Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Thirthankara. Crossing the waters of life.
The image of crossing over the waters of life is an important metaphor in many religious traditions. We find in India that the Thirthankara of the Jaina spiritual tradition, is the one who shows the way across the Thirtha or source of life. In this gigantic, cosmic figure of Shravana Belgola in Karnataka, we see that at the feet of this Cosmic Person, are ant hills, and creepers that grow up his legs. It is as though the whole of creation is related to this Primal Person, who in the Hindu vedanta is called the 'Purusha', and in Greek culture was known as the 'Anthropos'. The mystic Sri Ramanuja Acharya who settled on the mountain of Melkote, not so far from Shravana Belgola, the whole earth is the body of God. He uses the metaphor of the spirit related to the body, to understand how the Divine is related to the phenomenological world as we experience it with our physical senses. This understanding of the earth as related to the Divine Spirit, imanent in Creation, is also found in the thought of Christian mystics like Teilhard de Chardin who tried to find a bridge between modern science and spiritual insights. Such an understanding helps us to give a spiritual basis to our present Ecological understanding, concerning the fudamental interconnectedness of all aspects of nature and the Cosmos. Some are calling this spiritual approach to the environment an Eco-theology. This would give us a sense that we are all responsible to respect the physical reality of the world in which we live, if we are to cross over the waters of life, to find what is often referred to as the "further shore" of liberation.