Emuna as a form of experiencing God

“Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.’ (Galatians 5:22, 23). They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside.”

Ellen G. White: Steps to Christ, 1892, Chapter 7.

And as what the Christians name Jesus is nothing less than a spiritual quality (though Jesus as a historical figure exists of course, but the attributes given to him are of a spiritual and not of a human quality, and therefore must exist independently form the human person), every human-being no matter which religion one follows is able to receive, love, joy, peace, goodness, etc. The attributes mentioned in Galatians 5:22 f. are the attributes of emuna, which is what Jesus stands for. So we have to cultivate our emuna in our Creator. And there is a strict difference between blind following and emuna. It is not enough to believe in God, as some people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ but behave ignorant or act against the Ten Commandments willingly. Therefore, emuna is not blind following but actual faith which means that we have to clean our mind and always reflect ourselves to follow the commands of our Creator with gratitude and good faith.

Religion is a matter of experience. Already Robert Sharf noted:

“Few would question the pivotal role the category ‘experience’ has played in the modern study of religion. There would appear to be widespread agreement among both phenomenologists and historians of religion that the meaning of many religious doctrines, symbols, and rituals is to be sought in the experiences they evoke in the mind of the practitioner.”

Robert H. Sharf: Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience. In: NUMEN 42, 1995, 229-283. Cited from p. 229.

However, in my point of view, mind is a metaphysical term, mind is an expression of the divine, therefore, the mind of the practitioner exists not for itself, it is a part of his soul which is gifted by God and seeks to stay in touch with God, and thus the faith in God – which Christians express through Jesus – is an immediate experience leading towards a positive feeling, which is the attitude towards God, the joy of believing in God in a Hegelian sense. For Shalom Arush, emuna means “happiness with one’s lot in life” [Rav Shalom Arush: Believe and Receive. Breslev English, 18 June 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9tO9uhNxWo, retrieved on 26 January 2022.].

As is written in the Heart Sutra:

“[F]orm does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form.”

Seung Sahn (Ed.): Chanting with English translations and Temple Rules. Cumberland (RI): The Kwan UM – School of Zen, no date, p. 11.

Indeed, the form themselves are not graspable for us, because they are nature itself, and nature itself exists in the realm of the ideas, not in our immanent world. Emptiness, or shunyata, helps us in demasking the defilements, because too often we take things for granted and thus see something in the things which they are not, so we recognize the form, but also things which are not part of it. We mix our thoughts with feelings and act irrational. In contrast,

“The enlightened is empty of all the troublesome feelings (as they come not from the absolute) and is aware that some thoughts might be part of reason while others are not true at all as we just hear them to be said by someone (but who knows if this someone is a fool?). This is emptiness (shunyata). It is the absence of defilements, though we never are perfect, we are aware that there are defilements and we try to feel pure by knowing that we are wonderful beings, that we are there in this world, and that we have to leave the world one day, so there is nothing which is worth to be attached to, except for ultimate love. Pure love is absolute, pure reason is absolute, everything else is not.”

Timo Schmitz: Short Introduction Into My Judeo-Buddhism. In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 1. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.

And here we come back to Galatians 5:22 f. The transformation we undergo, when we realize that we are connected to our Creator leads us in developing a peaceful and non-violent attitude towards everyone. It is the strength of emuna! As a result, we become aware of the three poisons and act actively in engaging to become better human-beings, so that we avoid the three evil deeds and do good deeds instead. Our faith encourages us to do good, because God is absolute goodness, He is the Good!

Timo Schmitz, 4 October 2022


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