By Dharmadevi Romano.
At age 24, around the time that I started meditating consistently, I was surprised by a sudden, and seemingly out-of-the-blue, desire to go back to church. I had never been an enthusiastic church-goer by any measure! I was raised Catholic and my mom had brought me to church every Sunday, which was followed by Sunday school. This was up until I turned 14 years old, made it through Confirmation, and decided to never go back again.
Needless to say, it was a strange thought for me to suddenly want to attend church, and not only that, to want to go to the Easter Vigil Mass! The longest service of the year, running for at least 3 hours!
A funny side story: Once at Easter when I was young, we were on vacation with my aunt, who is Jewish and not at all familiar with the Easter Vigil Mass. Before the service, we each received a small candle and at some point, after the Easter candle was blessed, everyone lit their candles from it. A man in the front apparently had a little too much to drink, and trying to light his candle, instead ended up catching his wild hair on fire! It was at that point that my aunt looked over at my mom and said, “Is that part of the service?”
Back to my story… not only did I attend the Easter Vigil Mass, I loved it! I started going back to church and tuning in on a totally different level than when I was young. I attended classes with the priest I grew up with, who I happened to know was a deeply spiritual man. One of these classes was on the deeper meaning of the Nicene Creed, which begins, “I believe in One God, the Father, Almighty…” When we got to the part, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God…”, I raised my hand!
“But aren’t we all children of God?” I asked. Not wanting to get into a deep discussion on the matter, the priest answered, “Yes, but we’re different.” I could see, looking at the audience, that this was about as liberal an answer as he could give me.
Soon after, I began exploring the lives of other Masters (those who have mastered their egos and united with God-consciousness) and found myself deeply drawn to Paramhansa Yogananda. His words rang with such truth that I felt I could trust him more than my own self, even though I had never met him! What an odd feeling and something completely new to me, having been guided almost exclusively by intellectualism in the past.
I was conflicted however, now that I had been going to church more regularly and feeling such a rekindled love for Jesus Christ. Was I being disloyal by praying to Yogananda? Shouldn’t I think of Jesus as my Guru? Surely, my studies of Yogananda’s life and meditation techniques were what brought me back to the church in the first place. I was at a crossroads and my peace-of-mind was suffering.
One morning I prayed for help before my meditation and received a remarkable response. I perceived Jesus’ presence to the left and Yogananda’s to the right. Then, they merged together in the middle and that united presence said with warmth and incredible love, “I don’t care what you call me. We are one!” No longer was there Jesus versus Yogananda in my mind. Now it was one all-pervading Love.
Yoganandaji says in his talk titled Follow the Path of Christ, Krishna, and the Masters: “When you reach the final realization, there is no difference between any Master and any Master…” And when speaking to one of his disciples, he said, “When you are one with God, you are God!”
Interestingly, when Swami Kriyananda asked Yogananda if he was Jesus in a previous incarnation, he had replied, “What difference would it make?” Indeed!
The Masters come to show us not how great they are but how great we all are in our potential. That is why, yes, we are all children of God, but we are “Different,” as the priest told me. We haven’t yet fully awakened to the Christ within us. As Swamiji says in the Festival of Light, “The infinite Christ Consciousness, the “Only Begotten,” has come down anew to earth for the salvation of mankind.”
We are all that “Only Begotten,” we just have to remember our Divine potential as Yogananda defined Self-realization, “The knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul, that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God. That you do not have to pray that it come to you. That God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence and all you have to do is improve your knowing.”