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The Odes of Solomon: 21

Virgin OransA continuation of the Commentary on the Odes of Solomon for Awakening.

I lifted up my arms on high, on account of the compassion of the Lord.
Because he had cast off my bonds from me; and my helper had lifted me up according to his compassion and his salvation.
And I put off darkness, and clothed myself with light.
And my soul acquired members, free from sorrow, or affliction or pain.
And increasingly helpful to me was the thought of the Lord, and his incorruptible fellowship.
And I was lifted up in the light, and I passed before him.
And I was constantly near him, praising and confessing him.
He caused my heart to overflow and it was found in my mouth, and it shone forth upon my lips.
And upon my face the exultation of the Lord increased, and his praise likewise. Alleluia.

I lifted up my arms on high, on account of the compassion of the Lord.

This is a symbolic way of saying that the odist lifted all the powers of his being (arms) on high. Not asking God to come down to him (which is the way of most of us), the odist rose in his consciousness Godward. Since the goal is to be at one with God in the transcendent heights, it is a good idea to start working toward that right now. That is the way of the yogi.

In India they say: “He who chooses God has first been chosen by God.” Of course this is true of all of us. If we were not chosen we would not be in this universe whose sole purpose is our evolution on the path to God-realization. We entered here of our free will, enlightened by the grace of God. And now we strive to elevate our consciousness to higher levels, and that is also the grace of God.

I would like to stop here to point out that although it is true that the grace of God is everything, it is also true that everything is the grace of God. There is no thing in all creation that is not the embodiment of grace (kripamayi). To draw the conclusion that we need absolutely nothing but invoke God’s grace is foolish. We must put that grace to use. The ability to discipline ourselves and engage in spiritual practice (tapasya) is itself divine grace. So doing nothing but claiming to be trusting in God’s grace alone is actually a defiance of God’s grace, and the results will be negative, not just nil.

True compassion is not just feeling sorry for someone, but actually being affected by another person’s plight or pain. God has compassion on, in and with us because: “the Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings (Bhagavad Gita 18:61). Everything we feel, think or experience is experienced by God just as it is by us. When we descended into this world, God descended right along with us. God is living the life of every single being in creation, not just the human or even the sentient beings, but all existence. He literally is nearer than the near, and therefore dearer than the dear.

Because he had cast off my bonds from me; and my helper had lifted me up according to his compassion and his salvation.

Here again we have the understanding that choosing God is a sign that God has chosen us. In line with this, Jesus told his disciples: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Which is also indicated by Jesus telling Nathanael at their first meeting: “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee” (John 1:48). It is said that during much of his teaching ministry Buddha would meditate very early in the morning and perceive who in that area was ready for the call to nirvana. Then he would seek them out that day and speak with them.

Until a person is developed (evolved) enough to have a sufficient degree of spiritual consciousness it is useless to bother him with spiritual teaching. (I mean real spiritual teaching, not exoteric dogmas and intellectual and emotionally bullying or enticement.) The qualified person hears about higher consciousness and life and immediately responds and wants to learn how to attain it. Anyone that has to be cajoled and assured and given pep talks is positively not ready. We are wasting time with those who have neither ears to hear (Matthew 11:15) and nor eyes to see (Deuteronomy 29:4). Jesus told his opponents: “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word” (John 8:43). The word translated “hear” is akouo, which means both the ability to hear with the ears and to understand with the intellect–and to be affected by it.

There is no snobbery here; it is a realistic assessment of a person’s readiness. In time everyone arrives there and in time everyone attains. So we need not be anxious, aggressive or insistent with anyone. Their divine Self will reveal itself to them at exactly the right time. We are all moving toward that goal, but we must have total freedom in doing so.

And I put off darkness, and clothed myself with light.

What is darkness, and what is light? Darkness is ignorance and unconsciousness (unawareness), whereas light is understanding and consciousness. Often in the Bible “death” means lack of conscious awareness and “life” means to be conscious and aware in spiritual matters.

This is also a matter of will and effort. The odist does not say that God took away his darkness and put light upon him. Saint Paul wrote: “As many of you as have been baptized [immersed] into Christ [consciousness] have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). It was our choice and our doing. Of course we had to know how to do it, and that is the illuminating grace of of God.

We put off darkness by ridding ourself of everything that dims our spiritual vision and hinders our spiritual growth. So we have to know just what those things are to put off and put on, for spiritual life is eminently an intelligent life. Feelings and faith carry one only a very little distance. It is gnosis–understanding and insight resulting from spiritual awakening and development–that gets us to the goal. The key to all this is meditation and more meditation and more meditation. Unless spiritual life in the form of spiritual practice is made the heart of our life here and now we will remain unconscious and unevolved; in other words: dead.

And my soul acquired members, free from sorrow, or affliction or pain.

In Paradise Adam and Eve were clothed with light, and nothing else. When they transgressed, their consciousness was darkened. No longer clothed in light they saw they were “naked” and were ashamed. It was not their bodies they were ashamed of, but the loss of the garment of light, the spiritual body which is necessary for spiritual evolution. Falling back into the earth plane, they and all their descendants were devoid of this light body, but spiritual practice can restore it. The Taoist yogis speak of “the divine embryo” which develops into what the yogis of India call a “sadhana body.” It is through this that we attain higher consciousness. It is through the sadhana body, produced by spiritual practice, that aspirants actually come to see and know God.

Obviously the sadhana body is beyond sorrow, affliction or pain, so the more we develop and live centered in it, the freer we will be from those miseries.

And increasingly helpful to me was the thought of the Lord, and his incorruptible fellowship.

One time I was visiting Swami Vidyananda Giri my sannyasa guru (the one who made me a monk), at his ashram. I told him about some of the spiritually uplifting people I had encountered since our last meeting. When I was finished he commented with a quiet fervor: “Whenever we speak of such people we have spiritual contact with them and are benefitted.” This being so, consider what the thought of God must be. On the spiritual planes the remembrance of God brings us into the presence, the “incorruptible fellowship” of God. At the time of Jesus this was commonly believed, and that is why the dying thief said to him: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). He was petitioning Jesus to bring him into his kingdom. That is why Jesus replied: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (v. 43).

There is a valuable lesson for us here. We must keep our minds fixed on God at all times; then we shall always be with God and only good can come to us.

And I was lifted up in the light, and I passed before him.

Those who live in the light by clothing themselves in it through spiritual practice will in time be lifted into the divine Light and come before God. Then they, too, can say with the odist:

And I was constantly near him, praising and confessing him.

There is a lot of “praise” and “confession” of God that is little more than tiresome cant and cheap sentimentality, especially by those that think they can flatter their way into divine favor. But the real praise and confession come from the revelation of God within us.

He caused my heart to overflow and it was found in my mouth, and it shone forth upon my lips.

In other words, being united with God we have the experience of David when he sang: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1). From this we can understand that any true interior experience will ultimately manifest outwardly in a natural and spontaneous manner. So the odist concludes:

And upon my face the exultation of the Lord increased, and his praise likewise.

Read the next article in The Odes of Solomon for Awakening: The Odes of Solomon: 22

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