Friday, September 13, 2013

A Nest, not a Cage

Perhaps the most influential spiritual teacher in my own personal life is the late Bede Griffiths, of blessed memory.

Bede was truly a holy man, and challenged us to go beyond religion to God. One of his favorite verses of sacred writing is from the Hindu tradition:

I know that Great Person of the brightness of the sun beyond the darkness. Only by knowing him one goes beyond death. There is no other way to go.  — Svetasvatara

One of the metaphors that Bede used for religion was that of a bird's nest. Religion in this metaphor is like the bird's nest, it nurtures us, and helps to give us our start in the spiritual life; but then, like a bird, we must grow up out of religion, and fly away into the vastness of sky that is God.

But often religion instead of a nest, becomes a cage; it traps us and keeps us from growing up and flying away on our own. Sometimes the gatekeepers of religion are like a jealous mother bird, who does not want the young birds to grow up, but to keep them imprisoned in a cage.

But we are meant to grow up. Religion helps us on our spiritual life, but eventually, we must grow up, and fly away into that vast expanse that is God, for God is infinitely beyond religion.

Father Bede's successor at the Holy Trinity Ashram in India is Brother John Martin Sahajananda, OSBCam. Brother Martin wrote a wonderful book, You are the Light: Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus. In this book, he further develops the Nest and Cage metaphor, and relates many other beautiful ideas about spirituality and realizing our oneness with God.

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