Tuesday, February 23, 2010

God Is Love

I've been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dosteovsky for the last week. It is a beautiful book that is making me think deeply on many subject matters. I wanted to share an excerpt with all of you that I found very moving.

The setting is a monastery where the hero Alyosha is meeting with his family to discuss things with the elder Zossima. Father Zossima is excused from the family to attend to some guests that are waiting for him. The visitors are peasant women from various places. He meets a few and they tell him their stories and sins. The excerpt is from their meeting:

But the elder had already noticed in the crowd two glowing eyes fixed upon him. An exhausted, consumptive- looking, though young peasant woman was gazing at him in silence. Her eyes besought him, but she seemed afraid to approach.
“What is it, my child?”

“Absolve my soul, Father,” she articulated softly and slowly, sank on her knees and bowed down at his feet. “I have sinned, Father. I am afraid of my sin.”
The elder sat down on the lower step. The woman crept closer to him, still on her knees.
“I am a widow these three years,” she began in a half-whisper, with a sort of shudder. “I had a hard life with my husband. He was an old man. He used to beat me cruelly. He lay ill; I thought looking at him, if he were to get well, if he were to get up again, what then? And then the thought came to me—”

“Stay!” said the elder, and he put his ear close to her lips.
The woman went on in a low whisper, so that it was almost impossible to catch anything. She had soon done.

“Three years ago?” asked the elder.

“Three years. At first I didn’t think about it, but now I’ve begun to be ill, and the thought never leaves me.”

“Have you come from far?”

“Over three hundred miles away.”

“Have you told it in confession?”

“I have confessed it. Twice I have confessed it.”

“Have you been admitted to Communion?”

“Yes. I am afraid. I am afraid to die.”

“Fear nothing and never be afraid; and don’t fret. If only your penitence fail not, God will forgive all. There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God? Think only of repentance, continual repentance, but dismiss fear altogether. Believe that God loves you as you cannot conceive; that He loves you with your sin, in your sin. It has been said of old that over one repentant sinner there is more joy in heaven than over ten righteous men. Go, and fear not. Be not bitter against men. Be not angry if you are wronged. Forgive the dead man in your heart what wrong he did you. Be reconciled with him in truth. If you are penitent, you love. And if you love you are of God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love. If I, a sinner, even as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you, how much more will God. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others.”

He signed her three times with the cross, took from his own neck a little ikon and put it upon her. She bowed down to the earth without speaking.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Against The Grain

In this world, the norm is to be self centered. I'm sure someone will disagree with me and start an argument, but allow me to present my case.

We are born. Everybody shows us affection and kindness. People buy us many different things so that we can be comfortable. From blankets to toys we are given the necessities and more. As we grow, our individuality develops and our likes and dislikes are more clear. Relatives and friends then struggle to meet the demands of your likes and keep you from your dislikes.

We continue to grow up. The rest of the adult life is spent focusing your career and marriage. Within the realm of that life you are again struggling to make things as comfortable for yourself as possible. All this time we are meditating on ourselves. True there are spurts of charity and renunciation in between but that is mostly out duty or trying to prove to yourself and others that you're a good person.

What I am trying to get at is that people deep down truly want to be selfless. The problem is that the world is pushing us towards selfishness. The great souls who have struggled on the path of enlightenment have shown us that we must go against this world. Lord Jesus, Lord Buddha, Lord Chaitanya, and many others have told us that we must go against the world. Jesus has spoken, "My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36. He also told us to be in the world but not of the world.

We should understand that anybody who is sincerely seeking love of God, is not in this world. They are jiva-mukta, or liberated even in this life. They are not on the material plain. Therefore they are not affected by the propaganda of selfishness. Because they have love, real love, not lust, they have compassion and empathy.

Something that came to mind is that people want to be compassionate and loving but want to leave God out of the equation. They want Jesus without the Father, or Buddha without Nirvana. If you think of the people who are the kindest and most gentle in the world what automatically comes to mind? Those who are religious or spiritual. Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, or Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.; all these great souls are God Loving.

The sneaky propaganda now is that we can be atheistic and yet have the qualities of saints. Rather, if we do not realize that everything is meant for Krishna's service, then we will exploit whatever resources we have. Even renunciation cannot fully purify the heart, please read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Chapter 5, Text 2 purport. If we think we can renounce anything that is illusion because everything is actually God's property.

So by surrendering unto the Lord and His servants we are able to cleanse the heart from selfishness. But to do so we must go against the grain.