By Michael Ketterhagen
I am continuing to pursue the path that I believe Jesus of Nazareth may have travelled as he was growing up. During those early years, Jesus had an intense practice of the second kriya of yoga, “svadhyaya,” which means “to study, examine, and reflect on ourselves, our internal states, the objects of our senses, and the current condition of our body and mind, as well as on the thoughts, feelings, and opinions that are so dear to us” (Pandit Rajmani, Practice of the Yoga Sutra: Sadhana Pada, pp 8-9). In short, it is translated “self-study”.
Like every human being, Jesus wanted to know his purpose and mission in life. He had lots of encouragement from his mother Mary while growing up. Undoubtedly, they talked about the unique circumstances that happened in his life, including the mystical encounter Mary had with the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38), the shepherds who visited Jesus after his birth (Luke 2:15-20), the encounter that Mary had with Simeon in the temple during Jesus’ circumcision ritual (Luke 2:25-35), the visitation of the three astrologers/kings from the East when he was a baby in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12), the events leading to his family’s quick movement to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15), and his own intuitive understanding of what he must do as a young Jewish adult after his experience in the temple with the Jewish elders and priests (Luke 2:49).
Jesus also listened closely to his own experiences, like his baptism in the Jordan when “a voice came from heaven, [saying] You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Jesus immediately went to the desert/wilderness to meditate on those words, becoming clear about his purpose and meaning in life as he fasted 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He knew the Hebrew scriptures by heart which is evidenced by his conversation with the devil during that time.
Two practices—meditation, especially japa meditation, and study of the sacred scriptures—are the main svadhyaya practices. Jesus practiced both regularly. Japa meditation is the repetition of a word or phrase until the mind stills and moves one’s awareness deep within to learn about the deepest parts of ourselves. In Judaism, Mishnah is the repetition of a passage usually from the Psalms that is taught to children for the purpose of memorizing the text. The favorite Mishnah verse was “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). This probably was Jesus’ japa experience while growing up.
As I mentioned in the last blog, Jesus was a person of action. He studied himself and the sacred texts of the Hebrew tradition. This prepared him to live a full
human life. Although there is no orthodox acceptance of Jesus being taught by yogi sages in India, certainly his life of action speaks clearly to his practice of tapas, svadhyaya, and Ishvara pranidhana—yoga practices of the Himalayan Tradition. These are practices that every human being can practice to bring themselves into union with the Divine Source of Life.
More about Ishvara pranidhana and what I surmise was another yoga practice of the human being Jesus, who became the Christ, the Chosen One, the Messiah of Israel, in my next blog.
I bow to the Divinity within you.