Jesus

Losing Jesus’ Cultural & Theological Baggage by Adyashanti — from 'Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic' (EXCERPT)

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Adapted from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti. Copyright © 2014 by Adyashanti. To be published by Sounds True in April 2014.

Losing Jesus’ Cultural & Theological Baggage
by Adyashanti

I often wonder what would it be like if Jesus were alive today. Imagine Jesus—who wasn’t a Christian, after all, but a Jew—entering a church today, going up to the pulpit and giving a sermon. Can you imagine how challenging that would be for the congregation? Can you imagine how uniquely different that sermon would be from what many of us received in church?

In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly challenges the religious authorities of the day, but ultimately what he’s saying is relevant to all forms of religion. It wouldn’t matter if he grew up a Jew, or a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Hindu, because he’s speaking about the structure of religion itself—its hierarchy, its tendency to become corrupted by human beings’ desires for power, for influence, for money. Jesus, I think, had a profound understanding that the religion itself, instead of connecting us to the radiance of being, connecting us to that spiritual mystery, could easily become a barrier to divinity. As soon as we get too caught up with the rites and the rituals and the Thou shalts and Thou shalt nots of conventional religion, we begin to lose sight of the primary task of religion, which is to orient us toward the mystery of being and awaken us to what we really are.

Of course, these external forms do have a certain usefulness. The social function of religion is to have a moderating influence on egoic impulses and desires, and this moral and ethical role has been very important throughout history. When people move in the world of time and space from a healthy sense of ethics and morals, it’s a very positive thing, and religion has an important function in helping control the deeper and darker impulses of the ego.

But religion’s primary function is not about conveying ethical and moral codes, not about politics and power and hierarchy. Religion’s primary function is to awaken within us the experience of the sublime and to connect us with the mystery of existence. As soon as religion forgets about its roots in the eternal, it fails in its central task. Jesus was so critical of the religion of his time because he saw that not only was it not connecting people to the mystery, but that it was actually an active participant in veiling the mystery of existence, in obscuring the Kingdom of Heaven. And so he was a critic from the inside; he didn’t necessarily reject the religion he was brought up in, but he felt called to challenge it, to transform it. Jesus’ keen insight into the potential for the corrupting influence of power in all institutions—whether they’re political, economic or religious— is very relevant to the modern day. If Jesus existed here and now as a human being, what he’d have to say about these subjects would be as shocking now as it was two thousand years ago.

I’ve talked to many people over many years that have turned away from Christianity because it seems so often to focus on only the moral and ethical questions, on telling them how to live their lives, but hasn’t connected with them in a really deep way. Of course, there are those churches today that are inspired by the real living presence of Christ, but as a whole, Christianity needs new life breathed into it. It needs to be challenged to awaken from the old structures that confine spirit, so that the perennial spirit of awakening can flourish once again.

This may bring a sense of insecurity, but the living presence of the Christ is something that can’t be contained within any structure. The spirit that Jesus embodies is not a safe spirit; there’s no guarantee of how it will all play out in your life. There’s only one guarantee that Jesus gave: if you can receive and awaken and embody what he is speaking about, then your life will never be the same again. Then you will realize that you’re already living in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Jesus story gives us many different images of how spiritual realization can be embodied in the world of time and space. It’s important for us to realize that we must not only have the courage to recognize the divinity within ourselves, but also to embody it and manifest it in the way we live. Jesus as a living presence is not meek or mild. Jesus was a revolutionary, but he wasn’t a revolutionary just for the sake of rebellion; he wanted to break down the lines of separation between people, between heaven and earth, between human and divine.

The events in the Jesus story can be seen as a living metaphor for what’s necessary in our own being.

The true boundaries that need to be broken down are the boundaries within our own minds and within our own hearts. So the whole Jesus story, ultimately, is the map of a journey that happens within us. It’s an invitation to live out the radiance that’s revealed when we have the courage to step beyond anything and everything that separates us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adyashanti began teaching in 1996 after a series of transformative spiritual awakenings.
Adapted from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti. Copyright © 2014 by Adyashanti. To be published by Sounds True in April 2014.




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"Was Jesus a Freak?" (excerpt p.147) CLOUD HIDDEN WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN (1971) by Alan Watts

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“Abstract Jesus” by Jason Beck

A few days ago (1971) I gave a ride to a rather pleasant hippie couple who seemed to have no particular destination. I asked, "What trip are you on?" He said, "Like spiritual trip?" I said, "Yes." He said, "We’re on the Jesus trip." "Whose Jesus?" I asked, "Billy Graham’s or mine?" "Well, it’s all sort of the same, isn’t it?" It is not. For Billy Graham follows a long tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, wherein the gospel (or "good news" of Jesus has been eclipsed and perverted by pedestalization, by kicking him upstairs so as to get him out of the way, and by following a religion about Jesus instead of the religion of Jesus. Obviously, Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal savior. The religion of Jesus was that he knew he was a son of God, and the phrase "son of" means "of the nature of," so that a son of God is an individual who realizes that he is, and always has been, one with God. "I and the Father are one."

When Jesus spoke those words the crowd took up stones to stone him. He said, "I have shown you many good works from the Father, and for which of them do you stone me?" They answered, "We’re not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." And he replied, Isn’t it written in your Law that ‘I have said: you are gods’? If he addressed those to whom he gave his words as gods (and you can’t contradict the Scriptures), how can you say that I blaspheme because I said ‘I am a son of God;?" But the self-styled Christians, and especially the fundamentalist bibliolaters, always insist that Jesus was the only son of a woman who was also the son of God, and thus call upon all the rest of us to follow the example of the one human freak who had the unique advantage of being the Boss’s son.

This is not a gospel: it is a chronic hang-up, a self-frustrating guilt trip. It isolates the career of Jesus as an exhibit in a glass case – for worship but not for use.

It is obvious to any informed student of the history and psychology of religion that Jesus was one, of many, who had an intense experience of cosmic consciousness – of the vivid realization that oneself is a manifestation of the eternal energy of the universe, the basic "I am."

But it is very hard to express this experience when the only religious imagery at your disposal conceives that "I am" as an all-knowing and all-powerful monarch, autocrat, and beneficent tyrant enthroned in a court of adoring subjects. In such a cultural context, you cannot say "I am God" without being accused of subversion,
insubordination, megalomania, arrogance, and blasphemy. Yet that was why Jesus was crucified. In India people would have laughed and rejoiced with him, because Hindus know that we are all God in disguise-playing hide-and-seek with himself.

Their model of the universe is not based on the political states of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Persians, whose awesome dictatorships still hold sway through the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions, even in the Republic of the United States. In Hinduism the whole universe is like the Holy Trinity – one as many, and many as one. (And, of course, the Hindus are the despised of the earth, having been reduced to utter poverty by Muslims and Christians.)

But Jesus had to speak through a public address system, the only one available, which distorted his words, so that they came forth as the bombastic claim to be the one and only appearance of the Christ, of the incarnation of God as man. This is not good news.

The good news is that if Jesus could realize his identity with God, you can also – but this God does not have to be idolized as an imperious monarch with a royal court of angels and ministers. God, as "the love which moves the sun and other stars," is something much more inward, intimate, and mysterious – in the sense of being too close to be seen as an object. So it turns out, alas, that our new breed of Jesus freaks are following the old non-gospel of the freaky Jesus – of the bizarre man who was unnaturally born and whose corpse was weirdly reanimated for a space trip into heaven. (One can, of course, interpret these ancient images in a more profound an nonliteral way, as I tried to show in my book Beyond Theology.)

But to identify Jesus the man as the one and only historical incarnation of a divinity considered as the royal, imperial, and militant Jehovah, is only to reinforce the pestiferous arrogance of "white" Christianity – with all the cruel self-righteousness of its missionary zeal. They may perhaps be forgiven for their ignorance, but today, when we are exposed to all the riches of Earth’s varying cultures and religions, there is no further excuse for the parochial fanaticism of spiritual in-groups. Jesus freaks are still in a state of enthusiastic innocence, as yet unaware of the frightful implications of their claims. But they must realize that Christianity would seem ever so much more valid if it would stop insisting on being an oddity.

Christianity has universality, or catholicity, only in recognizing that Jesus is one particular instance and expression of a wisdom which was also, if differently, realized in the Buddha, in Lao-tzu, and in such modern avatars as Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, and, perhaps, Aurobindo and Inayat Khan. (I could make a very long list.)

This wisdom is that none of us are brief island existences, but forms and expressions of one and the same eternal "I am" waving in different ways, such that, whenever this is realized to be the case, we wave more harmoniously with other waves.

Christians, who so often affect prickly and astringent attitudes, may cluck and pishtush that this all very imprecise, vague, woolly, and sentimental. But in the harsh clacking of their disciplined voices, their accurate distinctions, and precise calculations, I hear the rattle of rifle bolts and clicking of heels. "Like a mighty army moves, But this is no way for a gentleman".
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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [3rd of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [2nd of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [1st of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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