by Paramhansa Yogananda
East-West, March-April 1930
Jesus Christ was an Oriental. Therefore, his teachings were derived from Oriental environment and heredity. Truth is not a monopoly of the Orient or the Occident. The sunlight, though pure silver, appears to be red or blue when looked upon through red or blue glasses; so, also, does pure, undiluted truth appear to be different when expressed through Oriental or Occidental civilization.
The original simple teachings of Jesus have undergone many changes, because of divers translations from language to language, and divers translations of translations. But all of the Great Ones have expressed Themselves simply, and I can find very little difference in the message of Jesus the Christ and the other Great Teachers.
Now, I want to tell you something in the beginning, lest there be any doubt in your minds: What I received from the Great Oriental Masters, that same have I received from the teachings of Jesus the Christ!
The Great Ones, like waves, bathe in the Eternal Sea, and become One with It. Disciples make all the trouble and differences. They begin to create narrowness and bigotry. The pure Message becomes diluted with ignorance. Humanity drinks of the polluted waters and then cannot understand why the thirst remains. Only pure water can quench thirst. The time has come to separate truth from falsehood, knowledge from ignorance. All truth and knowledge must be used to combat the black doubts and superstitions hedging humanity in the prison of unhappiness, that the mighty flood of Truth may inundate the gathered darkness of the ages, setting the soul of humanity free.
It amuses me when I hear my Western brothers say “Do you believe in Christ?” I always say “Jesus Christ.” And I picture Him in my mind as He really was—Oriental Christ. Many painters have tried to give Him blue eyes and light hair, but He was a pure Oriental. And you of the West have taken from an enslaved nation Jesus Christ as your Preceptor, and the greatest gift of all, spiritual freedom, taught by this great Oriental.
Every human being is a product of his climatic conditions, heredity, family characteristics, and the pre-natal and post-natal actions performed by him, as influenced by right or wrong will, right or wrong judgment, right or wrong habits, right or wrong feelings, and by the soul’s intuitive guidance. No matter what Jesus Christ was Himself, as regards His own Soul none can deny that He, being born in the Orient, had to use the medium of Oriental civilization, customs, mannerisms, language, parables, etc., in spreading His message. Hence. the teachings of Jesus Christ, no matter how universal they may be, are saturated with the essence of Oriental civilization.
Jesus was an Oriental, by birth and blood and training. The Wise Men of the East, or East India, came to confer about Him when He was born, knowing Him to be one of the greatest message-bearers of Truth.
I am not saying that Jesus Christ learned everything from the Great Masters of India, because God never teaches directly through human vehicles. But it has been definitely proven that Jesus was connected with the High Initiates and the Masters of India. In the Unknown Life of Christ, by Nicholas Notovitch, the Russian author tells how he went to Tibet, hoping to study Tibetan literature, hand-written on papyrus scroll. Because of the secretiveness of the Lamas, it was impossible to find a trace of what he wanted; but a strange miracle happened. Just when he was returning fruitlessly to India, he fell from a cliff and broke his leg, and was taken back to the Monastery to receive the necessary care! The Tibetans are very hospitable to their invited or stricken guests. While the injured man was recovering, the head Lama asked him what he wanted. He said, “Read to me the papyrus scrolls!” From these sacred scrolls he secured conclusive evidence that Jesus Christ’s name was Isa, meaning “Lord,” which afterwards was pronounced as Jesus. He conferred with the Masters on Yoga and great problems of human upliftment, living with them at the Monastery; but at the age of fifteen, it is said, they tried to get Him married, so he fled. I don’t blame him. But, alas, those who do not marry, repent; and those who do marry, repent. That is why I am glad I am married to the Infinite Nature and Spirit. There is never any hurt and disappointment in that kind of marriage.
The sacred scrolls further revealed that as Jesus Christ was visited by the Wise Men of the East, so He paid them a return visit to Tibet and conferred with the Great Masters. Jesus then went to India to commune with the Masters there; and after preaching the Message in India, he went to Asia Minor. He wanted to spread His message universally. Mr. Nicholas Notovitch, in order to prove the above fact about the trip of Jesus, challenged many missionaries to go with him to Tibet. But they did not want to do so. Jesus Christ gave His secret message in India first of all. If you love Jesus, you must have some consideration for the Orientals. Do not give them nicknames, for you do not know what nicknames they will give you in return. An exchange of nicknames will not enrich you spiritually. Give wisdom, and wisdom will come to you. Give kindness and love, and kindness and love will be returned to you. You always get back what you give out.
Now, to come back. Jesus Christ was an Oriental. His teachings were Oriental, expressed in Oriental language. The Occidental tries to monopolize Jesus Christ, but completely ignores the influence of Eastern customs, culture, and Eastern lessons in Christianity, and thus becomes one-sided. It is not possible to separate the Teacher from His nationality without causing great misunderstanding and confusion.
I shall tell you a few things which will help you. I am going to tell you frankly, openly, without any prejudice or partiality, about the Western adaptation of the teachings of Jesus Christ—its defects and its merits. The Western adaptation emphasizes brotherhood; yet, whenever you think of a Church, you think of a band of secretaries collecting money instead of thinking of their deeds of mercy and good. You think of sermons about Jesus, not sermons giving the revealed message of Jesus Christ, the Great Master. The Western spirit lacks much which the spirit of the East can supply. Granted, that the East is not practical enough! The West is too practical to be spiritually practical. That is why I am trying to unite the two. They need each other.
The pride of materialism should be destroyed, though material efficiency is necessary and right. This is a lesson for the West to learn. Not the complete ignoring of the practical, though the philosophy of idealism should be continually practiced, blended with enough practical commercialism to avoid hardship and suffering—this is the lesson to be learned by the East.
To understand Jesus Christ and His teachings one must sympathetically study the Orientals—their ancient and present civilization, religious scriptures, traditions, philosophies, spiritual beliefs, and intuitive metaphysical experiences. Though the teachings of Jesus are universal and have been made adaptable to Western environment, still, in order to understand Christianity, one must first take away its Western veil and then its Oriental veil. Behind the two opaque veils, real Christianity hides. Western Christianity is the outer crust and Eastern Christianity is the inner crust. The Oriental Christ always emphasized: Take no heed for the body—what ye shall eat, what ye shall wear. Bread, the men of the world seek after; seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you. The Occidental Christian might say, instead: Take heed of the body first, that in a healthy body temple ye may find God. Bread, ye men of the world, seek first, and afterwards seek ye the Kingdom of God.
In the warm Oriental climate, in a bygone age, it was easy to get bread without much thinking or much laboring, and thus it was easy to meditate on God in leisure and solitude; whereas, in the Occident, one has to think of bread, hard and fast and successfully, or he will not have time at all, or strength, to seek the kingdom of God.
Oriental Christ and His teachings are suited to the Orientals and the Oriental climatic conditions. Therefore, the teachings of Jesus must be so judiciously adapted that they may become possible for the Occidental to follow. Otherwise, it would happen that, as some doctors say, “the operation was successful,” but the patient peacefully died on the table. The universal teachings of Jesus Christ should be adapted according to the needs of the Oriental and Occidental, emphasizing the principles of Christian religion and omitting the non-essential forms added to them from time to time.
Great care should be taken, however, to embody the essential, living principles of Christianity while it is being transplanted from Oriental atmosphere to Occidental environment. No difference must be made between Oriental Christian religious methods of salvation and Occidental Christian religious techniques of salvation. Rather, the distinction should be made between true Christian principles and false, formal, dogmatic Christian creed-bound beliefs. Eastern Christianity considers church-going and intellectual study of scriptures as spiritual kindergarten work, these only emphasizing the necessity of testing out religious beliefs in the laboratory of meditation, under the guidance of a real man of self-realization, who has found God in the light of his intuition through deep and unceasing scientific spiritual efforts.
Occidental Christianity advocates formal but beneficial moral and religious welfare and organization work. Western Christianity appears satisfied with theological beliefs and the production of victrola-record, cut-and-dried sermons, and the erection of huge edifices and churches with a wonderful business system to run them. But while Western Christianity has saved Western civilization from atheism and immorality, it has failed to awaken the desire to obtain intuitional metaphysical experiences about God, evolved out of the self-created efforts of meditation. Occidental Christianity advocates too much formal, congregational worshipping of God. Oriental Christianity emphasizes individual contact of God but is utterly lacking in philanthropic organization and social welfare work.
That is why the West, with all the wonderful devices of the practical Occidental mind, is in the East today, dominating it. But mark you, the Eastern soldiers are not silent. The West has power and strength; but the East is armed with silent philosophy—not to conquer lands, but to conquer souls, with love, service, and kindliness. We are all children of God—we have always been—and will be always. The differences come from prejudices and prejudice is the child of ignorance. We should not be proud of being Americans or Indians or Italians or any other nationality, for that is but an accident of birth. Above all else, we should be proud that we are children of God, made in His Image. Isn’t that the message of Christ?
The East must learn from the West, and the West must learn from the East. The West preaches practicality! The East teaches spirituality! Without idealism, material practicality is the harbinger of selfishness, sin, competition, and wars. Without practicality combined with idealism, there is confusion and suffering and lack of natural progress. Let us combine forces and conquer together, instead of one nation conquering the other.
The Orientals revere and acknowledge Jesus as Leader of humanity, Son of God and Truth, only they interpret Him differently. The community religious service of the West is marvelous, but that is not enough, for the Western service lacks metaphysical meditation and the knowledge of the methods of direct communion with God. On the other hand, the East lacks organization but emphasizes direct, first-hand knowledge from God. Therefore, in order to understand Jesus Christ’s doctrines, it is necessary to combine the organization efficiency and social welfare philanthropy with personal verification of Christ’s teachings by metaphysical study and contacting God individually in the temple of meditation. Then each one can, himself, understand what Jesus Christ was, through the intuitive self-verification of His teachings.
Both organization and spirituality are necessary for normal and satisfactory human progress. I shall give you a picture:
In one place, a ten million dollar temple with marble decorations and a skyscraper golden dome, allowing ten thousand to be seated comfortably, with a million dollar organ and a famous choir chanting hymns to God. It is all impressive and enjoyable, and I appreciate and admire such. But, mind you, God cannot be bribed by big churches, by wealthy people, nor by sermons, songs, and formal prayers.
Now, behold! sitting under a tree beneath a canopy of free skies, a Christ-like man, with only three disciples, but all in conscious contact with God! Would you not prefer to be there, to feel God, and not be overpowered by admiration of the evanescent glory of a gorgeous church? That does not mean that God is not in the churches. God is in the temple, and He is under the tree. But only by earnest, scientific meditation, by spiritual strength, by unceasing desire—can the closed spiritual door of inner Silence be opened to the congregation in the temple or to the devotees under the tree. Pomp and show are not able to open that door, nor is hardship of any kind necessary. It swings on magical hinges only when the seeking soul’s high vibration turns the fairy key. And behind that unseen door lies REALIZATION, the Divine Realization of Jesus Christ.
Hidden away in a Monastery of Tibet, priceless records lie. The world is not yet ready for them. Religious fanatics would only destroy them, should they be given too soon to the world. But no other history of the life of Jesus between the ages of fifteen and thirty has ever been found. Because of the custom in Tibet, that a sick guest may have his desire granted when possible, the hospitable Tibetan Priests or Lamas have shown the Sacred Scrolls to one man who is living today. They will belong to the world eventually, when the world is ready for them.
Meantime, the Great Message of Jesus Christ is living and thriving in both East and West. The West has been perfecting the physical man, and the East has been developing the spiritual man. Both East and West are one-sided. And is it not strange to note that, perhaps due to God’s secret Plan—since the East needs material development, it has been invaded by Western material civilization! And since the West needs spiritual balance, it has been silently but surely invaded by Hindu philosophy!
Verily, the West invaded the East to conquer its lands with guns and material force. But the East, in return, has invaded the West with love and philosophy to conquer souls.
Jesus Christ is the model for both East and West to follow. God’s stamp, as Son of God, is hidden in every soul. Do away with masks! Come out openly as Sons of God! Not by talk and learned-by-heart prayer, intellectual fireworks of worded sermons to please God, but by REALIZATION! Identify yourself with Christ-consciousness, not with narrow bigotry masked as wisdom. Identify yourself with Universal Love by serving all, both materially and spiritually; and then you will know who Jesus Christ was, and can say in your soul that we are all one band, all Sons of the One God!
Peace! Bliss! Peace!