SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
This biography is from the book “Lives of Saints”. More information on Lord Jesus and Christianity can be found in Gurudev’s book “Life and Teachings of Lord Jesus”. This book is available for free download. Click here to go to the download page.
Jesus and the Modern Man
The True Significance of Christmas
Jesus was born a Palestine Jew. He was born of Mary and Joseph at Bethlehem without impregnation and out of immaculate conception. He was meek and humble. He remained as innocent as a child throughout his life. He was tolerant, kind and merciful. He was a Yogi of the East though he preached in Palestine.
Jesus welcomed and embraced the sinners, the despised and the harlots and purified them. He comforted them and gave them solace and peace. He raised the fallen. He brought relief and rest to the broken-hearted.
Jesus said: “Unless you become as little children, you shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of God”. To Jesus, God was a loving Father. Jesus’ watchword was love for God and fellowmen.
“Have faith in God. The Lord is our God. Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart and all thy soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The love of God manifests in the love of man.” This is the central teaching of Jesus.
Jesus was a world teacher, a prophet and Messiah. His Sermon on the Mount is nothing but the practice of Sadachara or right conduct. It corresponds to the practice of Yama–Niyama of Raja-Yoga, the Eightfold Path of Lord Buddha. It is marvellous, inspiring and soul-stirring.
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. How humble he was! He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shalt inherit the earth”.
Lord Krishna washed the feet of the guests in the Rajasuya-Yajna performed by King Yudhishthira. Avataras or mighty souls perform such actions. Should you not learn lessons from those great persons ? Lord Krishna, the mighty Lord of the three worlds, took delight in washing the feet of the guests. Should you not learn to be humble ? How haughty and proud you have become ! You are puffed with vanity and intoxicated with pride when you possess a little money, a small car and a small estate. You think you are a mighty emperor and walk with arrogant steps and treat others with contempt. You think too much of yourself and your position in life. In reality, your officeship has created in you a slave mentality and a fear of losing your position !
Christ’s message has always been: “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. He said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within thee. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Be not anxious. Seek ye first His Kingdom. Everything will be added unto thee”. He was the way, the truth and the light, for all men to follow.
Jesus Christ laid stress on love of God and love of fellowmen, and the need for repentance or a change of heart, for entry into the Kingdom of God. He instructed people to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. He said that a contrite heart was necessary in order to receive God’s forgiveness.
“The Kingdom of God is within thee. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto thee.” This is the foundation upon which the ethics of Jesus has been built.
Jesus recommended prayer as a means to seek the Kingdom. He said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more gifts unto your children, how much more good things shall your Father who is in heaven give to them who ask Him ?”.
Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment’. But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment”. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, “Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled up. Those who seek the Kingdom of God within themselves will find Him, and therefore, ‘All things would be added’.” “Overcome evil by good.” Jesus prescribed this great rule for his followers and the world at large. This is only the practice of Ahimsa or non-violence which purifies and softens the heart. Ahimsa is a form of truth only.
Lord Jesus retired after baptism into the wilderness beyond the Dead Sea. He disappeared at the age of thirteen and reappeared in his thirty-first year. During this period, from his thirteenth to his thirty-first year, he came to India and practiced Yoga. Thereafter he preached for about two or three years and passed into the Great Beyond.
Jesus left Jerusalem and reached the land of Indus in the company of merchants. He visited Varanasi, Rajgriha and other places in India. He spent several years in Hindustan. Jesus lived like a Hindu or a Buddhist monk, a life of burning renunciation and dispassion. He assimilated the ideals, precepts and principles of Hinduism. Christianity is modified Hinduism only, which was suitable for those people who lived in the period of Christ. Really speaking, Jesus was a child of the soil of India only. That is the reason why there is so much of similarity between his teachings and the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. Some Christians do not believe in this account of the Lord’s “missing period.” They argue it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible.
In matters connected with persons who lived as far back as nearly twenty centuries ago, there is bound to be slight divergence of view. The Old Testament naturally cannot contain any reference. The New Testament consists of Gospels, etc., written by His Disciples, after He was enlightened. It is obviously futile to search for a reference about the period preceding this,-which was the period during which he travelled in India where he got initiation from sages and seers-in accounts of His actions written by people who could never have had any knowledge of His earlier days. It has been the belief of many historians that at some time during the missing period Jesus travelled in India. Anyway there is nothing untenable in this view, and its acceptance would only strengthen the bonds of love between the East and the West, and promote good will between the two hemispheres, which is the Mission of the Lord.
Jesus preached on earth the divine and perfect love. He spoke very highly of gifts and charity. He said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive. Give thy heart’s best treasures. From fair nature learn. Give thy love and ask not. Await not a return. And the more thou spendeth from thy little store, the more will God give thee. He will give thee a double quantity”.
Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto the treasure hid in a field which a man hath found. He selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field”.
Jesus Christ was crucified and yet he is living now. He has immortalized his name. None can silence his voice. His voice has been speaking through centuries. Jesus said: “Come into the Kingdom by selling all ye have and distributing it to the poor”. Men have not adhered to his message, but his voice has not been silenced.
Jesus was a perfect Yogi. He did many miracles. He stopped the waves of the ocean. He gave sight to blind people. He cured lepers by mere touch. He fed a large multitude with a small loaf of bread.
Lord Christ was crucified. He accepted death with great joy in order that others might live. What a magnanimous soul! He had learnt to die cheerfully for His children. His last words are an example to the world. He said: “O Lord! Forgive those people who are torturing me and putting me to death, for they know not what they do”. How noble! His hands were tied to the cross and nails were hammered into them. In this state he prayed for the people who were tormenting him. What a large and forgiving heart he had! Jesus was an embodiment of forgiveness or Kshama. That is the reason why he still lives in our hearts and why millions of people now worship him.
Jesus set an example to man to overcome evil by good. The cross of Jesus will remain for all time as the supreme example of this doctrine: “Return good for evil”. Jesus surrendered himself completely to God. He knew that God changed the heart of the unjust through the suffering of the just.
The life of Jesus displays a silent yet supreme heroism in the face of the most determined opposition, persecution, and misunderstanding. And he has set an example how a true seeker repulses the temptations on the spiritual path. Long before the outward drama of crucifixion, Jesus had voluntarily crucified himself spiritually by annihilating the lower self and living a purely divine life. Jesus declares: “Ye cannot serve both God and Mammon”. In other words, his teaching implies: Detach; attach. Detach yourself from the material objects of this transient world. Attach yourself to the eternal spiritual treasure of Atman. Christ thus teaches us the great way of going beyond all sin and sorrow.
Jesus was God Himself. The Holy Scripture reminds us of this fact again and again. Yet, why did he have to endure so much of persecution and suffering ? Could he not have overwhelmed his foes by a mere exercise of his divine will ? Yes. But the supreme incarnation of love that Lord Jesus was, he had willed it that his own life would be an example for people to emulate. Therefore he behaved like any other human being; and while so doing, fully demonstrated in his own brief but eventful life the great Sermon that he gave on the Mount.
After Jesus was crucified, he was restored to life. The resurrection or the rising again from dead was, according to Jesus, and ineffable condition in which all bodily limitation was transcended. It was a condition of being perpetually in the presence of God. Jesus was a fully developed Yogi and sage. He had no identification with the physical body. He identified himself with the Supreme Soul. He said: “I and my Father are one”.
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.
There is not much of intricate 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. Leaving aside all abstruse philosophical theory and subtle intellectual researches, Jesus told man how he must live, what he must think, what he must feel, and what he must do. To do this, he clothed even the highest truths of spiritual life with simple stories and parables, which even the common man in the street could easily grasp and comprehend. Couched in the form of simple parables, the deepest wisdom of spiritual life became expressed before man, through the sweet and blessed words of Divine Jesus.
Jesus 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.
Jesus 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 lifetime. The words of Jesus were not collected till some generations after they were uttered.
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.
THE TRUE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTMAS
Christmas is named after Christ. This is the birthday of Lord Jesus, the Saviour Christ, the Yogi of the East. He was born in a stable at Bethlehem, of Mary and Joseph, the obscure village carpenter. Mary and Joseph made the stable a home for Christ, the King, the Prince of Peace. The birth of Jesus is celebrated all over the world as the sacred Christmas.
Lord Jesus was an embodiment of mercy, love and humility. He was an apostle of non-violence and peace. His body was crucified, but his voice has been speaking through the centuries.
The message of Christmas is the message of universal love. It is the message of ineffable divine glory and splendour. The message of Christmas is the message of peace and goodwill among all nations.
Christmas is more than a day of rejoicing and festivity. It is a day for realizing the Christ-consciousness or cosmic consciousness. It is a day for remembering the noble deeds of Lord Jesus and his sacred life of pristine purity. Christmas comes and Christmas goes, but let the spirit of Christmas be ever with you all.
Merry-making is not Christmas at all. Christmas does not consist in ringing bells and singing songs, exchanging mutual gifts and sending Christmas cards, and in enjoying rich repasts and heavy dinners and eating cakes.
Christmas is a state of spiritual awakening. To realize the Kingdom of Heaven within yourself, to hold communion with the Lord in the chambers of your heart, to regain your lost divinity, to attain Christ-consciousness or cosmic consciousness, to love all, to include all in the warm embrace of your love is real Christmas.
Realize the spirit of Christ. Walk in the footprints of Christ. Dive deep into the heart of Jesus. Ever seek to express, in your daily life, love, joy and peace. Imbibe Christ’s message of love and sacrifice. Manifest the latent Christ within you. Follow the Sermon on the Mount. Attain God-consciousness. Live in the spirit of Christ’s teachings. Annihilate this little self-arrogating personality and melt yourself in Christ or the Universal Soul. This is real Christmas.
All wish to enter the Kingdom of God. But how many of you possess the real spirit of Christ ? How many of you are real Christians ? How many of you follow the teachings, precepts and doctrines of Christ ? How many of you love your neighbours as your own self ? Those who are endowed with purity of heart, humility, universal love, generosity and nobility – they only can attain the Kingdom of God or supreme peace and immortality.
The spirit or heart of Christ is seriously lacking in the vast majority of persons. The love of Christ is badly wanted. What is Christmas without love, mercy and purity ? Everybody wants to exploit his neighbour. One nation wants to destroy another nation. Is this Christmas ? Is this the teaching of Christ ?
Real Christmas never comes and goes. It is eternal. Feel the spirit of Christmas not only on one day, but throughout the year. Every day is a Christmas day for a real follower of Christ, for a thirsting aspirant. May you all walk the path that Jesus laid out! May you all be living embodiments of the Sermon on the Mount! May you realize the Kingdom of God within you here and now!