Thursday, May 30, 2013

VII: 20

Chapter 7, Verse 20

"Those whose wisdom is darkened
By desires and hemmed in
By the limits of their own natures,
Take refuge in other gods."

Father Bede Griffiths:

The relation between the one living God and the many gods is fundamental in Hinduism.  The many gods are the powers of Nature, the powers of Heaven and Earth, the powers of wealth and political power.  All these are personified by the gods.  To see them all as aspects of the one God is wisdom.  This is the authentic Hindu vision.  All these gods are names and forms of the one God who has no name and no form.  He manifests himself in all of these powers and may be worshiped in and through them.  Idolatry concerns worshiping them apart from the One.  That is polytheism.

The Hindu doctrine, strictly speaking, is that the Hindu worships the One through these powers.  This is not to say that many Hindus are not idolators.  Some do indeed forget the One.  Take the worship of Lakshmi, for instance, the goddess of wealth.  If one considers wealth as coming from God, the One Supreme, then it is perfectly legitimate to ask for that, but if one worships wealth itself, Lakshmi herself, then one is an idolator.

The same problem exists in Christian worship.  If St. Anthony, for example, gives something that they want, do they understand that it is God acting through St. Anthony, or do they think it is St. Anthony giving it to them?  Once they begin to think that St. Anthony gets things for them, then they make St. Anthony into a god, expecting him to give them this or that.  They become idolators.  This is a danger in all religions.  It is why Protestants feel uneasy about the worship of the saints.  It is why Judaism and Islam insist upon the worship of the one God alone, but worship of the one God in different forms is not necessarily wrong; and so prayer to the saints may be justified.  However, the danger is always there.

Sri Eknath Easwaran:

Once, when a foreign correspondent asked Gandhi for a message he could take back to his paper, Gandhi wrote on a scrap of paper, "My life is my message."

All of us are teachers in the example we give others, though not often in a particularly positive way.  Those who live for pleasures and profits are walking advertisements for making money the goal of life.  They talk constantly about diversified portfolios and vacations in Las Vegas.  The life is an open book for anyone who cares to observe it, and those who observe carefully will see how the lust for money robs the capacity to love.

Those who live for others do not need to preach or attract attention to themselves.  We cannot help being drawn to them and drawing inspiration from their lives.

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