I'm nearing the end of Autobiography of a Yogi. One of the final chapters details Yogananda's visit with Mohandas Gandhi, and it is excellent. This quotation from the Mahatmaji struck me--actually, pretty much everything he's quoted for in the chapter struck me because it's all fantastic, but this bit cried out at me to be a blog post:
"I can no more describe my feeling for Hinduism than for my own wife. She moves me as no other woman in the world can. Not that she has no faults; I daresay she has many more than I see myself. But the feeling of an indissoluble bond is there. Even so I feel for and about Hinduism with all its faults and limitations. Nothing delights me so much as the music of the Gita, or the Ramayana by Tulsidas. When I fancied I was taking my last breath, the Gita was my solace."
Chaching! "Even so I feel for and about Hinduism with all its faults and limitations" ! I think too often faith-filled Mormons are afraid to say this. We subscribe to a faith brimming with faults and limitations because it is a faith executed by humans. Christ is at the head, sure, but he's got us doing the driving. And we're a mess! We are proud and mean and jealous and ignorant and tempted by ridiculous everythings. We're addicted to shame and pornography and judging or controlling others and food and gossip and distractions. We derive so much of our self-worth from the thoughts and actions of those around us. Of course Mormonism cannot be perfect in its current state, because it is full of Mormons!
And yet... here we find the ordinances of salvation. Here we find doctrines that, in their purest forms, impel us to rise above the mess and the maya we find ourselves contributing to and to lift those around us, as well. Here we find the power of God that seals and exalts, despite the impossibility of the idea when we truly confront what and whom we're dealing with. Do I know what that means? Not really. But as I set aside disbelief and the desire to criticize or to force teachings to conform to what I currently find comfortable and instead seek to study deeply, to allow the doctrines to "distill upon my soul as the dews from heaven," that's exactly what happens. And as my vision expands, more and more pieces fall into place. Without understanding the whats and the hows, I still find myself growing in understanding, and it's such a peaceful feeling, this quiet little knowing that I'm finding truth.
Perhaps ironically, as this expansion is occurring, it becomes exponentially clearer just how crazy imperfect we and our religion are. Never before have I been so aware of my own divinity nor of my own depravity. On the grander scale, I'm becoming much more aware of the ineffable gifts my religion offers, and I'm also seeing more of the imperfections of man in the quest to understand and to explain the things of eternity. And I'm slowly approaching a place where instead of feeling frustration with myself, my fellow Saints, and the Church for all the imagined and real flaws I see, I feel the indissoluble bond. I see that I'm part of the problem and part of the solution, and I feel a reverance for this sacred messy process we get to enjoy together. Although I love and am deeply moved by studying truths through other religions' lenses, I get what Gandhi is saying. Mormonism moves me as no other religion can, now that I've given it the full fighting chance, because it includes all that is good in all the rest. How cool is that? (Brigham Young had plenty to say on that point.)
But what to do if it's not moving you? That's between you and God, but here's my suggestion based on my own experience: stop focusing on everything that's wrong, because there's inexhaustible fodder there. Allow yourself to look beyond imperfections to the delightful and comforting essence of this faith you've chosen to love--find your Gita and your Ramayana. Turn your focus inward when it comes to searching for what needs to change and turn it outward when you're looking for whom to embrace and uplift. Make sacrifices to show God you mean it when you say you're asking and knocking and seeking light, and let go of the answers you want to hear so God can give you the ones that will bring you peace.
And for heaven's sake, start meditating! As President McKay taught, "Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord." He taught that it is one of the most essential tenets of our faith. If you're not meditating, get on it. I promise you will be moved.
Finally, let's start forgiving ourselves and each other so we have space to love. No matter a person's religion, we all need more of both of these things. We're going to injure each other, Mormons and everybody else, and we're going to do it a lot as we do this clumsy dance toward God-realization, so we'd better get used to apologizing and forgiving. In the spirit of claiming all the scriptures, here's a parting thought from the Mahabharata, courtesy of Yogananda again:
"One should forgive, under any injury. It hath been said that the continuation of species is due to man's being forgiving. Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness the universe is held together. Forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is sacrifice; forgiveness is quiet of mind. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the self-posessed. They represent eternal virtue."
Let us all press on to eternal virtue, friends. Let us be true to our faith and allow it to delight us, warts and all notwithstanding!
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.