The Wisdom of Jesus and
the Yoga Siddhas
by M. Govindan Satchidananda
I was twelve years old, when I attended a Billy Graham rally with
a hundred thousand other persons at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
I was overwhelmed by its intensity, and when Billy Graham called
upon us to come down to the stage and declare our commitment to
Jesus Christ, I responded. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord
and Savior. And I began to dream of one day becoming a Christian
missionary in Africa.
I was fifteen years old when
I attended a "Human Encounter Session" at the local Y.M.C.A.,
a half mile down the road from Westchester Lutheran Church. For
two full days, about sixty of my classmates from high school sat
in a circle and shared our concerns about life. We talked and
listened to one another for hours. A Y.M.C.A. counselor gently
moderated the discussions, giving everyone an opportunity to share
their heartfelt insights and questions. Near the end of the second
day, the discussion died down. No one had anything more to say.
We seemed to have collectively reached a place of rest. Suddenly,
I had my first spiritual experience. I transcended my ordinary
mental state and entered into a state of quiet ecstasy. I realized
that there was only one Being in the room who was speaking earnestly
through all of us, guiding us back to the realization of our true
identity, beyond names and forms. This Being permeated everything,
and was totally loving and benevolent. I was transfixed by the
experience, and for days afterwards enjoyed an altered state of
consciousness wherein I felt the oneness of everything. It was
truer than anything that I had ever experienced before. Gradually,
however, this state went away. It left me with a deep longing
to find it again.
In the years that followed,
I delved into various disciplines of meditation, eastern religions,
and found my home in Yoga, without ever leaving the original teachings
of Jesus. Yoga reflects what Jesus said in his parables, sayings
The parables and sayings of
Jesus can be grouped under several important themes: reversing
natural human inclinations, the Kingdom of Heaven, entering the
Kingdom of Heaven, purity, on worry and being present, on aspiration,
showing the path to others, God's unconditional love, and forgiveness
of sins, and the karmic consequences of our actions.
Many of the insights that I have had about them are informed by
comparisons that I have made with the teachings of the Yoga Siddhas,
who were contemporaries of Jesus, as well as with the Gospel of
Thomas, discovered in the Sinai Desert in 1945. Most of the following
quotations from the New Testament are taken a modern language
translation from The Five Gospels, by Robert Funk and Roy
Reversing Natural Human
"Be ye perfect, even as your
Father in Heaven is perfect," (Matthew 5.48 with parallel in Luke
6:36). One of the meanings of the word for a Yogic saint or Siddha
is "one who has become perfect." Jesus challenged his listeners
to perfect themselves, to overcome their lower human nature, and
to become divine. Jesus, like the greatest of Yoga adepts, made
his life his Yoga. He overcame all the ordinary limitations of
the human existence to reveal his true nature, and more importantly,
He admonished His listeners to do the same.
Jesus asks us to do the opposite
of what human nature would ordinarily cause us to do. He said:
"Don't react violently against
the one who is evil; when someone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn the other as well. When someone wants to sue you for your
shirt, let that person have your coat along with it. Further,
when anyone conscripts you for one mile, go an extra mile." (Matthew
5:39-41, with parallels in Luke 6.29)
"Give to the one who begs from
you; and don't turn away the one who tries to borrow from you."
(Matthew 5:42, with parallels in Luke 6.29)
"Love your enemies." (Matthew
5.43 with parallel in Luke 6:27-28).
Because the commands are so
extreme, even ridiculous when taken literally (we'd all soon be
naked and impoverished if we followed them to the limit), they
give us the kind of insight that we could only have by becoming
aware of the ordinary tendencies of the ego. They demand responses
which are just barely possible, so they push us to go to the edge
of human nature, and beyond. The admonition to "love your enemies"
is particularly memorable because it cuts against the social grain
and constitutes a paradox: those who love their enemies have no
This is also the method of Yoga
and Tantra. As Sri Aurobindo put it humorously, when urged by
his comrades who were fighting for India's independence from the
British Empire to resume his political struggle, he quickly replied
that what was needed was "not a revolt against the British Government,
which anyone could easily manage…(but) a revolt against
the whole of universal Nature."
The "edge" of what the practitioner
finds possible to do in a Yoga posture is the metaphor for the
edges which we reach in our human experience, for example, whenever
we feel anger, fear or depression. By learning to keep our balance
and our awareness, keeping calm, listening, acting only after
reflecting, rather than reacting, we extend what we are capable
of doing, in effect stretching our human nature a little farther.
Most of Yoga is doing the opposite of what our human nature would
ordinarily cause us to do - remaining calm and content in the
face of opposition or discord, sitting still, rather than moving,
remaining awake when the eyes are closed, in meditation; allowing
the breathing to slow to zero; training even the mind to become
still, rather than to be restless.
The Kingdom of Heaven
The parable of the mustard seed
expressed his vision of the Kingdom of Heaven.
"The followers said to Jesus,
'Tell us what heaven's kingdom is like.' He said to them, 'It
is like a mustard seed. (It) is the smallest of all seeds, but
when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and
becomes a shelter for birds of heaven.'" (Gospel of Thomas Saying
20, with parallel verses in Mark 4.30-32, Luke 13.18-19, and Matthew
The metaphor of the mustard
seed (proverbial for its smallness) is considered by scholars
to be a good example of how Jesus considered God's domain to be:
modest, common and pervasive, rather than imperial. They point
out that the mighty cedar of Lebanon tree (Ezekial 17:22-23) and
the apocalyptic tree of Daniel (Daniel 4:12, 20-22) were the traditional
metaphors used to describe God's domain. Jesus' selection of the
mustard tree pokes fun at established tradition in a comical way.
It is also anti-social in that it endorses counter movements and
ridicules established tradition.
The parable of the leaven in
the flour also teaches us about the Kingdom of Heaven, and how
reversing our human nature permits us to perceive it.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like
leaven which a woman took and concealed in fifty pounds of flour
until it was all leavened." (Matthew 13.33, parallels in Luke
13.20-21 and Thomas 96)
This one-sentence parable transmits
the voice of Jesus as clearly as any ancient record can, in the
judgment of the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar. He uses three images
in a way that would have been very surprising to His audience.
"Hiding" leaven in flour is an unusual way to express the idea
of mixing yeast and flour. It implies that God has deliberately
concealed His Kingdom from us. The surprise increases when Jesus
notes that there were "fifty pounds" of flour. In Genesis 18,
three men, representatives of God, appear to Abraham and promise
him and his wife that she will conceive a child soon, even though
she is aged. For the occasion, Sarah is instructed to make cakes
of fifty pounds of flour to give to the heavenly visitors. Fifty
pounds of flour must be a suitable quantity to celebrate an epiphany
(Greek - "the appearance; miraculous phenomenon"), a visible,
though indirect manifestation of God. The third image is the use
of leaven, regarded as a symbol of corruption by the Judeans.
In the Passover celebration, bread was made without leaven. In
a surprising reversal of the customary associations, the leaven
here represents not what is corrupt and unholy, but the Kingdom
of God. That God deliberately hides his Kingdom from us is one
of the "five functions of the Lord," namely obscuration, according
to Saiva Siddhanta (see below). It obliges us to seek Him, to
overcome the delusion of the world.
In His Grace was I born;
In His Grace I grew up;
In His Grace I rested in death;
In His Grace I was in obfuscation;
In His Grace I tasted of ambrosial bliss;
In His Grace, Nandi (the Lord) entered.
(Thirumandiram, verse 1800)
Thomas 113 tells us that the
Kingdom of Heaven is already here, but that we do not see it:
"His disciples said to him,
When will the Kingdom of Heaven come? He replied: It will not
come by watching for it. It will not be said, Look, here! or Look,
there!' Rather, the Kingdom of Heaven is spread out upon the earth,
and people don't see it."
"They who do not see the Treasure
that surpasses all,
But seek the treasures that perish,
If within their melting heart they seek inside
They will see the Treasure that dies not."
(Thirumandiram, verse 762)
On Entering into the
Kingdom of Heaven
Today, we live in a country
which enjoys unprecedented prosperity. Our church leaders encourage
us to become prosperous. Televangelists ask us to give generously
to their churches so that God will reward us here and now with
material things. Is this consistent with the teachings of Jesus?
"For it is easier for a camel
to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into
the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mark 10.25, with parallels in Matthew
19.24 and Luke 18.25)
Does this mean that becoming
wealthy in this world will prevent us from entering Heaven in
the next world? This saying is graphic and humorous and exhibits
Jesus' use of hyperbole and exaggeration. It cannot be taken literally,
which suggests that the whole discussion of the relation of wealth
to God's Kingdom should be viewed circumspectly: does Jesus literally
mean that everyone should embrace poverty as a way of life? Poverty
and celibacy are aspects of the ascetic life that became popular
in the Christian movement at an early date.
This aphorism is also part of
a complex of wise sayings or aphorisms, known as the beatitudes,
which describe how difficult it is for those with money to enter
God's kingdom. The more material things one has, the greater the
risk of becoming attached to them, and consequently missing "the
Kingdom of Heaven."
"Blessed are the poor, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven,
Blessed are the hungry, for you will feast,
Blessed are those who weep, for you will be comforted."
(Luke 6.21, with parallels in Thomas 54, 69.2, 58 and Matthew
"Blessed are you when people
hate you, when they persecute you, and denounce you and scorn
your name as evil, because of the son of man." (Luke 6.22-23,
with parallels in Matthew 5.10-12, Thomas 68.1-2, 69.1)
Jesus had blessed the poor in
the beatitudes, telling them that God's Kingdom belonged to them,
so he probably believed that in simplicity, one was closer to
the living Presence of the Lord. It reflects the view that attachment
to material things prevents one from realizing the spiritual dimension.
It is not the material things themselves that are problematic,
but the desire and attachments for them, which cause us to lose
sight of the Reality of God's Kingdom around us. It is the deluding
tendency of the mind to fantasize, worry and become preoccupied
with things, absorbed in them, rather than to live freely, identified
as self-effulgent awareness, "in the light." He is also encouraging
his listeners to go beyond the duality of poor-rich, hungry-not
hungry, weeping-comforted, having-not having, in other words the
disease of the mind, in which one ordinarily identifies with one
body, mind and emotions. One must purify oneself of desires, in
order to transcend the ego's perspective that "I am the body"
and its attachment to the body's pleasures.
Saying that the poor are blessed,
or in modern terms, "congratulating the poor without qualification
is unexpected, to say the least, and even paradoxical, since congratulations
were normally extended only to those who enjoyed prosperity, happiness,
or power. The congratulations addressed to the weeping and the
hungry are expressed in vivid and exaggerated language, which
announces a dramatic transformation."
The pairs of opposites employed
in these beatitudes also reminds one of the practice of Yoga,
which is "opposite doing." Being still rather than moving, remaining
silent rather than speaking, fasting, rather than feasting, cultivating
pure consciousness in mental silence instead of permitting mental
chatter. In so doing one is able to transcend the ordinary human
consciousness, the perspective of the ego, and access the perspective
of our soul, which is one of peace and unconditional joy, in short,
The beatitudes (Latin - "perfect
happiness") are paradoxical statements, which call for a deep
reflection upon their meaning. Given Jesus' repeated assertions
that the Kingdom of God is already present, the beatitudes are
not a promise of a future reward in some heavenly afterlife, as
is usually interpreted by those who believe Jesus was announcing
the end of the world. Are they not, rather, a challenge to his
listeners to transform their condition into a means of purification?
It is a direct challenge to let go of the feeling, "I am suffering,"
"I am poor," "I am hungry," and to realize that "I am not the
body," "I am not my emotions," "I am not my suffering" and "I
am not my mind." "I am" is closer to the Truth. It is a challenge
to be the Witness of your life, to be the Seer, not the Seen.
In the Yoga-Sutras, Patanjali
tells us that "By austerity, impurities of the body and senses
are destroyed and perfection gained." Yoga-sutra II.43 (Kriya
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas, page 109). Classical
Yoga, as expounded by Patanjali tells us that we are dreaming
with our eyes open, because we identify not with what we are,
which is pure consciousness, but with what we are not, our dreams,
the movements of the mind. This apparent and mistaken identification
of the Self or Seer, with the manifestations of nature (the Seen)
is the fundamental cause of human suffering and the fundamental
problem of human consciousness. The Self is the pure, absolute
subject, and is experienced as "I am." But in ordinary human consciousness,
the Self has become an object: "myself", a personality, an ego
ridden collection of thoughts, feelings and sensations which assumes
the role of the subject. The habit of identifying with our thoughts,
emotions, sensations, that is, egoism is the nearly universal
disease of ordinary human consciousness. It is only by ceasing
to identify with these, through the process of detachment and
purification, that one can realize one's true identity: the Self.
The Self and the Lord have one common element, consciousness,
according to Patanjali and the Siddhas, and it is by the realization
of our true Self, that we can also realize the Lord, and be in
A Personal Experience
of Entering the Kingdom of Heaven
In 1971, I was initiated me
into a powerful series of advanced yogic techniques, I lived an
austere life in India and practiced what I had learned for one
year. Alone, visited only by a servant who prepared my meals and
cleaned, with no distractions (and no plumbing, and very little
electricity) my aspirations to know God roared and soared. My
call met with a response: a series of powerful meditation experiences,
which filled me great peace and joy. Although nearly impossible
to describe, because they did not involve "forms" or "visions,"
but the expansion of my consciousness itself, I can recall how
immediate was the Presence of the Lord and even amidst the most
mundane activities of daily life: in the bathing water I poured
over my body standing at a well, in the simple, spicy vegetarian
curry and rice cooked over a dung fire, while bumping along in
a country bus to the nearby town to purchase the week's provisions,
while bowing as I passed local temples, and reflected in the bright
eyes of the local children who came to the ashram for Yoga classes
and even in the sugar candy they were given to savor afterwards.
I felt that I had entered, at times, a timeless realm, so great
was the peace. The events were nothing out of the ordinary, but
were beheld with the perspective of ever-renewing joy. God was
everywhere in that simple life and the ensuing bliss was too.
"Listen to me, all of you, and
try to understand! It's not what goes into a person from the outside
that can defile; rather it's what comes out of the person that
defiles". (Mark 7.14-15 with parallels in Matthew 15.10-11 and
As a means of entering the Kingdom
of God through purification, Jesus insists here on the true purity:
inner purity, as distinct from the external rules emphasized by
the Pharisees. Inner purity, of the heart, begins with discrimination
against thoughts that defile: judgment, greed, lust, anger, hatred,
desire. All of them cause suffering, not only for others, but
for the person harboring them. Words and actions are preceded
by thoughts, so one must develop awareness of the negative mental
tendencies and detach from them as soon as they begin to manifest
within us. In Yoga-sutra I.30, Patanjali lists nine obstacles
to inner awareness: "disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness,
sense indulgence or addiction, false perception, failure to reach
firm ground (lack of patience and perseverance) and the failure
to maintain ones equilibrium during the highs and lows of life."
(Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas, page 39-40).
Patanjali also takes a direct approach to such negative thoughts
and tendencies: "When bound by negative thoughts, their opposite
should be cultivated." (Yoga-sutra II.33) But Patanjali's main
Yogic method was the cultivation of detachment towards them, letting
go of identifying with the mental movements. The purifying process
of Classical Yoga can be summarized in two acts of spiritual discipline:
"Yoga is remembering Who Am I, and letting go of what I am not."
Like the two wings of a bird, they lift one to Heaven.
On Worry, and Being Present
"That's why I tell you: Don't
fret about your life - what you are going to eat and drink - or
about your body - what you are going to wear. There is more to
living than food and clothing, isn't there? Take a look at the
birds of the sky: they don't plant or harvest, or gather into
barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. You are worth more
than they, aren't you? Can any of you add one hour to life by
fretting about it? Why worry about clothes? Notice how the wild
lilies grow: they don't slave and they never spin. Yet let me
tell you, even Solomon at the height of his glory was never decked
out like one of them. If God dresses up the grass in the field,
which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into an oven, won't
(God care) for you even more, you who don't take anything for
granted? So, don't fret. Don't say, 'What am I going to eat?'
or 'What am I going to drink' or "What am I going to wear?'" (Matthew
6.25-31, with parallels in Luke 12.22-31 and Thomas 36)
This is one of the most important
things that Jesus said. It is also connected with his saying,
"Blessed are the hungry" (Luke 6.21), petition for the day's bread
(Mathew 6.11) and the certainty that those who ask will receive.
(Luke 11:10) Drawing upon figures of speech from the everyday
world, these figures challenge the common attitudes towards life.
They are exaggerations: humans are not fed like birds and are
not clothed like the grass of the field.
By encouraging his listeners
to live in the present, Jesus was reminding them that it is only
here, now, where they can find the Kingdom of God. By letting
go of worries, and appreciating the present moment, one can develop
the mystic vision of the eternal moment, the highest goodness.
This echoes Patanjali's famous aphorisms: "Yoga is the cessation
of identifying with the fluctuations arising within consciousness.
The Seer abides in his own true form." (Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,
pages 2-4) In the ordinary human mind, worries obscure the vision,
so one fails to see the ever-present Being. All spiritual traditions,
including Yoga and that to which Jesus belonged, taught the value
of cultivating mental silence and equanimity. In doing so, we
purify ourselves of the false identities of the ego.
"Ask, and it shall be given
you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened for
you. Rest assured: everyone who asks receives; everyone who seeks
finds; and for the one who knocks it is opened. Who among you
would hand a son a stone when it is bread he's asking for? Again,
who would hand him a snake when it is fish he's asking for? Of
course no one would! So if you, shiftless as you are, know how
to give your children good gifts, isn't it much more likely that
your Father in Heaven will give good things to those who ask him?"
Here, Jesus is not referring
to the ordinary prayers, which are generally petition for things
which our ego believes that it needs to be happy. Rather he is
addressing what is referred to in Yogic literature as "aspiration."
Sri Aurobindo defines aspiration as "a spiritual enthusiasm, the
height and ardor of the soul's seeking." (The Practice of Integral
Yoga, page 42) Aspiration is the call of the soul for the Lord
Himself. Desire is the cry of the ego, for something it imagines
that it needs to be happy. Aspiration is the opposite of desire.
One is intensely aware of the limitations of the ego-bound existence,
and one seeks to come out of its prison. One directs one's energies
away from the ego-center. It first manifests as a thirst for spiritual
knowledge, and later as a quiet, steady seeking of the Divine
Itself. It is a spiritual enthusiasm of our soul towards perfection,
unconditional love, truth and beauty. Grace is the response of
the Lord to the soul's call. It reflects the widespread recognition
that prayers are answered by a source of benevolence, independent
of whether we are deserving or not. Unlike karma, grace does not
depend upon whether we deserve reward or punishment. With grace,
we receive what is uplifting and edifying for our soul, in response
to its call, in the form of spiritual experiences, insights and
realizations about the Truth and the Presence.
Aspiration in the practice of
Yoga, may take the form of intensive austerities, known as tapas,
with the purpose of surrendering one ego, and its desires and
fears, to the Lord. And when this is done at a sacred place, for
a prolonged period the intense spiritual energy within and without
facilitates spiritual experiences and much grace. Tapas means
literally, "to heat," or "straightening by fire," and it can be
used as a voluntary self-challenge to overcome anything in one's
nature, or as a penance to atone for past misdeeds, but in Yoga
it is used primarily to cultivate the fire of aspiration: to surrender
the ego's perspective and to realize God.
Yogis would recognize the forty
days Jesus spent in the wilderness as Yogic tapas. His great aspiration
to surrender all desires, all temptations, to want only the Father,
were all characteristic of what advanced Yogis do to purify themselves,
and enter into a state of communion with the Lord.
From late 1972 to early 1973,
I performed 48 days of tapas at the Brahmanoor Kali temple, Tamil
Nadu, India. Every night at midnight I went there, made a small
ceremony, and then sat in deep meditation for several hours. This
very simple temple was located in a barren, desert like area.
Although lacking in adornments, it had an intense spiritual energy.
At night, many cobras came out of their holes and circulated around
it. Surrendering my fear, in the darkness, engulfed in the temple's
intense spiritual energy, my meditations became extraordinarily
deep, and I often entered the breathless state of samadhi, using
the advanced techniques which I had been initiated into in 1971.
The effects of these nocturnal sessions carried over during the
day. I remained in a state of transcendence, as the still, immutable
Witness Self, in which everything was in me, and I was in everything.
It was pure Grace. God was everywhere.
Showing the Path to Others
"Since when is the lamp brought
in to be put under the bushel basket or under the bed? It is put
on the lamp stand, isn't it? After all there is nothing hidden
except to be brought to the light, nor anything secreted away
that won't be exposed." (Mark 4.21-22 with parallels in Luke 8.16;
Matt. 5.15, Luke 11:33 and Thomas 33.2-3) The simplest form of
this saying appears in Thomas 5.2, where it consists of a single
line: "There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed." In
all of these contexts, "light" is a metaphor for higher consciousness
or insight. In the context of parable interpretation, this saying
can only mean that the secrets of the parables are intended to
be revealed. If so, it is puzzling why those secrets were hidden
in the first place?
The appended aphorism about
the need for the hidden to be brought to light and the explanation
of why everything is in parables appears to be contradictory.
The confusion undoubtedly is due to the attempt of early interpreters
to reconcile two opposing themes in the Jesus tradition: (1) Jesus
taught in parables that were difficult to understand; and (2)
Jesus insisted that his teachings were meant to shed light, to
be understood, to be revealing. In imitation of Mark, Luke attempts
to utilize these appended proverbs to explain this paradox.
This is similar to the deliberately
obscure twilight language used by the Siddhas in their poetry.
It is language which is intended to hide certain truths from non-initiates;
it contains several layers of meaning, both at the level of ordinary
experience and of transcendence. It is both suggestive and paradoxical.
The language itself is mystical in nature, where the highest is
clothed in the form of the lowest. The Siddhas made free use of
typology, wordplay, paradox, repetition, and metaphor to convey
to the listener the richness of the reality hidden in the visible
terms and symbols. The true meaning of the expression is accessible
only to the initiated. It is likely that the Siddha poems themselves
functioned as an initiation. It is a language for preaching esoteric,
Sharing one's light, is similar
to the concept of arrupadai ("showing the path to others") in
the Siddha literature. This is expressed in Thirumular's famous
aphorism: "May this world share the bliss that I have had." The
social concern of the Siddhas included not only their physical
well being, but sharing the wisdom and means to removing the sources
The message of not hiding our
light is not as straightforward as one might think. When to show
it? How? To who? Who is ready to see it? In 1976, during a cross
country pilgrimage with my Yoga teacher who was a siddha, I was
given a memorable example of this problem. We stopped one night
to camp near Pike's Peak. My teacher told us that he was going
to go into the forest to do sadhana (meditation) alone, but that
no one should follow him. This last statement greatly aroused
my curiosity, and after much internal debate, I decided to follow
him, keeping very quiet so as not to create any disturbance. Deep
in the forest he sat down against a tree and entered a state of
meditation. I hid behind another tree, about fifty feet away.
His eyes were open; however they were turned up completely, revealing
only the whites of his eyes, indicating a deep state. Then, to
my surprise his body began to glow. The glow became so great that
I could no longer distinguish his human form. There was only a
ball of light where I had perceived his physical form. I rubbed
my eyes and pinched myself to convince myself that I was not dreaming.
The ball of light persisted for over thirty minutes. I was filled
with joy perceiving it. Gradually the light grew dimmer, and I
could again perceive his familiar form. His eyes closed, and then
opened again and got up and began to walk back towards our camp.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted me crouching behind
a tree. He gently scolded me, saying: "I said that no one should
Later, I asked him what he was
doing, by stopping at various places and going into such states.
He replied that he was "planting seeds;" that the spiritual energy,
which he was leaving at each place would eventually stimulate
the spiritual development of people in America. He remarked that
the American Indians had left many such spiritual seeds, in special
places, and that these would also bear fruit one day.
God's Unconditional Love
The parable of the prodigal
son (Luke 15. 11-32) is the longest parable spoken by Jesus and
its message of God's unconditional love for all souls is, along
with the presence of the Kingdom of God, the most important.
"Once there was this man who
had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father,
give me the share of my property that's coming to me.' So he divided
his resources between them.
Not too many days later, the
younger son got all his things together and left home for a faraway
country, where he squandered property by living extravagantly.
Just when he had spent it all, a serious famine swept through
that country, and he began to do without. So he went and hired
himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him
out to his farm to feed the pigs. He longed to satisfy his hunger
with the carob pods, which the pigs usually ate; but no one offered
him anything. Coming to his senses he said, 'Lots of my father's
hired hands have more than enough to eat, while here I am dying
of starvation!. I'll get up and go to my father and I'll say to
him 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and affronted you; I
don't deserve to be called a son of yours any longer; treat me
like one of your hired hands' And he got up and returned to his
But the father said to his slaves,
'Quick! Bring out the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring
on his finger and sandals on his feet. Fetch the fat calf and
slaughter it; let's have a feast and celebrate, because this son
of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and now
is found.' And they started celebrating.
Now his elder son was out in
the field; and as he got closer to the house, heard music and
dancing. He called one of the servant-boys over and asked what
was going on.
He said to him, 'Your brother
has come home and your father has slaughtered the fat calf, because
he has him back safe and sound.'
Bu he was angry and refused
to go in. So his father came out and began to plead with him.
But he answered his father, 'See here, all these years I have
slaved for you. I never once disobeyed any of your orders; yet
you never once provided me with a kid goat so I could celebrate
with my friends. But when this son of yours shows up, the one
who has squandered your estate with prostitutes - for him you
slaughter the fat calf.'
But (the father) said to him,
'My child, you are always at my side. Everything that's mine is
yours. But we just had to celebrate and rejoice, because this
brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost
and now is found.'" (The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?,
In this parable, Jesus is primarily
addressing the righteous, represented by the older son. He tells
us that they should not feel resentment towards those who have
truly repented and returned, but receive them with open hearts,
joy, love and forgiveness, as the father did. In a parable, as
in a poem or a dream, the teller is all the images and characters.
Christian teaching identifies Jesus with the father in the parable.
But it is also true that he is the father, whose delicate, loving
treatment of the older son calls for as much admiration as his
unconditional acceptance of the younger son. And he is also the
older son, whose grievances are stated harshly but fairly, and
whom the parable treats with the tolerance and respect. We can
recognize that Jesus, the storyteller, is the younger son at least
as much as he is the father. When the son returns to the father,
all his shame and sadness melt away in the presence of the father's
joy. In a sense the son becomes the father. There is no difference
between the love and joy of being forgiven and the love and joy
of forgiving. The son and the father are one.
This same message of God's unconditional
love for us is a central teaching of the Siddhas as well. The
Siddhas taught that God loves us through all the stages of our
lives, all our suffering, ups and downs and in all His Divine
functions, according to Saiva Siddhanta, the philosophy of the
Siddhas. Why? The Lord, known as pati (literally, "Lord"), the
pasu (individual soul), and the pasas, (bonds of egoism, karma
and maya - "illusion of the world appearance") are the three eternal
realities. According to its earliest Siddha exponent, Thirumular,
the greatest of saints and a contemporary of Jesus, the Lord has
five functions: creation, preservation, destruction, obscuration
and grace. These are His alone, and they distinguish Him from
God-realized souls. Through them, souls gain the experience they
need to find their way back to Godhead. What is the Lord's purpose
in performing His several activities?" Some would say it is just
a play. Play does not mean amusement. It means to be at ease;
that God performs all these acts with ease, without undergoing
any change. The purpose of the activities of the Lord is not for
amusement, His activities are for His love of the souls. It is
His grace that actuates His activities. The reason is to help
the souls to be rid of the obstacles which keep them from the
Kingdom of Heaven. "The act of creation is carried out by God
to enable the souls, by giving them a body, etc., to work out
their Karma; sustenance is to make the souls experience the fruit
of their action; destruction is to give rest to the souls; obfuscation
is to veil the nature of souls as cit (consciousness) and bring
about indifference to fruits of actions, good and bad, by first
making them engage in action; grace is the grant of release. All
these activities are thus indicative of His Grace." (The Yoga
of Siddha Tirumular, pages 62-63)
Jesus' parable of the prodigal
son all reflects this purpose: the one son loses his way in the
delusion of the world. It takes remembering whose son he is, to
become freed from his delusion. The son experiences complete liberation
from his suffering due to the unconditional love of his father.
Forgiveness of Sins and
the Karmic Consequences of our Actions
Closely related to the theme
of Jesus' teaching of unconditional love is the forgiveness of
sins. The parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16.1-8) illustrates
"There was this rich man whose
manager had been accused of squandering his master's property.
He called him in and said, 'What's this I hear about you? Let's
have an audit of your management, because your job is being terminated.'
Then the manager said to himself,
'What am I going to do? My master is firing me. I'm not strong
enough to dig ditches and I'm ashamed to beg. I've got it! I know
what I'll do so doors will open for me when I'm removed from management.'
So he called in each of his
master's debtors. He said to the first, 'How much do you owe my
He said, 'Five hundred gallons
of olive oil.'
And he said to him, 'Here is
your invoice; sit down right now and make it two hundred and fifty.'
Then he said to another, 'And
how much do you owe?'
He said, 'A thousand bushels
He says to him, 'Here is your
invoice; make it eight hundred.'
The master praised the dishonest
manager because he had acted shrewdly."
This parable troubled its earliest
Christian interpreters. The several sayings Luke has attached
to it are attempts to moralize and soften it. (Luke 16.8b-13)
The dishonest manager was forgiven by his master because he forgave,
in part, the debts of others. Similarly, God forgives us when
we forgive others. It echoes what was included in the Lord's Prayer,
discussed above: "Forgive our debts to the extent we have forgiven
those in debt to us." It is also consistent with the teaching
of unconditional love in the parable of the prodigal son.
The Old Testament prophets and
their followers, the Pharisees, emphasized a legal conception
of our relationship with God. God makes laws. If you transgress
those laws, God will judge and punish you. Jesus brought a new
message: God loves you. And your sins against the law are forgiven
when you recognize them and make amends. Rather than fearing Him,
learn to love Him. He is at hand.
In this parable, notice that
everyone was held to account, and were still required to pay the
greater part of their debt. This reflects the metaphysical teaching
about karma, that all actions, words and thoughts have consequences,
but that there is a higher metaphysical law, that of grace, which
can mitigate the consequences of karma, when we seek the Lord
Himself. Bad karma, that which causes suffering, can be countered
with good karma, that which forgives others for their transgressions
against us or brings joy to others. Unlike karma, however, Grace
is bestowed when we seek the Lord. This is consistent with the
teachings of Jesus that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that
if we seek Him, we will find him and His blessings. The parable
teaches us that all of us are prone to make mistakes, but when
we recognize that the consequences are always there, and that
God loves us despite our errors, we are freed from our fear of
the Lord, and learn to love Him without conditions, as He loves
The Siddha Thirumular's famous
saying drives home the point that God (Siva) is love, and that
when we truly realize what love is, we also realize God (Siva):
The ignorant prate that Love and Siva are two,
But none do know that Love alone is Siva
When men but know that Love and Siva are the same,
Love as Siva, they ever remained.
(Thirumandiram, verse 270)
The questions I had as a young
Christian have been answered through the experiences I have had
in practicing Yoga and in comparing the teachings of Jesus with
those of the Yoga Siddhas. By reflecting on the sayings and parables
of Jesus, everyone, can glimpse the Presence of the Divine, and
by taking them to heart, one's path through life is greatly illumined.
By making them a part of our spiritual discipline, we become disciples
About the author: Marshall Govindan
is the author of "The Wisdom
of Jesus and the Yoga Siddhas A Historical Perspective," ISBN978-1-895383-43-0,
published by Babaji's Kriya Yoga and Publications. Website www.babaji.ca.
Funk, Robert and Hoover, Roy W., The Five Gospels:
The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, Harper Collins, 1993
Ganapathy, T.N., The
Yoga of Siddha Boganathar volume 1, Babaji's Kriya Yoga and
Ganapathy, T.N., The
Yoga of Siddha Tirumular: Essays on the Tirumandiram, Babaji's
Kriya Yoga and Publications, 2006
Govindan, Marshall, Babaji
and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition, Babaji's Kriya Yoga
and Publications, Inc. 1991
Govindan, Marshall, Kriya
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Siddhas, Babaji's Kriya Yoga
and Publications, 2000
Govindan, Marshall, Editor, Thirumandiram:
A Classic of Yoga and Tantra, by Siddha Thirumoolar, Babaji's
Kriya Yoga and Publications, 1992
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