Where East and West meet – resurrection

Eastertide is the time of resurrection – not simply an event that happened to Jesus, it is also something that happens to us, and that we are invited to experience in our own lives. Thomas Merton writes about what he calls resurrection consciousness and of a Christ who is dynamic not static; who invites us to move with him, and who is ‘walking ahead of us to where we are going.’ Two things are required of us: one is that we are called not only to:

‘… believe that Christ once rose from the dead but we are called to experience the resurrection in our own lives by entering into this dynamic movement … The dynamism is expressed by the power of love and of encounter.’

Merton goes on to say that the Christ Spirit leads us to where ‘true encounter … awakens something in the depth of our being, something we did not know was there.’ Resurrection is about liberation, power and hope, and about a capacity and resilience in life to bounce back to change, and creatively transform ourselves even although we might feel defeated, and despite the battle between death and life that goes on within us all. It is only through the Cross (the meeting point of suffering and surrender) that this renewal takes place, and this may involve disagreement and unpopularity and alienation from others, but each is called according to their own purpose and grace. Merton writes of the person in whom Christ is risen who ‘dares to think and act differently from the crowd.’ This may involve standing alone with Christ who liberates us from all forms of tyranny and domination.

The risen Christ is the Spirit of the particular, historical Jesus who underwent crucifixion because of a driving concern for compassion and justice. Paul F. Knitter in his book ‘Without Buddha I could not be a Christian’, clarifies St Paul’s insistence of Jesus’ risen body as a Spirit-ual body that becomes embodied within us as the Body of Christ. He sees this as partially similar to what Buddhist teaching calls the enjoyment body of Buddha, whereby Buddha continues to be a power and presence in the lives of Buddhists.

As Christ appeared to his disciples, there are examples from other religions of spiritual teachers returning in a physical form that can be recognized to their devotees. In ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ the Hindu yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda describes the resurrection of his guru and master Sri Yukteswar in a hotel room one afternoon:

‘Before my open and astonished eyes, the whole room was transformed into a strange world, the sunlight transmuted into supernal splendour … I beheld the flesh and blood form of Sri Yukteswar!

‘My son!’ Master spoke tenderly’.

 Overjoyed Yogananda embraces him, rather than as before kneeling in front of him, and asks whether his body is real. The resurrected guru explains that although Yogananda sees his body as physical, it is now an ethereal body for the astral cosmos adding: ‘I am in truth resurrected’ adding ‘by divine decree’. His teachings on what happens after death last for two hours, and Yogananda confirms that the guru also appeared to an older woman who had lived near his hermitage who announces to the overjoyed followers: ‘the deathless guru – he is risen.’