His disciples said, When will you become revealed to us and when shall we see you? Jesus said, When you disrobe without being ashamed [Nancy Johnson: “When you shed your shame.”] and take up your garments and place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you see the son of the living one, and you will not be afraid. (37)
Adam, Eve and Isaiah
In paradise Adam and Eve “were both naked… and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:5) because of their consciousness of spirit rather than of the body. But through their misdeeds “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). So we see that shame and fear come from moral transgression and its attendant guilt.
In the book of Isaiah, we are told that God told the prophet: “Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot” (Isaiah 20:2 3). A person who converses with God is not likely to care about the opinion of mortals.
On Sri Ramakrishna’s birthday in 1883, he remarked to a few of his disciples: “One cannot be spiritual as long as one has shame or fear. Great will be the joy today. But those fools who will not sing or dance, mad with God’s name, will never attain God.” In the devotional scriptures of India shame and fear are considered two of the eight fetters of delusion which prevent someone from attaining spiritual realization. Therefore Sri Ramakrishna counseled a devotee, Sri Vijay Krishna Goswami: “Surrender yourself completely to God, and set aside all such things as fear and shame.” In this verse we see that nearly two thousand years before, Jesus who had gained his wisdom in India taught the very same thing.
Sri Ramakrishna also said that a person of high consciousness, established in non-duality, may act like a child, forgetting all about clothing and walking naked, unaware of the fact. “The Master showed his devotees the manners and movements of a paramahamsa: the gait of a child, face beaming with laughter, eyes swimming in joy, and body completely naked.” And he said: “A child is beyond all ideas of purity and impurity. He is not bound by social conventions. He doesn’t hesitate to come out naked before others.”
Long, long before either Jesus or Sri Ramakrishna, the same principle was taught by Krishna. In ancient India there was a special season when young girls engaged in various spiritual observances to ensure that they would marry an ideal husband. Once the young female devotees of Krishna, the gopis, practiced those disciplines to gain Krishna as their husband. When they were bathing in the Jumna river, Krishna stole their clothing and sat up in a tree watching them. When the gopis started coming out of the water and caught sight of Krishna, they ran back in and stood with the water up to their necks so he would not see them naked. Indignantly they demanded their clothes, and Krishna told them that the only way they could have them was to come out of the water, go over to him, and take the clothes from his hand. They fussed for quite a while, but eventually all did so. The lesson was twofold: 1) love cancels all shame, and 2) the soul cannot come to God and be wedded to him unless it comes naked, divested of all that is not spirit. To return to our Source we must lay aside all that we have acquired by entering into relative, evolutionary existence. Otherwise the aspiration is mere emotion, not based on intelligent will.
Saint John Maximovitch
Here is a twentieth-century example known to me personally. I was privileged to meet the modern Russian Orthodox saint, Saint John Maximovitch, the bishop of San Francisco. I also had the good fortune to meet Bishop Sava of Edmonton, Canada, who was a very close friend of Saint John. He said that one time he was walking with Saint John down a street in Manhattan. Saint John was wearing a silk cassock that a Chinese laywoman had made for him. When Bishop Sava remarked that it was an extremely nice-looking garment, Saint John stopped walking, said: “You may have it,” and began pulling it off right there on the street. This was shocking enough to Bishop Sava, but he immediately saw that Saint John was totally naked underneath the cassock! He knew that it would be useless to reason with the saint, so he turned and ran as fast as he could, away from the impending disaster. So Saint John let the cassock slip down and resumed serenely walking. Bishop Sava might have known fear and shame and acted accordingly, but obviously Saint John did not.
Also inseparable from this is the necessity to not permit ourselves to be influenced by the opinion of others at any time. I have known people who either abandoned spiritual life or did not even take it up because of pressure from friends, family, or society. This is a terrible weakness, and even if we are prone to it we must steel ourselves against it and do that which is right. In spiritual matters this is an absolute must.
In Mahayana Buddhism it is said that the moment a person decides to seek higher consciousness a multitude of buddhas and bodhisattvas become aware of it and begin to help them in their quest. That is the only “peer pressure” we should seek or even acknowledge. As Saint Paul told the spiritual aspirants of his day: “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
When we live in the paradise-consciousness of the holy ones I have cited, then we, too, will be freed from shame and fear. Christ will then be revealed to us in his true nature, for we will have entered into awareness of our own spirit-nature. Seeing ourselves we will see Christ. And seeing Christ, we will see the Father (John 14:9).
Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: At the Source