Being the student of an Indian spiritual teacher offers the opportunity for a fascinating perspective when Christmas time arrives. My own Christian background finds me celebrating in traditional ways with a Christmas tree, exchanging of presents, sending Christmas cards to friends and family and a vegetarian version of a holiday dinner with all the trimmings. And yes, I even laugh out loud when I hear the song Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer on the radio.
When I celebrate the Christmas season, I also infuse my old traditions with the Eastern spiritual perspective found in spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy’s own background. His youth was firmly rooted in Eastern spiritual traditions, having lived first in Chittagong, Bangladesh and then for two decades in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India.
From 1964 forward he made his home in New York and his own philosophy as a spiritual teacher transcended any particular religion. He frequently travelled and met with people from all corners of the globe and all faiths.
He also accepted students from all religions and encouraged them to honor their own religious background even as they branched out and embraced a meditative lifestyle that fostered interfaith harmony. In a book entitled My Religion, he explains,
Deeply and equally values
All the religions of the world,
For it knows that each religion
Is a beautiful, powerful
And fruitful branch
Of God’s Life-Tree.
Sri Chinmoy’s respect for various world religious traditions and spiritual figures throughout history came through in his songs, prose and poetry on the subject of Rama, Krishna, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Buddha and Christ, to name a few.
Sri Chinmoy honored Jesus Christ in poems, in a full-length play called The Son, through songs he composed about Christ (75 alone published in December 1990 in a songbook entitled Jesus the Seeker, Christ the Savior) and in miscellaneous writings.
His body of writings and songs on Jesus offer a unique perspective on Christianity as seen from an Eastern perspective. Some of his compositions on Jesus are written in his native Bengali tongue and he refers to Jesus as an “avatar”. He explains, “An Avatar is someone who is the direct representative of the Highest Absolute, who embodies God’s Vision and Reality all at once.”
Hear one of his songs on Christ as performed by the European music ensemble, Mountain Silence:
Jishu Avatar by Sri Chinmoy performed by Mountain Silence
To find inspiration in blending East and West in your celebration of Christmas, look no further than Sri Chinmoy. His reverence and respect for Jesus Christ is readily evident and offers a lesser-known perspective on appreciation of the holiday season. Merry Christmas!