The Young disciples of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa ; consecrated souls like a spectra of pearls in a necklace held together by the thread of their master’s teachings, and with the illustrious life of their leader Narendranath who described them the glories of Monastic life, were all committed to their expedition towards the light. The ground swell of the spirit of renunciation in their hearts reached its height when, once, they were sitting around a fire in the fashion of Hindu Monks. The stars sparkled overhead and stillness was unbroken except for the crackling of the firewood. Suddenly Naren opened his eyes and began, with a fervor, to narrate to the brother disciples the life of Christ, who had no place ‘to lay his head’. Inflamed by a new passion, the youths, making God and the sacred fire their witness, vowed to become monks. When they returned to their rooms in a happy mood, someone found out it was Christmas Eve, and all felt doubly blest. It is no wonder that monks of Ramakrishna Order have always cherished a veneration for the Jesus of Nazareth.
Since its very inception, the Ramakrishna order and the mission celebrates the Christmas Eve, a trail of going back to discover Jesus, without the lenses of any institutional interpretation, to get enriched. It is one of its kind event that is celebrated anywhere around the world.
The Delhi Center of the Mission was no exception, where the priests hailing from various sects of Christianity including the Archbishop of Delhi Fr. Anil Coute and a Jew Rabbi came together and joined the monks of Ramakrishna order, to celebrate the spirit of Christ on the Eve of Christmas. The mantle of the celebration being the veneration to the ‘Substance’ and kernel of truth, as Swami Vivekananda puts “The language of the soul is one, the languages of nations are many; their customs and methods of life are widely different. Religion is of the soul and finds expression through various nations, languages, and customs. Hence it follows that the difference between the religions of the world is one of expression and not of substance; and their points of similarity and unity are of the soul, are intrinsic, as the language of the soul is one, in whatever peoples and under whatever circumstances it manifests itself. The same sweet harmony is vibrant there also, as it is on many and diverse instruments.”
The whole of the commemoration marked the reverence, not to the institution called Jesus, but the light called Jesus. A simple tread towards the divine light through the Marga of Bhakti, where the divine love is the pith, without the preacher or the instrument from which this light is emancipated. Christ as an institution was just an instrument, similar to Sri Ramakrishna who considered himself an instrument and Kali to be the light working through him.
The Hindu Monks with ochre robes singing the carols was a sight of western mores merging into the Spiritual East, union of the Holy Communion and the Holy Ganges and an amalgamation of the New Testament into the Eternal Vedanta. As Swami Shantatmananda, the Secretary of the Delhi Ramakrishna Mission embarked it as “an extra-ordinary ambience en-masking the Spiritual Endeavor”. A reflection of Thakur’s (Ramakrishna’s) all-encompassing teachings of Harmony, Universalism, brotherhood and that of ‘all paths lead to same truth’. It is mentioned in the biography of Sri Ramakrishna that he had a vision of Christ when he was in Nalanda. A true exemplification of inter-faith ascetic elixir; A Hindu saint, on the erstwhile Buddhist epicenter having the vision of Christ.
It is immaterial whether you, individually, believe in a particular faith or not. A day when billions of people, in joy and faith, celebrate a spiritual occasion, the collective energy on the earth is net positive and vibes at higher altitude, so it is easier to connect with the divine on such a day. Be it an occasion of any faith, belief or sect, when such a large human instruments emit a positive joyous waves, the net experience is something divine.
Maharaj, too, emphasized on the fact that it’s the auspiciousness of certain days what makes them special, you need not meditate on a particular form on that day, meditation upon you ishta would lead you to the same height. Moreover, this has been the vertebrae of this culture of ours; we hail all those who even try to tread on the path of spirituality, irrespective of their place of birth.
This echoed the words of Swami Vivekananda: “The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor is a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth. If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world, it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity, and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion at the expense of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension”.” It is this sadhana; taking you an inch closer to the truth.
Whenever we think of Jesus, it is the Christian interpretation of him that becomes the specs of sight, but to restrain a spiritual embodiment in a single definition-interpretation and believing it to be the sole authority is an invitation to façade. This has never be a locus of this land. The same Bhagwad Gita when appraised by Adi Shankaracharya got its Advaitik interpretation, when commented upon by Madhavacharya it got Dvaitik interpretation, Gandhi saw Peace in it, and Tilak got Courage, and each of the interpretation is revered on the same footing on this land. Following the same dicta, the Christ is viewed from an aspect which is purely un-institutionalized and non-apostolic, the path of a Bhakta. As the Arch-Bishop also pointed “A holy temple celebrates all paths of spirituality. Also, there is a common thread between the Christ and Swami ji for they both not just preached ‘renunciation’ and ‘surrender of ego before the God’, but they lived such life.” Loving one’s religion and respecting others’, this is a sign of a spiritual person.
It is not that only the religious people engage in inter-faith communions, even the social reformers believe in the dictum of respecting all the paths leading to the ultimate. There is one anecdote from the life of M.S. Golwalkar, who happened to be the 2nd Sarsanghchalak of sangh: While studying in Hislop High school, which happened to be a missionary-run school, the principal quoted a particular verse from Bible. The same was attempted to be refuted by the young Golwalkar, which led to disagreement between the two. When the principal was made to refer to the text of bible, he stood wrong, while a young boy from a different religion was correct. The boy, who became a celebrated Hindu leader years hence, was noted saying that “The peculiarity of the thoughts of this land is that while revering our own texts, we believe in reading and respecting others’ too”
Sri Ramakrishna used to say there is butter present in the milk, sugar amidst sand and maal in golmaal, your duty is to keep the maal and leave aside the gol i.e. ‘keeping the essence and sieving out the hay and straw’. It is just an attempt to leave the Church and adopting the Christ. Jesus was not sent here to teach the people to build magnificent churches amidst the cold wretched huts and dismal hovels, but to make the human heart a temple and mind the priest. The same spirit resonates from the moto of Ramakrishna Order which goes as ‘ Atmano Mokshartham Jagata Hitayacha’, i.e ‘Liberation of the Self and the Welfare of the World’. The same has been the eternal Dharma of this Hindu-Bhumi , which was articulated by Sri Ramakrishna as ‘Shiv seva through Jeew Sewa’. Serving the down-trodden and marginalized as the manifestation of the divine, without any vested interest leave alone the sin of conversion.
The Ramakrishna- Vivekananda order believes that the path of Christ is true, but not the sole truth, and none has the right to say to another that your path is incorrect. As Swami Vivekananda says: “In Christianity when you speak of the Incarnation, of the Trinity, of salvation through Jesus Christ, I am with you. I say, “Very good, that I also hold true.” But when you go on to say, “There is no other true religion, there is no other revelation of God”, then I say, “Stop, I cannot go with you when you shut out, when you deny.” Every religion has a message to deliver, something to teach man; but when it begins to protest, when it tries to disturb others, then it takes up a negative and therefore a dangerous position, and does not know where to begin or where to end.”
Moving towards the divinity, beyond the faiths, beyond the religions but as Humanity, the commemoration at the Ashram premises was indeed a holy night of benediction, where the subtle and the spirit of the boundless ocean which flows same into Budhhas and Christs and in all of us too, was venerated.