We Three Yogis of Orient Are: How Does the Story of Jesus' Birth Reflect Hindu Ideas?

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Photo: https://medium.com/@WhiteFeather9/the-real-story-of-the-3-wise-men-2db6988859f8

Photo: https://medium.com/@WhiteFeather9/the-real-story-of-the-3-wise-men-2db6988859f8

Around Christmas time, there are many ways to consider the story of Jesus’ birth. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the Three Kinds, Wisemen, or Magi coming to bring Jesus gifts from afar, maybe because Christmas has always been about receiving gifts. Are there any connections between Hinduism and the story of Christs birth?

There are many ways to interpret the bible regarding the teachings of and about Jesus and I to some degree or other, I subscribe to all of them. I believe that there is truth at the heart of all beliefs. It’s impossible to verify the exact history most of what is written in the bible but I believe that regardless of its historicity, a mythical interpretation of the bible allows readers to understand the truths that the authors of the bible intended to teach, truths which I believe are larger than facts. Some of these truths are mirrored in the ancient vedic traditions of India.

Were the Three Kings Yogis? 3 Gifts

The story of Jesus’ birth speaks of the Magi, or Wise Men who came from the Orient and came bearing three gifts, gold, frankincense, and Myrrh. Could it have been that what the authors of the bible are referring to as “the Orient” were wise men from India? The gifts that were offered to Jesus by the Magi were not random and represent Jesus’ noble birthright, his god-nature, and portend his death and what that means for the spiritual evolution of humanity.

The first gift that Jesus received from the Magi was gold. Gold is a symbol of Jesus’ royalty and spiritual lineage, despite his humble beginnings of being born in a manger. It was important that in Jesus’ history he be born of the spiritual line of King David as was foretold by ancient prophets. Receiving gold is a symbol of that royalty.

Photo: https://www.exoticindiaart.com/product/paintings/shiva-parvati-bless-ganesha-worshipping-shiva-linga-OR70/

Photo: https://www.exoticindiaart.com/product/paintings/shiva-parvati-bless-ganesha-worshipping-shiva-linga-OR70/

The second gift that Jesus received was Frankincense which is a symbol representing his divine nature. Frankincense is burned in holy ceremonies both in both Jerusalem and India and suggests the presence of god. Presenting Jesus with frankincense was a declaration to all that Jesus was god on earth. In Hindu terms, this god-on-earth quality would be known as an avatar and similar offerings of frankincense would be burned to honor deities known as avatars. One such avatar is Krishna, a god whose name sound remarkable similar to Christos.

Lastly, Jesus was presented with myrrh which is another incense used at funerals as well as sometimes as medicine. This symbol portended Jesus’ death. The fact that myrrh is also used as medicine suggest that in Jesus’ death there would be healing for the rest of humanity.

These three gifts that Jesus received were a part of a trinity of gifts that represent Jesus’ destiny. The notion of the trinity is very important not only to Christians but also to religious and spiritual traditions all over the world, including India or “the Orient.”

Trinity in Christianity and Hinduism

One important trinity in Christianity is the trinity of a human and earthly mother, Mary, being coupled with a faceless god, and creates Jesus, a third entity that is both human and god. This trinity is not unique to christianity.

A similar trinity that mirrors that of the Christos myth is that of Shiva, Shakti, and Ganesh. In this trinity, Shakti is represented by the woman who is earth, changeability, and humanity. She’s coupled with Shiva who is known perfect beingness, something that supersedes earth as indicated by gesture of feet in full lotus, not touching the ground. They create a child, Ganesh who is half human and half elephant, and represents the spirit and body coming together to create a divine third. Ganesh only becomes a god after he dies and is resurrected, something that mirrors the Christos myth perfectly.

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One interpretation of these ideas presented in both Christianity and Hinduism is that we are all noble born, that we are children of the one great everything, whatever you call that, and that we are naturally divine because of that birth. Also that through our life as human beings, we evolve along a spiritual path that will ultimately end in death— literal, or perhaps interpreted only as the death of our old and simple way of seeing the Universe—and that we can be reborn into a truer knowledge of things as they truly are.

Whether or not you interpret the Christian or Hindu stories as literal or mythical, I hope that in this time of celebrating Jesus’ birth, we’ll appreciate the direction that these stories offer beautiful models which inform our own personal journey toward spiritual evolution.


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Leaves Falling: The Beauty of Disillusion

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The following is a version of an article I wrote for Conscious Life News

 
Dogma of Fall Leaves

I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling.

To whom are we beautiful when we go?

~David Ignato


And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss.

A beautiful concept. A bittersweet truth. Perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent  funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.


Shiva Nataraj

Shiva

Many of the Hindu statues tell stories and offers insight which transcends dogma. The Shiva Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva, is a storytelling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates his five acts which, in part, give understanding of death and dissolution. Through understanding the Shiva Nataraj, we too might understand "the beauty of leaves falling" as penned by poet David Ignato.

This statue depicts a person with several arms holding different tools, his hair on fire, body wreathed in flames, standing on an impish creature with one leg, and his other leg in motion.

Creation

In his first hand, Shiva holds a drum putting everything into motion through vibration. It's true that everything from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy, even the Universe itself, is in constant motion. As a musician, I love the idea of DJ Shiva laying down the backbeat that sets the Universe into motion. This represents the birth and spring in our lives and the events and circumstances therein.

Sustaining

His next hand holds a mudra or a gesture called the abhaya mudra. This Mudra is the power of sustaining. It's like Shiva is saying, "I've built this, now I'm supporting and nourishing it." For me this represents summer time when everything is in full bloom and thriving. It's also a reminder to be present, especially to our tendency to get attached to things when they are going well, or looking over our shoulder for the other shoe to drop. If possible be right in the moment as things are. The subtle message here is that things are in flux and don't get either attached or resist what's inevitably in flux.

Death and Disillusion

In his third hand, Shiva is holding a flame suggesting not to get too attached because just as soon as he will give birth to and sustain something, he'll also burn it down. This flame reminds you that not only does everything has a life cycle, but that even as things are changing and dying they do so as part of a perfect cycle. Shiva has no remorse about any of this, he simply stares straight ahead with a little grin as if to say, "This is what death looks like," meanwhile the beautiful fall colors are exploding in their passing.

Concealment

So, when you're at your lowest point, your house has just been razed to the ground and you're really hoping Shiva will give you a helping hand, he does just the opposite. His fourth arm is concealing his heart. At the moment when we are humbled and look to a higher power at our low points he covers his arm to say, "You don't learn heart of God for free." Sometimes this feels like just when you couldn't get any lower, you in fact do.

This lowest point is what Shiva is standing on, a little demon thing called the apasmara and represents the unrealized, naive or innocent part of ourselves. Shiva is standing on this representation of a part of ourselves, not in any way to be mean or spiteful, but rather as a way of literally taking a stand for our higher selves.


Revelation

Revelation Scott Moore Yoga

And once the old self has fully been put asunder, with the only limb left, Shiva last leg is swinging upward to invite you back into the a new and elevated cycle of new birth, sustainment, death and dissolution, concealment and revelation. Here is where everything is revealed and we continue to ride the circle in a spiral of evolution and growth. After such revolutions, there is no going back. And after several times around one might begin to start to expect the different cycles as they appear.

With the full picture in mind, whenever we encounter death, change, or dissolution we can resist it less and perhaps see if for what it is, one of the beautiful steps on our way to our full understanding being.

Mary Oliver writes about learning to accept death and loss in her poem, Maker of All Things, Even Healings. I love the title of the poem because it suggests that the healing, the bringing back to life for a fuller measure of life as in the Dancing Shiva, comes only after accepting death which she does so humbly.

All night

under the pines

the fox

moves through the darkness

with a mouthful of teeth

and a reputation for death

which it deserves.

In the spicy

villages of the mice

he is famous,

his nose

in the grass

is like an earthquake,

his feet

on the path

is a message so absolute

that the mouse, hearing it,

makes himself

as small as he can

as he sits silent

or, trembling, goes on

hunting among the grasses

for the ripe seeds.



Maker of All Things,

including appetite,

including stealth,

including the fear that makes

all of us, sometime or other,

flee for the sake

of our small and precious lives,

let me abide in your shadow--

let me hold on

to the edge of your robe

as you determine

what you must let be lost

and what will be saved.




As we celebrate the panoply of fall colors, may we, too, remember the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty and magnificence of this amazing dance in which we are all twirling, living and dying.

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After the Fire

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Shiva Nataraj.jpg

I closed two yoga studios about 4 years ago. Running and closing those studios has been two of the most challenging things I've ever done.

It's really difficult to run a small business. I fought every day just to keep the doors open. Eventually, we had to close our doors; the studios weren’t sustainable. I wish I knew then what I know now about running a business. Ironically, I learned volumes about running a business by closing my business. One of the most important things I learned was how to rebuild my life when things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would.

At the time of my businesses closing, I wished there were a manual for how to rebuild your life after you’ve just suffered a massive blow. During that difficult time, I received some divine guidance during a meditation, instruction that seemed absolutely perfect for me in my life, like a manual to start to rebuild. 

Step 1. Put out any fires that are still burning.

Step 2. Practice forgiveness as the key to allow forward movement.

Step 3. Allow for new possibilities without the story of the past to jade the future.

In order to get some clear perspective, I had to get out of town for a few weeks to clear my head. I closed my studios and literally one week later got married to the love of my life. Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My wife and I went on a honeymoon to Europe coupled with me teaching a yoga retreat and getting out of town really helped me to gain perspective. I felt reinvented as I came home from Europe, ready to tackle some of the challenges that were still looming as the result of closing my studios.

The situation still felt raw, like was just coming to, sitting on a neighbor’s lawn, my face black with smoke and soot, my old house just burned down. And in a real way, many things about my old business were still smoldering and smoking but that old thing, that old life, old bachlorness, that old business, was razed. To. The. Ground. There was only one, exciting thing left to do and that is build a new life forward. And while this situation was scary, it feel freeing to look forward into the future. 

The Shivanataraj is the statue you often seen in a yoga context. It’s a depiction of the Dancing Shiva and represents the male/female creator of the universe in the dance of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and ultimate rebirth . . . over and over and over again. This statue teaches me that I’m involved in a process, one that will probably happen several times in my lifetime.

This understanding of moving in cycles made me feel better, like all of this was expected somehow. The Shivanataraj statue shows Shiva’s many arms and legs gesturing in the dance of all this continuous change while wreathed in flames. And despite all the craziness, despite the all the change, despite the fact that Shiva’s hair is on fire, Shiva’s gaze is calm, steady, forward. Shiva even has a calm little smile on his face like this is just another day in the burning universe.  

We are all somewhere in this process of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and rebirth. What are the things you need to do, need to avoid, need to plan for in this life that is burning in this moment.?

And finally, while our universe is spinning and we are all dancing around with our hair on fire, may we keep our steady gaze forward, centered in our most divine Self and the Divine, whatever form that may take for you.  

Here’s a poem I love that speaks to discovering the new chapter in your life.

The Layers

BY STANLEY KUNITZ

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

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and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.