My brother-in-law, Dean, is a conservative fundamentalist Christian. I knew this before we met 13 years ago. A thought floated in prior to that first meeting:
“I wonder how this will go?!”
I can only imagine what he might have heard about me, something like:
“Well, ah, hmmm, a bit of a wild card. Perhaps immersed in one of those Eastern yoga cults…”
When we actually met, our minds were blown out of the equation, both of us struck by an instant heart connection, common sense of humor, love of nature and genuine chemistry. Each of us inexplicably helped deepen the faith of the other. These common elements buffered our diverse religious and spiritual viewpoints. Yep, we liked each other- a precursor to the love that later bloomed.
And while I am more drawn to Eastern Kirtan- with emphasis on the silent interludes, unbelievably, by Christmas I’d be singing songs with the extended family:
“He rules the world with love and grace…” and loving it!
When Dean and I talk about Jesus, we are able to see and feel the truth in each other’s words. We seem to say inwardly in unison:
“God is great…” Awe spreads through us; nothing else is needed. Grace-filled stories follow and direct experiences of divine fervor are shared, enriching and further humbling us both. Then we are not two men with distinctly different spiritual approaches and religious faith systems but one Brother tied together in Christ Consciousness.
I am diligent about modulating word choices and toning down mysticism to help foster the space between us; for it is in Expansiveness that all religions traditions and spiritual paths dissolve into the One.
Where Dean will quote a Biblical scripture and verse, like part of Psalm 27:4–
“May I dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…and seek him in his temple.”
I might bring in John Muir, who had a devout Christian side along with a nature-based mystical branch, making him an ideal bridge-maker for my advaita-vedanta non-dual spirituality and Dean’s conservative fundamentalist Christianity. So I shared with Dean a quote from Muir and tapped into our love of nature:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”
I would never have thought it possible that such disparate angles of faith, seemingly diametrically opposed, could lead to a shared understanding of the heart.
Yet, it’s true. Even if Dean read some of my past blogs, though his mind might rebel or move towards anger, casting me off as a blasphemous bastard non-believer spouting devilish Eastern rubbish and Hindu idol worship, still his heart knows differently. Love wins out over all beliefs, mind stories and emotional flare-ups.
The fuming resentment may linger, along with judgement, yet underneath this the fathomless well of love cannot be touched. And when Dean and I meet again, the heart connection will guide the restlessness back to the Source.
Mysticism is threatening to religious dogma, the deadening opinions inherent in most religions. In a very subtle way, I slide under his religious filters with a mystical aliveness and truth-piercing pragmatism. This helps Dean to see that the awakened life of Jesus is to be lived, that it is possible to have a direct, abiding experience of divinity.
Through Dean, on the other hand, I have learned much about life, faith, and perseverance. His Christian community has deeply touched me through their amazing compassion and sense of togetherness. When Dean’s son Harry was born, with only partial kidney function in one kidney, the second kidney non-functional, he was given less than a 5 percent chance of survival. Dean’s church community rallied around his entire family with prayer, love, faith, food, comfort and practical support- in so many ways. And that support was ongoing. Harry is now 9 years old and a living miracle pointing to the power of communal prayer. Each day Harry reminds all those close to him of God’s grace and love.
Dean’s wife Sandy is more skilled than many nurses and has raised 6 kids- all home-schooled while caring for a special needs child—but not without the outstretched arms of her faith community!
In the non-dual spiritual circles, the community element is lacking, practical support scarce. Instead of instantly helping one of their own community members who need practical necessities (food, money. housing), the non-dual group members often dismiss them with “It’s just part of the path” or “good luck with that” – offering little practical support.
With Easter around the corner, Dean and I may soon see each other after several months. We’ll meet at the Resurrection, where the sense of separation is crucified, the “I am the body” idea, banished. The true power of Christ will shine brightly, an immense love and ability to bring about the ‘peace that surpasseth all description.’
This Resurrection is captured well in the experience of an American Christian Missionary that visited the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi in 1938:
He was alone with Ramana except for an interpreter. The missionary, Mr. MacIver, was struck by the silent outpouring grace experienced in Ramana’s presence. He asked:
“So long as I am here (at the feet of an Indian sage within a predominant Hindu culture) I cannot be regarded as a faithful Christian…”
Ramana interrupted him: “This (what is happening here) is the very essence of Christianity.”
The Christian missionary responded: “Yes, but not in the eyes of the present representatives of the Church. Accordingly, I can no longer look to the side of the Church for aid. Have I your blessing to look elsewhere?”
Ramana responded: “That is left for you (to decide). People who come here are brought by some mysterious power which will look to their needs.” Ramana then gazed intently at the missionary.
The missionary felt the silent grace of Christ Consciousness come alive inside his heart, a huge fiery energy burning delusions of separation, a silent vacuum emptied him of individuality. It was like the Red Sea swallowed him whole, his body a salt figurine entering a vast Ocean.