(Note: CCV is here with another piece of thought provoking article from Swami (Dr) Snehananda Jyoti. Unless the faithful in Christ sits in peace with an ardent purpose of seeing into oneself, one more Holy Week passes away without serving its purpose. Swami Snehanandaji, once an unquestioned voice of the Jesuits is a well studied saint who practises what he speaks. Our readers are invited to read this post carefully and take in the gems. Joseph Mattappally – asso. editor.)
Holy life is wholesome life. It nurtures the body, mind, and spirit or soul. It is holistic life. It comes from living close to nature. Observing and studying nature, it follows the laws of nature. It understands the landscapes, the rhythms, and the cycles and the seasons of nature. Respecting nature we harness the forces of nature for full and benign living without effecting climate change and destroying ecological balance.
Holy life requires that humans take proper care of the body as the temple wherein the meticulous cultivation of the mind and the development of the spirit life take place. While necessary treatments for diseases and corrective surgical procedures are needed, surgical interventions on a healthy body for changes or enhancements that take place for consumer consumption, primarily, say, in affluent societies, are better avoided. Any exploitation of nature or of one’s body with a view to a profit motive goes against holiness. Any kind of impulsive gratification and excess pleasure is often encouraged by consumer culture, and violates the laws of nature, and goes against holy life. Over-indulgence in food and other materials, proven to be destructive in the West, is currently spreading to the East with affluence in our age of ready information and fast communication.
Education is meant to develop one’s mind to live an enlightened spirit life. It is now mostly commercialized in our consumer society to fetch the best job possible with the highest salary. Thus our educational system, instead of enlightening and enabling ourselves to live a holy life, has truly enslaved us, and have made us opportunistic pleasure-seekers. Our success is measured by the amount of our wealth and the trappings that go with we possess. Hoarding of wealth and holiness do not go together.
Where do religions that are especially supposed to instill spiritual values and teach about holy life currently figure in the world? I do not think religions at the moment are equipped to lead their members to a holy life as indicated by the mere fact that religions do not have much appeal in the consumer world. Religions do not teach their members to spend time in union with God through meditation or thorough examination of conscience. While religions stand for realities beyond this world, they need to develop a new ethos taking into account humanistic values and human rights for all. This new ethos can spell out a new life-style very suitable for holy life and union with God. As religions are miserably lost in rites and rituals, mostly bickering about them, they are not aware they are mostly concerned about the wrappings of the messages their founders came to proclaim. This is true about all religions. There are times when secular powers are called to regulate intramural conflicts that religions themselves could not regulate. How can religions credibly point to a holy and spirit life when they themselves are mired in the conflicts that have nothing to do with holiness? Recent (March 22, 2016) horrible and senseless killings of innocent people by radical jihadism in Brussels, Belgium, for instance, have sent shock waves across the world calling for caution and censure against Muslims. For instance, the two leading Republican candidates running for the presidency of the United States spoke about giving police departments special power “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized”. Racial profiling of Muslims was in the air. The leading Republican contender for the Presidency also talked about practices such as torture to get quick information, and reinstating inhuman procedures such as waterboarding and other interrogation techniques already discredited and abandoned.
While these sentiments expressed are dangerous and counterproductive, Islam as a whole needs to take the upper-hand in dealing with radical jihadism. While religions fought in the past, this is a good opportunity for all religions to come together in close cooperation, perhaps through an interreligious council, to deal with radical elements of all religions and legitimate grievances of all, especially the Palestinians.
Finally, human beings had all they needed to lead a holy life right from the beginning of their creation or origin. God sent special messengers who are recognized by the positions or risks they took to bring about needed changes or correction of the course humanity was taking toward its destiny. Unfortunately their messages are not given the needed importance. On the other hand, the rites and rituals, that the immediate followers developed to help proclaim the message, are celebrated in great acclaim and pomp. Thus greater importance is given to a symbol like washing of feet on Maundy Thursday by Christian dignitaries than to the practice of humility and humble service that that symbol signified by Christ’s action. Our lifestyle needs to embody the spirit life no matter how we see and make sense of our messengers as unique way to God or as different ways to the same God. What matters is not our claim in words but our practice in action in day to day practical life.