Paramhansa Yogananda was sent to the West by Jesus Christ himself to restore the original Christian teachings among his followers. This book clarifies the core of Jesus’ basic message: that one’s true identity is not that of a sinner, but a child of God indwelt by His divine presence.
Recently, The Da Vinci Code took the fictionalization of Christianity to dizzying new heights, precipitating a spiritual crisis for millions of believers worldwide. But The Da Vinci Code is only the latest in what has become a near-constant questioning of long-cherished religious beliefs. For years our faith has been severely shaken by a growing series of attacks, including: the breakdown of church authority, the repeated discovery of ancient texts that supposedly contradict long-held beliefs, and the sometimes outlandish historical analyses of scripture by academics.
Together, these forces have helped create a spiritual vacuum filled with substantial confusion and uncertainty about the true teachings and meanings of Christ’s life. The rising tide of alternative beliefs proves that now, more than ever, people are yearning for a clear-minded, convincing, yet uplifting understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
This galvanizing book, presenting the teachings of Christ from the experience and perspective of Paramhansa Yogananda, one of the greatest spiritual masters of the twentieth century, finally offers the fresh perspective on Christ’s teachings for which the world has been waiting. This book gives us an opportunity to understand and apply the scriptures in the most reliable way: by studying under those saints who have communed directly, in deep ecstasy, with Christ and God.
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Part One: The Basics
1. Major Disadvantages
2. A Name for Truth
3. True, vs. False, Religions: Part One
4. True, vs. False, Religions: Part Two
5. The Purpose of Religion
6. A Question of Degrees
7. Religion and the Heart
8. Whence the Correction?
9. What Is God?
10. Who Are We?
11. Salvation from What?
12. Still, Wasn’t Jesus Also Unique?
13. Son of Man vs. Son of God
14. Does Satan Exist?
15. A New Revelation
Part Two: Gemstones in Christ’s Teachings
16. How It All Began
17. The Spinal Highway
18. The Serpent Power
19. The Need for a Personal Savior
20. New Wine
21. God Alone Saves
22. The Ages of History
23. The Missing Years
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 saints—those, in other words, who have reached the highest spiritual attainments—have 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 due—understandably, but at the same time unfortunately—to officials who were administrators but were rarely, if ever, saints themselves. Such authorities have insisted that their approval was needed before anyone—particularly anyone of real merit—could 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 off—not once, but repeatedly whenever his whereabouts became known publicly—in 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 committed—necessarily so—to 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 truth—though 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 address—profoundly and far-reachingly—many of the facets of Christ’s teaching.
Chapter 1: Major Disavantages
There is a major disadvantage to keeping spiritual authority confined in a hierarchy of prelates. The disadvantage is that institutional hierarchies are composed of human beings, most of whom have at least a few of the flaws common to mankind, among which must be counted pride, jealousy, personal prejudice, intolerance, vindictiveness, pettiness, and a tendency to be judgmental and unforgiving. Any one of these flaws is enough to obscure a person’s perception of higher truths. Claims may be (and of course have been) made that Jesus Christ is guiding his Church to preserve it from serious error. The Roman Catholic Church carries this claim to the extent of insisting that, when the Pope (as the Church’s top primate) speaks “ex cathedra,” he is infallible. Other churches, though lacking historical precedence, insist to varying degrees on their own authority in matters of Christian Truth.
The greatest problem all the churches face is the simple fact that the majority of their leaders are only human beings, trapped in ego-centeredness (rather than souls that are free in God). They are therefore, and cannot but be, fallible. (Arrogance, I should add in clarification, is only one of the manifestations of ego-consciousness, which is a fundamental human reality.) What, then, is the ego? It is like a sliver of glass shining in the sunlight. It can reflect the “sun” of God, whose consciousness is the sole reality in existence, but the ego has no light of its own. Individuality is a universal illusion. It exists wherever creatures have developed sufficient clarity of awareness to reflect in themselves the light and consciousness of the infinite Self.
All living beings grow outward from a tiny center: from a seed, or from a first cell created by the union of sperm and ovum. Creatures grow outward from their own, individual centers. Consciousness of separate individuality is developed most highly in human beings. Attachment to ego is the root cause of every human delusion. People’s notions of perfection cannot but be limited, therefore.
High position in a church does not infuse unenlightened ego-centered human beings “out of the blue” with divine or mystical insights. God can of course do anything, but the evidence of history shows that enlightenment comes only to individuals as a result of personal merit. The individual must first seek God personally, and be pure in heart. Enlightenment never comes to people in batches like college diplomas to a “graduating class.” Neither — it must be stated also — can belief in “papal infallibility” be viewed impartially as anything but wishful piety. (This dogma is a relatively new development in the Catholic Church, having been declared only in 1869 as, one suspects, an act of desperation to ward off theological challenges from the Protestants.)
All too often, what happens is that high position goes to a “superior’s” head. An inflated sense of his own importance draws a thick veil of self-involvement over any ability he might have had to perceive reality, whether mundane or spiritual, clearly. Hence the saying, “Pride goes before a fall.”
How shall perfection be defined? In human beings, the root cause of imperfection is ego-centeredness; it conditions one’s every perception. In smug self-esteem, and in people’s eagerness to be admired by others, they project personal ambition outward, and often assume that institutional promotion raises one automatically to exalted personal importance. Promotion, however, doesn’t really change anyone inwardly. What happens all too often is that authority begets arrogance. In church hierarchies, arrogance is followed by ego-boosting attitudes like self-righteousness, insensitivity, irrational outbursts of rage, and indignation (self-defined as “righteous”) at the misbehavior and shortcomings of others.
Jesus Christ said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Translators have not been able to imagine for human beings a state of absolute perfection. Often, therefore, they dilute the meaning of that counsel to fit a concept they consider more universally acceptable, because comprehensible. Translations have appeared with theological dilutions such as, “Be ye therefore good, even as God is good.”
The very idea that human nature can be improved suggests that Christ was teaching us to aspire to greater heights in ourselves, and to ever deeper awareness of God’s presence within us. Not all Christians are equally good, obviously. Some are better than others; some are worse; and some manage to be quite a lot worse. All this must be “perfectly” obvious to everyone.
A further step in this logical progression, however, is not so obvious, and is too seldom considered: namely, that goodness depends on inner standards, and above all on humility and purity of heart. These qualities are determined much less by outward behavior than by inner attitudes. They bear very little relationship, certainly, to a person’s rank or position. “God watches the heart” is a saying that should be kept always in mind. Divine qualities are certainly not determined by the position one holds in a church. Promotion may come in recognition of personal virtues, but it is not in itself any assurance of such virtue, since superiors, being human, can err, and even if they show wisdom in one choice, that choice will never in any case bestow wisdom.
Indeed, promotion may also have unfortunate consequences. If the choice, in a church hierarchy, lies between a competent administrator and someone who, although saintly, lacks administrative competence, the selection will certainly go to him who is competent. Thus, clerical hierarchies become almost inevitably top-heavy, in time, with efficient but not particularly saintly administrators.
Administrative types are attracted to others of the same mentality: efficient, executive, interested more in how to get things done than in why they need to be done in the first place. “Birds of a feather flock together.” In religion, the administrative mentality tends toward efficiency, and may even frown on what it considers excessive concern with the lofty spiritual outlook. Administrative types always, therefore, favor others for promotion whom they themselves resemble: people also whom they personally like. If, moreover, a saintly candidate has all the skills required of a good administrator, and someone else is available whose nature is more closely akin to those making the appointment, then it won’t matter if this alternate choice lacks saintliness. Indeed, it may help especially for him not to be saintly. (Who, after all, wants his own shortcoming to be exposed?) The “bird of the same feather” will almost certainly get the job.
If what I have stated is true — and everyone knows it is true — then it follows that decisions regarding spiritual matters should never be left primarily in the hands of high-ranking prelates. Still less, for that matter — though for a different reason — should they be left in the hands of merely intellectual theologians. Moreover (to conclude my catalogue of spiritual ineptitude), since intellectual learning is often a breeding ground for arrogance, such decisions should never be made by anyone for whom scholarship is his primary credential. The skill of the intellect at distorting reality is notorious. (That is why we have the saying, “Even the Devil quotes scripture.”) Indeed, the sharper the intellect, often, the more skillful a person is at distorting truth. As my Guru’s guru Swami Sri Yukteswar put it, “Keen intelligence is two-edged. It may be used constructively or destructively like a knife, either to cut the boil of ignorance, or to decapitate one’s self. Intelligence is rightly guided only after the mind has acknowledged the inescapability of spiritual law.”
Those persons alone are blessed with true spiritual insight who have lived their lives conscientiously by Truth, and who have done their best (as Christ said) to attain perfection in themselves.
According to the highest tradition in Christianity — and the tradition exists as well, for that matter, in all true religions — there do exist people who have actually attained the truths proclaimed in the Bible. Most of the same truths are, indeed, proclaimed in every great scripture. The people to whom I refer have communed inwardly with God; they have themselves become godly. Deep, inner experience of the Divine has raised them to the realization of God as the only Truth there is.
For the administrative type, which church hierarchies almost always attract, that divine reality is a distant consideration. Of more immediate and even overwhelming concern to them is how to meet their day-to-day exigencies. Thoughts of Eternity are, so to speak, “put on a back burner.” Sacred truths are left to take care of themselves!
In their own sphere of influence, church administrators function well enough. Few of them, however, are able at the same time to keep their hearts’ feelings focused on Eternal Truth.
The true custodians of religion, in other words, are the saints, who alone can speak with full spiritual authority. Whatever his outer position, a saint’s inner consciousness dwells on an exalted plane, which alone qualifies him to make important pronouncements on any deeply spiritual matter. Out of the vast variety in human nature, the saints are a class by themselves: They alone are the knowers of God.
In this sense it must be added, as a balance to my first criticism, that the Roman Catholic Church, alone among the vast variety of Christian churches, is in a position even today to transmit the true spirit of Jesus Christ. I say this not because the Roman Catholic is the oldest church, nor because the Pope is (as Catholics claim) the successor to St. Peter,* nor because of that purely man-made dogma, “papal infallibility,” but because the Catholic Church continues to uphold this highest spiritual tradition: man’s ability to achieve direct, inner God-communion, and thereby to be supremely blessed and “anointed” by the Lord.
The Protestant churches on the whole deny this possibility. Even those churches which affirm it reduce its meaning to the lowest common denominator: They claim that everyone who professes belief in Jesus Christ is a saint already!
The Christian churches all insist that human perfectibility cannot in any case equal the absolute perfection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, they proclaim man’s inherent sinfulness before God. Our destiny as souls, they say, is, after death, to suffer eternally in hellfire owing to the original sin committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve. Our only chance for redemption is, according to them, to accept Jesus Christ as our “only personal Savior.”
What have the saints had to say on this subject? Do they speak of man’s natural sinfulness? Do they agree that man cannot possibly do anything to save himself? The saints, it must be pointed out to begin with, have decried the spiritually dampening effect of the concept that no man can hope for perfection. St. Teresa of Avila told her nuns that their duty was to strive to become saints. All the saints have said that divine grace is for everyone. Paraphrasing them, we may say that grace is like the sunlight on a building: It can enter only into those rooms which have their curtains drawn wide.
Are the saints themselves, then, perfect? This matter will be probed in some depth later on. The groundwork must first be laid, however, for an understanding of the true meaning of spiritual perfection. Let me, for now, emphasize this simple fact: A true saint is as far above the goodness that defines the ordinarily good Christian as is a skyscraper above the humble hut of a peasant. If one is charitable to all, does good works, and shuns vainglory, he deserves admiration as a human being. So long as he remains centered in his consciousness of egoic separateness, however, he should not be considered, in the highest sense of the word, a saint. For in his own eyes it is he himself who expresses charity, goodness, and all his other virtues. A true saint, by contrast, allows virtue to flow through him. He never sees himself as its source. Indeed, most if not all the virtues may be, and have been many times, expressed fully also in the lives of self-declared atheists. Christ’s message is much stricter. He told us to transcend ego-consciousness, that we see ourselves, simply, as instruments of God.
In striking corroboration of this statement, I remember one time when Yogananda was praised by someone for his humility. He answered with what might be called a “conversation stopper”: “How can there be humility,” he asked, “when there is no consciousness of ego?”
The criterion of what it means to be a good Christian has been diluted by what Yogananda called “Churchianity.” Nowadays, the usual criterion of a good Christian is someone who merely believes in Jesus Christ, and accepts him as his own “personal” Savior. A person may go regularly to church, be a good neighbor to others, help the needy, and be kind to all, but who tells him that he must also be conscious of his inner need to know God? Spiritual half-heartedness is what Jesus Christ meant when he said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) In the preceding verse he said also, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Is belief in anything really enough? People once believed that the world is flat: Did mere belief make it so? Science has demonstrated convincingly that belief is no guarantee of the truth of anything. Because belief has been made the criterion of a good Christian, Christianity has been slowly sinking in popular esteem to the level of a third-rate power.
Belief is only the beginning of the search for knowledge. Belief is the hypothesis. It is needed to provide the incentive for verifying one’s hopes and expectations. After hypothesis comes the process of testing. Proof, however, will come only after a hypothesis (in this case, a belief) has been fairly tested.
What actual proofs does religion offer? The promise the churches offer is the mere hope of a happy, carefree life in heaven after death. Is that a proof? It is only a pious expectation, which invites rather the question: How many have returned from heaven to report their actual arrival there?
Yogananda enjoyed telling a story he’d read in a book about Billy Sunday, the American evangelist. Billy, after death, presented himself at the “Pearly Gates.” Knocking loudly, he demanded to be admitted.
Saint Peter appeared, heard Billy’s request, and leafed through the Book of Life. “I’m sorry,” he announced, “but your name isn’t listed here.”
“But that’s impossible!” expostulated Billy Sunday indignantly. “What about all those people I sent up here?”
St. Peter studied the book once more, then replied, “You may have sent them, but none have arrived.”
Religious truths can indeed be tested and proved. The proof consists in the yardstick of experience. If this statement seems simplistic, please reflect a moment: What does it mean, to test a spiritual truth? It means to exclude rigidly from one’s life every vestige of ego-motivation. It means, in time, to realize that God alone IS, and that He alone DOES everything. Anyone who makes this attempt seriously will soon discover in his seeking that the challenge he faces demands of him, in fact, a spirit of heroism!
Objective proof of the truth of Christ’s teachings lies in the impersonal love manifested by those of every religion who have transcended ego-awareness and have, consequently, learned to love all beings equally. Such persons seek nothing in return, and consider it no sacrifice to retain nothing for themselves. The definition of impersonal love is a love that is purely self-giving, that wants nothing for one’s self, and that doesn’t hold onto anything with attachment.
The alternative way of seeking proof, and the proof that is usually proposed, is through the syllogisms of logic: the analytical, scholarly method. Truth, however, is not up for election. The modern mind, educated as people are to trust the proofs of material science, inclines to view rational scholarship as more objective, and therefore more valid, than dogmatism. A great fuss, indeed, has been made in recent decades over lately discovered manuscripts that date back to early Christian times. Scholars claim that those documents provide fresh insight into the teachings of Jesus Christ and the origins of Christianity. They have actually announced, on the basis of some of those documents, that Jesus did not die on the cross, but survived his crucifixion and went on to marry Mary Magdalene, the two of them producing a “bloodline” which continues to this day.
Jesus Christ himself, it must be noted, is quoted in the Bible as declaring, “There be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matt. 19:12) By these words, as well as by the well-known example of his life, Jesus made it clear that he was himself celibate. (Yogananda emphasized that Jesus did not mean, in this passage, that one should castrate himself “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”
(“It would deprive you,” he told his monk disciples, “of the energy you need to find God.”)
Once the authority of the Gospels is challenged on such fundamental points as these, Christianity itself might as well be thrown onto the rubbish heap — or else the Holy Bible preserved in a museum display case of encrusted antiquities, gathering dust. In this case, the religion of our forefathers could not but cease to offer perfection as an ideal to which all can aspire despite what Jesus said, and would deserve rather to be tossed aside as bereft of any divine message. For Christ’s message must then be considered as containing nothing but pious platitudes.
Human nature tends to seek the “easy way out.” Faced with Jesus Christ’s doctrine to “Love thy neighbor,” one might find comfort in believing that he is still perfectly free to hate his neighbor’s neighbor with frigid fury. Again, faced with the two clear-cut alternatives: heaven or hell after death, he might think, “Well, how could God, being good, condemn me to eternal hell for being — if not perfect, at least moderately good?” Gradually, by pursuing this line of reasoning, he might well end up asking himself (as, in fact, many do), “Just how bad can I be and get away with it?”
It has become usual for Christians, in their awareness of claims made by certain “new Christian” scholars that Jesus Christ was “only human,” to conclude that it is still possible to be a good Christian and have no spiritual aspirations at all. Alternatively — and this has been claimed also — it would be quite all right simply to dispense with Christianity and “all that religious stuff” altogether, and simply be a normal, decent, well intentioned human being. And what if self-interest remains a life priority? Well, can’t that be said of almost everyone anyway? (And can so many people be wrong? Such may be the usual “take” on that point. It is opposed, however, by the voice of experience, which has repeatedly shown the following to be true: “The majority is always wrong; the minority has at least a possibility of being right.”)
I once asked my Guru about someone who was good, kind, honest, and truthful, but who had no interest in seeking God. His reply was surprising: “The road to Hades is paved with good intentions.”
The danger of intellectual scholars to religion is not merely theoretical. Surveys of present-day Christians show that a high percentage of them feel shaken in their faith by scholarly claims that challenge the very authenticity of the Gospels. Not a few such claims have been aired, without proper authentication, in works of pure fiction. Others have been made by scholars who, though serious, demonstrate a lamentable absence of spiritual insight. In both cases, the claims to authenticity are based on the supposed antiquity of their sources, supported by a skillful misuse of reasoning.
Man’s highest faculty is not his intellect. All human beings possess the power, at least latently, of extrasensory perception. A person might know, quite unaccountably (when foreknowledge seems impossible), that something is going to take place, and it happens. Or he may know exactly how to respond fittingly to some unprecedented threat to his person or to his financial security. Again, he may be unaccountably aware of something that will happen in someone else’s life, and not even be surprised when it occurs, later. Or again he may, without even a shred of evidence, see behind a person’s façade of respectability and recognize in him certain hidden, dishonest intentions.
I offer these examples as commonplace. Such insights are like rents in the veil which separates the majority of people from one another, and from subtler-than-material realities. Yogananda defined intuition, ultimately, as “the soul’s power of knowing God.”
Consciousness manifests on three levels: subconscious, conscious, and superconscious. Subconsciousness, the first level, depends on external influences to which it reacts instinctively. It is on this level that the lower animals function.
“Man,” according to a classical definition, “is a rational animal.” Yet man is, in fact, neither entirely rational nor entirely an animal. That definition is a marvel of clarity in the sense that it serves whoever uses it as a premise for pursuing numerous lines of reasoning. It doesn’t take into consideration, however, man’s irrational moods, his unpredictable whims, his deep-seated prejudices. It gives no recognition, moreover, to the human capacity for developing spiritual insight, and for rising above his animal nature altogether. The conscious mind functions through the intellect. It compares things, then analyzes the comparison to achieve a more complete understanding. Usually, understanding that is arrived at by the intellect depends on the perceptions of the senses. This dependence renders the intellect, where higher truth is concerned, more or less incompetent.
Superconsciousness is universally the highest level of cognition. At this level, man transcends his self-limiting human nature and becomes a child of God, forever free in his soul.
One benefit that man has derived from modern science is the realization, intellectually at least, that reality is not confined to what the five senses perceive. Indeed, matter is now known not to have any substance at all: it is a product of innumerable vibrations of energy. Science has greatly expanded our physical and mental horizons, too, with its probes into the vastness of space and into the intricacies of the microcosmic world.
One result of that expansion has been the speed of travel to very distant places. One can even observe scenes now from around the world, flashing instantaneously on his television screen. Almost everyone nowadays is aware of cultures and countries distant and very different from his own. All of us know that the people who live in far-off countries are not essentially different from ourselves or from our near neighbors.
We are also becoming ever more aware that many teachings of other religions are very similar to, and even identical in meaning with our own. Christian theologians, most of whom still cling determinedly to the dogma that Jesus Christ was superior to all others, try constantly to draw their readers’ attention to any dissimilarities they can ferret out between Christianity and other religions. The differences, however, are all fairly superficial. Yogananda described the hidden motivation behind such scholarly attempts as “mischievous,” for they misrepresent what they have determined to view as the “opposition.” Where such issues don’t arise, it is notably true that human beings everywhere have basically the same needs: food, clothing, shelter, as well as the same basic emotional needs: love, kindness, emotional security, happiness.
People everywhere in the world have also (most deeply rooted of all) a spiritual dimension, which the great religions address more or less identically. No true religion has ever taught people to hate, or to tell lies, or to inflict pain and harm on others. All of them urge people to behave in ways that will expand their ego-identity by including the realities of others. Every religion, moreover, insists on the need for all men to love unselfishly, and to develop the virtues of truthfulness, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and all the rest. No religion, moreover, recommends the creed of materialists the world over: “Me-firstism.”
Nowadays, with increasing awareness that there may actually be a spiritual dimension in human life, it would surely show meanness of spirit to deprecate others’ efforts to rise spiritually, each according to his own capacity and beliefs. Any teaching that raises human consciousness — for example, by kindness and unselfish love — can only be good. Why then, in the zeal to convert him, harp on how wrong he is, or on how much he lacks a true teaching? Sympathetic interest in ways different from one’s own is becoming increasingly widespread these days. People want to know how others eat, how they dress, how they define gracious living. Given this natural and increasingly universal curiosity, is it not right for people also to be interested in what other people think, in how they define happiness, and in how they approach God?
Dr. Radhakrishnan, who, when I visited him, was the vice president of India (he later became India’s president), said to me, “A nation is known by those persons whom its people look upon as great.” By that criterion, India is, and has earned the right to be, known as the most spiritual country on earth. For people elsewhere mostly define greatness by political, literary, or — God help us! — “sports hero” and “movie star” criteria. India’s principal standard, by contrast, has always been its spiritual giants: its saints.
I was once asked by a Christian missionary in India, “What do you mean when you use the word, ‘saint’?”
“My reference,” I replied, “is to the Sanskrit word, sant, from which our word ‘saint’ is derived.” (Thus did I nip in the bud a blossoming theological challenge!)
The great figures in India’s past have always been men and women of Self-realization. Emperors, warriors, political leaders and other worldly figures in history, though admired and respected, have always been given a secondary status. Wisdom, moreover, has not been confused in India with scholarship or with intellectual brilliance. True wisdom is determined by a person’s inner experience of God and by his consequent understanding of the true meaning of life. The great masters of that country have seldom been theologians or philosophers: in other words, men addicted to learning, each with his own carefully pondered theory on Meaning. Superconscious realization has given the wise of India keen intellects, but what most distinguishes them is their mental clarity. They live the high truths they preach. Superconscious experience has given them a uniform perception of what is and is not real. Their deep insights, based on direct experience, could never have come to people who had only keen intellects.
Declarations by the great masters in all religions, though not always exactly coinciding, have shown a remarkable unanimity with respect to the highest truths. Any differences, in other words, between the statements of a Self-realized saint in one religion and those of another saint in some other religion are due simply to differences of culture and environment and to people’s temporal needs.
So great, on the other hand, is their agreement concerning spiritual truths that when Christian missionaries first came to India, and encountered there a quite unanticipated corroboration of Christ’s teachings in the teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (India’s favorite scripture), they decided that Krishna’s teachings must have been borrowed from Jesus Christ. According to indigenous tradition in India, however, the “Gita” (as people fondly call it) is much older.
When you really get down to it, the only essential difference between Christianity and, let us say, Buddhism lies in the names of their founders. The differences in teaching can easily be explained by the different cultural exigencies encountered by those two great masters. Without what is claimed as the “uniquely saving grace” of their own masters, the teachings themselves are basically the same.
The following pages will offer Christian truths (eternal and universal) from a new point of view. This book will be completely orthodox in its adherence to Christianity, but its orthodoxy will not always correspond to what is taught by Christian sects. It will not always conform, in other words, to “Churchianity.”
I submit this humble effort, as I stated in the Introduction, in the hope of helping to reinstate Christianity on its fully deserved plateau as a foremost among the great religions of the world (though not as the only great religion). I am writing in the sincere conviction that what I have to say, which I learned from my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, is universally true. For truth is one and eternal. This book is a humble offering to you, the reader, of explanations given by Paramhansa Yogananda, who opened the teachings of Jesus Christ to the world. I write in the conviction that, though it may always be possible to imagine new facts, one can never create a new truth. Truth does, however, assume ever-new expressions, like the leaves of a tree which are generically all the same, though every leaf is unique and different from all its fellows. Even so, differing expressions of the timeless truth are only outer sheaths for the one and only, changeless and eternal Truth, which pervades the whole universe.
Questions and Answers on Revelations of Christ with Swami Kriyananda
What Is the Kingdom of God?
“This book is a great gift to humanity. It is a spiritual treasure to cherish deep in the heart, and to pass on to children for generations. This remarkable and magnificent book brings us to the doorway of a deeper, richer embracing of Eternal Truth. At once crystal clear and wonderfully insightful, we are invited to move through that doorway into a place of gloriously larger views of Jesus and God and of Life Itself than many of us have ever been blessed to behold.”
—Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God
“Kriyananda’s revelatory book gives us the enlightened, timeless wisdom of Jesus the Christ in a way that addresses the challenges of twenty-first century living.”
—Michael Beckwith, Founder and Spiritual Director, Agape International Spiritual Center, author of Inspirations of the Heart
“Revelations of Christ helps us rediscover the original meaning and majesty of the teachings of Jesus Christ, with a clarity and simplicity that transcends theological nitpicking. In a world seemingly intent on sacrificing itself on the altar of religious extremism, this timeless, unifying message is urgently needed.”
—Larry Dossey, MD, author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things
“Reading Revelations of Christ is like having a dialog with our Creator about the meaning of Jesus’ life, actions, and teaching. The closing sentence of the book says it all: ‘The more you tune into [Christ’s] deep message, the more you will know that only one thing matters in life: selfless, divine love, like that of an eternal child for his Heavenly Father, and for his Divine Friend.'”
—Bernie Siegel, MD, author of 365 Prescriptions for the Soul
“This is a wonderful book for people who want to understand the similarities between the spiritual teachings of East and West; of Christianity and Hinduism. This book offers Christians a deeper understanding of the teachings of yoga, and likewise gives Hindus a more in-depth approach to Christianity. Swami Kriyananda is an inspiring teacher who carries on the tradition of his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.”
—Terry Cole-Whittaker, DD, Founder of Adventures in Enlightenment, author of Dare to Be Great
“Revelations of Christ is simply marvelous. I have asked myself how Swami Kriyananda could write with such simplicity, beauty, and inspiration. The explanation, I feel, is that his great master writes through him. The profundity and lucidity of this book acts like a clear mirror, reflecting the greatness of Christ’s teaching as proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda.”
—Swami Nikhilananda Saraswati, Head of the Chinmaya Mission, New Delhi, India, author of Miracles of Prayer
“The beauty of this book is that Kriyananda gives the average person permission to search for themselves, to read this book and begin to know Jesus as He truly is—a living, tangible Holy Teacher. A very timely book for the world, and for those seeking to know Jesus personally.”
—Reverend Paula T. Webb, Founder and President, National InterFaith Council, author of Creating Perfect Relationships
“Jesus, a great spiritual master, or the only son of God? This is the book that church authorities may not want you to read, but if you do, the Christ light will shine through you brighter than before.”
—Rev. Christian Sorensen, DD, Seaside Center for Spiritual Living, Encinitas, California
“A profound and highly original perspective on the teachings of Christ. Based on the work of one of the most beloved spiritual masters of the twentieth century, Revelations of Christ suggests how the ancient insights of yoga can inspire a fresh understanding of Christianity.”
—Richard Smoley, author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition
“A treasure of spiritual insight. Swami Kriyananda, wasting no words, but in modern language stripped of theological and intellectual aridity, opens wide many doors onto sacred wisdom that have long been closed. Chapter after chapter, with down-to-earth reasoning and unprecedented clarity, this book transports the reader into a multidimensional world of the spirit. It makes even abstract concepts tangible.
“This is a wonderfully rich volume, and has the potential to reach a wide public: Christians and non-Christians alike, scientists, psychologists, and even those whose special focus is the arts.”
—Donatella Caramia, Professor of Neurology, University of Rome Tor Vergata
“Swami Kriyananda conveys Yogananda’s spiritual wisdom of universal love that transcends the dogmatic doctrines and limitations of any particular religion. . . . instills hope and inspiration for everyone who has grown cynical and weary of the self-serving, politicized misrepresentations of Christ’s profound revelations.”
—Kenneth Pelletier, PhD, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, author of New Medicine: Complete Family Health Guide
“Swami Kriyananda’s meditations on Christ point to the ‘cave of the heart,’ the meeting-point of Christian contemplatives with the realizations of India’s rishis. I pray that his readers may enter that deep, still point and discover Christ, ‘in [Whom] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.'”
—Father Thomas Matus, Director, Incarnation Monastery, author of Yoga and the Jesus Prayer Tradition
“Revelations of Christ by Swami Kriyananda comes to us as a ‘tour de force’ of wisdom. The universality of Christ consciousness as seen through this all-embracing vision rings aloud page after page. Here is truth, not doctrine. Here is peace beyond understanding.”
—Roger Montgomery, Leader, Spirit of Peace Monastic Community, co-author of The Sacred Light of Healing
“Anytime we have a chance to relook at the man and the message of Jesus Christ we should do so. This history-changing message or gospel is as relevant now as it ever was. Yogananda captures the Eternal Truth of the Eternal Christ.”
—Rev. Kathianne Lewis, Center for Spiritual Living, author of 40 Days to Freedom
“Truly inspired writing. The inner meaning of Jesus’ teaching is revealed by a writer whose insights come from direct, inner communion with God. Speaking from outside the confines of Christianity, he voices Christian truths from a level, not of dogmatic faith, but of divine realization. While acknowledging the divinity of Jesus, his emphasis is clearly on our privilege, even our duty as children of God, to realize we too are projections of God’s consciousness.”
—Rev. Robert H. Henderson, DD, Church of Spiritual Living
“In its simplicity and practical commonsense it plumbs the depth of the perennial insights that surround every great prophet in history—and especially the figure of Jesus the Christ. There had to be one from outside the official fold of Christendom to undertake the daring task of going straight to the source without the detour of official doctrine. . . . Every reader, whether Christian or not, owes a deep debt of gratitude to Kriyananda, and his master, Yogananda.”
—Ervin Laszlo, PhD, Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, author of Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos
“I believe that every sincere seeker of truth will benefit from reading this book. I expect it to become a force of illumination for all mankind. I feel myself uplifted even in writing these few words of praise for this truly great work.”
—Swami Shankarananda, Rishikesh, India
“Revelations of Christ liberates Jesus’ message from the sepulcher of religious bigotry and small-mindedness. Revelations, like Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century, resurrects the spirit of Christ. This is a book that all spiritual seekers can rejoice in and treasure.”
—Richard Salva, author of The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln and Walking with William of Normandy: A Paramhansa Yogananda Pilgrimage Guide