(Spoken on Christmas Eve in 1985)
The glory and the suffering consequent upon the living of a life dedicated to God may be considered, at least from the point of view of a spiritual seeker, the quintessence of the whole dramatic portrayal we call the coming of Christ, God incarnating Himself in flesh and blood, and the word eternal materialising itself into form. It is a dual function taking place simultaneously which we call the descent of God for the ascent of man to Godhood.
Throughout religious history, we have this picture before the mind of seeking souls of an apparently contradictory act involved in the eternal descending into the temporal form – for us, the human form – and the striving of the human to regain its lost divinity and pristine originality.
In the life of Jesus the Christ, the glory of God and the power of divine grace is well demonstrated, no doubt; but simultaneously, there is also a vivid picture of the ordeals that are inseparable from a search for the bliss of God. In this special form of divine coming, we have especially a most interesting narration of the journey of the spirit, together with a touch of the grandeur of God’s power and glory incessantly operating through every phenomenon in life, in every nook and corner of creation. This highlights the fact that in the darkest corner of the Earth, there is also the brightest ray of God illumining itself in all its majesty; and the suffering and the discipline associated with the spiritual ascent is, to the seeker, the effort necessary to accommodate human individuality with the requisitions of God’s universality – night trying to overcome itself and become day, the negative entering into the positive, the dreamer awakening into active consciousness. Some of these may be the illustrations that we may bring forward to give in a brief outline the mystical essentialities and the religious profundities that are not always visible to the naked eye that reads the life of Christ.
The inner man is the spirit of God which gloried not only in the precepts and the practices connected with the life of Jesus Christ, but also in the inward communions which he perpetually maintained with God. But the outer Christ – if you like, we may call him the historic Christ, the one that took birth in a human frame, who had a father and a mother, and had a geographical location, and passed through a human history – this outer Christ is symbolic of the struggling spirit that has lost grip over its essence which is divine universality, and suffers.
As I mentioned at the very outset, you will not read anywhere a greater abundance and exuberance of the glory of divinity than is portrayed in the life of Christ, and you will also not see a greater sorrow and suffering as you would read in his own life. Spiritual life is often seen to be a terrible contradiction, a war in Indian parlance. In the epics of the world, we may say, generally speaking, this warfare is regarded as the main theme of narration and description – a war, as it were, between Earth and heaven, between the body and the soul, between man and God, between the downward pull of the demands of sense and the upward call of the universal divinity.
The teachings of Christ summarise and give us the sum and substance of all that true religion can mean, what spirituality could be. The Sermon on the Mount particularly is often placed beside the Bhagavadgita and such other teachings as the voice of God, the call of God summoning man to Himself. That is so, indeed. But there is also a portrayal of the sadhaka in Christ. A siddha and a sadhaka cannot be in one person, but when it is a requisite presentation for the purpose of teaching, it can be a beautiful blend, indeed. We have saints of that nature in India and in other parts of the world who are masters in themselves, and at the same time pass through what may be called the turmoils of human existence and the sorrows of evolutionary ascent.
The necessity for accepting God as the be-all and end-all of one’s life, the need to be perpetually in the state of the awareness of the presence of the all-comprehensive God-being, the necessity again to be entirely and wholly religious in one’s outlook day in and day out, to be saturated through every pore and cell of the body in the religion of the love of God is one side of the glorious picture of the life of Christ. It is the siddha’s teaching, the master’s proclamation to humanity as a whole. But there is the sadhaka, the sufferer, the student whose predicament also is beautifully portrayed. The struggle, the war, the epic, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the similar pictures we have drawn before us by the epics of the world are the story of the arduous movement with the hurdles on the way towards the great and the greatest glory that is God.
We live for God, and we die for Him. Here we have what Christ might have told any one of us. If we are born, it is for His sake. If we live in any manner whatsoever, it is to hoist the banner of the glory of God, to see to it that His presence is emphasised, accentuated in every thought and speech and action of man. It is to start life with a total surrender to God, to live throughout one’s life in the awareness of this surrender, and finally to sacrifice oneself for the sake of God, the Truth of all truths – to die for Him, to abolish oneself and annihilate one’s very existence in the name of that great truth. That would be another message of Christ before us.
The penury in which he is portrayed as having been living – the humble, simple birth in an unknown place to poor parents, living the simplest form of life conceivable in this world with ownership in regard to nothing, having nothing to call one’s own as property or belonging, no land, no house, no friends, no relations, having nothing to do with anyone – known as the spirit’s life, known as the life of the seeker of that which is lower existence. Such isolation depicted in the life of Jesus, right from his very childhood which he carried through till the consummation of his existence here, speaks volumes to us as to what religious life can be.
Austerity may be also said to be a byword and a watchword of his teaching. Keeping nothing for the morrow is something that is repeated again and again. Hard indeed is this kind of life. To say that it is hard is to say little. To trust not tomorrow and to see that this day would be sufficient would indeed be a hard life. Who on Earth can dare to live a life of this kind where the thought of the morrow is totally absent, and it is life in the present, and only in the present? Who can afford to live such a kind of life? We cannot have many Christs, even as we cannot have many God Almighties. Perhaps true seekers also cannot be many in world. Such dissociation from all kinds of temporal entanglement and association for the sake of complete association for the ideal which is God, which we call the Father in heaven – that life is hard indeed.
But what could be a harder truth for us to swallow than to be told that he was ready even to sacrifice himself? Sacrifice – the very word is frightening. Who would like to sacrifice? Grabbing is the law of life. Accumulation, exploitation and multiplication of wealth, glory in gold and silver, in brick and mortar is the life of man, usually; but this is antichrist speaking. The Christ life is the life of the present. It has neither a past, nor a future. There was no yesterday, and there shall not be a tomorrow. It is only today. It is not even today, it is just this moment. If I live for the next moment, that shall be wonderful, and God is eternal presence; hence, life in the true presence, the present eternal, was told us by way of demonstration and living, apart from his precepts.
You may have heard it said that yajna is the greatest sadhana; sacrifice is the highest of spiritual practices. The crucifixion of the mortality in the spiritual nature is dramatically presented in the life of Christ, and no greater drama could ever be written. No playwright will touch his pen to write a better story than this coming and the going of the immortal and the mortal put together – Christ glorifying God, and Christ dying on the cross. Such is the spirit of a sadhaka, of every spiritual seeker. It is not enough if we observe a day once in a year in the name of a bygone person. It is not also a reading of a scripture or a passage. It is not even trying to emulate the life of a person who lived years ago; it is to live by God. To love God with all one’s heart and mind and soul, and to rejoice in the name of God, and to rejoice in nothing else, to find joy in nothing else in this world, and to be prepared to undergo the highest of ordeals, the cruellest of perpetrations for the sake of God’s name, such a spirit is tough indeed, and that is the stuff of the spiritual seeker.
We cannot adequately describe in human tongue and words what hidden significances we could discover in the life of this great master, Jesus the Christ. If we read through the little descriptions we have in the gospels, we will, of course, have before our mental vision the literal meaning of the story; but there is a diviner content lying as the undercurrent of the story which is the cry of the soul for God, the suffering of man for the sake of the Almighty, the utter sacrifice of everything that one owns, and a complete dedication of even what one may consider oneself to be. Not only ‘mine’ but also ‘I’ – both these go.
We need not go on haranguing that Christ possessed nothing. Everyone knows that he did possess nothing. But perhaps, he did not have even the I consciousness. That also he surrendered. It was given up, and given up in a miraculous manner which touches our souls, which breaks our hearts, which makes us cry and weep, and which we will not be able to remember without a shudder in our hearts. Such is the glory and the terror, I should say, of the life of a spiritual seeker that is portrayed in the divine incarnation which is a double demonstration before us of the glory of God and the suffering of man as a spiritual seeker.
These are the few words I felt like speaking today. Glory be to the Almighty! Glory to Christ!