Jesus and the Yoga Siddhas
Some months ago, I read the book, The Wisdom of Jesus and the Yoga Siddhas, in preparation for a workshop I was giving. The author, Marshall Govindan, studied at Georgetown University in the '60's, and had the good fortune to be mentored by Father Thomas King, a very open minded Jesuit.
In this book, Govindan describes his journey into the teachings of Yogananda. While practicing Kriya Yoga, he wondered about the compatibility of this practice with his Christian background. Father King told Govindan to follow his heart - that Yogananda's teachings were definitely from God.
Govindan now resides in Canada and has written a number of works published by Babaji's Kriya Yoga Publications. He has initiated thousands of people into this practice.
The book contains an interesting section where Govindan compares similarities in the teachings of Jesus and of the Siddhas.
A "siddha" is one who is accomplished and has attained supernatural powers. They are perfected masters who have transcended the ego and the limitations of the body.
I will summarize and paraphrase some of Govindan's points:
Jesus taught in parables, metaphor, paradox, and parody, conveying profound teachings in a way that illiterate listeners could easily understand. The Yoga Siddhas taught in the form of poems, in the vernacular of the people, in a way they could memorize and recall.
Jesus severely condemned the Pharisees and the merchants selling their wares in the temple. The Yoga Siddhas also condemned emphasis on temple worship. They taught the human body is the true temple of God, and only through a process of inner purification can one come to know God.
Neither Jesus nor the Siddhas intended to create a new religion. They taught how to realize God through self discipline.
Jesus taught forgiveness of sins or transgressions. The Siddhas taught how to detach from the influence of subconscious tendencies (samskaras) and karma (the consequences of actions, words, and thoughts).
Jesus repeatedly referred to himself as the "Son of Man." The Siddhas spoke of the "lower self" - held together by the ego, and the True Self - which is pure conscionsness.
In the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus has little to say about himself. Similarly, the Siddhas have little to say about themselves in their writings.
Jesus taught that the Father exists and loves all of us. The Siddhas taught that by progressive self study, purification, and discipline, one can realize the Lord.
Jesus stated that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. The Siddhas taught that God was to be found within us as absolute Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.
Jesus used the metaphor of Light to represent the consciousness of his true identity. The Siddhas referred to the Supreme Being as all pervasive light.
Jesus ascended bodily into heaven after 40 days. The Siddhas surrender their physical body but are also able to transform their physical bodies through intense practice.
Jesus emphasized love and the inner experience or communion with God. The Siddhas rejected the Veda's emphasis on sacrifice and ritual.
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness in meditation and prayer. The Siddhas practice tapas - penance - and even the number 40 is significant with them.
Both the Siddhas and Jesus exhibited great social concern.
Jesus accepted Mary Magdalene as a disciple and allowed her to wash his feet. The Siddhas show their surrender to their Gurus by touching or washing their feet.
Jesus was more than just a teacher to his disciples. The Siddas were Gurus - dispellers of darkness - who showed the path to the Lord.
This book is an interesting read. So is Yogananda's The Second Coming of Christ, a two volume set which examines the New Testament in fascinating detail. Yogananda's insights came from a place of deep meditation and communion with God.