Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lighten Up; a Satori

This morning in my email, someone had sent me an e-card for a Happy Diwali. It was sent anonymously so I don't know who to thank, let alone whether they were sending it sincerely (knowing that I appreciate and am open to a lot of Eastern culture and philosophy) or if they were trying to be play with me (just another holiday) or trying to bait me somehow (cause I'm this big liberal). 

However it was intended, I decided to take it in the spirit of Diwali- a celebration of lights and the ultimate triumph of good over evil and compassion over selfishness. 

We're just about to get into a lot of festivals of lights here in the next 2 months, what with Jewish Hanukkah, African-American Kwanza, and of course Christianity's Advent season leading up to Christmas and then Epiphany (when we celebrate Jesus, our light coming into the world).

Diwali, also known as Deepavali is a five day festival in Fall when many Hindus, Sikhs, and some Buddhists light oil lamps, wear new clothes and enjoy sweets with their families for five days.

The spiritual aspect of Diwali is that participants attain and awareness of their "inner light," the eternal, unchanging true self, your "Atman" or soul, if you like. These Eastern traditions teach that true enlightenment leads to compassion, love and the awareness that we are all interdependent.

These three principles are pretty worthy aspirations. In fact, lets face it, Jesus taught, demonstrated and offers love (John 13:34-35), compassion (Luke 2), and communion (John 17, Acts 4:32)  too.

If there's a difference it's that in Christianity, we know that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 2:23. Let's face it, call me a pessimist, but every human being is by nature fallible, imperfect, selfish and short-sighted. As the psalmist put it, "Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who doesgood, not even one."~Psalm 53:3
There's a lot about the East that is admirable and that we Westerners need to learn from. But the biggest difference theologically is that they're looking for an "inner" light withing one's self, whereas Jesus tells us that He is our light.

“I am the light of theworld. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~John 8:12

The Apostle John  had to compete with Gnosticists and other competing teachings that claimed that humans are capable of transcending society and becoming godlike by looking inside (see my series on John's Epistles, "Johnny Poppin"). Our light comes from outside, not inside.

"The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."~Revelations 21:23

By pointing this out, it does NOT give Christians an excuse to judge, discriminate or hate Hindus or Buddhists. "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness."~1 John 2:9

The thing is, we ourselves don't have our own light inside us, but we should have a light inside. We should REFLECT God's light. It's like God is the sun and we are all moons. If Jesus lives inside us, if He put His Holy Spirit into our hearts, than we can shine like stars (Philippians 2:15).

"For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." ~2 Corinthians 4-5

If I understand correctly, many Eastern religions suggest that if we fail to reach enlightenment, we will have many more attempts through reincarnation- eventually maybe attaining loss of self by being absorbed into the universe's goodness. Whereas we are offered reunion and fellowship with each other and with our Father as God's children. And we will never have to fear the darkness again.

"There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the lightof the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."~Revelations 22:5

So, blessed Diwali all my friends, Namaste!
May compassion, love, unity, and enlightenment be yours in Christ.

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