Sometimes it surprises people that although we are following Vedic yoga teachings, we worship and respect Lord Jesus Christ. But the reason we acknowledge and try to follow the teachings of Lord Jesus is because he taught the same spiritual truths as we follow. No-one has a monopoly on the truth – the truth is the truth wherever it is found. We should not be sectarian and think that the truth can only be found in our places of worship or holy scriptures. By his words and his life’s actions, Jesus taught the same spiritual truths as are found in the Vedas – Jesus taught bhakti yoga.
And what is meant by the term bhakti yoga? Yoga means the union of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. And bhakti means love. So, bhakti yoga refers to both the process by which we can attain love for the Supreme Soul, and the actual experience of being re-united with the Supreme Soul – our dear-most friend – in love. And if we analyse the teachings of Lord Jesus, we find that his teachings were perfectly in harmony with the teachings of Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-gita.
In the New Testament there are a number of verses which teach we are not the material body but the soul who dwells within:
Where there is a material body there is also a spiritual body
[1 Corinthians 15:44]
The first body is from the earth, earthly. The second body is from heaven.
[1 Corinthians 15:47]
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The perishable cannot inherit the imperishable.
[1 Corinthians 15:50]
The same truth is taught in Vedic yoga texts such as Bhagavad-gita:
Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul. Only the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is subject to destruction; therefore fight, O descendent of Bharata.
For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
Both Lord Jesus Christ and Krishna in Bhagavad-gita taught that the goal of life is to love God. As was previously stated, this is in fact the meaning of bhakti yoga – yoga means the union of the individual soul – you and I – and the Supreme Soul. And this union is achieved by bhakti or love. When Jesus was asked what is the most important principle of the Old Testament, the Jewish Law, he clearly described bhakti yoga:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
[Mathew 22:37-40. Also, Mark 12:30-31]
This is in perfect harmony with Lord Krishna’s instructions to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita, the greatest of all of the Vedic yoga texts:
And of all yogis, he who always abides (lives) in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga, and is the highest of all.
Because you are my very dear friend, I am speaking to you the most confidential part of knowledge. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit. Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus, you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are my very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and simply surrender to Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction (karma). Do not fear.
[Bhagavad gita 18:64-66]
Jesus and Vedic wisdom both have taught the truth of reincarnation. Though we only have a small amount of Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament, there are a number of references to reincarnation which are largely ignored by many Christian churches. And there are also references to reincarnation in the Old Testament:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.
How many of us are able to return to our mother’s womb? Most mothers won’t allow it – it was hard enough the first time we were there. Can you imagine her saying: “Well, take your shoes off first.” The only way we can return to our “mother’s womb” is by taking birth again.
In the New Testament, in Hebrews, we find:
… when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
How could someone be in the body of his ancestor? This shows that Levi existed before in another body.
And in the New Testament, Jesus stated that his spiritual master, John the Baptist, was formerly the Old Testament prophet named Elijah (Elias):
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John (the Baptist): “What did you go out into the desert to see? … A prophet? Yes, I tell you and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you the truth: Among those born of woman there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist … And if you are willing to accept, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
[Mathew 11:7, 9, 10, 11, 14]
The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they have wished (killed him). In the same way the Son of Man (Jesus) is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
[Mathew 17:10-13 and Mark 9:11-13]
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God. For He has prepared a city for them.
So, these are just a few of the references we have in the Old and New Testaments to reincarnation. In fact, reincarnation was part of Christian doctrine for the first five hundred years of Christianity, and this teaching was banned after interference from the Roman Emperor Justinian at the Synod of Constantinople in 553. But many Christians still believe in reincarnation. According to an October 2018 poll conducted by Pew Research Center, 33% of American adults now believe in rencarnation, up from 25% in 2001.
A friend of mine who was teaching bhakti yoga in the US told me that she had a student in the 1980’s who had previously been a Catholic monk in an order of cloistered monastics. He wore hooded robes like Friar Tuck and lived a renounced life in a monastery, separate from the outside world, spending a lot of time in prayer and study. This former monk said he became disillusioned with his order, because they were taught about reincarnation, and were told that reincarnation was originally part of Jesus’ teachings. But they were forbidden from teaching reincarnation to the general mass of people, because it was considered to be an “Eastern” or Hindu teaching today. In fact, once we include the doctrines of reincarnation and karma [“as you sow, so shall you reap”] to Christianity, it becomes indistinguishable from Vedic bhakti yoga philosophy. And this was their fear. This is an example of sectarianism getting in the way of teaching eternal spiritual truths.
Krishna taught in Bhagavad gita:
For one who is born, death is certain. And for one who dies, birth is certain.
[Bhagavad gita 2:27]
As a person puts on new garments, giving up the old ones, similarly, the self accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
[Bhagavad gita 2:22]
As the embodied self continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the self similarly passes into another body at death. A person who has realised his spiritual identity is not bewildered by such a change.
[Bhagavad gita 2:13]
Jesus and the Vedic wisdom both taught that it is by chanting the Lord’s Holy Names that we can attain the perfection of spiritual love, gain the protection of the Lord, and return to the spiritual world. In fact, Lord Jesus Christ begins the prayer he gave his followers, The Lord’s Prayer, by describing the spiritually pure nature of the Lord’s Holy Names: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed [holy] be thy Name. By placing this spiritual principle at the beginning of his fundamental prayer, Jesus is placing great emphasis on its importance. And by saying that the Lord’s Names are hallowed or holy, it is acknowledging their purifying effect upon our consciousness.
In the New Testament we find:
And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.
I will declare Your Name to my brothers. In the presence of the congregation, I will sing Your praise.
Just prior to his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to his Father, saying that it was his Father’s name that would protect his disciples and enable them to experience yoga or oneness with the Supreme Father. Jesus said:
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name – the name You gave me – so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.
So, although it has largely been forgotten in the Christian world, this very important spiritual process of chanting the Lord’s Holy Names was definitely practiced by Jesus and his followers. The Vedic scriptures of ancient India contain thousands of verses glorifying the process of Kirtan. In the Padma Purana it is stated:
There is no difference between the Holy Name of the Lord and the Lord Himself. As such, the Holy Name is as perfect as the Lord Himself in fullness, purity, and eternity. The Holy Name is no material sound vibration, nor has it any material contamination.
Lord Krishna states in the Adi Purana:
Anyone who is engaged in chanting My transcendental name must be considered to be always associating with Me. And I may tell you frankly that for such a devotee I become easily purchased.
Let me take shelter of the lotus feet of Him whose incarnations, qualities and activities are mysterious imitations of worldly affairs. One who invokes His transcendental Names, even unconsciously, at the time he quits this life, is certainly washed immediately of the sins of many, many births and attains Him without fail.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 3:9:15]
… The holy name of the Lord is as powerful as the Lord Himself. Therefore, simply by chanting and hearing the holy name of the Lord, many men can be fully protected from fierce death without difficulty. Thus, a devotee is saved.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 4:10:30]
Lord Chaitanya – also known as Gauranga – appeared in India 500 years ago to inaugurate the Congregational Chanting or Kirtan Movement which is now spreading world-wide. Lord Chaitanya prayed:
O my Lord, Your Holy Name alone can render all benediction to the living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of Names like Krishna, Govinda, Jehovah, Allah, etc. In these transcendental Names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting these Names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by chanting Your names …
[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: Sikshastaka Prayer no.2]
We don’t actually have much of Jesus’ spiritual teachings today. His quoted words are largely found in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And if we take out what is repeated in these gospels, we have the equivalent of a ninety-minute discourse. And yet these teachings were so wonderful and so powerful, that they have elevated the consciousness of mankind for the past two thousand years. And for myself, prior to meeting my spiritual masters, my faith in God and attraction for learning more about Him, came from the teachings of Lord Jesus. Even though I had no attraction for joining any particular Church, I was touched and influenced by his words and the example of his life. So, I would like to offer my gratitude and respects to the great spiritual master, Lord Jesus Christ, by following his example and chanting the sacred Names of the Supreme Soul.