Book Review on Deepak Chopra’s The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore
I have seen many reviews of this book online, so I guess the question is: “Why one more?” However, if you look at them carefully you will probably notice that they are either by institutions trying to sell you the book, fans of Deepak Chopra; or, in the opposite vein, person’s of a fundamentalist Christian background who automatically already knew they would disagree with this writing. So in all fairness, none of these commentaries would be fair.
However; I actually read the book (most reviewers only skim). I neither like nor dislike the author or his views. I am a Bible Scholar, Buddhist scholar, and practice daily meditation. Finally, I am currently working on my Masters on the very subject of comparative religion (Eastern and Western).
Let’s start off with what the book is and isn’t. Deepak presents us with his thesis that the Christ of the bible, and of Christian lore, could have possibly been instead another enlightened or awaken being, akin with Gautama Buddha and various other noteworthy religious figures. So what it “is” is a thesis, then followed up with some practical, although sadly not unique, instruction as to how one could meditate and have a very “Eastern” faith experience while still holding onto their familiar Jesus figure, prayers, and bible passages.
What the book “isn’t” is apologetics. The author offers little historical, biblical, or intellectual argument to support his thesis. He simply puts it out there, and moves along swiftly into application. His arguments for why he believes his thesis to be true is that it makes sense to him, he likes it, Jesus had similar teachings and experiences to the Buddha, and his main argument is that not only would Jesus’ teachings be impossible for a person to live out without awakening, but they make little sense unless reinterpreted that way. He does a very good job going through various teachings or sayings of Jesus and then showing how it could very well be him referring to an awakening experience that was later misinterpreted; or more likely, deliberately.
The major claim that may ruffle some people’s feathers is that he believes that the Christ did exist, but that through many years of religion, and the passing along of information, and in the hopes to establish a dominant religion, this original Christ has been altered, added to and deleted about so that his real message has become muddled; although still hidden in the text if we look at it through a new perspective. There is more than enough viable, undeniable, and confirmed information out there by noteworthy scholars to back up a claim that certain text in the bible has been purposefully changed by the church, especially during its formative years and it’s rise to power as the State lead religion of the Roman Empire; however, the author takes little-to-no time to delve into the facts, and even if he did it would still not back up his theory that Jesus was a “Buddha”; its reference only serves to cast a shadow of doubt.
This then breaks down then into their three different Christs. The first being the actual, historical person who walked the earth; but, whom we can not say with any clarity that we actually know since all we know of him is from religious, non-historical, text. The second Christ is the Jesus of myth and religion. The one who comes to our minds when we hear the word Jesus; based off the influence of the bible, our society, televisions and homes–the one that was “invented” to fit into a certain religion, culture, and philosophy. Then, Chopra presents us with the third option: Chopra’s own made up, non-historical and mythical Christ — one that fits well into his own philosophy and suites his own philosophy. The hard part to swallow about this train of thought though is that after the author establishes his pretense that nobody can actually say that they really know who the historical Christ was, and that the Christ of the Bible is myth, then how in the world can one offer up a third option with any certainty or conviction? It is not based of the historical, for it was stated that nothing is known of the historical, and it is not based off the mythical; so what source is really left over for this deduction?
From a bible scholar’s perspective the defense of his thesis does not stand up well, and if you are looking for an intellectual argument you will not find one here. From a Buddhist perspective, if you are looking for a book to teach you about Buddhism, meditation or any such thing… then I suggest that there are much better books out there to instruct or inspire you. This books closes out with average instruction to begin a quest for awakening, that is really sub-par, although it may seem appealing to those from a Christian background since he revamped it to use Christian prayers and bible verses.
Was the book worth the read? Yes. Yes it was. But I see it more as a primer education piece for someone who wants to hold onto their title of Christian but is slowly finding themselves to be swayed into and enticed by New Age or Buddhist philosophies. So, if that is you and you want to read something that tells you something that you already know you want to hear… great. If you are looking for something “deep” about the practice of Buddhism… then not so great. Finally, if you are looking for a real thesis that digs into factual information to confront your current perception of Christ… this is not going to cut it. You would be better off reading Pagan Christ or The Jesus Mysteries. I personally was just fascinated to see what Chopra’s own personal “take” on Jesus would be, and I was not disappointed by it.
In closing, it was a good read and I am going to keep the book on my shelf instead of trading it in at the used book store, but it was nothing too surprising, new, and it was full of information that I had already heard before but that was presented to be better the first time.
In the East many are against how the States had taken meditation and stripped it down into some kind of relaxation or self-help guided therapy. In India most yogis are dismayed at how we are teaching yoga as some fitness package for middle-age ladies and did away with all spiritual aspects and benefits of the practice. So I find it of little surprise that Westerners would prefer that their Jesus be left alone. I don’t want to go to a Christian church to meditate, no more than I want to show up to a Buddhist temple to hear about Christ. Some may call that closed-minded, but as someone who studies and loves religion I disagree. It is because I love it that I think it’s integrity should remain untouched.
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