Selections from the Upanishads

He knew that Brahman is bliss. For truly, beings here are born from bliss. When born, they live by bliss. And into bliss when departing, they enter.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1

The face of truth is covered with a golden disc. Unveil it, O Pushan, so that I, who love the truth, may see it.
O Pushan, the sole seer, O Controller, O Sun, off-spring of Prajapati, spread forth your rays & gather up your radiant light that I may behold you of loveliest form. Whosoever is that person (yonder) that also am I.

-- Isha Upanishad 15-16

I have overcome the whole world. I am brilliant like the Sun.
He who knows this, knows the secret wisdom.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.10.5

Friday, August 8, 2008

THE MIRACLE WORKER as a Christian work of art

When I used the term "Christian literary work" in my previous post (referring to the play "The Miracle Worker") I used the term in a very specific sense. The word "Christian" did not refer to the Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ was the Son of Jehovah, who was sent to give his blood as payment for the sins of mankind, and that Judas Iscariot betrayed him to the high priests of Jerusalem, and he was crucified, and rose from the sepulcher on the 3rd day, and ascended to Heaven & sat on the right hand side of the throne of his father. I was referring to the original spiritual-moral VALUES, the vision of soul & life which was preached by Jesus, and later by Paul & John the Beloved Disciple.

A more appropriate term would've been: religious literary work.

Unfortunately, modern consciousness has come to a stage where religion is something different from spirituality & mysticism - and all these are different from science, philosophy, & ethics. Fundamentally, all these are ONE united body, malevolently dismembered by the modern, so-called "rational" attitude.

When it comes to the word "religion", I affirm Tolstoy's definition: "True religion is that relationship, in accordance with reason & knowledge, which man establishes with the infinite world around him, and which binds his life to that infinity & binds his own actions." ("What is Religion, Of what does its essence consist?")

And thus, religion is not an aggregate of practices, rituals, regulations, & observations - but a guide for life, which determines how man sees his self (soul-spirit), the universe around him, the purpose & meaning of life & action, and the basic relationship between himself & the rest of existence.

A specifically Christian outlook is one in which men recognize the supreme importance of LOVE between men.

This is not to say that Christianity invented the concept of love between men - whether you call it "Eros" (which, according to certain interpretations, does not mean 'erotic love', but compassion), or "Agape". Christianity certainly did not first uphold compassion, charity, almsgiving, sacrifice, renunciation, or -- to put it simply -- love.

But it was Christianity which, in the western world, for the first time, upheld the idea of universal love & brotherhood, with such strength & sacrifice. The tradition of the Essenes, Therapeutae, & Nazarites seems to have been given a powerful boost by the fire of Jesus & Paul.

Now, why should I call "The Miracle Worker" a Christian play?

The first point to be kept in mind is that Christianity is that stream of spirituality which puts Love directly at the heart of human life.

Hinduism, on the other hand, places achievement of Immortality & Infinity - of a total union with the Source, Essence, & the Whole of Existence - at the heart of life. This union has been called "Moksha", or "Mukti", or "Samadhi". The Buddhist "Nirvana" is the same as "Moksha" or "Mukti" - but Buddhism is more psychological than mystical than the Vedic-Vedantic outlook. These two basic conceptions (of Christianity & Vedantism) are NOT two fundamentally different conceptions: they are inextricably ONE. It's a matter of focus, rather than essence, where the difference comes in.

The end-result & fundamental, underlying idea is the same: a very profound sense of compassion for all men (& by extension, for all life, for the universe as a whole).

A total avoidance of INFLICTING any form of injury or suffering on another being.

And, infact, a desire to reduce the sum-total of individual & collective suffering in the world, or in one's immediate environment.

Empathy, gentleness, tender affection, an enthusiastic & active interest in a being's welfare, a sense of deep-felt kinship - as if the other person were as precious as if related by blood: these were the psychological values affirmed by these streams of spirituality.

There is no reason not to repeat endlessly that the fundamental idea about LOVE is that, in Love, the biological-physical sense of separateness from another being, another entity or existent, is minimized (&, in the ideal, obliterated).

Love - whether Vedantic, or Buddhist, or Christian, or Islamic, or Judaic - is NOT something totally mystical & supernatural & other-worldly. It is wired into our being. It is an indispensable, necessary fragment of our constitution - the unique synthetic composition that Man is.

It exists in Nature, in a ladder that starts in self-preservation, and ends in absolute sacrifice, which I call absolute self-consecration to the cause of the joy of the world.

The more we love someone, or something - the more impossible it is for us to consciously, willfully, carelessly cause it suffering or harm. The more we love someone, the more impossible it is for us to be indifferent to the person's condition, to wish him any injury, to leave him alone in his suffering & loneliness - to exploit him or play around with his emotions.

In a philosophy of Love, a man grasps that the most joyful action in the world - and the highest purpose in a man's life, that imbues his life with genuine value & meaning - (after that of his own growing awareness of the ultimate truth of life, & his own spiritual perfection in love) - is the elevation & illumination of the soul of another human being.

This is the focus, the motive-power, the centruum: that through my action, I drop a ray of light into the soul of another human being, and, if only for a moment, open his/her eyes to love, to God, to perfect union with the All, i.e. to revelation of the ultimate truth of his Self.

I agree that such activity is not possible to all of us - but that's a different point, and has to be developed in its own respect, quite independently of what I'm writing now.

Farmers must farm, a doctor must heal, a teacher must teach, a politician should govern, a judge must dispense justice, an architect must build: but they can LIVE a philosophy of Love in their respective spheres without any fundamental contradiction, and, infact, turn each activity into a perfect expression of Love.

And this is what we see in "The Miracle Worker".

In the struggle of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller, we see a quintessentially RELIGIOUS struggle: the struggle FOR consciousness.

The struggle for the establishment of a HUMAN consciousness: for without human consciousness, neither knowledge, nor love - neither creativity & productivity, nor sacrifice & renunciation - neither humanity, nor divinity - can be expressed.

The work is neither mystical nor religious either in its aim, or its style -- but the fundamental abstraction involved is emphatically religious. (The name itself reveals the inner significance.)

It is the spectacle of one human being CREATING THE HUMANITY of another human being - making humanness possible - transforming blindness, a shuddering bundle of nerves, fear, hunger, & chaotic anger - into vision (particularly, mental vision), confidence to deal with the world, fearlessness of the unpercievable, clarity, ability to give, understanding, knowledge, peace.

Here, Love is not mere almsgiving, not merely clothing & healing, not just feeding a hungry child - but a deeper phenomenon: making it possible for a human being to THINK.

Making it possible for a human being to live the life of a human being.

By teaching a blind & deaf Helen to understand words - and hence, concepts & ideas - Anne Sullivan makes it possible for Helen to bring ideas, values, purpose, meaning, & achievement into her life. She enables Helen to rise above being a mere animal, and become a human being full of dignity, reason, the power to achieve values, to take further the process of enlightenment.

If this is not CHRISTIAN, than what is?

Does Christian love merely consist in giving away old clothes & shoes, and an occasional cup of money out of an ocean of wealth for some cause which we don't even know anything about?

What is a greater gift than giving a vision of life (which is why I love the film "Titanic" despite its cliched story-background) -- than giving the ability to think, to reason -- the ability to be productive, creative, useful?

To shape an intelligence, to open consciousness to the world of thought & ideas, is perhaps as great a gift, as offering to men a vision of God, of the immortal & the infinite.

And therefore, I do think that William Gibson's play "The Miracle Worker" is an example of one of the highest Christian or religious works of art.

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