If you fast, you will only be giving birth
to sin in yourself.
If you pray,
your prayers will come back
to haunt you.
If you give to charity,
you will create evil
within your own spirit.
If, however, you travel through
a region and they welcome you,
eat whatever is put in front of you,
and heal their sick.
For it is not what goes into your mouth
that contaminates you,
but what comes out of it.
Translation: Lynn Bauman in
The Gospel of Thomas: Wisdom of the Twin
The First Response:
never seeing an image of yourself
(and already you can catch the pun)
the feathered kiss
or the rib-breaking hug
the spoon touching your lips,
the water, cool, swallowed on a hot day,
the earth damp and black under your nails,
the drum-beat in your breast bone,
the smell of the young lilly of the valley
the stars overhead when
the world presses too tightly.
Where is the “you” in all of this?
Simply everywhere, my friend.
Journey through Logos:
Often the Logion of the Gospel of Thomas are compared (rather successfully) with Zen koans. Our attention fixates on one part of the saying and then, Yeshua flips both it and our minds in an Aikido-like ballet of illogic. Those moments are precious, really; they create a plasticity in our brains that not only hold a mirror up to our inner selves, but also make us laugh out-loud with the slippery and mysterious energy of the spoken word.
The trouble with prayer, fasting and alms-giving is the not located in the act itself but the intellectual and ego games we play with such “religiously” expected activities. Yeshua is asking, in a very real sense, “who does these things and why?” Where does the motivation arise—from an outside expectation of “right” behavior or from the heart’s longing for relationship? How are the actions performed? With a sense of the cheer of the crowd, the approval of peers or with a profoundly secret need to come closer to the Beloved?
Truer relational rituals are simple—break bread in thankfulness, interact with care, heal what you can, and practice gentle speech. In other words, love thy neighbor as thyself because the loving is the very essence of true religious practice.
Hokmah’s Symphonic Note:
In a sense, this logion is a warning about the desire to use ritual to “get” something or force or aggressively capture “right relationship” with the divine. Yeshua calls us to question this impulse in ourselves, and to re-engage with the world with compassion and honesty. Notice the similar energy in these words of the Vedanta teacher, Swami Vivekanada:
Desire, want, is the father of all misery. Desires are bound by the laws of success and failure. Desires must bring misery. The great secret of true success, of true happiness, is this: the person who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish person, is the most successful.
First, believe in the world—that there is meaning behind everything.
Books are infinite in number and time is short. The secret of knowledge is to take what is essential. Take that and try to live up to it.
Think for a moment about the spiritual practices you do—perhaps holy reading, meditation or prayer, writing or poetry, ritual or church observances, etc. When did you begin them and for what reason? Has that motivation changed over time? What practices, if they are seemingly compulsory from outside of yourself could be released? Are there activities that might better express your soul and relationship with the divine?
To Search means to be courageous enough to shake off the dust of traditional or expected actions in favor of entering into a loving relationship with the world.
You can find Kim's entire commentary on the Gospel of Thomas in Kindle, paperback and audio formats by clicking on this link: