Growing up a Christian missionary made it hard to deal with depression.
When I was a kid I’d ask my parents hard questions and they’d always respond with the two same two questions: “What does the bible say?” And “what would Jesus do?” So I was basically born with the paradigm of God is my real dad. To me that made Jesus like my big brother.
When I was 19 I was in a car crash and lost three hours of my life.
I miraculously survived, but I got the God-sense knocked out of me or something. The girl I was dating at that time called me Job from the Bible because God wouldn’t talk to me anymore. You know things are bad in a relationship once the insults reach a Biblical level.
For the next four years I questioned my faith, the meaning of existence, self-sabotaged everything good in my life, and contemplated suicide.
In my suicidal decision moment I made a pact with God: As my last hurrah before nihilistic suicide, I would turn over every rock I was afraid to turn as a Christian.
Jesus came back to me one day in the book “The Yoga of Jesus” by Paramahansa Yogananda, who is renowned as the “father of yoga in the West.” I was at my first yoga festival, called Sat Nam Fest, in California’s Joshua Tree desert. A woman I was chatting with by the main stage recommended Yogananda to me because I told her I grew up a Christian missionary. Yogananda wrote a great deal of literature to share the ideas of Jesus from the perspective of Eastern philosophy.
The foundational idea is that bonafide religions all share the same essence, which Jesus Christ taught perfectly. But Jesus’ life was rooted in Oriental culture, thus the esoteric nature of His teachings has been obscured by Western influence.
Centuries of dogma, prejudice, and cramped understanding have produced an “institutional church-ianity,” sterilizing the deep spiritual philosophies embedded in Jesus’ words.
At first I thought, best to not get wrapped up in another new age fringe Christianity cult. But Jesus did say “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” This Eastern perspective of Jesus and Christianity coincides with what I’ve experienced to be true of God elsewhere. I’ve chewed on this book for a few years and its knowledge has been a wellspring in my relationship with God.
I’d like to think what I know now could’ve saved me a lot of psychological pain and despair. I’ve known Christian pastors who later committed suicide – a sentence I narrowly missed. If Jesus the Christ gave us the path to immortal life, what’s with all the suicide?
Using the philosophies in this book, let’s explore what Jesus the Christ might’ve said to the depressed guy.
Suffering and Search for Meaning
You’re not alone: Man has questioned his suffering from the dawn of time.
Jesus learned to speak in a way that would alleviate existential suffering for thousands of years to come, despite being reinterpreted indefinite times. He knew that only the most ardent seekers would be able to truly understand, achieve, and sustain divine communion with God. He realized most people would only be able to drink a drop of the infinite spiritual ocean. Parables allowed Jesus to speak Truth once and yet teach it forever, to all levels of the intellect.
Matthew 5:4, Luke 6:21
“Blessed are ye who weep, for ye shall laugh.”
Jesus wasn’t talking about ordinary sorrows from loss of love or possessions or earthly desires, because those are rooted in negative energy from ignorant material longing. He was speaking of spiritual burdens – What Yogananda calls “divine melancholy”. The burden of existence. The crying out in the night of the soul: “why, God?” The burden of an awakening consciousness, the realization of separation from God – The yearning for Truth.
When I satisfy my existential mourning by material means, I will be left wanting when those things fade from my life. When I devote myself instead to inward reflection and meditation I gain long-term rewards: Inner joy, peace, self-understanding and divine entertainment.
Suffering is the only signal that points us toward opportunities for growth. The way out of feeling like there’s no meaning in life is to turn inward. By doing so you, like Jesus, like the phoenix, burn your husk alight and realize your true non-material self. Suffering is man’s only means of self-alchemy. When you finally stop numbing with materialistic and ego-fueled comforts and devote yourself to inward reflection, you will find divine resolution to all your soul’s problems.
“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”
Did you know that during his undocumented years from 14 to age 28, Jesus worked on personal development? There was no Tony Robbins for him.
It is a great detail of ancient Indian manuscripts that the Three Wise Men who visited baby Jesus were great Rishi sages of India. There is also an ancient record from Himis Tibetan monastery of a visiting “Saint Issa from Israel”, and ancient manuscripts strongly confer the legend of Christ’s visit spread throughout India and Central Asia. These legends correspond with the well-established historical trade route linking Palestine to India and China via the Mediterranean.
It makes sense that Jesus would travel to receive blessings and education from these ancient spiritual masters who blessed his crib. How else could an Oriental man born to the Roman Empire begin his clandestine prophecy to merge East and West under One God?
Instead of killing myself when I reached a dead end in life, I realized that I had nothing to lose anymore. I dove into heroic doses of solo psychedelic experiences, transcendent meditations with the kundalini yoga community, rigorous self-education, and adventurous life pursuits like traveling to sing on streets in every city, striking into business as a marketing consultant, and competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. To get different inputs, I had to change my outputs.
Personal development allowed me to reconfigure my identity, which changed the trajectory of my destiny. But how do you change?
“You” is defined by your mind as your collective experiences plus what those experiences meant to you.
So in order to fix a broken destiny, you must change the identity component.
A practical approach to changing your identity and starting a personal development journey is to do a post-mortem: Imagine I just walked into the room and put a gun to your head. You die today.
Now: What are your biggest regrets?
Write about your life. Be specific as possible. If your life is already over, you have all the time in the world to explain to yourself and God what could’ve gone differently.
- What would you change about your past?
- What would you keep the same?
- What would you change about your past?
- What would you keep the same?
Once you’ve done all that, realize that right now is the moment God is giving you to change. That was Jesus’ true message: “The Kingdom of God is Here and Now.”
“The Kingdom is within you and outside of you. If you know yourself, you will be known as a child of the living God. If you don’t know yourself, you dwell in poverty and are the definition of poverty. Nor will the Kingdom will not come by waiting. People won’t say, ‘here it is!’ Or ‘there it is!’ The Kingdom of God is spread out right now upon the earth and people don’t see it.”
Book of Thomas, verse 113
Meditation and Self-Understanding
“The light of the body is in the eye; if thine eye be single-focused, the whole body becomes full of light.”
Jesus wasn’t teaching us how to worship him, he was teaching us how to see that we exist in both a physical sense and a spiritual sense at the same time. There is a cosmic, spiritual reality permeating this material, physical plane of existence. Jesus not only understood this, his spiritual mastery gave him superman-like abilities.
Jesus chose to be guru to 12 disciples and empowers them to also do superman-like feats with the spiritual science of meditation. To the uninitiated he teaches a mini-technique: Close the eyes, bow the head slightly, and say “Amen” (or “Aum” or “Om.”)
Everyone says meditation is a great thing to do for depression, but why? Because it gives you awareness of your soul, forcing your noisy ego-mind to become the observer instead of the bad actor.
I started meditating when I was a young christian missionary. There was no language, no directions, or technique for it, but the saints called it “contemplative prayer.” In my zeal for God I often just went for it, praying for hours striving to be “with God.” It worked to a degree, but I was missing proper posture, breathing, and technical understanding of what was going on inside.
Learning the basics of meditation unlocked an immediate storewealth of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. My breathing improved and my resting heart rate decreased, I became more calm and clear-minded. With the removal of self-consciousness I started to understand my true self. Even though I still dip into despair from bouts of unconscious living, years later I’ve gained a rising tide of peace from my habit. Yogananda calls it “the psychological heavenly reward resulting from the law of habit: Anyone who becomes fixed in inner bliss by meditation will be rewarded with ever-increasing joy.” The difference in me is tangible.
The science of meditation is how Jesus gained access to Heavenly reality and understanding. It is how I came to realize my true self. For anyone suffering depression of an existential nature, it is invaluable. Meditation is for anyone who wishes to deepen their intuition, to experience God, and to understand their part in the innerworkings of the Universe. Despite religious dogmas and limiting ideologies, the power to commune with God is inherent in every one of us, regardless of race, religion, or creed.
The art of meditation can be practiced in many ways, but the general goal is the same: Inner concentration with the aim of experiencing Oneness with God, Universe, and/or Self. It is the bedrock philosophy of Jesus, and the eightfold path of the yoga sutras, and all that is required of you is to close your eyes, bow your head slightly, take an inward gaze, and determine to follow the “straight gate”, the “narrow road”, the path of Self-realization.
My Big Brothers
Jesus’ teachings are misunderstood because most people are not prepared to comprehend deep spiritual wisdom. But to those intuitively-tuned souls who are true devotees and seekers of the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ message will continue to unveil new dimensions of Heavenly understanding. Jesus said “those who love their life will lose it, but those who care not for their identity in this world, will have eternal life.”
While I feel Yogananda may have taken some creative leaps in his interpretations, his yogic mastery and spiritual understanding has blessed Christianity with a lost Eastern perspective, and technology for God-communion through meditation.
These unifying philosophies are invaluable in the understanding of God and oneself. Yogananda calls it Self-realization. I called it Self-understanding.
Whatever you call it, it is your enlightenment journey and it has already begun. Through it you will elevate your consciousness, radiate your truest identity, and liberate your soul from illusions of the past to truly make your mark on the world around you.
Thank you Alexandra Allen, Maymie Chan, Christin Chong, Tommy Lee, and Jake Waldron for your encouragement and constructive feedback on this essay. Couldn’t have done it without you!
The Yoga Of Jesus – Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels by Paramahansa Yogananda
The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You by Paramahansa Yogananda
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