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Season 1 - Episode 3

Day 2: Meet Christ

60 min - Talk


What does it mean to take up ones cross? In Day 2, we begin in a meditation and breath sensing practice. Ravi discusses the role mythology plays in understanding subtler realities, the mythological roots of many Christian traditions, and what it means to “take up ones cross” and follow the teachings of Christ. To close out our practice, Ravi asks us to write down our own understanding of Christs remark, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
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Thank you for coming again, so let us begin with some meditation. First of all, just to remind you again, what is required from our side to contact these subtler energies which are pervading the whole universe, more and more relaxation, physical, emotional and to search for the right alignment, physically posture, also the intellectual posture that I do not know all there is to know. And a reminder from the book of Genesis in the Bible that God created human beings from the earth and then He breathed His own breath into them to make them alive. It's a helpful reminder that as long as I'm alive, it's the breath of God in me keeping me alive, not my decision to start breathing. So to become aware of the fact that breathing is taking place and as long as I'm alive, breathing will continue.

That means the breath of God will be in me in this body as long as I'm alive. So we don't need to let people persuade us that I'm basically sinful, it's the breath of God in me keeping me alive, not my sin, the divine energy. So it's important to pay some attention to our breathing. In fact, I even recommend if you don't mind for a few breaths, place one of your hands on your abdomen and that brings more connection with the breathing. The movement of the abdomen up and down is a reminder that breathing is taking place.

But not to try to hold the breath either outside or inside, simply awareness of the breath. I can let go of my hand but remain a little aware of the breath. Also the contemporary use of the English word breath somehow does not continue the grand idea that is still conveyed by the Chinese word qi or the Sanskrit word prana, that the breath is the connecting link between all levels of reality from the lowest creature to the highest divinity. As I just mentioned, it's the breath of God in me. So if I can become more and more aware of this, it will then bring me closer to my connection with God.

Similarly, a very ancient Upanishad says, prana is Brahma. Also, only by external knowledge we know that each part of my organism has to be continually refreshed by breath. Then my brain will degenerate if it was not getting oxygen. But how do I become aware of this fact directly by my own perception? So first of all, I try to sense the life in different parts of my body.

Let us begin with the right leg. Try to sense the energy or the life in the right leg, that awareness is assisted if I place my out breath in my right leg. Usually it doesn't make any sense to say to place my out breath in my right leg. But if I actually try to do this, you will notice that some intention is brought to my right leg as if my out breath is being placed in my right leg. Even more awareness can arise.

Attention is assisted by this. Intention, attention and sincerity, these are the three key requirements for any spiritual teaching. So I intend to be aware of the energy in my right leg and I bring my attention directly down to the toes. Now I shift my attention to the left leg, again as if I am placing my out breath in my left leg. May not make sense literally, but try to rely on your own experience.

Does it make any difference? A very ancient text actually says that the breath is like a cage in which the bird of mind can be trapped. Now I place my out breath in the whole of my pelvic region. Not holding my breath inside or outside. Just awareness of the breath, abdomen, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, mouth, A right arm, whole of the arm from the shoulder down to the fingertips, to become aware of the fact that it is full of life energy, not just a wooden arm attached to my body.

More and more sensitivity to the body is essential for any spiritual understanding. A right arm, whole of the arm attached to my body is full of life energy, not just a wooden arm. Now I shift my attention to my back from the neck down to the base of the spine, the whole of the back. I try to see if I can be aware whether the right side of the spine is more activated now or the left side. That activity can be sensed by either a slight increase of temperature or greater vibration.

As the nostril through which we breathe during the day changes automatically, similarly which side of the spine is more active changes during the day. When the right side is more active, we are actually more physically, intellectually, emotionally more active. When the left side is more active, then we are much more receptive, willing to hear more clearly, willing to receive. Traditionally one refers to this as the masculine side and the feminine side, which is why in all Indian sculptures women are always on the left side of the male, more receptive. Now I move my attention to the head, placing my out-breath into the head and watching whether it makes any difference.

Do I feel more clarity or obscurity, sense of space? Now intentionally I place my out-breath in the whole of my body from the top of the head down to the toes, becoming more and more aware of the life energy not created by me, but the breath of God that is keeping it alive. We take three more breaths and we will stop. Thank you very much.


I want to begin this morning first of all by looking at the very name of Jesus.

This is the English version of His name Joshua, which comes from the Hebrew Yahoshua, which literally means Yahweh saves. The reason I am mentioning this is because there are obviously very remarkable quotations from the Gospels in which Christ says, I am the way, the truth and the life. And there is always a very strong tendency to imagine as if He's ego asserting. He has so completely emptied Himself. He repeatedly says that everything I say is only what comes from God, not from Himself.

And that the direct translation should actually be that Yahweh is the way, the truth and the life. But before we go there, let me just go back a little bit here. First of all, just to remind you a general historical comment that for a few centuries, even the Torah was read even in the synagogues in Greek, not in Hebrew, for the simple reason because of the Roman conquest. And in the Roman Empire, the lingua franca was not Latin, it was Greek, partly because of their respect for the Greek culture. So therefore Greek was the standard language to be used.

And as I said, even in the synagogues, it was read in Greek, and there the word for Yahweh in Greek is egoemi. All the great remarks of Christ begin with these words, egoemi, I am is the way, the truth and the life. Egoemi is translated as I am. Here I then have a quotation from Exodus, chapter 3, verses 13 to 14. Then Moses said to God, indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they say to me, what is his name?

What shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, I am, I am. And he said, thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I am has sent me to you. In English it is translated as I am, usually put with capital letters, quite rightly. But in Greek it will be egoemi, and in Hebrew it will be Yahweh.

So I am is the expression for Yahweh in English. And in fact, orthodox Jews, really orthodox Jews, don't like to use this word Yahweh because of one of the commandments that thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain. So just in case they end up taking it by mistake. So they actually don't use it. In fact, even in the academic circles where they are obliged to use it, but they would leave out the vowels, they would simply say YHWH without using the vowels in between, which is a way of sort of avoiding doing something wrongly.

So when Christ said, this is John chapter 14 verse 6, I am the way and the truth and the life, it should actually be understood as I am is the way, the truth and the life. I am referring to Yahweh. In other words, Yahweh is the way, the truth and the life. In fact, it seemed to me to be so completely obvious when I read the Bible, I was completely surprised that hardly any of the Christian scholars seemed to comment on this. So I was happy to discover at least one exception to this.

Here I give you a reference to this, it's called the Anchor Bible, the Gospel according to St. John, introduction, translation and notes by Raymond E. Brown, it was published in 1966. He's a well-known Catholic scholar, so at least, and the second volume was published in 1970, it's in two volumes. So it's not that I'm just making it up, but I was initially completely surprised, it seemed plainly obvious to me that Christ is hardly asserting himself. He so repeatedly makes the remark that I am not the author of anything I say. All I say is what my Father in heaven tells me to say.

Here is in fact a direct quote of that from John's Gospel, Chapter 14, I am not myself the source of the words I speak, it is the Father who dwells in me doing his own work. The word you hear is not my own, but is of the Father who sent me. So to just put it in the name of somebody called Jesus born in such and such places is really very much like an ego assertion of this person, which is completely contrary to his whole teaching. And then we also need to appreciate that whenever the word I am is used by him, it carries an enormous amount of power. Here I just give you a simple example in the 18th chapter of John's Gospel, when soldiers come to arrest him, scholars don't completely agree how many soldiers were there, but the number varies from 200 to 600 soldiers.

So when they come to arrest him, here is a direct quote from the Gospel. When Jesus said to them, I am, the soldiers turned away and fell to the ground. Imagine this, they're coming to arrest him, just the sheer power of it. This is also the reason why he, in the Gospel of John, he first uses this expression to the Samaritan woman who immediately then recognizes him as a prophet of God, which is also the reason why I personally think that the Samaritan woman was not an ordinary person, although there is a general tendency to regard her as a prostitute or this or that. My own, the person with whom I actually studied the Gospel in Greek, Professor Hilary Armstrong, an Englishman, great scholar of Plotinus particularly.

And this was the one area on which he and I had a great dispute with each other. He was a very great fan of my writings, generally wrote actually a whole article about admiring my books on the Gospel as well as on Science and the Sacred. But this was one area on which we had a complete disagreement. He says, no, no, because in England she's regarded as a prostitute. So she can't be, I said this is the first person to whom Christ actually reveals his real nature, I am.

But this doesn't matter, people don't always agree with this. But what I want to focus on today is largely some of the standard events or dates in the Christian tradition which are really mythologically derived rather than historically derived. But before that, just to remind you, this is actually a remark of a very great philosopher Aristotle, when philosophy is unable to approach truth, one takes recourse to mythology. The reason is simply this, that every tradition says that there are many levels of reality subtler than the mind and that the mind cannot figure it out, which is what philosophy tries to do, which is why Aristotle is saying when philosophy is unable to approach the truth, one takes recourse to mythology. He's hardly a negligible philosopher himself.

We're leaving in contemporary times, you will find the same kind of remark by a great philosopher called Wittgenstein, some of you may be aware of this. But in any case, we don't need to necessarily buy this, but the whole point is that mythology, partially what happened after the church got established really from starting from the fourth century onwards, there was a very strong tendency to say that Greek mythology is fiction. What we are talking about is historical truth. So the word mythology then, almost until the beginning of the 20th century, was more or less considered fiction. It's in the beginning of the 20th century, many anthropologists or even many other people have discovered that mythology actually tries to say things which the mind cannot articulate properly and try to speak about reality.

For example, is it possible for an angel to be at two places at once? But I can't be at two places at once. So if one is trying to convey somebody, the power of somebody to be aware of what is taking place elsewhere, I personally know people like this, who were able to do this. How do we convey this except mythologically? And in any case, throughout all spiritual teachings, very strong idea that the mind is not the real knower, especially those of you who are involved in yoga.

I mean, this is practically the beginning of the Yoga Sutras. Here I have actually quoted here four, very, very first four verses from the Yoga Sutra. Here now is the teaching of yoga. Then yoga is establishing the mind in stillness. Then the seer dwells in its essential nature, otherwise the movements of the mind are regarded as the seer.

These are the first four verses. It doesn't even call knower, but calls it seer, because I tried to make this distinction last time as well. Sage says what he or she sees, not what he has read or heard. Actually I had, some of you probably have heard me say this earlier, I had many, many exchanges with Krishnamurti. On one occasion, I just really more or less casually was having a conversation.

I said to him, Krishnaji, what do you think of this? And he stopped me. He says the speaker, he referred to himself in the third person. The speaker doesn't think, he just looks. That's the difference.

No one needs to realize this. Thinking is limited by the whole nature of the mind. And therefore philosophy cannot actually do the task that therefore mythology is required. And I mentioned earlier to you Aldo Sakhlai's book called the Parinir philosophy, hardly any academic philosopher is quoted there. It has thousands of quotations by various people or people who are direct seers or something.

So I would therefore try to take now, to take some of the major things in the Christian tradition and to see the mythological origins of this. For example, starting with the whole Christmas. First of all, good idea to just, I have this lovely picture actually of the birth of Christ. Many of the great European artists, you probably know all this until the end of the 19th century. Most of European art was much more religiously oriented.

It all shifted at the end of the 19th century. And for example, Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, they would have great works of art dealing with enunciation or with the birth of Christ or also crucifixion, all the events in his life. So why is Christmas dated 25th December? First of all, to remind you something which I quoted earlier last time from the Gospel of John, in the beginning was the world and the world was with God and the world was God. He was present to God in the beginning through him, all things came into being and apart from him, nothing came to be.

What came to be in him was life and life was the light of mankind and the light shines on in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This is the very opening five lines, five verses in John's Gospel. See he is said to be the light of the world. So now look at the remark of Saint Augustine. He was born on the day which is the shortest in earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length.

He therefore went low and lifted us up, chose the shortest day yet the one whence light begins to increase. So naturally 21st December, in the Julian calendar, it was the 21st December was the Christmas day. But then in 1582, Pope Gregory the 13th changed the Julian calendar to what is now called the Gregorian calendar, which is what we actually mostly follow now. So that 21st December became the 25th December. So because he is bringing the light, therefore that is the birthday of Christ.

One needs to realize this has nothing to do with history. It has nothing to do with the whole underlying teaching and the underlying mythology to fantasize that people know anything about exactly when Christ was born and the 20th. And also in the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, even now, is the January 7, which is the Christmas day. Maybe perhaps some of you knew that already. It's a different day for Christmas.

And then, for example, if we take it so little-mindedly, then how would we understand this remark of my Shrek heart, which I mentioned in the last class as well, every Christian is called to be merry and give birth to the word. It doesn't matter whether you're male or female. This has nothing to do with gender. It is really more to do, can I have a spiritual birth that would be, as it were, the child of God coming from me? And then is it possible, if it can further evolve, to come one with God?

And I had also quoted this from John last time, to all who did receive the word to those who have yielded him their allegiance, he gave the right to become children of God, begotten not by blood, nor by carnal desire, nor by man's willing, but by God. So spiritual birth, one of the reasons I'm also quoting some of these things here, one needs to not be literal-minded about virgin birth. Virgin birth doesn't have anything to do with the quietus not being accomplished. It has really much more to do with a spiritual birth. And I'll give you more reasons for this here.

This is a quote from Gospel of Philip. As I told you, these are non-canonical Gospels. Some said Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, they are in error, they do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceived by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled.

The remark here, how can a woman conceived by a woman, the reason for that is the following. Holy Spirit in Latin is spiritus sanctus, which is male, masculine. Therefore one can say it's the Holy Spirit who sired child. But just to remind you, every book in the New Testament is written in Greek. The word which is translated as spiritus sanctus is noema, P-N-E-U-M-A, which you have to take my word for it, you can check with your Greek scholars.

It's neuter. And then, as I said earlier, even the Old Testament, or what the Christians call the Old Testament, the Jews don't call it the Old Testament, the Torah was read in Greek. But the Hebrew part that was translated as P-N-E-M-A in Greek, there are two words in Hebrew, shakina and roux, both of them are feminine. Again take my word for it, you can check with a Hebrew scholar. So what do we have?

A feminine in Hebrew becomes neuter in Greek, becomes masculine in Latin. Literal mindedness is very common. In fact, I'll give you one or two other examples of this, which are terrible actually. Some of you would know the story of Nicodemus. Let me take a few moments here to tell you a little bit.

This is in the third chapter of John's Gospel. Nicodemus is a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, which means the Jewish council, which actually ultimately condemned Christ to be crucified. But he was condemned by a majority vote. Not everybody in that council wanted him to be crucified. In fact, Nicodemus and another person, I was just forgetting the name, the two of them actually took care of the body of Christ after his crucifixion.

Even his own disciples were running away. So there were some people in the council who were very much in favor of Christ. But nevertheless, since Christ was being judged by people or some people as bringing some trouble, so Nicodemus, who is a member of the Jewish council, comes in the middle of the night, more or less sneaking out to talk to Christ. I know one cardinal in the Vatican who went to the Dalai Lama to ask for some advice, but he had to sneak out for the same reason. So his very first question is, how may I enter the kingdom of heaven?

And Jesus' remark is, in truth, in very truth. By the way, this literally means amen, amen. It's sometimes translated like this, verily, verily, or in truth, in truth. It's also one of the names of Christ, actually, in the book of Revelation, amen. No one can see the kingdom of God unless he's born again, born from above.

No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. Flesh begets flesh. Spirit begets spirit. Do not be surprised that I tell you that you must be begotten from above. This is all there in John's gospel.

I'm not making it up. And you see the literal mind here. And now Nicodemus is one of the members of the council, obviously highly regarded, highly educated. Usually the word Nicodemus in Greek means the ruler of men. And how literally he takes it.

This is what he said. How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he? Now, this is his understanding. To be born again, he's taking it so literally as if he has to reenter his mother's womb to be born again.

I'm reminding you of this because this is very common. You might think most of our so-called born again Christians, I'm afraid, actually fall into much of this category. One has to be very careful about all this. So when we speak about virgin birth, remember what is being spoken about here. It has nothing to do with intercourse or lack of it.

It has much more to do with the spiritual birth. Or as St. Paul says, mother virgin is not defiled by any carnal desire or this or that. Then also it's good to look at the crucifixion of Christ. As far as I can find out from this, lots of scholars do a lot of research and all this as you can well imagine. I mean, this is partly what keeps the whole academic world going.

And also we like not to agree with each other because that will stop our jobs. We have to keep finding. It's just like the doctors want to make sure that you don't really get well otherwise their jobs will end. So in any case, as far as I can gather, the scholars actually say that at that time the usual course of killing somebody was either stoning them to death or tying a big rock to them and putting them in water. They will sink.

These were the two usual courses. But clearly what is usually regarded is that Christ was crucified. And I think it's good for us to also understand that Christ was a carpenter, was making crosses before there was any mention of him being crucified. So he was, as I say, a crucifer, meaning a cross carrier before he had anything to do with crucifixion. Also to remind people, if you read the Gospels, he could have easily skipped town.

Pharisees will be very happy about it. All his followers will be happy. Everybody will be happy. Nobody is actually preventing him from skipping town, that he actually undertakes that crucifixion as an intentional sacrifice. But otherwise, why would we call him Son of God if he can't prevent this death?

This is what I earlier spoke about, sacrifice is a necessity for the maintenance of cosmic order, which is also the reason, maybe sometime later I'll have time to speak about it, that many major events, first of all, take place in the spirit world, then a whole drama is required to manifest them in the material world. For example, the book of Revelation actually says the Son of God was slain from the foundations of the world. But then at a certain time it has to be manifested in the material world. But I'll come back to this maybe three or four days from now, I'll speak about it a little bit, because it's important to understand that major events take place in a slightly different world. That is almost the very meaning of the word spiritual, that it is subtler than the mind.

But spiritual realm is very large. For example, in the Bible there are nine orders of angels between human beings and God. They are all spiritual. The reason I am emphasizing this, because sometimes it is true that somebody can have some extraordinary experience, and they can now imagine they are at the level of Christ or the Buddha. Don't be in such a hurry about it.

There are many, many levels, many levels. Because sometimes under maybe LSD or something, somebody does have an extraordinary experience, and they can fantasize that they have come to a very high level. Spiritual realm is extremely large, as I just mentioned, nine orders of angels. So it's not limited. But the reason I am now speaking about why would one associate Christ's death with crucifixion, because he very often spoke about the cross, and invited people or his disciples to take up their cross and follow him.

For example, here is the remark. Then he said to all, if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. This is in Luke, chapter 9, verse 23, and somewhat repeated in chapter 14, verse 27. So frequently he refers to cross.

He was making crosses as a carpenter. And as I actually say, he was a crucifer before any talk of crucifixion. Therefore, from a purely mythological point of view, that is, of course, the only reasonable way for him to be killed. And in fact, very important book written by a great scholar in which he actually shows how the cross comes from swastika initially. And swastika now, of course, after the Nazis has been degenerated into, but every ancient Hindu temple has swastika in it.

Swastika is referring to the certain order of the movement of the universe, actually. That's what the swastika is about. So here again, a remark from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. So you see, the word calling people to take up their cross comes very often. And also I try to say in the meditation yesterday that even the requirement of verticality, and also if my eyes are open, I should be able to look horizontally.

That also places us, as it were, in the crossing of the two dimensions, care for the world, as well as connection with the divine spirit. This is actually a very important contribution of Christ. I see often, this is certainly for me, this was one of the great appeals of Christ teaching, because very strong philosophical tendency in the Indian spiritual tradition, as if this whole world can be just neglected or ignored, it is all illusion or maya. Personally for me, this has never been a very satisfactory perspective. This world also needs to be taken care of, and that is very much emphasized by Christ much more than any other teacher.

And even the Lord's Prayer, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So here is another reminder. So as you can see, why I was personally very drawn to this really, and I have tried to study this very carefully. Here this is another quotation, this is from Gospel of Matthew, whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.

This is the important thing, by the way, I should keep reminding you this again and again. There is almost the entire spiritual teaching anywhere, is calling for a freedom from myself. Whether it is sometimes put denying myself, sometimes even very strongly actually Christ himself says, unless you hate your worldly self, you cannot come to me. Very strong remark, or even dying to oneself. Many other expressions are used.

But generally the idea is that I need to be free of my conditioned self. If I am going to speak, let us say, with Karen here, only as a Hindu to a Christian and a male to a female, Indian to an Irish person. How can I speak as a person to a person? How do I become free of all my conditioned self, which of course, conditions everybody. If I come from a rich family rather than a poor family, that conditions me differently.

If I am masculine rather than feminine, that will condition me differently. Or if I was born in first century rather than 20th century, that will condition me differently. Or if I grow up listening to Indian music rather than Chinese music, that conditions you differently. Even changes are DNA, more and more research is being done on this. So you can see how conditioned we are.

And then depending on my education, my parents' attitude, that forces me or impels me in certain directions. So unless one can be free of this, I cannot actually be truly myself, unconditioned. That is the call by all the great teachers actually, in one way or the other. So the mythologically, the whole notion of why Christmas is dated, I didn't mention about Easter. Let me take a few moments to speak about that.

Easter is first full moon after the Jewish passover, sorry, in French it's passover. So Jewish passover. So it can be anywhere between, I had actually written it down, 21st March, but after the equinox. So from 21st March to 22nd April, depending on when it happens to be the first full moon after the equinox and the passover. So it is very much connected with the Jewish passover, that whole tradition.

So that becomes the day of his crucifixion, Easter. So one needs to keep in mind that all of these traditional dates, whether it's to do with Christmas or with Easter, these are arising because of the associated teachings or associated ideas or associated mythological perspective. And then the whole question of virgin birth or many other things he speaks about, crucifixion, these are not to be taken so literally. Because that tendency is very, very strong because that's what gets called the Word of God. And then we have to take it so literally.

And because Christ repeat, if there is one common remark of Christ, which you can find in actually all the four gospel, also in prophet Isaiah, as well as also in one of the letters of Paul to the Romans, it is this, you have eyes, but you do not see. You have ears, but you do not hear. So clearly there is that very strong tendency to see in our usual way or to hear in our usual way. And that is really not what any of the serious teaching can be about. So what I have tried to convey today especially is that the very name of Jesus, Yahushua, he's not referring to himself as the Savior or anything like this.

He's actually saying everything he says is only, I'm recoating this, I'm not the author of the words I speak, I say what my Father in heaven tells me to say. This is a direct quote from Christ. And I do nothing on my own. So this notion of becoming an instrument of the divine will is absolutely central to any spiritual teaching. Let me give you a parallel example from the Bhagavad Gita.

Some of you would know this. When Krishna shows his great form to Arjuna, after much transformation of Arjuna, Arjuna sees that the very warriors he's supposed to be fighting with have already been killed because he sees that Krishna has already taken care of it. So he says to Krishna, what should I do? They have already been done. And the Sanskrit word is nimith, which can mean you become the occasion for this manifestation.

As I mentioned earlier that it has already taken place in the spirit world, but it also means instrument. So you become the instrument of this manifestation. Similarly here, that many of these events have already taken place in the spirit world, but they need to be manifested here in the material world. And in the Western tradition, a very great scientist called Swedenborg very much was of this opinion, that these things take place first in the spirit world. He was a very highly regarded scientist, but then he had some great mystical experiences.

Then he became much more spiritually oriented, but after a little while he returned to doing science because he's not against science. And then William Blake was another, very much a follower of Swedenborg. He also very much believed in this. But in general, that is not the tendency in the Western world, largely because as I said earlier too, there was a strong tendency that what Christianity was bringing was actual real history, whereas earlier Greeks were just talking about mythology. They're trying to therefore diminish that, making it a fiction.

So what does it mean to take up one's cross? Because ultimately that is the way Christ is said to be crucified. To take up the cross really, as I tried to say earlier, both the verticality, connection with higher levels or with God, if you like, and freedom from me, me, me, so I can in fact relate with others even at my own level, a little bit with more freedom, with more compassion. And so repeatedly he speaks about until you take up your cross, you cannot be a follower of mine. Again, whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself.

Freedom from oneself is really a way of saying not to be against oneself, because to some extent I need to repeat this idea that oneself, whatever I understand by oneself, meaning my body, my mind, that is meant to be the instrument. So there is no need to be against the instrument. But if I go to a workshop and it's the chainsaw running the whole thing, not doing what I want the chainsaw to do, then that's where the problem comes. And here it is important, even the instrument, even at a very, if you like, an ordinary low level, even one's ego, et cetera, that can also be an instrument. In fact, maybe I quickly tell you my own personal incident once.

On one occasion, this is many, many years ago, about 40 years ago, I was very struck by my own vanity. You have to take my word for it. I used to be more vain than I am now. But I also realized that it is just a waste of time and energy and that one gains absolutely nothing from it. So I asked my teacher, which was Madame de Salzman, I had mentioned her name earlier, how can I be rid of my vanity?

And she actually completely surprised me by her response. She said, if you did not have vanity, what will you do? That everything comes from our ego. You don't need to take her word or my word, try to see if that is true. One wants to achieve something, one wants to go to heaven, one wants to be enlightened, even one wants to be free of something.

Which is one reason why actually Maestro Eckhart, my favorite Christian, who actually speaks about a complete spiritual poverty is required, not a wish, not even a wish to do the service of God. This is what he says, complete freedom from any desire, any wish, that is the requirement for a spiritual poverty. But in any case, she said, if you did not have vanity, what will you do? Then she said, when one encounters the real I or the real self, then the ego finds its place. And then she said, ego is a good servant, but a bad master.

So in a way, if one can actually understand this here, that ego is required to do practically even survival in the world requires ego. In fact, I often advise especially parents of little children, don't try to be interfering or destroying their ego, they will lose self-confidence completely. It's important for them to assert themselves as it were. But as one grows up, one can begin to see that it can also be just ruling my whole life that I need to be free. That's the meaning of the cross, as for that I'm concerned.

As Christ said, whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself. Or sometimes he has certain other ways of saying it, unless he dies to himself, like a grain of wheat doesn't grow anything unless the germ dies. There are many different ways of saying it, sometimes very strongly actually. So the suggestion that ego also has its place if it can serve something. But if it begins to run, who needs a servant who just wants to lie around doing nothing?

But if it begins to run the whole household, making all the decisions, that's where the problem comes. I cannot imagine that the Buddha was able to sit under the Bodhi tree for 49 days before without a strong ego. The ego here would be determination, strength, or as Patanjali calls it, abhyas, steadiness practice. That is also part of the ego. So there is no need to be against the ego, but to find its proper place, which is not the same level as the real self or the real I, which really is said to be the particle of divinity that has taken on this body for its purposes.

So to come back to this question again and again, why am I born? Sometimes we use other expressions, the meaning of my life or the purpose of my existence, varieties of other expressions get used.


So then I have a little exercise for you people to try. Write in your own words what you understand by the following remark of the Christ, which is in the Matthew chapter 16 verse 24, whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself. Take up his cross and follow me.

What would it mean to deny myself and what would it mean to take up the cross and follow me? If one should remember that the word discipline and disciple have the same common root. One cannot be a disciple of Christ without following his discipline. And the discipline is really the various teachings that he's giving. It's very nice to say I'm a Christian.

What does it mean? Because I seriously try to follow something of what Christ actually taught. And it's not that there are no specific suggestions made. Some very direct suggestions are made actually by all the teachers. And here, following the cross in varieties of ways, it is said again and again by Christ.

Only in the Gospel of Matthew, Luke, and Mark. And in John's Gospel, it's a slightly different way of saying basically that I'm not the author of the words I speak. That so much to submit to hearing something from a different level. Whatever I teach is being said by God. Much more emphasis on that.

So I think try this little exercise on your own. This is not to prove anything to anybody, but how would you understand the meaning of the cross, taking up the cross? So I think we'll stop now. Thank you very much.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
These talks are a revelation...I’m finding myself thinking “hmm, I’d never thought of this [detail]...this makes so much sense!” Also, the opening meditations are wonderful. ✨✨✨✨
Kate M
4 people like this.
Excellent and thought provoking... lots to contemplate here : )
Maria Elena D
extraordinary! Thank you Mr. Ravindra. Thank you YA, :) the hypocrisy was obvious to me as a child in Parochial school, between what the adults were teaching us right out of the good book and their behavior.  I kept speaking up about it, pretty fearlessly I may add, but I just got a lot of detention, :(  The desire to seek spiritual truth has been a constant all of my life, this course is music to my ears, Beautiful. 
Caroline S
Very thought provoking talk!  Just Day 2 and Ravi has already taken me much deeper than I had ever contemplated given I have a Christian background, much gratitude to Ravi and YogaAnytime !

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