Practice: Real Bible Study | iHanuman


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Practice: Real Bible Study

There's an old Native American saying that I quoted in We're All Doing Time:
If you seek to understand the whole Universe, you will understand nothing. If you seek to understand yourself, you will understand the whole Universe.

This principle applies in a related way to Bible study and the study of any religious principles. If we seek to memorize chapter and verse, if we seek to discuss and argue about abstract passages that have endless interpretations, we will understand nothing. But if we take a few words of any bible and pray on them, wrestle with them, struggle over them for years, however long it takes to experience their meaning in our hearts, then we will understand the whole bible from which those few words come.
For example, if you are interested in being a real Christian, you could make your entire study of Christianity the following thirteen words spoken directly by Jesus:
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's.

Or the following nine words, also spoken directly by Jesus:
Be in the world but not of the world.

Or if even nine words are too many, try the following five, spoken by a Hindu saint:
Everyone is poor before Christ.

What I mean by making one of these passages your entire study of Christianity, is: Just take one of these sentences and pray every day for God's help, for Christ's help, in experiencing the meaning of that brief passage. Not an intellectual understanding, but the experience of the passage. Struggle with it as you walk through your day. Muse over it, make it your hobby to mull it over while you're driving or jogging or falling asleep. Write it out thousands of times in a little notebook. Devote yourself to one brief passage for years, begging the Lord to give you the experience of what it means. One day, your prayers will be answered and you'll be given that experience. And when you know the one brief passage, you will know the whole bible, and you will know what it means to be a Christian. But if you memorize chapter and verse from all over the bible, and have intellectual understandings about their meanings, you can spend your whole life "studying" that way, and you may know nothing of the bible or of Him.
This is true of the study of any religion. General rule of thumb - study fewer words and teachings, and take them more deeply. There is an old Sufi story about a first-grade class on the first day of school, and the teacher says "We're going to study the numbers, and we will take one number a day. Today we will learn about the number 1." She teaches the students all sorts of things about the number 1, and next morning says "Is everyone ready to move on to number 2?"
One small boy raises his hand and says "I am not finished yet with number 1, teacher." The teacher says he'll have to move on with the class anyway, and she goes on with the next lesson. As the class goes to 3, 4, 5 and so on, the boy raises his hand every morning and says he is still working on the lesson for number 1. Finally she gets so annoyed she sends him home and tells him not to come back to school until he is ready to move on to the other numbers.
About six weeks later he returns to class, and the teacher asks him sarcastically, "Well, I see you have returned. Have you finally learned all about the number 1?" The young boy says "Yes, I think so, teacher." The teacher says mockingly, "Well, then come up to the blackboard and show us what you have learned."
The boy walks to the blackboard, picks up a piece of chalk, writes a '1' on the blackboard, and the blackboard cracks and falls to the floor at the power of his touch.
This is what we constantly miss in our practice and study of religion. Religion is not about just being a nice man or nice woman, it is about a force and power that is bigger, deeper, more wonderful, than anything the mind can understand or the world can reward or punish. Every religion is about the Mysterious, the Eternal, that which can never be threatened or harmed. But it is a quiet force that remains forever out of reach of the mind. We must practice, study, and follow religion from the Heart. There's no shortcut. The broad way most people are taking truly is leading toward destruction. In this Holy season of Mystery and Birth, let's take the narrow way, let's become strong, calm, quiet, humble and kind, and then see whether we have any problems with our friends of other faiths. (We won't!)


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