5/26/2018

Biblical Advaita

"You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape..."
~Deuteronomy 4:15

We mistakenly assume that Advaita, the message of non-duality, is a modern message, or an Eastern message. But Advaita is also the soul of the Bible.

The essential text at the heart of the Bible is Exodus, chapter 3, and its commentary in Deuteronomy, chapter 4. Here Moses encounters God on Mt. Horeb (Sinai), the revelation in the burning bush. Moses asks God, "Who are you?" And God answers, "I Am that I Am." Then God says, "I Am is my name forever."

This is pure advaita. Moses looks for God, but God tells him to look for God in no-thing but the one who is looking: the I Am. God says, "In the fire I Am you saw no form; therefor never make a form, an idol of me." This becomes the first commandment: no idol, no God but God, which is also the central commandment of Islam: La ilaha illallah.

Jesus taught this same advaitic message. He constantly identified himself with the I Am who spoke from the formless in fire on Horeb. Jesus did not tell us to worship him, but invited us to follow him. He will lead each of us to who I Am, to the divine Self in all.

Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I Am." He also says, "I Am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus does not mean that a man with a beard and a pair of sandals, walking down the dusty roads of Galilee in the first century, is the only way, truth, and life. He is referring to one more present, more intimate, nearer than this very breath : I Am.

In the words of the Psalmist: "Be still and know that I Am God." When the seeking mind becomes still, awareness rests in who I Am, the divine Self. But if I cannot see God in who I Am, I will never see God in an other, not even in Jesus. For God is what sees.

Every human who declares "I Am" reflects the image and likeness of God. You and I are none other than the infinite light of the formless Adonai. We are each refracted beams of the same Self-luminous Lord who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.

How can we interpret the Biblical symbol of the burning bush? In Sanskrit, the word for "nerve" is "nara." God is called Narayana, the one who presides over the nervous system, irradiating it with the fire of consciousness. The burning bush is the sacred Life Tree of our brain, spine and nervous system, on fire with awakened consciousness.

The most sacred name of God in Hebrew is the great four letter name, called the Tetragrammaton, which is actually a verb, a declension of "I Am." There is no need to translate it into English or any other language - though it has crudely been tried as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" - for this name is a sound, a two-syllabled sound: the subtle sigh of our breath, moving in and out.

The divine name is a mantra: the very vibration of our life breath. Through this vibration, awareness returns to the Creator, the Lord of life residing in the hollow of our nerves: the luminous Self. This is why, in Biblical revelation as in Vedic science, God's identity is intimately bound to the sound of God's name, and the practice of mantra meditation.

What we have in the story of Moses and the burning bush is not only the teaching of advaita, but the way, the practice, the sadhana to experience God as the light of pure consciousness.


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