Knowing Deepak Chopra'sbackground and literary tastes it was only to be expected that at some point in time he would do a book on Jesus Christ, as he had done a book on the Buddha. His interests in philosophy and spirituality has long been evident. Among the fifty odd books he has written, quite a few betray his natural inclinations like How to know God, Life After Death, The Burden of Proof, Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Buddha: The Story of Enlightenment and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga. Interestingly enough, a year ago, he wrote a book on Jesus entitled: The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore. He has always believed that Jesus was possessed of esoteric wisdom and may have studied Kabbalah.
This, his latest book is a study of Jesus in a different context. But let this first be said: This is not a researched book. It is fiction. The point is: so little is known of Jesus between the age of 12 and 28. He was a carpenter'sson and from his very childhood had showed deep interest in spiritualism. At the tender age of twelve, for instance, he was noticed intensely questioning the Rabbis (Jewish priests) in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a rare thing for a mere lad to do. There has been a lot of speculation regarding those sixteen missing years that have gone unrecorded. Some aver that he visited India, travelled all the way to Nalanda in Bihar, before returning to Israel, wiser and more self-assured.
There is, of course, no historical evidence. It is claimed that he did not die on the cross, but was taken to a secret hiding place where he was resuscitated and the belief is that subsequently he travelled all the way to Kashmir and the claim is made that he died there and was buried?and, as evidence, there is a tomb bearing his name. Speculation, speculation, speculation. In his newest book on Jesus, Chopra makes it clear that it isn'tabout the Jesus found in the New Testament, ?but the Jesus who was left out?. The Jesus who was enlightened. Chopra has strong views.
According to him ?his absence (from the New Testament) has profoundly crippled the Christian faith, for , as unique as Christ is, making him the one and only Son of God leaves the rest of human kind stranded.? ?What? Chopra asks querulously ?Jesus wanted his followers?and us ?is to reach the same unity with God that he had reached?. Says Chopra: ?For me, Jesus is not a person, but a state of consciousness. Seen the perspective of Buddha or the ancient rishis of India, Jesus attained enlightenment?. For Chopra, Jesus is a teacher of higher consciousness, not just a shining example of it, who pointed towards the Kingdom of Heaven as an eternal state of grace, not a far way place hidden in the clouds. Jesus'saspiration to find a salvation vibrates in every heart. ?If it didn?t? Chopra argues ?the brief career of a controversial largely despised rabbi on the outskirts, of first century Jewish society, wouldn't mean much?.
So, in this fictional ?biography?, Chopra tries to locate Jesus in his time, using fertile imagination to good purpose. Involved in the life of Jesus in his teenage and twenties, as Chopra sees it, are Romans, the Imperial power in Jerusalem, the Zealots who where engaged in fighting the Romans, Judas of Galilee, the soul of the anti-Roman rebellion, and we see the interaction between Jesus and all these parties in vivid terms. Judas of Galilee describes himself as ?the other Judas?, the known rebel leader of whose presence the Romans were well aware of. This Judas and Jesus happen to be travelling together. They come across Mary in strange circumstances and the three of them move around the country without any specific aim. When Mary asked him about it, Jesus'sreply was: ?I don'tknow. My feet walk where they are guided.?
In the course of their travels, Jesus comes to realise to everyone'sshock and surprise, that he could work miracles. Chopra is not interested in Christ on the cross. His interest is plainly on Christ'sjourney from his unceremonious birth in Bethlehem to his ultimate betrayal by his friend Judas. When the Elders try to stone Mother Mary to death because she allegedly had betrayed her husband, Jesus comes in the way to rescue her. He tells the Elders: ?As long as one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone?. The Elders leave. Asks Mary of Jesus: ?What have you done to me? Replies Jesus: ?I have given you this day a new life?. She would see him repeat the same blessing over and over from that moment till the end came. A terrible end but Mary had no way to foresee that. It often fell to her to help dazed people to their feet after Jesus held his hand over them.
Those whom Jesus helped would often mumble: ?What just happened?? and Mary would say: ?He killed who you were so that who you are can be born?. Chopra says by way of comment: ?It was a good answer, even though the disciples who spent hours memorising what Jesus said, overlooked it. But words hardly mattered. Jesus had opened a window on eternity and Mary gazed out for the rest of her life?. If one hopes to see the entrails of controversy in this book, one would be disappointed. Jesus is seen in this book in an entirely new light. Chopra insists that the only way to follow Christ'steachings is to reach his own state of consciousness.
As he put it: ?To achieve Christ-consciousness means walking the path to enlightenment that he walked?. Chopra'sunderstanding of Christ is profound. He says: ?Jesus faces everyday doubts and contradictions. He wonders why God allows evil to triumph so often. He feels inadequate to change other people. He is torn between love for men and women and divine love. In other words, Jesus set out to solve the deepest mysteries of life?this is the chief reason he isn'tstatic, as the biblical version of Jesus often seems to be?. That is why Chopra's book should command attention. Chopra'sJesus is not the Jesus of the New Testament. Chopra gives the life of Jesus an entirely new dimension. Jesus taught that happiness on earth is a pale reflection of spiritual happiness and that the intensity of happiness decreased the further away from God one was. Conservative Christians may challenge Chopra'sunderstanding of Jesus but the wise would meditate on the issues Chopra has raised. They put the teaching of Jesus in an entirely new?and unconventional?light. That is the reason, no doubt, that Chopra'sbook has remained a best seller. It provokes people to think.
(HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd. A-53, Sector-57 Noida, UP India)