Christians believe Jesus Christ was the incarnation of God who came to live among us as a human being and ultimately to suffer, die and rise from the dead in his human form to save us from our sins. They believe he was the only incarnation of God on this earth and he was the only one who could save us. If we believe in him, our sins are forgiven and we are “saved.”
Eastern religions have a very high regard for Jesus but they do not believe he was the only incarnation of God. However, they have a deep understanding of the workings of karma.
Here, I present a basic Eastern understanding of the relevance of Jesus Christ to the world, to all people. My explanations are based on the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda (born 1893 in India; died 1952 in the USA).
Karma means “action” and includes our thoughts and words as well as deeds. Our karma always has consequences – either immediate or in the future. Sometimes the consequences are apparent to us (and even to other people) and sometimes they are not. Regardless, it is helpful to think of karma as cause and effect and remember that it is part of God’s natural law. In other words, God created karma; it operates at all times whether or not we see it or believe it. We do have free will; we can choose whether our thoughts, words and deeds are helpful or harmful. However, we cannot escape the consequences of our thoughts, words and deeds – unless God chooses to spare us. Since God created the law of karma, He can choose to override it – just as He occasionally nullifies other aspects of His natural law, thereby manifesting “miracles” for all to see.
Paramahansa Yogananda, in his famous Autobiography of a Yogi, gives several fascinating examples of Indian yogi-saints who were granted (by God) the ability to take on the karmic debts of others. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in these topics.
Christianity, to this day, recognizes the existence of “victim souls” – men, women, and even children – who suffer terrible physical and mental hardships and pain in a spirit of peace, love and joy. There is seemingly no explanation for the magnitude of their sufferings since they have lived holy, compassionate lives (i.e., they are not being “punished” for their own sins). Victim souls are said to suffer for the sins (bad karma, although Christianity doesn’t use the term) of others – as St. Paul shared in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of others (Colossians 1:24).
Jesus Christ, from an Eastern perspective, was a very high-level, world-influential, victim soul. And yes, he was an incarnation of God. He took upon himself the karmic debts of multitudes of people all over the world. In his compassion, he accepted the pains and sufferings that would have been the natural effects caused by harmful thoughts, words and deeds.
I believe it is helpful for Christians to open their minds and look at traditional Christian teachings from other perspectives. This doesn’t mean anyone has to change religions or that one particular spirituality is better than another. It simply means allowing one’s faith to continue growing and deepening through consideration of other perspectives. Paramahansa Yogananda had great love and devotion for Jesus; his writings are filled with Biblical references and explanations of Christian themes. For more information, I highly recommend the following books by Paramahansa Yogananda:
Autobiography of a Yogi
The Yoga of Jesus
The Divine Romance
In the Sanctuary of the Soul: A Guide to Effective Prayer