The Third Jesus
The Kingdom of God is within
"Jesus's vision was so breathtaking that it inspired a new religion, but without the lens of higher consciousness, these teachings seem to be mere fantasy, a distant hope that will be fulfilled, if ever, only in Heaven. Christians want to feel that their religion is unique, which is certainly achieved by claiming the one and only Son of God. But by the same token, they risk being left out of the great human project, which began centuries before Christ and continues to this day. This is the project of transcending the physical world to reach the realm of the soul."- Deepak Chopra
The Third Jesus
The Kingdom of God is within
"No matter what version of Jesus you accept, the goal of a Christian life is to reach the Kingdom of God. Millions of believers hold that this means going to Heaven after you die. But Jesus is much more ambiguous than that. There is just as much evidence in the gospels that reaching the Kingdom of God means arriving at a higher level of consciousness. As is so often the case, you can read scripture many ways. But I think the argument for higher consciousness is by far the most persuasive...
Specifically, we follow Jesus' words, repeated often in the gospels, about the need to wake up and to remain awake.
"Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening , or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn." (Mark 13:35)
When we join this injunction with the one about the Kingdom of God being within, the implication is that going within requires a person to wake up, also. In fact, that's the only way to live any spiritual path to the fullest. The traditional ways of devotion, service, and contemplation don't actually solve the problem of Jesus's contradiction between inner and outer life. Tolstoy was right: If you take Jesus at his word, your life must be realigned completely, away from worldly ways towards godly ones.
Because he is so absolute, Jesus doesn't offer a path of devotion that consists of daily prayer and piety to God. He wants total, unswerving devotion. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. In other words, every thought must be of god and every action directed towards him. Such a teaching is unworkable except for the most pious of recluses. The same holds true for the complete selflessness required on the path of service and the total fixation on spirituality required on the path of contemplation. But denying the world is a path to extinction, which no one can advocate. Nor can we assume that Jesus wanted us to annihilate our egos and personalities in the name of God. It's more reasonable to assume that reaching Heaven requires an unfolding process.
If you were able to meet Jesus today as he was in real life, there would be a gap between your level of awareness and his—we know that this is true when we encounter spiritually inspired people who are far less enlightened than Jesus, the saintly among us whose compassion reflects back our own spiritual shortcomings. If you were to follow Jesus after meeting him, you would have to close this gap, setting you on a path that unfolds over time. The same holds true without a flesh-and-blood Jesus; the same gap needs to be closed between your present state of awareness and God-consciousness. Devotion, service and contemplation remain viable ways to transform yourself, yet even the most devout Christians fall into the trap of believing that they don't have to transform themselves inwardly, that performing enough acts of devotion (attending church, praying, giving to the poor, and the like) will suffice or that doing charitable work among the poor and sick, or thinking about God as often as possible, will be sufficient. Jesus warns us against this trap when he speaks, in parable form, about seed that falls on waste ground and doesn't sprout. The seed is his teaching; the waste ground is the mind unprepared to receive the truth.
What Jesus doesn't elaborate upon is how waste ground can be made fertile. He says only that some people receive a bit of the truth, some a great deal, and some none at all. Let's assume that you and I can absorb some of the truth, rather than all, or none. In this regard, we fit into the category of Jesus's disciples. We are neither hopeless nor fully realized in God. We turn to Jesus because he understands the territory of the unknown, the source not only of a messiah but of the soul itself...
Jesus's vision was so breathtaking that it inspired a new religion, but without the lens of higher consciousness, these teachings seem to be mere fantasy, a distant hope that will be fulfilled, if ever, only in Heaven. Christians want to feel that their religion is unique, which is certainly achieved by claiming the one and only Son of God. But by the same token, they risk being left out of the great human project, which began centuries before Christ and continues to this day. This is the project of transcending the physical world to reach the realm of the soul."
Deepak Chopra, The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore,
Harmony Books, February 2008, pgs. 36-52
The Gospel of Thomas
It does not tell the story of the life and death of Jesus, but offers the reader his 'secret teachings' about the Kingdom of God.
One of these documents [found at Nag Hammadi] begins with the scribal note in the margin," The Gospel According to Thomas."And the first sentence of that document says," These are the secret words which the living Jesus taught and which Judas Thomas Didymos wrote down."And then they start a total of over 110 sayings, each introduced by"Jesus said...."Some of those sayings have parallels in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Some of these have not. Some of these sayings may go back to a very early period of Christianity, some of them may have been added later. The document itself comes from the fourth century....
Now what is typical about these sayings is that in each instance, these sayings want to say that if you want to understand what Jesus said, you have to recognize yourself. You have to know yourself, know who you are. It begins with a saying about the Kingdom of God," if you seek the Kingdom of God in the sky then the birds will precede you. And if you seek it in the sea, then the fish will precede you, but the Kingdom is in you. And if you know yourself then you know the Kingdom of God." (The Kingdom of the Father, in fact, it always says in the gospel of Thomas. Normally the Kingdom of the Father, not the Kingdom of God.)"But if you don't know yourself, you live in poverty."And poverty is understood as the ignorance of a life in its physical existence. Knowledge is understood to be the knowledge of one's divine origin, of the fact that one has come from the Kingdom. That we are on this earth only in a sojourn....
What does it mean really to know oneself? To know oneself is to have insight into one's own ultimate divine identity. You can go back to understand this to Greek models, which certainly exist."Know yourself" is a very old Greek maxim... that is, you have to know that your own soul is divine, and then you know that you are immortal, whereas the body is the mortal part of human existence. Now this is radicalized in the Gospel of Thomas into saying that everything that is experienced physically and through sense perception, everything in this world that you can perceive in this way is nothing. It is, at best, chaos and, at worst, it doesn't even exist in reality. The only thing that really exists is your divine spirit or your divine soul, which is identical in its quality with God himself. And Jesus is the one who teaches that....
[When one truly knows oneself], one understands that one is divine, but also one understands that one is mortal. In such a way, you recognize that this mortality is really meaningless, as physical existence is meaningless. And therefore, death is no longer a problem, but death is a solution, because in death finally all this mortality will fall away, and the true self will be liberated to an independent existence that's no longer dependent on physical existence. And on everything that goes with physical existence, sickness and poverty and so on. And so physical existence is often described as poverty. But when you know yourself you are no longer in poverty.
John H. Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Harvard Divinity School
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