Jesus in Lotus Position
Personally, I struggle with the label “Christian”.
I attend a traditional Episcopal church almost every week and receive the sacred Eucharist, representing the body and blood of Christ. I recite the Nicene Creed by heart. I stand in front of the congregation to read from the Bible, with feeling.
Yet my own theology has so much more subtlety, complexity, and realism than the standard dogma of Christianity. I believe that Jesus was an amazing man from whom we can learn a lot. But I also believe the Bible contains mistakes, that Jesus would detest contemporary church if he saw it, and that references to “savior” represent complete misunderstandings of his message.
Deepak Chopra’s The Third Jesus confirms that I’m not alone.
Chopra is a strange author to write about Jesus. Besides attending a Catholic school in India, he claims no particular attachment to Christianity. But it’s clear from this book that he has spent more time contemplating individual Bible passages, and researching the historical context in which they were written, than most church-going God-fearing Americans.
I’ve always imagined that if Jesus and Buddha had the opportunity to meet in person, they would quickly become great friends and find an enormous amount in common. Chopra seems to agree. He postulates that some of the core teachings of Christianity – heaven and hell, the second coming, and the entire idea of the “only Son of God” – were dramatic flourishes added to the Jesus story by church officials and later authors who never met the real man. Rather, when Jesus spoke of the “Kingdom of God” he referred to a higher level of consciousness and sense of unity which is accessible to everyone on Earth right now.
Chopra quotes the Bible in support of his claim:
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is’, because the kingdom of God is in your midst.– Luke 17:20-21
But then goes on to elaborate:
Once we see Jesus as a teacher of enlightenment, faith changes its focus. You don’t need to have faith in the Messiah or his mission. Instead, you have faith in the vision of higher consciousness.
Scriptural quotes such as these, followed by profound interpretations, fill the first part of the book. Some of the quotes are familiar to me, but in all cases Chopra gave me something to think about and a new perspective from which to view them – one which I can truly relate to my own spiritual but somewhat skeptical viewpoint.
Later, The Third Jesus provides “Fifteen Steps to God-Consciousness”, which include suggestions for things we ought to visualize and how we ought to contemplate his ideas. Compared to the rich and thoughtful analysis earlier in the book, Chopra’s guidance comes across as pedestrian, shallow, and simplistic.
Visualize what you feel guilty about. See the scene where it occurred. Feel the way it felt. . . Spend a few moments releasing your guilty feelings. If this requires you to cry, take deep breaths, or lie down because your feelings are so intense, follow your instincts.
Despite its shortcomings, The Third Jesus succeeds in blending Eastern and Christian teachings in a logical and meaningful way. It contains words like “meditation” and “karma” alongside “prayer” and “grace”, relating them all to each other stunningly well. Deepak Chopra truly expresses a holistic spirituality that most of us yearn for. Whether you are a disillusioned churchgoer, or a spiritual seeker trying to figure out why all the fuss about Christ, The Third Jesus will help.