by Swami Yogananda
East West, April 1932
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
Intuitional Interpretation of Yogoda, Hindu, and Christian Baptism
The original ceremony of baptism by water came from India. Baptism means immersion in water in order to cleanse or purify. Purification of the body should precede the purification of the mind. Hence, all souls who desired to begin living the spiritual life had to purify their bodies. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” but baptism of the body, unless followed by baptism of the mind, becomes practically meaningless. If we bathe and thus purify our bodies, we will find that our mind will temporarily become purified, but unless we change our souls’ wickedness by calmness and meditation, and constant spiritual vigilance, we will remain the same old devils with bad habits in spite of the temporary purifying effect of the water on our bodies. To illustrate this metaphorically: A Hindu saint said to his would—be disciple, “Son, it is necessary to bathe in the Ganges to purify the mind from sin. The sins will leave you temporarily while you bathe in the holy waters; but they will wait for you in the trees skirting the Ganges, and as soon as you come out of the sacred influence of the holy water, they will again jump on you.”
It must be remembered, however, that bodily baptism by water has its good points. The custom in India is to take spiritual lessons from a holy man only immediately after bathing. To take spiritual lessons with a sweaty, unclean body is not effective. The Baptists do well to immerse their initiates in water, but the ceremony of immersion without following it up with continued spiritual lessons in meditation and God—contact is of little value.
Sprinkling of Water on Head
The aristocratic, modern way of baptism consists in sprinkling water on the head. This is all that is left of the original custom of purifying the body by water. Baptism by the sprinkling of water may be all right for most civilized people, for they usually bathe themselves daily. Then, too, immersion of initiates in water may be unnecessary if they are mentally evolved, but sprinkling of water on the head of evolved people is unnecessary, unless this is done only out of respect to the ancient, baptismal ceremonies.
Baptism of Jesus
It is evident that Jesus, although he was so evolved, did not fail to go into the water. He did not fully immerse, for the River Jordan was practically dry at that time. Thus it is all right for spiritually minded people to bathe before being baptized, but it is also true that in modern America many aristocratic people would refuse to be baptized if they had the prospect of a second bath in the church. They would rather forego entering Heaven than be publicly immersed in water. For such people, spiritual instruction, without this second bath, is all right.
Another important matter in connection with the baptism of Jesus Christ is that He insisted on being baptized by John, who in self realization was far inferior to Him. John said he was not worthy to unloose the lachet of the shoes of Jesus, and that he baptized only with water, while Jesus baptized with Spirit. Alas, modern baptism has become baptism by water only. Yogoda methods are showing the real way of baptizing self with Spirit and ultimate wisdom. Feeling his spiritual inferiority, John wondered why Jesus wanted to be baptized with water. This action of Jesus distinctly demonstrated the ancient, pre-Christian, Hindu custom and the real spiritual way, which every God-aspirant should follow.
The method of finding God is different from the methods demanded by most colleges for any kind of specific training. Even in medical training, the student never learns if he roams from college to college, joining different medical institutions, and listening to a few lectures, but without going through intensive training in materia media, physiology, dissection, and other studies in one college. Also, it is true that a student cannot join all the universities at the same time.
A student should follow one course in one college until he receives a certificate that he has completed certain studies, but alas, in spiritual denominations even the loyalty the usual intellectual college expects is not given to the denomination by the aspirant, nor is the time necessary for Self-Realization given to the practice of the spiritual lessons by thousands of students in the Western world. Such people continue taking lessons from any new, good, bad, or indifferent teachers, who happen to come to town and advertise. I say that people should discriminate between the so-called teacher who uses religion only to make money or just a living and the real teacher who may use business methods in his religion in order to serve his brethren with real spirituality.
It is extremely necessary to remember that in the beginning it is wise to compare many spiritual paths and teachers, but when the real GURU (Preceptor) and the real teaching is found, then the restless searching must cease. The thirsty one should not keep seeking wells, but should go to the best well and daily drink its nectar. That is why in India, in the beginning we seek many until we find the right path, and the right master, and then remain loyal to him through death and eternity, until final emancipation.
Guru and Teacher
We can have many teachers first, but only one GURU, and no more teachers afterwards. Teachers call those who come to learn from them students, but a GURU calls the spiritual aspirant who comes to him a disciple. Jesus himself said, “None cometh unto the Father but by me.” This signifies that human souls are mostly truant children of God roaming away from Him in the wilderness of suffering. Such souls are impelled by the scourge of sorrow to have faint glimpses of their lost home of spiritual blessedness. They begin to long for God, and inwardly pray for a way out of the conundrum of life. Then when the prayers of such errant children become deep and strong enough, God is touched and sends help. It is then that the One Father of All sends a superman on earth to give help to the lost seeking souls. Such a man, ordained by God, to help the individual in response to deep prayer, is not an ordinary teacher, but a GURU or a vehicle, whose body, speech, mind, and spirituality God Himself uses to bring the lost souls back to the Home of Immortality.
In the Hindu scriptures and “Whispers from Eternity” it is written: “As a naughty baby, I cried for my Mother Divine, and she came to me as my GURU. My Guru, I found Thee in response to my soul cries. If all the gods are displeased and yet, O Guru, if Thou art pleased, I am safe in the fortress of Thy pleasure; but if all the gods protect me by the parapets of their blessings, and yet I receive not Thy benedictions, I am an orphan, left to pine spiritually in the ruins of Thy displeasure. Together, Guru and Disciple, we will fly to His Shores, and then we will smash our planes of finitude forever and vanish in our Infinite Life.”
The above conception of Guru and Disciple depicts the only real way to retrace the truant soul’s footsteps back to God. This Guru and Disciple relationship is not the enslaving relationship between the blind church or temple members and an ignorant so-called priest of a temple or church, elected, not by God, but by the temple or church organization, or by a higher church dignitary, honored by orthodox followers, but unknown to God.
Freedom of Will, and Obedience
My Guru said to me: “Allow me to discipline you, for freedom of will consists not in doing things according to the dictates of prenatal or postnatal habits or mental whims, but according to the suggestions of wisdom and free choice.” He continued, “If you tune in your will with mine, you will find freedom. Formerly, my will was guided by habits, but when I tuned it in with the God guided and Wisdom guided will of my Guru, I found freedom.”
To tune in with a soul whose will is guided by wisdom is to find freedom of will. Most teachers who slavishly control their students after the pattern of dogmatic teachings, destroy the power of free will in them, but obedience to a Guru does not produce spiritual blindness in the disciple. On the contrary, it develops his third eye of wisdom and intuition. Most teachers want their students to see through the teacher’s eyes, but a Guru disciplines the disciple only until he can guide himself through wisdom. A Guru (a Preceptor) is sent by God.
If a disciple, after following a Guru for a long time, should spurn him, then he actually spurns the help sent by God. A Guru is not a help for this life only. He also makes a spiritual soul contact with the disciple, and says, “Let our friendship be eternal, and let us help each other through incarnations until we are both completely emancipated in spirit. Sometimes, likewise, an advanced disciple can help a Guru, and vice versa. Such friendship is not based on any selfish consideration or on any condition. Such Divine friendship and perpetual good will expressed between two or more souls gives birth to the ever pure, unselfish, all emancipating Divine Love. My Master said to me, “I will be your friend from now until Eternity, no matter whether you are on the lowest mental plane or on the highest plane of wisdom. I will be your friend if ever you should err, for then you will need my friendship more than at any other time.”
When I accepted my Master’s unconditional friendship, he said, “Will you be my friend under all circumstances? Will you protect me in my highest or in my lowest strata of mind?” I was amazed—I was stupefied, for how could I dream of my Master being in the lowest strata, but until I vowed to be his friend always, under all circumstances, he did not rest. He was gladdened when I said, “I will be thine always.”
It was then, after this amazing spiritual compact, that I understood the significance of a Guru, and really, I never found complete satisfaction, comfort, and God-consciousness until I tuned myself in with the Divine consciousness of my Master.
Jesus knew of above law of emancipation. He must have found in John his reincarnated Guru. (A Guru, although inferior in spiritual quality, is a Guru just the same, a vehicle of God always) That is why Jesus insisted on being baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus also had spoken of John the Baptist as the reincarnated prophet, Elias (Elijah). Next, in connection with the baptism of Jesus Christ, it is very important to remember the spiritual baptism and the spiritual experiences of Jesus which followed his physical baptism with water by John.
This will be explained further in the next issue of East West