A Hindu View of Easter: Yogananda III

Cambridge, MA. Here is the third installment in my Triduum exercise in listening to Paramahamsa Yogananda, whose reflections on the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and Crucifixion I sampled for you in the preceding days. Like many a preacher, I find Easter a rather daunting feast on which to preach: the Resurrection is in a way the fulfillment of all our hopes in the face of death — and yet too something strange and new, much harder to relate to and speak of than a birth, a last meal, or a death. Yet it should by now be no surprise that Yogananda engages directly and forcefully in reflection on the Resurrection of Jesus.
     Resurrection As we have seen Consciousness — God, world, Christ, Spirit — is a key theme for him in Discourse 75 of The Second Coming of Christ. In the Resurrection, Christ’s Consciousness is perfectly manifest, for those whose eyes have been opened. On Easter, Jesus’ soul rose into “oneness with Spirit — the soul’s ascension from delusory confinement of body consciousness into its native immortality and everlasting freedom.” At his death, Jesus entered a highest unitive state (mahasamadhi), “a God-realized soul’s conscious ascension from the physical body at the time of death,” merging his consciousness “in the blissful presence of the Cosmic Consciousness of God the Father.” As he rose from the dead, Jesus “began to unloose, with the supreme-soul science of liberation, the knots of life and consciousness that both enabled and resulted from his earthly incarnation.” This is why, Yogananda says, Jesus instructed Mary at the tomb not to touch him: the disentanglement of the restrictions of his pre-resurrection body were not yet complete. Later, he could eat with his disciples, he could invite Thomas to touch him, because by then the process had come to fruition.
     Yogananda devotes much of Discourse 75 to describing the ascent of Jesus through the several astral realms, his liberation through and from the “physical, astral, and idea bodies.” The details are arcane and beyond the reach of this blog, but the point seems clear: in his resurrection, Jesus encompassed and liberated all the realms of material and spiritual existence, and thus gained perfect freedom to ascend and descend into earthly bodies as needed.
     Yogananda knew the stories of masters who were said to have gone into deep concentration, seeming even for a long period of time to be dead. It is interesting then that he takes the realm of the physical very seriously. He insists that Jesus did really die, since no one who was crucified as he was would be simply in meditation. Death and resurrection can be charted in as well as beyond the body. The Resurrection itself was a regaining of the material realm, even after leaving it behind: “That Jesus was able to rebuild his body at will after death had claimed it was possible only when his soul was liberated from the three bodies. Having attained complete ascension in Spirit, he had the creative power of Spirit to bring specialized life back into his deceased body to regenerate its cells and resurrect that form to live and breathe again. He rose by drawing into oneness the “Cosmic Vibration of Holy Ghost” and the “Christ Consciousness Intelligence of God” and expressing this oneness “in every atom and creative principle of cosmic manifestation.” As a result, his return to his physical body at the Resurrection was its transformation by a kind of divine light; while God is always present in every cell of every body, it was at the Resurrection that this light became concretely, vividly manifest.
     It is clear that Yogananda has the highest respect for Jesus and what happened in his death and resurrection. Yet he makes clear near the end of Discourse 75 that he does not think the Resurrection an entirely unique event. He mentions other masters from the Indian context: Kabir, the medieval poet saint whose body was transformed at death, thus eluding both Hindus and Muslims who wanted it only for themselves; Yogavatar Lahiri Mahasaya who, at death, was manifest in a number of north Indian cities; and, appealing to what he seen with his own eyes, Yogananda mentions his guru Sri Yukteswarji, who “appeared to me in flesh and blood more than three months after his death in 1936.” Indeed, Yogananda seems to agree that what happens in the Resurrection is a promise for what will happen to all: “the resurrected Jesus… manifested his Jesus form not apart from Spirit but as the Infinite who has become Jesus, all individualized souls, and all manifestation.” Rising, Jesus could “change the dream of his crucified body into a remodeled resurrected dream form in God’s cosmic dream.”
     Enough! Even as I finish this third reflection, the teacher in me whispers that all of this may be too much for a simple blog for America. Even the most stalwart readers may agree! It should be no surprise; 1500 pages of Yogananda’s reflection on the Gospels, climaxing in the passages I have recounted, may not be easily digested in so brief a space, without footnotes, review, and re-reading. But I hope the point is clear: if we are called to dialogue, it will be fruitless if we hear only what we already know; if we can actually learn, it will be pointless to restrict learning to things easy to understand; if we are open, it will be unwise to limit our learning to our reflections on their religions, as if we cannot learn anew of the mysteries of our own faith by listening to wise teachers like Yogananda. If all of this is hard, that is simply a fact of life — but even so, perhaps I have stretched a blog about as far as it can go.
     More immediately, I am faced with the prospect of preaching twice tomorrow, on Easter morning. I am at this point planning to speak of the Colossians 3 text that occurs as our second reading: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” I doubt very much if I will mention Yogananda’s teaching during my homily, but I will very much have his insights in the back of my mind. As far as I know, he did not comment on Colossians, but this passage seems ideally suited to his insights: with Christ we are raised, transformed, revealed in glory — so let us set our minds on “the things that are above.” Yogananda helps us to understand what the uplifting of our minds in Christ can really mean.

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8 years 7 months ago
I've heard it said that what Jesus said to Mary was better translated as "Do not cling to me." This actually makes better sense if you believe they were married, especially given his comments to the Sadducees about which man a widow is married to if she wed all of his brothers to fulfill the requirements of the estate of the elder. Jesus was gently informing his wife that they vowed to be true until death, not beyond. He was no chrysalis, but Christ. He was not in a becoming stage of a new humanity, he was already fully eternal at the resurrection. He is the same now as at that moment.
8 years 7 months ago
I read this last night: The mystical wisdom is therefore also called secret because it htas the characteristic of hiding the soul within itself...Occasionally, it so engulfs the soul in its secret abysss that she has the keen awareness of being brought into a place far removed from every creature. She accordingly feels that she has been led into a remarkably deep and vast wilderness unattainable by any human being, into an immense unbounded desert. And this, for her, is the more delightful, pleasant, and lovely, the deeper , vaster, and more solitary it is. She is conscious of being so much more hidden, the more she is raised abover every created being. This abyss of wisdom elevates and enriches the soul to a high degree: it enbulfs her in the veins of the science of love and lets her know in this way how base are creatures in comparison with the lofty, divine knowledge and feelings, and gives her an insight into how lowly, inadequate and entirely incapable all images and words are with which one speaks of divine things in this life. P. 132 of The Science of the Cross by Edith Stein; This is a direct quote from St. John of The Cross's Dark Night 2.17.6-8.
8 years 7 months ago
Dear Father Clooney, Thank you for this series on the teachings of Yogananda. While he lived in the West, Yogananda established the Self-Realization Fellowship (www.yogananda-srf.org) which continues his teachings to this day. An excerpt of the SRF Easter messages says:........... ''During this blessed Easter season, when multitudes around the world honor the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that his glorious triumph over every mortal limitation may touch and uplift your heart. That victory holds out to each of us a promise of hope and renewal. It calls us to expand our consciousness — as all God-united souls have done — beyond identification with the body and mind, beyond the limiting conditions and tendencies of the human nature. The divine way in which Jesus lived his life and overcame the adversities he faced is a reminder of our own soul’s immortality, and our capacity to transcend the dualities of this world — to be ennobled rather than pulled down by life’s challenges, and to draw closer to the One who created and sustains us. Sometimes from our human perspective we do not recognize behind the seeming contradictions of earthly life the hand of God’s compassion working through all circumstances to harmonize this world and draw our souls back to Him. Surely the disciples of Christ did not find it easy to accept that one so pure and blameless had to undergo the pain and ignominy of crucifixion. Yet the boundless love that Jesus expressed in willingly enduring that trial has transformed lives through the centuries. There is also a deep purpose behind the experiences that test our faith and courage: an opportunity for positive change and lasting inner victories. Let our consciousness never be narrowed or embittered by difficulties, but rather lifted to a new level of understanding and inner freedom.'' ......... The entire Easter Message can be read online at www.yogananda-srf.org Many blessings to all this Easter, Cristina Remond

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