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The Mystery of Incarnation
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on Christmas Eve 1993)

We celebrate Christmas as the occasion of the coming of God into the world. The descent of the Almighty into His own creation is a blending of the paramarthika or the transcendent, and the vyavaharika or the relative. The question of the relation of God to the world has been an age-old problem to philosophers, and even to mystics and religious experts. How does God come to the world? It is difficult for an ordinary mind to conceive such a possibility.

The solution to every trouble in the world seems to be a correct understanding of this mystery—namely, the way in which God descends into the world. Pertinently, in the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita we have a statement made by Bhagavan Sri Krishna that one who knows the secret of  Incarnation will be redeemed from the turmoil of birth and death. Every one of us knows that there has been an Incarnation of God; but to what extent do we feel that we are on the way to redemption, after having known that there has been an Incarnation?

The word ‘know' has to be explained in its proper context. We have theoretical information regarding the coming of God to the world, as provided to us through a scripture, but knowledge is not information. If knowledge is not that, then every type of education we are given in colleges and universities these days is equal to dust, an arid substance. Thus, all knowledge in this world has not redeemed man, because the secret of the relation between God and the world has not been properly appreciated by the heart of man, though it has been argued about by the intellect of man.

Another context, to cite from the Bhagavadgita itself, is that all peace and prosperity shall prevail there, where Krishna and Arjuna sit together in one chariot. This, again, is an illustration of the necessity to understand how the above and the below, heaven and earth, the transcendent and the relative, God and His creation, can collaborate with each other in such a manner that every atom of creation gets charged by the presence of divinity in the form of the descent—which we describe in such a way because it appears to us that, from our spatio-temporal point of view, it is a coming down from a realm which is above. In fact, there is no above and below in God or His creation; neither does one go up, nor does anything comes down. An integration takes place, to put it more properly. What sort of integration? That which is the visible concern of life gets surcharged with that which gives meaning to this vision of life.

We do appreciate that there is meaning in our existence in this world. We see the world, but do we also see a meaning in the world? It is a hidden masquerading of a secret meaning, through the phenomena of the world, that makes us feel that it is worthwhile living in the world as long as possible. This meaning, though not properly understood and appreciated, is the element of transcendence pervading the whole cosmos. It is that which often makes us feel happy in our performances in the world.

The appreciation of the coming of God as Incarnation is itself a great spiritual practice. It is not a theological doctrine to be read in a church or studied in a temple. It is the portrayal of the exact technology of how man can collaborate with God, how he can receive the call of God, and how God can respond to the call of man. There is an interrelationship between God and the human being, and with everything in the world that God has created. It is the inability on the part of the empirical reason and the sense organs to discover the meaning that is transcendentally hidden in this world that keeps one cut off from God, as it were, even as one can be said to be severed from the influence of sunlight when one lives inside a cave or shuts the doors and windows of one’s own house.

Through our exteriorised activity of the sense organs and the mind, we perpetually prevent the entry of the transcendent element into us. By the word ‘transcendent’, we have to understand that it is a universal presence; it is universal and, therefore, it is transcendent. Why should it be so? Because there is nothing universal visible in this world. Everything is particularised, localised, fixed in one point of space and time, and we cannot see one thing everywhere. Something is somewhere; something else is somewhere else. Therefore, there is a dichotomy, a disharmony between visible objects, including our own bodies and the pervading presence. This is why we do not feel the presence of God in this world. How could it be possible, when we are perpetually attempting to go contrary to the requirement of this descent into our world?

How do we prevent this entry? It is by perpetually projecting our consciousness outwardly through the sense organs, the mind and the reason in the direction of what is outside consciousness. The universal, which is the transcendent, is also consciousness. God is Supreme Intelligence, Universal Consciousness. It cannot be partitioned into bits. For such a thing to enter into a particular is a miracle, indeed, to conceive. “My birth is a great mystery,” says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Bhagavadgita. It is a mystery to everyone because the immortal cannot easily be accommodated into the mortal texture. They are contradictories, as it were—though really they are not so.

We are perishable entities, but we seek to be perpetually alive in this world. This mortal frame seeks a permanent abode in this world of fluxation. A contradictory feeling arises in the mind of man when he begins to assert that it is good to live a long life, if possible an endless life, though at the same time one knows that it is not practicable because no one has lived an endless life in this world—not me, not you, not anyone.

Knowing that it is impossible to be perpetually finding an abode in this world, how comes this thought in everyone that it is good to live long? It is the secret operation of the transcendent Universal in us, that which is planted in us as the soul, so-called—the Atman, as it is called. It is the imperishable in us that tells us that it is good to live long, in spite of the fact that visible objects, including our own bodies, cannot live long.

What is our duty in this context? Our duty is to understand what this coming of God is. Our celebration is not merely a merry-making occasion. It is not a routine; it is not a mechanical performance. It is not just doing something because it has to be done. It is a recharging of our body by the entry of something which is not physical. A non-physical force is enabled to enter into our personality when we love, appreciate and celebrate the coming of God into this world.

It is difficult to live religion. Religion cannot be lived in a church or a temple, or anywhere, through mere mechanical performance. You may dance and stand on your head, but all this will be futile because that is not the way of bringing God into your life. How could that which is everywhere be brought into something which is only in one place? It is possible. The mysterious entry of that which is everywhere into that which is only in one place is the mystery of Incarnation. Christ or Krishna, whatever be the name we give to this Incarnation, is an embodied visible framework—in visible form, in space and time—of that which is incapable of perception through the sense organs and the mind. It is a concentration of that which is everywhere in that which is in one place. Thus, the Incarnation has all the powers of God. The Incarnation can work miracles which God can also work. It can assume a Universal Form, as in the case in the life of Sri Krishna.

The Incarnation is, for all visible perfection and sensory operation, a particular human being, as it were, speaking to us, but the voice comes from above. It is like the ocean speaking to us through a river, the sun speaking to us through a ray, the moon speaking to us through a single beam, and many other such illustrations can be given to explain how this phenomenon takes place. As we are mostly dull-witted, lethargic, and do not want to do hard work in the direction of the understanding of this great divine mystery—we want to somehow get on in life in a comfortable manner—this has undone all our so-called aspiration.

Vigorous effort is necessary on our part to re-transform our personality, or bring about a transvaluation of values, as modern thinkers say. We are to live a new life altogether, not as an ostentation to be seen by other people through our doings, but in our being. It is we that have to be satisfied that we are good enough, and there is no need to put on a show by any kind of pretence or performance so that others should consider us as good enough. Do we consider ourselves as good enough? Do you feel, do I feel, does anybody feel that they are good enough? “I am satisfactory; it is enough. I think this is sufficient for God’s mercy upon me.” Or, do you feel that you are a hopeless fellow? “Inside, I am not what people see me from outside. I am a wretched man, and I have so many flaws. I am good for nothing. I think God is as far away from me as the stars in heaven.” Do you feel like that? Then it is a tragedy, indeed.

You are not a wretched person, nor even a sinful person, I would say. You are only a finite individual, and that is not a sin. The finitising can be infinitised by allowing the Universal Being to enter into this finite. Whenever such a phenomenon appears, we call it an Incarnation, and we ourselves can stand witness to this process in our practical lives by uniting ourselves inwardly with that which is everywhere. In this process, when this effort is exercised adequately, our hearts will start throbbing with a joy that the world has not seen.

Why do great spiritual mystics, saints and sages, dance in ecstasy? It is because the experience becomes uncontrollable to the feeble physical individuality. A huge unimaginable force, something like high-voltage current entering into one’s person, cannot be tolerated. The whole body shakes, trembles, rises up, dances, and kicks things here and there; it yells, shouts and sings, and utters words which are not to be found in the dictionary. This is how saints and sages behave, and their utterances, which are super-normal, become the scriptures and the mystical doctrines of humanity. These are the essential points which are so practical and so vital to us that we cannot ignore them for a moment.

Why are we celebrating Christmas, as if we have no other work to do? It is an occasion for us to rejoice—rejoice in the world and rejoice in God. “Again I say, rejoice in God,” said St. Paul. It is necessary to rejoice. We have not been born into this world to curse things and to suffer life. God has not penalised us by sending us to this world, just as the government does not punish an individual by making him an ambassador. It is a great deed that the government performs in deputing an individual with its authority. We have also been vested with that same divine authority, but either we are ignorant of what has happened to us, or we are misusing the potentials and the resources that have been bestowed upon us. Hence, during these moments of our session here on Christmas Eve, may we muster in our powers, bring the senses back to their source, withdraw the consciousness from its meandering through space and time and in the midst of objects, and centre it in itself, the Itself which is the Centre. And, as I mentioned, the Centre is naturally everywhere, as a transcendent element.

Our centre is not merely inside the physical body. Our heart is in all places. Wherever our feelings are, there our heart also is. And if our feeling is for God, it has to be pervading all things. This is why saints, sages and yogis are compassionate, loving, cooperative, charitable, serviceful, because the thing that is everywhere is vibrating through them. That is, through their performances and their operations, they behold That which is everywhere. This is the reason why they become so good in their behaviour. The goodness comes from the godliness that has been implanted in them. That is why saints and sages are extremely good. Ideal goodness is in them. Only they can be good; only a God-man can be a really good man. Read the lives of saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, to give one instance, or the life of any other saint who has lived for God and sunk himself in God, and felt nothing else in

his mind.

Every prosperity is at your feet if Krishna and Arjuna sit together in one chariot—which is to say, when God enters your soul and He is seated in the chariot of this body. Krishna and Arjuna have come together, and they drive this chariot. Tad viṣṇoḥ paramam padam, as the Kathopanishad puts it: This chariot will be driven by the charioteer, who is the purified reason, along the road of the sense objects, this very world, in the direction of the abode of the Supreme Being.

The world is not a cursed, sinful abode of punishment. The world is not a hell, it is a road to God, says the Kathopanishad. The body is the chariot; the soul is the driver, or the Lord; the buddhi, or the intellect, is the charioteer; the senses are the horses; the mind is the reins; the objects are the road. The objects are the road! Do not curse them as if they are tempters. They are not tempters. You are tempting them, rather than they are tempting you. You are grasping them, though they repel you. Do you know this fact? You try to attract the objects, while actually they repel you. That is why they run away from you. This is the reason why nobody can possess any object in the world perpetually. You love the objects, but they do not love you. There is a peculiar, tragic operation taking place in our loves for things in the world.

Now, in this circumstance of the description of this chariot—which is the vehicle of God and man working together towards the destination which is the Absolute, the reaching of the abode of the Father in heaven, Vishnu, or the Absolute, in whatever manner you call it—it is not merely an aim of life. It is the practical way of living even now. The means and the end are not separated. If the aim is to reach God, the means cannot be far away from it. Actually, the end is nothing but the evolution of the means, and the end is only that which is potentially present even at the beginning, in the process of this evolution.

This is how we can put to use anything in this world as an object of utility in our practice of yoga, meditation, spiritual sadhana. Living in the world need not be a suffering. We bring about sorrow by an erroneous perception of the intention of God in this world. If His intention is implanted in us by our understanding, Christ resides in everyone’s heart, and Krishna and Arjuna come together and fight the battle of the Mahabharata and win victory, which is nothing but the battle of life, which is ever taking place, right from creation until the end.

This is a highly interesting and very important issue that is before us, never to be forgotten for a moment. You cannot sleep by ignoring it. If you forget it even for a moment, you will get cut off from it forever. Thus, awake and arise, and be blessed on this holy Christmas. These few words I uttered as an offering to God. Merry Christmas!