Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons from the Lotus Temple: Reincarnation and LDS Theology

I went to the Llama Fest at the Hare Krishna temple in Spanish Fork this weekend.  To my knowledge, llamas have nothing to do with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).  The lovely Lotus Temple just also happens to run a llama farm.  And hold a yearly festival for their beloved llamas.  This year's festivities included traditional Peruvian music and dancing, llama races and other llama competitions, a llama petting zoo, llama wool spinning, and a Beatles tribute band.  Yeah, not sure where that last part fits in, but, for the record, they were good!

Aside: why doesn't the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have llama festivals?  Or any sort of non-preachy event open to the public?  I think it's a great way to get people to come investigate your religion.  I remember, growing up, the local Saints Simon and Jude Catholic church held an annual carnival.  The whole town showed up.  It was oodles of fun.  And the only religion you got was an occasional glimpse of a priest walking by.  At the Krishna temple, during the festivities, there is a set of informational posters set up for your perusal.  (Many of these posters highlight the overlap between ISKCON and LDS theology, including things LDS prophets have said about cruelty to animals and vegetarianism.)  You may also enter the temple and participate in a service.  It's all completely pressure-free, which is nice.  Perhaps we Mormons are so focused on converting people that we tend toward the overbearing routes instead.  That's a shame, really.

Anyway, so we had a fabulous time.  As usual.  Look, here's a picture, the first picture I've ever put on this lil blog here:

I've been to many events at the Lotus temple, including the popular Holi Fest, the India Fest, and others.  I love it there.  Not only is it one of the relatively few places around here that has some culture going on, I also just like the atmosphere.  You know, what with all the incense, henna, and veggie-tree-hugging-granola types.  What can I say?  I like hanging out with hippies.  Is anyone surprised?  I thought not.

So, as we were about to leave, it occurred to me that I might not be coming back any time soon, if ever again.  I'm positive I could find a Krishna temple in New York somewhere if I wanted, but still.  I wanted to say goodbye.  So Husband and I ventured into the temple to savor it one last time.  We left our shoes at the door, went up the stairs, and sat on some chairs toward the back of the ornate room.  The man leading the mantras had taken a break to share a spiritual thought of sorts.  He was talking about the nature of the soul.  He said that the soul that's in each of us isn't just for right now.  It was somewhere before this life, and it's going somewhere after this life.  I was struck by how similar this statement is to LDS theology.  Soon, he started back up with the mantras, so we went up to the front, sat cross-legged on the beautiful rug, and joined in the singing.

Just now, I was laying in the dark with my eyes closed, and one of those mantras got stuck in my head.  "Jaya Sita Ram, Jaya Jaya Hanuman."  There's definitely something to chanting.  It's relaxing, somehow.  I started thinking about reincarnation.  Surely, when the man was talking about the eternal nature of the soul, he was thinking of reincarnation.  It occurred to me, as it has in the past, that maybe the idea of reincarnation is not at odds with LDS theology at all.

The third chapter of the book of Abraham calls premortal beings "intelligences."  Verses 18 and 19 of that chapter says,
If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are . . . eternal . . . These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
This scripture is strikingly similar to the man's statement above.  (In fact, we talk about intelligences a lot, although it's not always clear exactly what they are.  They seem to be related to light, truth, knowledge, spirit, and matter.)  Moses 3 says that all things were created spiritually before they were created naturally.  It implies that even plants have a spirit that existed before the plant's tenure on Earth.

We also have a lot of scriptures about gaining intelligence.  They say that the glory of God is intelligence, and that the more intelligence we receive in this life, the better off we will be in the next life.  That sounds a little reincarnation-like.  The scriptures say we receive light, or intelligence, little by little, grace to grace.  We are taught to be obedient to the light/knowledge/intelligence that we have been given, or else we will lose that light and regress.  Could it be that plants, animals, or other "lower" organisms are on the same path toward gaining intelligence as we are, but are just a little behind us on that path?  Reincarnation does technically mean re-embodiment.  While perhaps the idea that a human can be reincarnated as another human does not jive, could plants and animals be reincarnated as humans at some later point in the universe?  Or, could we think of resurrection as reincarnation?  That makes sense, particularly if we throw in the idea that those who inherit celestial glory are resurrected to celestial bodies, those who inherit terrestrial glory are resurrected to terrestrial bodies, etc.

Going back to Abraham 3, God says that s/he is the most intelligent of all beings.  According to LDS theology, our purpose in life is to become like God.  Could it be that eternal life and nirvana are one and the same?  They both describe the act of becoming one with the Supreme Being.  (Also, atonement literally means at-one-ment.)  God, being omniscient and omnipotent, has power over the universe.  Is God not then "one" with the universe as well?  Could becoming one with God also mean becoming one with the universe?

I believe that all religions have some truth to them.  Certainly the Mormons don't have it all.  (Although many like to think that.)  Hinduism, and its offshoots, are particularly interesting due to its age.  And its belief in goddesses.

Anyway, these are my late-night musings.  I should probably stop now.  I'll end with this: if you ever get the chance to visit a Hare Krishna temple, do it.  Also, I want a pet llama.