In his foreword to this watershed work, the Dalai Lama challenges readers to "focus less on building great temples to religion on the outside, in favour of constructing temples to goodness within ourselves." That is the goal of many spiritual practices experiencing inner transformation. The Dalai Lama's wise words provide the perfect frame for Laurence Freeman's inspired consideration of Jesus as "an indispensable force in the achievement of any authentic spirituality."
The author is director of the World Community of Christian Meditation and the author of Light Within, Web of Silence, and Common Ground. Freeman centers his wide-ranging commentary on the central question of Jesus to his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" Out of this, he spins a marvelous tapestry of meanings regarding the historical reality of Jesus, self-knowledge and friendship, the Gospels, the kingdom of forgiveness, conversion, Spirit, and steps in relationship.
Along the way, Freeman tosses off epiphanies left and right. Such as the following: "It is the indefinable silence at the heart of the mystery of Jesus which ultimately communicates his true identity to those who encounter it." Then there is the author's repeated emphasis upon the importance of the spiritual practice of listening. Jesus as "the guru within" challenges us again and again to stay awake and pay attention to all that is going on around us and inside of us.
To do this, Christians must see the scriptures as Gregory the Great saw them "as waters where lambs may walk and elephants swim." In other words, open to a variety of interpretations by people with different temperaments. Freeman revels in the respect meditators from other religious traditions have for Jesus. They open the door for us to greater toleration, dialogue, and collaboration.
I was especially moved by the following: "Origen said that Jesus would remain hanging on the cross until every creature, even the devil, was saved: So inclusive is the love of God, which as Jesus taught creates and saves in one nondual act of love. This is good reason for spiritual laughter." Stouthearted interpretations of the Kingdom of God, the balm of forgiveness, and the challenges facing the Christian community are also rendered with grace and imagination. Jesus: The Teacher Within was one of the best books of 2000.