When Jesus said, “Who has seen Me, has seen the Father,” he prompted theologians down through the ages to try to understand what he meant. Some have asked, “What about all those soldiers at the foot of the cross? They saw Christ, but were they seeing God?” Anybody who sees God is bound to be deeply changed. What about the crowd of people who were cursing and shouting, “Crucify him”? Had they seen God? Quite obviously they hadn’t, or they’d have behaved in a very different way.
Then, was Christ wrong? Not at all. When he said, “Who has seen me,” he didn’t mean his body. He was talking of his spirit, his true self.
Many times in the Bible we find that when Jesus speaks of himself in the first person, he’s not referring to the personality or the body, but to the Infinite One. When he said, “I and my Father are one,” he certainly couldn’t mean the body. The Father is everywhere, while the body is limited in time and space. When he said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” again he was not referring to the body because Abraham lived a long time before him.
Similarly when Jesus said, “Whenever two or more shall gather together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” he was not talking about a body. He was talking about an Infinite Spirit overarching all matter. That Spirit was his reality. We must remember that this is what Jesus really was.
Jesus has incarnated many times
The vast majority of those who achieve God-consciousness feel so much joy in the experience that all they want is to merge in that Infinite Joy. They are willing to help a few because it’s a divine law that you must free a few others to find your own liberation, but they figure others will get there in their time.
But there are a few souls who have so much compassion that their desire to help others is the catalyst for God’s will to send them back into this world. They defer their ultimate perfect enjoyment of that state of freedom in order to come back and help people like you and me. These people are very few, and they come again and again throughout history.
Once Master was talking about the past incarnations of our line of gurus. For example, he said that Lahiri Mahasaya was the great King Janaka, who was one of the great saints in ancient India, that Babaji was Krishna, and that he himself was Arjuna. It seems that there are a few great souls who return repeatedly, and play their different roles to help mankind on the stage of history.
So when we think of Christ, we see a soul of that stature who was given the particular mission to start a world religion, and to save thousands, perhaps millions of souls. When you get somebody of that spiritual order, it’s almost impossible to say who he was in subsequent incarnations. It’s rather like, what do you do for an encore? It’s almost better to forget it’s the same person, but in fact, he must have come again. Master said that Christ has returned, but, to my knowledge, he didn’t say who he was. The fact that he has come, and that he will come again, is impossible to reject.
Jesus and Yogananda: the same?
Some people have said they believe that Yogananda was Jesus in a former life. After all, the three wise men were our own line of gurus, and Yogananda didn’t mention who he was back then. There are a lot of similarities in their roles. Because of this, I once confronted him with it, and asked him, “Sir, were you Jesus?” Very indifferently, he said, “What difference does it make? It’s the same ocean that produces all the waves.”
He didn’t deny it, but he certainly gave me no ground to think that it was true either. What he wanted me to see was that we make too much of personality. It’s the same God who manifests through these great masters, and the same God who is the savior.
Jesus was only a manifestation of something infinite, and that’s what he meant when he said, “I and my Father are one.” He didn’t mean his body or his ego, but his soul. When you raise your consciousness into the Infinite, suddenly you find that you are infinite yourself—there’s no barrier between you and that Infinite Consciousness.
That is what Jesus was, and that is what you are. That is what he kept trying to tell us: “The things that I do, you too can do, and still greater things.” He kept putting it back on people. When his listeners accused him of blaspheming because he said, “I and my Father are one,” he answered, “Don’t the scriptures say, ‘You are gods’?” He was trying to make it clear that he was not unique except in the sense that he had realized his oneness with God, and his listeners had not.
“All the nations shall behold him.”
When Jesus talked of coming again, he was talking about something internal, something that you and I can realize. Again, when it says in the Bible, “All the nations of the earth shall behold him,” it didn’t mean that everybody in the nations would behold him.
Down through the ages, in every country in the world, there are people who have actually seen Christ—either the person, or the Infinite Light of which he was a manifestation. People everywhere have had that vision in one way or another because no country has a monopoly on God. So all the nations have seen him already. It’s an ongoing process.
Those people who have that consciousness within themselves are the ones who will be elected, if you will. As Jesus said, “Two shall be in the field. One shall be taken, and the other left.” What he meant was that it isn’t the work that matters. When the time comes, God will come to those who work with the consciousness of God, whether in a field or in a cloister.
Jesus wants to come again into our consciousness. We need to understand that he is living right now. It’s not that he’s got to come in the future. It’s not that he died two thousand years ago. He’s alive right now. He can hear your prayers and answer your least desires. He said, “Seek the kingdom of God first, and then all these things shall be added unto you.” You’ll find that he’ll fulfill your least little desire.
What is faith?
My experience is that the most practical thing of all is faith, because it works. If you really have faith, somehow things work in incredible ways. Faith is the greatest thing Jesus wanted us to learn, not blind faith in mere words, but faith born of the experience of his inner presence. That’s the real meaning of faith.
Of course, it’s a growing thing. The deeper the experience, the deeper the faith. Jesus wanted us to have the faith born of actual experience. As he said, “[W]e know what we worship.”
When we know because we’ve meditated, because we’ve felt God’s presence, then we can say that Christ has come. He may come in a vision, but it’s even greater when he comes as a great upliftment of consciousness.
Many people have had direct communion with Christ. At Christmas time it is very fitting that we make this the central focus of all our energies, to try to feel his consciousness return once again. Will he come back into the world? He’s done it many, many times. He can do it every day of your life if you will allow him to if you will just open up your heart to him and give yourself to him.
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From a talk at Ananda Village on December 26, 1982