When we were children, Christmas was always a grand celebration, with new clothes and a sumptuous feast of the choicest food on December 25. A month before Christmas, we seven siblings ― four brothers and three sisters ― would accompany our mother to Crawford Market in Bombay (now Mumbai) on a shopping spree for new clothes, shoes and other accessories like socks and belts. The clothes would be stitched by our favourite tailor, whom we called Masterji.
Christmas midnight mass was also a special occasion held in the open air of our church grounds, led by several participating priests. The senior-most priest used to deliver a big sermon to the congregation, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth as our saviour to save mankind and redeem us from suffering and sin.
I remember as a lad, the priests of our (Catholic) church, not only on Christmas but on other occasions affirming the exclusivity of Christianity and we the people, the lucky, chosen ones. Christ was portrayed as a messiah, a God of love and compassion. Those who followed him would be saved and reach heaven, if they were good. Those who did not follow Christ faced the peril of hell, apparently, even if they were good. Even as a boy, I found this exclusivity, which bordered on elitism, jarring from the spiritual perspective.
I understand that other religions, too, talk of their God, as the true one. That’s their choice and prerogative, just like Christians, too, have the right to believe that Christ is the only way.
But, the belief that my God is the best doesn’t augur well for the unity of the human race. Talking of Jesus Christ, his teaching were simple: faith, love and forgiveness. He preached love of one’s neighbour; loving even one’s enemy. When he was dying on the cross after being tortured mercilessly, he prayed for his oppressors saying, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
Jesus was born in a manger, without much fanfare. He led a simple, frugal life, without any luxuries. His followers, including priests, who had taken the vows of celibacy, chastity and poverty, built huge, ornamental churches for people to worship Christ.
The messiah, believed to be the only son of God, who was an embodiment of humility, was a true yogi. He taught his disciples the concept of Yog or union with God. He exhorted them to seek God in their own temples and churches within. Indeed, there is no mention of building luxurious churches in any of the Gospels.
More importantly, the philosophy that Christ preached was not of exclusivity but unity. One of the best known yogis of our times, Paramhansa Yogananda made it his mission “to reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna; and to show that these principles of truth are the common scientific foundation of all true religions.”
Yogananda has written an in-depth commentary on the Gospels: The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You. In his Introduction to that work, Yogananda wrote:
“Jesus Christ is disappointed because many are the churches and temples founded in his name, often prosperous and powerful, but where is the communion that he stressed — actual contact with God? Jesus wants temples to be established in human souls, first and foremost; then established outwardly in physical places of worship. Instead, there are countless huge edifices with vast congregations being indoctrinated in churchianity, but few souls who are really in touch with Christ through deep prayer and meditation.”
“To reestablish God in the temples of souls through revival of the original teachings of God-communion as propounded by Christ and Krishna is why I was sent to the West by Mahavatar Babaji,” said Yogananda.
“Babaji is ever in communion with Christ; together they send out vibrations of redemption and have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age,” he added.
(Featured image of Christ by Sabine Zierer of Pixabay)
Oswald Pereira, a senior journalist, has also written eight books, including The Newsroom Mafia, Chaddi Buddies, The Krishna-Christ Connexion, How to Create Miracles in Our Daily Life and Crime Patrol: The Most Thrilling Stories. Oswald is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and practises Kriya Yoga.