The Yogi and the Messenger
(by Savitha Nanjangud)
Recently I watched a 5 part series titled The Bible on History channel. It showed in vivid gory several violent incidents that occurred in ancient times in the Middle East. The stories of powerful, ruthless, egotistical kings of Egypt and Babylon, described in the Old Testament, talk about the enslavement and persecution of the Israelites. They talk about how these mortal imperfect kings pretended to be Gods, made idols of themselves and forced the conquered Israelites to bow and pray to these false gods rejecting their own God of the Old Testament. And in this period of history Jesus was born among the Israelites bringing his message of peace and love to the persecuted people during troubled violent times. Swami Vivekananda, in his Los Angeles lecture delivered in 1900, describes him as the great soul, the messenger.
As I watched the final thrilling episode I began to realize the impact of Jesus life and crucifixion as I had never done before. During the last supper Jesus tells his disciples “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It immediately brought to my mind Krishna’s words to Arjuna – ‘Sarva dharma parityajya mamekam sharanam vraja (Forsake all religions, and surrender unto me, it is only through me that one reaches God). Jesus said that no one can serve both God and Mammon. Krishna also tells Arjuna to seek the Infinite Spirit (Atma) and not be caught up in the lowly senses and the mind (Anatma). Jesus also said “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Similarly, Krishna did not denounce the Vedas but instead fulfilled their purpose by reestablishing Dharma. Neither resorted to ‘text-torturing’ but both were intensely practical and spoke out of their own experiences.
Swami Vivekananda says, ‘Thus, every Prophet is a creation of his own times, the creation of the past of his race; he himself is the creator of the future.’ Each incarnation met the need of the times, had a message for the people who would listen and fulfilled a purpose. Krishna could have easily stopped the Kurukshetra war and yet he chose not to. The war had the purpose of cleansing society and ushering in a new era. Krishna had a message to the people and what better way to deliver that message if not through the devoted Arjuna in the middle of the battlefield? Jesus had several premonitions and warnings of his impending crucifixion. He could have escaped with his disciples. He could have raised an army to fight the Jewish priests and Romans. But he did neither. Even in his moment of weakness he did not pray for an army or some destruction on his enemies. Instead he prayed for strength and courage. The courage to surrender to the will of God. He allowed unspeakable violence to be inflicted on his body. But why? To fulfill the purpose of his incarnation and to cleanse the hearts and minds of the people through his supreme sacrifice. To show people an unthinkable ideal that only an incarnation or a Son of God could have shown. Swami V says the ideal shown by his incarnation far exceeded all existing conceptions of God. What tremendous yogic power Jesus must have invoked to be able to take such pain and yet speak words of compassion and forgiveness. We can understand this well from Swami V’s words, ‘He was a soul! Nothing but a soul — just working a body for the good of humanity; and that was all his relation to the body’. This one act of Christ invoked a major paradigm shift in people’s thinking. No longer will they seek an eye for an eye lest it make the whole world blind. Instead they learn to turn the other cheek, to love their enemy as they would their neighbor as Christ did. The people had suffered so much for so long that there was a tremendous spiritual energy and they were now ready for this message, ready for rebirth, for the inward journey. And this energy is still unfolding throughout the world two thousand years after this great incarnation walked in human form on this earth.
Jesus claimed he was the only way to reach God’s Kingdom. Krishna declared to Arjuna that whosoever surrenders to him shall be free. So if Jesus was right, was Krishna wrong? And if Krishna was right, was Jesus a fraud? Unless…. they were the same and spoke with one voice, through one Consciousness! A Hindu who has truly understood and experienced the message of the Gita will stand in awe of Jesus sacrifice. A Christian who is truly awakened to Christ will find the same sweetness in Krishna’s words. And when we enable our brothers and sisters to seek the Truth by any means conducive to them we get ever closer to our own chosen ideal – be it Christ or Krishna.
Paramahamsa Yogananda says in his book The Yoga of Jesus, ‘Truth is not the monopoly of the Orient or the Occident’. He also says, ‘What I received from my Guru and the venerated masters of India I find the same as that which I have received from the teachings of Jesus Christ’
Sri Ramakrishna’s experience with Jesus was recorded in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendra Nath Gupta: “Some time in Novermber 1874, Sri Ramakrishna was seized with an irresistible desire to learn the truth of the Christian religion. He began to listen to teachings from the Bible…Sri Ramakrishna became fascinated by the life and teachings of Jesus. One day he was seated in the parlour of Jadu Mallick’s garden house at Dakshineswar, when his eyes became fixed on a painting of the Madonna and child. Intently watching it, he became gradually overwhelmed with divine emotion. The figures in the picture took on life, and the rays of light emanating from them entered his soul…he cried, “O Mother! What are You doing to me?” And, breaking through the barriers of creed and religion, he entered a new realm of ecstasy. Christ possessed his soul. For three days he did not set foot in the Kali temple. On the fourth day, in the afternoon, as he was walking in the Panchavati, he saw coming toward him a person with beautiful large eyes, serene countenance, and fair skin. As the two faced each other a voice rang out in the depths of Sri Ramakrishna’s soul: ‘Behold the Christ, who shed His heart’s blood for the redemption of the world, who suffered a sea of anguish for love of men. It is He, the Master Yogi, who is in eternal union with God. It is Jesus, Love Incarnate.’ The Son of Man embraced the Son of the Divine Mother and merged in him. Sri Ramakrishna realized his identity with Christ, as he had already realized his identitiy with Kali, Rama, Hanuman, Radha, Krishna, Brahman, and Mohammed.
Now a question comes up. Then why did Thakur point Swamiji towards the West to go and teach the Truths of Vedanta? Did the West not have Jesus and the Bible? And then again why did the Apostle Thomas and so many devout Christian missionaries feel the calling to leave their homes and families, risking their health and their very lives to come to the East to spread the teachings of their Messiah? Did we not have Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, Buddha and many many more? Being the small people we are, we cannot know what the Almighty’s grand plan for the World is. Who are we to question the ways of the Almighty? Our only job on earth is follow God’s Will i.e., our swadharma and continue to seek that within us which is called by many names and yet cannot be described by mere words – some calling it Sat-chit-ananda and some others the Kingdom of God. And what indeed is our swadharma? As Bob Marley reminds us, ‘the Almighty God is a living man.’ So let us not question God’s way but let us see the divine image in all our brothers and sisters and serve them as we would serve the Almighty.
Salutations to the Great Yogi who transcended his body to show us the ideal of love and compassion. Salutations to the Great Messenger who brought the Vedas from the wilderness of words to abide as bliss in our hearts.