As a young boy I often wondered how a person named Jesus could hear so many prayers all at once. It connected with my questions about an entity called God; how could He also be heard simultaneously by millions?
During a 1986 conference with Fr. Anthony De Mello, a Jesuit priest from India, he said millions of people around the world have great inward peace without ever hearing about Jesus. To many Roman Catholics and myself, it sounded a bit heretical. Yet I grew to understand Jesus, the word, as merely a symbol.
In Chapter 12, of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, the seeker Arjuna asks how someone can worship an unmanifested, everywhere and changeless God with steadfast love. Sri Krishna, the teacher, said people can worship him with absolute faith but others find the unmanifested or unknown a very hard task. Thus they need a form, a symbol. For instance, the seeker could simply concentrate on Krishna or another “saint” in devotion as an embodiment of Divine Love. If that doesn’t work, then one could devote himself to works of selfless love for others. And if that also doesn’t work, then she could just seek to surrender herself to a “Higher Power” while renouncing the fruits of action.
In others words, there is no one form in attaining peace with a sense of Oneness in the Eternal, Unlimited Spirit. Concentrating on the name or word “Jesus” can be one of these methods. Yet as Fr. De Mello reminded, just make sure your symbol of Jesus is among the very best among us.
In the book, A Course of Miracles, we discern the person Jesus speaking to us throughout. Using the framework of the Christian Bible, over 800 verses are quoted and explained in describing the attainment of peace. Its study and practice can become a way to fulfillment in love and Oneness with Spirit. It is simply another form of attainment, declaring the name Jesus itself merely a symbol we can use toward the Way.
Native Americans have their significant forms and traditions; Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others have theirs. No doubt each one of us has our own particular forms and tastes to cultivate this awareness. Some even find the idea of “No God” the best method. Yet the temptation becomes easy to judge another’s name or practice. If the end result is forgiveness, love, sharing selflessly without creating fear and guilt, it makes little or no difference. The breakdown comes when we judge and attack those who use different names or methods.
God is Spirit, a No-Thing everywhere without time or space. God or No-Thing is like an Ocean around and within us. “The Presence is within you.” Yet we become like a fish in the ocean saying, “I am thirsty! Where can I find something to drink?” Our symbols, be they Jesus, Atman, Krishna, Allah, Yahweh or No-Thing simply represent the Ocean in cultural ways and forms in which we feel most comfortable.
The question is not whether we need Jesus, Allah, or any names or forms. The question is, “Does the devotion and worship in the name-idea lead us to see the Ocean in every person everywhere?” Without a positive “yes,” we are likely left with a narrow, small, and even angry, destructive idea of the Everywhere Present Divine, the One.