Christ the Yogi: A Hindu Reflection on the Gospel of John

Christ the Yogi: A Hindu Reflection on the Gospel of John

By Ravi Ravindra
Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1998. (Orig. Yoga of the Christ, 1990.) Paperback. xii + 244 pages.

Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna: Essays on the Indian Spiritual Traditions.
By Ravi Ravindra. Ed. Priscilla Murray. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House. 1998. Paper and hardback, xii + 390 pages.

These two volumes by Ravi Ravindra, an active and highly respected Theosophical worker and thinker, will be eagerly welcomed by many travelers on the world's spiritual paths. A professor of both physics and comparative religion at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, trained in both traditional Hindu Vedantic thought and modern science and philosophy, Ravindra is especially accomplished in the creative integration of the Ancient Wisdom and current scientific thought.

That perspective is particularly evident in Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna, a collection of a selection of this prolific writer's essays from many sources and many years. Included are some which I consider absolute gems of cross-cultural collation and perception, including "Perception in Yoga and Physics," "The Indian View of Nature," "Modern Science and Spiritual Traditions," and "Is the Eternal Everlasting?" Compositions like these are not only comparative intellectual exercises, bur clearly the fruit of personal spiritual experience as well as rich personal East-West exploration on many levels, all of which have served as catalysts to bring together various worlds too often separated today--east and west, science and mysticism, heart and mind. Highly recommended to all of those who wish to practice what the title of the opening essay calls "Religion in the Global Village."

Christ the Yogi is a reprint of a work first published in England in 1990 under the title Yoga of the Christ. Both titles are unfortunate insofar as they may serve to put off serious Western Christian readers who would greatly profit from this dazzlingly brilliant spiritual and cross-cultural study of the most mystical of the books of the Bible, the Gospel of John. To them the mention of Yoga might suggest one of those books making far-out claims about Jesus and India, or at best an interpretation of the gospel narrowly based on some Hindu discipline. Actually Ravindra's work is thoroughly in the "mainstream" tradition of esoteric Christian readings of scripture going back to the Greek fathers of the Church and including such modern Theosophists as C. W. Leadbeater and Geoffrey Hodson. The author's focus is always on the text itself.

To be sure, Ravindra often cites parallels to the inner meaning of the text in classic Hindu works, most often the Bhagavad Gita. But the focus is not on making the author of the Gospel of John into a Hindu, but rather on finding in his gospel universal meaning that is also reflected in Hinduism. That search begins with the importance of the "I am," Jesus' Johannine self-designation, which to Ravindra suggests the inner oneness with the divine that is at the heart of Vedanta.

Ravindra's case, as is appropriate to such levels of spiritual realization, rests not so much on argument as on deep inward understanding, and Ravindra's profound, evocative writing on one of the world's greatest spiritual classics leads one well along the road to that kind of understanding. At the same time, it may be added, the author does not overlook the contributions of modern New Testament scholarship to placing the gospel properly in its time, place, and purpose. Christ the Yogi will be a wonderful addition to the library of all those interested in the revival of esoteric Christianity in our time, and no less in their own spiritual growth. Few will finish this book unchanged, either intellectually or spiritually.


January/February 1999