This song is an antidote for:

  • Irreverence
  • Intellectual pride
  • Smugness
  • Worldly pride, especially pride of pedigree/social status/position

Listen to the song (download mp3):

Bonus Track (download mp3):

Watch the session with Satyaki:

From A Tale of Songs, by Swami Kriyananda:

Long ago there was a little shed.
There three mighty kings did bow their heads
To a gentle babe of low degree,
Whom men called the son of Mary.

Chorus:
Who’ll tell to me this mystery:
How a tiny babe in a manger laid
Could so many hearts to love persuade?
This holy son of Mary.

Shepherds came and knelt in wonder there,
Seeing Him in light beyond compare,
And His eyes that told them all love was he
Whom men called the son of Mary.

Wonderful it was, that Christmas Day,
How from far and near they came to pray,
How from far they glimpsed his majesty
Whom men called the son of Mary.

Could it be that in that little one
Spirit’s universal love did shine?
If it’s true, he lives in you and me
Whom men call the son of Mary.

The song as an antidote (Satyaki’s comments):

Who’ll tell to me this mystery:
How a tiny babe in a manger laid
Could so many hearts to love persuade?
This holy son of Mary.

Swami Kriyananda writes in A Place Called Ananda (Chapter 21), that this song, along with That Night When Christ Was Born, appeared full-blown in his mind while driving across the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco the evening after he met his guitar instructor, Larry Hanks, in Christmastime of 1964. He has also said that he could barely see through tears of joy as he wrote the song down on paper, marveling at the beauty of the song that remained one of his personal favorites.

The very idea of a “mystery” in the title suggests that the song doesn’t propose to share a definitive answer about Christ or Christmas. Instead, it poses only a question, challenging us to ask ourselves: do we really know what Christmas is all about?

We confidently assume that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth, and that Jesus, of course, was the Son of God, a great avatar, the savior of mankind, and so on. But here, Kriyananda reminds us that Christmas really isn’t about Jesus so much as  it’s about us, about our inward reality, and about the reality of universal spirit—the Christ Consciousness—dwelling within every one of us, indeed, within the heart of every atom.

In a lecture in 1991, Kriyananda also asked these questions:

Do Christians love Love because Jesus loved? Do they not rather love Jesus because he manifested the principle of love so perfectly? And do Hindus love the great truths propounded in The Bhagavad Gita because it was Krishna who taught them? Do they not rather love Krishna especially because he was such an inspiring manifestation of those eternal realities?

And in the same talk he said,

Let us then, during this Christmas Season, view the birth of Jesus not only as a particular event in history, but as a particularly sweet expression of a universal truth. Let the birth of Divine Love in that little form two thousand years ago inspire us to conceive and give birth to that Love within ourselves, through the virgin purity of our hearts’ devotion. In this way, Christmas can become a holy season not for Christians alone, but for people everywhere on earth, regardless of any religious affiliation. The three wise men represented the other world religions in their visit, filled with respect and adoration, to the Christ child. Let us, like them, open our hearts and souls to Universal Love, as it calls out to us from the altars of every religion. Thus, we may solve at last the eternal challenge to our understanding: the Christmas Mystery.

Inwardly, too, The Christmas Mystery, invites us to explore and ponder this mystery in different ways.

The first verse begins in the heart chakra, where naturally many Christmas songs do, with a simple reminder of the context of the song, and the humbleness of Christ’s birth:

Long ago there was a little shed.
There three mighty kings did bow their heads
To a gentle babe of low degree
Whom men called the son of Mary.

Outwardly, of course, we think of the three kings as visitors from other lands, representing, as Kriyananda says, the major world religions of the time, and also, as kings, representing the humbleness of the “mighty” in the presence of Christ.

Inwardly, these three “kings” also represent the three lower chakras, who are mighty in the power they can exert in our lives. But here in the song, those lower centers come and offer their power (bow their heads) in adoration to the heart, where one first recognizes the Christ child as love. Indeed, it’s a love that has condescended to meet us halfway in the heart! God, through Christ, has come down from the spiritual realms at the top of the spine to meet us at the “low degree” of the heart.

This, you might say, is the mystery of Love: how eternal and infinite is God’s love for us, as manifested in this holy son of Mary?

Having met us in the heart, that love, in the second verse, then begins to draw us upwards to the throat chakra:

Shepherds came and knelt in wonder there,
Seeing him in light beyond compare,
And his eyes that told them all love was he
Whom men called the son of Mary.

Shepherds, of course, have the job of tending the sheep, which inwardly can represent our desires. Left to themselves, the sheep of our desires—especially of the heart—wander around and get scattered all over the place! Thus the shepherds—the higher chakras, and higher, expansive aspirations as represented in the throat chakra—lead the flocks upwardly towards God. When those desires touch the Divine Light, they soften and, alongside the shepherds, offer themselves upwards. And that light in his eyes reminds us that the love expressed in our desires is but an expression of that Divine Love of God’s. This thought again helps the heart’s energies (and those of the kings!) flow upwards.

Thus we’re invited to ponder the mystery of Christ as a channel of light and love, wondering, indeed, where that light and love itself originates.

In the third verse, all this energy of the lower five chakras flows up to the medulla:

Wonderful it was, that Christmas Day,
How from far and near they came to pray,
How from far they glimpsed his majesty
Whom men called the son of Mary.

“How from far and near they came to pray,” is a marvelous phrase, representing the lower five chakras in relation to the medulla: the first chakra being far, and the throat chakra being near. All their energies have gathered together at the medulla—the seat of the ego—for the final and complete self-offering into God. It’s a “wonderful” celebration because we’ve come to the point of really wanting to offer everything we are: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, as Jesus taught in his greatest of all commandments.

And yet there’s still a distance: “How from far they glimpsed his majesty.” This is the ego understanding that there’s yet an enormous gap between the little self, the ego at the medulla, and the majesty of the Higher Self at the spiritual eye! We cannot be too proud of how far we’ve come, because there’s no room for individual pride in God.

The ego, in other words, must be ready to willingly give itself completely, and thus we’re invited to ponder the mystery of self-offering, which we can also say is the mystery of free will, that God always gives us that choice of clinging to individuality, or letting ourselves go into omnipresence.

Assuming, of course, that one desires liberation, which is a defining characteristic of a devotee, the energy flows upwards and focuses at the spiritual eye, as in meditation. We finally see past the Christ child to the Christ Consciousness (the infinitesimal speck or “little one” at the heart of every atom) and Universal Love:

Could it be that in that little one
Spirit’s universal love did shine?
If it’s true, he lives in you and me
Whom men call the son of Mary.

We are pondering no longer. The mystery is solved: Christ is omnipresent within all of us, right now (hence the present-tense “call” instead of the past-tense “called”). The mystery is solved because the birth of Christ isn’t about a human baby at all, but about the awakening the omnipresent Christ within us that can lead us to that Universal Love.

For what negative emotions, then, does The Christmas Mystery serve as an antidote? If we reverse the upward flow of energy in the spine and choose to not ponder these mysteries, what are we left with? One quality is intellectual pride of smugness, which is thinking that you have it all figured out (like I said, the “mystery” in the title itself suggests that we don’t know!).

Such pride leads also to irreverence, with which there’s no bowing whatsoever to light, majesty, or love, which is to say that we consider our desires, especially for wealth and power, and so on to be more important than any higher qualities.

That irreverence then leads to the even lower state of worldly pride, especially pride of pedigree, position, and social status. Such pride, alongside smugness or “a narrow sense of respectability,” are two of the “meannesses of the heart,” as Sri Yukteswar identifies in The Holy Science, that bind us and keep us from liberation in God.

The Christmas Mystery, then, very much helps us overcome those meannesses, to open ourselves to the natural love of the heart without which, Sri Yukteswar says, one cannot take one step on the spiritual path!