A recent book, called The Gospel of Judas, pretends to be a faithful account by Judas of his closeness to Jesus. It claims that Jesus conspired with Judas to bring about his own betrayal. Intriguing? It is utter nonsense! I myself tried to read the book and soon gave up. The last straw was finding that Jesus was supposed to have taught Judas—contrary to Hebraic tradition, which of course Jesus himself taught and fully accepted—that there are nineteen Gods. Jesus taught there is only one God.*
Judas was a prophet
I once had an interesting talk with my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, on the subject of Judas. He told me, “Of course, Judas was a prophet.” When I expressed surprise at this astonishing description of the greatness of Judas, Yogananda replied, “Oh yes! He would have had to be, to be one of the twelve disciples. But he had to go through two thousand years of suffering for his treachery. He was finally liberated in this century. Jesus appeared to Judas’ guru in this lifetime, a great master in India, and asked him to give Judas final liberation.”
As an interesting aside here: to be a prophet means to be united in consciousness with God. Paramhansa Yogananda, however, included in the meaning of the word prophet those disciples of a great master who, even if they are not yet liberated, are highly advanced spiritually.
Pausing a moment, Yogananda added, “I knew Judas in this lifetime.”
“What was he like?” I inquired, naturally eager for more information.
“Always very quiet and by himself,” my Guru responded. “He still had some attachment to money, not in the sense of desiring it personally but as a means of helping others. The other disciples began to tease him for it one day, but the guru said to them, ‘Don’t. Leave him alone.’”
A terrifying lesson
Lest anyone doubt the power of delusion to draw people into actions that are diametrically opposed to everything they believe, the fate of Judas must stand as a salutary, even a terrifying lesson. Judas fell so deeply into the delusions of money attachment and worldly acceptance that he was capable, as if in a dream, of accepting silver from the chief rabbi for the betrayal of Jesus. Committing suicide, Judas met his death in a crash of remorse and horror at what he’d done.
Nevertheless, he was a great soul—far greater, indeed, than the many peripheral disciples who had come to Jesus more recently in their divine search.
It is better, in other words, to seek God and fail in the attempt—and even to fail greatly—than to be a lukewarm seeker—or, worse still, not even to seek Him at all. Judas Iscariot was, spiritually speaking, far ahead of the most successful materialistic businessman.
Karmic causes and effects
It is important to understand that it was not Judas’ absolute destiny to betray Jesus. Yogananda explained that Judas could have overcome the bad karma that ultimately led to the betrayal. Jesus, in fact, predicted his betrayal by Judas in order to warn him, so that he might reform and refrain from committing the evil act. Karma is almost always mixed. Judas, for example, could not have betrayed Jesus if he not also had the good karma to be born as a direct, close disciple.
There was, however, a definite destiny in the betrayal itself — it would have come about in one way or another. Judas had to suffer personally the consequences of the part he’d played in that drama.
The bad karma Judas incurred from the betrayal was especially great because he had sinned and blasphemed against Jesus, someone who was one with God. One of the greatest sins is to inflict harm on a saint who has achieved Self-realization. In so doing, one commits an offense against the Christ consciousness itself, which resides within us all, but is fully manifested in those who have realized God.
Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was, however, an even greater sin because it was a “sin against the Holy Ghost” (AUM), with whom Judas had already been blessed to commune. To experience God’s presence as AUM, and then, subsequently, to turn away from it, can finally be “forgiven” only by the seeker himself, by embracing once again the divine experience he has spurned. The return is not so easy, however, because that particular sin sets up an inner vibration of restlessness, or uneasiness with one’s self that can only be overcome by great personal effort.
Nonetheless, it is a karma that can be overcome. Yogananda, in his commentaries on the New Testament of the Bible, wrote that Judas, instead of hanging himself for betraying Jesus, should have devoted the rest of his life to seclusion and meditating on God. In other words, Judas could have started the process of redemption during his lifetime, had he summoned from within himself the inner strength and courage to do so.
You first extend the invitation
It is interesting that the Biblical account of the betrayal of Jesus describes “the devil” as putting the thought of betrayal “into the heart of Judas.” Indeed it so happens because, as Yogananda said, “Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted.”
We first tap the source of negative consciousness in the universe by ourselves thinking wrong thoughts, and by mentally toying with any wrong desire we harbor even lightly in our hearts. Those thoughts and desires send rays of magnetic energy into the infinite, attracting a compatible energy, depending on whether our “invitation” is positive or negative. Thus it is that our thoughts and desires can lift us either heavenward, or cast us down into ever-deeper darkness and suffering.
Yogananda used to say: “Here is a line. On one side of it is God; on the other side, Satan. Neither can influence you until you yourself turn toward the one or the other. Once you allow yourself, however, to turn either way, the divine or the satanic influence will begin to act upon you consciously.” You yourself, in other words, first extend the invitation. God or Satan then comes to you, and influences you further in the direction you’ve already indicated.
Invite goodness into your consciousness
If you want to cleanse yourself of impure motives, or to strengthen your inner purity, the best place to start is by spurning every impure imagining, which people tend too easily to “play with” mentally in an effort (they may tell themselves) to “understand” and reason their way out of that thought. Instead, you should concentrate on raising your feelings from the heart to the higher centers in the throat and the head. If you can harmonize those feelings, uplift them, and then channel them to the spiritual eye (the “Christ center”) in the forehead, you will find that your tendency to harbor impure feelings will change completely. Almost automatically, those feelings will be purified.
Above all invite goodness into your consciousness. The battle will be half won when you realize that you are not the source of any virtue that you manifest, or of any delusion, but that you can, if you choose, become an instrument of divine love and bliss in the world. Yoga emphasizes the importance of keeping the heart filled with what Jesus referred to as “good treasure”: kindly thoughts, devotion, love, calm feeling, non-attachment to everything material.
No one, however, is safe from delusion until he is firmly established in God-consciousness. Jesus, like Yogananda, placed the strongest emphasis on inner communion with God. It is God alone who can save us through our ever-deepening inner communion with Him. The tragedy of Judas shows that even highly advanced disciples can still fall spiritually until they reach the final stage of liberation— nirbikalpa samadhi—when at last they attain full awareness that only the Infinite Self, God, exists.
Not a permanent state
Although Judas acted under the influence of Satan, the story of Judas must be understood as not indicating a permanent state of alienation from God. As great as was Judas’s betrayal—owing, my Guru said, to “a little bad karma”—its fruits were only temporary. Judas was, inherently, a great and true disciple. His problem was merely that there were in him still a few deep-seated faults that remained to be worked out. He suffered greatly for that betrayal, but his good karma stood him in good stead also, and flowered at last by taking him to divine liberation.
Yogananda was once relating to his students the story of Sadhu Haridas, an eighteenth century holy man in India, who fell from the spiritual path even though he was highly advanced. Yet, my Guru said, he achieved full liberation in that same lifetime. A student of Yogananda’s, who was present when Yogananda related this story, objected, “How can that be? Isn’t the punishment far greater for one who, though knowing the law, breaks it?”
“Mm-mm,” replied the Master, shaking his head. “God is no tyrant. When you have eaten good cheese, then resume eating stale cheese again, you soon realize your mistake. If, then, you once again want only the good cheese, God won’t deny you.”
Yogananda made a similar observation about one of his own close disciples who had betrayed him in nefarious ways. As Jesus had done with Judas, Yogananda had predicted that betrayal. Yet, that disciple was nonetheless a great soul. Yogananda stated firmly that he would be liberated in another three lifetimes.
God will do the rest
For ourselves, we must understand that no matter how many times, or how far, we fall, God will ever wait for us with outstretched arms until we return to Him. Never fear, therefore, but give to God as much of yourself as you are capable of giving. He will ever do the rest.