by Michael Ketterhagen
I always am fascinated by the philosophical and spiritual similarities between Christianity, especially Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, and Yoga, especially Sankhya Yoga.
Sankhya Yoga, the foundation philosophy of the Yoga Sutras, believes that our true self, the core of our being, is one with God. The term it uses for this unity is “Brahman” which means “Consciousness.” Humans are made of physical material called Prakriti and spiritual “stuff” called Purusha.
Christianity during this Christmas time of 12 days, from Christmas Day to January 5th, believes and celebrates that same reality. All that is physical in this world is in union with God, or could be considered God-stuff because Christmas is the celebration of God becoming human in the form of a child.
Theologically, Christmas is the commemoration of the Incarnation, a doctrine of belief that says that God became human. The theological belief really means that nothing which is human is foreign to God. There is even a strong Christian belief because of the statement in Paul of Tarsus’ epistles that we are to become other Christs. God has placed his Spirit in us (2 Corinthians 1:20-22).
The entire season of Christmas is a reminder and a celebration of the fact that humanity is in union with God.
Christmas day itself is a commemoration of the fact that all Christians are “spiritual babies.” Everyone of us has a beginning to our movement towards the realization that we are God’s beloved sons or daughters. We are all on a journey of learning and growing closer to the realization of the wonderful divinity that is the core of our being. Actually, humans are God’s children. We are spiritual beings born into this world to return back to our source of life.
Yoga believes that humans are one with the divine Source of Life as well. Yoga also believes that we can experience that union in this physical life just as Jesus of Nazareth did. We can, like many of the saints and sages of the yoga tradition, walk in conscious awareness of our oneness with God, the Source of Life.
The first Sunday after Christmas is another commemoration of the Incarnation, as the Catholic Christian community celebrates the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is a reminder of how sacred families are. We must celebrate the birth of every child born into every family, recognizing that every child is another “offspring” of God, the Source of Life.
Family is to be honored and made holy. Often, when a child is born there is much joy in the family. Even though that joy wanes as the child and family grows, we must do all we can to nurture that “God-presence of family” by treating and raising the child to the highest degree. We must give the child and his or her family every nurturing opportunity to grow into the awareness that the family too is sacred and the child can become another Christ someday. This is a demanding mandate not just for the immediate family but also for the entire community and surrounding world.
That is why in the Christian Tradition the 12th day of Christmas (January 5) welcomes the celebration of the feast of the Epiphany (the coming of the Magi) on January 6. The Christ-child, the divine child of God, is now presented to the world as a special person, the future Messiah of the Jewish and Gentile world. The sacred family was welcomed into the world and given gold, frankincense and myrrh. These were special, valuable gifts to insure that the family and child would survive and grow to its potential.
All these truths, just as Yoga teaches believes and teaches about the sacredness of each individual and the entire creation, are celebrated in the 12 days of Christmas. True believers and followers of Christianity and Yoga, whichever spiritual tradition they follow, must commit to these truths and follow them with action, if they are to fulfill each of their tradition’s dreams—to return to the Source of their Life…the Father/Mother God.