Easter brings to mind the resurrection of Jesus. But Easter was celebrated even before Jesus. It was a spring festival. Many states in India have similar festivals. Vishu in Kerala and Bihu in Assam are examples.
In Western literary traditions, winter symbolises death and spring is the harbinger of new life. “April is the cruellest month,” begins T S Eliot’s classical poem, The Waste Land. The Eliotean waste land is a metaphor for the aridity of modern life. In such a world there is only perpetual winter, winter that keeps us warm. Our life is no better than death, implies Eliot. We live death-in-life existence clutching lifeless roots in “this stony rubbish”.
Easter, or resurrection as it has come to mean today, is a celebration of new life. Spring comes with a new life that stirs up the dull roots that lay beneath the snow in winter, to use the Eliotean metaphor.
The whole Christian concept of the Holy Week which starts a week before Easter Sunday is an interesting look at life. Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, commemorates the glorious entry of Jesus to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The donkey indicates that the glory is ephemeral. Soon Jesus, the man who was raised by the people to the position of a king on the Palm Sunday, would be betrayed and crucified, by the same people! Those who sing alleluias for you today will demand your blood tomorrow if all that you are offering is wisdom, because wisdom is not what they hanker after.
Jesus shed his blood for those same people who had hoped that he would redeem them from their slavery to the Romans. From political bondage. But Jesus was not interested in political liberations. He was as cranky as the Greek Diogenes who lived in a barrel mocking the security people built up like fortresses round them. He was no different from the Buddha who lived the life of the birds in the sky and the lilies in the wilderness.
|From Nehru Planetarium, Delhi|
The new life, the liberation, Jesus promised was different from what people of any time have been looking for. It was a liberation from the bondages of the spirit. It was a liberation from the capitulation of human dignity to the glitters of the trivia. It was an invitation to go beyond the body to the soul (or consciousness, as I would like to put it). An invitation to rise above the animal existence to the level of the angels (beings who have conquered physical passions and emotions).
The problem with such teaching as Jesus’ and the Buddha’s and that of Diogenes and others of the kind is that it makes superhuman demands. It mocks our very simple delights and pleasures. It makes our existence look like a caricature of what it should be. That’s why we would rather keep Jesus, the Buddha and Diogenes on the pedestal and worship them rather than let them walk with us.