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As a Yogi, What would Jesus Do? -- Part 1

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

By Michael Ketterhagen



If as some non-orthodox Christian scholars believe, Jesus of Nazareth learned the philosophy and science of yoga while travelling throughout India and Tibet during the 18 years not mentioned in the Christian scriptures. My yoga teacher, Swami Rama, told me that Jesus’ name was listed on the graduation wall in one of the schools in the Himalayan mountains. In that school, he would have been taught, as a teen and young adult, detailed methods and techniques for attaining awareness of his union with God by the saints and sages of the yoga tradition. He would have been taught to have a direct experience of his divine nature.


Considering Jesus as a human being like ourselves, we would have to say that he was on fire with living in tune with his “Father,” his name for the Jewish name of God, JHWH, pronounced Yahweh. Reading the Christian scriptures it is easy to see that Jesus was a person of action. In Sanskrit, such a person is called a “kriya yogi,” one who is acts in union with God.


Yoga means union of one’s individual human self with one’s higher consciousness or God. Yoga in action is, first and foremost, the practice of “tapas.” “Tapas” is the practice of “withstanding the pain caused by the pressure of the senses and our self-imposed resistance to that pressure.” As Pandit Rajmani says, “Until we reach the highest [level of self-control], there is a constant tug-of-war between the good and the pleasant, … between the forces of surrender and the forces of attachment.” Certainly, we see Jesus having that self-control by fasting 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2). He accepted non-violently the consequence of his life preaching against the religious and political leaders of the day. He asked God in the Garden of Gethsemane to remove the coming torture and death from his journey, yet bowed to the will of God, his loving Father (Luke 22:42). He was willing to face the future by surrendering to his up-coming suffering rather than fight against it. He was willing to face the ultimate consequences of defying and challenging the religious, political leaders of his time.


Jesus’ whole life was to “empty himself,” as Paul states in Philippians 2:6-8. Surrendering to the events in his life takes lots of strength as a human being and means that as a human he learned to train himself to listen to the deep promptings of God within, rather than giving into his desire to stay physically safe and unharmed. His love for God within himself, strengthened by his mystical experiences, namely, when he was baptized by John in the Jordan river (Matthew 3:16-17) and when he visited with Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor (Mark 9:2-8), allowed him to fulfill his human destiny as the Jewish Messiah.


Yogis and yoginis who practice tapas sincerely and consistently develop this inner strength. They let nothing deter them from following the divine call within themselves and return to union with Ultimate Reality or God (as it is labeled in English).


Also, the Sri Vidya tradition views “tapas” as “kaya kalpa.” This philosophy and science believes that “the human body is endowed with extraordinary intelligence and healing power.” Its practice reverses the deterioration process of the body and the mind by restoring them to their pristine condition. For most humans who are conditioned by unhealthy lifestyles, kaya kalpa requires much discipline. Most of us resist a demanding transformative change in our lives. Jesus, however, retained much vibrancy even to the point of overcoming great torture before his death on a cross.


As I grew up I wanted to become like Jesus. I saw him as a model for how one should live. So, I searched for ways to imitate Jesus, the Christ, while living. When I was introduced to the philosophy and methods of the yoga tradition, I began to understand that Jesus probably practiced “tapas.” The health practices of the common yoga tradition and the specific practices of kaya kalpa made me feel the strength and mental determination to live in the way the Bible said Jesus lived. I began to develop a self-disciplined life so that I could become more aware of my union with God and my purpose of serving others.


No longer did I feel that becoming another Christ was far beyond my reach. I needed to listen to the promptings of the divine inner intelligence. I began to no longer give into my fears of what others thought, or my feelings of inadequacy, or the worry about always pleasing my parents and the other authorities. I began to control my lifestyle and eating habits. I learned that my desires were not bad, my hopes were not silly, and that I could control them, because I was always in the guidance and protection of the Spirit of Life within, the Spirit of my God, like Jesus was. My core Self was Divine, Infinite and Perfect and I would always be led, if I listened to it, by God’s wisdom in me.


In meditation, one of the regular “tapas” practices that Jesus did (Matthew 14:23), I found the tools to truly discipline (train) myself. Thank God for my yoga teachers and for Jesus of Nazareth, who showed me how to live a life of yoga in action—tapas. I now knew it was possible to become another Christ.


I bow to the Divinity within you.

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