“Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream”—John Lennon
Perhaps it is one of those curious fearful symmetries that the words of John Lennon quoted above are found in the Beatles’ album titled ‘Revolver’…and that he was finally gunned down, shot multiple times in the back by a “fan”.
I grew up reading Kerouac (we hailed from the same city) and the Beats, intrigued in my youth by their calls for ‘spiritual mindfulness,’ that peculiar Western decadence and spiritual nihilism related to Eastern religions, though minus the asceticism, to be sure. In the real thing one is supposed to turn away from desire which is considered the source of all suffering. But not in the Western versions where desire and appetite is practically the only law.
There is a curious seduction in it all for many. George Harrison opted for the wilderness of gods in Hinduism. John Lennon likewise rejected Christianity. “Turn off your mind…,” Lennon sang, because there is no ‘answer’; nothing to find, nothing to know; thus one is “free” to either indulge or forsake. To ‘answer’ is to forfeit enlightenment, regardless of the inherent contradiction in anyone’s saying “Truth does not exist”.
The seduction hides the meaninglessness of it all. One lives in the space between one’s thoughts, and proceeds over the waterfall like foam and bubble into the vast Nothing.
But bullets in one’s back have an awful way of breaking through the exotic idea that all of reality is, maya, illusion.
In Buddhism and its variants, whether one is sitting lotus in the park reading Matthew Fox amid falling blossoms on a beautiful Spring day, or being raped, or strangled in a back alley—or shot in the back by a fan as Lennon was—it is all the same at the end of the day: ‘there are no answers,’ its adherents reply. It is all your Karma; don’t try to ponder it.
Yoko Ono: Yes, I’m a Witch
For Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, however, it is altogether different. Because He created us (John 1:1-14; Col.2:5-10). Evil and death are not “natural,” nor illusion, but intrusions into the universe through that perversion of freedom which goes back to our First parents and which we ratify every time we choose sin (Rom 6:23). Sin means missing the mark of being.
God our Creator in Christ—who came into the world to bear our judgement— calls us to repentance and penance (Joel 2:12,13), because He is not indifferent to evil. In man-made religions, man aspires to the transcendent. In Christ God comes to us.
We judge no one’s heart and pray for God’s mercy for all, especially for ourselves, you and me. But religious systems qua systems cannot all be true in the final analysis, or even coherent with each other. Jesus said “I am the Way the truth and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
Evil is, Christ taught, only too real, not maya-illusion, and we are accountable for our deeds. History is no Zen Garden. Not in our neighborhoods, not in our families, not in the reality of our lives, not in our world.
No. History is splashed everywhere with blood, murder, betrayals and countless tragedies. In a word, Sin. And sin afflicts us all. Social Media often masks the human condition. It shows our smiles, not our tears. And there are many, many tears and anguishes in real human lives. It need hardly be said.
Jesus taught, “The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” — Matt. 15:18, 19
But Christ bore it all, our sins on the Cross for our salvation, if we will only “receive Him” where He is to be found, in His Mystical Body, the Church, sinners and saints. (John 1:12).
Neither John Lennon, Alan Watt, or Ram Dass, well paid midwives of the “New Age,” can heal us, because they cannot atone for and forgive us our real sins. And healing, if it is to happen, must be rooted in Atonement and forgiveness, Christ’s atoning Death and Resurrection:
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mt. 20: 28
“Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jn 1:29; Lk. 19:10
… And to found His Church (Mt.16:18) where we find His saving Cross in every Eucharist.
According to sacred history, the many religions throughout the world reflect a kind of historical amnesia in degrees of that one revelation from God which was first given to the human race in its primal unity (Gen 1-3). Accordingly many religions still contain some of what is good, seeds of the Logos-Word (Jn 1:1) and transcendence. These partial truths Christ came to re-gather as promised in Genesis 3:15. Because, though still retaining some of what is truly good, such religions in themselves cannot forgive our sins. Only God can forgive sins.
The Good News of Christ’s Forgiveness and healing sanctification is what evangelism and missionary endeavor is all about; not arrogance, or, God forbid, arbitrary dominance, but the faithfulness of God to restore all things in Christ, the Messiah, the Desire of all nations.
Just as there is only one God, and one universe (not a multiverse), there is a “Way” (John 14:6), one Faith. This is the Good News, the greatest Love Story ever told.
Personal self-help “Enlightenment,” sold in advertising and Mall shops everywhere, is far from the answer. Such diversions, which concentrate on self improvement are impotent in the face of our real and existential dilemma. Personal Enlightenment and Yoga cannot forgive our past or present personal perfidies against our Maker and our neighbors. The supposed cessation of desire, though seen nowhere, has no power to forgive us. And without forgiveness there can can be no healing and salvation. — SH
— See also The Beatles and Where We Were And Are
— Buddhist Warfare