Since I was brought up in India, my psyche is naturally Indian in its early formation. When I read the Gospel According to St. John, I am struck by many similarities with the Indian traditions, and, of course, by many differences. In trying to understand the Gospel, I have found some Indian texts specifically helpful in bringing a new way of looking at a metaphor or in enlarging the appreciation of something that has been understood. I am persuaded that the major division in the human psyche is not horizontal or regional, dividing the Eastern from the Western soul; but that it is vertical and global, separating the few from the many, and the spiritual, inner and symbolical way of understanding from the material, outer and literal one--culturally as well as in each human soul.
My understanding of the Hindu tradition is that it aims at Sanatana Dharma (eternal order) of which at its best it is one representation, and that the tradition is most fulfilled only when it succeeds in leading one to the Truth beyond itself and beyond oneself, to experience It and to become one with It. One is born prakrita (natural, common, unformed); one must attempt to die sanskrita (well sculpted, cultured, educated). The truly educated person, the formation of which is the real aim and meaning of any spiritual path, of any yoga, is the one who is internally rightly ordered, and, in the words of the Bhagavad Gita (6:29), “sees the Self in everyone, and everyone in the Self, seeing everywhere impartially.”
Everywhere, the one Truth and one Being, or simply the One, has manifested itself in many truths, myriad beings and many selves, corresponding to different times, places, cultures, religions and needs. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana (I,7,2,1-5), when a person is born, simultaneously are born obligations to the Gods, to the sages, to the ancestors, and to the community. Out of these, the obligation to the sages is met by studying the Veda (literally, ‘sacred knowledge’); this is how we repay our debt to them.
We are living at a special moment in world history: for the first time now it seems to be possible for us to be free from our cultural isolation and to become heirs to the wisdom and truth as much of the Christ as of Lao-tzu, of Krishna and of the Buddha, if we would. In the global village that we live in, as we have access to the words and teachings of more sages, our obligations are also increased. I hope to meet a part of my obligation to the Christian sages by studying the Gospel According to St. John, which represents the Christian Veda par excellence.
However, in paying our debts to the sages and the saints, we must not forget a yet higher obligation: that to the Vastness beyond. It is This that the sages behold and to which they themselves are beholden; they show us that the Kingdom is neither in this place nor in that, but in each individual soul that is centered in the present moment on the only One Who Is. As Christ said, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. An hour is coming, and is already here, when those who are real worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Indeed it is just such worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21,23-24).
The Word became flesh and dwelt in us, and we have seen his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (1:14)
Here we encounter the central core of spirituality, the very heart of the practice: the Incarnation. Precisely because of its profundity, it is a mystery, highly cherished wherever the word mystery has not been denuded of its spiritual power. We have become habituated to the notion of mystery as in a murder mystery or a detective novel, in which the solution is found either when we accidentally stumble upon a missing clue or when we cleverly deduce it from other information. But, as far as spiritual mysteries are concerned, no amount of data or clues or information or cleverness at reasoning can lead us to solve the mystery. Spiritual mysteries always remain mysteries; they cannot be solved, simply because their mysteriousness is not a result of any missing data; it arises from their fullness which cannot be wholly comprehended by our ordinary mind. On the other hand, if we let such a mystery play its proper role, and by submitting to it in contemplation we allow it to work in us, we can ourselves be raised to the level of a higher mind, and higher still, without end. At that vantage point of the right mind, the mystery is not solved, but the knots of the mind are resolved. And the mystery has been instrumental in this movement as a koan can be in the practice of Zen. A genuine mystery carries with it the living water for a true baptism, an initiation to another level of being, a new birth.