I will give thanks unto Thee O Lord, because I love Thee.
O Most High Thou wilt not forsake me, for Thou art my hope.
Freely I have received Thy grace, I shall live thereby.
My persecutors will come and not see me.
A cloud of darkness shall fall on their eyes, and an air of thick gloom shall darken them.
And they shall have no light to see, so that they may not take hold upon me.
Let their counsel become dull, so that whatever they have cunningly devised may return upon their own heads.
For they have devised a counsel, and it did not succeed.
They prepared themselves wickedly, but they were found to be worthless.
For my hope is upon the Lord, and I will not fear.
And because the Lord is my salvation, I will not fear.
And He is as a garland on my head, and I shall not be moved.
Even if everything should be shaken, I stand firm.
And if all things visible should perish, I shall not die.
Because the Lord is with me, and I am with Him. Alleluia.
I will give thanks unto Thee O Lord, because I love Thee.
Praise and thanksgiving are the usual (and cheapest) ego-bribes offered by the ignorant to their misconceptions of divinity. Yogananda remarked in one of his talks that whenever he heard people exhorted to praise God he thought of a pampered and vain person that had to be continually pleased through flattery. This entire creation has been spread out for us–not for our enjoyment, but rather for our evolution into conscious and perfect sons of God. If we simply thank and praise God for the beautiful scenery, the food we eat, and suchlike (what to say of thanking God for killing our enemies and those we consider “the wicked”!) this is no real thanks at all. To really thank God we must use His creation for the intended purpose: our ascent to divine consciousness. That is why David sang: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalms 116:12,13). In other words, seeing the blessing of God David has determined to drink of the cup of immortality and be saved from all limitation and ignorance that attends relative existence. The purpose of a school, however excellent its physical facilities may be, is to learn and leave. A person who does nothing more than wander the halls from term to term rh apsodizing over how fine everything is and expressing appreciation all the time is simply a fool. He is a disgrace to the school. So are we a disgrace–and ingrates–to God’s goodness if we do not avail ourselves of this very birth to liberate ourselves from further birth.
But the odist says love is the motive for his thanks. What, then, is love of God? Certainly not the petty liking that arises from our egos or the terrible predatory passion so often mislabeled as love. The most accurate analysis of the nature of love is to be found in Swami Yukteswar Giri’s The Holy Science, where he demonstrates that love is a positive magnetic (not sentimental or lustful) attraction which brings the lover into union with the beloved. And this union is not a mere joining or touching which may be undone, but a merging of identities in which the lover experiences the beloved as his own self. This is only possible between the individual spirit (atma) and God (Paramatma).
“Among those who are purified by their good deeds, there are four kinds of men who worship me: the world-weary, the seeker for knowledge, the seeker for happiness and the man of spiritual discrimination. The man of discrimination is the highest of these. He is continually united with me. He devotes himself to me always, and to no other. For I am very dear to that man, and he is dear to me. Certainly, all these are noble: but the man of discrimination I see as my very Self. For he alone loves me because I am myself: the last and only goal of his devoted heart. Through many a long life his discrimination ripens: he makes me his refuge, knows that Brahman is all. How rare are such great ones!” (Bhagavad Gita 7:6-19).
Love is not blind, it is perfectly clear in its seeing; therefore Krishna calls a lover of God one who is characterized by viveka, by discrimination between the unreal and the Real, between the temporal and the Eternal, between not-God and God.
Since we have brought the Gita into the picture (and it may be well asked whether there is any aspect of spiritual life into which the Gita may not brought to great profit), let us take a look at a misunderstood aspect of spiritual life–that of bhakti. Under the banner of the so-called “bhakti movement” in Hinduism, bhakti has been degraded to self-centered “relish” for God expressed in the most unrestrained and irrational emotionality that is little more than aberrative lust and greed dressed up as virtue. Though pretending self-forgetfulness in devotion to God, it is in reality narcissism of the most blatant type. It is ego-worship (ego enslavement, really) of the worst kind, for: “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). Bhakti is indeed devotion, but devotion in the sense of intelligent and intentional allegiance, faithfulness, loyalty, constancy, and steadfastness. A bhakta (devotee) is one who has chosen God, not in an abstract or verbal manner, but in the resolve to seek and find God in order to become one with Him. The puerile dictum: “I do not want to be sugar I want to eat sugar” should be enough to reveal the horrible ego-greed and ego-lust that spawns most “bhakti” today. God is not for the devouring or dominating–one of the basic drives of the “bhakta” as seen by the many myths in which through “serving” and “loving” God, God becomes the abject servant-slave of the “devotee.” Certainly a worthy person seeks to love God, but for the right reason based on the knowledge of one’s self and God. In the book of Revelation the liberated souls sing unto God: “Thou art worthy” (Revelation 4:11; 5:9,12). A true bhakta lives out this statement through his arduous practice of yoga–that which will bring him to God and make him one with God. To be devoted to God is to be dedicated to God, not licking on Him like a lollipop in the hand of a greedy child. To love is to seek, to find, to become one. As Swami Sivananda said: “Bhakti begins with two and ends with one.”
The Sanskrit root of bhakti is bhaj, which means to love, to adore, to revere, and–most significantly–to share in. And so the sequence is: we love, reverence worship, and share in the Being of God, for in both Greek and Sanskrit the word translated “worship” literally means “draw near.” Sri Ramakrishna likens the true devotee to a salt doll that enters the ocean and melts-merges with it so it can no longer be separated from the water. Yet it is present in the water, it has not ceased to be or lost its identity, as the salt taste proves.
All right, we have considered one distortion of the popular “bhakti movement,” so let us look at another: the outrageously blasphemous idea that the changeless ever-loving God can turn from us in pique or a spiteful desire to make us desolated because of our sinfulness and in this way awaken us to how bad we are. This is an extremely cunning–and therefore extremely evil–ploy, because it shifts all the blame onto God for our feeling separated and far from Him. It is not we who have made the separation, but God. He is at fault! And of course, since it is all His doing, we can do nothing but “surrender” to Him and wait for Him to get over being miffed or sadistically delighted in making us squirm and “reveal” Himself to us. As Yogananda said: “God is not hiding from you; you are hiding from Him.…He never denies us–we deny Him.” Pretending that the only thing preventing our union with God is His whimsy is indefensible and betrays a heart that loathes God, a “spirituality” that is nothing less than sociopathy. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isaiah 59:1, 2).
Therefore the odist continues:
O Most High Thou wilt not forsake me, for Thou art my hope.
In another talk Yogananda says that looking back on his life there is one thing he has learned above all: God never forsakes His devotee. How could he? It is not in His nature to do so. But in “devotional” religion of all kinds it is God Who is responsible for our fallen status and His non-cooperation that perpetuates it. While whining that we are all sinners, they yet declare that we, being helpless, are blameless! This is wilful schizophrenia. Is it any wonder, then, that those adhering to this manifest nothing but madness in their spirit? And it is all up to God to kiss it and make it well.
God, “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), is our hope because “He abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (II Timothy 2:13).
We hear a lot of talk about life, perhaps more in advertisements than in ordinary conversation. Everybody declares how much they want to “live life” and so forth. “If I have but one life to live, let me live it as a Clairol blonde” was a slogan from the nineteen-fifties that has pretty well set the tone for subsequent affirmations about “life.” But what is life? It is nothing else than consciousness, the sole attribute of spirit. So to live is to be conscious, awakened in our own spirit to the greater Life and Consciousness that is God. That is why the odist further sings:
Freely I have received Thy grace, I shall live thereby.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “grace” is charis, which means to be calmly joyful. Interestingly, it has the definite connotation of being impersonal–that is, the grace-filled rejoice, not in their egos, but in God. It also has the implied character of happy optimism. Charis also means to live out that divine joy. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,” from which that light of grace shines out into the world (II Corinthians 4:6). “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). So to live is to be in divine joy, not drunk on the false inebriation of the ego, but alive and awake in the vision of God that comes about from union with God. “In sacred joy I live, in sacred joy I melt,” declared Yogananda. There is really only one “thing” after all: God.
My persecutors will come and not see me. A cloud of darkness shall fall on their eyes, and an air of thick gloom shall darken them. And they shall have no light to see, so that they may not take hold upon me. Let their counsel become dull, so that whatever they have cunningly devised may return upon their own heads. For they have devised a counsel, and it did not succeed. They prepared themselves wickedly, but they were found to be worthless.
Reading this I immediately thought of a song that was written by a member of the little Protestant church I was raised in. The author was one of America’s unknown remarkable people. Not only was he a hymn writer and spiritual author, he was a great healer who every day cured through prayer those who came to him. And where did he cure them? In a hospital, for he was completely bedridden for many years! Daily a trickle of people came into his room and left freed from their ills, though he himself was seriously ill. As Nagendranath Bhaduri, the “levitating saint” said to Yogananda: “God plants his saints sometimes in unexpected soil, lest we think we may reduce Him to a rule!” The refrain of the song I recalled was: “He keepeth himself in the love of the Lord, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” This is the secret of divine protection. If we keep elevating our vibration–especially through yog a practice–negative people will drop out of our life (sometimes not without a final attempt to drag us back down) and other negative people will just not “see” us at all. Blessed isolation!
Those who are involved in ignorant, flawed, and negative religion like to boast of how “the demons” are angered by their virtue and how they are often “under attack” from evil forces and people. Their “holiness” is a delusion: like attracts like. True religion brings us to the notice of saints and angels (we always have God’s attention), but false religion brings us to the notice of false people and spirits. As this ode indicates, those who live in higher awareness are either invisible to evil people or so distasteful to then that they avoid them. Exceptions may occur if there is a need to reap some special karma, such as our having bothered good people in a previous life, but not usually.
Literal invisibility also can occur if an aspirant needs protection from people intent on harming or hindering him. I know of several such incidents and have experienced it a few times myself.
When someone’s aura is very strong, any negative energies directed at them will bounce back and strike those who sent it. I have witnessed quite a few situations in which the would-be harmer was harmed himself. This is especially true in relation to yogis who are steady in their practice. One time a yogi friend of mine walked into a newly-started business and was instantly insulted and made to leave by the astonishingly hostile owners. The next day the chief of police and the mayor (!) came in and told them they had only twenty-four hours to get out of town–so they did. I met a man from Africa who was being “prayed to death” by a witch doctor. When he contacted an esoteric Christian teacher and learned to strengthen his personal magnetism (for protection, not retaliation), the witch doctor fell dead in two days.
For my hope is upon the Lord, and I will not fear. And because the Lord is my salvation, I will not fear. And He is as a garland on my head, and I shall not be moved. Even if everything should be shaken, I stand firm. And if all things visible should perish, I shall not die. Because the Lord is with me, and I am with Him.
There are two ways to “look at” Divinity. One is to see It as absolutely distinct from ourselves and therefore outside us. The other is to see It as absolutely one with us, and therefore within us. The results of these two views are quite different in their effect on us. One produces anxiety, insecurity, and even fear–though there may be occasional patches of “faith” and “hope” to artificially relieve the unease. The other produces confidence, tranquility, and inner strength. Those that subscribe to the “outside” view of God continually speak of the need for “trusting in” and “surrendering to” God, developing a total and pious dependence on God, firm in a conviction of their nothingness and valuelessness. Those that hold to the “inner” view are intent on the necessity for self-knowledge and the liberation of their inner potent ial to manifest the Divine. One group sees themselves as sinners, the other sees themselves as embryonic gods. What a totally different world these two live in! And more: what a totally different world is created or shaped by those who hold such views.
Some friends of mine had a very successful Montessori school. Quite a few of their students were “behavior problems” that were rejected by the public school system. One five-year-old had been expelled from as many schools as his age. In his second or third week of attendance he did something “bad.” He looked at one of the teachers and said: “I’m a little ‘devil’ aren’t I?” She smiled and replied: “Not to me. I think you are a little angel.” The poor boy was utterly flummoxed. “I am an angel?” he asked, his voice expressing total amazement. “Yes; you are to me,” she answered. And from that moment on his behavior was ideal. Because he really was an angel, but had not known it.
The real Gospel–Good News–of authentic Christianity is that of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Our Christ nature is potential and must be brought forth, but we have no other nature to manifest. It is just a matter of now or later.
Once we realize that the Lord is our inmost being, the words of the Ode become extremely clear. The only comment needed is this poem of Emily Bronte:
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life, that in me has rest,
As I, undying Life, have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and moon were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou–thou art Being and Breath,
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
Read the next article in The Odes of Solomon for Yogis: The Odes of Solomon: 6
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