Why is Jesus on our altar? Are we just trying to appeal to Christians?
Jesus is at the center of our altar because he appeared to the yoga master Babaji and asked him to send someone to the West to spread the teachings of original Christianity. Jesus told Babaji that his followers needed to learn how to receive him through deep meditation, as beautifully described in the verse, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God” (John 1:12). He said that although his followers still do good works, they have lost the ability to commune inwardly with God. Because of Jesus’ request, Paramhansa Yogananda came to the West. Thus, Jesus Christ is honored with a place on our altars and in our daily prayers.
Who was Jesus Christ?
Yogananda taught that Jesus, who began his journey as a human being like all of us, eventually became one with God. He then agreed to return to Earth to help others attain the same. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21) In the Hindu tradition, such a one is called an “avatar.” Jesus was his given name. Christ was his title. “Christ” refers to the “Christ Consciousness,” the highest state of consciousness that one can attain spiritually, wherein one is completely immersed in God’s presence within and all around, or as the Bible says, lives in the “Kingdom of God [that] is within you” (Luke 17:21).
Do we believe* he was the only Son of God?
Jesus Christ is spoken of in the Bible as “the only begotten son of God” (John 3:16). This description carries a subtle meaning. It is Jesus’ level of consciousness, the “Christ Consciousness,” that is the “only begotten son,” not Jesus’ as he was on Earth in human form. Christ Consciousness is omnipresent. As God’s children, we all have the ability to attain it. Not only do we have the ability to attain Christ Consciousness just as Jesus and all the great masters of all religions have done, this state is eventually inevitable for everyone. “If we are [God's] children,” St. Paul wrote, “we are His treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well!” (Romans 8:17)
Do we believe* Jesus died to save us from our sins?
Jesus’ death did not resolve the whole world of its sins, or even all Christians. Did the world suddenly become completely pure after Jesus’ death? Are people less sinful now than they were before Jesus’ sacrifice? What his death did accomplish, however, was to purify and inspire his disciples so that they would be able to go out and continue his mission. In that sense, his death was for the entire world. The most important part of Jesus’ mission was his teachings, not his death. Every incident in his life stands forth as an example to show us our own way to Christ Consciousness.
*All the great Masters of yoga, including Jesus, counsel us not to believe in anything in the beginning, except perhaps tentatively, going slowly from step to step as we proceed along the path as seekers of truth. “Know the truth and the truth will set you free!” It is much better to experience (or as Jesus said “receive” it into yourself.) When you know the truth of your own being, through direct experience, then belief is transformed into faith.