Friday, May 1, 2009

Opening Bodily Gates

We are likely quite familiar with Jesus' declaration, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (John 10:9). Here, Jesus functions as a deity whose open gate beckons those followers desiring salvation. In the Catholic ritual of Eucharist, the breadly host undergoes transubstantiation as its reality is changed to that of the divine body - an open gate through which believers may enter. In Christian theology more generally, Christ serves as the head of the unified church, imagined to represent a divine body comprised of many parts: Paul explains, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27). In both schemes, there emerges an engrossing interplay between the figure of Jesus, the body and the opening of gates.

This morning's shabad from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib extends and inverts this trope. After poetically describing the way in which the True Guru trickles Ambrosial Nectar into the mouth of the faithful, the texts reads:

ਦਸਵੈ ਦੁਆਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ਆਇਆ ॥
My Tenth Gate has been opened and revealed.
[Guru Ram Das on pannaa 1069]

In SIkh teaching, the Tenth Gate refers to a region in the head that eventually opens through the study of sacred texts (Gurbani) and self-discipline in the ways of the holy (Gurmat) - in contrast to the Christian invitation into God's body, the Sikh invites God into her own body. It is only through an opening of the self - a turning oneself over to the spirit of God - that we achieve a state of heightened awareness re: ourselves, those around us and our world as a whole. In short, by giving ourselves over to the workings of the world and opening our own gates, we find a life not of happiness but of joy deep within the soul: "In intuitive peace he wakes, and in intuitive peace he sleeps" (Guru Ram Das on pannaa 1069).

ਕਹਤੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਨਵੈ ਘਰ ਮੂਸੇ ਦਸਵੈਂ ਤਤੁ ਸਮਾਈ ॥
Says Kabeer, the nine openings of the body are being plundered; rise up to the Tenth Gate, and discover the true essence.
[Devotee Kabir on pannaa 339]

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