Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation - The Joy of the Gospel

I read the initial parts of Pope Francis' newly released document, The Joy of the Gospel. Here's a news article on it, "Francis: This is how the joy of the Gospel can reform the Church", http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francis-francisco-30114/

Though Pope Francis' words are directed to Catholics/Christians, I think many of his views apply to other faiths too with a replacement of the deity Christ, when mentioned, with that of another faith (or a formless God). I have put down some references to the document and some small extracts which I think may be of interest to non-Catholic/non-Christian readers too. The long document is available here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html#

I must also say that many of us may not agree with some approaches of the Roman Catholic Church - I am not so comfortable with the idea of evangelization (and conversion) itself. I mean, if a person of his/her own accord chooses to convert to another religion - that's fine. But the idea of enticing people to convert from one religion to another "true" religion is something I am not comfortable with. I admire the great religions of the world and I think what we need is better followers of the core messages that each of the great religions' founders/prophets have given to humanity. That will make for a harmonious, holy and happy multi-faith world, IMHO. The different religions can be like different flowers that nature showers us with in her fascinating variety.

But I do admire the dedication of some Chrisitan missionaries in serving the needy viewing them as the body of Christ. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba taught devotees to view the needy as "Daridra Narayan"/God and serve them with love. I think this mindset of service of the needy viewing them as divine is common to both Sai Baba teachings and Roman Catholic Church teachings. Further I think there are many religious groups in India who would have a similar approach.

Index.I - A joy ever new, a joy which is shared

  • Section 2 talks about the dangers of consumerism in today's world leading to desolation
  • Section 3 invites Christians to a "renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them".
  • Section 7 talks of technological society providing pleasure but finding it difficult to provide joy. Pope Francis mentions that he has found "most beautiful and natural expressions of joy" among the poor. He quotes Pope Benedict XVI, "Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction".
  • Section 8 says that encounter with God's love liberates people from "narrowness and self-absorption". It says, "We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being." And "For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?"

[Ravi: I think the last sentence above, "For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?" applies fully to those of us who received the love of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba directly (physical form level) or indirectly.]


Index.II - The delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing

  • Section 9 talks about goodness always spreading and "authentic experience of truth and goodness" growing within us. 


Chapter 1. I. A Church which goes forth

  • Section 24 talks about the need for getting involved (with those who have to be helped). "Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: 'You will be blessed if you do this'". Pope Francis says that an evangelizing community should get deeply involved with the community - they should take on the smell of the sheep so that the sheep become willing to listen to them! "An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time." And "The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed. Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always."


Chapter 1. III. From the heart of the Gospel

  • Section 39 has these wonderful words of Pope Francis (and his team perhaps): 'Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel”.'

[Ravi: Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's teachings for practice by his followers revolve primarily around one word - Love. Pure and unconditional love which would express itself usually as some form of service to the one(s) loved. Fascinatingly he would usually refer to listeners of his discourses as PremaSwarupulaara - forms/embodiments of love. So he taught that we are all forms of love and have love at the core of our being. Perhaps we can experience that reality of ours by trying to follow, whenever we can, the teaching of expressing our pure and unconditional love to others as forms of God and also to love God within us (formless aspect) or as expressed in well known symbols/icons/idols/images of God.]

Tibetan Book of the Dead - Description of Death, Between Death & Re-birth, and Re-birth

I saw an interesting though perhaps over-dramatized video on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, "Secret Tibetan Book of the Dead | History Channel Documentary", http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ermcc6iDqQA, 44 min 01 sec, with the transcript available [Transcript allows you to browse through the text of the video and choose to view only the parts you are interested in.] The video has input from some Western experts on the book including some professor(s). The experts comments are quite interesting and thought-provoking.

There is a wikipedia page associated with it, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardo_Thodol. A few extracts:

The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State differentiates the intermediate state between lives into three bardos:

  • The chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death", which features the experience of the "clear light of reality", or at least the nearest approximation of which one is spiritually capable.
  • The chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality", which features the experience of visions of various Buddha forms (or, again, the nearest approximations of which one is capable).
  • The sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth", which features karmically impelled hallucinations which eventually result in rebirth. (Typically imagery of men and women passionately entwined.)

...

[Ravi: Carl Jung's comments on it:]
In an introduction to Evans-Wentz' version, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung summarizes his psychological commentary:
The Bardo Thödol [Tibetan Book of the Dead] began by being a closed book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will only open itself to spiritual understanding, and this is a capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only acquire through special training and special experience. It is good that such to all intents and purposes useless books exist. They are meant for those queer folk who no longer set much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present-day civilisation.
— Carl Jung

[Ravi: I have been very impressed with whatever little I have read of Carl Jung. From the little I have read of both Jung and Freud I think Jung seems to have got the psychological understanding of humans more right. But then that is just my opinion based on very little reading - I could be way off.]

--- end wiki extracts (& comments) ---

The book pdf is available here: http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Tibetan-Book-of-the-Dead.pdf. I have downloaded it but not yet read/browse-read it.