you accept any limitation and surrender it, it becomes, it sets you free.


There is tremendous truth, which we all have to discover. And it's not only disease, one's own limitations, one's own failures, one's own experience of frustration, all this is part of our human condition, which we have to accept. And when we accept it and surrender it, we're liberated. As long as we rebel against it, get angry and upset with ourselves and others, we're trapped in this human situation. When we make the surrender, then we're set free. And the basic surrender is, of course, surrender of the self, the ego. You see, the whole of this human condition is centered on the ego, the ahamkara, we call it, the eye-maker. And as long as we remain in that egoistic state of mind, we're trapped in the world, trapped in our own psyche, our own conditioning, our own suffering, and our own situation. At the moment we surrender that ego,


open ourselves to the grace of God, this liberation takes place. And that's the only liberation, ultimately, which means anything, is to be liberated from our human condition, which is ultimately the condition of death. We're all going to die. And that is the end, as far as this world is concerned. But death is something which has to be transcended. And in the reading we have from St. Paul, he puts it marvellously, really, the whole Christian message is, you see, this going beyond death. Jesus went through death into eternal life, and we're all called to go through death into eternal life. And when we accept death, death to ourselves, death to the world, death to our human limitations, we experience this rebirth, this resurrection, this new life. And that's the mystery of the Gospel, and it is a mystery, and sometimes, well, we awaken to it. When we're baptised, most people are children, they don't know anything about it, and it's only gradually we realise the meaning of baptism.


Some, of course, never realise it. And, of course, it's not confined to Christians. Every human being has this call to go beyond themselves, beyond this world, and listen to everybody, there is a spark of the divine light, there is a presence of God. And when we awake to that, then we transcend ourselves, we discover eternal life, we discover truth, we discover reality. You're reading in the Chandogya Upanishad, the famous story of how the gods, the materialists came to Prajapati, the creator, asking him about eternal life, about the true self, which is immortal. And he takes them through various stages. In the first one, he tells them to go and look at themselves in a pool of water. They go and they see themselves there, and then he says, dress yourselves up and go and look, and they dress up, and they see themselves all dressed up. And they think that is themselves, you see. And they don't realise that this is the outer shell, the outer appearance, and the real person is behind the body,


behind all the clothes and so on. And the body is no more than clothing. So it's to discover behind the human being, the human body, the human soul, the psyche, with all its limitations, to find the heart and the spirit, the truth, reality, God in each person, God in us. So this is really the calling of each one of us. Each day we have to renew it, because we're always tending to fall back into our human condition, almost inevitably. And every day we have to rediscover the true self, the presence of God within. And then this inner transformation takes place and the whole world is transformed. There's nothing wrong with the world or anything until it's idolised. When you think this is everything, this is all there is, then you are under the illusion. When you think your ego is all that there is, then you're under the illusion. But once you're set free, then you accept the world as a gift to God, your own ego, your own self as a gift to God. But not when it's idolised and centred on it,


but when it's surrendered, surrendered the world and the self to God, that is resurrection, you see, they're brought within, they're realised in a new way altogether. So we ask for this grace of constant renewal, constant conversion, constant discovery of God in us and us in God. One moment. There's a very disturbing thing, all this dealing with the various problems that arise in a pagan city like Corinth. And one of the features of it was that food was offered in the temples and then was sold in the markets. So you couldn't be sure whether you were eating meat offered to idols. And for some this became a problem. And the question was, you see, whether you should do anything about it.


And Paul had rather an interesting answer to it. He says it depends entirely on what your attitude of mind is. If you think that idols are real, and he would have said they are the symbols of demonic forces, and then you eat, then you're doing something harmful. On the other hand, if you think they're nothing, which he himself does, then you bleed without worry. But on the other hand, supposing you're eating upsets somebody else, they think it is demonic force, and you shouldn't be eating. But then he says, to spare your brother's conscience, you shouldn't eat. So it's very interesting sort of practical advice. And we have similar problems in India. I always remember years ago I was at Shravan Dogala, a great Jain sanctuary. There was a huge statue of a Jain monk there. And some priest was doing puja at the foot,


and we were looking on, and then a boy came along with the food which had been offered there. And I thought to myself, food offered to idols, what do we do? And I decided, we think it is offered to Christ, we'll have to eat the food. And it depends how you look on it, you see. But you must remember always for a Hindu, no Hindu worships idols in the sense in which the Bible speaks of it. You worship the presence in the idol. Very, very clear. There's a famous theologian of the 14th century, Lokacharya, had a beautiful text where he says, in the idol God who is unseen makes himself visible. God who is far above us makes himself near. God who cannot be touched makes itself to be touched. It's a real sacramental sense. And the educated Hindu knows that there is a presence in the image, and you worship the presence, you have a darshan of the Lord in that image. But you never worship an image.


So we should make distinctions very carefully there. On the other hand, the same problem arises, you see, if you have that understanding, you can go and share in a Buddha and a Hindu temple, you can even take the facade. But there may be other Catholics who don't feel like that, who might think that you're worshiping idols, and therefore, on the whole, don't understand the issue, but that's consideration for them. So I think we have to use the same kind of discretion. But basically, I would feel that we should see that today we would say any sacrifice which is offered with a clear conscience by anybody is offered to God, whatever form they may take. And therefore, we respect that offering, and we recommend it's offered to God. And really, in India, that is how they understand. There's only one God, one reality, the Ekamsa, the one being, and the gods and goddesses are forms of that one. And you can worship God under any particular form.


You have the Ishta, Devata, you worship God under that form. But the worship goes to the one God. Practically every educated Hindu knows that. And interestingly also, ordinary village people, there was a survey taken in Bangalore some years ago by a group of Christians, and they did a survey of two villages in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and they asked the people what they thought the idol was and what they believed about God. And they all said that there was only one God. In Tamil, they called it Kadavul, or Lord. In Malayalam, they called it... Daivam, they called it, one way. And so they all recognized one God, and then they said the particular God is a murti, a form, or an avatar, a scent. So in the villages, I think there is a fairly clear understanding


that there's only one God, one supreme reality, who has no form, and all the different gods and goddesses are forms of that one, and your worship goes through that particular form to the one. That would be an educated person. As I say, in the villages as well, it's among the more educated. Of course, you may get people who simply worship a God or an idol, but I think it's the same in the Catholic Church. You know, there will be images or reminders of the saints and so on, because many people go to St. Anthony and they really worship St. Anthony and get some favor from St. Anthony without distinguishing that God is giving it to you through St. Anthony. So we're all inclined to that kind of confusion, but the basic principle, I think, is the same both for the Hindu and for the Christian.