In a few days we’ll all be celebrating a precious memory: the birth of Jesus Christ in a humble manger. We think sweetly of that innocent, all-loving baby. I remember a picture I saw in Greece where the Virgin Mary looks at her baby with tears of grief, and I asked a monk, “Why is she crying?” He answered, “Because she knew how much her little child would have to suffer!” And I thought, No, he won’t suffer. His body will suffer, but not He! He will know only bliss. His pain will be not for himself, but for our suffering, because we are blind, and self-willful, and because we ignore all that he truly represents: the divinity of our own being.
I wrote you not long ago of a dream I had, in which my enemies tried to burn me at the stake, and then my friends saved me. I was indifferent alike to the burning and to being saved. That certainly must have seemed extreme to some of you. But I had that dream because of a lifelong practice I have made that might help you for me to share with you. I have for many years deliberately imagined the worst thing that could possibly befall me, and then asked myself, “Could I accept that, as a gift from God?”
Death? Simple! I’ve never been afraid of death. But condemnation by God? Oh, that would be terrible! And that is the thought I was forced to endure in 1962, when SRF threw me out. For me, it was a thousand times worse than physical death. It seemed to me that my Guru, and through him, God, had rejected me. I felt completely abandoned, in a cold and empty universe, and for reasons I simply could not understand. The only thought to which I clung desperately was, “Even if you abandon me, I will never abandon you.” It was from that point on that I was able, slow step by step, to reconstruct my life and to accomplish the work God had given me to do.
Christmas is a time of rejoicing, but let us also remember that all rejoicing in this world is two-edged. Joy alternates constantly with suffering. It cannot be otherwise, for this very world is created on the principle of duality, of plus and minus, of ups and downs. When all the waves subside, we are left with the calm ocean of God’s Bliss. Nothing else is real.
So even in this season of rejoicing, I invite you to consider my little practice. If you will, you may turn it to good use in your life also. As Jesus said, “It must needs be that sorrows come.” Well, Jesus used the word, “scandals,” but he had to mean also sorrows of all kinds. The way to remain, as Yogananda put it, “unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds,” is to imagine the worst even now, and to school oneself to accept it as a mark of God’s love. He never gives you any test without at least as great a blessing. His final message to all of us is not suffering, but bliss. When Jesus died on the cross, his spirit knew no pain. It knew only joy. His suffering was for ignorant humanity, which ever rejects God’s love for a pale substitute, which gives nothing but suffering in the end. Remember, outside of God there is no lasting happiness or fulfillment of any kind. Whatever you do in life, let the birth of Jesus be your constant reminder to live above everything else for God.
May inner, Christ joy be yours this Christmas season.
With love in Him,