Jesus versus Churchianity
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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Jesus versus churchianity

Click on underlined words to open paragraph

Why a Hindu Accepts Christ and Rejects Churchianity

Did Christ teach a new religion?

Christ and his teachings

Christian Science and Vedanta

Incarnation of God in Christianity and Hinduism (Avatar)

Was Christ a Yogi?
_________________

Jesus versus Churchianity

The email below poses one question
"Who is Jesus?"

To hinduism2000@yahoo.com

Subject Question

wed, 2 Nov 2002 13:20:34 -0800

I am a college student working on a project. My project is to ask
different faith perspectives one question. The question is "Who is Jesus?"

I would appreciate it if you would participate in this project.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
_________________

The following article by Swami Abhedananda
provides the answer from the Hindu perspective.

Why a Hindu Accepts Christ
and Rejects Churchianity

By Swami Abhedananda
(A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa)
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta.

A Hindu distinguishes the religion of the churches from the religion of Jesus Christ. Speaking from the Hindu standpoint, the religion that the churches uphold and preach today, that has been built around the personality of Jesus the Christ, and which is popularly known as Christianity, should be called ‘Churchianity’, in contradistinction to that pure religion of the heart that was taught by Jesus the Christ and practised by his disciples. The religion of Christ or true Christianity had no dogma, no creed, no system, and no theology. It was a religion of the heart, a religion without any ceremonial, without ritual, without priest-craft. It was not based upon any book, but upon the feelings of the heart, upon direct communion of the individual soul with the heavenly Father. On the contrary, the religion of the church is based upon a book, believes in dogmas, professes a creed, has an organized system for preaching it, is backed up by theologies, performs rituals, practises ceremonials, and obeys the commands of a host of priests.

The popular history of churchianity begins from 325 years after Christ, the 20th year of the reign of Constantine the Great, when the famous Council was convened at the City of Nocea. Those who have read the life of this august Roman Emperor will remember how remarkable was the character of this so called pious supporter of the church dogmas. He put to death his own son and his wife Fausta on groundless suspicion, cut off his brother-in-law Licinius and the unoffending son of Licinius and massacred everyone of his rivals. Nevertheless the Greek Church has canonized him, and adores the memory of St. Constantine.

It was Constantine the Great who issued a decree in 321 A.D., for the general observance of Sunday, instead of the Jewish Sabbath. He hated the Jews and everything connected with the Jews, and said: "This day shall be regarded as a special occasion of prayer, because it is the Sun’s day, the day of our Lord". Since that time, the church has accepted that decree, ignoring the fact that this was the day for the worship of the sun among the pagans.

It was Constantine the great who decided what should be the creed of the church and commanded the assembled bishops to receive the decrees of the Council of Nicea as the dictates of the Holy Spirit. Since that time the church has given authenticity to that creed, which is repeated almost every Sunday in all the orthodox churches in Christendom.

The horrifying accounts of fraud, political wire pulling, theological jugglery, ecclesiastical scandal-mongering, passions breaking forth into curses and anathemas, bloody massacres and inhuman assassinations in the ecumenical councils, show that these were the principal instruments in the building up of the creed of Churchianity. Readers of ecclesiastical history will remember that in one of the disputes following the great Council of Nicea, maidens were insulted and scourged, the holy temple was profaned, books were thrown into flames, and the church and baptistery were burned and monks were trodden under foot. Such were the deeds of the pious bishops and founders of Churchianity.

In the Council of Ephesus, which was held in 431 A.D., monks and bishops screamed: "Whoso speaks of two natures is a Nestorius, and let him be cut asunder". A bishop was kicked to death by another bishop in course of their arguments, and 137 corpses were left in a church to attest the convincing reasons by which the most ruffian side proved its orthodoxy.

Such were the assemblies of saints who formed the pillars of the structure of Churchianity. We can easily imagine the nature of the guiding spirit of those councils, which established the creed of the church. From the beginning of the history of churches, down to the present day, freedom of thought and freedom of speech, that are the most essential characteristics of true religion, have been suppressed; and fanaticism, bigotry, curses, anathema, religious persecution, tortures of inquisition and diabolical crimes have been committed in the name of religion. Hatred, cruelty and fighting have reigned in the place of love, mercy, kindness, peace and goodwill. The creed of the church would have vanished from the world if swords were not drawn and innocent blood was not shed in the name of religion. The deeds of Churchianity are written indelibly upon the pages of the religious history of the world. Shall we wonder, then, if the humane, kind, gentle, peace-loving hearts of the Hindus, that are ever ready to send forth blessings, good-will, benediction and a current of love toward humanity, nay, toward all living creatures, reject Churchianity? Shall we wonder that the Hindus, who recognize Divinity in the souls of all, should refuse to accept a system that was founded upon the barren soil of dogmas, fertilized with the vital forces squeezed out of the hearts of innocent humanity; and nourished by the blood of martyrs?

By a strange irony of fate, the Hindu sees today that the followers of Churchianity, ignoring its past history, have come over to India to tell the so-called ‘heathen’ how Churchianity has civilized the world, how it has brought peace on earth, and how it has saved the souls of sinners. But a Hindu is a lover of Truth and Freedom. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech are his guiding stars. From ancient times, search after Truth and unswerving love for Truth have forced the minds of the Hindus to make rational investigation into matters that have been presented to them. It is very difficult to persuade a Hindu to blindly believe in anything. Before he accepts a dogma as truth he must trace its source and weigh all the arguments, pro and con, and then compare it with the highest ideals that are known in his own country. Stimulated by this natural tendency and by his love of Truth, when a Hindu studies the facts upon which Churchianity is founded, he first reads the Bible as critically as possible, applies logic and reason at every step, and then he looks into all the available writings of those Western scholars and critics who have made impartial examination of the Christian scriptures from the standpoint of historical researches.

I know many Hindus who read Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason before they opened a page of the Bible. A Hindu knows that there has been a great dispute in the present century among Western scholars regarding the historical personality of Jesus of Nazareth, as it is described in the Synoptic Gospels. Therefore he doubts the historical side of the personality of Jesus of the Gospels. He also knows that the researches of the higher critics of the Bible have shown that the description of the canonical Gospels regarding the events connected with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, do not harmonize with the facts of history, which can be gathered from other sources.

A missionary preaches in India that the New Testament is the revealed scripture, or word of God. The educated Hindus, however, know that Jesus did not leave any writings of his own, nor did any of his direct disciples write any of the Gospels, which were accepted by the church as the infallible and revealed word of God. They are also familiar with the fact that there are absolutely no contemporary records or accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus, either in the Bible itself or outside of it; and that the earliest of the writings, in the order of their composition, were the genuine epistles of Paul. Out of the fourteen epistles attributed to Paul, four only are held to be authentic; they are these: Epistle to the Romans, First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Galatians.

Again, Paul never saw Jesus the Christ except once in a vision, and only once did he quote the language of Jesus – a single phrase in connection with a reference to the commemoration of the last supper: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." It is admitted by many of the orthodox ministers of churches that Paul introduced many of the doctrines and dogmas that were afterwards accepted by Churchianity. It is a well-known fact that Paul did not preach the religion of Christ; if he did, he could not have boasted that he withstood Peter at Antioch to his very face. To the followers of Churchianity who preach to the Hindus that the New Testament is the revealed word of God, the Hindu asks: "If God intended to reveal His word, why did He inspire so many different men to write the history of one transaction, and why is it that almost all of these writings, except four, were afterwards rejected by human beings as fraudulent and incorrect?"

We do not hear about the four canonical Gospels until the time of Irenius, Bishop of Lyons in Gaul, who lived in 178-200 A.D. He was the real founder of the Church Canon. It was Irenius who first mentioned four Gospels. His arguments for accepting four Gospels were very remarkable, though not convincing. He says: "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than four. For, since there are four quarters of the earth, four elements, four seasons and four cardinal winds, the church ought to have four pillars; for this reason there should be four Gospels". How clever was the argument of this noted bishop!

Moreover, there are so many inconsistencies, discrepancies and errors in the Gospels, that no critical student among the Hindus could say that they are infallible and revealed word of God. As the church upholds this theory, and preaches the infallibility of this book, the Hindus reject it as a dogma of the church.

When the Hindus read the Apostles’ Creed or the ‘Twelve Articles of Faith’ which were maintained and amplified in the Nicene creed, which formed the main body of the Reformation Theology, and which eventually developed into the Thirty-nine Articles of the Episcopal creed, they find there a set of dogmas which are neither supported by science nor by philosophy, nor do they appeal to reason. They must be accepted whether they appeal to reason or not. But a Hindu’s mind is not ready to accept any of these articles of faith as true unless it is based upon sound reasoning and supported by science or philosophy. A Hindu says that while God has given us reason, understanding and intellect, and freedom to use them, we should be acting against His wish if we accepted anything blindly upon the authority of anybody’s statement. We must question, we must test every claim in the crucible of logic upon the fire of right reasoning. Therefore, a Hindu says, before we accept any of the articles of faith, we must examine them.

The first article of the creed is a great stumbling block to a Hindu, because it is backed by the story of creation. The genesis account of creation of the world in six days out of nothing by an extra-cosmic being seems absurd and childish to a Hindu, because he has been brought up with a belief in the doctrine of evolution; that the world is the result of a gradual evolution. The Hindu mind cannot believe that this world was created 6000 years ago, and that this earth came into existence before the sun was created. The Hindu says that the writer of such a story, whether he was divine or human, should have offered a more reasonable explanation, that he cannot believe in a creation out of nothing. In the voluminous writings of the Hindus sages and philosophers, ancient and modern, you will search in vain for any theory of creation out of nothing or creation by any extra-cosmic being. As Churchianity believes in such a creation, and preaches it, the Hindu rejects it as an absurd dogma.

The second article of the creed is based upon a belief in Jesus the Christ as the only begotten Son of God. This article offers nothing new to the Hindu mind except in its exclusiveness. The doctrine of Incarnation of God or Logos (the Word), is an Indo-Aryan theory, and the Hindus believe that there have been and will yet be many such incarnations. The theory of Logos, or Word, or Son of God, travelled from India to Greece, and found expression in the writings of the early Greek philosophers, Heraclitus, Plato, Neo-Platonists, in the writings of Philo and his followers – the writer of the fourth Gospel – until it was accepted by the church as its fundamental doctrine.

Although many of the Hindus believe in the doctrine of the incarnation of God in a human form, still they strongly object to the dogmatic method by which the churches preach it among the heathens. Their first objection is that if God could incarnate in one place for a certain purpose, why should He not incarnate whenever and wherever such an incarnation was needed? The church dogmas make the love of God for humanity limited by time, place and nationality. The love of God for humanity must be unlimited by such narrow considerations. God loves all humanity; His love shines equally upon all living creatures like the light of the sun. The Hindu conception of the incarnation of God is beautifully expressed in the Bhagavad Gita. In that Lord Krishna says: "Wherever irreligion prevails and true religion declines, I manifest Myself in a human form to establish righteousness and to destroy evil".

Among the incarnations of God recognized by the Hindus are Krishna, Buddha, Rama, etc. When a Hindu reads the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ, as given in the Synoptic Gospels, and compared them with the life and teachings of Krishna and Buddha, he is amazed to find the singular coincidences in every minute detail, from the immaculate conception and the rising of the stars, to the resurrection and ascension to Heaven.

[Note: The period when Krishna lived can be established by geological expertise that can help determine when the city of Dwarka sank beneath the waves of the ocean. Buddha was born in 547 B.C.].

Many eminent European scholars who have impartially studied Oriental religions have shown by their able articles and non-partisan criticism that the synoptic Gospels, being the productions of a later date, might well have drawn many of their important truths from the accounts of the lives and teachings of Krishna and Buddha in India. When the Christian missionaries first came to India, they were so astonished to find these singular coincidences in the lives and teachings of Krishna, Buddha and Christ that they satisfied their questioning minds by assuming as Sir William Jones said; "That the devil foreseeing the advent of Christ, originated a system of religion in advance of His, and just like it". The readers of the history of symbolism know that the cross as a religious symbol had existed in India ages before Christ was born, and many centuries before it was accepted by the Christian church and monopolized by it as its own property. The Hindu mind does not believe in any monopoly in religion, therefore it rejects the claim of Churchianity.

Churchianity depicts in a dramatic way the temptation and fall of Adam from Paradise, seeking in this ‘fall’ to find the origin of evil and to explain the way that sin came into the world. But this account finds no acceptance from the Hindu. He looks upon it as the mythology of a primitive people, the explanation of undeveloped minds, who believes that one man who lived about 4000 years before Christ was the parent of the whole human race, and that because he sinned, all his descendants are born sinners. The Hindus know, and have known for countless ages, that such an account of creation is irrational and unscientific.

[Note: Modern researchers have proved the correctness of their views, with evidences of a vast nation with highly developed civilization, existing tens of thousands of years before Christ. Some artefacts recovered from the recently discovered sunken city of Dwarka, are carbon dated to around ten thousand years. Nasa satellite images show the existence of man-made bridge between India and Sri Lanka predating by far all other civilizations. See page ‘Oldest Civilization’ www.hinduism.co.za/]

How, then, is it possible for a Hindu to accept such a theory of the origin of sin? Millions of people lived and died before Adam was ‘created’. How could his conduct affect them? The Hindu believes that all men are children of God, and that they inherit divinity as a birthright.

They say that sin means selfishness and trace its cause, not to any mythological devil, nor to a super-natural power of evil, but to man’s ignorance of his divine nature, and of the fact that God dwells in every individual soul. As long as we do not know our true nature, we identify ourselves with the limitations of mind and body and become selfish; but the moment we can realize that God dwells in us and come to understand our true nature, we become unselfish and free from all sin. The fire of true knowledge of the divine nature burns all sin into ashes and makes the soul realize that it is free. Such being the conception of sin among the Hindus, they do not care for any special scheme for the salvation of souls. They do not believe in the hell-fire doctrine, nor in any hell as a place for eternal punishment, therefore they do not need any help of a mediator. Those who believe in eternal punishment may feel the need of a Saviour from it.

When Dr. John Henry Barrows, a prominent missionary, went to India, he addressed an intelligent audience in one of the large cities and preached that doctrine. After the lecture one person from the audience got up and said: "Sir, we thought you had come from an enlightened country to enlighten us; we did not know until now that your enlightenment is no better than what we call superstition". After Dr. Barrows had returned to America, he said that there were thousands of Brahmins who were waiting to be baptized and requested his audience to send more missionaries, and to give more money for that purpose. One well-known speaker hearing this, said: "My friends, why do you not send a fire engine instead; it would be so much cheaper?"

The church dogma teaches the doctrine of vicarious atonement; it horrifies the tender feelings and loving nature of the Hindus. They do not interpret this act as an act of mercy or of love on the part of the heavenly Father, but they say it was an act of cruelty and injustice on His part to allow such a sacrifice of His innocent child.

The next dogma of Churchianity is the resurrection of the body. Most of the churches believe that Jesus the Christ was the "first fruits of the dead," the only one that ever arose after death. The Hindus do not believe in physical resurrection, for the same reasons that the scientists and the best thinkers of the West do not accept this dogma. The Hindu belief is that the soul is immortal and indestructible; and by death they mean only a change of body. The whole of Hindu philosophy and religion is based upon the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; but many of the missionaries affirm that the Hindus do not believe in immortality. On the contrary this doctrine is so well known and so largely accepted by the Hindus that it is unnecessary for anyone to go to India to prove it by the traditional resurrection of a single person. The Hindus have better arguments than this. They say that there are two things necessary for the proof of immortality, the pre-existence of the soul, and its existence after death. If anything is created, or if anything has a beginning, it must have an end. This is the law of nature.

If the souls of men were created by God out of nothing, they cannot be immortal, they must die. It is illogical to assert that the soul which is created should exist forever. If you wish to preserve immortality, first prove the pre-existence of the soul. The churches do not believe in the pre-existence of the soul, but preach its everlasting life after death, which the Hindus say is absurd on the face of it, and on the contrary to all we know of nature’s laws. In the writings of the Hindus you will find that the soul of man is described as free from birth and death. In the Katha Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita, occurs that beautiful passage made so familiar in America by Emerson: "If the slayer thinks that he has slain, or if the slain thinks that he is slain, they know not well that the soul can neither slay nor be slain". As Churchianity preaches that the soul of man had a beginning, but will have no end, the Hindus cannot accept it.

The next dogma of the church is the doctrine of pre-destination and grace, which makes God partial and unjust; while the Hindu believes in the more rational and scientific doctrine of the reincarnation of souls. This theory explains most satisfactorily the problems of life and death, without imputing partiality and injustice to God.

Churchianity teaches that God punishes the wicked and rewards the virtuous; while the philosophy of the Hindus teaches the law of karma, that is, the law of cause and effect, and says that God neither punishes nor rewards, but that we punish and reward ourselves by our deeds. Punishment and reward are the reactions of our own actions. Another reason why Hindus cannot accept Churchianity is that its (Churchianity’s) highest ideal is going to heaven and enjoying the pleasures of life through eternity. The highest ideal of religion, according to the Hindus, however, is not enjoying the eternal pleasures, but the attainment of God-consciousness and freedom in this life from the bondages of ignorance and selfishness. Salvation must begin here. We must be perfect here, and the hereafter will take care of itself.

Although the Hindus do not agree to accept the doctrines and dogmas of Churchianity, still they do not hesitate to believe in Jesus the Christ as the Son of God, as an incarnation of Divinity in a human form on earth. The Hindu conception of the incarnation of God is much more rational and deeper in meaning than that of the Christians. Those who have read the Bhagavad Gita will understand what the Hindus mean by the incarnation of Divinity on earth. Whether Jesus the Christ had a historical personality or not, is not discussed by the Hindus. They understand by the word Christ that supreme state of God-consciousness where all dualities vanishes, where all idea of separateness ceases forever, and where the tremendous onrush of the divine essence of the universal Spirit, breaking down all the barriers and limitations of our human consciousness, causes us to realize our eternal oneness with the heavenly Father on the spiritual plane. Whoever reaches that state becomes a Christ, whether he be Krishna or Buddha, or a Jesus of Nazareth. The particular name makes no difference to a Hindu. They are all great, all divine, all incarnations of God on earth. Show me one who has reached that state, and I will worship him as a living divinity on earth.

The Christian may think that Jesus was the greatest of all incarnations. The Buddhist may think that Buddha was the greatest of all, and a follower of Krishna or Rama may say the same thing regarding his Master, but when we examine the lives of these divine men we find that each of them was as great as the other. One may have manifested one phase of divinity; another may have presented another phase. When Jesus of Nazareth lived the life of renunciation and preached the ideal of spiritual oneness as the highest goal of all religions, he showed that he understood that state of Christhood. But ordinary people, forgetting the great mission of Jesus the Christ, fight for his historical personality. The masses quarrel and fight regarding the superiority of this or that incarnation, and the followers of each try to convert the others, but the wise man pities them all and tries to help them out of superstition, bigotry, race prejudice, fanaticism and religious persecution.

The religion of Christ was a religion of love, renunciation and self-control; it was a religion of God-consciousness. As these are the highest ideals among the Hindus, they accept Christ and His true religion in so far as it is one with their ideals; but when they see that Churchianity does not preach renunciation, and that its advocates do not practise love for all, nor show self-control, when they see that Christian governments encourage vice by opium trade, liquor trade, and introduce intoxicating things among innocent and temperate people for the sake of gain, they reject a religion which allows such things. They believe in Jesus the Christ as the Son of God, and know that he did not teach such things.

The duty of true religion is to broaden the human mind, to open the spiritual eyes, to lead humanity to the realization of oneness with the supreme Father in Heaven, and to repress all quarrels over dogmas and creeds. As long as we are not spiritual, we fight and quarrel, but when we realize that God dwells within us, that we are all children of God, irrespective of nationality, creed or denomination, when we rise above all dogmas, above beliefs, theories, and sectarianism, then, and then alone, we are the true followers of the Christ. Then, and then alone, are we able to say with Jesus, "I and my Father are one". The Hindus leave aside the disputed personality that dwells in each individual soul and believes that each soul is a latent Christ. They believe that the voice of God tells this truth within each soul, but we do not listen to it, through our ignorance and selfishness. Krishna says: "Giving up all the formalities of religion, come unto Me, take refuge in Me, I shall make thee free from sins, sorrows and sufferings".

Jesus says: "Come unto Me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest". Let us listen to that voice, for it is one and the same, and let us follow it. Let us realize the spirit of true Christianity that was exhibited in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Let us live as he lived, and be living Christs on earth. The Hindu is not satisfied merely to accept Christ in theory, but he strives hard to live the life, which Jesus lived, to lead a life of renunciation, of self-control and of love to all. Thus he seeks to fulfil the mandates of that eternal Religion which is taught by Christ-Krishna, Christ-Buddha, and Christ-Jesus.
_________________

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Did Christ teach a new religion?

By Swami Abhedananda
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta

The religion of Jesus the Christ was not like the orthodox Christianity of today; neither did it resemble the faith of the Jewish nation. His religion was a great departure from Judaism in principles and ideals as well as in the means of attaining them. It was much simpler in form and more sublime in nature. The religion that Christ taught had neither dogma, creed, system, nor theology. It was a religion without priests, without ceremonials, without rituals, or even strict observances of the Jewish laws.

As in India, Buddha rebelled against the ceremonials, rituals, and priest-craft of the Brahmins and introduced a simpler form of worship and a religion of the heart, so among the Jews, nearly five hundred years after Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth rebelled against the priest-craft of Judaism. Jesus saw the insufficiency of the Jewish ethics and ideals and the corruption and the hypocrisy of the priests. He wished to reform the religion of his country and establish a simpler and purer form of worship of the Supreme Being, which should rest entirely upon the feelings of the heart, not upon the letter of the law.

The God of Jesus was not the cruel and revengeful tribal deity of the house of Israel; He was the Universal Spirit. He was not like the tyrannical master of modern orthodoxy, who kills, damns, or saves mankind according to his whim; He was a loving Father. Jesus’ worship consisted not in ceremonials, but in direct communion between his soul and the Father, without any priestly intermediary. The idea of God as the ‘Father in Heaven’ did not, however, originate with Jesus the Christ, as modern Christians generally believe; it existed in the religious atmosphere of northern Palestine as a result of the Hellenic influence of the worship of Jupiter – Greek, Zeus-pitar; Sanskrit Dayus-pitar, which means Father in Heaven, and hence Father of the Universe. The worship of Jupiter was introduced into Babylon and northern Palestine by Antiochus Epiphanes between 175 and 163 B.C. Although the orthodox Jews revolted against this innovation, yet there were many liberal minded Jews among the Pharisees who liked the idea, accepted it, and preached it.

One of the most prominent of the Jewish priests, who was considered by many as the true master and predecessor of Jesus and who was held in great esteem by the Pharisaic sect of the Jews, inculcated this belief in the merciful and fatherly character of God. His name was Rabbi Hillel. The Talmud speaks of this Babylonian teacher in glowing terms, declaring that he was next to the Prophet Ezra. It was Hillel who first preached this Golden Rule among the Jews. He used to spend much time in meditation and study, and recommended such practices to his disciples. Hillel died when Jesus was about ten years old.

Thus we see the idea of Fatherhood of God existed in northern Palestine at the time of Jesus, and was preached in public by Rabbi Hillel. Moreover, at the same time Philo and other Neo-Platonist Jews in Alexandria were teaching the fatherly character of God and the only-Begotten Sonship of the Logos or Word. Both the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of the Word were known to the Greeks and other Aryan nations, especially the Hindus of ancient India. Jesus of Nazareth took up this grand Aryan idea and emphasized it more strongly than any of his predecessors in Palestine.

At the time when Jesus appeared in Galilee, the religious atmosphere of the place was permeated with Persian doctrines, Hellenic ideas, Pythagorean thoughts, and the precepts of the Essenes. Therapeutae, Gymonosophists, and the Buddhists of India. Galilee was then aglow with the fire of religious enthusiasm, kindled by the ardour of social and political dissensions. The Jews were already divided into three principal sects, the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Essenes. Each of these was trying to gain supremacy and power over the others. The Sadducees were the conservative and aristocratic class, while the Pharisees and the Essenes were essentially liberal. It was a time of great disturbance and intrigues, insurrections, rebellions, and wars. Such a period naturally kindles the fire of patriotism in the heart of a nation and forces its members to become active in every possible way.

The misfortunes and calamities that befell the descendants of Israel made them remember the promises of Jahveh which were handed down to them through the writings of the prophets, and forced them to seek supernatural aid in the fulfilment of those promises. The unconquerable pride of the sons of Israel- that they were the ‘chosen people’ of Jahveh; the only true God, who was their governor and director – stimulated their minds with the hope that, through the supernatural power of Jahveh, the kingdom of their great ancestors would be restored: that a member of David’s house would appear as the Messiah (the anointed), sit on the throne, and unite the twelve tribes of Israel under his sceptre, and govern them in peace and prosperity. This was the first conception of a Messiah that ever arose in the minds of the Jews. It was the principal theme of the poets and Prophets who lived during the Babylonian Exile.

The glory of the house of Israel and the earthly prosperity of the sons of Jahveh, were the highest ideals of the Jews. They did not mean by ‘Messiah’ a spiritual saviour of the world. The Christian idea of this term owes its origin to the Zoroastrian conception of the coming Messiah Soshiyanta, who, according to the promise of Ahura-Mazda, would appear on the day of judgement, destroy the evil influence of Ahriman, and renovate the world. This idea was accepted by the Pharisees while the orthodox Jews repudiated it.

Although the mind of Jesus, according to the Synoptic Gospels, was not free from the superstitious beliefs of the Jews and the national traditions of his time; although he accepted the Zoroastrian conception of a ‘coming Messiah’ and that the end of the world was imminent, as well as the Persian ideas (which did not exist in Judaism before the Babylonian Captivity) of the renovation of the world, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, the day of judgment, the punishment of the wicked, and the salvation of the righteous; although Jesus believed with the Pharisees in the Persian conception of heaven and hell and the devil, and saw many angels ascending and descending over his head – yet he realized that the Kingdom of God was a spiritual kingdom: that it was within himself.; he felt the presence of the Father within him, and asked his disciples to feel likewise. The Jews understood by the Kingdom of Jahveh the Kingdom of this world and the prosperity of the house of Israel.

But Jesus spiritualized that ideal and taught a reign of righteousness and justice; not a reign of strife between nations, but a kingdom of peace and love. Jesus preached this idea among his people in the same way as Buddha declared that he came to establish a kingdom of peace and love and righteousness upon earth. Buddha did not use the expression ‘Kingdom of God’, but preferred ‘kingdom of justice, peace and love’. Jesus had to use the former expression, because it was dominant in the minds of the people about him.

These ideas regarding a kingdom of peace and love were scattered in northern Palestine for at least two centuries before the Christian era by the Buddhist missionaries. It is indeed a well-known historic fact that the gospel of peace, goodwill and love was preached in Syria and Palestine by Buddhist monks nearly two hundred years before Christ. Their influence was felt most deeply by the Jewish sect called the Essene, or the Therapeutae, to which sect, as many scholars believe, Jesus himself belonged. It is interesting to note the similarities between the Essene and the followers of Buddha. The Buddhists were also called Theraputta, a Pali form of the Sanskrit Sthiraputra, meaning the son of Sthira, or Thera: one who is serene, enlightened, and undisturbed by the world. Thera was one of Buddha’s names. These people had the power to heal disease.

Readers of the history of India are aware that in 249 B.C. Ashoka the Great, the Buddhist emperor, made Buddhism the state religion of India and sent missionaries to all parts of the world, then known to him, to preach the gospel of Buddha. He sent missionaries from Siberia to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and from China to Egypt. These missionaries preached the doctrines of Buddhism, not by bloodshed and sword, but by scattering blessings, goodwill and peace where they went. The edicts and stone inscriptions of Ashoka were written during his lifetime. One of these edicts mentions five Greek kings who were Ashoka’s contemporaries, - Antiochus of Syria, Ptolemaos of Egypt, Antigonus of Macedon, Magas of Cyrene, and Alexander of Epiros. The edict says that Ashoka made treatise with these kings and Buddhist missionaries to their kingdoms to preach the gospel of Buddha. "Both here and in foreign countries" says Ashoka, "everywhere the people follow the doctrine of the Beloved of the gods, wheresoever it reacheth." Mahaffy, the Christian historian says: "The Buddhist missionaries preached in Syria two centuries before the teaching of Christ, (which has so much in common with the teaching of Buddha), and this was heard in northern Palestine".

The labours of these Buddhist monks were not fruitless in these places. They continued to preach through parables the highest ideals of religion from generation to generation. Their communities, bound to a life of celibacy, which was not a Jewish custom, increased from age to age as outsiders joined their ranks. Even the Alexandrian Neo-Platonist Philo, who was a contemporary of Christ, mentions in his writings once or twice the Indian Gymnosophists or the Buddhists, and says that the Essenes numbered about four thousand at that time. The doctrines of the Essenes, their manner of living, and the vows of their communities show the results of the Buddhist missionary work during the two centuries immediately preceding the birth of Christ. Pliny says: "The Essenes live on the western shore of the Dead Sea. They are a hermit clan – one marvellous beyond all others in the world, without any women, without the joys of domestic life, without money, and the associates of the palm-trees". If we read Josephus we find how highly the Essenes of those days were respected.

One of the peculiar practices of the Essenes was the ‘Bath of Purification’, which was also peculiarity of the Buddhist monks. The life led by John the Baptist was typical of that of a Buddhist monk. Exactly like a Buddhist, the Essene rose before sunrise and made his morning prayers with his face turned towards the east. When the day broke, he went to work. Agriculture, cattle-breeding, bee-keeping and other peaceful trades were among his ordinary occupations. He remained at work until eleven o’clock; then he took a bath, put on white linen, and ate plain vegetable food. The Essenes abstained from meat and wine. They also wore leather aprons, as did some of the Buddhist monks. The Essene novice took solemn oath to honour God, to be just toward his fellow-men, to injure no one either of his own accord or by order of others, not to associate with the unrighteous, to assist the righteous, to be ever faithful to all, always to love truth, to keep his hands from theft and his soul from unholy gain. There were some who joined the order after having lived a married life.

Earnest Renan says: "The Essenes resembled the Gurus (spiritual masters) of Brahmanism". "In fact", he asks, "might there not in this be a remote influence of the Munis (holy saints of India)"? According to Renan: "Babylon had become for sometime a true focus of Buddhism. Boudasp (Bodhisattva, another name of Buddha) was reputed as a wise Chaldean and the founder of Sabaism, which means, as its etymology indicates, Baptism". He also says: We may believe at all events that many of the eternal practices of John, of the Essenes, and of the Jewish spiritual teachers of the time were derived from influences then existing, but recently received from the far East" – meaning India. Thus we can understand that there was an indirect influence of the Buddhist monks upon the mind of Jesus through the Essenes, and especially through John the Baptist.

Although Jesus never pretended to have created the world, nor to govern it, yet his followers worshipped and loved him as the Messiah; and later on the writer of the Fourth Gospel identified him with the ‘Word’, or Logos of Philo, about the latter part of the third century of the Christian era. According to the Synoptic Gospels, the idea of the advent of the end of the world and of the reign of justice and the kingdom of God grew so strong in the mind of Jesus that apparently it forced him to think that he – the Son and the bosom friend of his Father – must be the executor of God’s decrees and that through him such a Kingdom of Justice and Goodness should be established. This thought gradually led him to believe that, as he was the Son of God, he should be the Universal Reformer, and was born to establish the Kingdom of God.

The fundamental principles of the religion of Jesus, however, were purity, self-denial, control of passions, renunciation, non-attachment to wealth and to earthly things, intense faith, forgiveness and love for enemies, and the realization of the unity of the soul with the ‘Father in Heaven’. During the one year of his public life as a spiritual teacher, Jesus taught his disciples these principles and showed them the way to practise them by his living example. But all these grand ethical and spiritual doctrines, upon which the religion of Jesus was founded, were practised for nearly three centuries before Christ by the Buddhist preachers in Babylon and Syria, and they were taught in India for ages before that. The same ideas were inculcated by the Vedic sages, by the Vedanta philosophers, and afterwards by the Avataras, or incarnations of God, like Rama, Krishna, Buddha (547 B.C.) Sankara, Chaitanya, Nanaka, and also by Ramakrishna of the nineteenth century. If we study the lives of these men, we find that, like Jesus, each one of them lived a pure, spotless and unselfish life of renunciation, always loving humanity and doing good to all.

Those who have read the doctrines of Buddha know that the ethical teachings of Jesus seem like repetitions of what Buddha taught. Those who have read the Bhagavad Gita (the Song Celestial), will remember that the fundamental principles of Krishna’s teachings were purity of heart, self-denial, control of passions, renunciation, love towards enemies, forgiveness, and the realization of the unity of the soul with the Father. In short, the religion of Christ was taught before him by Buddha and Krishna in India. Like Jesus the Christ, Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita: "I am the path. Follow Me and worship one God. I existed before the world was created. I am the Lord of all". And again: "Giving up the formalities of religion, come unto Me; follow Me; take refuge in Me. I shall free thee from sins and give eternal peace unto thee. Grieve not".

But although Jesus the Christ did not teach a new religion, still he came to fulfil and not to destroy. He gave a new life to the old truths, and by his wonderful personality impressed them upon the minds of his own people.
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Christ and his teachings
By Swami Abhedananda
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta
Abridged

Jesus the Christ lived the same simple life, always trusting the Lord, and without thinking of the morrow, as was lived by Buddha, Krishna and other Vedantic seers and sages of ancient times, and his wonderful career had shown to the world that he possessed divine powers and he manifested those powers through his acts. From his childhood, he lived in God-consciousness and he realized that intimate relation that exists between the individual soul and the Heavenly Father. He proved to the world by his glorious works that he was the embodiment of purity and righteousness and that he was the personification of divine wisdom and divine powers. We cannot deny this. By his unique life of renunciation, self-denial and sacrifice, he has conquered the hearts of all the spiritually minded people among all nations and has taught them how to live the life of blessedness, how to work for others, how to live and to die for the good of humanity; he has lived a life that stands as an example before all the seekers after spirituality.

The disinterested love for humanity that was shown by Jesus the Christ, was unique, and following his example we must try to love all human beings; nay, all living creatures, as Buddha said. We must show that in our lives, we must follow the path of Jesus the Christ, in that universal love. It is for this reason that Vedanta accepts the ideal of Christ and presents it before the world, before all the seekers after spirituality and asks them to follow the path of Jesus the Christ, to be like Christ, to live the life of Jesus the Christ, and to obey his teachings, worshipping him as the Saviour of mankind and the Redeemer of the world.

In whatsoever heart the Christ ideal is accepted, there is sown the seed of charity, self-denial, renunciation, control of passions, universal love and faith in God. These are the cardinal virtues of the religion of Jesus the Christ, and there in fullness of time the tree will surely grow, bearing the fruit of the realization of that oneness with the Heavenly Father which was expressed by Jesus the Christ in his famous saying: "I and my Father are one". What He said, we must realize, each one of us. By following the example of Jesus the Christ, each one of us will be able to say in the same way, "I and My Father are one". If we cannot do this, we are not followers of Jesus the Christ. The moment that we shall be able to do it, to realize that truth which was explained by Jesus the Christ, then we shall be able to call ourselves the true disciples of our Master, and not until then.

When the cave of the human soul will be illumined by the Divine light and glory of the newly born Spiritual Christ, when our hearts will be filled with that light, then the spiritual self of the true devotee will enjoy the blessings of spiritual Christmas and understand the true meaning of Trinity by realizing the oneness of his individual soul with the Heavenly Father through the state of super-consciousness. Jesus the Christ used to commune with the Lord by entering into the state of super-consciousness, by rising above this material plane, by forgetting the earthly existence. When we shall be able to do the same, then the birth of Spiritual Christ has taken place in our souls, then the spiritual Christmas will spread its glory within us and all around us. That is the time for rejoicing.

The external Christmas is only a form, but let us understand the spirit of Christmas and let us understand the meaning; that spirit and that meaning we can only grasp through the sublime teachings of Vedanta which harmonize with the teachings of Jesus the Christ, and through Vedanta we shall be able to realize the spiritual, ideal Christ within ourselves and become one with the Heavenly Father.

If we read in the Bible the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ, we believe that he was the incarnation of Divinity. We cannot help believing in the ideal life and exemplary character as depicted in the Synoptic Gospels as of one who was not only the Son of God, but the divine incarnation, manifestation of that Supreme Deity who is the Lord of the universe and God of all nations. We cannot deny this fact. The students of Vedanta regard him, with his sublime character and wonderful powers, as an incarnation of the Logos, the eternal Word of God, as in the case of all other Saviours of the world. The Eternal Word that dwelt in heaven with the Lord is the Logos, and that Logos appeared in the form of Jesus the Christ, in the form of Krishna, of Zoroaster, Buddha and all other saviours of the world. The students of Vedanta regard him as the Incarnation of divinity, as the Son of God, as the Saviour of the world.
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Christian Science and Vedanta
By Swami Abhedananda
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta

Most startling are the similarities that exist between the fundamental principles of modern Christian Science and those of the ancient system of philosophy known in India as Vedanta.

The followers of Christian Science, unacquainted with the Vedanta and the religious teachings of India, may in all sincerity claim originality for their founder, Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy. They may show their gratitude to her for numerous benefits received. They may shut their eyes to all other systems of philosophy and religion, ancient or modern. Their revealed text-book ‘Science and Health’ may change its tone by additions and alterations in every chapter of every new addition; but Mrs. Eddy, herself, was fully aware that the truths which she claimed to have discovered were discovered and taught in India by the Hindu sages and philosophers centuries before Jesus the Christ appeared on earth.

In the earliest edition of ‘Science and Health’ Mrs. Eddy had the courage to quote certain passages from one of the most authentic books of the Vedanta philosophy, thus herself acknowledging the harmony that exists between the basic principles of the Vedanta philosophy and Christian Science. Unfortunately, for some reason, since the publication of the 34th edition, these passages have been omitted. In the 24th edition of ‘Science and Health’, published in 1886, we find the 8th chapter devoted to Imposition and Demonstration. This chapter has been entirely suppressed in later editions. It begins with four quotations. The second is from Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, entitled ‘Song Celestial’. Those who have read the Bhagavad Gita know that it contains the essence of the Vedas, as well as all truths expounded by the Vedanta philosophy. The passage runs thus:

"Never the Spirit was born; the Spirit will cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams;
Birthless and Deathless and Changeless remaineth the Spirit forever;
Death has not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems.

Again, in the same chapter of the 24th edition Mrs. Eddy says: ‘The ancient hindoo philosophers understand something of this principle when they said in the Songs Celestial, according to an old prose translation: ‘The wise neither grieve for the dead nor for the living. I Myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease and old age, so in some future frame will it find the like. One who is confirmed in the belief is not disturbed by anything that may come to pass. The sensibilities of the faculties giveth heat and cold, pleasure and pain; which come and go and are transient and inconstant. Bear them with patience, for the wise man whom these disturb not, and to whom pain and pleasure are the same, is formed for immortality’. (p. 259).

This is a quotation from one of the old translations of the Bhagavad Gita by Charles Wilkins, published in London in 1785 and in New York in 1867. In recent editions of Science and Health, this has been omitted, perhaps to show that the founder of Christian Science did not draw the water of truth from any other fountain than the Christian Bible.

Now let us compare the leading propositions of Christian Science with those of the Vedanta philosophy. In the 193rd edition of Science and Health (p.70), these propositions are said to be four in number:

First, God is all in all
Second, God is good, God is mind
Third, God, spirit being all, nothing is matter
Fourth, Life, God, omnipotent good deny death, evil, sin, disease.
Disease, sin, evil, death deny God, omnipotent good, life.

Which of the denials in proposition fourth is true? Both cannot be true.

These four propositions form the four main pillars upon which rests the structure of Christian Science. A critical student of philosophy, however, can reduce these four to two. First accept God, who is spirit, mind, life, being, omnipotent, good and all in all. Second, deny matter and that which exists besides God. According to Christian Science, God, spirit, life, mind, being, omnipotence, infinite good, all these terms are synonymous and are applicable to the one real substance of the universe; and in the same manner, matter, sin, disease, ignorance, error, and illusion are also synonymous terms, which can be applied to that which exists as distinct and separate from the God of Christian science, It has no existence, no reality. Therefore the whole phenomenal world with its innumerable appearances does not exist in reality.

It is like a mirage, an illusion or dream of the mortal mind. But the mortal mind itself falls under the head of illusion, too; because we read on page 8, 183rd edition of Science and Health: ‘Mortal mind implies something untrue, and therefore unreal, and as the phrase is used in teaching Christian Science, it is meant to designate that which has no real existence’. The world is an illusion that is seen by the illusion of the mortal mind; but the question arises, whence comes this illusion? What causes it? Christian Science does not answer. It simply says, ‘Mind or God is not the author of matter and the creator of ideas is not the creator of illusions’. (Science and Health 193rd edition, p. 145).

Thus, according to Christian Science, if God or spirit, life, being, absolute, omnipotent good, be all in all and Truth, then the phenomenal universe, including matter and mortal mind, is nothing but an illusion; it does not exist in reality; it has no reality and no existence.

Now let us see what the Vedanta philosophers said on this point centuries before the birth of Christ. In this pre-Christian era a disciple went to a spiritual master and asked: ‘Sir, please tell me in a few words the fundamental principles of the Vedanta philosophy’. The spiritual master, who was a seer of Truth (Rishi), replied: ‘I will tell you in half a couplet the fundamental principles of the Vedanta philosophy that have been declared by millions of volumes. Brahman or the Absolute, infinite and eternal Being, is Truth; the world is false and unreal, and the individual soul is no other than Brahman or the Absolute Truth, which is absolute existence, knowledge (intelligence), and bliss’. This is the quintessence of Vedanta philosophy.

In Christian Science, the word ‘God’ is used to signify the absolute Reality or unchangeable truth of the universe; so, in Vedanta philosophy, the Sanskrit word ‘Brahman’ is used to designate that all-pervading substance being, which is the reality of the universe. This unchangeable reality of the universe forms the reality of all living creatures and all mortal things, everything that we can see, hear or perceive with our senses. If Brahman or the absolute being whose nature is absolute existence, knowledge (intelligence) and bliss, be the one reality and all in all, it must be one, because there cannot be many absolutes or infinites. Absolute must be one and infinite must be one. As we find this idea in reading Science and Health, so we find it also in the Vedanta philosophy. Granting, then, that the absolute reality is one, the question naturally presents itself: why do we see so great a variety in the phenomenal universe? And what is the cause of this variety?

In answering this question, the Vedanta philosophy gives two theories. The first is the theory of illusion, and the second is the theory of evolution. The theory of illusion is very old; we find it formulated in the Vedas and it was taught by some of the seers of the Vedic period. It was maintained and preached by Buddha, who lived 540 years before Christ and by his followers; while later it was explained with great clarity by Shankaracharya, the best exponent of the Vedanta philosophy, who lived in India in the seventh century after Christ.

This theory of illusion is the most difficult of all theories for the ordinary mind to grasp. Even the subtlest logicians and the profoundest thinkers often fail to understand how this phenomenal world, which we perceive with our senses and which appears so real to us, can be unreal or illusory. If, however, Vedanta philosophy declares this phenomenal universe to be unreal and false, it does not deny its existence, as does Christian Science. It does not say that mortal mind or matter is nothing; but, on the contrary, it is most careful to define the terms unreal and illusion. By these words Vedanta philosophy does not mean negation, but phenomenal or relative existence or reality, conditioned by time and space. It admits that this phenomenal world is unreal from the standpoint of the absolute or noumenon, but at the same time it says that it has as much (conditional) reality in it as anything presented to us by the senses can ever have.

Although Vedanta philosophy agrees with Christian Science in its fundamental principles, yet there is still a great difference between their respective modes of expressing the same truths. Christian Science, by denying the existence of matter and mortal mind, denies the existence of the phenomenal world and reduces it to nothingness. This reminds us of conclusions reached by some of the nihilistic philosophers of India and Europe. Hume denied the existence of mind and matter. He reduced the whole universe to a bundle of sensations, impressions, and ideas. Some of the Buddhist philosophers in India denied the existence of the universe in the same way. But this method creates great confusion in the minds of the people.

For instance, I am standing before you and speaking, and you are listening. If we follow the teachings of Christian Science strictly, we shall have to deny that I am standing here and that you are sitting there. In other terms, the speaker is nothing, the hearer is nothing, the mortal mind is nothing; consequently, thoughts and ideas are nothing, the words expressed by the mortal mind are also nothing. Not only this, but the very act of denying is nothing, because the act of denying is the act of the mortal mind; it cannot be the act of an absolute or divine mind. ‘Where God is, no other thing can exist’, so there cannot be the denial of anything in God; the divine mind cannot see anything outside of itself, and as mortal mind is nothing, therefore the denial itself is nothing.

This difficulty does not arise in Vedanta philosophy, because it does not deny the existence of matter, mind, and everything that is on the phenomenal plane. Although it tells us that the world is unreal, that matter is unreal, mind is unreal, still it recognizes their existence, but adds that that existence cannot be separated from the absolute existence. If Brahman or the absolute Existence were all in all, then everything that exists on the phenomenal plane is in reality Brahman or the absolute Truth. The reality of the chair, the table, the earth, the sun, moon and stars, is the absolute existence, is divinity itself.

The reality in you, in me, and in all living creatures is the same as the absolute reality of the universe; only on account of names and forms, the one Reality appears to be many. As, for instance, the one substance, clay, appears through diverse names and forms in numberless varieties, such as pots, jars, bricks, etc., so the one absolute Reality, when clothed with varying names and forms, appears to be sun, moon, stars, animals, vegetables, etc., Matter and mind, according to Vedanta, are not two separate entities, but different expressions of the one eternal substance, which is called the Brahman in Vedanta, and God in Christian Science.

Instead of insistently denying the existence of matter, mortal mind, and objective phenomena, Vedanta tells us how to see through the multiplicity of names and forms the one unchangeable Being which stand as the background (substratum) of all objects of material existence and gives reality to all. The names and forms have of course no absolute reality, but they have conditional reality; or, in other words, they exist in relation to our minds. The world is real, according to Vedanta, but at the same time it is not as seems to be; it is not that which appears to us at the present moment. This is what is meant by ‘illusion’ (Maya) in Vedanta.

[Note: the English translation of ‘Maya’ is not illusion, but is delusion or nescience.]

For example, here is a chair; the substance of this chair is the absolute Reality, because the absolute Reality is all pervading and one. It is in you, in me, in the table and in everything, and that which gives reality to the chair is one with the absolute Reality. But the chair appears as chair only so long as it is clothed with the name and form of chair. If we can mentally separate the name and form from the substance of the chair, that which will be left will be common wood; take away the name and form of wood, atoms and molecules will remain; take away the name and form of atoms and molecules, there will be left nothing but eternal energy, and that is inseparable from the absolute substance. In this way, if we can mentally separate the names and forms from the substance, all phenomenal objects can be reduced to one substance, which is the absolute reality of the universe.

Thus Vedanta, while giving the most logical reason for the variety of phenomena, does not deny the existence of anything. On the contrary, it tells us that the real existence or true substance of everything is Brahman or absolute Reality, or God, as Christian Science calls it. The whole universe is like one infinite ocean of Reality, which is nameless and formless, and in that ocean waves and bubbles rise spontaneously and take different names and forms. These waves and bubbles are the objects of the phenomenal universe. As in the ocean, waves and bubbles have no existence separate from or independent of the ocean itself, so the waves and bubbles known as the phenomenal objects of the universe have no existence separate from or independent of the ocean of Reality. We are like so many bubbles in the infinite ocean of Reality; we owe our existence to that ocean, live there, and play for a while, then merge into it to reappear in some other form. Such is the conception of Vedanta concerning the relation of phenomena to the absolute noumenon, or the unchangeable Truth, which underlies all phenomenal names and forms.

Christian Science, taking its stand on the Bible, tries to defend its position by wonderfully clever interpretations of scriptural passages, in which the meaning of each passage is stretched to its utmost limit. Common sense, however, prevents many from accepting such interpretations, as they depend neither upon logic nor upon reason, but upon the authority of an inspired founder. Vedanta philosophy explains the same truths without resting its evidence upon any book or upon the authority of any man or woman whether of antiquity or of our day. It has no founder; consequently it does not demand allegiance to anyone or to anything save Truth.

Christian Science, again, by denying the phenomenal universe, places itself at variance with all science and all philosophy. It also defies all modern scientific methods by restricting its field of investigation to that which is mentioned in the one copyrighted volume called Science and Health; whereas the Vedanta philosophy, admitting the existence and relative reality of the phenomenal universe of mind and matter, accepts all the truths that have been discovered by science and philosophy or by the seers of Truth in all countries and in all ages. At the same time, it tells us that the realm of science and philosophy lies within the limits of time and space, that they cannot, in consequence, go beyond relative reality. Christian Science does not see any harmony between absolute Truth and the scientific truths discovered by so-called mortal mind; but Vedanta, on the contrary, sees perfect harmony underlying all the laws and phases of Truth which human minds have discovered. Truth being one, whether it is discovered by science, philosophy, or religion, is the same Truth. It cannot be many; why should we deny its diverse aspects as long as we are on the phenomenal plane?

Christian Science, to go further, is notably uncharitable towards everything not sanctioned by its founder, while Vedanta philosophy declares that truth is universal and cannot be monopolized by any man or woman of any country. Christian Science rejects the doctrine of evolution and upholds the belief in special creation as described in the Book of Genesis, attempting to explain the account there given by the idealistic theory which was adopted by Bishop Berkley and by a host of other idealists of ancient and modern times. Vedanta accepts the doctrine of evolution and shows that of special creation to be absurd. It also courts free investigation in the realm of nature without imposing the condition that the results of all such investigations be in accord with the tenets of a specific book or of some one teacher; and it thus emancipates the human soul from bondage to any one of scriptures or to personal authority.

In this age of agnosticism and materialism, Christian Science has done an admirable work, in making people realize that this phenomenal world of ours is like a dreamland, and that all objects of sense are nothing more than objects seen in a dream. This is no small gain for Western minds; because the more we realize that this world is like a dream, the nearer we approach to absolute Truth. In this respect, what Christian Science is at present trying to do in this country (USA) has been done by Vedanta in India for centuries. Furthermore, Christian Science has rendered a great service to humanity by demonstrating the power of the mind over the body, the power of spirit over matter.

Although this fact was in no way new to the spiritual teachers, sages, and best thinkers of every country, still in no other country and at no other time had there ever been so well organized a movement as that started by Mrs. Eddy under the name of Christian Science. Like Vedanta, it has brought health to many diseased bodies and rest to many diseased minds. Dazzled, however, by their wonderful success in healing, Christian scientists lay exclusive claim to the method of healing given by Mrs. Eddy, declaring it to be the only right method; while all others, adopted by mental scientists, metaphysical healers, and other kindred sects are wrong and unscientific. We must not, however, let these extravagant claims made by the over enthusiastic followers of Mrs. Eddy blind us to the fact that the power of healing is the property of every individual soul. Anyone can develop the gift of healing and cure disease by the mind without becoming a Christian scientist and without reading a page of Science and Health.

There have been many remarkable healers in every country, such as among the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Mohammedans, and those of other religious creeds. It is a great mistake to think that the power of healing comes from any outside source or from belief in this or that. It is developed by living a right life in accordance with the moral and spiritual laws of nature. Christian Science teaches that the power of healing was first shown to the world by Jesus the Christ and His disciples, and asserts that no one ever manifested that kind of healing power before He appeared upon earth; but if we read the religious history of the world carefully, we find that long before the birth of Christ, the same healing power of mind or spirit was practised by the followers of Buddha with marvellous success. Wherever Buddhist missionaries travelled, they healed the sick without using drugs. The Yogis in India also use no drugs in curing disease, but rely entirely upon the spiritual power, which they acquire through right living and the practice of yoga.

Christian Science, in laying such stress upon the miraculous and exclusive power of healing manifested by Jesus, are evidently ignorant of the fact that similar Christ-like healing powers were displayed by Esculapius, the ancient Greek, who was proclaimed the saviour of mankind because of these very powers. He not only cured the sick of the most malignant diseases, but even raised the dead. Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, wrote in glowing terms of the gift of healing possessed by him. For many years after the death of Esculapius, furthermore, miracles continued to be wrought through the efficacy of faith in his name. Christ-like healing powers, again, were shown and miracles performed by Appollonius of Tyana, who was a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth. The lives of Hindu sages, Buddhist monks, and of the Yogis of India are filled with such description of miraculous cures and even of the raising of the dead. Vedanta philosophy, being fully cognisant of these facts, cannot, therefore concur with the Christian scientist that Jesus was the first to exercise this power. On the contrary, it teaches that the power of healing is universal and cannot be confined within the boundaries of any one creed, sect, religion, or book.

Christian Science makes good health the standard of spirituality, a position which the most superficial observation disproves; since if good health were to be the standard of spirituality, then all those who enjoy perfect health should be exceptionally spiritual. The tribes who live in close touch with nature, sleep under the trees, walk barefooted, and eat raw food should, because of their physical vigour, be the most spiritual of all; yet we know that this is not the case. For this reason, Vedanta does not make good health the standard of spirituality. Nor does it stop with the denial of disease, pain, and evil. It goes a step further and says, if you deny disease, pain, sorrow, and evil, why should you not also deny the existence of health and the pleasures of the body and mind? Because, in this world of relativity, the one is just as much dreamlike as the other. If disease is a dream, good health is likewise a dream. Why not? Good is good so long as it stands in relation to its opposite evil; otherwise it can have no existence. Some say that God is good; but that word good cannot be used in its absolute sense, because it creates confusion; that which is good demands something which is better and something best. If you say that God is good, the question naturally arises, who is better and who is the best?

By denying evil its correlative is also denied; so with pain and pleasure, health and disease. If you deny ill health, you deny good health also. Therefore, logically speaking, Christian Science preaches, consciously or unconsciously, a dogma that is based on logical inconsistency. In Vedanta no such inconsistency can be found, because it exhorts us to rise above both good and evil, pleasure and pain, sickness and health.

The curing of disease is a very good thing so long as we recognize disease, so long as we admit its existence and in the dream of ignorance seek good health, or try to avoid suffering and ill health; but the moment we realize that our nature is above all relativity, above pleasure and pain, above conditions of mind and body, we cease to talk of disease or health. No disease, no pain, no sorrow or suffering, either physical or mental, can affect or touch the soul; neither a healthy body nor a healthy mind can enrich the perfect Being, which is divine, immortal, unchangeable, which is the Soul of our souls and which dwells in each individual. So why should we trouble ourselves first to deny disease and then to try to cure it?

Christian Science teaches a religion which rests entirely upon the Bible, which in turn is limited by the interpretations of Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy. These interpretations, furthermore, are often so obscure and occult that it requires an unusual mind to grasp their import. Few people of ordinary intelligence, even after hours of study, can understand clearly what the author means. At the same time Christian Science insists that only through an unquestioning acceptance of these interpretations can the Truth be reached. Those, on the other hand, who do not accept them, are cast relentlessly into the abyss of error. There is no hope for them, since they are completely in the wrong. By this attitude alone the religion of Christian Science lays itself open to the charge of dogmatism, sectarianism, and lack of charity towards all other faiths and religious systems; whereas, Vedanta philosophy teaches a religion that is not based upon any book or its interpretation by any man or woman, but upon universal truth and upon the eternal laws that govern our souls and our lives. It teaches that religion which underlies all special religions, and which has no particular name, no creed, no fixed form of worship, and no label of authority stamped upon it by any specific founder. It preaches the truth boldly, and at the same time accepts all the phases of truth discovered by scientists, philosophers, and seers of Truth (Rishis) everywhere and in all ages, while enough room is left in the religion of Vedanta for the admission of any truths that may be discovered in the future. Thus Vedanta establishes the foundation of a universal religion, embracing the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, Zoroaster, Mohammed, and all other spiritual teachers of the past and of those who will come in the future while it proclaims in a trumpet voice to the world:

"That which is eternal in the midst of non-eternal phenomena, which is the life of all living creatures, which is the infinite source of consciousness, is one. It is also the bestower of happiness to all. Eternal happiness comes to those alone, who realize this absolute Oneness; to them comes unbounded joy and peace, to none else, to none else".
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Incarnation of God in
Christianity and Hinduism

Avatar - Incarnation of God
By Swami Abhedananda
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta

The Lord says:

"Whenever religion declines and irreligion prevails, I manifest Myself to protect the righteous, to destroy evil, and to establish true religion".
-Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, verses 7&8

Christianity

Two great religions of the world advocate the belief that God, the supreme Ruler of the universe, incarnates in human form to help mankind- the one is Christianity, the other is the religion of Vedanta (Hinduism), which prevails in India.

Christianity, believing in the existence of one personal God who is the Creator, Governor and Father of the universe, teaches that this heavenly Father incarnated Himself in human form as Jesus the Christ to show His love, His mercy and kindness for His suffering children as well as to save the world from eternal perdition. It may be interesting to many to know how this doctrine of divine incarnation, unknown to the earliest Christians of the first century after Christ, gradually grew and developed into its present form. Readers of ecclesiastical history are well aware of the fact that no problem troubled the minds of the founders of the Christian Church and of Christian theology so much as this one of the divine incarnation of Jesus the Christ. During the early periods of Church history, indeed, no other question was considered to be of such vital importance as that of the heavenly Father’s incarnation in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. Although, for many of the uneducated masses, this problem appears to have been satisfactorily solved by the wonderfully subtle and apparently logical arguments of certain priests and theologians, still it is not unknown to the educated classes that the acceptance of their solution depended largely upon priestly power, upon anathema, and upon the persecution of those who refused to receive these arguments as the only correct solution of the problem.

Let us go back for a moment to that time, when Constantine the Great settled the disputes of the bishops regarding the Son of God. In the first place, we should remember that the modern Christian idea of divine incarnation is founded upon the belief in the Trinitarian doctrine of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the memorable text of the First Epistle of John: ‘For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one’. (Ch. 5-7). Before the doctrine of the divine incarnation of Jesus the Christ was established and accepted by the Church, the early Christians believed in the Trinity and constantly discussed the most subtle and profound questions concerning the nature, generation, distinction, and qualities of the three divine persons of the mysterious triad. At that time, the majority of Christian thinkers believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, but they did not dare declare that he was ‘God himself in human form’, the second principle of the blessed Trinity. It was Justin Martyr, a Christian convert of the Platonic school and a believer in the Platonic doctrine of the Trinity, who, about the middle of the second century for the first time, promulgated the idea that Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, was the second person in the Triune Deity and the creator of the universe. He is the earliest writer to whom the origin of this idea can be traced, and he did not ascribe opinion to the scriptures, but to the special favour of God.

The Trinitarian controversies, that first broke out in the Christian schools of Alexandrian Egypt, the land of Trinities, took a new form during the time of Constantine the Great, the chief point of debate being to define the relation of the son to the Father. The Church of Alexandria was the most powerful of all the churches in this period, and it was ruled by Trinitarian bishops who took part in all these discussions. One of the most prominent candidates for the office of Bishop was Arius, the celebrated originator of the Arian doctrines and a Presbyter of the Alexandrian Church. He and his followers maintained, in opposition to other bishops, that the Son of God was merely a creature or a created being, that there was a time when he did not exist. He said: ‘If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning in existence; from this, it is evident that there was a time when the Son was not in being, it therefore follows that he had his existence from nothing’. This argument was the strongest of all the blows that were given to the Trinitarian doctrine, as well as the most potent against the divinity of Jesus the Christ, because it evidently denied the co-eternity of the Father and the Son by proving the subordination of the Son to the Father, and, in consequence, inequality between them. It also indirectly implied that there was a time, when the blessed Trinity did not exist.

The question was vehemently discussed again and again in public debates by bishops and Christians, and gradually the strife spread so far that the Jews and pagans amused themselves by giving theatrical representations of the contest on the stage, the point of their burlesques being the equality of the age of the father and son. The violence of the controversy, at last, reached the point, where imperial force was needed for the decision. Emperor Constantine, being referred to, summoned the council of Nicea in A.D. 327, and settled the dispute of the bishops by formulating the famous Nicean Creed and attaching to it the anathema: ‘The holy Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematises those who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, that before he was begotten, he was not, and that he was made out of nothing or out of another substance or essence and is created or changeable or alterable’.

In this manner, the so-called satisfactory solution of that most bewildering problem of the divine incarnation of Jesus was arrived at, and it was accepted not because of the unanimous opinion of all the members of the council, but simply because the majority of the bishops were in favour of it. After this decision Arius was excommunicated for his heretical ideas, while his followers, who were quite numerous, were cruelly persecuted and their writings destroyed. Since that time, the bishops and clergy have been forced to accept the doctrine of the Trinity as also that of the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth.

Although the question of the incarnation of the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient heavenly Father in human form was thus apparently solved by the Church and theologians, still it has not ceased to rise again and again in the thoughtful minds of different people in different countries, disturbing their peace, and frequently driving them into agnostic and atheistic beliefs. Many a soul has often cried aloud in despair: ‘What Creator and Ruler of the infinite universe should be born in a manger, should suffer from hunger and thirst, should be tempted by the devil, chastised and scourged by ordinary mortals and forced to ignominious death upon the cross!’ Devout Christians do not dare to see this absurdity or to express their opinion for fear of blasphemy and punishment; but truth seeking, rational minds cannot rest content with mere doctrines and dogmas based upon the quicksand of the authority of some book or person.

Incarnation of God in Hinduism

The question presents itself: ‘Is there any other way of understanding what is meant by an incarnation of God?’ Outside of the Christian religion, there is one other religion or religious philosophy- that of Vedanta- which explains, through reason and logic, the problem of divine incarnation in human form upon this earth. India is the only country, where the origin of this idea can be traced back and where the belief has prevailed from pre-historic times. Long before Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the incarnation of Divinity, the Hindus had a clear conception of this idea. Volumes upon volumes have been written in Sanskrit describing why and how the Supreme Being manifests Itself in human form at different times among different nations.

One of the principal points, in which the Hindus differ from the Christians, is in maintaining that if God incarnates or expresses His divinity in human form, His incarnation cannot be limited by time, place, or nationality. The Hindus believe that there were many incarnations before and have been many since the advent of Christ, and that all these incarnations of God are equal in greatness, majesty, wisdom and divine powers, especially in the power of saving mankind by setting forth the highest ideal of life and by leading men from the path of unrighteousness to the ultimate goal of all religions. Who could have understood and realised the highest aim and purpose of human existence, who could have solved the most bewildering questions and problems concerning the true nature and destiny of human souls, if God Himself had not revealed these things to mankind from time immemorial? Could ordinary human beings with their short-sighted intellect and imperfect understanding, living constantly on the animal plane of the senses, deluded by the phantoms of phenomenal appearances and always mistaking the unreal for the real, have ever discovered the ultimate purpose of life and the true nature and destiny of human souls? Think of the innumerable opinions of atheists and agnostics, materialists and thinkers of different capacities, which have bewildered the intellect and understanding of the vast majority of people!

All true knowledge is but the expression of divine wisdom. All the powers that make one great, spiritual, righteous and wise, are only the divine powers manifesting through human forms. Therefore, it is said in Vedanta: ‘All that is glorious, grand, extremely righteous or spiritual, is the outcome of the powers that proceed from the infinite source of all forces and of all energy in nature. Wherever there is anything that is extraordinary or unusually uplifting to the soul, there is a special expression of the divine power’.

According to the religion of Vedanta, the incarnation of God means the embodiment of divine qualities and divine powers. It takes place whenever and wherever such a manifestation is necessary. The blessed Lord Krishna, one of the great incarnations of Divinity, who appeared long before the birth of Christ, in speaking of divine incarnations, said:

‘Wherever true religion declines and irreligion prevails and whenever the vast majority of mankind, forgetting the highest ideal of life, travel on the path of unrighteousness which leads to the bottomless abyss of ignorance, and sorrow, the Supreme Being manifests His divine powers to establish righteousness and true spirituality, by assuming a human form and living in our midst, but at the same time showing to all that He is the real master of nature and absolutely free from all the bondages of the world and its laws’.

Such embodiments may take place at any time in any country. The Hindus believe that there have been many such incarnations of divinity in the past and that there will be many in the future. Krishna, Buddha, Jesus the Christ, Chaitanya and Ramakrishna, each one of these has been considered to be the embodiment of divine qualities and powers. The lives and deeds of all of them were superhuman, and consequently divine. They were full of the manifestations of such powers, as ordinary mortals do not possess.

A divine incarnation is one who shows from childhood that he is a born master of mind, body and senses, and the real lord of nature, yet who never forgets even for a moment that he has come to the world to help mankind. He is always conscious of his divine power, and he manifests divine glory through every action of his daily life. He never loses consciousness of his oneness with the eternal Truth, or the Father of the universe, the infinite source of wisdom and intelligence. He lives in the world like an embodied soul, possessing perfect peace, tranquillity, happiness and blissfulness, without depending upon the conditions and environments, which apparently bind the souls of ordinary mortals.

The difference between an ordinary human being and an incarnation of God lies in the fact that the individual soul of a common man takes birth subject to the law of Karma, or the laws of causation and of action and reaction, in order to reap the results of the works of his previous births and to fulfil the desires that are latent in him; while a divine incarnation is the embodiment of his own free will, which alone governs him. Being absolutely free, he is not forced, by the law of karma or any other law, to take a human body, nor does he wish to fulfil any of those desires that proceed from the selfish nature of ordinary mortals. His soul is not subject to the law of evolution like that of any other being. He is absolutely perfect from the very moment that he assumes human form through the inscrutable power of his own omnipotent, supreme will or Maya. Although such an incarnation of God is beyond birth and death, he still apparently submits for the time being to the conditions of the human plane, and obeys the laws that govern that plane; yet, at the same time, he makes people realize that he is the master of nature, not its slave, and that, in reality he does not obey its laws, but that the laws of nature obey his omnipotent will.

Ordinary people, whose spiritual eyes are not open, may not see the difference that exists between his actions and those of a common mortal and may treat him like an ordinary man; but those, who are highly advanced in spirituality, who understand the true nature of the individual soul and of God and of their mutual relation, see the difference at once, recognize his divinity and worship him as the ideal embodiment of divine powers and divine qualities.

It is for this reason that the blessed Lord Krishna, the Hindu Christ, says in the Bhagavad Gita:

‘People who are deluded by My mysterious power of maya, do not know Me as unborn and unchanging; I am not manifest to them. They unintelligently regard Me in the light of an ordinary being with a material form which is the result of past actions, and know not that I assume at will glorious and holy forms for the protection of the world’.

The religion of Vedanta teaches that such incarnations of Divinity are not limited by distinctions of sex; they may appear in masculine or in feminine form, according to the needs of time and place. To the sexless Supreme Being who is both the Father and Mother of the universe, the masculine and the feminine form are of equal value and importance. It is for this reason that among the Hindus in India are to be found many incarnations of Divinity in the form of woman.

The recent divine incarnation was one who appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century. He lived near Calcutta and his name was Ramakrishna. He is today worshipped by thousands of educated Hindus just in the same way as Jesus the Christ is adored and worshipped in Christendom. From his childhood he showed his power and set an example of absolute purity and divine spirituality, like an embodiment of those blessed qualities, which adorned the characters of previous incarnations, such as Krishna, Buddha, or Jesus the Christ. Those who had the good fortune to see and be with him even for a short time had their eyes open to the truth that he was absolutely super-human. Although he had received no school education, his wisdom was vast. He was the storehouse, as it were, of unlimited knowledge, and he showed at every moment of his life that he was the absolute master of his mind, body and senses, that he was entirely free from all the conditions that make an ordinary mortal a slave to passions and desires. He was like the personification of the Sermon on the Mount. No one could ever find the slightest flaw in his noble and divine character.

At one time, he was asked: ‘What is the difference between a holy sage and an incarnation of God who is called the Saviour of mankind?’ He answered: ‘A holy sage is one who has realized God through great pain, long prayers, and severe penances and after much trouble has saved himself from the attractions of the world, but he has not the power to save others; while a Saviour is one who can easily save hundreds without losing his own spirituality. A holy sage may be compared to a reed floating in the ocean of life, which cannot bear the weight of even a crow, but, when a Saviour descends, He easily carries thousands across the ocean like a large, powerful steamer (boat) which moves swiftly over the waters towing rafts and barges in its wake. The Saviour, like the most powerful locomotive, not only reaches the destination himself, but also at the same time draws with him loads of passengers eager to go to the abode of eternal Truth’.

Such is the power and strength of an incarnation of God. An ordinary person may strive and after a long struggle may attain to the realization of truth, which is salvation, but with a Saviour, this is not the way; he comes to help and save others. Whosoever worships and is devoted to any of these Saviours will, through that power of devotion alone, reaches the ultimate goal of all religions. As Jesus the Christ said: ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. So the other incarnations of Divinity like Ramakrishna, Buddha and Krishna spoke to their followers, saying in the words of Krishna:

‘Giving up all the formalities of religion, come unto Me, and I will give thee rest and make thee free from sins; grieve not, I will also give thee eternal peace and everlasting happiness’.
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Was Christ a Yogi?
By Swami Abhedananda
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta

In considering whether or not Christ was a Yogi, we should first understand how spiritual and how divine one must be before he can be called a Yogi. A true Yogi must be pure, chaste, spotless, self-sacrificing and the absolute master of himself. Humility, unostentatiousness, forgiveness, uprightness, and firmness of purpose must adorn his character. A true Yogi’s mind should not be attached to sense-objects or sense-pleasures. He should be free from egotism, pride, vanity and earthly ambition. Seeing the ephemeral nature of the phenomenal world and reflecting upon the misery, suffering, sorrow and disease with which our earthly existence is beset, he should renounce his attachment to external things, which produce but fleeting sensations of pleasure. He should overcome all that clinging to worldly life, which is so strong in ordinary mortals.

A true Yogi does not feel happy when he is in the company of worldly-minded people who live on the sense plane like animals. He is not bound by family ties. He does not claim that this is his wife and these are his children; but, on the contrary, having realized that each individual soul, being a child of the Immortal Bliss, belongs to the divine family, he severs all family relations and worldly connections and thus, becomes absolutely free. A true Yogi must always preserve his equanimity in the face of the unpleasant as well of the pleasant experiences of life; and, rising above good and evil, he should remain undisturbed by success or failure, victory or defeat, that may come to him as a result of the actions of his body and mind.

A true Yogi, must have unswerving devotion to the Supreme Spirit, the almighty and omniscient Soul of our souls; and realizing that his body and mind are the playground of the omnipotent cosmic will, he should resign his individual will to the universal and should be ever ready to work for others, to live for others and to die for others. All his works, so long as he is in the society of people, should be a free offering to the world for the good of humanity; but, at other times, he should resort to secluded places and live alone, constantly applying his mind to the highest spiritual wisdom that can be obtained in the state of super-consciousness, through meditation on the oneness of the individual soul with God, the universal Spirit.

A true Yogi must see the same Divinity, dwelling in all living creatures. He should also love all human beings equally. He should have neither friend nor foe, in the ordinary sense of those terms. A true Yogi is illumined by the light of Divine wisdom; therefore, nothing remains unknown to him. Time and space cannot limit the knowledge and wisdom of a true Yogi. Past and future events will appear to him like things happening before his eyes. For him, the light of Divine wisdom has dispelled the darkness of ignorance, which prevents one from realizing the true nature of the soul, and which makes one selfish, wicked, and sinful. All psychic and spiritual powers serve him as their real master. Whatever he says is sure to come to pass. He never utters a word in vain. If he says to a distressed or suffering person, ‘Be thou whole’, instantly that person will become whole.

The powers of a true Yogi are unlimited, there is nothing in the world that he cannot do. Indeed, he alone has free access to the storehouse of infinite powers, but he never draws from there any force merely to satisfy idle curiosity, or to gratify selfish motives, or to gain wealth and fame, or to get any return whatsoever. He does not seek worldly prosperity, and always remains unconcerned about the result of his works. Praise or censure does not disturb the peace of his mind. Angels or bright spirits and the spirits of ancestors rejoice in his company and adore him. A true Yogi is worshipped by all. Having neither home nor possessions of his own, he wanders from place to place, realizing that the canopy of heaven is the roof of his world-wide home. He is easily pleased by everybody, irrespective of his caste, creed, or nationality, and, with a loving heart, he blesses those who rebuke or curse him. If his body were to be tortured or cut into pieces, he takes no revenge, but on the contrary, prays for the welfare of his persecutor. Such is the character of a true Yogi.

From ancient times, there have been many such true Yogis in India and other countries. The description of their lives and deeds are, furthermore, as wonderful and authentic as the life and acts of that illustrious Son of God, who preached in Galilee, two thousand years ago. The powers and works of this meek, gentle and self-sacrificing divine man, who is worshipped throughout Christendom as the ideal Incarnation of God and the Saviour of mankind, have proved that he was a perfect type of one who is called in India a true Yogi. Jesus the Christ has been recognized by his disciples and followers not only as an exceptionally unique character, but as the only begotten Son of God. And it is quite natural for those who know nothing about the lives and deeds of similar ideal characters of great Yogis and Incarnations of God who have flourished, at different times, both before and in the Christian era, to believe that no one ever reached such spiritual heights or attained to such realization of oneness with the Heavenly Father as did Jesus of Nazareth.

The greater portion of the life of Jesus is absolutely unknown to us; and as He did not leave behind Him any systematic teachings regarding the methods by which one may attain to that state of God-consciousness which He Himself reached, there is no way of finding out what He did or practised during the eighteen years that elapsed before His appearance in public. It is, therefore, extremely difficult, to form a clear conception of what path He adopted. But we can imagine that, being born with unusually developed spiritual inclinations, He must have devoted his life and time to such practices as led Him to the realization of absolute Truth and to the attainment of divine consciousness, which ultimately gave Him a place among the greatest spiritual leaders of the world as well as among the disinterested Saviours of mankind.

India is the only country where not only a complete system of practices is to be found, but also a perfect method, by following which well-qualified aspirants can attain to Christhood or to that spiritual unfoldment and divine enlightenment which made Jesus of Nazareth stand before the world as the ideal type of spiritual perfection. By studying the lives, the acts and the most systematic and scientific teachings of the great Yogis of India, and by faithfully following their examples and precepts, an earnest disciple can, through the Yoga practices as to the various branches of the Vedanta philosophy, hope some day to become as perfect as the Son of God. This assurance must be a comfort and a consolation to the soul that is struggling for the attainment of spiritual perfection in this life.

One peculiarity, however, of the teachings of the great Yogis of India is that the acquirement of spiritual perfection is the goal for all, and that each individual soul, sooner or later, is bound to become perfect even as Christ was perfect. They claim that spiritual truths and spiritual laws are as universal as the truths and laws of the material world, and that the realization of these truths cannot be confined to any particular time, place, or personality. Consequently, by studying the science of yoga, anyone can easily understand the higher laws and principles, an application of which will explain the mysteries connected with the lives and deeds of saints, sages, or Incarnations of God, like Krishna, Buddha, or Christ.

A genuine seeker after Truth does not limit his study to one particular example, but looks for similar events in the lives of all the great ones, and does not draw any conclusion until he has discovered the universal law, which governs them all. For instance, Jesus the Christ said: ‘I and my Father are one’. Did He alone say it, or did many others who lived before and after Him and who knew nothing of His sayings, did utter similar expressions? Krishna declared: ‘I am the Lord of the universe’. Buddha said, ‘I am the absolute Truth’. A Mohammedan Sufi says, ‘I am He’; while every true Yogi declares, ‘I am Brahman’ (Supreme Reality). So long as we do not understand the principle that underlies such sayings, they seem mysterious to us and we cannot grasp their real meaning; but, when we have realized the true nature of the individual soul and its relation to the universal Spirit, or God, or Father in Heaven, or the absolute Truth, we have learned the principle, and there is no further mystery about it. We are, then, sure that whosoever reaches this state of spiritual oneness or God-consciousness will express the same thought in a similar manner. Therefore, if we wish to understand the character and miraculous deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, the surest way open to us is the study of the science of Yoga and the practice of its methods.

This science of Yoga, as has already been stated, explains all mysteries, reveals the causes of miracles, and describes the laws that govern them. It helps us to unravel the secrets of nature and to discover the origin of such phenomena, as are called miraculous. All miracles like ‘walking on the sea’, ‘feeding the multitude with a small quantity of food’, ‘raising the dead’ that we read of in the life of Jesus are described by the Yogi as manifestations of the powers that are acquired through long practice of the Yoga. These powers are not supernatural; on the contrary, they are, in nature, governed by natural laws, though higher, and are therefore universal. When these laws are understood, that which is ordinarily called miraculous by ignorant people, appears to be the natural result of finer forces working on a higher plane.

There is no such thing as the absolutely supernatural. If a person’s conception of nature were to be very limited, that which exists beyond that limit will seem to him supernatural, while to another, whose idea of nature is broader, the same thing will appear perfectly natural; therefore, that miracle or that particular act that is classed as a miracle by a Christian, can be explained by a Yogi as the result of higher or finer forces of nature. Why? Because his conception of nature is much wider than that of an ordinary man. We must not forget that nature is infinite, and that there are circles within circles, grades beyond grades, planes after planes, arranged in infinite succession; and the desire of a Yogi is to learn all the laws that govern these various planes, and to study every manifestation of force, whether fine or gross. His mind is not satisfied with the knowledge of one particular plane of existence; his aim is to comprehend the whole of nature.

Those who have read the gospel of Buddha, by Paul Carus, will remember that, five hundred years before the birth of Jesus the Christ, Sariputta, Buddha’s illustrious disciple, walked on the surface of water across a mighty river, named Shravasti. A similar account of crossing a wide river by walking on the water, we find in the life of Padmapada, the disciple of Shankaracharya, the best exponent of the Vedanta philosophy, who lived about A.D.600. Krishna, the Hindu Christ, whose other name is Lord of the Yogis, raised the dead long before the advent of Christ. The transfiguration of Krishna is likewise most beautifully described in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Song Celestial (the Bhagavad Gita), and, like Christ, he also fed a vast multitude of people with a small quantity of food.

There are other instances of similar powers shown by great Yogis who came later; and these accounts are, in every way, as historical and authentic as those of Jesus the Christ. Thus we see that all the miracles performed by Jesus are to be found as well in the lives of Hindu Yogis who lived both before and after Him.

So long as an event is isolated, it appears supernatural and miraculous, but, if we see the same thing happening elsewhere under similar conditions, it assumes the aspect of a natural occurrence, governed by natural law, and then comes a proper solution of the mystery as well as the rational explanation of that which was called a miracle. It is in this that the science of Yoga renders special service to the world, for more than any science it helps to reveal the secrets of nature and to explain the causes of all miraculous deeds. A true Yogi goes to the source of all powers and all forces, studies the laws behind them, and learns the methods of controlling them. He knows that the various forces of nature are but expressions of one universal, living, intelligent energy, which is called in Sanskrit Prana. He sees that all the forces of physical nature, like heat, gravitation, electricity, as also all mental forces, such as mind, intellect, thought, are nothing but the manifestations of that one living self-existent force, the Prana. This intelligent energy projects from its bosom innumerable suns, moons, stars and planets into physical space. It has hurled this earth from the molten furnace of the sun; it has cooled it, bathed it in air and water, and clothed it with vegetable and animal life; it wings the atmosphere with clouds and spans the planes with rivers; it takes a fine minute substance and transforms it into something huge and gross; it moves the body, gives life and motion to every atom and molecule, and, at the same time, manifests itself as thought and intellect.

Why should it be impossible for one who has realized his oneness with this fountain-head of all power, who has learned the method of controlling all phenomena by comprehending the laws which govern them, and who has become the master of the world as was Jesus the Christ, to perform simple phenomena like walking on the sea, turning water into wine, or raising the dead? According to a true Yogi, these acts of Jesus the Christ were only a few expressions of the Yoga powers, which have been exercised over again by the Yogis in India. Thus, we understand that Christ was one of these great Yogis born in a Semitic family.

Jesus was a great Yogi, because He realized the transitory and ephemeral nature of the phenomenal world, and, discriminating the real from the unreal, renounced all desires for worldly pleasures and bodily comforts. Like a great Yogi He lived a life of seclusion, cutting off all connections with earthly friends and relatives, and having neither home nor possessions of His own.

Jesus the Christ was a great Karma Yogi, because He never worked for gains (He worked without expectation of any fruits thereof). He has neither desire for name nor ambition for fame or for earthly prosperity. His works were a free offering to the world. He laboured for others, devoted His whole life to help others, and in the end died for others. Being unattached to the fruits of his actions, he worked incessantly for the good of His fellow men, directing them to the path of righteousness and spiritual realization through unselfish works. He understood the law of action and reaction, which is the fundamental principle of the Karma yoga, and it was for this reason He declared: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’.

Jesus of Nazareth proved Himself to be a great Bhakti (devotion) Yogi, a true lover of God, by His unswerving devotion and His whole-hearted love for the Heavenly Father. His unceasing prayers, incessant supplications, constant meditation, and unflinching self-resignation to the will of the Almighty made Him shine like a glorious morning star in the horizon of love and devotion of a true Bhakti Yogi. Christ showed wonderful self-control and mastery over His mind throughout the trials and the sufferings. His sorrow, agony and self-surrender at the time of His death as well as before His crucifixion, are conclusive proofs that He was a human being with those divine qualities that adorn the soul of a true Bhakti Yogi. It is true that His soul laboured for a while under the heavy burden of His trials and sufferings; it is also true that He felt that His pain was becoming well-nigh unbearable, when He cried aloud three times, praying to the Lord: ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me’. But He found neither peace nor consolation until He could absolutely reign His will to that of the Father and could say from the bottom of His heart, ‘Thy will be done’. The complete self-surrender and absolute self-resignation are the principal virtues of Bhakti Yoga, and as Christ possessed these to perfection up to the last moment of His life, He was a true Bhakti Yogi.

Like the great Raja Yogis in India, Jesus knew the secret of separating His soul from His physical shell, and He showed this at the time of His death, while his body was suffering from extreme pain, by saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. It is quite an unusual event to see one imploring forgiveness for his persecutors, while dying on the cross, but from a Yogi’s point of view it is both possible and natural. Ramakrishna, the greatest Yogi of the nineteenth century, whose life and sayings have been written by Max Muller, was once asked, ‘How could Jesus pray for His persecutors, when He was in agony on the cross?’ Ramakrishna answered by an illustration: ‘When the shell of an ordinary green cocoanut is pierced through, the nail enters the kernel of the nut too. But in the case of the dry cocoanut the kernel becomes separate from the shell, and so when the shell is pierced, the kernel is not touched. Jesus was like the dry nut, i.e., His inner soul was separate from His physical shell, and consequently, the sufferings of the body did not affect Him’. Therefore, He could pray for the forgiveness of His persecutors even when His body was suffering; and all true yogis are able to do the same. There have been many instances of Yogis whose bodies have been cut into pieces, but their souls never for a moment lost that peace and equanimity which enabled Jesus to forgive and bless His persecutors. By this Christ proved that like other Yogis, His soul was completely emancipated from the bondage of the body and of the feelings. Therefore, Christ was a Yogi.

Through the path of devotion and love, Jesus attained to the realization of oneness of the individual soul with the Father or the universal Spirit, which is the ideal of a Jnana Yogi as well as the ultimate goal of all religions. A Jnana Yogi says: ‘I am He’; ‘I am Brahman’; ‘I am the absolute Truth’; ‘I am one with the Supreme Deity’. By good works, devotion, love, concentration, contemplation, long fasting and prayer, Jesus the Christ realized that His soul was one with God; therefore, He may be said to have attained the ideal of Jnana Yoga.

Like Krishna, Buddha and all other great Yogis of India, Jesus healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, made the lame walk, and read the secret thoughts of His disciples. He knew exactly what Judas and Peter were going to do, but there was nothing supernatural in any of His actions. There was nothing that cannot be done over and over again by a true Yogi, and there was nothing in His life that cannot be explained rationally by the science of Yoga and the philosophy of Vedanta. Without the help of this science and this philosophy, Jesus the Christ cannot be fully understood and appreciated. By studying His character, on the other hand, in the light of the Vedanta philosophy, we shall be able not only to understand Him better, but to have a larger appreciation of His true glory.

Material science may sometimes scoff at His miracles, but they are corroborated by the science of Yoga, and confirmed by the deeds of the great Yogis of India. No devout Christian need for a moment fear that physical science can ever undermine the work of Jesus, as long as the science of Yoga is there to sustain all that He did. Let him study the character of Jesus through the philosophy of Vedanta, and I am sure that he will understand Him better and be a true Christian, a more genuine disciple of the Son of God than ever before. Let him follow the teachings of Yoga and he will some day become perfect like Christ.

It is through the teachings of Vedanta that the Hindus have learned how to glorify the character of Jesus; so also it is through Vedanta that a Christian will learn to adore the great Yogis like Krishna, Buddha, Ramakrishna and others. It is through Vedanta that a Christian will be able to see how Divinity dwells in all animate and inanimate objects and thus, comprehending the true relation of individual soul to the supreme Spirit, will be able to say with the great Yogi Jesus the Christ: ‘I and my Father are one’, and reach salvation in this life.
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