Looking at The Last Supper afresh, unencumbered by reductionism and cliché. What I see – is the painting as incessant, not only because of its ubiquity as a cultural icon, but because of the unceasing paradoxes emanating from its central theme. Here is the “’messenger of God” who turns betrayal into redemption, whose nod of resignation before God’s will, far from being a sign of weakness, telling an all-too-human story of faith and betrayal.
I think it’s best to try to look at the painting, as contemporary viewers would have seen it five-hundred years ago, as a great object of religious devotion for the faithful. Leonardo uses a one-point linear perspective, in which the vanishing point is at Christ’s head. Leonardo uses the table as a barrier to separate the spiritual realm from the viewer’s earthly world, elevating realism to the point where it touches mystery.
Leonardo chooses not to illustrate the moment when Judas was identified as a traitor, as was traditional. Instead he represented the preceding moment when Christ first declared the shocking words, “Verily I say unto you that one of you will betray me.”
Leonardo’s Last Supper captures a scene of self-giving. It is about sacrifice that brings together the so called opposites. Often confused with the doctrine of propitiation – Christ’s death imagined to be a (re)payment to God for the sins of the world. Rather, the symbolism points to the nature of self-giving – “letting go” to be one with the whole.
“The true celebration of The Last Supper must be with our ego. Whether as individuals or an entire species, we must choose to abandon ourselves to the infinite.” So said Carl Jung.
The phrase “Letting go” only means abandoning personal attachment to outcomes. Letting go is about creating a vastly larger space to allow for the. Infinite Potential of the Universe to create magnificent outcomes that far transcend human perceptions. The idea of letting. go is to be able to become an observer, instead of being a participant.
‘Shiva’ stands for letting go of everything in the world of forms. Shiva is eternal. Shiva is neither body nor soul. Shiva is neither color nor darkness.
There is a Sanskrit term that comes close to describing the theme of “letting go” – Vairagya.
“Vai” means beyond. “Raga” means Color. The word means beyond color. Being transparent. being unprejudiced. Oneness is transparent, unprejudiced. Wherever you are, you become a part of that – yet nothing sticks to you permanently.
Oneness is ‘expansive’. It will be born within us and among us only if we are willing to die to our separateness.