(Spoken on Christmas Eve, 1974)
Salutations and humble prostrations to the Almighty, the Creator, Sustainer and Transformer of this universe. Salutations again and again to that mighty power which pulsates through the veins of all beings, which throbs through the hearts of everything that is animate and inanimate. Humble prostrations to that invisible Infinite which has manifested itself as this vast visible universe, which masquerades and moves about in this world as all these beings that we see with our physical eyes. May our salutations be to that Almighty Who enacts this drama of the universe through the dramatic personae of all these created beings. May our humble prostrations be to That which is the nameless but which has all names included within it.
A holy sacrament or invocation may be regarded as a visible and outward symbol of an inward and spiritual grace. Such is this auspicious hour and this holy occasion which the world observes and celebrates today as a mark of the advent of the glory of the Almighty for the ascent of that which has descended at the beginning of creation. That which has come down has to go up, like the spokes of a moving wheel. A wheel does not know the power operating behind it that accelerates it. Similarly, this almost circular movement of creation, involution and evolution is motivated by a power which in a most detached manner dances in the core of all beings.
This particular occasion called Christmas, whose eve we celebrate today, is held in divine esteem by a specialised group of the lovers of God. They celebrate by means which are external as well as internal, for God is present not only outside but also inside. The outward deeds as well as the inward notions of a human being are motivated by God ultimately. We often say God works from within, but it is only a half truth. God also works from without because God has neither a within nor a without, just as space has no within and without. A room may have a within and a without, a compartmentalised body may have an inside and an outside, but the spatial expanse by itself has neither an inside nor an outside. When God acts, He acts in an infinitude manner because the action of God is inseparable from the being of God. This is a mystery, a glory and a magnificence which is divine and transcendent to the human mind.
Generally, our existence is not identical with our action. We do not identify our deeds with our own being because we can exist even without doing any action at all. Our physical existence can be separated from our physical activity. Sometimes we say a person is doing nothing, but by that we do not mean that the person does not exist, so doing something is different from existing. But in the case of God, the two are identical. His existence is His action. But it is not merely that; there is something profound about this great mystery.
Our existence is commensurate with a cessation of all thought and mental activity. We exist even when we are not thinking; therefore, our thoughts are not identical with our existence. Just as our activity may not be the same as our being, our thought also may not be identical with our existence; but in the case of God, thought and being are one.
In the case of the Supreme Being, existence, thought and activity mean one and the same thing. His existence is His thinking or His willing, and that is the same as His action. Here we differ from God and God differs from us. This also explains the fallacy in the oft-quoted shibboleth that the human values held in esteem by people can be equated with divine values. This it is that distinguishes between the values that are visible in the created universe and the values that are transcendent. God is in this world but He is not exhausted in this world. He is transcendent. Therefore, the effort of God to absorb mankind into Himself, which is symbolised in the incarnation of the Christ to redeem mankind by a universal suffering which he underwent, is a super-mundane mystery, and this is the mystery of every incarnation.
The incarnations of God are multitudinous. They are infinite as the rays of the sun, and every incarnation manifests a mystery of God. It is not an object of mathematical calculation or scientific observation. Nothing that is divine can be calculated. Nothing that is divine can be judged by logic, and nothing that is divine can be observed by scientific methods. Everything that is divine is a mystery. It is a marvel. It is a miracle, a wonder. Everything that God does is a wonder. His creation is a wonder, the way in which He sustains the universe is a wonder, the manner in which He redeems people by His grace is a wonder, the method by which individuals attain salvation is a wonder, and all the processes that are involved in the ascent of man to God also are a wonder. The human mind makes an audacious attempt to logically delimit the mystery and the glory of God to the test tube of its own observations. This is not possible.
The grace of God is, again, identical with His being. Even as we cannot distinguish the rays of the sun from the sun, the grace of God cannot be distinguished from the being of God. Today we can say that the miracle of Christ has not been understood even by Christians. People regard it as a historical fact or a mystical doctrine, but it is more than this because the descent of divine grace is not historical in the chronological sense of human calculation, though all temporal events are included and absorbed in the being of God. It is also not a mystical doctrine, because God has no doctrines. The divine ascent, which is the soul’s miraculous redemption symbolised in the incarnation, crucifixion and resuscitation of Christ, is the miracle of God’s creation and the miracle of His beckoning of all creation to Himself.
Today we have highly scientific minds. We are in the twentieth century, very advanced and moving towards the apex of human culture as we understand it. The human being prides himself on his achievements – achievements in the sense of having conquered and harnessed powers of nature for his own purposes, whose meaning he has not understood even today.
What are your purposes, for whose sake you are harnessing the powers of nature? Can anyone answer this? What is my purpose? What is my need? What is my necessity? What is it that I am asking for? All this is inscrutable, and misery seems to be weighing heavily over the shoulders of mankind. The wisdom that we seem to be endowed with by the powers of scientific investigation and logical and philosophical energies creates insecurity and fear from all sides. We cannot sleep a single night with peace with the wisdom that we possess today.
With this predicament, with this precarious position in which we have all been placed, with all this that can be regarded as undesirable, we have not the time to investigate into the causes of our present condition because we are too logical, too scientific, too matter-of-fact and too realistic – too wise, we may say. Our wisdom has gone beyond our heads. It appears that we cannot contain our wisdom within ourselves. It is bursting, as it were.
When such a situation arises, the earth becomes too earthy, dense and heavy with its own material contents, unable to stand on its own legs. It becomes too weighty even for itself. Even the elephant does not feel its own weight, but a time may come when the earth may feel its weight so much that it cannot any more stand on its own legs. That is the hour when God is called. That is the moment when we cry for a solace whose source we cannot adequately conceive in our minds. A sorrow that is breaking through the veins and the hearts of people must take possession of them. It is then that God descends. It is said that God comes only at the breaking point. It should look as if we are passing away, our pranas are cracking, our bones are breaking, our flesh is melting, and everything is insecure. The ground from under our feet is cut. At that time it is that God comes. Are we heading towards that condition? Are we inviting the incarnation of God by a deliberate attempt at moving in the wrong direction?
We may ask, “Will any person act deliberately in such a way as to bring a doom upon himself?” Well, no one may do that because the errors of mankind are seated in the intellects of mankind, and when the intellects go wrong nobody can detect that there are errors at all because the detecting intelligence, which is our highest and chief endowment, has itself gone wrong. When the detecting intelligence itself is moving in the wrong direction, who is to detect this mistake? This is what has happened to mankind. When mankind’s movements in the wrong direction are activated merely by sociological or physical factors, the intelligence may be able to detect the erroneous movements. But when the intelligence itself is out of gear, who is going to detect the mistake? This is what has happened to mankind.
This happened once upon a time many, many years back, and I am afraid that the time is coming once again. Many, many years back what happened was that mankind was prone to commit a double blunder. It happened in India, it happened in the Middle East, and perhaps in many other parts of the world also. The earth got identified with its own wisdom; the body got identified with its own consciousness. This is what we call the materialistic awareness. What we call materialism is nothing but the identification of understanding, consciousness or intelligence, with matter. When this takes place, matter becomes God. Mammon is worshipped, and ritual becomes the chief method of the attainment of one’s ends.
The years preceding the advent of Christ in Palestine were characterised by these features of mammon worship and adherence to ritual, custom, formality, outward modes of religious observance and prayer in the synagogues, all which lost the spirit of what we may call religion. I mentioned a few minutes before that anything that is connected with God is a miracle; therefore, it cannot be equated with a ritual, an observance, a formality, a method, a routine, or any kind of calculated system in a mathematical sense.
When we subject God and the ways of God to mathematics and logic, we are no more a religious people because religion is not a mathematical or logical system. It is also not a doctrine created by man. It is again, to repeat, a miracle by itself. And that is why the religion of the Christ is misunderstood. It looked as if what he was saying was over and above the heads of the people of the times. He was a very young man from the physical point of view, but his doctrines and teachings where charged with that spirit. He often used the term ‘spirit’: “The spirit shall take care of us.” But what is the spirit? How can we understand what the spirit is? To us, the spirit is, again, a finite entity. Even God is a finite something to those who are formalistically religious, and to the minds of people who are accustomed to such a religion which was ridden with formality and characterised by routines which are mechanistic, spiritless and, therefore, truly not religious, the spirit of true religion was a difficult thing to understand, as it is to many of us even today.
What is religion to us? It is temple going, church going, bell ringing, and a routine, a method, a stereotyped system, a beaten track, a wooden path that we want to tread blindly, with closed eyes. We wish to be dragged by a force because we are too idle to walk with our own energies. We want to be dragged even to God by some other person. Such a mechanised atmosphere was the background of the advent of Christ. Such an atmosphere was also the background of the advent of Sri Krishna in India, and certain other major incarnations of God.
At this holy hour of Christmas Eve, what is our duty? Our duty is to invoke God. My very first sentence here was that an invocation is a kind of sacrament, a prasad as it is called in India, which is nothing but an outward symbol of an inward grace of the spirit. Therefore, religion and religious observance, including Christmas, is the spirit’s manifestation, and so the spirit’s glory is revealed through the lights that are illuminating this hall today. When the spirit manifests itself, it is midnight. It is the dark night of the soul, the deepest night of the senses. When the world is asleep, God manifests Himself. We have such a beautiful verse in the Bhagavadgita also: yā niśā sarvabhūtānāṃ tasyāṃ jāgarti saṃyamī (Gita 2.69). God is awake when mankind is asleep, and when mankind is awake, God seems to be sleeping. What does it mean? The meaning is that human, earthly, temporal values need to be transmuted into a divine value in order that God may descend upon earth and Christ may become the object of worship in Christmas.
Every year we celebrate Christmas in a very grand and gorgeous manner and, to repeat once again, the celebration becomes meaningful when it is an outward and visible symbol of an inward and spiritual grace because Christ was spirit incarnate, not body manifest. The transubstantiation theory of the Christians in which they adore the spirit of Christ in his visible manifestation speaks for itself. That is, the spirit of God it is that is worshipped in religion. It was the spirit of God that manifested itself in Christ, and it is the spirit of God that can save us, if at all there is any saving force anywhere in this world. Man cannot save us, money cannot save us, and earthly and temporal powers cannot save us. We should all be reminded of the great saying, “What profiteth you if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?” And what are we doing except to substantiate this warning that was given to us regarding gaining the whole world and losing the soul?
What is man doing today except gaining the whole world for himself and simultaneously losing his soul? It is no wonder if man is not happy today, because the world cannot give us happiness. It is the soul that gives us happiness because the ambassador of God is present as the soul of man in the body of every individual, and if we are happy even for a moment of the day it is because of the soul’s manifestation on that occasion. When the soul is asleep we are sorry, we are grief-stricken. It looks as if everything is dark and gloomy and meaningless. When the soul smiles, it looks as if the world is smiling. Well, the soul smiling means God smiling.
So the midnight of the senses is the occasion for the advent of God through the anointed Christ in man. That is the meaning of the Christ: the holy one, which is present in each and every person. And we may say, like the Pharisees, the Philistines, “Lo, the wonder is here, lo it is there.” But no, it is not here, it is not there because the kingdom of heaven is within us. Is it not a wonder that the kingdom of heaven can be within us? How can a kingdom be within any person? It is absurd. But that is again a miracle. Everything that is meaningful and worthwhile, everything that is of ultimate value in this world is a miracle by itself. How we breathe with our lungs is a miracle. How our heart beats ceaselessly from birth to death is a miracle. How we are able to lift even a finger is a miracle. It is not so simple an affair as it appears. Is the breathing process which keeps us alive not a miracle? Everything that is of real value and meaning to us is a wonder by itself.
But the time does not yet seem to have come for man to realise the finitude of his own understanding and the limitations of his wisdom. Religion is supposed to begin where the intellect ends. Where you cease to be, there God manifests Himself. When you are not, then God is. When you are, God is not.
All these mysteries are beautifully described in the New Testament, in various places. We should all read the New Testament, not only for the beauty of the English or Latin or Italian, but also for the profundity of the thought and the majesty of the ideas conveyed in the most truly religious sense because it will be worthwhile for us all to recapitulate into our memories that we do not live for nothing. We live for some great meaning and purpose.
Do we live for nothing? Is this the fate of our existence in this world? Is it for nothing that we are alive here in this world? Are we here to draw a salary and afterwards die like a crow? Are we here to eat a good meal, sleep well and get up with a heavy body, lumbering towards our office or factory to repeat the same humdrum routine every day? Is this the meaning of life? Is there no other purpose behind the visible activities of the individuality that we are? The meaning is our spirit. The spirit of man is the meaning behind the life that man is living, and may this spirit be recognised. This spirit is religion, this spirit is spirituality, this spirit is the emblem of God in this world, and it is this spirit that is keeping us alive today. This is the grace of God, again to repeat.
So on this auspicious occasion of the eve of Christmas may we all invoke from the bottom of our hearts the divine grace of the Almighty – not merely the transempirical transcendent inaccessible to us, but the most dear and near to us, the father and mother of all people. May we invoke this masterly divinity, the power that is supreme, which is the only thing that can save us in our times of danger and in our crucial hour. May this divinity be invoked not only for the peace of the individual and the salvation of mankind, but also for the solidarity of the nations and the peace of the whole world. This is my humble prayer on this sacred occasion. May God bless you.