I was sitting around the breakfast table with my partner’s family, all of us sipping our afternoon cup of coffee, getting a smooth caffeine high. As the sweet black beverage began racing through our blood, the subject of swearing came to topic. One of the brothers began explaining some of his moral values “I might swear, but I try not to use the Lord’s name in vain” he said.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.”
Catholic Holy Bible
“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God...”
The New Oxford Annotated Bible
This is the 4th commandment in the Bible. I too, was taught that this commandment means to not swear using the name of Jesus Christ. In that moment it hit me, as obvious as daylight that the commandment ‘do not use the Lord’s name in vain’ has to do with using words of Truth from a place of vanity/ego. Often, so many of us believe an interpretation given to us. Though word vanity is about “ineffectualness; missing what the original intent is, inflated pride in achievement or possessions.” It is fascinating that, in general, we use this commandment to label against swearing versus the deeper meaning of how our ego works. The Truth has nothing to do with a name (Lord); it has to do with what awareness it is pointing to.
For thousands of years, different scriptures, filled with different words pointing to the same Truth, have existed. Our egos and vanity are nothing new to the human consciousness. The Bhagavad-Gita defines our ego as a penance of passion.
“Wavering and unstable, performed with hypocrisy, to gain respect, honor, and worship, that penance is called passionate” (p.133, 17) The definition of ‘passionate’ according to Webster’s dictionary is, “easily aroused to anger”. The Buddhist thought describes what a saint is without an ego dominance “...though he has attained the state of a saint, yet he appears to be in the state of an ordinary person” The Mahayana Religious Ideal, (p.133)
The amount of scriptures written about the human ego are many. We all have Truth and ego inside of us. When Truth is heard, a deep resonance happens internally, thus giving weight to the words used and an opportunity for power and control to those persons saying the words. When Constantine changed the Byzantine Empire and formed the first Christian church, the Catholic Church, only the bishops were allowed to have the Bible. The leaders possessed the words of Truth as power. Simply, Truth can be used for control and power. I believe that is why the 4th commandment was placed in the Bible. Not so much as a “rule” but more as a guide to watch your attachment/ego/vanity in sharing and using words of Truth. When the heart is not involved in the use of these words and only ego is present, and then you see the vanity taking form. The ego identifies with the words of Truth as if it is the individual’s possession/power and that “their truth” is the only way.
When people have come into power throughout history and present day, we have seen the ego take over, some more “extreme” than others. Beyond the coveting of scriptures through religions, we have seen Hitler, who believed he was powerful and knew what was best for the Germans and the world, based on his truth. (He was not the first to have this thought) The witch hunt, the crusades, Rwanda, political debates, segregation, slavery, denial of civil rights, religious wars, wars, all justified by what words we label as Truth. We have even used scriptures as a way to support these actions. The guides are not just for people who have a religion; it is for all of us finding Truth and how we use it. Vanity has been used in all religions and in the “non-religions.” This is because the ego is human, across the board without any dividing line of religion, age, or culture.
Exchanging the label Lord with the label Truth, one may be able to find how many of us have used the Truth ‘s name in vain. I can remember when I first started waking up and seeing myself more honestly, I dropped a lot of old beliefs and found deeper truths inside me. In a very asleep way, I believed I knew something. The ego identified that I knew more than others. I found that I would tell people the things I have learned, some out of excitement and a lot out of an ego wanting them to see where they where wrong and I was right, where I was more awake than them, and that I have the Truth... that, my friends, is vanity and using the name of Truth in vain. The ego believed I possessed the Truth, as if we all don’t already possess it, and it was “inflated pride”. Even when a person tells their story and all I offer is advice, even if the advice feels accurate to me, it still could be vanity. It wasn’t until I began waking up to this ego identity that I noticed love allows people to be the “color” they are, appreciate that color, and even more, see that I am their color.
What a clear, simple Truth the 4th commandment is, yet it points to an enormous pattern of the human ego. These spiritual texts have so much depth to them, and the realizing of their depth happens through the experience of the Truth. There is no scripture or person that can give you Truth, it is an experience within that we all get to have in our own way with all the texture Life offers us. All that scriptures, words, and teachers can do is point to Truth.
Much Love and Freedom to All! Peace, Raja
Nurture Through Nature, www.ntnretreats.com, 207-452-2929.