I was raised Catholic. Christianity was my upbringing. The culture that surrounded me through early adulthood was all Christian. The areas of the country in which I lived mostly knew only this religion.
As I explored philosophy and other forms of spirituality, it was only then Eastern ideas became more clear to my mind. Even then, the form of spiritual meditation I was drawn to was brought to this country by an Indian Swami who put great emphasis on Christ. Maybe like you, to me, this was a slight turn off. I told myself to look beyond this shortcoming, and realize he had to use these words so as not to get lynched. Yogananda was a very brown man with long hair, teaching a spiritual process in a country at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was at its height. Of course, he had to do this.
To many people, the words Christ and Christianity give a negative feeling. I imagine this is mostly to do with their upbringing in a group of people who adhered to the Christian faith, but those adherents did not live the holy life, or were not able to see the harm they may have done using their faith as an excuse to abuse or belittle others. We cannot fault those who truly did not understand what they were doing. It is easy to do though, and this can create a type or mental prejudice of our own. In this case, that prejudice is to the words Christ and the idea of Christianity.
One of the difficulties I had with Christianity was the constant call to glorify God in all things. To me this seemed very egotistical. I could not understand why a being as great as God would need constant reassurance and praise. For many years I felt this way. I believe this was why I was drawn more to the ideas of philosophy and what is called “wisdom yogas”. Through philosophy and contemplative practices I sought out the truth of my being. I felt that my being did not need praise or glory, and so I shied away from any outward devotional practice, especially a constant need to glorify an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent being.
However, as the years have rolled by, and experience has grown, I now have quite a different perspective.
When I used to be in charge of a meditation center here in Asheville, I would give lectures before meditation. In some of those lectures I would be inspired to tell people to realize that everything is God, and that the life within them is also God. The assistant minister at the time would often tell me that I can’t say that. He told me it would give people the wrong idea. I didn’t realize at the time, this message I was sharing was to simply say to glorify God in all things. God being everything, including the essence of your very life, then it makes sense to acknowledge God in all things.
A few years shy of a decade later, I have a very distinct sense of why it actually is most appropriate to glorify and acknowledge God in all things. It is not because God needs praise or has a grand ego to be maintained. It is because all things come from and are of God, and to praise and give glory is for us to remember the true source of all things! Ideally this should not be just a mechanical mantra, but something to be contemplated and understand profoundly.
This can be a very hard spiritual practice. Why? Because the world is full light AND shadow. It is filled with joyous moments watching hawks soar under the sun over a misty green canopy of oak and maple trees on a cool Spring morning. Life is also filled with moments of sorrow and challenges to one’s health, comfort and sense of security. The light and joy of God is so easy to see on a peaceful Spring morning in the woods. It is much harder to feel when it feels like the very fabric of our being is being torn a part by unwelcome change.
Yet in change there is growth. There is a call to grow stronger in one’s faith and to draw closer to the source of all that is. We cannot control the heavens or the earth, but we can respond. All things proceed from God. All things happen in God. God is beyond our mind’s ability to conceive. This is why surrender is such an essential part of our spiritual paths. Through surrender we learn to strengthen our faith and realize just how close we are to God. We let go of the false sense of control and instead ask for the wisdom to change, grow and respond to what life presents to us with Grace. We learn to trust that which we cannot understand.
Life in God is not static. When we stop growing and changing we become a shell that is easily broken. Life in God is not about happiness but holiness. Sometimes those challenges which arise in our life can feel so tremendous and so great, that we will not survive. We are not meant to survive them. We are meant to be reborn through them. When such challenges occur it can be a sign that we have grown too tight in our shells and lives have grown too rigid. It is time to cast off your old self, which served its purpose. It is time to embrace the uncertainty of change and to pray for a peaceful heart as your new life in God reveals itself.
God gives the medicine to heal. God also gives the disease to heal. God gives the strength to bear the changes. God also gives the weakness to realize that God can also help you through others, as God is in everyone. Whether the disease is a broken heart, loss of home, or even a greatly feared physical illness, God is also the cure. That cure may come in a traditional way or it may come as a miracle. However the cure arises, it still proceeds from God.
It is easy to label things good and bad. To our small human self, we consider good which brings comfort. We consider bad that which feels uncomfortable. When we shift our view to realize or Eternal Life, we realize that all that really matters is life in God. Here let us stress the word life. Life is not static. It responds. It learns. It grows. It dances. It cries. It mourns. It lets go. It embraces intimately. Life in God does all these things at the appropriate time. To be uncomfortable is neither good nor bad. It is a phase in life.
We began this discussion with the ideas of Christ and Christianity. More will be said on this at another time, but let’s close by considering the idea of Christ and life in God. Christ is the Son of God. Yogananda use the term “Christ Consciousness”. Whether you know Christ to be an actual man who lived and died and had the experiences described in the Bible, or whether you know Christ to be an eternal, ever present, omniscience, omnipotent consciousness does not matter. The results will be the same.
The Christ is the current of God. This current is your very life. This current is sustained through faith, truth, kindness and many other qualities we know as spiritual. Faith though, this is the most pressing. Faith has no reason. Faith arises from profound prayer and contemplation. Faith is the ability to happily admit that all proceeds from God, that God is the source of everything. To some this is easy and obvious. For some, like myself, it requires hard work and contemplation.
What is God? What is the Christ Consciousness? Not what do other people say, or what have other people experienced, but how do I know it? How can I learn to recognize it? It is not what you believed it to be based on the actions of others. What is this? When we sincerely inquire into God and the idea of Christ, letting go of the preconceptions you may have had, your distaste will dissolve, and you will realize true faith. You will know why Yogananda used the words he did when speaking of God. It was not only to save himself from the gallows. There were more profound reasons.
One of the reasons I was inspired to write this, is because I know many westerners interested in Yoga and meditation were first raised Christian. Rather than abandon your faith, I’d like to encourage you to separate your early childhood experiences, or your experiences with modern Christians who haven’t quite understood the Golden Rule yet, from the actual message. If you come from a long line of Christians, your psyche and those of your ancestors are stamped with ideas of Christ. When you abandon a faith of your childhood and your ancestors, I think it may cause a dissonance within you soul.
This may be why so many westerners exploring Yoga and Meditation for spiritual growth may often find they don’t actually experience the peace of faith they are seeking. Consider this may be true for you. Rather than run to new Gods, examine who you really have the problem with, is it the essence of Christ truly, or is it hypocritical people who used that name and philosophy? One of our lessons in this life is to learn to know truth and practice truth. Sometimes this begins by taking a good hard look at what nourishes us spiritually, and what we are avoiding because of other peoples actions.
Next I would like to speak to this concept of Christ and how to meditate upon that ideal…