Living Your Love
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
Nov. 16, 2008
Open your Bible
Light a candle
Let Your Love Flow
From the Bible: Mt. 5
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God alone, consequently the Lord, is love itself, because he is life itself, and angels and men are recipients of life. DLW 3
Living Your Love
I was greatly influenced in my childhood by my lawyer father. I was taught to stand up and fight for what I believed in. If anyone were ever to sue me, I knew I could take them court for a good fight – if anyone would dare to sue the daughter of a lawyer!
I also went to Baptist Sunday school regularly, but never thought about a connection between the Gospels and the importance of standing up for your beliefs without violence.
But this is not the case for a young law student in England in the late 1800’s. He had been born and raised in India as a Hindu; the Jain school of Hinduism which regards ahimsa, the doctrine of non-injury to any form of life as a basic principle.
While studying law, he read Christian scripture for the first time, and was deeply moved by these words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right check, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you, and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” [Mt. 5: 38-42].
For young Gandhi, these words filled him with joy, and helped affirm his interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita that God teaches non-violence through all of the world’s religions. Later in life, he was fond of quoting “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” pointing out that such a philosophy leads to a nation of blind, toothless people!
Gandhi was particularly influenced by the Gita quoting Krishna saying “When religion falls into decadence and unbelief prevails, I manifest myself. For the protection of all that is good and the destruction of all that is evil … I must be born and reborn for ever and ever.”
He was inspired by the words of Tolstoy that “The Kingdom of God is within.” He felt that we all had the divine within us, and therefore violence towards another was never justified.
Satyagraha is a term at the centre of Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence. Gandhi himself explained the term as follows:
“I coined the word Satyagraha in South Africa in order to give a name to the power with which the Indians there fought for a full 8 years (1906 - 1914)."
Ghandi said "satyagraha is as far away from passive resistance as the North Pole is from the South Pole. Passive resistance is the weapon of the weak and, therefore, the application of physical pressure or violence are not ruled out in the efforts to reach its aims. In contrast, Satyagraha is the weapon of the strongest. The use of force of any kind is ruled out. (...) This law of love is nothing other than the love of truth. Without truth there is no love. (...)."
Swedenborgian writer Wilson Van Dusen has argued that there is a central concept of Swedenborg’s writings that is also the essence of Hinduism and Buddhism: namely that there is a Supreme Doctrine; that we are all One,sharing one life from one God. This one life is the focus, the source of all our inspiration, creativity, guidance, and love.
Van Dusen came to this reality from his own meditational experiences, and says that many come to it through the mystical sense that we all together sharing one life. It is a feeling, he says, that can come to one watching the stars twinkle on a dark night.
Although we have no evidence that Swedenborg ever encountered Hinduism, this is also its central core, according to Van Dusen.
Hinduism developed out of an oral tradition which was written down around 2000 BCE. It’s central focus is our search for God. We are seen to all be climbing the same mountain; just taking different paths. Hinduism came to see many different gods and goddesses, but they are understood to represent the one God, Brahman.
This is especially true in their sacred writings: Advaita Vedanta. Advaita means not two, but only one God exists. Here is a quotation from the Upanishad’s:
There is only one Self in all creatures.
The One appears many, just as the moon
Appears many, reflected in water.
Amritabindo Upanishad 12.
He alone is the inmost Self of everyone;
He alone is worthy of all our love.
Meditate upon him in all. Those who
Meditate upon him are dear to all. [Dena Upanishad 4-6].
These, then are the beliefs that Gandhi grew up with. He came to understand them to mean that the Divine is in all of us; we are all part of the Divine. How can we be violent to each other without also being violent to God? Gandhi would say that is not possible and that we therefore should live the force of love by opposing physical force in the world.
One of the most important beliefs to Gandhi was the honoring of all religious traditions. At one point in his life, Gandhi explored Christianity. Although he loved the religion, he wrote that “it was impossible for me to believe that I could go to heaven or attain salvation only by becoming a Christian.”
But if he could not see Christianity as a perfect religion, neither could he see Hinduism that way. He was unhappy with the divisions and sects; with the caste system and feelings of superiority among some castes. He spoke out for reform of his own religion, and for his religion to get along with all others; esp. the Muslims who also lived in India. He spent his final years working for communication and peace between the Muslims and Hindus in India; yet was assassinated for these beliefs.
Gandhi has a lot to say to us about speaking out. He was nonviolent; but not non vocal! He spoke out against parts of his religion that he didn’t feel were right, and he urged his fellow Hindis to live in peace with Muslims and all other religions.
Swedenborg, too, considered himself a Christian, but he spoke out against how others interpreted that religion. He saw it in a way that was similar to Gandhi’s Hinduism in believing that there was One Supreme Divine, and that we all share in that identity. Swedenborg and Gandhi both had the courage to speak up about the importance of their own religion being more tolerant and accepting of those who were different. Each saw all the people of the world as their neighbor.
If we take this belief into our own lives, and live it out day by day, might that change life for us?
Sing a New Song
Now extinguish your candle [s]
And close the Bible.
Go forth; nurtured by the ever-present God of Love and Wisdom. Sing a new song of love!
Swedenborgian Community, 11 Highland Ave., Newtonville MA 02460, 207-985-8776