Are You Putting Your Leg on the Fire?

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Two men decided that they wanted to get away from it all and try camping. This being their first time camping, they decided to bring a book that had all the information they needed: how to set up a tent (I refrained from using the phrase “pitch a tent” because the 10 year old inside me giggles too much when I say it), how to light a fire, how to catch fish, how to keep your food safe from bears, etc.

 

So they’re going through this book, and they decide it’s time to start a fire. They gather some wood and kindling, and get the fire going. After a while, the fire starts to exhaust its fuel, and they turn to the book for guidance. They read, “If your fire is starting to die out, this may be a good time for you to put one of your legs on the fire.”

 

The first man mentions that this seems odd, but the book says to put your leg on the fire, and that’s what they should do. The second man says, “That’s ridiculous. If I put my leg on the fire, it’ll get burned!”

 

The first man insists that the book has always been correct so far, so it should be fine if they put their leg on the fire. The second man insists that it must be a typo, and that surely they meant put a LOG on the fire.

 

The first man reminds the second man that the book has never steered them wrong before, and that it must be a test of faith. The authors of the book must know something that they don’t and that if they just put their faith in the book, everything would be okay.

 

The second man acquiesces and gingerly drapes a leg over the fire, and of course, starts to feel the heat. The first man sees the second man’s trepidation, and trusting in the book, shoves the second man’s leg into the fire. The man’s pant leg immediately bursts into flames, and he rolls around screaming at the first man as he desperately tries to put out the fire.

 

After putting out the fire, the second man asks the first why he did that. The first man simply says that the book told him too, and that the book has never been wrong before.

 

In the Eknath Easwaran translation of the Bhagavad Gita, the author laments the difficulty in translating things from one language to another and that there’s often no equivalent words in each language. For example, in the phrase from the Gita, “A man is what his shradda is,” the word “shradda” has no english translation (it’s like faith or belief, but more expansive. It’s the sum total of a person’s thoughts, experiences, beliefs, etc). In the Lamsa translation of the Bible — which is translated from the Aramaic, rather than the Greek — the word “camel” is noted as a thick rope used by sailors. Thus the phrase becomes, “It’s harder for a rich man to enter heaven than it is for a thick sailing rope to fit through the eye of a needle.” which makes a lot more sense than an actual camel.

 

So we have to learn not to take anything as gospel and to know that anything translated or re-translated is bound to have errors in them, whether intentional, unintentional or just as a matter of course. We have to understand that the experience of something is more important than the word. In fact, much of the spiritual path is experiential, and beyond words capacity to convey. As Nisargadatta Maharaj asked, “How can words explain that from which words arise?”

 

The Bible itself is missing 18 years of Jesus’s life. You don’t think he told people what he did during those 18 years? Jesus had 12 apostles (11 if you discount good old what’s-his-name) and yet only four of them appear in the gospels. You don’t think the other 7 or 8 people wrote about their time with him? You don’t think that Mary Magdalene or Joseph or Mary or anyone else who knew him intimately would have opinions on his teachings?

 

And what of the Gita? The first couple of verses seem to indicate that fighting and killing your enemies is okay in the eyes of God (Krishna). But later in the Gita one of the things Krishna advises Arjuna on is the principle of ahimsa (non-violence).

 

Is it possible that the things we hold most holy aren’t in fact perfect translations? Or that some of the stuff in them have been mis-interpreted? Is it possible that the reason we have so many wars and so much violence is that people cling to their particular book as being “holier than thou” and “God’s word without question”?

 

Perhaps knowing about the missing 18 years would help solve some of the problems of understanding. Perhaps not. Perhaps knowing why the Bhagavad Gita was inserted into the Mahabharata would explain the discrepancy. Perhaps not.

 

What I can tell you is that reading about how to build a fire and the experience of building a fire are two entirely different things. And where experience contradicts a book, we have to seriously consider that there may be an error in it. When it comes to understanding, too many of us discount the experience, and turn to the word, and this has clearly not worked out well for us in the past. There is a difference between something being divinely inspired, and something that is divinely perfect. In fact, even if something was divinely perfectly written in the language it originated, the mere translation of it introduces errors.

 

Words themselves are notoriously inaccurate. Anyone who’s sent a text or an e-mail that’s been misinterpreted knows that a lot of further explanation is necessary to correct the error.

 

The Old Testament contained a lot of what are referred to as “Mosaic Law.” Then Jesus showed up and said, “You’ve heard an eye for an eye? I say love thy enemy.” In other words, God sent one messenger (Moses), then when the words were misinterpreted, God sent another one (Jesus). So consider this, that we’ve misinterpreted a lot of what has been said, and that the evidence of that is simply to look at the world and look at the root cause of the wars, suffering, and violence. Then consider that, like Jesus, God has sent numerous messengers since, and continues to send messengers until our understanding is corrected. This, in fact, aligns everything with the message: God is love.

 

A loving God would not punish us for sinning (ie: making mistakes out of ignorance). A loving God would light the way and continue to light the way, and when we misinterpret the way, would gently guide us back.

 

Jesus’s message can be summarized in 3 phrases:

 

Love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind.
Love thy neighbour as thyself.
Love thy enemy.

 

As always, love is the answer.

 

In fact, every great master, every great saint, and every great teacher across all religions has spoken the same truth: God is love, infinite love, divine love, and every messenger has carried the same message: Love, and then do as you wish.

 

That we’ve twisted this into only loving those of our particular church or synagogue or mosque or sect or political affiliation or gender or sexual orientation or what have you is laughable (Truly. I often find myself laughing at the folly of people. It’s the only response that can keep me sane sometimes.)

 

And if I might make a recommendation, consider our holy books (whichever one you prefer) as not “The Good Book,” but merely, a good idea. Not as “The Gospel,” but a good guide. And understand that they’re not the “perfect word of God handed down from upon high,” but the words of man, divinely inspired, but written from the perspective and political affiliation from the writer.

 

Even the Bible states that Jesus spoke as with the authority of someone with the EXPERIENCE of God, and didn’t just recite the words of the ancient texts. And even Jesus himself said (although as I’ve stated, take everything in the Bible with a grain of salt) to beware the religion scholars.

 

And consider that God has and will ALWAYS send messengers, who all carry the same message, until all of us return home. And you’ll know these messengers by the message they carry:

 

Love.

 

Namaste.

Tommy

 

 

Tommy Heiden is a family photographer based out of Maple Ridge who, when he’s not caring for his amazing wife and two beautiful children, is occasionally found taking pictures of other peoples’ wives and children, and even more often, speaking and blogging about how to add more love to your life.

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Free Report Reveals Family Photographer’s Greatest Secret:

Learn the Number One Secret This Family Photographer Uses to Get Great Photos Every Time (Regardless What Camera You’re Using)