[You can ask your own question here.]
What was the reason that God picked Mary to be the mother of Jesus ?
This is going to be a long answer to a short question. There is so much theological confusion behind what you ask that even in a long answer I can only begin to unravel it. For the “rest of the story,” I urge you to read Swamiji’s book, Revelations of Christ as Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda.
There is much controversy now about the life and teachings of Jesus. Historians, theologians, intellectuals, sociologists, politicians, even novelists are all offering competing theories. How is the devotee to know what is true and what is mere speculation?
Revelations of Christ gives us the answer: Look to the saints. Only those who share the consciousness of the Masters are qualified to speak with authority.
When Swami Kriyananda was a young disciple, sitting at the feet of his Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, he was present when Master dictated a revised set of lessons to be sent to the devotees. (Alas, never put into wide circulation.) In the first lesson, Master made this astonishing claim: The three Wisemen who came to visit Jesus in the manger were none other than three of the Masters in our line of Gurus: Babaji, Lahiri Mahashaya, and Sri Yukteswar.
Whether this was an astral visitation, a previous incarnation, or Babaji as he is now descending from the Himalayas, Master didn’t explain. There was, however, some enduring quality to their presence, because Master further explained that during the so-called “lost years of Jesus,” he “returned the visit,” traveling to India and Tibet to sit at the feet of these same Gurus. There are many traditions in the East that Jesus visited there.
Jesus lived only 33 years. Yet all four of the Gospels say nothing at all about 18 of those 33. It is preposterous to imagine that in the time Jesus spent with his disciples the subject never came up or that his biographers would fail to include this critical period of his life.
Self-realized Masters incarnate for no karma of their own, but to show those of us struggling to be realized the path to freedom. Spiritual practice -- sadhana -- and the relationship with the Guru are critical elements on this path. Almost every Master demonstrates in his own life how to be both a disciple and a sadhaka. Sometimes there is no apparent Guru, but still there is still a deeply devoted, disciplined, focused way of life.
Otherwise, it would be too convenient for disciples to say, “On your path you have to meditate and do austerities, but on our path, we just sit around and know God.”
Think how much of Autobiography of a Yogi is about Master’s search for his Guru, his years of training with Sri Yukteswar, and his intense effort to meditate and realize God. Yet he was born Self-realized. This wasn’t his own karma he was expressing; it was a freely chosen role to show generations to come how to achieve Self-realization.
The life of Jesus was just the same. Master tells us that when he was 13, Jesus left home and wandered for 18 years in India, learning from the Masters there and doing intense sadhana to set the example, and prepare himself for the mission ahead.
For some centuries after Jesus passed away, this part of his life was included in the Gospels and known by all his disciples. It helped define how they, too, should live if they would fulfill the destiny their Master offered them. “That which I do, ye shall do and greater things,” Jesus said. He promised Self-realization, not merely after death, but while living, as Jesus himself showed.
However, at some point, in Kali Yuga descending (the darkest of the ages on this planet, which reached its nadir at 500 A.D.), the Church began the process of making Jesus more and more “special.” Being steeped in the materialistic thinking of Kali Yuga, Church officials -- by now more bureaucrats than saints -- could no longer understand the true nature of their own Master and set about remaking his image to more closely resemble what they felt it ought to be.
It was at this time that those 18 years were “lost” from the Bible. Church officials reasoned that it would hurt people’s faith to think that Jesus had to undergo a period of training under the guidance of other Masters.
Some argued that it didn’t hurt the faith of the disciples who were with Jesus and heard about it directly from him, but that plea fell on deaf ears. And in the end those 18 years were removed.
As Swamiji points out, one proof that they were taken out, rather than omitted by the original writers, is that there is a complete blank where those years are concerned. The officials had the nerve to remove information, but they could not bring themselves to create new facts. Any biographer would have at least said, “And he grew up and worked in his father’s shop.” Instead, there is nothing.
Also removed around this time -- 553 A.D., at the Second Council of Constantinople -- were all references to reincarnation. The logic was similarly non-logical: “We need people to buckle down right now. We don’t want them to think they have all the time in the world to work things out.” Again, counter arguments fell on deaf ears. Even the Pope at the time, it is believed, opposed the ban. Still it was carried out. Removing reincarnation from the Bible proved a little trickier than the lost years, and some direct references remain. (See p. 311 of The New Path, by Swami Kriyananda.)
Now how does all of this relate to Mary the Mother of Jesus?
You see, what has happened is that by taking out of the “Christian” teachings the concepts of Guru, sadhana, and reincarnation, you have removed the whole idea of Self-realization. The Church accomplished exactly what it wanted. No longer can the devotee work on his own salvation, now it comes only through Jesus Christ, and-- here is the worst part -- through the intercession of “His” Church. Rituals, sacraments, blessings, absolutions, etc. were all gradually substituted for the direct connection between God and the devotee, which is the heart of Self-realization.
Thus “Christianity” becomes “Churchianity.” It is not when religion becomes “organized” that the damage is done. It is when the institution makes itself essential to the devotee’s salvation that true teaching dies.
The other purpose the Church had in doing this, besides strengthening its own position, was to make Jesus ever more unique and special. The teachings of Self-realization say that every soul has the same infinite destiny. That Jesus himself -- and all Self-realized Masters before and after him -- are souls like us who have completed the journey we are now on.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” was not a compliment, it was a commandment.
But if Jesus is unique, as the Catholic Church now tells us he is, then the whole process of Self-realization is moot, in fact, impossible. Jesus never went through it, so obviously none of the rest of us will either. We must simply depend on Jesus (and the Church) for our salvation.
And since there is no such thing as reincarnation, and one lifetime is obviously not long enough to become “perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect,” the meaning of that statement must be other than it seems. Many translations of the Bible have been amended accordingly, “Be ye therefore good, as your Father in Heaven is good,” is but one example.
The Catholic saints who do make it to Self-realization (whatever the Church calls it) are an anomaly. There is no tradition within present-day Christianity to explain how it happens. They just appear, usually are fiercely persecuted by the Church, then canonized by that same Church after they die. They are persecuted, because without an understanding of Self-realization, saints cast doubt on the whole system. For example, according to the Church, all priests are ordained equally. How do you explain it then, when one priest is obviously more “ordained” than any of the others?
Because the Church has no answer to this question they usually try to bury the evidence, sometimes literally, by confining the priest to his cell, or transferring him to some far off parish where they hope he’ll never be heard from again. Read the life of Padre Pio for a modern day example.
Paramhansa Yogananda called his work “The Second Coming of Christ.” He came, he said, because of the request of Jesus to Babaji to restore the original teachings of Jesus, and the original teachings of Krishna (which have also been diluted) and show that in essence they are the same.
The Bhagavad-Gita explains divine incarnations in a more expansive and explicit way. “Whenever virtue declines,” the Gita says, “and vice predominates, I the Infinite Lord take visible form to destroy ignorance and restore dharma.”
Now, again, back to the question of Mary.
In his lifetime, Master spoke not only of that incarnation as Paramhansa Yogananda, but of several of his incarnations in the past, including as Arjuna and William the Conqueror.
He also mentioned previous incarnations of other in the line of Gurus: Lahiri Mahasaya had been Kabir and also King Janaka; Babaji had been Krishna; Sri Yukteswar incarnated when Master was William as his closest advisor, Lanfranc.
James J. Lynn, Master’s most advanced male disciple, whom he named Rajarshi Janakananda, had been with Master as one of Arjuna’s younger brothers. When Master was William, Daya Mata was his daughter; Swami Kriyananda feels he was Henry, one of William’s sons. (A fascinating book about William the Conqueror and his son Henry is Two Souls, Four Lives by Catherine Kaivari.)
The list goes on and on. In The New Path, in the chapter “His Last Days,” Swamiji describes in thrillingly poetic terms how families of souls form around a great Master, incarnating together again and again “to work out their salvation -- not only inwardly on themselves, but by interaction with one another. To achieve divine emancipation, it is necessary to spiritualize one’s relations with the objective world and with other human beings, as well as with God.”
“The stronger the family, spiritually speaking,” Swamiji goes on to say, “the greater its attractive pull on new souls that may still be wandering in search of an identity of their own. A family evolves with its individual members; at last it, too, becomes a ‘star’ in the firmament of humanity, and begins to produce great souls of Self-realization.
“As spiritual ‘stars,’ such great families become powerful for the general upliftment of mankind... Yogananda’s is one such spiritual family. His forms part of a greater spiritual ‘nation,’ of which Jesus Christ and Sri Krishna (in this age Babaji) are also leaders.”
I believe what the Bible tells us, that an angel came to Mary and told her of what was to come. She would have had the state of consciousness where she could easily commune with angels. She was not, however, some random, albeit pure-hearted girl who happened to catch the angel’s attention. Mary’s relationship with Jesus must have been formed many, many incarnations before. She was part of his spiritual family, one of those “great souls of Self-realization” that Swamiji speaks of. God chose Mary because Mary chose Him.
As we say every week in the Festival of Light, “Your chosen people have always been those of every race and nation who, with deep love, chose Thee.” The Festival goes on to lead the congregation in this prayer: “O Lord, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength, I choose Thy love, I choose only Thee.”
There are also ancient traditions gaining new credibility that say Jesus was part of the Essene community, an enlightened group within Judaism that was still in touch with more uplifted teachings than most Jews practiced at that time.
According to this tradition, the Essenes knew that an avatar was coming and the community had been working together for a long time to prepare for him and the mission that would follow. Part of that tradition is that Mary was trained from a young age for her role as his mother. Who can say if this is true? Certainly it is apocryphal. For Mary to play the part she did, she would have to be highly dedicated and evolved before Jesus was born.
Understood this way, Mary is not merely an inspiration and a blessing she is also an example we can all follow of dedicated service to God, Guru, and mankind.
[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]