Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jesus's Yoga

                                This series of posts is part of a book. See outline here.

Jesus’s Yoga

It is something of a misnomer to call the New Testament the ‘Christian’ Bible, for it does not belong exclusively to any one sect. Truth is meant for the blessing and upliftment of the entire human race. As the Christ Consciousness is universal, so does Jesus Christ belong to all.––Paramahansa Yogananda, The Yoga of Jesus (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2007), 18

Trying to Be Like Jesus

When I was growing up, I went to to Primary (the children’s Sunday School class at church). In Primary, we would sing children’s hymns, and there are a few that I remember well. One is “I Am a Child of God.” We sang that one so often that it could be called my first mantra. Another, “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus,” is still among my favorites.
As a child, I was fascinated by the idea that Jesus was perfect. He had never messed up or taken a backward step. I had heard that little children were also considered perfect (or innocent), but I was a child and I knew I had done plenty wrong––sometimes even on purpose. I wondered about Jesus often. Was He really never mean to His siblings? Did He always obey His mother?
I tried to be perfect sometimes—just for one day—but I never made it more than a few hours, at best. I was in awe at how Jesus did it. I felt a little hopeless that I’d ever be totally perfect like Jesus, but I was continually drawn to the idea.
As I grew up and continued to go to church, it seemed to become okay not to be perfect. Everyone said that we should just do our best—perfection was not possible, and we could become perfect someday after we died. I didn’t buy it. I saw lots of people not doing their best and using all kinds of excuses. I knew that most of us could do better. Why else did Jesus command us to be perfect? Why would He promise, as He does in the Gospel of John, that if we are willing, we can do even greater works than He did? His exact words: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
Even as a child I longed for this. Perhaps because I knew I had an important mission and that perfection was something I not only could achieve but was expected to achieve in this life.
It wasn’t until years later that I understood that one of Christ’s definitions of perfect is “whole.” I realized that because of Jesus Christ, I could be made whole on every level, if I followed His example and applied His gift, the Atonement. But it was more years later before I learned how.  

When looking to follow Christ’s example, the first place to start is in His youth. Though He was perfect, He was not born with a perfect knowledge of everything. At a young age He showed spiritual maturity beyond His years, but it is also clear that He spent a great deal of time studying and learning. The scriptures say that Jesus did not receive a fulness at first, but rather grew “grace for grace” (implying an exchange) and then “grace to grace” (implying steps or increasing degrees) (Doctrine and Covenants 93:12–13). Wouldn’t you like to know more details about that growth? I sure would. It seems that the learning and training He completed in preparation for such an intense and important mission would be good for us to know about, especially if we are to do “greater works than these.” Unfortunately, the details are missing: He disappears from the Christian canon from age thirteen to thirty years old.
When I, as a youth, asked about these “lost years,” I was told that Jesus was probably just quietly working with His father as a carpenter. I also heard speculation that maybe He had gone back to Egypt for a while. These answers didn’t make sense to me. Why would a youth like Jesus, who drew crowds even at twelve years old, suddenly shut His mouth and leave no record? If you know Jesus, then you know He wouldn’t. At age twelve, He gently reprimanded His parents for their lack of understanding, saying, “[Know] ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).
As a Latter-day Saint, I have the blessing of having the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ as part of my canon, in addition to several other ancient books of scripture that have been restored in modern times. The idea of newly discovered ancient records shouldn’t be a new concept to Latter-day Saints. In fact, since 1830, when Joseph Smith restored the gospel of Jesus Christ and His authority on the earth, many ancient things that were “lost” have been restored. Most of the world has heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered between 1946 and 1956. Latter-day Saints should be familiar with the papyrus scroll that surfaced in the early 1800s and eventually came into Joseph Smith’s hands. That scroll was translated and is now included in our canon as the Book of Abraham.
Among these many cool rediscoveries, of particular interest to me are ancient scrolls from Tibet that tell of Jesus’s doings in India from ages thirteen to twenty-nine. Though the scrolls surfaced in the late 1800s, they were not well received in the West, and it took many years and more evidence before they became more widely known and accepted.
Of course, the lore about Jesus in India was not a new idea to the folks in India. Along the route He likely traveled and in the places He lived, there is plenty of oral tradition, folklore, and myth surrounding His life. He was known there as Master Issa, and to this day, there is a pool named after him, where supposedly He once stopped and washed His feet.
While I was reading the Tibetan scrolls, 3 translations of which are now available in book form [1], I recognized the truth in them and felt the Spirit confirm it. It seemed so obvious to me: Of course Jesus would go to India. I thought. He went there to study and perfect His knowledge of the divine word and of the sacred science of God-realization.
Jesus Christ has been so Westernized that some people may find it hard to believe that He was ever in India, so it might be good to begin with some basic geography. Born in the heart of Palestine, Jesus was positioned in the exact center of the known world (at that time) and at the crossroads between East (India and the Orient) and West (Europe). Almost all trade routes from Europe to India and back went through Palestine. And in truth, Jerusalem was more of an Oriental city than a Western city, but the Christian world has forgotten this fact.
At the time of Jesus Christ’s birth, “wise men from the East” (Matthew 2:1) came to visit Him and worship Him. These distinguished Eastern men are believed to be kings from India (possibly why King Herod granted them an audience) who were known for their scientific, astrological, and esoteric knowledge. Their scriptures had foretold Christ’s coming, and they had watched the stars and used scientific knowledge to find him. They traveled far and were inspired to bring Him specific gifts. These gifts were not mere symbolic tokens but may have been very important in helping Jesus fulfill His life’s mission. For example, the gold they brought was a huge sum of money. This gift likely funded His family’s move to Egypt and the sojourn there during His early years. (The gifts of frankincense and myrrh are discussed here.) It makes sense that Jesus would reciprocate the visit from these Eastern wise men.
Though Judaism and Christianity have largely given our civilization its present shape, according to scholars, these religious traditions “were influenced by ideas stemming from countries further east, especially India.” [2] The scriptures of India are known as the oldest and most all-encompassing of the the human race. India is widely regarded by religious scholars as the mother of religion. [3]
But let’s go back to Jesus, age thirteen. In Jewish culture, age thirteen was when a boy reached manhood and could be married. Jesus, already known for His intelligence and excellence, was probably a candidate for marriage. According to the Tibetan scrolls (which for now, let’s just assume are factual), His parents were arranging a marriage for Him. But Jesus had His own plans. He arranged to travel with a caravan of merchants to India and He secreted away with them.

Jesus in India

The records say that Issa was fourteen when He crossed the Sind. His fame spread quickly, as it had in Palestine. The Jains asked Him to stay with them, but He went to Juggernaut, where the Brahmin priests taught Him to understand the Vedas and to teach, heal, and perform exorcisms.
He spent six years in Juggernaut and other holy cities. He became involved in a conflict with the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas (the priestly and warrior castes) because He was teaching the holy scriptures to the lower castes. Apparently, the lower castes were not allowed to hear the scriptures at all or were permitted to hear the scriptures only on special holidays.
If you know Jesus, then you will not be surprised by His response to the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas: “God the Father makes no difference between his children; all to him are equally dear.” [4]
Jesus ignored the injunction of the upper castes, and they plotted to kill Him. After being warned by the people, He left during the night and went to the foothills of the Himalayas in southern Nepal. After six years of study, Issa “had become a perfect expositor of the sacred writings.”[5] He then journeyed west, preaching against idolatry along the way. At age twenty-nine he finally returned to Israel, where He found John the Baptist and received the ordinance of baptism to officially begin His ministry. (The scrolls go on to describe Christ’s ministry and crucifixion, though this part is very brief and varies a bit from the New Testament as this information appears to have come back second hand from traveling merchants who witnessed some of the events.)
As one comes to understand the East, Eastern scriptures, and the ancient science of Kundalini Yoga, many of Jesus’s familiar teachings become richer. As you experience the awakening power of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, things that have remained mysterious can suddenly be perceived through intuitive understanding.

Eyes to See and Ears to Hear––Awakening Intuition

But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.––Matthew 13:16

Many of Jesus Christ’s most sacred teachings are embedded deep in layers of symbolism. However, careful study shows that He did not shroud these deeper truths in mystery when speaking to the individuals close to Him. As recounted in the book of Matthew, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” Jesus answered, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:10–11, 13).
Jesus is basically saying, “You—who are ordained, who are my real disciples, and who are living spiritually disciplined and consecrated lives according to my teachings—you have meditated and your spiritual eyes and ears have been awakened. You deserve to know the mysteries of God. But ordinary people, unprepared or unwilling, are not able to comprehend or practice these deeper truths. So I give these truths to them in symbolic stories with many layers, and all people can glean what they will. And if they apply it, they will make some progress.”
In teaching this way, He was being merciful and also realistic. If we are to be realistic, we must accept, as Christ did, that the reachable and teachable are a small percentage: “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15).
To illustrate this point, He gave the parable of the sower. While the sower (teacher) sowed seeds everywhere without prejudice, only a few seeds fell on good ground. If we are to be among the percentage whose soil is deep and rich, we must open our eyes and ears, or in other words, awaken our intuition.
The dictionary definition of intuition is “direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.”[6] Many people of faith have experienced flashes of intuition—the moments when you just know. Yet flashes of intuition are just the beginning. By actually awakening intuition, we have the ability to receive divine insight/personal revelation at all times, not just in flashes and spurts.
Regarding intuition, Paramhansa Yogananda said, “All bona fide revealed religions of the world are based on intuitive knowledge. Each has an exoteric or outer particularity and an esoteric or inner core.”[7] The exoteric aspect is the external public image, which includes the doctrines, ceremonies, dogmas, and culture. The esoteric aspect focuses on the actual communion of the soul with God. For example, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the doctrine of personal revelation is the core of the religion. God revealed himself to a young boy, through whom He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ and His authority on the earth in this dispensation. Regarding this and all other truths, each member of the church is encouraged to seek confirmation through personal revelation––a witness from God. Because this core of experiential understanding is individually applied, there are varying degrees of dedication and success. The outer is for the many, the inner is for the few.

We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable . . . is the meditation. . . . Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.
—David O. McKay, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), 31.[sidebar quote ish thing]
We know, through scriptural records, that having an inner experience of the divine is possible. The enlightened prophets had a firsthand knowledge of God and of reality. They were able to see through the façade that the ancients called maya (a Sanskrit word meaning “illusion”).
How these prophets became awakened and God-illuminated was twofold, and Jesus laid out the steps in His simple statement to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
In the first step, the prophets entered in. They had to be purified. To do so, they had to physically receive the ordinance of baptism. Baptism by immersion is both a symbolic and literal cleansing, as well as a symbolic rebirth. As part of the ordinance, the prophets made a covenant to follow God and keep His commandments. Keeping commandments is an important key to purity and advancement: “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:28). One could say that the ordinances and the commandments are part of the exoteric aspect of religion. They are absolutely necessary, but they are the outer gate.
In the second step, the prophets were “born of the spirit.” In this case Jesus is referring to a second birth of the soul––which occurs in a personal, esoteric way. It is the awakening of intuition. Some people call this awakening the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Others call it enlightenment. Whatever you call it, awakening is accomplished with the aid of the Holy Spirit: “For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will. Yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered in to the heart of man” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:10).
The Holy Spirit is available to all people everywhere; however, because of the fallen state of humankind’s consciousness and because of maya, everyone––regardless of religious affiliation––can lack the companionship of this member of the godhead. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma implied as much when he posed the following questions to a crowd of converted believers: “Have you spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14).
Let’s return to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and held the title of a “master of Israel.” He came to Jesus by night, probably to avoid social criticism, and declared that he knew Christ was teaching and working miracles by the power of God. It was an act of courage for a man of his position to approach Jesus, a controversial teacher, and declare faith in His divinity. But Nicodemus didn’t understand what Christ meant by “born again.” And so Nicodemus asks, “How is it done?” Holding a ceremonial office did not guarantee him an understanding of the mysteries of God. He had an intellectual knowledge of the scriptures but not of things that could be perceived only by intuitive understanding.
In reply, Jesus states: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?”(John 3:9–12). The phrase “we speak that we do know” refers to knowledge deeper than that derived from intellectual reasoning. Jesus, and those closest to Him, knew how to achieve this awakening, and Jesus shared this knowledge with Nicodemus in veiled language.[8]

Consciousness and Covenants

Jesus teaches that the route to mighty change and second birth/awakening is through regular, disciplined communion with God: “Take my yoke upon you . . . for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29–30).
The word yoga means “union” and comes from the same root as the word yoke. Anciently, yoga was about the practices, principles, and disciplines that led one to a state of union with God.[9] In our day, many people have come to think of yoga only as a physical discipline. But the asanas, or postures, that have gained popularity in recent years are actually the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potential of the human mind and soul.
Because of the many layers in Jesus’s teachings, it is reasonable to assume that when Jesus taught to “take my yoke upon you . . . for my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” He could have been saying, “Take my yoga upon you.” Indeed, the experience of yoga, with its royal lineage, does make one’s burdens light and has the power to awaken the devoted disciple.
Yoke also could also imply union with God through covenants. Covenants are two-way promises with God. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we make our first covenant at baptism. We promise to follow Him and keep His commandments, and He promises to forgive us of our sins as we repent, to give us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to give us eternal life.
After baptism, however, on the journey to greater light and knowledge, God requires additional, deeper covenant making from the heart. When we make these covenants, he promises us blessings even more magnificent than those that come with baptism. These promises include obtaining godhood, becoming joint-heirs with Christ, achieving perfection—being like Jesus! These deeper covenants are made in the Lord’s holy temples as part of sacred ceremonies that are called ordinances. (The term has a meaning roughly similar to that of the term sacrament in other Christian denominations.) The LDS church’s Guide to the Scriptures defines ordinances as “sacred rites and ceremonies. Ordinances consist of acts that have spiritual meanings.”[10] The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “by the Spirit of God through ordinances,” we are born again.[11] Truman G. Madsen added, “All ordinances, therefore, are channels of his Spirit. But the crowning ordinances are those of the Holy Temple.”[12]
According to my understanding and experience, becoming like Jesus requires both consciousness and covenants. Each is powerful but is not enough alone. No matter how purified and awakened we might be, we  cannot make the final ascent to godhood without the ordinances and covenants of the temple. Similarly, making covenants and participating in “acts that have spiritual meanings” in temples or elsewhere is not enough if our hearts are not purified and if we don’t filter those meanings through awakened consciousness.

Yes, we need the essential ordinances, but we also need the essential attributes. Yes, we need to keep our covenants, but we also need to develop our character.––Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, October 1997, 22

[1]  Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus: Documentary Evidence of Jesus’ 17-Year Journey to the East (Livingston, MT: Summit University Press, 1984), 191–221.
[2] Georg Feurerstein, Subhash Kak, and David Frawley, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization: New Light on Ancient India (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 1995), 12.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Nicolas Notovich, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ (Radford, VA: Wilder), 5:11, quoted in Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus, 198.
[5] Notovich, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, 6:4, quoted in Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus, 200.
[6] Dictionary.com, s.v. “intuition,” accessed January 3, 2014, http://www.dictionary.com.
[7] Paramahansa Yogananda, The Yoga of Jesus (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2007), 45.
[8] Christ’s answer to Nicodemus is discussed in greater detail in the Kundalini chapter.
[9] If the word yoga triggers images of gym yoga and body cult, just mentally replace it with the concept of union.
[10] Guide to the Scriptures, s.v., “ordinances,” accessed March 21, 2014, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/ordinances?lang=eng&letter=o. Ordinances are discussed more in “The Body and the Temple” chapter.
[11] Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 162.
[12] Truman G. Madsen, “Foundations of Temple Worship” (devotional, Brigham Young University–Idaho, Rexburg, ID, October 26, 2004), accessed March 21, 2014, http://trumanmadsen.com/media/FoundationsofTempleWorship.pdf.

1 comment:

  1. I am so grateful to have found this post. I too am LDS (a convert of 7 years from non-denominational christianity) and a seeker of truth. I recently felt a spiritual witness of the truth of the lost years of Christ as described by the ancient India texts and have been really struggling with how this fits into my faith. I know it does, but the blueprint isn't fully understood as this paradigm shift is still happening within my mind and heart. I would love to connect with you somehow and talk about how you have made peace with adding this truth to your LDS base. I too am a intuitive healer, I am a physical therapist/nutrition coach, and love mind body medicine. I'll give you my blog address and I'd love to connect if you are willing. www.lifewithspirit.wordpress.com