It has been a wonderful gift and I wish it for all who seek it, especially through daily meditation. Perhaps years of meditation have yielded fruits too subtle for me to notice or too slow to ripen in the chill of my own restlessness, but I am grateful for the deepening peace and wisdom that seems to be arriving like Christmas presents in the mail!
I believe that millions of people feel some measure of stillness and reverence at Christmas. Years ago at Ananda Village I used to love to get up very early and meditate on Christmas morning before our two small children would be up to see what Santa brought them. I drank in that blessed comfort and joy that hovers, like the Star of Bethlehem, over us.
What matter to us, today, if the events described in the New Testament are factual or only allegorical? At this distance in time and space, there is no difference for us. Do we not have, or at least sense, a message for the ages in this simple, beloved tale?
A dark cold night under the starry skies is the symbol of meditation. For only in the darkness behind closed eyes and in the darkness of withdrawal from outward activity can our divine nature be born. Jesus, though heralded as a King and, later as an adult, offered world dominion by Satan, was born in a lowly manger, an empty stable. So, too, can our inner divine soul-child only be born and first made manifest in the humble, quiet heart.
Shepherds keep watch over their sheep. Shepherds, then, are our conscious thoughts and conscious mind. Good shepherds watch protectively over the sheep of the subconscious body-temple, habits, duties, and outward activities. Shepherds who guard their flocks at night are those souls who remain vigilant in the night of temptations and whenever subconscious habits, predispositions and other pre or post-natal tendencies threaten to overcome their good intentions. Good shepherds also remain awake to await the angelic, intuitive promptings of their soul, through prayer and meditation. Thus the angels of intuition urge the shepherds to seek the Christ child in the quiet “stable” of inner silence.
The holy family is a symbol for the Trinity. In the story of Jesus’ birth, Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. This symbolizes and reflects the truth that God the Father remains untouched by and uninvolved in the daily housework of the creation that he initiated. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the sacred consort, the pure virgin, mother of creation, the Holy Ghost, out of whom all creation is manifested even as she, like the Father, is untouched or undefiled by creation's myriad manifestations, whether good or evil. In her womb, which is to say, at the heart of every living thing and every moving atom, is the silent Intelligence and Bliss which is the only reflection of the Son of the Father which is beyond creation.
Paramhansa Yogananda explained this complex concept of the Trinity in this simple analogy to the nuclear family. The son of God is "only begotten" because this indwelling Christ consciousness ("Kutastha Chaitanya" in Sanskrit) is the only reflection , or echo, within creation of the Infinite Spirit beyond all vibratory creation. "God so loved the world," the Bible says, "that he gave his only begotten Son." This means that God (the Father) implanted the seed of his Bliss-Intelligence in the heart of everything.
Indeed, yogis explain that God did not merely “make” the universe, He BECAME the universe through the agency of vibration first of thought, then energy, and finally form. All vibration moves from a center of rest in opposite directions. This illustrates how all things created only appear to be real, are always in motion, producing sound and light, always polarized (or neutral), and always in an infinity of oppositional states. This becoming is also the means by which God’s one nature becomes triune.
Manifested aspects of this seed of divinity, the only begotten son of God who is this Christ child, include intelligence, free will, reason, the power of procreation, creativity in all its forms, desire (the impulse to create for love, for joy), healing power, and all that we hold dear (and tend to misuse!). A tree expresses this intelligence by doing "tree" things. Cows don't write books but do cow-like activities. (smile) And so on!
Jesus — the Christ, or Anointed One — was one with the Father in that as a soul existing through countless incarnations he achieved final Oneness with the Father in some distant past life. Re-born as a perfected soul in a human body he, being incarnate, came as the universal Christ Intelligence in human form. No human form can circumscribe or limit this universal Intelligence but the soul of Jesus remained united with it. The difference between Jesus and you or I is one of degree, not kind. For most of us and creation, that only begotten son is yet to be born, or at least has not become fully realized.
The three Wise Men come from the east because the east of the body is in the center of the forehead, at the point between the eyebrows. It is here, in meditation, that the light of wisdom, of the spiritual (third) eye, appears and, in time, guides us to the promised land of the Father (Bliss), or put differently, to the humble stable of the cosmic heart wherein the Christ child is born.
Yogis teach that in meditation we can only reach the level of consciousness of the Christ Intelligence within us and then in all creation by FIRST communing with the Mother, the Holy Ghost, the primal or first vibratory manifestation of God. Thus we ascend back to Infinity through the Trinity by "reverse engineering" or by retracing the stages of creation: first we achieve Oneness WITH creation; then Oneness with the CONSCIOUSNESS (Christ Intelligence) of creation, and then finally with the Bliss of the Father beyond the creation.
Communion WITH the creation takes place by meditating upon the Sacred Word, or Aum (or Amen, Amin, or Ahunavar--all names for the same Vibratory experience of the Holy Ghost, or Divine Mother). This is experienced within ourselves in meditation and, in time and with depth, expanding outward into all creation.
Getting back to those three Wise men, then, we have another case of THREE. Three, in this instance, is not the Trinity of God, but our own, triune nature: a reflection of the Godhead Trinity. Our triune nature consists of our intelligence, our feelings, and our actions. Students of yoga know these as the paths of Gyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga. Our souls, encased in the three bodies of causal (thought), astral (energy/feeling), and physical (action), are three primary modalities or ways of relating both to the world around us and to the divine, higher realities as we ascend toward the Infinite state which, when we achieve it, is One and transcendent of these three states. The three planes of existence are macro-cosmic reflections of our triune nature which, in both instances, encloses and obscures our soul nature which remains pure and untouched by its ego and bodily mis-identities.
Thus the meaning of the Wise Men is that our triple nature should be offered up to and into a higher wisdom. Our intelligence should seek and give the gold of silence ("speech is silver; silence is golden") and thus go beyond the endless ramifications of reason and the intellect. By direct, intuitive perception born of mental stillness we begin to have "eyes that see," and "ears that hear."
Our feeling nature brings the frankincense of pure devotion, converting the emotional roller coaster of material and ego-affirming desires into the fragrance of love for God. Our active nature utilizes the bitter herb of self-discipline and self-control to entomb, or cauterize, the destructive habits of over-indulgence and identification with sense pleasures and harmful actions born of bodily identification.
As more of an aside: In the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, he said that the three wise men were from India and were previous incarnations of his three direct teachers: Swami Sri Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya, and the incomparable Babaji. The specific importance of this revelation is that Jesus was recognized as an avatar by fellow avatars and that there existed a special connection between east and west.
The star which the three wise men saw in the east and followed is, in its turn, a symbol of the spiritual eye seen at the point between the eyebrows. Its two concentric circles of gold and blue (visible in the construction of our physical eyes as the white, iris, and pupil) encircle a white, five-pointed star. The gold and blue circles represent, respectively, the astral and causal spheres as successive stages of creation through which we must ascend in reverse order. Meditation upon the spiritual eye is part of the process of ascension and becomes the yogis guide.
Evil King Herod is the ego, or the satanic force, which seeks to kill the child of our soul's first awakening. One place that the story seems to me to stumble in its symbolism is the flight to Egypt. To the Israelites, Egypt symbolized materialism and ego identity from which the great master Moses once freed them. In scriptural allegories such as India's Mahabharata, Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, Dante's Paradise Lost and many others, the journey to the foreign land symbolizes the soul's fall from grace. This comes often at the onset of adulthood.
In the birth of Jesus story, however, the flight to Egypt is an effort to preserve the newly born spiritual awakening. Two alternative explanations occur to me: one, it might be that Egypt symbolized retreat to the metaphysical mysteries for which it had once been a custodian in ancient times. Two, perhaps Egypt was to have symbolized the desert which is often used to indicate the wilderness of inner silence. Thus the new-born Christ Consciousness is nurtured and protected from delusion (Herod) in the inner silence.
We have here, then, in this beautiful story an ageless allegory for life. It is this truth, and not tradition or mere sentiment that empowers the nativity story with ever-new vitality from year to year and generation to generation. For such reasons Christmas may, and indeed ought to, be celebrated by all seekers of eternal truth and lovers of God. Christmas symbolizes a universal truth, a timeless story, and an eternal promise. The power inherent in the art of storytelling that is based on deep spiritual truths is that people of all ages and temperaments, educated or illiterate, can be uplifted by them and naturally experience and express a fellow feeling of universal love.
For more on this deep subject, I direct your attention to Swami Kriyananda’s inspired and potent exposition of these metaphysical truths taught by Paramhansa Yogananda in his book, “Revelations of Christ,” available at an East West Bookshop near you (www.eastwestbookshop.com or through the publisher www.crystalclarity.com.