Sri Swami Sivananda
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His Philosophy and Teachings
The New Testament
Sermon on the Mount
Jesus and the Modern Man
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Christianity derives its name from Christ. Christianity speaks of a personal God. There is not much deep philosophy or Yoga Sadhana in Christianity. There is reason for this. Jesus had to deal with the illiterate fishermen of Galilee. He gave them only moral precepts and showed them the way of righteous living.
Christianity is based chiefly on Judaism and partly on Buddhism. The doctrines of the Christian religion are all taken from Judaism. Jesus never professed to abolish Judaism and to set up a new religion of his own. He says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you: Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no means pass from the law, till all is fulfilled. Whosoever , therefore, shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
Christian faith sprung from the wisdom of India overspread the old trunk of Judaism. Buddhism prevailed in Palestine when Christ was born. Christ himself came in contact with it through John the Baptist. There is a striking resemblance between Buddhism and Christianity in their precepts, in their forms and ceremonies, in the architectural style of their temples, and even in the account of the lives of their founders.
The dogmas or metaphysical doctrines of Christianity are the same as those of Judaism but its moral precepts are much higher and nobler than those of the Jewish prophets. Christianity owes to Buddhism that higher morality which distinguishes it from Judaism. The moral precepts and teachings of Buddhism have much in common with those of Christianity. Christ himself taught no dogmas.
The teaching of Jesus which is chiefly ethical is embodied in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer and certain parables known as the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Sheep and the Goats.
Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King. He was the son of a carpenter of Nazareth, a large village in Galilee, the northern Province of Palestine.
Jesus was a Palestine Jew of the first century. He lived with Joseph and Mary and a large family of brothers or half-brothers in the house of the carpenter of Nazareth. He was baptized by John the Baptist on the banks of the river Jordan. Now he saw a vision of God’s spirit descending like a dove on him. He heard a voice say unto him: “Thou art my beloved son. I am well pleased with thee.” John the Baptist was the Preceptor of Jesus.
Jesus was an incarnation of the Hebrew God Jehovah. Jesus is the Greek transliteration of an Aramic name pronounced Yeshua, according to Hebrew Scholars. It was altered into Jesus in English. He was also called Messiah, the anointed one, or the Saviour of the World.
Between his 18th and 32nd years of age, Jesus spent his life in India and lived like a Hindu or Buddhist monk. He had burning Vairagya (dispassion) and spirit of renunciation. In India he assimilated Hindu ideals and principles. (Jesus in India)
Lord Jesus totally surrendered himself at the lotus feet of the Lord. He had intense faith in Him. It was the faith that sustained him throughout his life. The Cross of Jesus will remain forever the supreme example of love and suffering without returning evil for evil. The Cross symbolizes a great principle of life. In the Christian theology, the Cross has a wonderful halo. It is not a common cross of wood. The Cross of Jesus is a classic instance of love resisting evil and overcoming it. When Lord Jesus was put to the Cross, he said: “My Lord! They do not know what they are doing. Please forgive them.” What a large heart and wonderful power of endurance Jesus had!
He who has control over the flesh, who has crucified the flesh, who has subdued the life-passions, who has self-control, who has mortified the lower nature, can bear the Cross.
Jesus was holy. He was God-man, the incarnation of God. Jesus called himself the Son of God.
In Jesus we see perfect holiness, goodness, kindness, mercy, gentleness and justice. He said: “I am the Truth, the Way and the Life.” He is embodiment of all that is best, sublimest and most beautiful. He is the most perfect type and ideal of humanity. He is the embodiment of all his teachings. He is a philosopher, prophet, teacher, reformer. He always practiced what he taught.
Jesus was truthful. His thoughts were very pure. There was no hypocrisy or deception in his thoughts. He risked his own life in uttering the truth. The spirit of Jesus is the spirit of Truth. He is called the Sun of Righteousness. He went about doing good.
The words of Jesus still elevate people. They still live as a fountain of inspiration.
Christ took the sins of humanity on himself, suffered for their sins and made them free. This is the theory of Atonement of Christ.
His Philosophy and Teachings
Nearly two thousand years have passed since Lord Jesus, the Prophet of Palestine taught the way, the truth and the life to mankind. The words of Jesus were not collected till some generations after they were uttered. Christianity was essentially a radiant way of life, a way of happy and victorious living in this world.
There is no record of the life of Jesus until he was fully grown up. He astonished people by his insight when discussing religion with the religious leaders of his day. For three years he explained his claim as the “Only Son of God” and taught people about the nature of his “Father: God, and the true path of human life in the shape of ‘Sermon on the Mount’, etc. Jesus Christ has been called “The Great Exemplar”. He explained the real nature of God, man and the world he lived in. He taught people to change their way of looking at things. He told them that if they would change their outlook on life from its materialistic to its spiritualistic aspect, they would realize that the world they were living in was God’s Kingdom.
He has left no written records of his important teachings. He delivered all his teachings orally. Neither he nor his followers ever wrote down even a single word which was spoken by him, in his life time.
His words have been misunderstood, wrongly annotated, mutilated, deformed and transformed and yet they have survived almost two thousand years as they were very powerful and came from the heart of a realized Yogi.
Here is the gist of Jesus’ teachings: God is Spirit. He is omnipresent. He loves His creatures with infinite love. He is the Father of all. God is immanent in the world. He is transcendental also. He sent His son Jesus Christ unto the world to show them the way to attain immortality.
The theological doctrine of Jesus is belief in the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. In Godhead there are three Persons, viz., Father, Son and the Holy Ghost or Spirit. This is the Trinity of Christianity.
All men are brothers, because they are all members of the family of God. If the teaching of Christ is carried out there will be no war.
The New Testament
The New Testament contains 27 books. The first four books are Gospels which describe the life of Christ on this earth. The next book tells us the Acts of the Apostles, particularly of the important Apostle Paul. The twenty-one shorter books give out the ideas underlying the Christian faith of the early Christians. The last book is the book of Revelations. It gives a description of the series of visions, viz., the lamb of God and the heavenly city. The author is John the favourite Apostle of Jesus. All these books were written in Greek, which was the language of educated men at the beginning of the Christian era.
Sermon on the Mount
Here is his “Sermon on the Mount”:
Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in Heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Jesus and the Modern Man
True, Lord Jesus bled on the Cross for the redemption of his people. Today, from his eternal seat in the Kingdom of God, his divine compassionate heart bleeds even more profusely. For, the people of his time were ignorant of the Law and they erred; but the people of the modern world have the resplendent light of Lord Jesus’ life and teachings illumining the path of righteousness, and yet, they wantonly walk the path of darkness, ignorance, sin, selfishness, sensuousness, and misery. If his merciful heart bled for the ignorant sinners, how much more would it not bleed for the sins of those who err, ignoring His light!
Is this the way in which you would like humanity to show its gratitude to the Saviour? No, a thousand times no. It is never too late to mend. Study the Gospels again. Meditate on the resplendent, spiritually glowing, divine form of Lord Jesus. How sweet, how compassionate, how gentle and loving he was ! And yet, he showed no leniency towards himself. He turned resolutely away from Satan – not that he could ever be tempted, but to set an example before us.
Trials and temptations come but to be overcome by the brave. Tests and trying situations come to strengthen your mind and purify your heart. They are, as it were, the wise men that discover the Jesus in you. To succumb to these trials is weakness. To fast, to pray, to discriminate, and to overcome these obstacles with the help of the grace of the Lord is spiritual heroism. When the victory is achieved, to feel, to realize, and to proclaim that it was the Lord’s grace that enabled you to attain victory is real meekness. Meekness is virtue; weakness is sin. Learn this great lesson from the life of Lord Jesus.
Study the Sermon on the Mount again and again. Meditate upon it. Choose the Lord’s instructions one after the other, month after month, and endeavour diligently to put them into practice. Thus will you grow into a worthy child of Lord Jesus. Thus will you reincarnate Lord Jesus in your own heart. There are many today who truly and sincerely follow the teachings of the Saviour. In their hearts has Jesus reincarnated, to guide you, to lead you to the Kingdom of God, where he has his supreme seat. May you all be living embodiments of the Sermon on the Mount! May you realize the Kingdom of God within you here and now!