From Yoga to Christ (Bengali)
From Yoga To Christ (Telugu)
From Yoga To Christ (Hindi)
The real spiritual struggle began in me when my early days of innocence were gone. In my joyful childhood I did not know what sin was. Even though I had bad thoughts and committed unworthy deeds I did not bother about them. When I began to feel that there was a God and was told that I could see Him because every child was sinless, I thought I could go to forests for mediation to see Him face to face on some future occasion, like the Rishis1 of whom I heard. In my care-free boyhood, I beheld beauty in silver streams and blue hills, songs of the birds and flowers of nature. The vaulted sky with fleecy clouds, the bright sun by day, the gleaming moon and twinkling stars at night, were very pleasant to me. There was joy in play and friendship, in food and clothes. But the very sincere spiritual conflict began in me after I crossed the sequestered vale of those innocent days.
I was like a fresh blooming flower and I supposed that I could by means of my brain, as yet undisturbed by this world of woe, perform any task I wished. I never knew that this flower was going to be blown on the arid winds of sin and would wither. I thought that I must, according to noble ideals, become a great writer or great official to render social service to my countrymen. Thus my goal of life was of earth.....earthy. While I was in the middle school, I was selected as a member of the Debating team for the Inter-Middle School Debating Contest. The subject was: Difference of race and religion are harmful for the welfare of India. Instructed well by my teacher, I spoke in the debate, saying that a Hindu, a Mohammedan and a Christian who were commanded by their religious books to lead a virtuous life could live in the bonds of love and peace if they followed strictly their tenets. I thought God was everywhere and in everything, and Christ was of course one of the great religious teachers. Therefore I read the Bible, the Ramayana and the Koran and bowed down to the idols in the temples. The most interesting lessons to me in history books were the lessons on the Buddha and Jaina. As I began to grow, I learnt to tell a lie intelligently and steal cunningly; and I displayed my power of wit in calling girls names to enjoy some fun. Restlessness of heart began when I became conscious that several things which I was doing were not noble, good or honorable. Knowledge of morals and principles of law which I acquired from books were very unpleasant when my conscience pricked me. I frequented cinema theaters now and then, listened to gramophone songs and beguiled much time in useless talk with my friends to get some joy and peace. I wanted to stifle the ever-fault-finding still small voice within me; but I returned from cinema halls and friends even more miserable and restless than I had been before.
Trying to Save Myself:
I had a sincere Brahmin friend with whom I used to read the moral discourse of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ramatirtha and Ramakrishna Pramahamsa. We were told that one could see God by many ways - Gnana Marga or the Way of Knowledge, Bhakti Marga or the Way of piety, Karma Marga or the Way of Action etc. etc. We were further instructed that just as several roads lead to a city, so also all religions and all ways will take you to God. This appealed to us as very rational. In order to get the first marks in the examinations, I had to work hard. Similarly to achieve salvation, the greatest thing in the world, I had to work the hardest. We believed that Tat tvam asi (Thou are that; i.e., Thou are God) and the divine spark, which is dim, must be enkindled by Yoga which transforms first your body into shining brightness. My friend and I were proud to know that Christ was born in Asia which is the seat of several religious philosophies. I thought that by my knowledge of flesh and blood that Christ was one of the prophets who attained divine nature by his realization of Tam tvam asi. We began to think - Why was the life of Christ almost blank until his 30th year? Surely he must have come to India, made contact with our Rishis and performed penance before he preached.
My Brahmin friend and I began to practice the Asanas2 and the Pranayama3. In order to acquire will-power and concentration of mind, we shut ourselves up in a room and focused our sight on the tip of the nose or an idol - he on that of a Hindu deity and myself on that of Christ. I remained according to the yogic prescriptions a vegetarian, avoiding onions and spices; and used to fast now and then to emaciate the body because we thought that lustful thoughts could be driven out if our bodies were weakened. I tried by self-effort to be a righteous man. I gave food , clothes and money to poor people and beggars, in spite of natural reluctance in my heart against which I had to battle to be charitable. My friend, having finished his first year of college, went to Benaras to join a math4 . There he was told that he had to perform Yoga for twelve years, and if was his luck, he would see a flash of light across his mind as a sign of salvation. The head of the math also told him that, if fortune did not favor him, they could not guarantee him salvation even after twelve years penance. He was frightened and returned home, wrecked in health. When we were still pursuing our own course of life, my father used to tell us, “By faith in Christ alone you can have salvation. It was a gift of God.” I debated vehemently with my father saying, “Look at the Christians; what wicked lives they lead! Are they better than Hindus or Mohammedans? All must work hard to be god.” I used to think , “My father is an old man. He cannot kneel down in prayer. In order to escape from the rigorous life Christians always dogmatize like this.”
Failure And Despair
There was assurance for me that my sins were forgiven by my austere life. When I was sometimes good by my self-effort it increased my pride and boastfulness. There was no improvement in my thoughts. My parents loved me and my sisters were proud of me; my brothers liked me and my friends respected me. I aimed at one noble thing in life and was searching for God. All these things could not make me truly joyful. I had everything in this world that a student could desire; but I was like the one Christ warned, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” By spiritual darkness and misfortunes my health declined and my mind was deeply depressed. My spiritual struggle reached a deadly climax. I used to complained bitterly against God: Am I not , O God, more mindful of Thee than my brothers and sisters? Why art Thou doing to me like this? Am I am not seeking Thee? But I now realize why God allowed those painful times in my life. Is it not true that all things work together for the good of them that love Him? I gave up reading the Bible and religious books and lost interest in prayer. I had no assurance, and in spite of all my advantages in this world, that I was able to keep myself pure and righteous by my self-effort or will-power, knowledge or charity. I was tired of God and desired death. I groaned grievously, “Oh to be a child again and when I can think again afresh of God and perform penance in a lively manner!” I thought that it was better for me to put an end to my life so that I might come again into this world as a child in the next life. The Hindu philosophy of Cycle of Births was a baneful stimulus to my thought of suicide. I was afraid of suicide whenever I was reminded of the words uttered by my father at news of suicides that no one but God had the right to take life. I knew well now that the invisible hand of God withheld me from this terrible sin. The doctors examined me and said, “This boy suffers from no disease. He must eat well.” My mother wept bitterly for me and brought me to Madras for further medical treatment. I was thoroughly examined by expert physicians of the Government General Hospital and they too could not diagnose any disease in me. I knew that spiritual gloom was the cause of my ill-health. A cousin of mine came to me one day and took me to a gospel meeting. There the message preached was, “Christ can save you from any kind of sin. He shed His blood for your sins. Come to him. Confess your sins, believe in His blood; and He will give you peace, joy and rest.”
Peace at Last
I had hitherto depended on my will-power and self-effort. But God showed me by the foregoing incidents in my life that these were powerless. There was nothing in my life which I could trust. He brought me to a state of helplessness and nothingness and I could not gainsay the Gospel. I simply believed it like a child. A servant of God anointed my head with oil and prayed for my health in the name of Christ. My failing memory was restored, and my weak body strengthened. Thoughts of suicide faded away. I thought I could not continue my studies, but God enabled me to pass the B.A. with the highest success in the University. The Bible became a living book to me and my desire for prayer increased. New thoughts, new health, new mind, new heart .... everything in me became new, new!! New !!! Because I was in Christ, I became a new creature, old things are passed away.. Behold, all became new. The sense of my sin was taken away because Christ became my righteousness. I was like a child; I was born again. There was no need for me to put an end to my life according to the Cycle of Births. I can declare with utmost veracity and sincerity that Christ cleansed me and gave me joy, rest and peace, not as the world gives. I now realize that salvation is so great a thing that none can do anything to get it. It is most priceless; it is the gift of God through Jesus Christ to everyone who confesses his sin, believes in the blood of Christ and accepts Him as personal Savior.
1Sages or wise men in India
2Yogic physical postures
4Abode of Ascetics