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Doubly Wretched

Chapter 87 of the Gospel of Thomas for Awakening

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Jesus said, Wretched is the body that is dependent upon a body, and wretched is the soul that is dependent on these two. (87)

Brown: Wretched be the body which depends upon (another) body, and wretched be the soul which depends upon their being together.

It is made very clear in the Gospels that Jesus had two levels of teaching. One was for his disciples whose entire lives were going to be dedicated to the highest ideals of spiritual life and the other was for ordinary people whose capacity for understanding and interest in higher things was limited. To each the Lord Jesus gave the kind of teaching they could understand and follow. In the Gospel of Thomas we find the teachings meant for the disciples. Their principles and demands will naturally seem too stringent for the ordinary reader, but it should be kept in mind when reading this commentary that the teachings were not meant for everyone and should be considered in that light.

Whatever people might want to think, it is evident to any objective reader of Buddha’s life and teachings that Buddha was a monk and a teacher of monks, that the Sangha was purely monastic and Buddhism is a religion for monastics. And if we look honestly at the life and teachings of Jesus we will find that the monastic life was the ideal of original Christianity. Until the middle of the twentieth century the Roman Catholic Church officially taught that the monastic life was “evangelical perfection”–the ideal of the Gospels. The Council of Trent even pronounced anathema against those who denied that monasticism was the highest form of Christian life. The Eastern Orthodox Church still holds (mostly in silence outside the monasteries) that all Christians are called to monastic life, but that Jesus made allowance for those not able to follow this ideal. “He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:11-12).

This verse is absolutely an insistence on the single, celibate life. In India Jesus had learned the ideal of kaivalya: the need for absolute solitary independence in life if liberation–often called kaivalya-mukti–was to be attained. In Buddhism, especially Theravada, it is said that the human being suffers from being bound to the five skandhas and barely manages to attain Nirvana. If someone marries then they are bound to ten skandhas–their five and their spouse’s five. When a child is born then they are bound to fifteen skandhas, and so it goes as more children are born. Beside that, simply being in a family–that of one’s own and that of one’s spouse–compounds the weight and number of skandhas. Therefore the expression for monastic life is often “homeless,” “gone forth” or “left-home.”

In this perspective we can understand why Jesus says: “Wretched is the body that is dependent upon a[nother’s] body,” for freedom and independence is rendered impossible by such dependence. And even more so: “wretched be the soul which depends upon their being together.” Such dependence is enslavement, making freedom of body, mind and soul impossible. And it is usually expanded to other relationships and even to society, especially in the matter of conformity of thought and behavior. “Being one’s own” man or woman becomes impossible. And so does being God’s man or woman.

I grew up occasionally hearing sung at church:

On the Jericho Road
there is room for just two–
No more and no less:
just Jesus and you.

I got the idea even as a child.

Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Onward and Upward

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Chapters in The Gospel of Thomas for Awakening

  1. The Open Secrets
  2. Seeking Is More Than Just Finding
  3. Seeking the Kingdom Realistically
  4. The One Goal
  5. From the Seen to the Unseen
  6. What Jesus Wants Us To Do
  7. Eat Or Be Eaten
  8. Fishing Wisely
  9. The Inner Field
  10. Guarding the Flame
  11. What Will You Do?
  12. Who Shall Lead?
  13. The Unspeakable
  14. When Virtue is Vice
  15. Father in Heaven; Father on Earth
  16. Divine Discord
  17. The Divine Gift
  18. The Origin is the End
  19. Original Being
  20. A Mustard Seed
  21. Disciples of Jesus
  22. How to Enter the Kingdom
  23. Unity of Vision
  24. Where is Christ?
  25. Love and Protect
  26. Seeing
  27. The Fasting and Sabbath of the Spirit
  28. How Jesus Saw the World
  29. Hidden Treasure
  30. One
  31. The Power of Unbelief
  32. Spiritual Strength
  33. Speak It Out
  34. The Blind
  35. The Secret of Spiritual Security
  36. Live Carefree
  37. Unashamed Before God
  38. At the Source
  39. The Religion of Ignorance
  40. Within God
  41. Spiritual Gain and Loss
  42. Move On
  43. Challenging the Master
  44. The Source of Good and Evil
  45. Great in the Kingdom
  46. Impossible Duality
  47. Peace That Moves Mountains
  48. Back to the Source
  49. Children of the Light
  50. Here and Now
  51. Seeing Yet Blind
  52. Outer Ritual or Inner Growth?
  53. Infinite Transcendence
  54. “Hate”
  55. True Understanding
  56. Wheat and Weeds
  57. Finding Life
  58. Live and Die Not
  59. “Lest Thou Also…”
  60. Who Will Die; Who Will Live
  61. The Path of Unknowing
  62. Awakened by Death
  63. Turning Ourselves Away
  64. Gullibility
  65. The Rejected is Truly Accepted
  66. All–and Nothing
  67. The Blessings of Persecution
  68. Life or Death Lie Within
  69. Admission
  70. Not a Divider
  71. Seeking the Harvest
  72. Thirsting in Vain
  73. Who Shall Enter?
  74. Unfailing Treasure
  75. The All Speaks
  76. Well-dressed Ignoramuses
  77. True Blessedness
  78. A Duplication
  79. Balancing the Inner and the Outer
  80. Near and Far
  81. Seeing the Unseeable
  82. Seeing Your Unknown Side
  83. Our Forefather Adam
  84. Blessed Homelessness
  85. Doubly Wretched
  86. Onward and Upward
  87. Twofold Life
  88. The Yoke of Christ
  89. Knowing the Unknown
  90. Asking and Hearing
  91. Give Not…
  92. Seeking and Knocking
  93. Right Generosity
  94. The Expanding Kingdom
  95. The Fulfilled Universe
  96. Taking Stock
  97. The Spiritual Family
  98. Three Debts
  99. Father and Mother
  100. Exoteric Religion
  101. Ready for Invasion
  102. Penitential Discipline, Anyone?
  103. Daring to Know
  104. Ending Duality
  105. “I Love You More…”
  106. At the Source
  107. Finding the Hidden Treasure
  108. Having Come to the End
  109. Immortal and Above the World
  110. Body and Soul
  111. Where is the Kingdom?
  112. Male and Female?
  113. In Conclusion
  114. Glossary
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