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The Sustaining Force--Our Morning Prayer Continues

Gurur Brahma

Gurur Vishnuhu

Gurur Devo Maheshvaraha

Guruh sakshat param Brahma!

Last week I mentioned that Consciousness, called Brahma in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, was our teacher. This Universal Consciousness, given the same name as the Creator of all Life, has two other dimensions—the dissolving and the sustaining forces of Nature. Yoga calls the dissolving force Shiva and the sustaining force Vishnu. Yoga personifies and deifies these forces like Christianity and ancient Judaism do.

So, what are these dissolving and sustaining forces?

The easiest way to explain them to most of us Christians would be to identify the dissolving force as the Holy Spirit and the sustaining force as Christ, although there are some significant differences in the philosophical and theological explanations. Let’s focus on Vishnu, the sustaining force, similar to the force of Love in today’s world. This force which is referred to in the mystical traditions of spirituality as “Christ-consciousness,” is often misunderstood in our modern popular culture.

The word “love” means different things. It could mean the powerful urge of sex (called “libido” in Greek) that pushes men and women together to sustain the human species. It is the deep, often unconscious desire, to produce children.

Or it could mean the drive of uniting with someone or something that makes us feel whole and complete, like our longing to be one with our meaning and purpose in life, or even our intense desire to be one with a man or woman who makes us feel whole. Often the sexual drive of libido and the intense longing to unite with another person are thought to be the same, but they are different from each other. This desire, which is called “eros” in Greek, is what the culture means by “falling in love” with another.

Again, “love” often refers to “the friendship” that one has for a colleague or mother or father or sibling. This use of “love” maintains relationships and makes it possible for me to say that I love my teachers, my children and grandchildren. This understanding of love helps us to know the loyalty of another person who sticks with us when we are struggling or ignoring them. This is the practice of true friendship.

Finally, “love” means “caring for the welfare of another.” This is the Christian understanding of “love,” as presented by Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the Corinthians. It is the love that Jesus of Nazareth had for those who hung him on a cross to die. Understanding love in this way is yoga’s understanding of Vishnu, the Sustainer.

Vishnu always forgives, never is jealous, never considers an evil response to injustice, but does everything through the forces of nature to maintain balance and wholeness. Vishnu is kind, generous, patient, willing to go the extra mile to maintain the on-going assurance that Life will continue in some way. Vishnu is the principle of “relationalism,” which maintains the common good, reaching beyond what is good just for an individual or partisan tribe/group.

This “relationalism” is Christ-consciousness; this is El-Shaddai in Jewish mysticism; this is Vishnu in the spiritual tradition of yoga.

Every morning we open The Center by asking Vishnu to teach us the practices of sustaining and maintaining balance in this world of creation (Brahma) and destruction (Shiva). We ask Vishnu to teach us to be instruments of peace, practitioners of love.


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