Tag Archives: Jesus

Will Pope Francis Become a Holy Man for the World?

pope

Pope Francis I is poised to be more than a very popular pontiff graced with humility and an approach of love and gentleness, two words he often uses. He could rise to become a symbol of holiness beyond the Catholic Church, as the Dalai Lama is a symbol of enlightenment beyond Tibetan Buddhism. Pope Francis has designated 2016 a Holy Year of Mercy, beginning on December 8 of last year.

The specifically Catholic aspect of this announcement is that the Church will be “a witness of mercy,” but for those of us who aren’t Catholic, there’s a universal message voiced personally by the Pope: “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy.” The question, then, is how potent this mission will be. Francis I has already achieved something extraordinary by helping to bring the U.S. and Cuba together in a historic reconciliation. Can being a witness actually extend mercy in a world where, to the distress of all believers, God has been hijacked by fanatical extremists? Continue reading

Watch: Hilarious 88-Year Old Woman Creates Ellen’s Favorite Show Moment

Gladys Hardy of Austin, Texas is a dedicated watcher of “Ellen.” She loves the show. In fact, she loves it so much that she called the show’s hotline to insist that Ellen move the spiked plant situated behind her chair due to its distracting nature when Ellen’s face lined up right in front of it. What a caring and observational viewer, right?

Since Gladys was so gracious with her advice Ellen decided to call her back and ask for more suggestions to help improve the show – and Gladys was only so glad to help! Watch as this endearing woman complains about the local news and tells the hilarious story of the first time she was on television.

We don’t blame you at all for drinking a little bit Gladys – have some fun! We think it’s a shame that traveling is too bothersome for you to come to the show though (those liquid restrictions are instense). We would have loved to see you on air, but thank you for giving us a reason to smile about over the phone!

What did you think of Gladys’s advice and conversation? Let us know your favorite Ellen moments in the comments below!

Fox News Interviews Religious Scholar Reza Aslan, Makes a Huge Blunder

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Reza Aslan is an author, a religious scholar, a professor, and a leading voice in the sociology of religion. He has four degrees of higher education, including a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in the sociology of religion.

He also happens to be Muslim, and for that reason Fox News apparently doesn’t deem him fit to write about Christianity.

Aslan’s new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, was written with the help of the scholar’s 100+ pages of research notes, as well as over 1,000 reference books. It examines the historical context in which Jesus Christ was situated, as well as the social climate in which his work and rhetoric developed.

Despite Aslan’s 20+ years of research and scholarship, Fox News decided to focus primarily on his Muslim faith and whether or not this should disqualify him from writing about Jesus.

Seriously? Aslan reminds the reporter several times, “I have a PhD, and it’s my job to study and write about religions.” As many are asking, is this the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done?

There’s a tricky line here because, on the one hand, the presenter clearly hadn’t read Aslan’s book and relies more on bias and false assumptions than on truth. On the other hand, Aslan talks down to the reporter, in his own right relying more heavily on the word “PhD” than on the strength of his own character.

Either way, these individuals are certainly talking past one another, more in anger and pride than in any pursuit of dialogue.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Where’s the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll in Our Spiritual Teachings?

I have a bone to pick with spiritual gurus: They’re just such goody two-shoes. Where are the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll?

I mean, is anyone really as saintly as Liz Gilbert makes herself out to be in “Eat, Pray, Love,” avoiding even one torrid Italian love affair? As for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he was raised from a young age to embody compassion and mindfulness, never lashing out in anger or seeking revenge, and he does an excellent job of that. But this isn’t a new story: Jesus resisted every temptation thrown his way some 2,000 years ago.

You might argue, “Hey, these spiritual types aren’t trying to deal with everyday life the way the rest of us are. They get to go live in convents or under a tree in the desert or in a cottage in Bali with no wee ones running around, and devote their entire existence to the pursuit of enlightenment.” But then there are teachers, such as Buddhist psychologist Jack Kornfield and celebrity guru Deepak Chopra, who manage to attain great wisdom while holding down a job and raising kids.

We need spiritual role models, of course. I wouldn’t wish a Jim-and-Tammy-Faye-Bakker-esque humiliation, fraught with dripping spider-legs mascara, upon any one of the aforementioned leaders. However, I do find that their standard of virtue can be set too high for the rest of us.

Plus it makes me wonder: Where’s the fun in a life like that?

Here is where I diverge from many of the modern and ancient masters. I revel — passionately, blissfully and unapologetically — in the “non-spiritual” aspects of my life. I celebrate my wild side with gusto. I enjoy being sloppy with my emotions. I’ve been called loud, obnoxious, and an attention-seeker. At times in my life, unlike Liz Gilbert, I’ve been promiscuous. And I’d argue that it hasn’t done me any harm. Nor have the drugs I’ve consumed at Burning Man. I’ve been known to make quite a mess of things in my personal life, getting divorced and then spending four years as “the human yo-yo” with a guy who couldn’t decide if he adored me or I made him miserable. I’ve plunged into new activities and commitments without thinking through my choices mindfully, as the spiritual gurus would urge. Sometimes, I give things a try just to see what will happen, knowing full well that I might wind up with a broken heart or woefully miniscule paycheck.

This, to me, is what it means to live “the life out loud.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have discovered that the spiritual first-aid kit can prove immensely valuable. In my 20s, I had what appeared to be the textbook near-ideal life: I graduated from Stanford, worked at the prestigious McKinsey & Company, married a dot-com entrepreneur, and then started my writing career. But in my early 30s, trauma, like an earthquake, brought my life tumbling down. My parents got divorced. I separated from my husband of nine years. My father was publicly convicted and put under house arrest for a federal crime.

When my soul was no more than dog crap smashed on the bottom of my shoe, I prescribed myself spiritual medicine. I dragged myself to yoga for daily 90-minute doses of salvation. Unable to sleep without Xanax, I found meditation an equally intoxicating way to calm my mind. I read spiritual books offering advice on how to be comfortable with uncertainty. I journaled obsessively.

These days, I’m a self-confessed yogaholic who freaks out when she has to go a week without a bowl of kale. I meditate regularly. Sometimes. At least I intend to meditate regularly. I believe in seeing a psychotherapist, life coach, energy healer, or chakra aligner in order to come to terms with your past. It’s all good stuff.

But I guess you could say I’m the Bad Girl of the Spiritual Club. If there were a summer camp where we all met up — me, His Holiness, Liz, Jack, and Deepak — to impart great teachings about egolessness and tactics for freeing others from their monkey-minds, I’d be the one caught smoking a joint in the bathroom on lunch break.

What about you?

 

Originally published April 2011.

photo by: andriux-uk

“This is Just Yoga”: Being Spiritual But Not Religious

solitudeHow do you define spirituality?

I grew up thinking being religious meant you were spiritual and vice versa. When I walked away from organized religion in my early 30s, I thought I was walking away from spirituality, as well.

When I would experience blissful moments of peace, connection, or unparalleled stillness on my yoga mat, I had no word for it. This is just yoga, I thought. When I was introduced to mantra and chanting and started to look forward to it at the end of a class, marveling at the higher resonance I experienced through it, I again thought to myself, This is just yoga.

When yoga teachers talked about the Universal or mythical gods and goddesses, it made me a little uncomfortable because it started to sound a little too “spiritual.” This part’s not for me, I thought. Yet I could feel myself drawn to classes with an emphasis on philosophy more than hot yoga classes.

The more I began to focus on meditation and living and moving mindfully, the more I began to run across the word “spiritual” in my research and in my search for like-minded people. My practices of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness were bringing me home; home to a body I had never inhabited before. They were delivering me to my fullest life and preparing me to handle life and loss like an inhale and an exhale.

Due to my deeply religious upbringing, I would see parallels everywhere. Practices that existed on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum seemed to me to have a lot in common. The humility and reverence at times present in both prayer and meditation. The devotional feeling present both in singing and chanting. The trust in a marvelous higher source called the Universal or God. The life force of prana and the life force of the Holy Spirit. Buddhist concepts like right effort, right speech, and respect sounded just like what I’d learned Jesus to teach.

When I first heard the suggestion that violence is the result of humanity “forgetting who we are,” or forgetting our inherent true nature, our universal oneness, I was reminded of Jesus’ dying words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

According to professor of psychology David N. Elkins, Ph.D., “The word spirituality comes from the Latin root spiritus, which means ‘breath’ – referring to the breath of life. It involves opening our hearts and cultivating our capacity to experience awe, reverence, and gratitude. It is the ability to see the sacred in the ordinary, to feel the poignancy of life, to know the passion of existence and to give ourselves over to that which is greater than ourselves.”

I see many people redefining spirituality these days, allowing it to exist and thrive as an internal state, independent of organized religion. Others would call that kind of talk sacrilegious.

And I see many people struggling to find an acceptance and a validity to being spiritual without being religious. For some their religious roots haunt them, and for others the stigma of “spirituality” blocks their curiosity, even though they often find themselves face-to-face with a yearning for a deeper connection to life.

The dispute over whether yoga is religious and should be allowed in schools continues to create controversy. I personally don’t feel yoga is religious. It is not a religion. It may, however, allow you to have some deeper experiences of being that some would call “spiritual.” It is largely our labeling that creates divisiveness.

If I have a non-dualistic experience of universal connection through yoga or meditation, and you have a dualistic experience of universal connection through church and prayer, and mine prepares me to live and die in peace and yours to live in heaven, who’s to say I am right and you are wrong? The two of us are here on earth, side by side, striving to be the best human beings we can be.

Many people become spiritual seekers in the wake of loss, trauma, or in old age. The reality of death seems to wake up a sometimes dormant spiritual need.

We will all die one day. I’m more interested in how you choose to live than in how often you go to church or how often you meditate.

In the words of English-American revolutionary Thomas Paine, “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

photo by: jhoc

Superheroes: Do We Have a New God in Town?

Who do you pray to when you’re in a jam? Superman, of course! In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra discusses the spiritual side to superheroes, from Hercules to Jesus to the Marvel gang.

Even if we don’t all regularly pray to Wonder Woman or Batman, there is no denying the beloved place these heroes occupy in our collective imagination. As far back as ancient Greece, we have legends of larger than life warriors and leaders. Figures like Agamemnon and Achilles, if true to the tales, would have been giants among men. Superheroes in the flesh.

When times get rough, it’s comforting to think a hero with super-human powers might rush to our assistance. We appeal to higher powers through prayer, visualization, and affirmation, hoping that even if we aren’t powerful enough to right every wrong, perhaps there’s a force out there that is. Deepak Chopra might remind us that we actually have much more control over our environment and circumstances than we’d imagine. And perhaps we should begin acknowledging the superhero aspects within ourselves – the heroes and heroines of the everyday.

But, Superman, if you’re out there and reading this, we won’t put you out of a job. You can come save the day anytime you want.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well, and check out Gotham and Deepak’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes!

Jesus the Guru

It often comes as a surprise to people that someone raised by atheist Jews (not an oxymoron), and who is more of a Hindu than anything else, would love Christmas. But I do. It’s not just the glorious music, or the good cheer, the charitable acts, or the sparkling lights, all of which I love, but something deeper. I see the holiday as a big birthday bash for a great holy man. That alone is worth celebrating, and I wish there were holidays to celebrate the birthdays of all the saints, sages and seers who have graced the planet—Buddha, Rumi, Shankara, Maimonedes, whoever.

I come to my appreciation of the rabbi from Nazareth circuitously, by way of India. Into my twenties, Christianity was to me just another superstitious religion, and worse than the others because of its Inquisitions, persecutions, and supposedly infallible pontiffs in funny hats. I read the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and various Buddhist texts before I ever opened the New Testament. It was only after seeing that that Eastern teachers—especially Paramahansa Yogananda in his iconic Autobiography of a Yogi—treated Jesus with great reverence that I thought perhaps I’d been misinformed. Maybe there was more to it than the mythology I couldn’t abide—God’s only begotten son, Savior of the world, born of a virgin, etc.

So I read the Gospels for the first time, and they blew my mind. Because my frame of reference was more Vedic than Judeo-Christian, I could readily dismiss what had obviously been added on for purposes of politics and propaganda. Jesus seemed to me like one of the sages in the Upanishads, dispensing the highest wisdom to eager seekers and disciples. In other words, he was a guru—in fact, a satguru (an enlightened rishi, as opposed to an ordinary teacher). I later learned that Hindu leaders in India, and the Vedantic gurus and yoga masters who came to the West, saw Jesus that way—as a superlative guru and a masterful yogi—and some elevated him to the status of avatar, a divine incarnation—not the only divine incarnation, but one on the same level as Krishna, Rama, and others in the pantheon.

That’s why I love Christmas as a celebration for one of the most influential, and sadly misinterpreted, spiritual teachers of all time. That’s why I’ll sing Christmas carols with gusto on Christmas Eve. And that’s why, early on Christmas morning, I’ll spend some extra time honoring a central—and tragically neglected—message from satguru Jesus:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

Like Buddha, he was trying to reform a tradition that had been corrupted, only to become the focus of what others turned into a new religion. But that, and 2,000 years of subsequent history, can be ignored this time of year. His core message was the same as all the holy ones: turn within, go deep and deeper still, to the kingdom of heaven. Then bring joy to the world.

Originally published in 2009

Seane Corn and Deepak Chopra Talk God, Yoga and Service

Remember when we said yoga could be an avenue for activism? Click here to jog your memory…

This week The Chopra Well features part two of Deepak Chopra’s interview with Seane Corn, the eminent yoga instructor and activist. Last week we discussed some of Seane’s key efforts to translate yoga into a path of activism. She addresses humanitarian issues around the world through her organizations Off the Mat Into The World and YogaVotes. This week we dive into Seane’s inner world through her “soul profile,” and a more complete picture of the yogini emerges.

Everyone, meet Seane — a self-proclaimed “Jersey Girl,” a spiritual being searching for a glimpse of the ineffable, striving to make the most of the time she has in this body.

Seane’s intent has been to use her talents and opportunities to help change the world, and it’s taken her around the globe — to Cambodia, India, Haiti, and the streets of Los Angeles. In addition to teaching yoga, she has devoted herself in particular to serving women, children, and prostitutes in impoverished areas of the world.

The work has been humbling, she tells Deepak. There have been times she lost sight of God in the face of such desolation. But always, always, something emerges from the darkness to illuminate her work once more. A smile, a kind word, a selfless act of kindness. It’s little wonder Seane identifies Jesus Christ as her greatest inspiration (despite being Jewish, she laughs). She admires his courage and compassion, his devotion to the causes of the weak. This is the path Seane pursues, the path of devotion and service. Because, as she says, how could she not?

What about you? How do you “give back” and serve your community? Tell us about your service path in the comments below.

Don’t miss part 3 of Seane’s interview next Monday on The Chopra Well

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and stay tuned for our innovative new show, URBAN YOGIS, launching October 8.

It’s the End of the World! What Would Jesus Do?

If you believe the hype, the world will end this year.

According to top Mayan scholars, however, the end of the Long Count calendar does not actually indicate the end of time, but rather, the end of a grand cycle that ushers the beginning of a new one. “The idea is that time gets renewed, the world gets renewed—often after a period of stress,” says Anthony Aveni, a Maya expert and archaeoastronomer at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

Not the end of the world, but the end of the world as we know it. In other words, a clean slate. A fresh start. New rules, new perspectives, new hope.

Sounds like the perfect time for an upheaval—not in tectonic plates, but in thinking, in spirit. A bona fide revolution!

Which brings me to Jesus.

Because whether you think of the healer’s story as divine or fabricated, historical or mythical, one cannot argue that he served as anything less than a firebrand. An agitator. A revolutionary who stood up to the conditions of his time and said, “Things must change.”

Rising against a world that glorified domination, oppression, and violence to preach tolerance, inclusion, and mercy was dangerous. There could be no denying the potential risks. And possibly fatal outcome.

Such a stand took guts. Conviction. And a profound belief in the human capacity for change.

But where is that revolutionary today? Where is the rogue dissenter who defies our spiritual boundaries and confronts our beliefs? Who demands that we ask more of ourselves?

We certainly don’t find him in the celebrated Superstar on Broadway, nor amidst those who, in his name, are actively stripping women in the U.S. and abroad of their basic human rights.

In fact, what is ironic about the above examples is that the people behind them wield the icon of Jesus to affect results that stand in direct contrast to values the healer himself upheld—namely, humility, and a deep respect for women.

Perhaps such self-righteousness is the real reason our world must end. Our complacency having reached a height where we can tame and declaw even our most celebrated insurgent. Domesticating his feral provocations to the point where we truly believe Jesus might support even our hateful and destructive actions.

Is there any hope, then, for us at all?

Maybe what we need is a good old-fashioned Second Coming.

Not on a literal level, of course, but rather, one that arises in our collective imagination.

Think of it. In a time when our entire planet and its every inhabitant faces grave peril, what could be more hopeful than conjuring up someone who will arrive with the wisdom to guide us to safety?

But before embarking on this contemplation, a warning: This exercise may cause extreme spiritual discomfort.

After all, if we play true to the story, the Jesus who returns is not going to be our best friend. He will not be air-brushed for maximum attractiveness. He may not even speak our language.

In fact, he might not even be a “he” at all.

Did that last sentence rattle you?

Remember, we’re not rehashing the Broadway Jesus. This is the real deal. A being intent on presenting the utmost challenge to our complacency and assumptions. A spiritual guide poised and ready to kick us from our comfort zone and our establishments.

This is a complete re-birth. An upgrade of biblical proportions.

Jesus 2.0

Sound radical? It is.

But Jesus himself was a radical. Who ardently believed in a better way.

When we look out at the world today, as humans, as children, as parents, we can see that we’re in need of new ways of thinking and a new direction. Storing up on duct tape and canned goods won’t save us. But our imagination might.

So whether you’re planning to occupy a storm shelter, or go down with the ship, take a moment to remember the brave revolt that rose against domination, oppression, and violence to vigorously defend the values of inclusion, forgiveness, non-violence, equality, and compassion. Think about how our world would be if that upheaval succeeded.

Then imagine the re-birth of our most notorious revolutionary in a new form.

And ask yourself: Will you join her?

To All Those Who Are Weary

 

Thursday, 8/25

 

“To all those who are weary and sore oppressed and whose faith seems at times to prove inadequate, Jesus would say, ‘Lay aside your profession of faith and your creed, your religious mottoes and affirmations and devote some time to quiet meditation and contemplation of yourself as a spiritual being.  Know that Truth is not something you learn or accumulate in memory, but something you unfold within yourself.  Neither praying that God will make you a better person nor affirming that you are now perfect will enable you to be more than you were created to be.  But you can release the hidden potential of your inmost self to give expression to the Truth that is the very law of your being.’” – Discover the Power Within You by Eric Butterworth

 

 Steve Farrell

Humanity’s Team World Wide Coordinating Director

 

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