1979 CONVENTION ON CHRISTIANITY
As you know, the New Testament is not a systematic exposition. The earliest documents we have are letters of St. Paul that happened to survive. So in this talk some of the parallels and yogic readings will be brought out; but not as systematic exposition of the whole of New Testament thought, and the whole of Yogic thought as compared and paralleled with it. The first one is the narrow gate. This is a passage which has never been explained. In Matthew: ‘Enter by the narrow gate. The gate is wide but leads to perdition; there is plenty of room on the road and many go that way, but the gate that leads to life is small and the road is narrow, and those who find it are few’. Why does he say this? Why does he say the gate is narrow? He says, ‘I will draw all men unto me’ – that would not be a narrow gate. He says the gate is narrow and small. If you look in the Pelican commentary on this Gospel, you’ll find no comment at all about this. The great Jerome commentary, the Catholic commentary, gives no remark about it. The Companion to the New English Bible says, “Perhaps it’s a small side gate, that leads to the mountain pass, as distinct from the great gate to the city on the main road.”
‘Enter by the narrow gate. The gate is wide that leads to perdition. There is plenty of room on the road and many go that way, but the gate that leads to life is small and the road is narrow and those who find it are few’. Now there’s a close parallel to this in Luke. Someone asked him, ‘Sir, are only a few to be saved?’ He answered, ‘Struggle to get in through the narrow door. For I tell you, many will try to enter, and not be able.’ So this is a door through which one enters. It’s not a side gate of a city leading to a mountain pass. A narrow door through which one enters. And here also, there’s another difference. In the first one he says, ‘Those who find it are few’; but in Luke, ‘Those who can enter are few’. They have found it – ‘Many will try to enter and not be able’. The scholars tell us that the word for ‘struggle, to get in through the narrow door, is a very strong one in the Greek. It’s something like an athlete, sweating and pouring out all his power. The yogic interpretation of this, which has never been explained, is in the practice which was explained in the first talk today. ‘The Minister of the Exterior’, ‘The Minister of the Interior’ – neither of these, neither extroversion nor introversion, but a central line, turning to God. There is a fine central line of consciousness. In the practice which we did, the attention is focussed, by breathing, onto the centre – the narrow line, a very fine gate. Not connected with the outside of objects and events; not connected with the inside, the thoughts, feeling, ambitions and the memories – but a line of pure awareness, the divine awareness. This is the narrow door through which we should try to enter. We have to struggle to enter it.
There is a parallel to this phrase in the New Testament, in another phrase which Jesus used and which has never been explained. ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.’ The disciples were thunderstruck and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God’. This passage has never been explained. He says, ‘It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, through the little door, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’. Now the disciples amazingly say to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Well, one would think it would be obvious. It would be the poor who were saved, like they were. They’d given up everything to follow him. But they said, ‘Who can be saved?’ The word is very strong, the scholars tell us, in Greek – they were thunderstruck and frightened. They are two Greek words, which imply being absolutely astounded and being frightened. Why were they frightened? He says the rich cannot enter. But as Peter said to him, ‘We have given up everything to be with you’ – they ought to have been pleased. The yogic answer to this is that they were rich and that they knew it. They were like men who felt that, in the future, they were going to be seated in the thrones of power at the right hand of God. St. Paul, who often uses commercial slang in his letters, he draws this analogy – that people have just a tiny little payment, a feeling of exaltation and holiness, and it’s like the first little dividend. He uses a commercial slang word, not Greek, but Phoenician. The Phoenicians invented money and were very good at handling it. He uses this slang word. Then in the future, in Heaven, the great wealth and power will be enjoyed. We know the disciples felt this because they were constantly arguing about which one would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Even at the Last Supper it says a quarrel broke out between them over who should be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. They felt themselves rich. Those things, the consciousness that they had given up everything for Christ and followed him loyally and bravely, that too was wealth – and in yogic terminology, that pride too has to be given up. This is part of the realm of the interior and has to be given up to enter the narrow door, otherwise the camel cannot enter the eye of the needle.
Peter’s great spiritual qualification, as we know from the Bible, was his strength; and Christ said to him, ‘I will name you the rock. Peter means a rock. On this rock I will build’. Peter was aware of this, he knew of his great qualities; and they were great qualities. He said to Christ, ‘I will never betray you’. And Christ said to him, ‘Before the cock crows you will have betrayed me thrice’. That had to be taken away from him, to enter the eye of the needle, the narrow door, a sort of crucifixion. Even his great points had to be given up and he had to be completely turned to God, not to himself. His strengths were entirely taken away from him, for that moment. This story could only have come from Peter, because no one else was there. There is a Zen saying on this, ‘I am a giant in power, but at a puff of wind I fall’. This happened to Peter and afterwards he became truly a spiritual giant.
Now another – this is from a gospel called ‘The Gospel to the Hebrews’. It was written in Hebrew, not in Greek. The gospel has been lost, but a few fragments are quoted by the early church fathers such as Jerome. We know also that gospel went to India. The early church historian, Eusebius, reports that when a Christian missionary went to India he found this gospel was already there. The phrase is from Christ: ‘He who is near me is near the fire’. Now this has occasioned some puzzlement among Christian commentators. Perhaps it means those who come to Christ are in special danger of being tempted by the Devil and falling into Hell; but this is a rather desperate interpretation. Shankara, quoting on the Gita, almost seems to be quoting this phrase from the gospel: ‘I, the Lord, am like fire. Just as fire does not protect from cold those who remain at a distance from it, but it does protect from cold those who go near to it, so the Lord bestows His grace on his devotees’.
Another phrase of Christ, in Mark, which again has caused a lot of puzzlement: ‘I tell you then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours’. The modern commentator to the New English Bible says that he couldn’t have meant this literally, it would take too long now. But in the yogic meditation, it’s a recovery of what is a fact, but has been overlooked or covered by delusion – as a fire can be partly concealed by smoke; or the clearness of a mirror concealed by dust, or an embryo concealed by the womb. The yogic meditation is not, ‘I am in darkness, give me light’, but as in the practice we had: ‘I am light’. The mind says ‘No – darkness’; but the meditation is, ‘I am light’. Christ says ‘I am the Light that lights every man’. The Gita says, ‘The Light even of lights. It is implanted in the heart of everyone’. So the yogic meditation is, by meditation, to realise a light within. When you pray for light, believe that you have received it – not that you are in darkness and will receive it. Believe that you have received it. And this can only be done when, as Patanjali says, he has been purified from the memory. The memory will say, ‘No, in darkness – the sins I have committed’. When he’s purified from that memory, which belongs to the kingdom of the Interior, and the consciousness is on the centre line, he passes through the narrow door.
Another puzzle – Jesus said, ‘Love one another’. How can you order people to love? He says, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you should love one another’. But we recognise that love can’t be commanded. If it’s done, if the behaviour is made as a commandment, we get the phrase, ‘cold as charity’. The acts of kindness are done, but they are done as a duty, reluctantly, resentfully – cold as charity. We know it from the humorous phrase: ‘you’ll have it and like it’. This recognises the impossibility of making people like something by order. Love your neighbour as yourself. The Gita explains this. ‘As yourself’ – it has to be through a recognition of a light in the neighbour, which is his true Self, like the light in the yogi, which is his true Self. The Gita says, ‘He sees, who sees the supreme Lord remaining the same in all beings, the undying in the dying. He who sees the Lord seated the same everywhere does not strike at the Self by the self’. To injure another is to strike at the Self. We recognise the true Self obscurely in some situations in life. When mothers see children (generally little boys) who are amusing themselves by pulling the legs off cockroaches and watching them struggle, the mother doesn’t love the child as it is now, but she loves the true essence of the child, she knows it will outgrow it. This has to be stopped now, but the essence of the child is beyond that. When a soldier is wounded and the wound becomes infected and he’s in delirium, sometimes he’ll strike out at the people who come to look after him. To be struck in the face is not pleasant, it’s the act of an enemy; but the nurses recognise that this is not the real self of the man – he’s sacrificing himself for his country. When the delirium has passed, the noble self will rise again to be seen clearly. They look after him with great kindness, loving the real self, but the delirious self has to be restrained often and he curses at them and strikes them. ‘You are Gods’ said Christ, when he was attacked for saying, ‘I am the Father’. He didn’t say, ‘I can say this but you cannot.’ He said ‘No, your own scripture says, ‘You are Gods’; and he quoted the passage from Leviticus, ‘You are Gods and children of God’. He taught this godhead in every man. John said, ‘None comes down from Heaven, who was not in Heaven already. None ascends to Heaven, who did not come down from Heaven.’ The godhead of every man. The Gita says, ‘He sees, who sees the supreme Lord, the same in all the beings’.
There is a saying of Jesus in a newly found gospel, the Gospel of St. Thomas, which is just a short collection of sayings, there’s no narrative: ‘You see Me in yourselves, as in a clear mirror’. St. Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians expands on this saying. It’s found in the Mahabharata – about 300 BC, about 300 years before Christ: ‘Knowledge springs up in man on the destruction of their sins. When the divine Self is seen in the self, as in a clear mirror.’ Christ says ‘You see Me in yourselves, as in a clear mirror’ – a mirror without a veil. The man’s face is without a veil, as in a clear mirror. There are a number of passages in Paul on this: ‘To this very day, every time the Law of Moses is read, a veil lies over the minds of the hearers. But, as the scripture says of Moses, whenever one turns to the Lord the veil is removed.’ ‘Now the Lord of whom this passage speaks is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; and, because for us there is no veil, we all reflect – as in a mirror – the splendour of the Lord. Thus we are transfigured into his likeness, from splendour to splendour. Such is the influence of the Lord who is Spirit.’ Christ said, ‘You see me in yourselves, as in a clear mirror’; and the Mahabharata, ‘The divine Self is seen in the self, as in a clear mirror.’
One of the important points of the yogic interpretation of the New Testament is to emphasise the great Christ. Much of Christian interpretation speaks of the small Christ from Galilee, who was finally crucified and resurrected. But there is a great Christ. The Gita says that it’s another incarnation, the incarnation Krishna speaking, ‘Fools despise me, clad in human form. Not knowing my higher state, the great Lord of the beings’. The ‘higher state’ – for instance, Paul writes this of Christ, ‘In Christ everything in Heaven and earth was created. Not only things visible but also the invisible orders of sovereignties, authorities and powers. The whole universe has been created through Him and for Him. He exists before everything. All things are held together in Him.’ In the great Christ, Palestine and Galilee and Jerusalem and Pontius Pilate are all held together – in the great Christ. The Gita says the same thing, ‘The highest Spirit is spoken of as the supreme Self – the indestructible Lord, who interpenetrates and sustains the three worlds.’ This passage is almost identical with Paul in Colossians, ‘The whole Universe has been created through Him and for Him. All things are held together in Christ.’
Christ taught, the Gospel says in several places, in parables. The disciples repeatedly say, ‘We don’t understand what you’re saying’. He says to them, ‘How dull you are’. If you look in the New Testament you’ll find this repeatedly; he says to his disciples and to others, ‘How dull your spirit is’. He didn’t mean brilliant intellect, he meant the ability to see the point. ‘How dull you are’. The parable was a well-known method of teaching in the Jewish tradition, which Christ continued. There were thousands of parables known, and the essence of the parable was that it contained a sort of riddle. The riddle was solved by thinking deeply about the meaning and then applying it to one’s own self. For instance, a classical riddle in the Old Testament refers to King David, in the days when kings had to be literally the fathers of their people – most children died and the king had several queens. In spite of his several queens, King David fell in love with a young wife and sent her husband, who was known to be a brave soldier, to a very dangerous battle where, as he expected, the husband was killed – and David then married the widow. The prophet Nathan appeared before David and said, ‘What would you think of a man who had a hundred sheep; but when a guest came, to entertain him, he took the one ewe lamb of a poor man and sacrificed that?’ King David said ‘Such a man should be killed’, and the prophet Nathan made him apply the parable to himself. King David hadn’t done that. Nathan said, ‘You are the man’. The parable had to be applied to himself.
The parable of the sower – most people think it’s quite obvious; but there are many riddles in it. It’s a very short parable: ‘A sower went out to sow; and it happened that, as he sowed, some seed fell along the footpath, and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprouted quickly because it had no depth of earth. When the sun rose, the young corn was scorched and, as it had no proper root, it withered away. Some seed fell among thistles, but the thistles shot up and choked the corn, and it yielded no crop. And some of the seed fell into good soil, where it came up and grew and bore fruit.’ And he added, ‘If you have ears to hear then hear.’ When he was alone, the twelve, and other, disciples questioned him about the parables, and he said, ironically, ‘To you the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given. But those who are outside, everything comes by way of parables; so that, as scripture says: ‘They may look and look, but see nothing. Hear and hear, but understand nothing. Otherwise they might turn to God and be forgiven’. So he said, ‘You do not understand this parable? How then are you to understand any parable? How dull you are.’
There’s something extraordinary about the sower. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground; some fell among thistles – he was sowing among thistles. Some of it fell on the road – he was sowing on the road. If we think of sowers, the soil is turned and a furrow is made; and then the seed is dropped into the furrow of good earth, and then the earth is brought down over it. This sower was just going… (Gesture of scattering randomly). There’s a riddle. Why was the sower doing this? The parable has to be applied to oneself. It fell on the road and birds ate it. The seed is eaten by the bird, nourishes the bird and becomes the bird. These are the people who use religion as a field for their ordinary attitudes. If they are conquerors they become crusaders and they use religion as an excuse for invading a superior civilisation in the Middle East, and trying to conquer the territory there and set up new kingdoms. The birds eat the seed of religion. People who are full of hatred use religion to nourish their hatred, and they burn the heretics. People who like a social life join a religious group in order to exercise social talents, but the religion disappears, except as a name. The seed becomes the bird.
Those who don’t receive it in depth, who don’t really think about it – they’re enthusiastic for a time, and then it withers because it hasn’t been really taken in. But in the good crop the seed is deep in the soil and then the seed begins to take the soil, the chemicals in the soil, into itself and then it comes up – the soil becomes the seed. The man who takes the seed of the teachings into himself begins to change and become the seed. In the case of the bird, the seed is taken in and simply becomes the prevailing attitude of the man. With many such parables he would give the people his message, so far as they were able to receive it. He never spoke to them except in parables. Well this seems an unfair way of doing things. Why, if you want to proclaim a message, why hide it in riddles? One reason was that it would make them think and think and think, and the seed would go deeper and deeper and deeper – and then the day would come when they would apply it to themselves. Then they would become the seed and the plant would come up.
Well, what about the people who can’t understand – they’re not guilty? Christ was quoting Isaiah, when he said, ‘They will look and look, but see nothing. They will hear and hear, but understand nothing’. In Isaiah it was very strong, ‘Go and tell this people. They may listen and listen. How will they understand? You may look and look again, but how will you know?’ Why hide it in a riddle? So that it may go deep. ‘How dull you are’, ‘This people are dull’, ‘The people’s wits are dulled; their ears deafened; their eyes blinded. They cannot see with their eyes, nor listen with their ears, nor understand with their wits, so that they might turn again and be healed.’ Why are the people guilty? If they’re dull, they’re dull. No, because they have come to listen to the teacher, to Christ; something is already stirring in them. They have the capacity to understand and hear, because they have come. A man in whom nothing is stirring, he won’t come to hear a spiritual teaching. He’ll simply say, ‘Oh, no. Those ranting preachers, you know. Look at him, he hasn’t got a hope. ‘Blessed are the poor’ – no they’re not. You’ve got to get something and you’ve got to look after yourself in this world. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, he said. They’re not – both sides go for them. You’ve got to fight for what you want and get it. Don’t waste your time going to these ranting half-mad people’. Those people are not guilty, nothing is stirring in them yet. But those who come to hear the teacher, something is stirring, the inner light is stirring – and, if they don’t foster it and encourage it, then as Christ says, then they are guilty. The Gita makes an interesting comment on this: ‘The firmness by which a dull man does not give up sleep, fear, grief, depression and lust, that firmness is of darkness’. They are referring to something which is consciously held to and protected, not simply an inability to understand – but there’s a firmness, with which he won’t give up – even fear and grief and depression and ignorance, people hold to them. This is the doctrine of neurosis in these days, but it was well known to the Gita. There’s a firmness and that firmness is of darkness.
Now, finally, one of the exercises in the parables. This is one which again has never been explained, and we could try it now. The yogic method of meditating on such a thing is to listen to the story carefully; then to think about the meaning, and then finally to close the eyes. On the second time of reading, I’ll read the sentences one by one – and then we’re expected to live through the events of the story vividly, feeling ourselves to be all the separate characters involved. I’ll read the story first, then make one or two of the comments which scholarship has told us about, then explain the riddle which has never been explained by any scholars; and then we can try the meditation. This was an incident in the temple. It comes in different places in the gospels. ‘And they went each to his home and Jesus to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared again in the temple and all the people gathered round him. He had taken his seat and was engaged in teaching them when the Doctors of the Law and Pharisees brought in a woman detected in adultery. Making her stand out in the middle, they said to him, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the law, Moses has laid down that such women are to be stoned. What do you say about it?’ They put the question as a test, hoping to frame a charge against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they continued to press their question, He sat up straight and said, ‘That one of you who is faultless shall throw the first stone’. Then, once again, he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard what he said, one by one they went away, the eldest first. And Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there. Jesus again sat up and said to her, ‘Where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’, she said. Jesus replied, ‘No more do I. You may go. Do not sin again’.
Well, the scholarship tells us a little bit. She must have been engaged to be married and caught in the act of adultery – that was the only case in which the death was to be by stoning. The charge had to be established (in Deuteronomy 19.15) on the evidence of two or three witnesses. The witnesses had to be of good character. And then, in another verse of Deuteronomy, the two witnesses should throw the first stones. The witnesses had to be of good character. One reason was, if the charge and the evidence turned out false and the judge had acted on it, the witnesses and he, suffered the penalty for false witness without mercy. Well, this is all that scholarship can tell us. But what it can’t tell us is what He wrote on the ground. This is the only passage in which Christ is said to have written. There is clearly something missing in the parable. ‘They put the question as a test, ‘She should be stoned. What do you say?’ Jesus bent down, He would have been sitting on a stone bench; He bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. There was dust on the floor of the temple. They pressed the question, and He sat up and said, ‘That one of you who is faultless shall throw the first stone’. Then, once again, He bent down and wrote on the ground. One by one they went away, the eldest first.’
So we need then, in the meditation on this, to discover what He wrote; and why they went away, the eldest first. We’re expected, when meditating on the story, to live through with each character – somebody who’s been caught, and now is brought before somebody who she probably feels is like Habakkuk, a ruthless judge saying, ‘we must stamp out this evil’; and made to stand in the middle, while they try to force the Prophet to give judgement in accordance with the Law of Moses. The people who brought her, good men some of them – the Pharisees were very brave and very conscientious people – but they did have this pride in their own righteousness, some of them. Then Jesus bends down and writes on the ground, then they press the question and He sits up and looks at them, and he quotes Deuteronomy: ‘The witnesses, who must be without fault, shall throw the first stone’. Then again He bends down and writes, and then they go away. And finally He says to her, ‘I don’t condemn you, but don’t sin again.’
Well then, if you’d like, to sit still and live through the story as it were. Even from the first sentence, Jesus with no home – they all went to their homes, but He went to the Mount of Olives and spent the night in the open. ‘And they went each to his own home and Jesus to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak He appeared again in the temple and all the people gathered round him. He had taken his seat and was engaged in teaching them, when the Doctors of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman detected in adultery, making her stand out in the middle. They said to Him, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the law, Moses has laid down that such women are to be stoned, what do you say about it?’ They put the question as a test, hoping to frame a charge against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. Then they continued to press their question. He sat up straight and said, ‘That one of you who is faultless shall throw the first stone’. Then, once again, he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard what he said, one by one they went away, the eldest first. And Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there. Jesus again sat up and said to her, ‘Where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’, she said. Jesus replied, ‘No more do I. You may go. Do not sin again’.
The meditation on the Gospel story of the woman caught committing adultery is given in more detail on pages 142/144 of ‘Realisation of The Supreme Self’.
© Trevor Leggett 1979