Theology

Krishna's Body

Admittedly, I’m an obstinate little shit with a predisposition to arrogance. Luckily, I’m surrounded by people who humbly take my arrogance in stride and don’t call me on my bullshit – rather, they most graciously allow me to call myself out as I progress in my understanding.

That being said, of course I didn’t read the poem out loud as my professor’s syllabus directed me to. “You’re smart as shit, you don’t need to read some poem out loud to understand it.” That’s my ego talking – it’s a persistent little bugger.

Naturally, I got a nice kick to the teeth when my patient Professor read the poem out loud to the entire class.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up

and the door of my heart

could be left open,

the door of compassion.

(Click here for the full poem)

Well, hello there Moment of Understanding! Many apologies that my ego and arrogance presupposed that I was somehow smarter than everyone else.

The overall poem addresses the topic of Unity and what Nat Hahn calls Inter-being, and this particular stanza reminded me of the moment Krishna reveals his Cosmic Form to Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita:

The Supreme Lord said: O Arjuna, behold My hundreds and thousands of multifarious divine forms of different colors and shapes. (11.05)

See the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the Ashvins, and the Maruts. Behold, O Arjuna, many wonders never seen before. (11.06)

O Arjuna, now behold the entire creation; animate, inanimate, and whatever else you like to see; all at one place in My body. (11.07)

(Click here for the full passage)

The 11th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita demonstrates that nothing falls outside of the ‘body’ of God – nothing is external, thus we are all connected by virtue of our enclosure within the Divine. But is this suggestion enough to compel us to understand, acknowledge and ultimately engage in our unity with each other? I think not. I think the Gita’s subtle implication that we, as living creatures, are one because we exist within the anatomy of the Divine is not forthright; the lofty poetry of religion is, I think, a bit too abstract for us everyday kind of folks.  Certainly, the concept necessitates the recognition that our natural environment is God, but what about us – how are we unified?

My knee jerk response is the invocation of the theology of Imago Dei – the belief that humans are created in the ‘image of God’ (ah, if you know me well then you know this is a concept that I am constantly revisiting in my personal reflections). This would be the place to restate that I am no authority – I am simply an Undergraduate student that has spent a considerable portion of her 32 years ruminating on these concepts (and I still have no definitive answers in anything). With that caveat in place, I’ll proceed.

Everything is a product of something else, this is true of both the hard sciences, as well as the social sciences; Nothing is created in a vacuum (not even the Singularity).  Now, before any science folk jump down my throat – understand that I am not a Creationist, that I am not a biblical literalist, and I, like most Catholics, understand that biblical literature is etiological (meaning allegorical).  Ok, moving along. The very first chapter of Genesis we are given an account of Creation; God creates Earth, Heaven, the Oceans, etc… Yeah, that’s nice and all, but what is he creating all of this stuff out of? In ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths the Earth is created out of the dismembered body of the Divine (not a far cry from Krishna’s revelation that all of creation exists in Him, eh?). Judaism sprung up right in the midst of these cultures and since cultural diffusion is a very real thing, I think it’s safe to speculate that God created these things from his Being. Again, we’ve established the groundwork that our natural environment is a physical manifestation of God, yes? Ok, great! Let’s plow ahead to the creation of man.

There are two accounts of creation in the Tanakh (Jewish bible/Old Testament); the first account shows that humanity (male and female) are created at the same time. The second story, of which most of the world is familiar and which I will draw from, is the story that Adam was created before Eve.

then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

~ Genesis 2:7

“Wait, wait, hold on! You mean to tell me that God huffed some air into a little clay dolly and it came alive? You’re pulling my leg!”

Biblical literature is meant to be read as a metaphor – not a literal interpretation – so, how can I interpret this? Call me a bit of a romantic, but I think of human biology when I read this.  We breathe in, the oxygen is carried into our lungs, diffuses into the blood stream through the alvioli, and proceeds to be dispersed throughout our entire body – all of the billions of cells in our body; organs, muscles, tissues, bones. For a brief moment that oxygen becomes part of us. Then we breathe out, reversing the process, and that which was once part of us is dispersed into the air (so that others can breathe it in and become part of them which if THAT’S not a more visceral image of Unity, I’m not sure what is!). Well, God breathed in to clay; He is breathing an intrinsic piece of Himself into His own flesh –  in essence (and I stress the word essence) He is re-creating Himself by creating humanity. However, we are not God, but we are the essence, an extract of God. We contain all the Divine properties, just not in absolute.  It is this extract that I believe is the “image of God.” Of course, this begs the question ‘What is the essence of God?’ I believe Thomas Merton said it best:

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that Love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.

~ Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

The essence of God is Love, and we as a non-absolute extract – or image – of God are Love. Each one of us is housing the “breath” of God inside a body created from the “flesh” of God, which means that despite the differences in appearance, we are all the same – we are all God’s Love and we are unified in the “body” of God.  If we can remember (or re-member) that we are unified in this fashion, then Thich Nat Hahn’s poem is dead on:

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up

and the door of my heart

could be left open,

the door of compassion.

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