Vision Mound Magazine – Adi Da Community



VISION MOUND

Volume 2, Numbers 4

OCTOBER 1978

The Parable of the Rich Man

A talk given by Bubba Free John to his devotees

BUBBA: Jesus is reported to have made the statement: “It
is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Almost
everyone has heard this saying, but we do not quite know
what it means. It sounds a little odd. It seems to mean that
you cannot have money if you want to enter heaven, that a
really religious person does not own anything. It is
commonly believed that a person has to abandon all
relationships and live naked in the jungle or take up some
other equally austere and impoverished form of self-denial
if he or she is to have anything to do with God. However,
although this saying seems to represent the point of view of
such conventional asceticism, that is not actually the
case.

Another, somewhat less important misunderstanding related
to this saying is the popular version of the saying itself,
which contains a mistranslation. The actual translation of
the saying should be: “It is easier for a rope to pass
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of heaven.” The version of the New Testament from
which the King James translation and other popular versions
of the Bible are derived contained this mistranslation, in
which the word for rope, which looked something like the
word for camel, was corrupted.

This mistranslation actually makes the statement lose
some of its force because of the irrational juxtaposition of
the camel and the eye of the needle. It almost sounds as
though there may be some possible way that a camel can pass
through the eye of a needle. Maybe it is a paradox. Maybe
there is some way a rich man can enter the kingdom of
heaven. Maybe if the camel is over a mountaintop and you
look through the eye of a needle, you can see him in the
little hole. Maybe it is a joke or a riddle.

But actually the meaning of this statement is very
concrete. It is not meant to be poetic. It is meant to say
that a rich man absolutely cannot enter the kingdom of
heaven. In fact, he has even less chance than a rope has of
passing through the eye of a needle. And clearly, a rope has
absolutely no chance whatsoever of getting through the eye
of a needle. So it is not that a rich man can enter the
kingdom of heaven only if he does something religious. No, a
rich man cannot possibly enter the kingdom of heaven. That
is what the statement says.

In order to understand this statement fully we must
understand what the rich man represents in the simile. This
simile was not spoken to ascetics out in the jungle. It was
spoken to ordinary people for whom it was meant to have
ordinary significance. It was a practical recommendation, to
one individual in particular, and there was something the
person could actually do in response. It was not a
recommendation to live an ascetic life. It was simply a
recommendation to live a Godward life, which was something
ordinary people could do. Therefore, it did not simply
require the mechanical gesture of getting rid of all
possessions.

It is the rich man that is the symbol in this statement,
not the rope or the camel (which was a poetic mistranslation
anywayor the eye of the needle. Properly understood, the
rich man is simply one who has accumulations, attachments,
commitments to what does not lead to the kingdom of heaven.
This worldliness is his commitment, his orientation. This
statement means that a person who is bound to his
tendencies, his past, his commitments to things in the world
themselves, his commitments to life in separation, cannot
enter the kingdom of heaven. In other words, such a
self-possessed person is not involved in the process wherein
he realizes God and enjoys the Divine Destiny. Rather, he
realizes the destiny of the usual karmic life to which he is
already committed.

You become that upon which you meditate. The door that
opens is the one upon which you knock. What you seek is what
you find. This is the religious psychology of the New
Testament . So Jesus is saying that the way to realize God
is to be turned to God without qualification. Because, if
you are not turned to God without qualification, you cannot
realize God at all. You cannot realize God if you are
committed to anything but God. You cannot realize God a
little bit. You cannot be a little bit devoted any more than
you can be a little bit pregnant. To be devoted involves a
complete reversal of your ordinary tendency. You must repent
and be forgiven. You must be purified. Your sins must be
washed away. In other words, you must be thoroughly
transformed. You must be born again. This is the language
and message of the New Testament .

In my work with people I have found that they tend to
spend a long, long, long, long time moving beyond their
worldly commitments. Although they listen to the Teaching on
the Way of Divine Ignorance and like something about it,
they spend year after year after year struggling to give up
every kind of worldly orientation. After several years I
find people still holding on to the same things that they
were originally struggling to surrender. They are not quite
as bound up in them as they were before, but they are still
grudgingly trying to abandon this worldliness. They are
still having to learn the same lessons.

I have pointed out that someone who has lived a heavily
self-indulgent life for many years has to spend a great deal
of time giving away what he has accumulated. He must spend a
long time becoming purified of that indulgent disposition
and becoming turned to the Divine Life. The more you have
accumulated, the more time you have to spend giving it away.
The less you have accumulated, the less time you have to
spend giving it away. There is truth in this. The more you
have lived without God, the more you have accumulated in and
as yourself that prevents you from realizing God.

This worldliness is not merely a matter of having become
fully involved in earthly life, having relationships, having
clothes, having a home, and having pleasurable objects in
your home. That is not inherently wrong. That is not what is
being criticized in this saying in the New Testament . It is
a matter of ones orientation. If your commitment is to those
things in themselves, to self, to the recoil of self, if you
are Narcissus, you cannot realize God, because
God-Realization is ecstasy, transcendence of self. To the
degree that you are not available to the ecstatic Communion
with the Divine, you do not Commune with the Divine at all.
You are communing with something else. You are oriented to
that, and it prevents you from being perfectly
transformed.

It is not a matter of slowly getting rid of your
tendencies. It is matter of totally turning to the Divine.
That is what spiritual life is all about. If you have to
take a long time, it is because you are still committed to
something else and you want time to think about it, fret
over it, taste it a little bit. At the end of forty years of
doing it that way, you will not realize God. You will be
doing the same thing.

In your present state you do not realize God because you
own too much. You are too distracted. Your consciousness is
so laden with distraction that as soon as something flashes
before your eyes that relates to any tendency that you like
to indulge, you are completely given over to it, your heart
is given over to it, your emotion turns toward it, your
desire, your life-force awakens toward it. You spend your
life dead as a doornail and then you see something erotic or
someone gives you a million dollars and suddenly you are
alive. All the rest of the time the Divine is pervading all
things directly before you and even your own body-mind and
heart, as the Radiant Transcendental Consciousness-yet you
act like a man under a death threat in a concentration
camp.

True spiritual life involves transcending, in very
concrete ways and from moment to moment, that disposition in
which you are lifeless, loveless, and unfree. And only if
you are directly oriented toward the Divine Life, the Divine
Reality, do you realize the Divine in this moment and in the
next moment and even ultimately. This process takes place
only in the case of present yielding of feeling and
attention to the All-Pervading Divine Person, Reality,
Consciousness, and Life.

So this saying from the New Testament is about a
principle of religious or spiritual consciousness that you
must realize. Having realized it, the mechanical affair of
your tendencies becomes a matter of humor to you. It does
not require any indulgence. You simply do not participate in
it any longer. When something that you would usually crave
suddenly comes into your awareness, you do not have to go
through the game of really feeling it and then seeing if you
have the power to give it up. You do not do anything about
it whatsoever. It is superficial. It is mechanical. Your
energy, your attention, your consciousness, and your feeling
are already occupied in real activities that are Godward in
their orientation. Thus, you no longer play with yourself.
You do not entertain your capacity to indulge in what is
killing you and making you unconscious and loveless. You are
simply distracted by the Divine, the Truth, the Radiant
Transcendental Self of all beings.

 

 


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