Sunday, April 19, 2020

Doubting Thomas, the Kleshas, Dukha and Ultimately Sukha

Many are familiar with the post Easter story of Doubting Thomas from John 20. After Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to the disciples who were gathers in a locked room out of fear of the Jews, fear for their lives. But Thomas was not with them. The disciples told Thomas about this event later. Thomas said he would not believe “Unless I see the mark of the nail in his hands and put my fingers in the mark of the nails and my hand in his sides.” Later Jesus appeared again only this time Thomas was present. Jesus invites Thomas to touch his wounds and “do not doubt but believe.” From John’s account we do not know if Thomas put his hands on Jesus, but we do know he proclaimed him Lord and God. Jesus continues by asking if Thomas believe because he has seen. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  This story shows us a range of emotions from Suffering and Uneasiness to Joy and Ease. 

In yoga philosophy the suffering or afflictions are called Kleshas, Uneasiness is called Dukha, and Ease and Joy are called Sukha. Sukha (ease) and Dukha (unease) are opposites of each other. They are easily tracked through these readings. But Kleshas requires a bit more unpacking. There are five Kleshas:

Abhinivesha – Fear of Death – being attached to a diagnosis or way of being, being unwilling to see another way, nothing feels good, nothing helps. This fear of death is present in the other readings. From Acts 2 “you will not abandon my soul to Hades” and Psalm 16 “For you do not give me to Sheol” These speak of the fear of death and are great precursors to the gospel reading of John. Likewise, the disciples were in a similar place at the beginning of the reading from John declaring they were in “fear of the Jews.” But from this place of fear of their own immediate death Jesus appears to take away that fear (Abhinivesha) or uneasiness (Dukha). 

Avidya – Ignorance - Being unaware of another way, disconnection not recognizing feelings and thoughts, not knowing how to move. This is present in Thomas’ declaration of when he will believe, the need to physically touch Jesus’ wounds. This need in order to restore his ease (Sukha), but in the long run he only needed to see to believe and recapture his joy (Sukha).

Asmita – Egoism – Where the words “I” or ”MY” are used a lot the ego lives. We see this in Thomas’ proclamations…” I see, MY finger, MY hand, I will.”  Even after he sees Thomas still declares, “MY Lord and MY God!” Ego still there. In Jesus’ response he grounds us all into the truth of this ego declaring those that believe even though they do not see to be highly blessed and without ego/Asmita. 

Dvesa – Aversion – Disassociation, push away. We see Thomas do this in his quest for proof of the visit and resurrected Jesus. He pushes away belief without proof. He doubts. And through that doubt he shows us all an example of what we all may go through. This aversion to faith, this Dvesa. But this is not where Thomas’ story ends, it is where it begins.

Raga – Attachment – This can be to addictions, status, relationships. In Thomas’ case, after he sees he becomes more attached to Jesus and declares him Lord and God. But Jesus separates from Thomas declaring those that do not see and believe are blessed. This is to ground Thomas and the others away from attaching/ Raga to Jesus, and toward their future lives without the physical presence of Jesus. 

In the reading 1 Peter 1 we are grounded in the knowledge that although we have been through great unease or dukha we will always have ease or sukha or joy through our faith without seeing. “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

There will always be Kleshas or Afflictions or Dukha just like there will always be Joy or Sukha or Ease to balance this. The life of Jesus and his disciples simply stand as one of the greatest examples of this in history. Certainly, the thoughts about the remainder of St. Thomas’ life would bear that out. He would be called to India where he would spread the Christian message and eventually be martyred. In modern day he is the Patron Saint of India. We, like St. Thomas, do not need to separate Christianity from Yoga Philosophy to find meaning and comfort in both. 

Year A
Acts 2:14a,22-32
Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know–this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16
1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; * I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my good above all other.”
2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, * upon those who are noble among the people.
3 But those who run after other gods * shall have their troubles multiplied.
4 Their libations of blood I will not offer, * nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.
5 O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; * it is you who uphold my lot.
6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; * indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
7 I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; * my heart teaches me, night after night.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; * because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; * my body also shall rest in hope.
10 For you will not abandon me to the grave, * nor let your holy one see the Pit.
11 You will show me the path of life; * in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith–being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Art: The Doubting Thomas by Carl Heinrich Bloch, Ugerløse Kirke, BYU Museum of Art. Public Domain.

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