How is one to understand the life and teachings of the great master Jesus, whose title "the Christ" meant the "anointed of God"? Tradition offers us two approaches: one, the authority of the Church; the other, that of historical analysis, which Christian scholars lately have been applying to certain recently discovered texts.
There is another approach, less widely known but more reliable than any other: It is to study the writings and sayings of, or better still to live with and study under, saints who have communed directly, in deep states of ecstasy, with Christ and God. Such persons are true spiritual masters. They have lived in every country, and have belonged to every religion and every social level. They have taught the Truth from their own deep realization. When they've been free to speak out, their impact has been widespread and profound. Often, unfortunately, freedom of speech has been denied them; they've had to submit to the control of religious superiors, who considered their own authority a supreme right bestowed on them by God.
All true saintsthose, in other words, who have reached the highest spiritual attainmentshave endorsed the teachings of Jesus Christ either directly or indirectly, by stating the same truth similarly. Christian saints want to support their Church, and usually consider it their duty to sow seeds of harmony, not of dissension. There have, on the other hand, been times in history when a saint was divinely commissioned to correct one or more serious errors.
The difficulty saints have endured under church authority has been dueunderstandably, but at the same time unfortunatelyto officials who were administrators but were rarely, if ever, saints themselves. Such authorities have insisted that their approval was needed before anyoneparticularly anyone of real meritcould preach spiritual truth. The very fact of any Christians being also saints has been perceived, at least during their lifetimes, as a threat to institutional authority. For what the authorities want first of all is to ascertain whether some "saintly upstart" is preaching truth or heresy.
Saint Francis of Assisi, whose sanctity was certainly due to his deep love for God and his deep, inner communion with Him, has been acclaimed by the Catholic Church as a true son of the Church, which takes credit for his holiness and attributes it to the saint's humble obedience to Church authority.
Any saint in Christian history who ever spoke, or even hinted at, truths that weren't sanctioned by the Church was punished and, in many cases, excommunicated. An example of one who was excommunicated was Meister Eckhart in Germany, who (fortunately for him) died before notice of this punishment could reach him.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino, to whom even crowned heads in Europe came for inspiration and blessings, was orthodox in everything he said and did. He repeatedly, however, performed the miracle of levitation, an act which embarrassed his less-saintly superiors. After fifteen years of virtual incarceration in an apartment of the Basilica in Assisi, he was carted offnot once, but repeatedly whenever his whereabouts became known publiclyin the dead of night to a succession of small, distant monasteries.
A Claretian monk of my acquaintance in Los Angeles, California, developed a reputation for bilocation (appearing in more than one place at a time). He was quietly transferred to a distant house of the same Order in Spain. Catholics themselves describe this quiet removal as "sending one to prison."
Therese Neumann, the great Catholic stigmatist in Bavaria, Germany, was prohibited for a time by her bishop from even seeing people.
And Padre Pio, in southern Italy, was also for a time forbidden from performing mass in his capacity of priest. Regarding this saint, an Italian friend of mine in Rome once visited him, and, during his confession, stated that he practiced Kriya Yoga (a meditation technique brought to the West by my great Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda).
"Oh, hush!" the saint warned hastily. "You mustn't speak of these things." Then he added, "But you are doing the right thing."
There are two major disadvantages to having a church as the supreme authority. The first is that the churches are committednecessarily soto giving priority to their own supremacy as Christ's representatives. Therefore they cannot be objective concerning any concept they perceive as a threat to that supremacy.
The second disadvantage follows from the first: Church authority, if too firmly exercised, reduces religious teachings to a faint echo of the divine truths it proclaims. Water cannot flow higher than its source. When religious institutions appoint themselves as the only source of truththough in fact, such truths as they utter can only flow through them they block that flow. Of course, they never state that they are that source; all of them claim to be representing Christ's Truth. Nevertheless, the teachings they promulgate wane in power from a mighty waterfall to a gurgling rill.
My purpose in writing this book is to present the teachings of Jesus Christ as they were proclaimed by one of the great saints and spiritual masters of our own times, Paramhansa Yogananda, who was sent by God to the West with the commission of restoring the teachings of Jesus Christ to their full and original glory.
There is another, urgent reason why this book is being written. Christendom has come under attack not only from theological dilutions which it has long endured and has at least succeeded in surviving; and not only from those familiar enemies of religion, the materialistic sciences: but also from a new and seemingly formidable (though in fact spiritually toothless) source. For, since the discovery in hidden places of ancient documents, some of which seem to cast doubt on traditional perceptions that have come down from early times, scholars have been attacking the very foundations of Christianity. Works of fiction have, more recently, attacked with false invention some of the basic deeds and utterances of Jesus Christ, which they have twisted out of all recognition.
Only a declaration of certain deep truths in Christ's original divine teachings, proclaimed once again by a truly enlightened spiritual master, can bring the authority that is needed in the world today to counter these bee swarms attacking from all sides. Since the saints in Christendom have been debarred from freely speaking their own perceptions of the Truth, it is urgently important for an enlightened spiritual master to come from outside Christendom, and to proclaim once again clearly, forcefully, and unfettered by outside control, speaking from the highest level of perception, the revelations of Christ.
Within the Catholic Church, loyalty to its authority has always been rewarded. On the other hand, disobedience, disagreement, and disloyalty have been punished as severely as the times permitted. Praise, preferment, and even promotion, both in religion and in the world, were frequently the rewards of loyalty. Therefore people felt an incentive to demonstrate, with ever-increasing fervor, the firmness of their loyalty. Jesus Christ gradually became promoted in people's understanding from the status of a great spiritual master to someone higher than anything even imaginable: the Absolute Master, the "only Son of God."
Few dared to contest this claim. Protests even by sincere Christians were eliminated by the all-powerful Church, and were finally dropped by the writers of Church history. Indeed, it was a foregone conclusion from the start that dogmatism would eventually win out.
Lest anyone think, from what I have written so far, that my own view of Jesus Christ is detached and disinterested, let me affirm unequivocally, here at the outset, that I believe in his divinity with all my heart. I do resist, however, the concept that he was the only Son of God, and therefore God's unique offspring. I will clarify what I mean by presenting the teachings on this point of Paramhansa Yogananda, whose humble disciple I have the honor to be.
Many subjects will be covered in this book as we proceed, for the teachings I'm giving are Paramhansa Yogananda's, and they addressprofoundly and far-reachinglymany of the facets of Christ's teaching.
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