Master Christ Jesus - The Good Shepherd
Sri Swami Vishwananda: Our group of 29 returned yesterday from Israel, which was very beautiful. When we talk about Israel, everybody has a different view of it. When you experience Israel, it’s completely different from what you read. You read the Bible, but when you are there, it’s completely different. On the trip, we experienced a lot of things that we have been reading about and know. You have heard about it since childhood for sure, but to be there is amazing. It’s the same when you read the life of Krishna and then when you are in Vrindavan, it’s completely different. You have to adapt yourself. It’s the same with Jerusalem, Bethlehem and around the lake of Galilee.
These places are very special places because once Christ walked there and these places have been kept alive through the faith of people. They are special also because there is a connection that one feels, which is completely different from other places. Of course how I experience it and how others experience Israel is different. During the trip I didn’t talk about how I felt. I let everybody talk and it was very beautiful to see how each person felt and what each person’s point of view was like. We all talk about the same Christ, but everybody looks at a different angle. Some will see in the right angle, some will see in the left angle, but it’s beautiful to see that experience. But it is most amazing if you can feel with your heart. It’s not what you see on the outside, but what you can see with the eyes of the heart. When you look at it with the eyes of the heart, you will realize that all these places are here; they are all present inside of you.
You go to pilgrimage places to remind you of what you have inside. Sometimes we have to look outside to make us realize what is inside. And that’s how we humans function. Very often we forget about what we hold inside of ourselves, until we are reminded of it. That’s why in the world there are so many pilgrimage places. But the pilgrimage place is not about the place itself, it’s about reminding yourself of what Christ talked about and what He taught. Christ did not teach about dogmas; all that He taught about was love. And that’s the simplest thing, and yet we forget about it. We hang on to things such as: We have not to do this. We have not to do that, and we have not to do this and that. We hang onto so many things that we forget about what we have to do.
I remember once, when I was studying theology I said to the bishop, ‘All that you have taught was about dogmas. There was not one single time when you talked about the love of Christ and not a single time you talked about how Christ really lived.'' We read the Bible in which we read that Christ was with His disciples and all these things, but He was also a very alive person. I remember in one of the churches we visited in Nazareth, there was an icon there [let’s call it an icon] made with pieces of stones. It was very beautiful showing Christ as the shepherd; on His shoulder there was a sheep. For sure you have seen a picture of Christ as the good shepherd. What was very beautiful about that particular icon was that Christ was not pictured as what we usually see in a long robe. He was wearing a wrapped piece of cloth and He was showing something to His friend. I talked with the guide and the guide explained about the icon. I asked him, “Do you know what this image of Christ represents?” Of course the guide said that it was the good shepherd. Actually the original picture of that icon was from Apollo, but it was changed afterwards into Christ.
It doesn’t matter. It shows us that Christ lived normal; He lived with the people. He was laughing also, not always moody, not always thinking of the cross. Christ had His mission and His mission was to spread universal love and to help people to realize the kingdom of God. He always said, “The Kingdom of God is near.” But where was it near? Was it near there (Pointing upwards.) No, it was near here (Pointing to the heart). If you shut the mind and be in your heart through love, you will see the kingdom of God inside of you.
That is what all these places remind one of: The love that God is giving constantly to humanity, but we have to know how to receive it. If you receive it with an open heart, it will grow always. But if you receive it with an open mind, it will have its limitation. So remind yourself constantly of opening the heart and finding the Deity inside of you. We all are pilgrims. This life on Earth is a pilgrimage. This pilgrimage will end when you have found the Lord and when you have realized Him. And He has made it so easy and clear. It’s not far away, it’s just near. So, shut the mind, put it off and open the tap of love inside your heart. Open it, let it flow and you will see how near the Divine is to you.
During this trip many experienced great joy. Of course it awoke certain things, but it was lovely. Everything was good. I was talking to somebody today. This person asked me a question last January and of course I had given him my answer that I had to give him. But he chose to do it his way, which is also nice. So today, as I was talking to him on the phone, he was always complaining: “Oh Swamiji, I should have listened to you, all this and that…” So much, but I said, “Well, look, what is done is done. You can’t change it. But one thing you can do: You have learned a lot from that experience and now you know what you have to do. You could have made it much easier by listening, but you have made an experience, you have learned. It was good for your learning.”
Sometimes, if you just tell somebody something, it is easy, but they will not get anything. It’s like when you tell a child, “Don’t put your hand in fire, you will get burned.” But if the child has never burned himself, do you think he will know what burning is about? No. And always there will be this want to put the hand in the fire, because he wants to know about burning. So experience, whether it’s good or bad is a learning process. You are learning what your soul needs to know. And if you tune yourself to the right frequency of your soul, you will learn it very quickly. It’s a matter of what you want.
If I ask everybody now what do you want, some will say “I want love”, some will say “I want God,” “I want God-realization”. Well, it’s beautiful, but do you really want that? If you really, sincerely want it, then be strong and have faith. Trust what the Divine is giving to you. Trust what you feel inside of you. Like it is said, “One has to have faith like a child.” When you look at the children, they are free. They don’t think too much. But what happens afterwards? Where has the child gone? The mind has taken over.
You think you know more, so you need to reason. Sometimes you don’t need to reason, you just need to sit quietly and feel. Feel and listen, because when you feel, of course it’s not just feeling. When you are completely in silence, there is also the voice of God. The voice of God will not talk to you like in ancient time. He will talk to you from within you. Learn to trust this inner voice and if you still have doubt about it, ask Him questions. Ask Him if it is really like this or like that. Then you test it yourself, so that you can learn to trust this inner voice. It’s not that you just hear it and accept it. Okay, yes, it’s fine. It’s good like that. No, you hear, ask certain questions and if it is really happening this way give your full trust to it. This is one way of listening to your inner self and to make it stronger and stronger.
This example is given by the Virgin Mary Herself. When the angels appeared to Her and greeted Her “Hail Mary, you are blessed among all the women. The Lord has favored you so that you will bear the son of God from inside your womb.“ But yet She didn’t say, “Okay, cool, I like that!“ No, Mary said, “How would this be possible? I have never been with a man.“ So the angel was pleased with Her, because this confirmed Her faith. Mary didn’t have doubt, but She questioned what the angel said. And this is what the angel said, “It will be done according to the will of God. The spirit shall came over you and overshadow you."
So it’s important to learn to trust this inner voice and to know for sure if it is real or if it is just a fantasy of one’s mind. You will do that by putting certain questions to it and yet you will be the observer of that conversation. The atma, the soul will be the observer of that conversation. I tell you something. One of the most beautiful things you can do is to observe how the mind is talking to the Higher Self and what you are hearing inside of you. And like i said to you before, this will happen only when you are in silence. So go within yourself as much as possible and be silent.
When somebody talks, talks and talks, like I am doing right now, what happens? Of course it is joyful to talk, but afterwards you are tired. I am not saying I will get tired, but in general it is like that. Of course you will say when I sit down quietly, I also will get tired. But when the mind is calm, you will not be tired. This is where meditation leads you. Meditation is not only to sit in one place and close one’s eyes and meditate, like we know it in the traditional way. Meditation happens every time you look inside your heart and see the Divine.