Sunday, March 29, 2020

Ezekiel, Lazarus, Jesus, and The Koshas: Lessons in a Pandemic

For years I have been asked: How do you reconcile what you do for a living, yoga, with your Christianity? I understand the root of where this question comes from.  Many feel that yoga is a Hindu or Buddhist practice. While it can be true, as yoga finds its root in India where these religions are prosperous, it can equally be Christian or “spiritual but not religious,” etc. I find that the more I learn about yoga, and particularly the philosophy of yoga, the deeper my Christianity becomes. In the middle of the COVID19 pandemic I find peace in today’s philosophical discoveries and intersections.  The readings at my church, the Episcopal Church, on this Sunday (Lent 5 Year A) found me exploring the Koshas in my head while listening to them being read at a social distance.   

Kosha means Sheath.  These five sheaths are different versions of the body.  Anna Maya Kosha is the physical systems of the body.  Prana Maya Kosha is the energy or breath body.  Mano Maya Kosha is the emotional body and thoughts, real or imagined. Vijyana Maya Kosha is the Wisdom body that is discerning. Ananda Maya Kosha is the Bliss or Spiritual body. These sheaths are normally shown as layers around the Self or Atman which is in the middle.  They are typically shown as every expanding, like the layers of an onion one completely inside of the other.  But this is not completely true.  All of these representations of our body(s) can and do interact with each other. Koshas are more like spaghetti and less like an onion. Personally, I think of them as being more of a Venn diagram with the Atman/Self at the center.

As the world strives to deal with the COVID 19 virus the readings in the Episcopal church focused on stories of bodies in various forms or koshas. 

The old testament reading was from Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Dry Bones.  The physical body (Anna Maya Kosha) is obviously present within the bones, “as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them,” Missing was the Energy of Breath (Prana Maya Kosha). Then he said, “to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”  I think we too often leave this story right here but it continues, “Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.” Those souls raised in the bones were lost in their untrue sad thoughts (Mano Maya Kosha) that God had abandoned them. But the prophet continues his work letting the bones know that they will know that I am Lord (Vijyana Maya Kosha) when I open your graves.  (This happens in today’s gospel reading about Lazarus.) Finally putting the spirit in them (Ananda Maya Kosha) so they can live, sin and all. There is an aspect of the messiness of the Koshas here.  All five show up in this story perhaps in a somewhat organized fashion like an onion.  But this is an old testament reading, which I personally find to be much less deep and more elemental than the new testament. 

In the Psalm for today 130 there is an emotional (Mano Maya Kosha) element to the waiting for forgiveness and redemption.  These thoughts, prophesy, may or may not be true. But through faith (Ananda Maya Kosha) and intuition (Vijyana Maya Kosha) they wait. No body or breath need to be present only the soul. In pandemic times such as these there is comfort in knowing we go on even if the Anna and Prana Maya Koshas should stop…
1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice;
*let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *O Lord, who could stand?
3 For there is forgiveness with you; *therefore you shall be feared.
4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *in his word is my hope.
5 My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, *more than watchmen for the morning.
6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *for with the Lord there is mercy;
7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

In the Epistle reading is Romans 8: 6-11 this idea of soul without body is explored even further…
“To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
Comparing Physical Body (Anna Maya Kosha) to the Soul (Ananda Maya Kosha) via Wisdom (Vijnyana Maya Kosha). This speaks of the interconnectedness of all sheaths or bodies.  But that the most important is the soul Ananda Maya Kosha or Bliss/Spirit.  Without Soul the Physical (Anna Maya Kosha) cannot live.  Without the physical the Soul lives on. We are more than our physical bodies. We are all five of these Koshas. We will survive this pandemic, one way or the other.

In the Gospel reading from John 11: 1-45 we hear the story of Lazarus. This is the culmination of all of the prophecy of Ezekiel and Psalm 130. The saving of our souls. “So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus is confronted with emotion (Mano) of love and the wisdom (Vijyana) of the completion of the prophesy.  It continues with Jesus saying, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.””  Some of their thoughts (Mano) here are incorrect.  But Jesus’ Wisdom (Vijyana) moves them through their faith (Ananda) to the peace of following Jesus even to death. Then, “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”” Martha is in emotional (Mano) distress but even in that her faith (Ananda) is high. Then Jesus says,” I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” All Koshas in one small passage! Resurrection and life of the physical and energetic through belief/spirit and wisdom teaching in an emotional time. This passage is true even today.  We all live on even if we die.  Through our children, the gifts of our life shared with others, the mark we leave on the world, good bad or otherwise. I take comfort in that during this turbulent time. But then “Jesus weeps”, showing us a human side in his emotion (Mano) “he was deeply disturbed in spirit (Ananda) and deeply moved.” Jesus knows (Vijyana) that if he saves Lazarus it seals Jesus’ own fate; The Pharisees will view this miracle as a bridge too far and will kill Jesus. He has so many reasons to weep. As do we today. As Lazarus rises from the dead more believe in Jesus (Ananda). Jesus knows that in doing this he has exchanged his physical (Anna) life for Lazarus’ life. He has exchanged his life for ours. His Anna Maya Kosha may not be visible, but through the other Koshas he lives on every day as the resurrection and the life. Take comfort in the Lamb of God who takes Away the Sins of the World.  He will show mercy on us all.

Namaste and Amen

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