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If Easter Comes, Can Vaisakhi Be Far Behind?
Letters from Espanola





Last Sunday was Easter, a Christian high holiday. Saturday night, one of the channels on cable aired the movie, “The Passion of Christ,” directed by Mel Gibson. I had not seen the film in the movie theater. Watching it that evening was a meditation.

As a Catholic girl, in my youth, I used to go to our local church on Good Friday and do what is called “The Stations of the Cross.” The Stations are fourteen artistic renditions of the key moments around the crucifixion of Christ. The idea is to stand in front of each image, arranged in chronological order, and contemplate what happened to Christ on the way to his death.

The Passion of Christ” felt to me like one dramatic, theatrical rendition of the Stations of the Cross.

Raised Catholic, I never had any issues with Jesus. I loved the stories about him. Now that I am older, and understand spirituality from a different perspective, I can deeply appreciate what he did. He tried to raise the consciousness of his people, to take them out of the mental habit of slavery. He was betrayed by the high priests of his own (Jewish) religion for it. And the Romans put him through extreme torture before killing him.

The mystical moment in this was that he forgave them for what they did. He did not become fearful or vengeful. He saw everything as the Will of the Divine, and he surrendered to that Will.

There is a beautiful line by Guru Nanak in Shabad Hazaray where he talks about how the One Light shines in every heart; how all teachings, instructions, temples and sanctuaries belong to You, O Divine One. In the moment of forgiveness, that One Light came through the heart of Jesus. It opened a pathway for others to follow. Not the only path. But a path, nonetheless.

It reminds me that the Light is what attracts us. The Light is what we long to merge into it. We follow that Light wherever it leads us. Every path, any path, if practiced with love and sincerity, can open a doorway back to the One.

There was a chapel I used to visit when I was a little girl. It was within walking distance of my home, and right next to the Catholic school that I attended. Sometimes my mother would let me leave the house early to go to mass at the chapel before class started. I didn’t relate very much to what the priests were saying. I just liked to sit there and watch the shadows of the tree branches dance behind the ruby and violet stained glass windows.

There was a sacredness in that place. It was something you could feel. The reverence of a thousand honest prayers from a thousand honest hearts. It was a place where people could come talk to the Divine, and where the Divine would talk back to them. It didn’t matter what was happening on the stage of the altar. The only thing that mattered was what happened in the inner-stage of the soul.

One day, after school, I went into the chapel to enjoy the Presence that was there. The chapel was totally empty. Dark wooden benches, a single candle flickering, and the ever present dance of the trees. I can’t remember how long I sat there, listening to the muted sound of the wind. I don’t know what I thought about. Probably the typical things that school girls think about: homework, family, classmates. Nothing very important.

But on my way out of the chapel that day, there was a little stack of inspirational cards that pulled my attention. On one was printed a very simple phrase:

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

That phrase had a great impact on my life.

I carried that card with me through elementary school, high school and even into college. It eventually got so old that it fell apart. But, as strange as it seems, that card felt like the first message I ever got from the Divine. It struck a deep chord in me. Even today, I measure myself and my decisions against the wisdom of that line.

The problem in life is that this ability to engage with and dialogue with the Creator, in these profoundly personal, intuitive ways, is something that we do not fully understand. Nor do we practice it, nor support each other to do it. Organized religions are just that. Organizations. And whatever noble purpose an organization may proclaim, ultimately they have a tendency to serve themselves. They serve their own existence.

My break from the Catholic Church had nothing to do with Jesus, or his teachings, or the saints, or anything like that. It came when I started talking about my own spiritual experiences to the nuns and the priests. Whatever I said threatened them. I was misguided, they said. I was wrong. Maybe it was the devil, maybe I was going to hell.

Their response messed me up for a long time. But that is what happens when we loose sight of the path. The path is to find the love, to find the Light, to find the connection to the Source. The path is about a quality of consciousness, not about a ritual.

I think that is one of the reasons I became a Sikh. Because when I started to understand what Guru Nanak said, I realized that he was also very open. He saw the One Light in every temple. He did not need for some temples to be right and others to be wrong. He embraced the totality of the Divine. And I thought to myself – yes, that is how I see it, too. This must be the guy for me.

Today, I am a Sikh. It is the right choice for who I am in this time and space. But there are bittersweet moments of remembering why I did love being Catholic when I was young. That forgiveness of Christ, that sacrifice, is something I respect. I don’t think Jesus minds that I have taken a different path.

In the etheric realms, Jesus and Guru Nanak probably have a lot of laughs together. It is us idiot people who create divisions based on the spiritual path we walk, because our organizations need their territory.

But there is no territory where Love cannot walk, where the Light cannot enter. And ultimately, it is that Love and Light that we all belong to.


April 4, 3013

Conversation about this article

1: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), April 04, 2013, 6:44 AM.

Guru Arjan was subjected to severe torture before he was martyred. He was made to sit on a burning hot plate after which hot sand was poured over his head and body. It is said that Mian Mir (a Muslim Sufi saint and a friend of Guru Sahib) tried to intercede with Emperor Jahangir on behalf of Guru Sahib, but Guru ji forbade him to interfere, saying it was the "Will of the Almighty". An interesting contrast with Jesus' final words: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" - "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), April 04, 2013, 8:16 AM.

It requires hard work and commitment to live in Sikhi ... it's so easy to be anything else, willing to be brainwashed and accept a sexist, racist and prejudiced dogma which promises 'salvation' only to their own group rather than the whole of humanity!

3: Brian Urlacher (USA), April 04, 2013, 5:21 PM.

Jesus Christ never condemned slavery and the Bible endorses slavery. When you say "He saw everything as the Will of the Divine, and he surrendered to that Will." I would suggest you are badly mistaken if you are perceiving things not done by people's own actions as spirituality.

4: Yuktanand Singh (USA), April 05, 2013, 6:12 AM.

A sant is like an iceberg, mostly hidden. In contrast, we live mostly on the surface and we can 'judge' each other easily. The mystery of a sant is understood only by rare souls. Even then, they are able to grasp only a few pieces of the entire puzzle. The account of Jesus is thus, sketchy, as is the biography of all such people. The bhagats have also implored, "Do not forget me, O Lord, I am your servant" [GGS:345], not because they were forgotten, otherwise their bani would not be in Guru Granth Sahib. We may be unable to understand their reason for saying that. Their perfect bhagti is also visible in the very same shabad: "I shall not let go of your feet, even if my body and my strength leave me." Similarly, if our understanding does not resonate with the heart of Jesus, it is better to move on, rather than to criticize what he did or did not do. We are not equipped to judge Jesus.

5: Mano Sivasankar (New York, USA), April 06, 2013, 9:23 AM.

This is a beautiful rendition of the spirit of true religion. When you put aside the curtain of ritual, all religions want is to have faith, humility and acceptance or what is known as 'bhana' or a Given Destiny.

6: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA..), April 06, 2013, 12:51 PM.

Guru Nanak, in Japji: "hukmai andar sabh ko baahar hukam na ko-ay". That is, "All are within His Will and nothing is outside it." The One rules through His laws but we see only the physical laws working arbitrarily. His mysterious and wonderful design remains hidden from our view. In contrast to all other theological systems, it is Sikhism alone which has its scripture written down by its own Seer, namely Guru Arjan.

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Letters from Espanola"

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