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Awakened Life

Russill Paul

Artist -- Spiritual Teacher

The Yogic Mystery School, The Yoga of Sound, Jesus in the Lotus

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wpe88.jpg (35348 bytes)wpe79.jpg (18762 bytes) "A new civilization is being born at this pivotal moment in history that is crystallizing the wisdom of many paths and many generations. Human consciousness is being pushed to new levels and the planet's spiritual forces are being revitalized through each one of us. Regardless of your spiritual tradition or cultural preferences, a deeper understanding of sound and music as forms of vibrational healing is invaluable to our efforts to forge a powerful sense of everyday wellbeing and self-actualization in our post-modern world."

Russill Paul-- www.russillpaul.com

 

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Russill Paul was an intimate associate of both Bede Griffiths and Wayne Teasdale.  Currently, Russill continues his diverse work of spiritual teaching and musical artistry, travelling worldwide, from his residence near Austin, Texas.   

He is the author of the ground-breaking work The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant (New World Library 2004 & 2006) (see links to samples below).  His latest books is   Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality (New World Library 2009) which is also excerpted below.   Russill is the music producer of several acclaimed chant CDs through The Relaxation Company, NY, including Nada Yoga: The Ancient Science of Sound and Shakti: Tantric Embrace.

Russill trained simultaneously as a monk and yogi, in South India for close to five years, under the direction of Bede Griffiths.   A master musician, Russill Paul has performed his unique style of music at many concert venues including the premier European classical music venue Propstei Sankt Gerold in Austria, Chicago's Grant Part and Medinah Temple, The Sports Auditorium in Sheffield, England, and the Music Academy in Chennai, India.

He has also performed on several occasions for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India as well as in America and has shared the stage with music greats such as folk-singer Arlo Guthrie, British rocker Arthur Brown, guitarist Brad Gillis, Indian sarangi maestro Ramesh Misra, and Tori Amos' bassist John Evans.  For a time he travelled with Brother Wayne, providing accompaniment for a number of Wayne’s programs on emerging interspirituality.  In 2004, he joined ISDnA and others at the Barcelona Parliament of the World’s Religions, also providing a concert to that large worldwide audience.    

We are pleased to provide, below, excerpts from his most recent book, Jesus in the Lotus.

Russill and his supporting Guha Soulworks LLC can be contacted through his website www.russillpaul.com

and by email at guha2000@cs.com

wpe7A.jpg (9099 bytes) Nearly twenty musical tracks, and free audio and video capsules are offered here; the tracks have been arranged and sequenced to allow a deeper understanding of The Yoga of Sound:

http://www.russillpaul.com/audiophiles.html

 

From Jesus in the Lotus

Explore here five pieces from Russill Paul's Jesus in the Lotus (2009), to which we have provided the following subtitles here at the Multiplex:  Yoga East and West; The InterSpiritual Journey; Ramana Maharshi and Spiritual Inquiry; The Spiritual Search and the Ego; and Christian Enlightenment

Yoga East and West-- (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus pp. 10-12)

 Yoga is the fastest-growing spiritual phenomenon in the United States and internationally, and many celebrities have embraced its powerful techniques. Christians have to come to terms with the fact that Yoga is here to stay, and that the influence of Yoga is destined to have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for the development of consciousness in the West and, in all likelihood, the world at large. Even Indians are rediscovering the depth and implications of Yoga and all that it stands for.

Would it not be wonderful if practitioners of Yoga could connect to what is deep and good and powerful in Christianity, in a way that complements the deepest aspects of Yoga practice? And wouldn’t it be equally wonderful for Christians to embrace the fullness of Yoga practice without feeling they are betraying their faith and tradition? The sooner we can heal this divide, the better for our world. It will be a great day when the spiritual leaders of the world can join hands and proclaim that a saved Christian, an enlightened Buddhist, and a Self-realized Hindu are equally good, and that a deluded Hindu and a Christian who has not awakened to the core of Jesus’s message are equally lost. When we travel across this gorgeous planet, we can see that in all traditions there are both people of integrity and ignorant people: human nature is the same throughout the world, and there are spiritually awakened beings in every race and culture. 

The Model of a Yogic Christianity

My hope is that my own journey as an interspiritual seeker, what I think of as a Christian Yogi and World Soul, serves as a template for the future. Again, I am referring not to syncretism but to the simultaneous practice of more than one spiritual tradition, in which the individual is true to both traditions while being honest about the limitations of each. This is an interspiritual model rather than an interfaith model.

What I am proposing is analogous to the trilevel dialogue that emerged in the Parliament of World Religions, an institution revived in 1993, a century after its first meeting, at which Swami Vivekananda gave the famous speech that many claim resulted in the widespread popularity of Yoga in Western culture today. The idea is that we learn to relate to other spiritual traditions not only with our heads but also with our hearts and our hands. In other words, we engage intellectually, spiritually, and practically — that is, by communally working toward a higher good for all. In this manner, we allow ourselves to deepen, expand, and unite, and to acknowledge both our similarities and our differences.

As Christians exploring Yoga, we must study specific and meaningful ways in which the union of Christianity and Yoga can be modeled in our own lives and spiritual practice. For instance, when Christians explore Yoga together with the sublime philosophy of the Upanishads, they add value and another dimension to their spiritual lives. Their effort does not take them away from the essential substance of their faith, as many Christian leaders fear must happen. There are numerous figures in contemporary times, myself included, who bear witness to such integrity. Aside from Bede Griffiths, there is also Wayne Teasdale, a Christian monk who deeply explored Indian spirituality as a Christian Sannyasi. Teasdale, in fact, coined the term interspiritual.

Swami Chidananda, a great spiritual teacher who directs the Swami Sivananda Ashram in the Himalayas , says, “Yoga restores to people, whatever religion they may belong to, the inner spiritual content of their religion.”4 He refers to the mystical core of all spiritual traditions, the inner spiritual life that is the center of any real religion, and without which any religious endeavor becomes merely a facade. When a spiritual seeker is awakened to the mystical life, and he or she becomes truly devoted to his or her own tradition, why should it matter which system served as the catalyst?

We can see therefore that Yoga and Christianity, most certainly the mystical dimension of Christianity, are about the same process: the pursuit of oneness with the Divine. Relating one tradition to the other can be powerful for the world, since each balances and complements the other. At the heart of each tradition is a dynamic and transformative power that, without question, comes from the highest spiritual force in the universe.  

Excerpted from the book Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity & Yogic Spirituality. © 2009 by Russill Paul. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.   Subtitle and Link-name given by the Multiplex; text breaks from electronic facsimile

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The Interspiritual Journey-- (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus pp. 13-18)The InterSpiritual Journey (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus, pp. 10-18)

         As I have discovered in my own life, and as exemplified in the life of my mentor, Bede Griffiths, the exploration and integration of Yoga and Indian philosophy need not threaten, or take away from, fundamental Christian beliefs but can add a dimension to them and deepen one’s faith. To give you an idea of what interspirituality is like, let me offer a short summary of my initial journey and that of my mentor. Perhaps you will see in it some similarities to your own life or to that of someone you know well.

I was born Roman Catholic in South India . Although my family was Catholic, all I knew of Christianity was its clerical institutions — hospitals, schools, parishes, and charities. I was fascinated with Hinduism, a tradition I did not truly understand or properly express, even though my maternal ancestry has Hindu roots and I was surrounded constantly by its vibrant spiritual culture. My parents, like most Indian Christians, lacked real knowledge of Hinduism and were often suspicious and at times fearful of it. My attraction to Hinduism remained undeveloped until, in 1984, at the tender age of nineteen, in a dramatic act of formally renouncing the world, I went to live under the direction of the renowned spiritual maverick Bede Griffiths.

While living as a Benedictine monk under his guidance, I studied Yoga, mysticism, Sanskrit chanting, and Indian classical music with many wonderful teachers, since he en-couraged the development of a wide range of knowledge and spiritual skills and practices. This book explores the Eastern practices I have used to deepen my spiritual journey as a Christian monk, particularly Yoga, and the remarkable mystical experiences I had as a Benedictine monk and Yogi. Throughout my spiritual life, I have tried to heal the sort of tensions between Eastern spirituality and Christianity that I have encountered since childhood, tensions that I see as being prominent in the United States and in the West as a whole today. Sadly, Hindu-Christian tensions that continue in India seem to have escalated in some parts, especially during the past few years as I wrote this book, resulting in dozens of deaths, the burning of homes and churches, and even the rape of a nun.5

In Bede Griffiths, I found the perfect combination of a Christian mystic and Hindu holy man. Born an English Anglican, he was educated at Oxford under the tutelage of the literary genius C.S. Lewis, who became his close friend. Bede started out as an agnostic. An experiment in studying the Bible as literature led him to Catholicism and eventually to Benedictine monasticism. For almost twenty-five years, he lived the quiet and hidden life of a Benedictine monk in an English monastery, until he met Tony Suzman, a disciple of Carl Jung. Under Suzman’s influence, Bede’s life took a radical turn, particularly when she introduced him to Eastern spiritual writings such as the Bhagavad Gita. This classic Yogic scripture, along with the Upanishads (Hinduism’s New Testament), would influence his Christian faith and experience for the rest of his life.

When Bede felt called to explore India and Indian spirituality, he did so without giving up his Christian faith and religious commitment to the Benedictine way of life. In stark contrast to his earlier, English life, he spent the latter half of his life in the garb of a Hindu mendicant monk, meditating on the Hindu scriptures and seeking to understand his Christian faith in light of the Yogic experience of India . His deep reflections, born of many decades of comparative study, and coupled with his rich inner spiritual life, informed my own spiritual development.

The life and work of Bede Griffiths and others are invaluable testaments to the power of Christianity’s union with Yoga. In outlining my own spiritual journey in this work, I seek to explore the potential of that union even further. There is also an added therapeutic benefit of Yoga that should interest Christian practitioners: medical science and innumerable case studies in a variety of disciplines attest to the tremendous healing power of Yoga.

I sincerely hope that this book will inspire Christians to understand and embrace some of the powerful methods and teachings of Yogic spirituality and to integrate it into their faith experience. Likewise, I hope that Yoga practitioners find new ways to relate to Christianity without the hardened resistance that is presently characteristic of so many. My book also addresses nontraditional spiritual seekers and young people looking for spiritual insight and may help them understand the value of the mystical journey, which is a universal process.

The Benefits of Interspirituality

What do we stand to gain by relating and combining the worldviews of Christianity and Hinduism? In essence, the former emphasizes relationship, the latter identity. Both are important, and there are individual and collective benefits to relating the two, including the strength of cross-cultural harmony, which can contribute significantly to the peace and stability of our world. While Christianity, with roughly 2.1 billion practitioners,6 is the world’s largest and most powerful religion today, Christians stand in danger of isolating themselves from the rest of the world, in an us-versus-them scenario. This is because of popular Christianity’s exclusivist doctrines and strongly extroverted spirituality, which, arguably, have value but are in need of balance. The present tension between the Western world and the Middle East is largely a result of the long-standing tensions between Christianity and Islam, which is just as exclusivist and extroverted (except among mystical sects, most notably the Sufis). The Islamic population is rapidly growing, as is the Hindu population. Tension between Christians and Muslims is so strong that it will take a long time to eliminate it. Furthermore, it is difficult for practitioners of these two religions to collaborate spiritually, since both have exclusivist doctrines fundamental to their faith.

Yoga — like the Hinduism from which it is derived — is broad, deep, universal, inclusive, flexible, and tolerant. A Christianity informed by Yoga’s rich inner mysticism and Hinduism’s profoundly inclusive worldview can rediscover itself in a new light and inspire a greater proportion of the world’s population. This is possible because Yoga and many wonderful aspects of the Hindu spiritual tradition can support rather than threaten Christianity. In fact, the two can complement each other in marvelous ways, as we will discover. The benefits of this union may well extend to Islam, which today, as a result of political conflict, is also rediscovering itself. In this context, great tribute must be offered to the Sufi community, which, for almost a millennium, has sought to integrate the best elements of mystical Hinduism, Yoga, Christianity, and Judaism.

Yoga, which is not a religion in the strict sense of the word, demands to be taken very seriously. It is not only ancient, with a formidable five thousand years of historyand development, but also tremendously effective in a wide range of therapeutic applications well recognized by the Western medical community today. Christians, even if grudgingly, have to come to terms with the fact that Yoga is a credible discipline, not just physically and psychologically, but spiritually too. In fact, quite a few Christians practice the physical form of Yoga without recognizing its spiritual roots and philosophies and still derive the deeper benefits naturally built into the system. However, when Christians open themselves to the wisdom of Yoga’s deep insights, their faith experience and personal spiritual practice can only be enriched.

Conversely, Christians’ embrace of Yoga can just as well invite Yoga practitioners to look more closely and deeply at the core values that Christianity has to offer the East. However, if Christians are to determine Christianity’s values and strengths within the context of a global spiritual perspective, and know what it can truly offer the East, they must first understand and appreciate Yoga’s spiritual depth and power.

I am not suggesting that Yogis, or Hindus, become Christian any more than I want Christians to become Hindus. The intention behind this work is not about conversion to either path. My hope, rather, is that Christians and Hindus heal the wounds that intolerance, lack of knowledge, and prejudice have generated. Christianity has not been very kind to Hinduism, and the wounds run deep, but they can and must be healed, for healing them will make our world stronger. Additionally, there are Christians deeply committed to their faith who also have an interest in Yoga, whose techniques and mystical insights they are afraid to embrace because they distrust the tradition. This is a conditioned distrust founded on irrational fears and the lack of unprejudiced discovery of the value and spiritual compatibility of Yoga with Christian faith. It is my prayer and hope that this book helps in some way to change it.

However, as we know, all change has to begin with individuals. When I speak of Christianity in this book, I often try to link it strongly with the Jewish tradition in which it was birthed, just as Yoga was birthed in Hinduism. Any individual who allows himself or herself to be influenced by the powerful crosscurrents between the two traditions — Judeo-Christianity and the rich complex of Hinduism and Yoga of which Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism are part — will be pushed to the forefront of evolving consciousness. These cross-cultural prototypes represent the spirituality of the future that is being birthed in our time. Ours may be a personal journey now, but we are being called to forge models for the future, for we are at a cusp period in our history, one that is of momentous significance, as significant as the invention of the wheel, the discovery of fire, the birth of the printing press, or all of these and more put together and magnified many times over. My explanation of how those crosscurrents can enrich the personal spiritual journey of the individual, how the discovery and the opening of this mystical doorway can affect the life of the individual seeker, is perhaps the most powerful message of this book.

 Excerpted from the book Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity & Yogic Spirituality. © 2009 by Russill Paul. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.   Subtitle and Link-name given by the Multiplex; text breaks from electronic facsimile

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Ramana Maharshi and Spiritual Inquiry-- (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus pp. 61-62)

 David Godman, in Living by the Words of Bhagavan, explains Ramana’s spiritual methodology: The “I”-thought identifies itself with all the thoughts and perceptions that occur in the body. For example, “I” am doing this, “I” am thinking this, “I” am feeling happy, and so on. Consequently, the idea that one is an individual person is gener-ated and sustained by the “I”-thought and by its habit of constantly attaching itself to all the thoughts that arise. Shri Ramana maintained that one could reverse this process by depriving the “I”-thought mechanism of all the thoughts and perceptions that it normally identifies with, until only the Atman or the (true) Self remains.5 Eckhart Tolle is another contemporary spiritual teacher who has succeeded in finding efficient psychological language to describe this process and teach it to others, particularly Westerners.

I had already laid the foundation for at least recognizing my true Self. I had gotten used to not thinking while I was performing routine actions such as brushing my teeth or washing my clothes or eating. I would just say a single word to identify the action, like “chewing” or “scrubbing” or “walking.” This reminded me that I was to refrain from using my mind to think deliberate thoughts and to simply experience the task along with all the sensations that were part of it. Now I added to this practice a method of self-

inquiry that involved asking “Who is feeling?” or “Who is thinking?” This gradually led to an acute awareness of the part of me that was witnessing everything. This eternal witness, I came to realize, is the Atman, the Spirit that dwells within us, and this is the image and likeness of

God in which we are all created. God is formless essence. Our own true nature lies hidden within this essence. To help differentiate between the ego self and the true Self, the Katha Upanishad offers this: 

In the secret high place of the heart, there are two birds that sit on the tree of life: one that enjoys the fruits thereof and the other that impartially looks on.

The Atman, the Spirit in us, is beyond sound and form, without touch and taste and perfume. It is eternal, unchangeable, and without beginning or end: indeed above reasoning. When consciousness of the Atman manifests itself, we become free from the jaws of death.

Not through much learning is the Atman reached, not through the intellect and sacred teaching. It is reached by the chosen of him — because they choose him. To his chosen the Atman reveals his glory.

Excerpted from the book Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity & Yogic Spirituality. © 2009 by Russill Paul. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.   Subtitle and Link-name given by the Multiplex; text breaks from electronic facsimile

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The Ego and Discernment-- (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus p. 62f)

The Ego and Spiritual Discernment

Walking the path toward union with the Divine and finding one’s true Self are really one and the same. Those who seek spiritual joy and transcendent experience must necessarily enter into intimate relationship with this Atman, this eternal soul, this presence of God in the heart — whatever you choose to name it. This, very simply, is the essence of mystical spiritual practice and is what Jesus meant when he said, “No one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Here, he was identifying not with his human ego but with a sense of universal Selfhood, which in Hindu terms is Atman. It is present in everyone, without exception, and is beyond name and form. What makes it a challenge — perhaps the ultimate challenge that an individual faces — is that the ego stands directly in the way. When the ego dissolves or becomes transparent, we can, like Saint Paul , say, “It is no longer I, but Christ who is living in me” (Galatians 2:20). The Atman is none other than the Christ Self. The process of discovering it, as Jesus simply stated, is to be willing to lose or give up one’s ego. Jesus asks that it be done for his sake, meaning that it be done for love, not for the sake of achievement. However, people around the world have been doing it and finding it without any association with Jesus of Nazareth. But most certainly, the Christ nature within us, which Jesus identified himself with, is synonymous with Atman.

Atman suffuses our souls and indeed the entire universe, but it remains absolutely inaccessible until the ego gives up its structures of control. Since ego is control (Wayne Dyer calls it an acronym for “Edging God Out”),7 this means that the ego must fade away and, finally, dissolve. When it puts up resistance, it must be deconstructed. This, however, is not easy, for it is a direct threat to one’s sense of self and personhood, because the self, the lower self, is a product of the ego. As the cultured ego begins to disappear, so too does the self — or what you’ve always thought of as your self — and the true Self, the higher Self, is revealed.

The ego, of course, resists deconstruction. It has spent its lifetime building up its defensive structures, and it is always ready to create convoluted arguments to protect itself and the assumptions of which it is made. You cannot make spiritual progress until you learn to recognize the operation of the ego — to become aware of its games and tricks — and understand the difference between it and your true Self, or eternal soul.

In short, one has to distinguish between the two, through spiritual discernment, a power that both Christian mystics and Indian Yogis have long valued. Saint Anthony the Great, one of the most revered Christian mystics of the Egyptian desert, is famous for describing the crucial value of this skill: “The gift of discernment is neither earthly nor of little account, but is, rather, a very great boon of Divine grace. And if a monk does not do his utmost to acquire it he will surely stray like someone in a dark night amid gruesome shadows.”8 In the Hindu tradition, there’s a similar focus on this skill as a fundamental part of spiritual practice. The Bhagavad Gita expresses it in surprisingly similar terms, describing a practice that can be translated as the “Yoga of Discernment.” Spiritual discernment is key in Samkhya philosophy, which forms the basis of both the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, considered to be among the most important Yogic scriptures. This discernment is essentially the ability to discriminate between what is real and what is unreal, meaning, the true Self and the false self, the ego. And this is why each morning at the ashram we chanted in Sanskrit, “Lead me from the unreal to the real...”

Both East and West seem to agree that the power of discernment is a gift of Divine grace. As Saint Anthony the Great says, “This [discernment] is no minor virtue, nor one which can be seized anywhere merely by human effort. It is ours only as a gift from God...and among the most outstanding gifts of the Holy Spirit.”9 The Gita proclaims, “Action without craving for the ‘I’ and ‘mine’ leads to a state of divine grace that is peaceful. Absorbed in it, everywhere, always, even at the moment of death, such a person vanishes into God’s bliss.”10

Because discernment is a gift from the Divine, you must ask for it. In both the Christian and Yogic traditions, one may request this gift in petitionary prayer. One asks the Divine for the power to discern the spiritual from the nonspiritual, the cultured ego from the eternal soul. In the Hindu tradition, petitionary prayers often take the form of mantras, which are rhythmic sounds that develop the discriminatory powers of the spiritual mind. Not all mantras are necessarily petitionary prayers, but when they are, they are essentially prayers of enlightenment. The particular mantras that address this need are often from the Vedic tradition. Ved means “to know” and comes from the same root as the Latin vid, from which we get video — the knowledge that comes to us through this kind of prayerful chanting comes from an inner vision, a perception, a “seeing.”

Gaining the power of discernment and using it is essential for spiritual development, but it is only the first phase of the path to enlightenment (Self-realization for Hindus, awakening for Buddhists, and the anointed state for Christians). Different writers, Christian saints, and Eastern mystics have explained the path to enlightenment in various ways, but most describe a common pattern of three fundamental phases. In the Christian mystical tradition, these are called purgation, illumination, and union. Discernment is the essential work of the purgation phase, in which one gets rid of, or purges, all the ego structures that stand in the way of illumination and, ultimately, union.

The Bhagavad Gita describes a similar division when it outlines three types of Yoga. Karma — the way of purification through action — corresponds well with the purgative phase. Both embody the essential idea of ridding oneself of the barriers to spiritual progress. Next there is Gnana, the way of illumination through knowledge; and finally there is Bhakti, the way of union through devotion.

The three phases of Christian mysticism aren’t linear, just as the kinds of Yoga aren’t sequential or mutually exclusive.11 Purgation often happens in fits and starts, with glimpses of illumination and even union occurring between episodes of dark, traumatic, and ultimately transformative purgation. That was the case for me during my time at Shantivanam. The mystical experience I had after the vipassana retreat was the first in a series of illuminative bouts preceding a purgative period that was for me very much a “dark night of the soul.”

Excerpted from the book Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity & Yogic Spirituality. © 2009 by Russill Paul. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.   Subtitle and Link-name given by the Multiplex; text breaks from electronic facsimile 

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The Spiritual Search and the Ego-- (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus pp. 131-134) 

Going inward to find that place where God dwells is a journey with many challenges. Although the trials and obstacles we face on the journey have some common sources, each person faces a different set of challenges and overcomes them in different ways. Making your way around the obstacles in your search for spiritual truth is, therefore, more like wandering through a labyrinth than treading a straight or well-worn path. But with each success, breakthrough, or new insight, you make progress in the largest sense of the word, even if enlightenment feels as far away as ever.

What we have as our primary guide on the journey is our inherent spiritual design. It is the why and how of our being, and it is always with us, in the now of our existence. If we have lost sight of this Divine source, it’s only because of our education in this world. Starting in our childhood and then throughout our schooling and career, many, if not most, of us have been taught that the world is a dangerous place, that we must compete with others to be successful, that others are out to get us, and that our race and our community are different from and better than others. In addition, in order to function effectively in the world, we have all spent much effort developing, strengthening, and honing our egos. Learning to exercise healthy caution and building a sense of self in the world are important, but if you are like most people, these aspects of your development have gone far enough to have obscured and suppressed the spiritual self that has always been inside you.

As long as our spiritual self remains suppressed, attempts at spiritual practice are likely to be frustrated. When our methods of prayer don’t seem to produce the results we expect, our ego steps in with its judgment to make us feel dissatisfied, setting in motion that wheel of self-doubt that almost ensures the results won’t be what we want. We have to remember in such situations that we are dealing with years of negative conditioning, which has given us habits, thoughts, and impulses that push us to look for love and spiritual fulfillment within a narrow mental framework. The German mystic Meister Eckhart described the problem well when he wrote, “God is at home [within us]; it is we who have gone out for a walk!”1

As we progress on the journey toward reconnection with our spiritual design, we don’t necessarily need to look for teachers outside ourselves. Our pain and the condition of our souls are ready to teach us much of what we need to know. Even more powerful is an archetypal force at work in everyone’s life that has been called the “guru principle.” Although the guru principle can take the form of an actual physical person or guru (the word guru translates as “that which dispels the darkness”), it more commonly shows itself as a spiritual presence or interior awareness that works through books, dreams, inanimate objects, or other people.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the many years that have passed since I first walked through the gates of Shantivanam is that the most potent enemy we face on the journey inward is our very own ego. In chapter 2, I explained that the ego masquerades as the core of our self by creating the “I” and preventing us from recognizing our true Self, our spiritual essence — the interior manifestation of the Divine that Hinduism calls Atman. In Christianity, this is the Christ Self, the anointed self. As Saint Paul would say, “It is not I, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). However, the Christ Self can shine only with the cooperation of the ego. Achieving a certain “transparency” of the ego is what spiritual practice is truly about. This is the theosis, or spiritualizing of the ego, that we spoke of earlier. I find this more helpful than the typical Hindu approach of treating the ego as an illusion, something that is to be destroyed altogether. However, there is value in understanding what is meant by illusion in the East.

From the Hindu perspective, the world of the senses and the constructs of the mind are both illusory: they are merely surface phenomena in a constant state of flux, below which lies a permanent level of existence, the infinite reality of the Divine. It is the ego’s function to make you identify with the illusory physical and psychological worlds; this identification keeps you trapped in them and out of touch with the underlying reality and with your true Self. This is why Patanjali, in his opening sutras, describes Yoga as the control of the mind’s flux. The purpose of Yoga, he explains, is to enable the true Self to shine forth. As long as there is flux, the self is identified with the mind’s content, and that is precisely what fortifies the ego (Yoga Sutras 1:2–4).

Discovering the absolute dimension of existence requires that one break through the illusion, or maya, created by the ego. The ego fights this process, of course, but it may do so indirectly, by taking responsibility for every bit of spiritual progress, every outward manifestation of greater holiness. When this is happening, your practice may actually be strengthening the ego rather than transforming or dismantling it.

Excerpted from the book Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity & Yogic Spirituality. © 2009 by Russill Paul. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.   Subtitle and Link-name given by the Multiplex; text breaks from electronic facsimile

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Christian Enlightenment-- (Russill Paul, from Jesus in the Lotus pp. 171-174)

 It is also necessary to explore the Christian contribution to the experience of spiritual enlightenment. What distinguishes it is its awareness of the power of one’s soul to influence the communal process of enlightenment. From the deeper Christian point of view, individual choice has a role in the grand fulfillment of the universe that has been “groaning in travail” (Romans 8:22). This is why the Second Coming of Jesus is better seen as a gradual process that ushers in a new consciousness, a process that requires our consent and conscious participation. It is not understood as a dramatic appearance that, in a moment, separates the good from the bad, for that would indicate Divine impatience.

Christian enlightenment, then, is the call to actively participate in the Divine vision for humanity. The new consciousness is ushered into the world, into humanity, and into all of creation. All human beings take part in this conscious partnership with the Divine, and all support one another, as individuals and as communities. Furthermore, from the Christian point of view, the human response to this cocreated consciousness is prompted by love rather than a desire for truth or even knowledge of the Self. While all approaches arguably lead to the same end, each process shapes the individual and the world uniquely, and this must be appreciated, which is precisely why the Judaic and Christian viewpoints are worthy of inclusion in the yogic perspective that is, for the most part, strongly individualistic.

The Christian view of enlightenment is also unique in that it posits that enlightenment is both individual and communal. The Eastern view, on the other hand, states that it is entirely individual and pertains strictly to human consciousness, meaning that the rest of creation and other conscious individual beings are not drawn into it: they are, according to the enlightened view, an illusion. Not that they don’t exist in themselves, but that, in the experience of enlightenment, the Self shines in its own being and this Self is the same Self of everything else. In other words, there are no particular or individual identities in the Self. It is somewhat difficult to wrap the mind around this, for it is an experience, not an idea. There is a huge difference between the Eastern view and the Christian and Jewish viewpoints.

For instance, when the great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi was asked about the conflict between becoming enlightened and helping others, he is supposed to have responded, “But there are no others.” Here, of course, he is speaking from a profound mystical experience, a fullness of Self, not selfishness. In the Eastern view, there is only the one, indivisible Supreme Spirit residing in all things and all people, and when we awaken to its presence within us, all distinctions are illusory and simply fall away: we see only God, in ourselves and in others and in all things. There is no differentiation in this vision — only a seamless connectedness to an infinite continuum. This is similar to the Buddhist view of nirvana, in which the illusion of separateness is “snuffed out,” which is the literal meaning of the word nirvana.

I suggest that, while recognizing the value of the Hindu and Buddhist views, we can simultaneously acknowledge and value the power of the Christian and Judaic view that there is ultimate value in the individual parts of creation and in the individual processes as well as in all of human suffering. In this view, every creative process, from the very beginning to the very end of time as we know it has ultimate value, meaning, and purpose. The various phenomena of creation are not an illusion that drops away, but are integral and intrinsic to our individual and collective enlightenment. In this view, every atomic reaction and every biological process from the beginning to the end of time is fulfilled: “For creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of Spirit” (Romans 8:21). And so, every amoeba, deer, and dinosaur has meaning and purpose and participates in the experience of a collective enlightened fulfillment, the result of the awakened consciousness that has been precipitated by conscious human participation in the divine purpose for our universe. Why can’t this be concurrent with the ultimate realization of consciousness? 

In the west, Yoga has become popular enough to spawn its own culture, with specific clothing lines and clichés. Yoga is big business today. One thing we must guard against in this process of cultural development and commercialization is the loss of the deepest aspects of this wonderful discipline. We must also recognize the danger that accompanies the development of a spiritual ego in Yoga practitioners who assume that, because they are spiritual practitioners, they know more about spirituality than others do, and who express this ego by denigrating Christianity. On the brighter side, Western Yoga continues to integrate more and more with Western psychology to produce a healthier form that is a prototype for the future.

I sincerely hope that a conversation begins between the Christian and the Yogi within each spiritual seeker who reads this work. We are all Yogis. Yoga is union, balance, harmony, and peace. However, our peace and our balance and our connection to our source are constantly being challenged by life’s circumstances, our changing world and health, our complex relationships, and the often intricate maneuvering and meandering in our professional lives. Yoga shows us how to restore and maintain harmony by honoring our physical bodies and disciplining our minds. This Yoga is universal.

Christianity too is universal. The word catholic actually means “universal.” Consciousness of Christ and the awakening of universal consciousness in every human being is essential to our evolution. And we must recognize that Christ consciousness is already a part of other traditions, that it is greater than Christianity. In the same way, Yogic powers, processes, and capabilities are universal and exist in other traditions. Yet, as we have seen, Christianity and Yoga both offer the individual practitioner specific gifts and specific challenges because of the emphases of their individual paths. Each Yogi, and each Christian, has to find his or her way to integrate the challenges that the other tradition pre-sents and to embrace the gifts that each has to offer. Yogis challenge themselves physically on a regular basis, and today Yoga in the West has moved beyond that physical dimension. Many Western Yogis now challenge themselves spiritually, mentally, and morally.6 

The Way and the Truth

For many Christians, Jesus’s declaration “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” proves Christianity’s supremacy over other traditions, which are considered to be untrue and therefore as leading to death. Bede Griffiths often joked, “Thank God, he did not say, ‘I am the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.’” To understand what Jesus said from the inner, mystical perspective is to acknowledge the archetypal universality of the Christ Self, which can and should be compared to Atman and the true Self, as we have already done.

From the outward, social perspective, Jesus taught radical dependence on God, which he himself practiced, and which he illustrated in his directive to his disciples to “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals” (Luke 10:4–6). This too has its corresponding parallel in the Indian Yogic tradition of sann-yasa, a complete renunciation of everything but God alone, which was already a spiritual institution in India hundreds of years before the time of Jesus and continues to the present day. As Cynthia Bourgeault points out in The Wisdom Jesus, Jesus did not teach in a vacuum. Capernaum , where he did most of his teaching, was located on the Silk Road, and spiritual ideas and concepts from India could very well have reached him through merchants and travelers. Contrary to some theories that Jesus went to India , it is far more conclusive that India came to Jesus.

Many Hindus have a hard time with Christians who preach the message of Jesus while living in comparable luxury, unlike their own radical monks, who seem to be following Jesus’s directives far more than Christian missionaries do. For although Christian missionaries may live simply in India, their accommodations are far more luxurious than those of the Indian monk, Yogi, and frequently even the ordinary person who sleeps on the floor, eats with his or her hands, and wears pieces of unstitched clothing around the body. Only after the pioneering work of my mentor and his peers did Christian religious in India begin to adopt simple Indian clothing.

The important renunciation, though, is not the renunciation of possessions or lifestyle but the renunciation of “I” and “mine.” Bede Griffiths, who lived an austere life as both Yogi and Christian monk, explained, “A sannyasi is one who is totally detached from the world and from himself. It is detachment which is the keyword. It does not matter what material possessions you have, so long as you are not at-tached to them. The one thing which you have to abandon unconditionally is your ‘self.’ If you can give up your self, your ‘ego,’ you can have anything you like, wife and family, houses and lands — but who is able to give up his self?”7 Jesus captured the idea succinctly: “Those who lose their [egos] for my sake will find it [divine nature]” (Matthew 10:39). Here again, the motivation for renunciation is love. The Bhagavad Gita expounds on the same principle: “Abandoning all desires, acting without craving, free from all thoughts of ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ that [person] finds inner peace. Absorbed in this divine state, everywhere, always, even at the moment of death, such a [person] vanishes into God’s bliss.”8

Yoga and Christianity as originally taught by Jesus share a radicalism. However, in modern times both traditions — especially Western Yoga and Western Christianity — have adapted this radicalism to life in the world. Not everyone is ready for the intensity of Jesus’s core teachings and practices. However, the ultimate goal of both traditions is the discovery of the absolute consciousness that Jesus called Father, and that in India is called Brahman. This search for ultimate reality can be undertaken while living a normally engaged life in the world. This “normal life” may be the healthiest and sanest form of mysticism. Christianity has a complementary objective: it asks that, while searching for the Absolute, we also make our world a better place by being kind and loving to others. However, whereas the search for divine mystery and spiritual experience has faded into the background in Christian spirituality, it is being revived today by individuals and organizations such as those that I mention in the resources section.

The practice of Yoga, together with the philosophical vision of the Upanishads, can help restore a unitive worldview to Christianity, in which it rediscovers the world penetrated by the supreme consciousness of God. This will help bring a more intimate sense of Divine presence into the world. As the presence of God, once seen by Christianity as being separate from the world, is drawn into the world, it will suffuse it with Divine presence. As mentioned, the East has a tendency to separate from involvement with the world and the lives of others. The Hindu and Yogic tradition can both benefit from acknowledging that there is work to be done by us grassroots practitioners. There are added spiritual responsibilities to be embraced, in which we play a more active role in making our world, and the consciousness of our species, more representative of the enlightened states. Many Hindu gurus have undertaken this role; however, the most effective form of transformation is possible only when the everyday practitioner shares the responsibilities, and this should happen around the world, India included. Through the marriage of East and West, we may embrace the vision of original sin transformed into original blessing9 and see the world as the ancients once saw it: at once physical, psychological, and spiritual. The purpose of recovering this vision is to help usher in the new world order that Jesus identified as the kingdom of God, which was also Israel’s vision of a new creation truly fulfilled in God. Jesus’s essential message, “The time is now! Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), can easily be translated into Yogic language as “Turn within, spiritual enlightenment is within your power, now.” Bourgeault interpreted metanoia, the Greek word used in place of repent in early translations, to also signify “going beyond the mind,”10 an esoteric translation that is not only close to the literal meaning of the word but also identical to the literal meaning and purpose of the word mantra.

If the ultimate meaning and purpose of life is to be found in the kingdom-of-God experience, which is best understood as an ultimate state of consciousness, then this beatific vision, the one that Arjuna beholds in the Bhagavad Gita, and that many of the great Christian saints have experienced, is the real heart of both traditions. In this final state, Bede Griffiths explains, “the human body will be totally penetrated by spiritual consciousness and become a ‘spiritual body,’ and at the same time the material world with all its energies now penetrated by [supreme] consciousness will became a ‘new creation.’”11 The great Indian mystic Shri Aurobindo, another visionary who sought to synthesize East and West, shares a similar vision of a transformed existence, which he describes in his work The Life Divine.12 Interestingly, Shri Aurobindo used the term Integral Yoga to define the process by which this vision could be brought about, a term that can be elaborated on in the continued dialogue between Yoga and Christianity.

It is important to acknowledge that Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss, and all the other wonderful teachers of the present spiritual order in the West are helping usher in this consciousness, as are the great contemporary spiritual teachers of the East, including luminaries such as Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and Amma. In individuals such as these, it is easy to see the Christ Self shining through them, defying all attempts at definition. All of us are called to help usher in this consciousness, and we must each be actively engaged in the process. One way to start is through conversations with other traditions: Yogis can open their Yoga studios to dialogue sessions, so that individuals from Christian groups can come to exchange views and teachings, and church groups can be open to sessions of respectful dialogue in the spirit of learning and mutual exchange. In actually sharing physical space with a person, we can sense the innate goodness and sincerity in the other, and everyone is enriched in the process. 

Excerpted from the book Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway Between Christianity & Yogic Spirituality. © 2009 by Russill Paul. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.   Subtitle and Link-name given by the Multiplex; text breaks from electronic facsimile 

 

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