The sound of waves crashing became louder as we walked through the sparse coastal woods. Then we broke free of the trees and found ourselves walking by the steep cliffs. Thousands of sea birds jostled and squawked on the nearby rocky islands. Yama and I sat down on a bench and watched in silence awhile.
DISCIPLE: Why do you walk with me?
YAMA: I walk with everyone; it’s just that most people don’t want to remember that. They are hoping I am far away. Because of your meditation practice of cutting away all that is transitory you have found the wisdom to face the fact of your body’s mortality.
I kept silent and watched an otter smash an urchin with a stone and gobble up the meat inside.
DISCIPLE: You have talked about the need for us to become human, that just because we have a human body there is still a lot of work to do. For most of us we struggle between following our instincts, which consists of basic survival needs or chasing after the pleasing and running from the painful, and this inner urge to find ultimate freedom where we are not caged by time and space, or more importantly, caught in the snares of identifying one’s Self with the body or mind.
|Moses, Janaka Stagnaro|
DISCIPLE: Well, I was just reading the Bible and came across the Ten Commandments that God gave Moses, as well as the manifold rules the Israelites were commanded to observe. I see nothing freeing in such edicts; in fact, I find them suffocating. I would rather die than live under such restrictions. Jails, for goodness sake, offer more freedom!
YAMA: Talking like that in times past would have given you a great collection of stones!
General rules can be very tricky, for everybody has their own path in the end. However, in the beginning, just as in school, groups of souls will have general lessons to learn and master before moving to the next grade. Then there is graduation and all the members of the group go their separate ways, with Life giving each an abundance of lessons unique to their own learning needs.
The Ten Commandments were such a group lesson plan, helping to mold a race of people for specific reasons for the body of humanity. However, there exist different levels of understanding as well, from gross to subtle. Just as the poet may sing about becoming drunk with the wine of love, some will take that as the partaking in the sensual pleasures of the body, while another will see it as a call for drinking in the sweetness of devotion for God.
DISCIPLE: Please elaborate. I seek to understand the subtlest form of truth.
YAMA: Then listen with your heart, and feel it as a breeze of knowing.
What is the First Commandment?
DISCIPLE: You shall have no God other than me. Now, I have statues of Shiva and Ganesh and chant names of gods of many traditions. Would this be considered a sin?
YAMA: If you see God as a force outside of you then there will be conflict. But if you see God, the I AM THAT I AM, which is the Holy Name of Jehovah, as both within and without, that everything is included in God, and that God moves through all things, whether the gross things of the world or through the subtle worlds and their denizens, including the gods, then everything becomes an expression of God, with none able to represent the ineffable quality of God. For instance, Shiva is an expression of God to remind us to not be attached to any form, to go deep into the Infinite Self, or the I AM THAT I AM; Vishnu is that form of expression to uphold the good and the beautiful, and to inspire devotion; and Brahma is that aspect that shows the creative dynamic quality of the Divine. Yet all of them are simply one of the million faces of Brahman, the formless, the changeless.
In other words, if you think that any form of God is the true form than that is ignorance. There is no separation between you and God since God is everywhere, including yourself. Even though sometimes even I have a hard time believing my last statement is true.
excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death, Addendum I