The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 17: From the Beginning

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Timeline of the Universe, by NASA/WMAP Science Team. From Wikimedia Commons

 

Krishna says to Arjuna, almost in passing: I told this eternal secret to Vivasvat [the sun god]. Arjuna, stunned, replies: You were born much after Vivasvat; he lived very long ago. Why do you say that you taught this yoga in the beginning?

Krishna answers: You and I have passed through many births, Arjuna. You have forgotten, but I remember them all. My true being is unborn and changeless. I am the Lord who dwells in every creature. Through the power of my own maya, I manifest myself in a finite form. (BG, 4:1-6)

If you’re familiar with the gospel of John, you may hear echoes of Jesus’s conversation:

“Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see my day. He saw it and was happy.”
“You aren’t even 50 years old!” the Jewish opposition replied. “How can you say that you have seen Abraham?”
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the temple. (John 8:56-58, CEB)

In Christian theology, Jesus is speaking here as the pre-existent Word of God (John 1:1), who has always existed outside of time, the one through whom all things were created (1:3), and who was a sacrificial lamb “slaughtered from the foundations of the world” (depending on your translation; see the note on Revelation 13:8, NRSV). Similarly, Krishna, in human form, makes a claim that he was pre-existent. The main difference is that Krishna includes Arjuna in this timeline—they’ve both been around forever.

I’m not going to delve deeply into incarnational theology in Hinduism and Christianity today. I just want to point out the similarity in these dialogues. Both Jesus and Krishna reveal that a) they have known characters outside their obvious mortal timeline and b) they have a claim on divinity. Jesus pretty much calls himself God; “I Am” is the nameless name of God revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:14).

And while I think we could talk about theological differences between Hindu and Christian understandings of incarnation, I want to point out a feature of John’s story that is often overlooked: Jesus hides and escapes a lot. It’s in the last sentence of the above scripture, and also in 7:10, 10:39, and 12:36. I do not think this is simply because Jesus is shy, or trying to save his skin long enough to be executed on the right day. I think John is making a point about the way Christ is hidden in the world. The Source of Life, dwelling in every creature, is simultaneously hidden and revealed, manifest and hidden:

What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people… The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. (John 1:3-4, 10).

Prayer:
Life and Light of All People, show yourself to me; help us all to recognize you, present everywhere and in every creature.  

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 16: Etymologies

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Detail of Language Family Tree, by Minna Sundberg. Poster available hereAlso check out her amazing webcomic Stand Still, Stay Silent

 

I love finding out the meaning and origins of words. Etymology is the study of word origins. When we explore where words come from, we become aware of a couple of things: 1) meanings change over time, and 2) much of our speech is metaphorical.

Think about how often we use metaphors of the body: we talk about the hands of a clock, the legs of a chair, the neck of guitar, and the nose of a rocket. Bakers admire the ear of a loaf of bread, and sewers appreciate the hand of a piece of fabric. Mountains have foothills, and canyons have mouths. We have many body metaphors because we humans all have bodies, and we see the world through our own experience.

It is impossible to speak without metaphors. Metaphor means to carry over. The idea is that a word can carry meaning over from one context into another.

Last week I talked about the origins of two words: yoga, which is related to yoke, and religion, related to ligament. There is another Sanskrit word I should mention: sutra, meaning “thread,” is related to suture and to sew. In Hinduism and Buddhism, a sutra is a teaching or a scripture. You may have heard of the Kama Sutra (love-teaching) or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. (There are also Sutras of Jesus, which are a fascinating glimpse into early Chinese Christianity.)

I love this metaphor because we can follow the thread of a conversation. Teachings from different teachers can be woven together to form a fabric. We use thread to sew things together, to tie them to each other (remember yoke and ligament?)

These metaphors of sewing and tying (sutra, yoga, religion) are so different from our usual way of talking about “institutional religion” and “private spirituality.” Ancient communities had a notion that what they were doing with religion was fundamentally creative. They were weaving stories and lives together, sewing a beautiful garment. Or perhaps they were making something useful: a bag that could carry important treasures with us.

The sewing metaphor had another aspect: a sutra or thread could also be unit of measure. You cut a straight line. You measure a garment to fit. This is where the rule and measuring sense of religion comes from. Garments should not be ill-fitting. Weaving should be done skillfully.

One thing I want for today’s church—and for the world—is for us to reclaim the creativity and skill of our ancestors in their religious and spiritual practice. The idea that “religion” should be a purely private endeavor is contradictory. You learn sewing from teachers. There is a community of practice which shares best practices. You can go off with a needle and thread and learn by trial and error, of course, and there is no substitute for experience. But there is so much we can learn by honoring the wisdom of our ancestors.

Prayer:
God who binds us together, help us attend to the threads of teaching in our lives. Help us weave a way of life that is a good fit for this world.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 15: Many Dharmas, One Spirit

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Xray Hand by Dr. Jochen Lengerke – click for source

 

Krishna has been telling Arjuna about the difference between jnana yoga, the way of contemplation, and karma yoga, the way of selfless service.

It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity. (BG, 3:35)

Krishna is telling Prince Arjun that he is a prince—he doesn’t need to long for the life of a monk. One path is not superior to another, but one path is enough to occupy you for a lifetime. I hear a similar idea reflected in Paul’s writing:

If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. (1 Corinthians 12:15-18)

In Paul’s day, some Corinthians were telling the others that to be a “real” Christian, to level up, they needed to speak in tongues. Paul’s response was that “real” Christianity is not a competition in the spiritual Olympics. It is all about love (1 Corinthians 13).

Paul is talking about spiritual gifts, whereas Krishna is describing different schools or paths toward enlightenment. They are talking about slightly different things, but both are about envying someone else’s spirituality or role in society.

What happens is this: we feel dissatisfied. Rather than notice the dissatisfaction as prompt to look inward, we look outside of ourselves to something we refer to as “religion and spirituality,” and we see something we admire in someone else. We think, “Aha! If only I were more like ______, I would be satisfied.” It doesn’t help that there are whole industries built on this dissatisfaction selling us notions of how we should be and telling us we are not good enough.

Most of us can’t see the areas in which we excel, because they are natural for us. Our brains are problem-solving organs, so they look for problems to solve. For example, if managing money comes easy for me, I just assume it’s easy for everyone. I’m not aware of my strength. But I may be very conscious of my poor communication skills, and decide I need “fixing.”

The fact is, all of us have God-given strengths. We do not all have the same skills, roles, or spiritual antennae. Some of us will grow closer to God if we pray or meditate for 2 hours a day, others will be social justice warriors, others will be scholars, others will do acts of service. All will do some, and some will do all. But your path is right for you.

Prayer:
God of many gifts, I celebrate those gifts you give me.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 14: The Source of All Generosity

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Abundance by Marcelo Campi. Click for source and license.

 

Krishna is telling Arjuna about karma yoga, the path of selfless service. He says:

Every selfless act, Arjuna, is born from Brahman, the eternal, infinite Godhead. Brahman is present in every act of service. (BG 3:15).

Listen to this verse from the letter of James. The similarity gives me chills:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17, NRSV)

God is the source of every act of giving. (The Greek is pasa dosis, “all giving”—I use the NRSV translation here, because the CEB confuses the giving with the gift. Click to compare).

I pointed out yesterday that there is an unfortunate tendency among religious people to discount the good works—and the spiritual wisdom—of other traditions. A former president of the Southern Baptist Convention claimed that God cannot hear the prayer of a Jew.

This is contrary to one of the definitive lessons of Jesus. When asked what one must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells the story of a Good Samaritan. Imagine telling this story in an evangelical fundamentalist church today: “A Baptist passes by an injured man on the side of the road. Then a Methodist. Then a non-denominational evangelical Christian all pass by. But a Muslim stops to help him, and goes above and beyond to heal him and keep him safe. You want eternal life? Try to love your neighbor the way an exemplary Muslim does.”

Imagine the outrage. They would probably crucify him!

“You will know them by their fruits,” Jesus says (Matthew 7:16). If the source of every act of generosity is God, then people—wittingly or unwittingly—have a connection to God. Whatever else may be said about them, they are imitating the One in whose image they are made. And it’s not merely a reflection: the act itself is the very action of God. This expansive, inclusive view of God seems much more in line with Jesus’s own teaching.

Krishna continues: There is nothing in the three worlds for me to gain, Arjuna, nor is there anything I do not have; I continue to act, but I am not driven by any need of my own. (3:22)

He goes on say If he were to stop acting in self-giving love, the cosmos would simply end. This is another reason good works don’t earn a reward. Participating in God’s self-giving goodness is the whole point. In truth, there is nothing else.

Prayer:
God, thank you for all that is, because it is all given of yourself. Your breath sustains existence itself. Though I often see only frailty and scarcity, I am part of your perfect, self-giving love to the world.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 13: Faith Versus Works

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Ernst Nowak, Piggyback, 1919.

 

Arjuna is confused. If the goal is to realize the Self, to free ourselves from attachment and recognize our unity with the divine, why should he ride into battle? Krishna replies:

At the beginning of time, I declared two paths for the pure of heart: jnana yoga, the contemplative path of spiritual wisdom, and karma yoga, the active path of selfless service. …At the beginning, [humankind] and the obligation of selfless service were created together. Through selfless service you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires. (BG 3:3, 10)

We see a similar tension between faith and works in Christian tradition.

Paul: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

James: For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:26)

In context, this is not really a disagreement. When Paul is talking about works, he is talking mainly about circumcision, which was a barrier for Gentile men who wanted to become Christian (see Galatians 5:2-6, or my book on the subject). But Christians started abstracting “works” to mean acts of service, and today our major doctrines seem to suggest that salvation is a matter of thinking correctly about Jesus instead of pouring ourselves out in love for the world, as he did.

Christian doctrine’s usual answer to this tension between internal work and external work was to say one proceeds from the other: our good works are the fruit of our faith in Jesus.

This is a terrible answer. First, it’s not the way human beings usually work: We don’t believe our way into acting—we act our way into believing! The consequence of this doctrine is inaction. Second, plenty of people who do NOT have faith in Jesus are capable of doing good. The consequence of this doctrine is exclusivism. In the 1980’s Bailey Smith, President of the Southern Baptist Conference, even claimed that “God does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” In his view, any good action that not washed in the blood of Jesus simply didn’t count.

Hinduism’s answer to the tension between internal and external work is more accommodating: there are lots of paths. Some people will take a contemplative path, and others will take a path of good works. Moreover, our desire to do good is grounded in our nature from the beginning.

There is a growing body of ecological and anthropological research to back this up. Nature express altruism: cooperation and symbiosis, perhaps more than competition for scarce resources, is how life grows and develops. Human beings have an innate need to show love.

Prayer:
Holy Spirit, erase the distinction for us between our contemplation and our actions, our faith and our works.  

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 12: The Principle of Non-attachment

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Memento Mori (Wheel of Fortune), ancient Roman mosaic. From Wikimedia Commons, unknown, public domain.

 

Krishna reveals to Arjuna one of the major principles of Hinduism and Buddhism:

You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. (BG 2:47-48)

One of the major reasons for our suffering is that we live in an imaginary world of “deserving” and “undeserving,” or we have unfulfilled expectations for our hard work and suffering. The fact is, we just don’t have that much control over what happens to us.

Because we operate with the illusion of control, we often connect even our most virtuous actions to our self-interest: We expect thanks, or social approval, or some kind of cosmic benefit. You may have heard this poem by Kent Keith (sometimes attributed to Mother Theresa):

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Love them anyway.
…The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

This reminds me of a parable Jesus tells in the Bible that is much neglected, because it offends our egalitarian sensibilities:

Would any of you say to your servant, who had just come in from the field after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Come! Sit down for dinner’? Wouldn’t you say instead, ‘Fix my dinner. Put on the clothes of a table servant and wait on me while I eat and drink. After that, you can eat and drink’? You won’t thank the servant because the servant did what you asked, will you? In the same way, when you have done everything required of you, you should say, ‘We servants deserve no special praise. We have only done our duty.’ (Luke 17:7-10).

We prefer the parables of Jesus where servants get a reward, like the Parable of the Talents, because we prefer a theology of deserving (even though I think we do not hear it the way Jesus’s audience would have). But life is not about earning reward.

Krishna is going to revisit the principle of non-attachment later, and we will dwell on it some more. But I want to lift this principle up here to help Christians understand karma. We tend to associate karma with Hinduism without similarly associating the principle of non-attachment. We hear all about reincarnation and polytheism and karma, because those are different from Christian doctrines. The idea of karma gets particularly skewed because we think of it in terms of poetic justice and schadenfreude (just Google videos of “instant karma”).

But karma is a teacher, not a judge. Humanity’s obsession with deserving is a trap. Non-attachment is the escape. And in Christianity, as long as we’re thinking of salvation as some kind of reward, we are stuck in the same trap. God—and the Kin-dom—don’t operate according to our notions of deserving.

Prayer:
Holy Advocate and Judge, free us from theologies of deserving, punishment, and reward.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 11: Seeing God Everywhere

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By Dominicus Johannes Bergsma – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

 
Krishna is still telling Arjuna about the difference between yoga as theory and yoga as practice.

Just as a reservoir is of little use when the whole countryside is flooded, scriptures are of little use to the illumined man or woman who sees the Lord everywhere (BG 2:46).

I love this metaphor. Even the holiest scriptures do not contain God—they point to an overwhelming, ever-present reality. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” in the words of Gerard Manly Hopkins.

As I said at the beginning of this series, scriptures do not hold the same place of reverence in Hinduism as they do in Christianity. Paul specifically talked about the usefulness of the Old Testament: “Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character” (2 Timothy 3:16). For Jews, the Torah itself was given by God to Moses at Sinai. I do not imagine Jesus would say, “scriptures are of little use,” even for the enlightened person.

But what he was preaching and doing obviously rankled his Bible-believing, rule-following detractors. You can hear Jesus respond to his accusers in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). From Christian perspective, Jesus was the flood, and the scriptures could not contain him.

Christian theologians make a distinction between special revelation (the Gospel) and general revelation. General revelation is God’s character revealed everywhere, including nature: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made” (Romans 1:20). Creation has sometimes been called “the first Bible.”

Evangelical Christians view “enlightenment,” or salvific knowledge, as coming to see God revealed exclusively in the person of Jesus Christ. Special revelation becomes the only kind that matters. Krishna is talking about going the other direction: seeing the Lord of Love (the divine Self) revealed everywhere; the particular becoming universal. I think this was more like the experience of the early Christians. Their understanding of God’s work in Christ was not narrowed, but broadened. It was not the Bible (they wouldn’t have a completed New Testament for hundreds of years!), but Christ who was the Word of God, and the whole cosmos came into being through him (John 1:1-5).

It’s important to note that this insight is for “the illumined man or woman,” because there’s a difference between saying, “God is everywhere” and knowing in your bones that God is everywhere, between “seeing” as an intellectual metaphor and seeing as deep understanding. I suspect that most folks who think they are enlightened and don’t need any particular scriptures to help them see God are groping in the dark.

Prayer:
Word of Life, Word of Creation, Word of Scripture, Word of God, let me hear and see your Word all around me.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 10: Brain vs. Mind

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image by Mikael Häggström, M.D.

 

I’m using Saturdays for summaries and tangents, a little bit of lagniappe as we go through the Bhagavad Gita.

On Monday I referenced this lyric from For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliott S. Pierpoint:
For the joy of ear and eye,
   For the heart and brain’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
   Linking sense to sound and sight.

But this isn’t the way we usually sing it in church. Some editor disliked the word “brain” and substituted mind. Mind sounds more spiritual, doesn’t it? “For the heart and mind’s delight.”

It changes the meaning completely. Pierpoint is talking about the joy of being aware, appreciating the sense-data that comes into our brains and marveling at the mystery of consciousness itself. It is a “mystic harmony” that allows us to make “sense” of our senses, to turn this data into meaningful information. We do not experience the world directly—it comes to us through these neural pathways. Today we know it takes our brains about 250 milliseconds to make up a story about what is going on “out there” while we are stuck “in here.” It’s how we “make sense” out of the world, linking sense to sound and sight.

But by changing “brain” to “mind,” the editor muddies the meaning. Now we’re singing about the mind’s delight, which is probably in thinking big thoughts about abstract things. “What’s on your mind?” is a different question from “What is your brain experiencing?”

I’m a fan of neuroscience, and I’m fond of saying, “All of our spiritual experiences are brain experiences.” In other words, if you have a profound experience of God’s presence and grace, we can see it on an fMRI scan. But ever since the Greek philosophers, Western people have made sharp distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural, the physical and the mental. Even though the Bible says very little about metaphysics, Christian doctrine, following our Greek tradition more than our Hebrew one, has been obsessed with mind-body dualism.

And in the Christian West, the body has been on the losing end of that duality. “Spirit” is good, and “flesh” is bad. And while we’re concerned about spiritual things, like saving souls for heaven, we can ignore physical things, like poverty and the way bodies are incarcerated.

Not only do I reject this dualism, I also think the original lyric expresses what Pierpoint was getting at: How is it that these biological, physical phenomena create this thing we understand as experience? What is this thing I understand as me, that takes these auditory and visual inputs and turns them into meaning? And is that process really me? Am I having an experience? Or is experience having me?

The Hindu sages, practicing meditation for generations and passing down the wisdom of their introspective insights, followed this existential question and came to some conclusions which are both unsettling and liberating:

I am not my experiences.
I am not my thoughts and feelings.
I am not my wants and imaginings.
I am not my memories or beliefs.
I am not my even my will.
I am not my even my brain.

They concluded that the core of who I am, my identity, is pure consciousness. This Self, Atman, is an observer—an experiencer. The data comes in, but I am not the data. Decisions are made, but I am not even really the decider. I am pure consciousness, poured out from God like water from a vessel, or rolling like a wave on the ocean.

Their metaphysical explorations did not lead them to mind-body dualism. The physical world was a manifestation of spiritual forces. There is quite a bit in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads that delve into how these forces manifest in the physical world.

All of that is to say that I think the Hindu sages would appreciate Pierpoint’s lyric better than the Christian editor who decided it needed changing. My brain is made of the same stuff and communicates with the same neural pathways as my eyes and ears. It is a delusion that my mind is somehow more me than my brain is. I am both of these—and neither.

Prayer:
God Who is Forever Beyond Our Understanding, you delight in all my senses. Help me find bliss in knowing my essential union with you.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 9: Woe to Hypocrites

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A still from the 1915 silent film Hypocrites, by Lois Weber. Click the still for the movie.

 

There are ignorant people who speak flowery words and take delight in the letter of the law, saying that there is nothing else. Their hearts are full of selfish desires, Arjuna. Their idea of heaven is their own enjoyment, and the aim of all their activities is pleasure and power. (BG 2:42-43).

These two verses. Right? It’s what we see in so much of what passes for “religion.”

I reject popular terminology that sees “religion” as a negative word, and “spirituality” as a positive one. Saying “I’m spiritual but not religious” is like saying, “I’m an athlete, but I don’t train.” In Hindu terms, it would be like saying, “I’m seeking enlightenment, but I don’t do yoga.”

ALL the great religious traditions recognize the existence of false prophets, of spiritual charlatans, of soul-crushing dogma, empty rituals, and religious bureaucracy. They ALL agree that relationship with God or the eternal is more important than the social approval of religious elites. When he rants against the religious leaders of his day, Jesus says,

…you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:3-4)

(This, of course, is in contrast to Jesus’s own light burden and easy yoke, which we talked about yesterday.)

Jesus’s term for them was “actors” (hypocrites). He spends the rest of chapter 23 railing against them, and you should read the whole thing just to get a biblical perspective on American Christianity today, the focus of which often seems to be about domination (verse 8), exclusion (13), increasing market share (15), and making money while avoiding social justice (23).

Krishna delves into their motivations: the reason they are so keen on the letter of the law is because they think of heaven as a realm of their personal enjoyment, a reward for following the rules. Hierarchies make them feel important. And I would agree: this is why the white evangelical church is infested with patriarchy and white supremacy.

So I totally understand why people feel it is safer to say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” But religious practice—yoga—is a tool, not a goal. If we use it well, it aids us in growing closer to God. And like any other tool, those who wield it poorly do damage to themselves and to others.

Prayer:
God, thank you for the gift of yoga, of religious practices refined through centuries that help us on our journey. Thank you for wise ancestors who passed them on to us. Help us use these tools well, and protect us from their misuse.

The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 8: Yoga Is Not Hard

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An example of yoked oxen, from “Oxen Plowing” by Thomas R. Robinsonpublic domain.

 

After explaining to Arjuna the nature of the Self and why he need not fear death or defeat in battle, Krishna says:

You have heard the intellectual explanation of Sankhya, Arjuna; now listen to the principles of yoga. By practicing these you can break through the bonds of karma. On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. (BG 2:39-40)

There is theory, and there is practice: putting ideas into action.

The word “yoga” is related to the word “yoke.” It means union or joining, and it is a path of practices designed to free the Self and help it discover its union with ultimate reality. When we hear “yoga” in the U.S., we typically think of hatha yoga, the physical practice of breathing, stretching, and meditation. Krishna will go on to describe several different forms of yoga

One etymology of “religion” is related to the Latin religare, “to bind fast,” as in the word “ligament.” Both point to the idea that there is a connection between the human and the divine, and that our practice involves some form of tying together or binding. (It is important to note, especially for anxious evangelical Christians, that hatha yoga is not a religion, any more than prayer or silence or exercise is a religion. It is a practice.)

The Jewish sages also referred to Torah teachings as a yoke. One “takes the yoke of the mitzvot [commandments]” by following them—by putting them into practice. The doctrines and metaphysics of the religion take a backseat to the practice.

One Jesus-saying in particular comes strongly to mind:

Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, CEB)

What do we make of this? We generally praise heroic faith and people who do hard things for noble causes. After all, Jesus told us to “take up our cross” and follow him (Luke 9:23). At the same time, he says his yoke is not difficult.

It hearkens back to the Bible Jesus was raised on:

This commandment that I’m giving you right now is definitely not too difficult for you. It isn’t unreachable. It isn’t up in heaven somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will go up for us to heaven and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?” Nor is it across the ocean somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the ocean for us and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?” Not at all! The word is very close to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, CEB)

The regular practice of doing something small, creating a habit that shapes the way we experience the world, is a light yoke that seems too simple to work. And when we fail at doing it, we feel guilty, or brow beat ourselves about what we “should” do.  But on this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure.

Even a little effort begins huge transformations. This is the attitude that actually enables change. It is incredibly difficult to change the world, because it is incredibly difficult to change ourselves. But we can change one tiny thing: we can show up. We can listen. And when we do, we find that what we are seeking is much closer than we thought.

Prayer:
Breath Closer Than My Breath, I long to transform myself and the world. Help me to find that transformation in you. Put your light yoke upon me, so that I may breathe, rest, and change.