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Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment
by Deepak Chopra
After writing your very successful non-fiction book The Third Jesus, why did you feel it important to write a novel on the life of Jesus?
Readers love a story with a strong leading character. The New Testament has already provides both on a scale that captivated the world. Since I was reinterpreting Jesus in terms of consciousness, I didn't want to leave him without a suitable story. I think that during the lost years, which amount to 80% of Jesus's life, a fascinating transformation took place. A man of flesh and blood found the path to supreme enlightenment. Since Jesus wanted the same transformation to take place among his followers, his journey is a model for our own.
Your last novel was about the life of the Buddha; do you see strong parallels between Buddha and Jesus?
Both are stories of waking up. Higher consciousness seems mystical because it lies so far away from ordinary life. But Buddha and Jesus asked the same question -- "Who am I?" -- and both were stubborn enough to never let go until they found an answer. In both cases, the answer was "I am a mortal who has attained immortality." At an emotional level Buddha seems different, because there is no persecution and crucifixion, while Jesus is always overshadowed by our sense of his doom. In part this is because we know every step of Buddha's path to enlightenment but almost nothing about Jesus's. I felt it was time to fill that gap, and once it is filled, the similarities become even stronger.
In this book, you share the story of the formative years of Jesus -- the unrecorded period from age 12 to 30 that are known as the lost years and about which very little is known. What was your inspiration?
An author must divide the story of the lost years into two parts. The events of Jesus's formative years are unknown to us, and so that side of the tale is fiction. Characters come and go, they say things, and Jesus reacts to them -- none of which actually happened. But the tale has another side: the growth of Jesus from ordinary awareness to the highest state of God-consciousness. He becomes the Messiah. That part doesn't call for fictional treatment. The world's wisdom traditions tell us an enormous amount about enlightenment. I was inspired to give Jesus his proper place in the exalted tradition that has spiritually bound the human race together. Some fundamentalists will be shocked, because they cannot accept Christ as anything less than the So of God, without equal or compare. But millions of believers are more open-minded. Jesus belongs to the world, not only to organized religion, and I wanted to celebrate that.
Does the story of Jesus have spiritual lessons for non-Christians?
There are many flavors of enlightenment, if I may use that term. With Jesus, the flavor is love. He reminded the world that love is a force as powerful as any other, and that it brings truth. Truth cannot be sought outside love, because the result is dry and empty. It offers nothing to the heart. People often wonder how Christian missionaries became so successful at converting new believers, coaxing them to abandon their own religious traditions for Jesus. I think the answer isn't hard to find. Jesus offers pure love of God without having to deserve it. Just because you exist, God loves you as his child.
Do you see relevance for today's world in your telling of the Jesus story?
The relevance of Jesus will always be the same: finding a path to God's love. I sense that the world has tipped dangerously in the opposite direction. The inspiration of love has dried up. In its place we get dogma, rigid demands for obedience, not to mention the kind of intolerance that masks as love while in fact disseminating hatred. The single worst idea ever spread about spirituality is that God needs defending. That idea has given rise to incredible violence and division in the family of man. Jesus reminds us that God, however mysterious he (or she) may be, stands for love, peace, and compassion. To forget this message, the most basic in Christianity, is to lose everything, and to remember it is the first step in regaining everything.