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The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus is not a Christian; he is Christ. Neither is he a Jew in the normal sense. His teachings and methods so closely resemble those of traditional Eastern gurus that we must assume that his early training was heavily influenced by the teachings of the East. This is not especially important, except that, when we look at his life and mission in the context of Eastern mysticism, we can better understand what he said and why he said it, how the people of his day heard his message, and how we can hear it today.

For many hundreds of years, Christian scholars have treated Jesus of Nazareth as an anomaly on the stage of world religion. They erroneously assumed that he was a simple peasant born in a small village, a marginalized Jewish settlement many miles from the cultural center of his country. Now, with the recent discovery of the city of Sepphoris, a cosmopolitan city just four miles from Nazareth, they realize that his exposure to world culture was unlimited. Given his trade (whether carpentry or stonemasonry is not certain), he undoubtedly spoke Greek and Latin, and not just Aramaic as is widely assumed.

Religions, like Christianity, do not appear out of nowhere. We know that it is an offshoot of Judaism, but that's as far as we are encouraged to look. Moses, as he is held forth by theologians, got everything straight from God on Mount Sinai, and everything in the way of religious history before him is wiped from the record - kept from public view by scholars who, quite frankly, do not fully understand the nature of that which they are hiding. This we do know, that Moses must have received extensive religious training as a favored son in the house of Phaoroah, because we can read it in the writings attributed to him.

Hollywood's technicolor version of life in Egypt at the time of Moses is a veneer pasted onto what was actually a richly deep and complex spiritual/political society. For the ancient Egyptians, religion, politics, and science all rode in the same chariot. There was no distinction made between heaven and earth. To them, one was an extension of the other, and everything in life was a reflection of the will of God.

What Moses learned in the courts and temples of Egypt, he re-interpreted for the Jews during their sojourn in the wilderness. Just as Jesus would later deliver the esoteric teachings of Judaism to those outside of the priestly class, so Moses used the secrets of Egypt to lay the foundation for his new society.

The notion that "the Lord our God is One" is the cornerstone of our modern concepts of natural law and social justice. And this we owe to Moses. His contribution cannot be overestimated. The Enlightenment in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages could not have taken place without his influence. His doctrine of the One God, which he got from the Egyptians, opened the way for a unified understanding of the world, which in turn gave rise to modern science. If God operated according to law and not by whim, then so did God's creation. This was a major break from the popular belief that God(s) was a moody and capricious dictator that could be appeased and bribed by mortals for their own mundane agendas. Out of this, the rights of individuals was born - the freedom of religion, of association, and of speech - though it took many centuries for these things to emerge as constitutional law.

Spiritual power is similar to political power in that when it becomes corrupt, when it is overly concentrated in one sector of society to the detriment of all others, a revolution takes place. The Exodus was as much a spiritual revolution as it was a political one. Moses took the knowledge of the Egyptian mystery schools, knowledge hoarded by the priesthood for its own political purposes, and with it formed a new religion . He wove the ancient teachings into the stories and dictates of the Pentateuch and initiated his own priesthood, the House of Levi, giving them the keys to the secrets they held. Centuries later, Jesus of Nazareth would do the same. He would unlock the doors to the Holy of Holies, the core teachings of the Jewish faith, and disseminate its wisdom to fresh blood - his own appointed priesthood. He tore the curtain of the Inner Temple aside, so that those who were capable of perceiving its mysteries could do so freely. And he showed them how.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount recapitulates the Ten Commandments, which were Moses' interpretation of the Egyptian mysteries. Jesus recaptures and reinterprets the Law for a culture who through human nature and time had lost its true meaning. He not only reinterprets the Law, but raises it to a new level. Whereas before it was enough to simply obey the rules outwardly, he calls the people to take the Law into their hearts, to incorporate them, so that they could say, with him, "I am the Law and the Prophets". This was the seed for what later would come to be known in the West as self-government.

This was a radical departure for the Middle Eastern religious mindset, but was old hat in India. God, for the Hindus, was not a king in a kingdom, not a punishing and rewarding ruler, but the flame of the human heart, manifesting Itself as divine awareness, continually moving in and out of earthly life in a never-ending spiral of spiritual evolution. Spirit functioned in a cosmos ruled by impersonal law. God did not punish - one merely reaped the fruits of one's own actions. Man was not innately sinful, but simply prone to error. It was ignorance and not inherent guilt that kept us from seeing God. After all, error can be corrected, but guilt must be paid for with blood.

But whereas the Hindus excluded the majority of the population from the Teachings by their caste system, and the early Jews with their exclusivity as the Chosen People of God, Jesus, and later Paul, would throw the doors wide open to the world, bringing the possibility of freedom to everyone. It was a populist movement of high spiritual origin, and its true meanings were left in plain view by the early Christians in their writings, so that those who came after could benefit from the movement's momentum.

Who knows why the Third and Fourth Century Christian religion decided to disown the legacy of its forbears, and divorce itself from the Perennial Philosophy. It could have simply been to distinguish itself as something new, even though nothing that Jesus said was original. Much of what he said can be found almost verbatim in the Vedas. Without this understanding, the New and Old Testaments read like half a text, a story with many of its chapters missing, a puzzle that has fomented nothing but debate and speculation for centuries, because the keys of its mysteries have been buried.

The Nature of Gurus and Their Students
Let us now overlay the traditions and methods of the East onto the mystical teachings of the West and see if there is something it can offer us in the way of understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In the East, gurus are known as the Sons of God, and though they are not worshipped, they are given the utmost respect and reverence. Since there is no central authority in Hinduism, each guru holds the same position of spiritual power as popes do in the Roman Catholic Church, but his or her authority only applies to students, not to the spiritual community at large. Gurus can ordain priests who carry out the daily functions of worship and administration, just as priests do in the West. There are monks and nuns as well.

In order to become the student of a guru, one must prove that he or she has the right motive. They must have reached the point in their development where they no longer seek personal glory, or power over others, but rather have a deep desire to be of service in the advancement of spiritual awareness in the world.

In the Western tradition, this is known as being called to the ministry. The guru himself, or herself, is one so called. Rather than use their abilities to permanently escape the sorrows of this world, they have chosen of their own free will to remain amongst humanity and help it rise above its current condition. They take vows of service and are ordained into spiritual leadership. In order for their ordination to be valid, it must come through a recognized lineage, an unbroken succession of former gurus. Or, if it comes through direct revelation, it must be proved and accepted by his or her peers.

Once the student has proved the purity of his motive, he must take a vow of total obedience. If the guru is properly ordained, this is understood as total obedience to God, or one's own divine Self, with the guru acting as mediator.

Because he or she holds this office by divine right, the words of the guru are considered to be absolute truth and are worthy of absolute obedience. In real life, the guru's infallibility is only as good as his contact with the divine Self within, though often the sheer power of the student's faith helps the guru to maintain that contact.

The best gurus are totally dedicated to the advancement of their students, even to the extent that the students eventually surpass them. It is because of this dedication that gurus are so demanding.

Not only must the student have the right motive and be willing to submit to the guru in total obedience, he or she must also be willing to give up all worldly possessions and emotional attachments. These are no halfway measures. It is no wonder, as some have pointed out, that disciples tend to be either young or old; seldom do you find a person in the full career of midlife chucking it all to find God. The call seems to be best heard by those who are either filled with idealism or freed by wisdom.

Another prerequisite for the student is the ability to stand up under peer pressure and criticism. He or she cannot be weak-willed or easily swayed by the opinions of others. The guru's training methods are designed to move the student out of everyday ego-consciousness, so that they can identify with the God Self within. This is not an endeavor for the fainthearted! The ego does not give up easily. At the most critical point in the student's training, there is great temptation to capitulate to the ego's demands.

The temptations the student encounters will usually fall into three categories: lust, fear, and intellectual pride. Lust can manifest as the desire to fulfill any of the bodily appetites, such as comfort, food, and sex. Fear can be for one's physical safety or the loss of continuity in one's personal identity - the loss of a familiar sense of self. Intellectual pride manifests as a strong sense of right and wrong based solely on one's opinions. Out of this comes the desire to control the lives of others, to be their "savior" and lawgiver. This is perhaps the most powerful temptation of all for a person who has attained some degree of understanding and moral strength. After all, who could be better for the job? C'est moi!

Entering the School - the Guru Screens His Prospective Students
Spiritually training a group of students requires a considerable investment of the guru's time and energy, since the entire process can take decades. It is no wonder that the selection process is so arduous. It is better to shake out the unqualified right at the beginning than to find out too late that the candidate is unqualified. It would be harmful to push a person beyond his or her limits, burdening them with an overwhelming sense of failure for the rest of their life. This would neither be loving to the student nor conducive to the long-range goals of the guru. Every effort is made to give the unqualified student multiple opportunities at the outset to bow out gracefully, allowing the more qualified students to advance rapidly in their training.

Entering a school for religious training is serious business, and both the students and the Guru know it. The student will try to impress the Guru with his sincerity, and the Guru will test the student's resolve. One might say that the first lesson the student receives is the difference between these two virtues. It is not enough to merely be sincere - one must also be qualified.The guru needs to find out as soon as possible if the student has reached the point in his or her life where they are ready to set foot on the spiritual path. To do this, a series of hurdles is erected at the door of the school. While this obstacle course may, in real life, take days, weeks, or months for the student to run, Jesus summarizes them quickly in the Sermon on the Mount.

We gain an insight into the personality of Jesus by the way he couches his phrases. Whether his obliqueness is out of respect for the intelligence of his audience, or whether he just wants to see if they can pick up on the subtlety of his words, is hard to say. In an age when people could live or die by a single word, perhaps this was the normal protocol. In our day and in our culture, we play fast and loose with our words. So, as we go through the Beatitudes, I will take the "velvet gloves" off of Jesus' "iron fists", rephrasing his sagacity with the directness of a drill sergeant.

Blessed Are They?
First, let me address the one phrase that comes at the very beginning, the one we tend to skip over, the words "blessed are they". What does this mean? We say these words as if we know. They have such a hallowed tone to them. They evoke pictures of saints and nuns with their hands clasped marching up to the altar, surrounded by light and the sound of singing angels. In a circular kind of way, these words have defined themselves by the way they have been intoned from the pulpit for hundreds of years. "Blessed are they" confers instant sanctity and piety on whoever says it, especially a preacher. But, while it has become a verbal icon, it has lost its intelligibility.

This is where an understanding of the relationship between an Eastern Guru and his disciples can help us. A blessing is a real thing. It is a movement of power from one person to another. If the person giving the blessing is a clear channel to God, then the blessing is effectively from God. If the person giving the blessing has "fallen from grace", but is authorized to give it by virtue of his or her office, then the form or ritual of the blessing can itself act as the channel, depending in either case on the degree of receptivity of the person receiving the blessing.

Blessings are usually, but not always, conferred by some form of laying on of hands. In the normal course of events, a priest or Guru will place his hands on the student's head and speak, either verbally or mentally, the words of the blessing, giving pattern to the spiritual energy as it enters the student's body. Blessings can be of different kinds, as in the blessing of ordination as compared with the blessing of a meal, but always the energy is the same - the energy of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, the Guru will slap the disciple on the back. This is an important blessing. Those who have received it say that this was their "ordination" into mastery, the point at which the guru creates another guru. It usually causes an intense light in the head and spine, a feeling of lightness in the body, and the ability to see beyond the range of normal vision. In all cases, this kind of blessing carries with it the formality of lineage, that unbroken line of succession between Guru and disciple spanning thousands of years.

By the time a person, male or female, advances to the stage of guru, they have built up an energetic pattern around them composed of the way they have administered blessings throughout their life. It exists as a net, a matrix of force that hangs about the head and shoulders of the Guru. It is imbued with the personality of his teacher, as well as all of the teachers before him, and it is also imbued with his own personality. This is called the guru's mantle. Though it can be seen as I have described, it is also omnipresent, existing like radio waves in all places at once. It can act as a proxy for the Guru, enabling him to be continuously available to his students, no matter where they are or what time they need him. When the guru takes on a student, he forms a connection between that student and his mantle. This gives the guru a continuous channel through which he can communicate with the student on the spiritual level. This is the ultimate privelege that a guru can bestow on a student. It is the equivalent of giving birth. It is at this point that the guru becomes the student's "father" and "mother".

Jesus as Guru
This is the blessing that Jesus holds out to his prospective students as he prepares them for discipleship. By saying "blessed are they", he is actually saying, "I will bless you if...", which is to say, "I will extend my mantle to you, and you will be my student, if you do the following..." This is what the students listening to his Sermon need to hear. They need to know what the requirements are in order to fulfill them, and Jesus is spelling them out so that there can be no mistake. This is a rite of passage, where the student leaves the "world" and enters the monastery. He or she is leaving the matrix (mother or alma mater) of family and society and is becoming a child of God - God as manifested by and through the guru. The guru becomes the student's savior, his direct channel to the Divine.

The Sermon
Far from being a loosely consolidated collection of sayings, in the Sermon on the Mount we see Jesus as a master teacher preparing his students for discipleship in accordance with the age-old tradition of Eastern gurus.First, he qualifies his students by testing their motive, then he tells them what he expects of them as their teacher, and then he gives them the spiritual rules of the brotherhood they are to live by.

Matt: 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Being poor in spirit, having no opinion about what we're seeing, and having no investment in the outcome, keeps us quick on our feet and able to respond to changes as they occur. Adaptability is the hallmark of successful living, and the person who travels light can adapt the fastest.

At the level of charity, Jesus is talking about material possessions and money, but at the level of spiritual awakening, he is talking about possessions of the mind and our attachment to them.

Jesus states the first principle of spiritual seeking. Poor in spirit means in the spirit of poverty. It means, "I own nothing." The candidate for discipleship must demonstrate that he or she is willing to give up everything, or "sell all that he hath", in order to find God.

Not only do the material possessions have to go, but the props of personality have to go as well - things like one's favorite wardrobe, hairstyle, preferences in diet, manner of speech, daily routines, and station in life. Just like boot camp in the military, anything and everything that is created by and for the personal ego is surrendered on the first day.

Sometimes, even one's name is changed. The candidate is literally plucked from the world and given a new identity. Unlike the military, however, you can always leave if you change your mind. No legitimate Guru would ever keep a student who wanted to leave.

What Are Possessions?
Let's examine these possessions from the ground up. Why is it necessary for the spiritual aspirant to give up his "stuff"? What is it about material possessions that would get in the way of our spiritual unfoldment?

First of all, we tend to pay closer attention to the things we own. Our personal possessions stand out in bold relief from the rest of the world. We tend to regard all other things by how they relate to our things. Students of the truth know that there is something fundamentally wrong with this way of seeing the world - this is one of the reasons why they submit to being students. Our possessions lock us in to a particular way of being in the world. Since we are trying to transcend or see past the limitations of the physical world, we have to let go of our possessions.

Just as we are hemmed in by physical possessions, our mental possessions hold us captive as well, only more so. What are mental possessions? They are our opinions. Opinions bias our vision and keep us from freely entertaining new ideas. To be poor in spirit is to lack bias - to see all things equally, giving no special importance to any one thing. A good detective notices everything - so does the good scientist. Just imagine how limited they would be if they were biased toward the familiar.

Likewise, if we value the things we think are good and shun the things we think are bad, we will not be able to see anything new. Who are we to judge, being the poor judges that we are? Something really great could be right under our nose, but if it didn't fit in with our sense of right and wrong, we would miss it entirely.

The things that we are supposed to notice, the things that will support us in our life and give us the best opportunities to be healthy and happy, do not usually fall under the category of "our opinion". If they did, life would be a lot easier. As human beings, seemingly by default, we want the very things that are not good for us.

Our opinions determine what we see. If we think that it's better to be wealthy than poor, we will always be on the lookout for ways to get rich. If we think that loneliness is bad, we will continually seek the company of others. If recognition is important, we will look for ways to stand out from the crowd.

The Truth Must Be New
Trojan Horse Our vision will only detect those things that will validate our opinions about "what is true". Fortunately, we also have the opinion that truth is good. Like a Trojan horse, it gets around the ego's defenses and opens a door for the truth to get in. As ideas of the truth start to emerge in us, they usually look unimportant and sometimes even irritating. "Where are the important clues?" we cry out. "...the ones I'm expecting to see?"

The whole point of "blessed are the poor" is that the next clue, the next level of truth, the door that will make everything else in the way of new knowledge and experience available to us is just that - NEW. If an idea is new, how are we going to recognize it? It's not going to fit in with any of our preconceptions.

The message Jesus is conveying here is simple: "If you want to learn from me, you're going to have to let go of your opinions - what you think you know." Jesus is telling his disciples, "I'm not here to reinforce your ideas!" Saying blessed are the poor in spirit is just a polite way of saying, "Everything you think you know about God and reality is wrong!"

Nothing gets in the way of accurate evaluation more than predisposition of mind. We like things to be consistent with what we already know. If something doesn't fit in with our preconceptions, we throw it out, sometimes without even looking at it.

Desires are possessions of the heart. The heart collects the "valuables" of the mind and forever seeks them to the exclusion of all else. "Where your treasure (valuables) are, there will your heart be also." The mind compares things that we see with what we believe is valuable; if there's a match, we immediately want the thing that we see.

The flip side of desire is fear. We are programmed to automatically avoid the things we fear, whether or not our fears are well founded. We only have to think that they're dangerous. If we're wrong, if there is in fact nothing to be afraid of, then we miss out on the good that might be there for us. It might be the missing key to the fulfillment of all our dreams! We'll never know as long as we think it's fearful.

In the esoteric sense, "blessed are the poor in spirit" refers to our opinions. Unless the mind is empty, or as the Buddhists say, "beginner's mind," there is no room for the truth.

Jesus is making the first requirement of his students - leave your possessions at the door. Not only your physical possessions, but your mental ones as well, which includes everything that you think you know and understand. No true master teacher would ever take a student who was only interested in learning that which will reinforce what he already knows.

Jesus is politely saying, "I am your teacher, and I'm not interested in your opinions. Forget them!" Anyone who has ever studied under a bonafide master teacher has almost certainly heard this more than once, "If you think you already know the truth, what do you need me for?"

The spirit of poverty includes letting go of one's "name", which means renouncing all worldly ties, rights of inheritance, and claims to family honor. It means letting go of one's habitual ways of speaking, eating, sleeping, dressing, and daily routines. It is leaving the world and all of its pursuits for the sake of pursuing God. The master teacher stands in the place of God, as far as the student is concerned, for the duration of the student's training. The teacher says, I AM the Way."

In effect, the student becomes a penniless orphan. The teacher becomes his father, mother, and savior. If there is any reluctance on the part of the student to accept his teacher on this basis, he is disqualified from entering the school.

This is the first test, and it is the first law Jesus lays down to his disciples.

Matt: 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. - testing the student's willingness to surrender his desires.
Just as the student must empty his mind of opinion, so must he empty his heart of all desires and fears. The student must feel true contrition for the miserable state that he has gotten himself into. Like the Prodigal Son, he must have come to the realization on his own that his life is totally devoid of truth and goodness and be willing to give everything for the privilege of returning to his true spiritual state, if only as a servant.

We mourn that which is lost. How can we receive if we still have? When the ego realizes that it is nothing, has nothing , and is capable of nothing, there is great sorrow. Jesus is saying, as a way of testing the aspirant, " You're not worth camel dung." Anyone coming face to face with this knowledge will mourn. This is the epitome of the spiritual principle, "Of myself I do nothing".

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Jesus is saying, "At this point in your training, you must be a follower. Don't try to do the leading here. You will become part of the school if you do what I say. You must give me your complete obedience. Follow me." Inherit the earth means, "Do what I say and you will manifest the truth of the teachings."

"If you openly oppose me, you will have to leave. It's your responsibility to get along with me; it's not my responsibility to get along with you." When it comes to getting the ego to follow directions, spiritual training is no different from any other kind of training. Journeymen have been telling their apprentices for thousands of years, "First learn to do it my way, then you can make your own adaptations."

In our Postmodern world, time-honored procedures have lost their shine, which in a way is good, because it opens the door for creativity. But basic training is necessarily rigid. Nothing is more dangerous, in terms of the integrity of a body of knowledge, than a beginner who thinks he knows more than everyone else. It is most dangerous to the student, because spiritual practice is powerful, and, like electricity, can be deadly. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So, discipline at the outset is mandatory, or, as the famous saxaphonist, Charlie "Bird" Parker said, "First you learn your instrument real well, then you forget all that [stuff] and wail."

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled."
The mind is avaricious and wants to feed itself with knowledge and opinions about that knowledge. Jesus is saying, "Be ready to do a lot of fasting. You're not here to fill your stomachs, or your minds. If your motive is for anything other than to partake of the truth, you're in the wrong place. You are here to become God-realized, not to acquire a new philosophy or to live comfortably."

Jesus is also telling his students that they will be doing a lot of literal fasting. Fasting has always been a regular part of spiritual training. There is a notion, more among lay people than spiritual aspirants, that life in the monastery is plush, or at least sheltered with "three squares a day". Jesus is laying this to rest at the outset.

Even though there is no mention of a monastic lifestyle amongst Jesus' disciples, they undoubtedly lived communally or in small groups. While Jesus and his entourage toured the countryside, there must have been a substantial number of people staying at home taking care of business. The economics of daily living was the same then as it is now, and Jesus' activity must have required much planning and support.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."
The ego is the first thing to be attracted to the spiritual path, because it thinks that it can usurp for itself the importance it sees there.

The guru, through the eyes of the ego, is an ideal human personality. He or she is brimming with self-confidence, commanding the respect of everyone who comes into his presence. It is natural for the ego to be drawn to this kind of spiritual power, because it immediately identifies with it. The prospective disciple looks at the teacher and says, "That's ME!" Consequently, the disciple expects to be ushered to the head of the line. He tends to view the other students as inferior to himself, both in knowledge and in merit.

Rather than shoot down this fantasy right away, the guru sets about redirecting its energy. He looks through the mask of the ego and, like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, celebrates the return of another child of God to the house of Truth. The ego, of course, thinks that the celebration is about itself. It almost makes one think that the "fatted calf" that the father orders to be slain is a veiled reference to the bloated ego itself!

Although the Prodigal Son has demonstrated the proper humility by asking to be readmitted to his father's house as a servant, the father, or in this case the guru, knows how quickly penitence can turn into pride. Humility is a great source of power, and if the ego has not been sufficiently purified, it will use it for its own aggrandizement. The "faithful son", the one who never left home in the first place, represents the Prodigal Son's ego waiting in the wings, ready to reassert itself once it has gotten its foot in the door. The guru knows that old habits die hard, and that the disciple will once again try to sieze his "inheritance", only this time taking it in the currency of authority, instead of cash.

Every real teacher recognizes this subtle power play lying just beneath the surface of a new disciple's sincerity. Jesus knows this, because he saw it in himself when he was tempted to turn his mission into one of world rulership, when Satan offered him "all the kingdoms of the world", if he would but worship him. Satan represents the false self, the ego, whose orientation is toward the domination of others for the promotion of its own selfish agenda.

When Jesus says "blessed are the merciful" he is saying, "If you have come here to straighten everyone else out, you are mistaken. You are not to judge your brother. The only appropriate attitude for you to have toward him is one of compassion, because you are not superior to him in any way. Show me that you can do this, and I'll be compassionate toward you - I will let you stay."

The first thing to be attracted to the spiritual path is the ego; and it is the last thing to let go. The ego looks at a spiritually advanced person and says to itself, "This is for me!" Without hitting the ego too directly on its superiority issue, Jesus deftly turns it into something more productive - compassion. The ego can still claim it as its own, but will do less damage with it. Besides, every good teacher knows that the ego's head of steam can help the student stick out the early phase of his training. If the ego can be led to believe that it is surrendering and not being conquered, the transition to selflessness will be a lot smoother. Let sleeping dogs lie.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
Jesus is posing a veiled question: "Why are you here? Are you here to get? If this is your motive, you will never realize God. Are you looking to advance spiritually, maybe become a teacher and lord yourself over everyone else? Think again. You cannot want anything but God. Forget you!"

Even wanting God is wrong. God-realization is an active verb - you have to step into it and take it on. To know God you have to emulate God by giving all to all in self-forgetting service. You know that you are on the Way when nothing else is possible.

Spiritual training progressively takes the student closer and closer to absolute selflessness by engaging the entire person, body, mind, and spirit, in a well-orchestrated curriculum of service. Everything that the student does, from the time he or she wakes up until bedtime, is an act of giving, either to the needs of the spiritual community, the needs of the local community, or to God. There is no time for the student to think about his problems, or to harbor ill will. The less attention he places on himself, the stronger will be the connection with the Guru through the Guru's mantle, and the more effective will that connection be.

This is a program of God-intoxication coupled with strenuous physical work. Military organizations have used this formula for thousands of years to reshape the human ego, only they substitute the love of God with their own brand of fervor. When a person places more value on the group than he does on his own life, and the motivating ideals of that group are noble and good, transformation comes swiftly. All of the student's problems fade away. When the custodians of his soul are of pure intentions themselves, seeking only good, and if they have experienced the reality of the principles that they teach and live in accordance with them, the student's safe passage into God-consciousness is assured.

Verse 9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

New: be skilled negotiators, not shrewd politicians. There is only one valid agenda: the good of ALL. No one can be left out. This is true bodhisattva. Work to make it work.
Note: develop the non-political aspect here; stress the "good of all" as it is given in the ordination ceremony. You're going to have to reconcile Jesus' statements regarding those who are not of the lost sheep of Israel. What about them? Does Jesus exclude anyone categorically from the kingdom of heaven?

Verses 10 through 12: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Even though I'm giving you the rules here, there are some of you who are going to disregard them anyway. If the rest of you don't want to get washed out with them, you had better ignore them when they try to get you to go along with them. And they'll try every trick in the book to make you doubt the program, try to make you feel really bad about wanting to do the right thing. But don't listen to them. You'll make it in the long run if you keep your nose clean. When the troublemakers finally do leave, don't think that you have heard the last from them, either, because they're always the ones who will try to tear down your resolve from the outside. They'll criticize you publicly, try to make you look foolish for being obedient to a spiritual teacher. This is the way it has always gone - when you try to rise above the level of mass consciousness, they will try to bring you down. Happens every time. If you stick with the program, and you really do manage to get yourself straightened out, then they'll come around and think you're really something.

Note: this can also, and more probably, be mainstream Christians, churchgoers in the traditional sense, those who embrace their religion more out of a sense of social duty than as true spiritual seekers.

Also: "...the prophets who were before you." This would be a good opportunity to explore the egalitarian nature of spiritual development, how anyone can make it if he tries. You don't have to be of noble birth, to be a Jew or of the Brahmin caste. This is fundamental, not only to spirituality but also in the American Declaration of Independence where it says, "All [wo]men are created equal." The idea here is that no one gives you God. God is inside everyone -- everyone is made in God's image and likeness. Though there are differences in personal development, no one is inferior at the level of being.

Step two, verses 13 through 16: The Master's expectations of his students.

Verse 13: "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot."

You're not irreplaceable. You think you're special, but unless you can back it up with something substantial, there is nothing that distinguishes you from ordinary, worldly-minded people.

Salt is a precipitate - it is what's left after seawater evaporates. It is, in effect, what makes seawater seawater. Only a very small percentage of the human population pursues in-depth spiritual training from a master teacher. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes them a valuable "commodity", just like salt was in the ancient world. But if salt is mixed with dirt, it loses its value as a commodity. When disciples abandon their spiritual discipline and go back to finding ways to reassert their egotistical ambitions and worldly appetites, they are no longer part of the solution but part of the problem. And they are no longer eligible to participate in the life of the community of disciples.

Verse 14: "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

You're not here for you, but for all of humanity, so be careful of what you do, because you'll be judged by it. Spiritual attainment is a great responsibility. You are setting the patterns that others will follow. It also has a literal aspect in that spiritual light is obvious to everyone - people recognize those who have it, and they expect them to be a good example. When a priest screws up, it has an enormously damaging effect on the body of believers.

Verse 15: "No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house."

I'm not teaching you so that you can go off and sit alone somewhere. The purpose of your training is service. You will reach many people; that is why I have called you. Your training is for them, and not strictly for you.

This is the difference between a bodhisattva and an arhat. The bodhisattva is one who forgoes personal liberation so that all might be saved. The arhat seeks personal salvation only. Buddhists vow to save all sentient beings.

Verse 16: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven."

Teaching won't do anyone any good unless you can show them. Let them see that it's real. They've got to see that the reality comes from God, not from books, from your actions and not your words. Demonstrate the Law, show them what love is. You're not here to set yourself up as some kind of luminary. When they see you do great things, you had better hope that they give the glory to God, and not give you the credit. You have to represent the divine potential within them, and not your personality.

Step 3, verses 17 through 20: The Master's first directive - the rules of the Brotherhood.

Verse 17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. (The implication here is that Jesus expects his disciples to do the same.)

This doesn't mean you don't have to study scripture (the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament), or that you can make up your own rules. It means that you have to live it - you have to fulfill the Word. At the same time, I'm teaching you how to be something, not just know something. It doesn't matter what you know or how clever you can sound. What matters is whether or not you can manifest the Father. I am not saying that the teachings aren't important. I am here to make the teachings real. You are going to become that which the teachings are pointing to. Buddha said that the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

Verse 18: For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

This also means that until disciples have mastered the Law and have incorporated it into their lives, they are still subject to the Law. There's a lot of discussion warranted here. Some laws are like the ferry boat of Buddhism - once you get to the other side of the river, the ferry boat is no longer needed. One might say, for example, that once the love of God is realized, it is no longer "sinful" to work on Sunday. Not working on Sunday was a way to get to that realization.

Until heaven and earth pass away: until you can experience heaven here, or until the illusion that heaven and earth are separate has disappeared from your consciousness, you are expected to live according to the Law. Jesus says in the Gospel According to Thomas, "The kingdom of God is spread upon the earth, but men do not see it."

Do everything exactly as I say, for I have mastered the Law and Prophets. Don't skip anything. When you have completed your training and can generate the teachings out of your Self, then you can write your own ticket. Until then, do it exactly as I tell you.

Verse 19: Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Integrity has power.

And don't be making up any shortcuts to make yourself look like an authority, as though the rules were meant just for beginners. That's just an ego trip. It's not spiritual at all. Show them you're humble enough to play by the rules. They'll respect you more for it, and so will I.

Verse 20: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

The scribes and Pharisees typically did not practice what they preached. They thought they were above all that. Be strict with yourself and lenient with others. After all, if you want to follow me, then you must share in my mission. I have come for them. Will you help me?Jesus did not have to incarnate into a physical body but did so at the request of the Father, and yet he observed the Laws of Moses. Those that he broke, he broke for a reason, to show the difference between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law. He was always teaching.

The Teachings Themselves

Verses 21 thru 43:- a revision of the Law of Moses

"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."

Monastic life, like any other form of communal living, be it a workplace, a home, or a community, can create lots of heat just by the sheer friction of its molecular parts. It can quickly become a cauldron, a fiery furnace of conflicting interests and competing egos. Jesus knows that this is standard operating procedure for human beings, so he addresses it here.

The issue is how to deal with anger. In the context of a school for spiritual training, the rules are quite specific. Far from the obvious prohibition from killing people, Jesus implies that anger itself is a form of murder. He is raising Moses' commandment to the next higher level - that of mind and heart. It is not enough to simply refrain from acting out your anger; you have to purge the anger out of yourself.

There is, however, a more subtle aspect to it. Oftentimes, when the ego realizes that its days are numbered, it adopts the secondary survival stategy of "angry young man". It's another way to be important when being carefully humble no longer works. The student attempts to win the guru's favor by becoming a fierce warrior for truth. Indignant at everyone and everything, he seeks the moral high ground by making the world wrong, using disdain as a weapon to ward off the scrutiny of others in an attempt to hide his own shortcomings. Afterall, the best defense is a good offense, and it is at this point that the student can become the most offensive.

This ploy of the ego inevitably manifests as a form of ruthless honesty, which the student inflicts on his fellow students every chance he gets. It is nothing more than a bid for special attention from the guru, and Jesus is letting his new diciples know right at the outset that he is not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.

Only a pure heart can deliver the blunt truth to another human being, because only a pure heart intends no malice. It is an ancient spiritual principle that is as true today as it ever was - do no harm. The indiscriminate use of "truth", or ruthless honesty, is injurious, and it is insulting. It has been the cause of most of the world's "bad blood", sometimes lasting for centuries, one tribe seeking retribution against another for wrongs committed long ago in an endless cycle of violent revenge. As it is true on the scale of human history, so it is true in any form of communal life, especially in the "hot house" of spiritual training.

Jesus is instructing his disciples to manage their frustrations through living a life of reconciliation, to set aside their egos for the sake of cooperation and harmony. And he is letting them know that he is onto their tricks, that he understands the many ways that the ego will try to avoid correction.

Chapter 6 - Making it real, living the spiritual life, getting it inside you

This chapter might have most to do with taking the teachings to heart, because it talks about being sincere in all of our practices.

Chapter 7 - Controlling your mind, meditation rules, dealing with people on the Other Side (wolves in sheep's clothing), testing what you get (know them by their fruits), prove by fire.

Verses one through five deal with judging others, which is a matter of one's thinking. Verse six, casting your pearls before swine, is a function of low self-esteem, which is judging yourself. Why else would anyone offer the best wisdom they have to those who aren't asking for it? Verses seven through twelve have to do with maintaining a positive frame of mind, positive thinking, if you will. The aspect here is fiery, masculine, decisive, not passive at all. If you want something out of life, ask for it, go for it. And don't wait to see what others are going to do before you decide how you're going to treat them. That's passive. Instead, take the initiative and treat them according to the highest principle of ethics known - as you would have them treat you. Verses 15 through 20 talk about discernment, and coming as they do right after the warning against judging others, Jesus is telling his disciples to be smart and not be hoodwinked by those with predatory interests. Ravening wolves are those that want to win you over to their way of thinking, taking your spiritual energy and adding it to their own. They are spiritual vampires. On the physical level, they are after sex or your money or both. But on the spiritual level, they want your attention focused on them, because that's how they derive their power. Jesus is also telling his senior disciples not to be ravening wolves themselves and to judge their own actions by the results they get. Verses 21 through 23: Jesus is telling his disciples that ability without wisdom can only cause trouble. This is more like instructions to senior students, those who will be acting more or less autonomously, away from his direct supervision. For him to know them means that they are of the same spirit, meaning that they are receiving their impulse to act from the Father, not from their own understanding. The right thing done at the wrong time is always wrong. Verses 23 through 27 are summing up the entire sermon, offering it as a solid foundation to those who would be strong disciples in service to God.

Verse 21 -23: following the rules is not enough.

Verses 24 thru 27: the Rock (Self), rains and floods - emotions, winds - the arguments of logic.