The news soon spread through all the land that Jesus was at home and then the people came in throngs to welcome him.
And Matthew, one of the twelve, a man of wealth, whose home was in Capernaum, spread forth a sumptuous feast, and Jesus and the foreign masters and the twelve, and people of all shades of thought, were guests. And when the Pharisees observed that Jesus sat and ate with publicans and those of ill repute they said, For shame! This man who claims to be man of God, consorts with publicans and courtesans and with the common herd of men. For shame!
When Jesus knew their thoughts he said, They who are well cannot be healed; the pure need not be saved. They who are well are whole; they who are pure are saved. They who love justice and do right need not repent; I came not unto them, but to the sinner I am come. (Aquarian Gospel 119:1-7)
Just as a drunk, as he staggers along, often stops and sways as he looks at others who are sober and slurs: “You are drunk,” in the same way the hypocrites riddled with secret vices are always seeing the virtuous as evildoers and proclaiming them so. This is worse in the realm of religion than anywhere else.
Jesus could read the hearts of everyone, and he knew who could be touched by contact with him and enabled to turn from darkness to the light. So no matter what their present state was he freely associated with them and shepherded them into the ways of God. But the smug and self-satisfied hypocrites he avoided, so they were insulted and continually accused him publicly.
One time a resident of the Anandamayi Ashram in Varanasi was very disruptive and offensive to everyone else living there. So the next time Anandamayi Ma came to Varanasi all the ashramites complained to her vociferously about the man, who was present. Ma asked him to come over to her. When he did so, she leaned forward, embraced him and said: “When no one else wants you, how could I send you away?” And that was the end of his bad behavior.
Once when there was a festival in the same ashram an alcoholic attended, resolving not to touch alcohol the whole time. But his addiction was raging and he decided that he must go out and find some alcoholic drink. At that very moment someone knocked at his door. When he opened it he found one of Ma Anandamayi’s most respected devotees standing there. The devotee, who was a strict Brahmin that considered even touching a container of alcohol drink to be ritually defiling, handed him a bottle of whisky saying: “Ma sent me to buy this and bring it to you.” Naturally the man was in shock. When he realized that out of love for him both Ma and this man were violating fundamental principles (for Ma also was a Brahmin of the strictest order) and exposing themselves to ridicule and censure, he was so moved that never again did he drink alcohol.
Such is the healing power of love and mercy, as Jesus well knew. Another time a man came to the Varanasi ashram and began complaining about several of the residents. Finally Ma quietly said to him: “An ashram is a hospital for the spiritually sick. If you are not sick yourself, then you need not come here.” He definitely got the idea.
A band of John’s disciples who had heard that John was dead were wearing badges for their dead; were fasting and were praying in their hearts, which when the Pharisees observed they came to Jesus and they said, Why fast the followers of John and your disciples do not fast? And Jesus said, Lo, you are masters of the law; you ought to know; perhaps you will make known your knowledge to these men. What are the benefits derived from fasts? The Pharisees were mute; they answered not. (Aquarian Gospel 119:8-12)
This is very significant, for it contradicts the standard Gospels. Jesus is challenging the value of fasting, not saying that when he departs from this world his disciples will become fasters (Matthew 9:14, 15) perpetually. Nor does he seem to consider that fasting gives one powers over evil spirits (Matthew 17:14-21). Of course the reader must decide which he accepts as authentic.
Then Jesus said, The vital force of men depends on what they eat and drink. Is spirit-life the stronger when the vital force is weak? Is sainthood reached by starving, self imposed? A glutton is a sinner in the sight of God, and he is not a saint who makes himself a weakling and unfitted for the heavy tasks of life by scorning to make use of God’s own means of strength.
Lo, John is dead, and his devoted followers are fasting in their grief. Their love for him impels them on to show respect, for they have thought, and have been taught that it is sin to lightly treat the memory of the dead. To them it is a sin, and it is well that they should fast. (Aquarian Gospel 119:13-18)
In the Bhagavad Gita it is said: “You may know these men to be of demonic nature who mortify the body excessively, in ways not prescribed by the scriptures. They do this because their lust and attachment to sense-objects has filled them with egotism and vanity. In their foolishness, they weaken all their sense-organs, and outrage me, the dweller within the body” (Bhagavad Gita 17:5, 6). Jesus is saying the same. However, abstinence from food is good when a person is suffering from grief or loss, because at such times the chemistry of the stomach renders toxic any food eaten. Then it is natural to have no appetite. But such fasting is in honor of someone or some situation, but mere fasting has absolutely no value as a spiritual discipline meant to elevate the consciousness. This is the right perspective Jesus presents.
When men defy their consciences and listen not to what they say, the heart is grieved and they become unfitted for the work of life; and thus they sin.
The conscience may be taught. One man may do in conscience what another cannot do. What is a sin for me to do may not be sin for you to do. The place you occupy upon the way of life determines what is sin.
There is no changeless law of good; for good and evil both are judged by other things. One man may fast and in his deep sincerity of heart is blest. Another man may fast and in the faithlessness of such a task imposed is cursed.
You cannot make a bed to fit the form of every man. If you can make a bed to fit yourself you have done well.
Why should these men who follow me resort to fasting, or to anything that would impair their strength? They need it all to serve the race.
The time will come when God will let you have your way, and you will do to me what Herod did to John; and in the awfulness of that sad hour these men will fast.
They who have ears to hear may hear; they who have hearts to feel may understand. (Aquarian Gospel 119:19-29)
When men defy their consciences and listen not to what they say, the heart is grieved and they become unfitted for the work of life; and thus they sin. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). It is also true that if a person sincerely believes that a harmless thing is a sin and yet does it in defiance because of desire or some other influence, that person does wrong, not by the overt act but by the negative disposition of the heart. For example, I knew a man who as a child was taught that it was a sin to ride a bicycle on Sunday. Of course it was not, but he truly did believe it was a sin. Therefore when he surreptitiously took his bicycle and rode it, the mere riding was no sin, but the disposition of his heart was sinful. This is a most important principle to understand. We must try to have the perspective of God, “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
The conscience may be taught. One man may do in conscience what another cannot do. What is a sin for me to do may not be sin for you to do. The place you occupy upon the way of life determines what is sin. This last sentence embodies the principle of swadharma as found in the Bhagavad Gita. “It is better to do your own duty [swadharma], however imperfectly, than to assume the duties of another person, however successfully. Prefer to die doing your own duty: the duty of another will bring you into great spiritual danger” (Bhagavad Gita 3:35).
There is no changeless law of good; for good and evil both are judged by other things. One man may fast and in his deep sincerity of heart is blest. Another man may fast and in the faithlessness of such a task imposed is cursed. This is not “situation ethics.” This is ethics according to an individual’s profound personal makeup, not according to society or environment. It is crucial for this to be understood.
You cannot make a bed to fit the form of every man. If you can make a bed to fit yourself you have done well. We need not figure out what other people should or should not do. Rather we must determine our own swadharma and follow it. Then we shall have done very well indeed.
Why should these men who follow me resort to fasting, or to anything that would impair their strength? They need it all to serve the race. Indeed so. Further, a knowledge of real, interior life takes care of the mind and heart. Essentially, those who do not know yoga have very little chance of spiritual success to any marked degree.
The time will come when God will let you have your way, and you will do to me what Herod did to John; and in the awfulness of that sad hour these men will fast. This indicates the appropriate times for fasting, but overindulgence in mourning is itself a wrong.
They who have ears to hear may hear; they who have hearts to feel may understand. Here it all is. Even Jesus can do nothing with the deaf and the heartless.