INTRODUCTION TOT THE THOMAS GOSPEL
and its place within yoga philosophy
The Thomas Gospel is a very interesting text for studying the teachings of Jesus. As it was only discovered in 1945 in Egypt, it remains free from any censuring, as opposed to the official gospels of the Bible. The Thomas Gospel was written during the lifetime of Jesus or shortly afterwards, presumably by the apostle Thomas. It consists of 114 sayings that are presented without particular order, probably as they have been noted down or remembered.
Surprisingly, the teachings that Jesus presents in these sayings corresponds very strongly to the overall yoga philosophy that originates with the vedic texts. There is particular correlation with the Jnana Yoga developed by Shankara, among others. This correlation is not immediately obvious, as in many sayings the teachings are hidden in stories and riddles. That was quite usual in those times and might also have been protecting Jesus from the Pharisees and the sensitivities of the ancient Jewish people. However, upon closer study, the teachings come forward with absolute clarity.
For westerners involved in yoga it is particularly interesting to study the teachings of the Thomas Gospel. Our Christian background often strongly influences how we look at yoga and especially how we deal with Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion or religion. Because of the corruption that is often found in religion, many of us have developed an aversion against all religion. And yet at the same time, many of us have learned to love Jesus through our education. Thus we may feel confused about this love and feel guilty about embracing 'another religion'. It thus may be very refreshing and relaxing to clearly see that what Jesus taught is not different from what the Vedic seers were teaching.
Of course, it is very difficult to be sure about the correct interpretation of these sayings. The author of the following interpretations of the Thomas Gospel is not a historian and as such might wrongly interpret certain symbols and words. There might be errors also in the original translation of the gospels, which may lead to false interpretation. And there might be error in any case, as no interpretation is perfect. So, please do not take these interpretations too seriously, rather see them as an inspiration to develop your own.
In order to facilitate the reading, the 114 sayings have been sorted according to their main subject, though many sayings are overlapping in nature:
1. The illusion of the world (sayings 11, 56, 80, 110)
2. The supreme truth behind the illusion (sayings 29, 44, 77, 83, 96)
3. The immortality of the self (sayings 1, 15, 18, 85, 111)
4. Energy and Consciousness as the purest manifestation of the Supreme (sayings 30, 50, 105, 114)
5. The nature of the ego (sayings 61, 86, 87, 112)
6. The seeker will find (sayings 2, 59, 76, 94, 97, 109)
7. Look beyond the senses (sayings 3, 5, 17, 113)
8. The need to get mind under control (sayings 7, 20, 27, 28, 35, 53, 98, 103)
9. Becoming like a child (sayings 4, 22, 46)
10. The need to detach from the material world (sayings 54, 63, 64, 81, 100)
11. The need to detach from family (sayings 49, 55, 75, 99, 101)
12. To dissolve the ego (sayings 10, 16, 26, 71)
13. To chose between ego and self (sayings 21, 37, 47, 60, 69)
14. No need for feeling guilty (sayings 6, 14, 89, 104)
15. Accepting truth (sayings 38, 41, 51, 79)
16. The power that comes from self-knowledge (sayings 19, 48, 84, 106)
17. How to live the teachings (sayings 25, 36, 42, 45, 57, 58, 66, 70)
18. The nature of the teacher (sayings 72, 82, 88, 90)
19. The teacher must be choosy (sayings 8, 9, 23, 73, 107)
20. We must be ready to hear the truth (sayings 13, 62, 92, 93)
21. To recognize the self as the supreme teacher (sayings 43, 52, 74, 91, 108)
22. How to find a good teacher (sayings 12, 24, 34, 78)
23. How to be a good teacher (sayings 31, 32, 33, 68, 95)
24. Beware of scholars and priests (sayings 39, 40, 65, 67, 102)