In The Promise of Immortality, Swami Kriyananda builds a bridge of understanding between two of the world’s great religions, Hinduism and Christianity. From Kriyananda’s explanations of the deeper meaning of the Bible and parallel passages of the Bhagavad Gita, it becomes apparent that these two scriptures reflect a common source of truth.
Indeed, Kriyananda shows not only that their deep truths are one and the same, but that these precepts are so universal and fundamental that they must underlie all true religions. Kriyananda credits the deep insights expressed in his book to his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Stories from Yogananda’s life clarify many of the topics.
The message of this book is especially timely in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks, involving such blatant examples of intolerance and hate. These acts result from different cultural and religious traditions that see each other as “not-like-us,” and thus as enemies.
The Promise of Immortality gives us hope that understanding and mutual acceptance can eventually prevail over the concepts of separateness and enmity. It helps to show us that under our different ways of living and worshiping, we have, on the deepest level, the same ideals of truth. Kriyananda writes: “One of the most urgent needs in the world today is for the major religions to be presented from a perspective of the truths they have in common, and not of the teachings which, their proponents insist, make them unique.”
Although this concept of hope for international peace and understanding is very important, The Promise of Immortality is aimed primarily at bringing spiritual clarity and understanding to individual truth-seekers. As Kriyananda says, “The chief purpose of religion is the upliftment of human consciousness.” The book seeks mainly to convey the truth that everyone can experience that upliftment by attaining a deep experience of God’s inner presence.
To show how the Bible furthers this purpose, Kriyananda gives the deeper meanings of many Bible verses, which he presents as the original, true teachings of Jesus Christ. He explains that Jesus often used mystical and symbolic references that are not generally understood. Thus, when Jesus said, “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,” he was referring to the spiritual eye, a symbol of God’s light, seen in deep meditation. Kriyananda explains that this and many other verses in the Bible are misunderstood because they describe inner experience, not physical phenomena.
Another example is the widely discussed, “second coming of Christ.” Kriyananda explains that the phrase describes an inner event, the experience of becoming one with Christ consciousness. Similarly, the phrase, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” refers to a deep and profound inner awakening, and not to mere outward acceptance of Jesus as one’s “savior.”
The Promise of Immortality offers many practical suggestions to help the reader’s spiritual development. The benefit of spiritual living, Kriyananda explains, is “that it lightens the consciousness, loosens the shackles of ego- and matter-consciousness, and attunes one more sensitively to the redeeming inner light.” If studied sincerely, The Promise of Immortality can serve as a superb manual of how to live to experience more of the “redeeming inner light” in our own lives.