CHRISTIANITY ECHOES WISDOM THOUGHTS OF ETERNAL TRADITION (SANATANA DHARMA)
LECTURE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN
Srimad Bhagavatam says, "Like a honey bee gathering trickles of honey from different flowers, the wise man accepts the essence of different scriptures and sees only them in all religions". With that kind of ideology, a Hindu should be eager to read all the religious books in the world.
What intrigues one most is the striking similarity between Christianity and Hinduism in certain aspects when majority in both the religions think that they are poles apart. Various aspects from both the religions considered in this article show that there is only One Truth and One God whatever may be the interpretations of their zealot followers.
Religions have airtight divisions not because of their prophets but because of the fanatic work of the zealot followers. Neither Rishis, nor Buddha, nor Moses, nor Christ intended their revelations to go to chosen few, but the whole of humanity. Religions were never founded by prophets but were only named after them later. Sanatana Dharma was not based on any one founder, and so it is Sanatana—Eternal. When the prophets asked their followers to preach their word, they did not intend to destroy the existing schools of thought but to strengthen the existing beliefs and practices. Neither Buddha nor Christ who came later could have said something different from Lord Krishna since there is only One Truth and One God. That is why you find many similarities between Hinduism of more than 6000 years old and Christianity which is 2000 years old.
Sanatana Dharma is a mixture of so many things. It is a summation of all types of thoughts and all types of Sampradayas or traditions which others call individually as religion. One finds in Sanatana Dharma the existence of the primitive worship of reptiles and pets, yet on the other hand one sees thoughts and ideas excelling Bohr's theory of nuclear structure and reactions. This is because, Sanatana Dharma 1) allowed and still allows the free flow of thoughts; 2) it allowed and still allows the co-existence of all kinds of thoughts 3) it has never had a 'house cleaning' like founded religions which have had house cleaning periodically. The reason behind it may be Vedas are considered as divine mantras and no one therefore dared to touch them. Vedantins therefore came out with different interpretations of these mantras which gave birth to different philosophies. Bible was written later by the Apostles of Jesus Christ as gospels. Some of the gospels were thrown out like that of St. Thomas. Hindu Philosophies even included Charwaka Philosophy (atheism) and Sankhya philosophy (which excluded Brahman) in Sanathan sanatana Dharma and discussed their merits and demerits.
People who follow Christ are called Christians. If you ask any one who follows Sanatana Dharma, "Who is he" there is no ready answer. Hindu Vedas proclaim, "Ekam Sat, Viprah bahudaa vadanti' –There is One Truth, and learned pundits describe it in different ways. It is a culture and not a religion and therefore you don't get one steady answer.
Adan and Eve
We are all familiar with the story of Adam and Eve. We also know an Upanishad story of two birds perched on a Pipal tree. One eats the fruit while the other watches on. Thisthe Upanishads explain as Jeevaatma and Pramaatma. The fruit Jeevaatma eats signifies sensual plw easures. The one who eats the fruit signifies individual s Self and one who does not eat signifies Supreme Principle.
Jeeva is Eve in Hebrew religious tradition. "Ji" changes to "E" and "ja" to "ya" as per rules of grammar. Therefore the Biblical Story Jiva is Eve and Atman is Adam.
Pipple has change to apple. Even in Sanskrit Pasyaka (one who sees light) has changed to Kasyapa which is the name of a great sage.
Pipple has change to apple. Even in Sanskrit Pasyaka (one who sees light) has changed to Kasyapa which is the name of a great sage.
Thus we see the relevance of transplantation of Upanishad ideas. Those who read Bible may be ignorant of Upanishads but if they trace back they are sure to know the origin of the story.
Puranas and Parables
Christ told parables and Hinduism has mythological stories to explain the subtle truths of the Universe. Puranas are said to have been delivered by the Gods themselves or their messengers but were later on recited by the sages at assemblies of devotees in holy places.
Religions of the world are a mixture of contradictory ideas and thoughts
Today all great religions of the world are a mixture of contradictory ideas and thoughts. Even Christianity is a blend of Judaism, Platonism, Gnosticism and Roman Paganism. In
Fact according to Encyclopedia of Britannica, the early Christian theologian Augustine Hippo (354-430 A.D.), "fused the religion of the New Testament with Platonic tradition of Greek philosophy". Most Pagan influence on Christianity happened after Emperor Constantine of Rome (306-327 A.D.) became a Christian in 312 A.D.
Dravidians might have started the thinking process of Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Tradition) but was later influenced by Aryan, Mayan, Egyptian and Greek civilization.
- "There is only one God, but that God is expressed in several forms" which reflects the belief Egyptian civilization has.
- The theory of life after death is also found in Egyptian thinking which the Greeks worked on and which finally became part and parcel of Aryan civilization
- Rudra, the God of Annihilation, who was worshipped by the Aryans, is actually a Dravidian God. Rudra was later known as Shiva(The Auspicious) in the later scriptures of Hinduism
- Gods like Varuna (water) and Vaayu (air) have corresponding Gods in Greek mythology
Beginning of Creation
In Christianity Genesis says that God created Heaven and Earth. It explains the entire list of creation by God and how he took rest on the seventh day making it holy. As per the Hindu scriptures—the first universe that came out of AUM was the Casual Universe; from the Casual Universe came the Astral Universe; from the Astral Universe came the Material Universe. As per mythology the whole creation was created by Lord Brahma, who himself took birth from the umbilical cord of Vishnu (the God of Preservation). There are quite a lot of stories in mythology about creation.
The Big Bang Theory reminds us of the Hindu idea that everything came from Brahman which is "subtler than the atom, greater than the greatest" (Kathopanishad 2:20).
Christianity in the Land of Eternal Tradition (Sanatana Dharma)
In India Saint Thomas, the apostle started Christianity. According to the very ancient Syrian work called 'The Acts of Judas Thomas' the apostles who were together in Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus Christ cast lots to decide where each should go and preach the Gospel. India fell to the lot of Thomas, who did not want to go there. Legends say that later Thomas had a dream, in which Christ asked him to go to India. It may be the irony of fate that poor Thomas was purchased as a slave by a merchant from the north-west of India and forcefully taken there. After coming to India Thomas converted his master to Christianity and later took a boat to Malabar in the year 52 A.D. He reached a place very near to Cochin and later established churches all over Kerala. He traveled to China and finally died in Mylapore in Madras in 72 A.D.
Most of the teachings of Saint Thomas in India had a very close resemblance to Hindu teachings. Some parts of the lost original text were found in 1945. What archaeologists found is similar to Hindu ideals and principles. A very good book on the Thomas Gospels and other Gnostic gospels is available in the market to-day. The book is The Gnostic Gospels written by Elaine Pagels and published by the Vintage books. By 189 A.D., much of South India had a very large proportion of Christians. It is said that a bishop from India attended the Great Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
Christianity really spread leaps and bounds after the Portuguese, under Vasco de Gama who came to Calicut in 1498. Another great preacher was Saint Francis Xavier of Goa. Catholic Church was well established in India by 1599.
It looks as though great many spiritual aspects in Christianity have been influenced by this early impact of Christianity with Sanatana Dharma in India even though Saint Thomas Gospel which had close resemblance to Hindu teachings was not included in the New Testament and even though a bishop from India attended the Great Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., when the Holy Bible was taking shape under various schools of thoughts from the different gospels of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Hindus admitted Christian refugees into India as early as fourth century A.D., giving them a land to practice their religion without persecution.
How did Hinduism and Christianity start?
According to Christian theologians the Holy Bible is a Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost inspired book; II Peter 1:21 reads: "For the prophecy came not in old time, by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"; II Timothy 3:16 states that scripture is given by inspiration of God, similar to the thinking of Hindus on Vedas.
All Sruti literature is considered to be the revealed Truth of God. The Vedic literature, according to one school of thought (Nyaayiyikas), was composed by the Almighty God. According to Mimamsa school of thought all Sruti existed all through Eternity in the form of sounds. Therefore the sounds (intonations) of the words in Vedas and Upanishads are very important.
By the name Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism is proclaiming to the world that eternal truths are for ever, and Rishis happened to be the first to tap them.
Saint Augustine on his part said, "True Religion always existed and became Christian after the appearance of Jesus Christ" So the same Truths can be found out by anyone who is in relentless pursuit of truth, even if one has absolutely no idea of Hinduism or Christianity.
Sanatana Dharma proclaims:
1) All came from That One which cannot be defined, called Brahman
2) All came from That, so all existence is god and divine
3) There is only One God
4) All of us are God. This is just like saying if you analyze one drop of sea water, then you know everything about the entire sea5) A devotee who seeks God becomes part and parcel of him. To search for God is like a pinch of salt finding the depth of the ocean. The moment the pinch of salt hits the surface of the ocean it becomes part and parcel of the ocean.
When Moses asked, "Who are you?" the answer came from the burning bushes, "I am what I am". That clearly proves Jehovah (I am) is not a being with human attributes. The Holy Bible also states that God is Spirit (John 4:23-24) and he who worships Him worships in Spirit. Psalm 139: 7-10 states that God is a Spirit that is everywhere. Luke (24:39) states that Spirit does not have flesh and bones. No word or image can express or describe the magnitude of God.
Hindu Scriptures and the Holy Bible
Vedic age Rishis, heard the eternal truths in their hearts and taught their disciples telepathically, by actual transfer of thoughts. For long period of time there were no written texts only later did languages like Sanskrit and Paali emerged. The Vedas and Upanishads were taught in chanted lyrics as mantras. Luckily, till date they remain without any house cleaning in their original form and are available in Sanskrit language with elucidations from great Acharyas like Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva etc. We have only speculative guesses on the authorship of different Hindu scriptures. Almost all Hindu scriptures are written by anonymous authors. Nobody can clearly say why the authors deliberately tried to avoid saying their names anywhere. Perhaps it could be to avoid the emergency of unnecessary ego or perhaps it was a statement to the world that all these mantras and stories are eternal truths and as such no authorship question should arise.
Jesus Christ spoke in Armenian and few years after his crucifixion the New Testament was written in 3 languages—Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The New Testament still preserves some important statements such as "Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani—My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me (Matthew 27:46)". During the 15th century, the first English version of the Bible was written by Tyndale (1525). Unfortunately, he was accused of blasphemy and later was burned at the stake. After Tyndale, seven subsequent English versions of the Bible were written, the last of which was under the leadership of King James of England 1611, which was made most popular. Unluckily, even the first edition of the King James' version had more than three hundred errors. All good things in Bible are associated with number twelve: twelve apostles, twelve sons of Jacob, twelve tribes of Israel etc. Holy Bible is full of numerical symbolism. 666 stand for the Antichrist and 12 stands for spiritual faculties.
Scriptures seem to be confusing and contradicting
The Old Testament is in direct contrast to the New Testament in many aspects. When the New Testament talks about showing the "other cheek" when attacked while the Old Testament talks about "an eye for an eye" ideology. When Old Testament details all types of sexual activity including incest, the New Testament upholds very high morality. The Old Testament God demanded and allowed human sacrifices. But you will see a very compassionate and understanding God in the New Testament. Apart from that, the Gospel of Saint Thomas is somewhat different from Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Of course Saint Thomas Gospel is not included in the New Testament may be due to its difference with other gospels and its close resemblance to Hindu teachings. Christianity on its part had periodic house cleanings from the day it was born. It has thrown out anyone who does not follow the church since the first Council at Nicaea in 325 A.D. That is why Jehovah's Witnesses and Morans are out of the mainstream of Christianity.
Hinduism may seem to be somewhat confusing and contradicting. Hinduism stands an embodiment of Truth. It is a slowly developed thought process. In it you can see the existence of very primitive religion as well as a very advanced religion. Hinduism allows literally hundreds of contradictory thoughts to co-exist within it. In Hinduism the Rishis used to work on different conflicting aspects of the riddles of the universe, just like hundreds of scientists around the world are doing research on different and sometimes on conflicting ideas in modern science. Hinduism had never a 'house cleaning' in its more than five thousand years of known history, unlike Christianity. On one side you see strict morality and on the other side see Tantric eroticism. On one side there is the personal God and on the other side Hinduism talks about Brahman with no feelings.
"Hinduism is a more recent nomenclature given to a conglomeration of heterogeneous traditions and plurality of beliefs and worship with a long history of development from the Vedic (that which has originated directly from the Vedas—the four ancient texts which contain the core of Hindu Philosophy and belief) sacrificial religion through the worship of epic and Puranic heroes and personal deities, as well as philosophical systems rather than to a monolithic tradition or a structure based on a single system of beliefs and worship or a single text as scripture or single leader as its founder" says R. Champakalakshmi author of The Hindu Temple.
Maayaa and Original Sin
Hindu Maaya and Christian Original Sin are one and the same. We witness daily in the world things such as 'right and wrong', 'good and bad', 'yin and yang' all due to Maaya. Looking deeply one will see that the whole story of Adam and Eve in Genesis deals with Maaya. God said to Adam that he could eat the fruits of every tree in the garden except for the "tree of knowledge of good and evil", (Genesis 2:15). Adam disobeyed, and by eating that forbidden fruit Adam and Eve came to know right and wrong, good and bad etc. That caused the downfall of man. That capability to discern right and wrong is the perception of duality in Hinduism which is indeed Maaya said earlier in Hinduism. What Adam and Eve attained in the garden by eating the forbidden fruit is false knowledge and it is that false knowledge which is causing the downfall of every man. So Maaya is indeed the original sin. That is why man became aware of his nakedness in the Garden of Eden and lost the knowledge of his true nature. If the Christian theologians would try to explain the original sin as false knowledge or Maaya, many Christians would understand the magnanimity of the symbolism behind the story of Adam and Eve. Maaya is indeed the original sin described in Genesis and true knowledge is the only way to get rid of it. Of course, it is not clear even in Hinduism how the first ever soul came under the influence of Maaya, only to be born later and starting the cycle of reincarnation!
The Vedas state "Prajaapati vai idam agre aaseet"(in the beginning was Prajaapati, the Brahman); Tasya vag dwiteeya aaseet(with whom was the word); Vag vai Parama Brahma (and the word was verily Supreme Brahman(statement made before 3000 B.C.). John 1:1 states "in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Mandukya Upanishad says, "AUM—this syllable stands for the whole World. The past, the present and the future, everything is just the syllable AUM. Even threefold time too is just AUM". In the Christian Bible AUM is mentioned as the Word. The word AUM, Christian "Amen" and Mohammedan "Amin" all represent one and the same word.
Brahman is sometimes translated as "the Word" (Om), which literally means "Word THAT which grows great" which in later times has been called Parabrahman, which should really mean what transcends Brahman. Brahman is derived from the Sanskrit root "brih"--"to grow, or grow great," which is undoubtedly only "vridh" in another form. If so the English "word" is ultimately the same as the Vedic Brahman even etymologically.
Incarnation of God
In the Bhagavadgita it is written, "whenever there is a decay of Dharma (righteousness) and outbreak of Adharma (non righteousness), I descend myself to protect the good, to annihilate the wicked and to reestablish Dharma. I am born from age-to-age. When God comes to earth again each will see 'IT' according to his individual faith—a Christian may see IT as Christ, a man on white horse(Revelation 6:1-2); a Hindu may see IT as Kalki—also "the man on the white horse".
Christians believe that it could happen within one thousand years, whereas Hindus believe that it will happen only at the end of Kaliyuga, which is 427,000 years from now.
"I am God"—"Aham Brahmaasmi"
"I am God" is repeated in several Upanishads in different formats, 'Tat Tvam asi" (That Thou art" is one of the important sayings. Salvation is the knowledge of realization of one's own identity with God.
Jehovah said to enquiring Moses who asked Him His name, came the reply, "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). Jesus Christ said the same thing by saying that: "Before Abraham was, I am". Jesus also said, "I and the Father are one" (John10:30). Jesus Christ made more than seven statements beginning with "I am" in the New Testament. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus said "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore…. and have the keys of hell and of death". He also said: "Unless you believe in Me, you will die in your sins". Lord Krishna had used the same lines several times in the Bhagavadgitaa earlier. So the statement "I am God" has been repeated throughout history by many saints who have indeed experienced oneness with God. Several times Jesus said, "God is Spirit', Spirit meaning Brahman, Atman, Truth etc. He also said, "The Father abiding in me doeth His work". So, all that shows that God is within you and everything is God".
Tony Campolo, a prominent evangelist said, 'you know all about God, but the question is do you know God? You can have solid theology and be orthodox to the core, but have you experienced God in your life? Jesus often said "The kingdom of God is within you". Mahanaaraayna Upanishad says: "The one who is greater than the great, who having entered into the luminary bodies with his own light, this Lord of people is moving within the hearts of all people".
" Ham Aham Sah" is a mantra
It means "Iam He and he is I" This Mantra came from the word Hamsa ((Supreme Being). Hamsa means Swan. It bnis a symbol of Brahman. Those who attain cosmic consciousness are often called Paramahamsa, or Great Swan. This Mantra is similar to the Hebrew word Jehovah (old Testament) which means "I am".
Reincarnation of souls
"At the time of death the body dies but the soul never dies. The soul passes from one body to another after death like a body changing clothes. The soul goes on taking endless number of bodies, until the soul exhausts all karmas attached to the soul. This process is known as reincarnation—Bhagavadgita 2:22". "I make the cruel and vicious person take birth again and again as ferocious animals—Gita 16:19". "One or two bad actions alone do not determine the soul's new destination—Gita 6:40"
There are even statements in the Bible pointing out the science of reincarnation. Christ said, 'But I say unto you, that Elias is come already and they know him not—Matthew17:12" and "then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist—Matthew 17:13" Through these lines Christ is declaring to the world that the beheaded John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elias. As a proof of the existence of the soul Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul—Matthew 10:28". When the shout came that "He is risen!" nobody believed it. But those who did changed history. A man conversing with a Brahmin priest asked. "Could you say, 'I am the resurrection and the life'". "Yes" replied the priest, "I could say that".
The conversation ended when the man asked "But could you make anyone believe it?" Christian theologians tried to incorporate much of the Hindu and Greek beliefs into Christianity. Justin Martyr (100-165A.D.), founder of the first Christian school in Rome wrote in Dialogue with Trypho that the soul inhibits a succession of bodies but that it cannot remember its previous lives. These ideas were officially condemned in the Council of Constantinople as anathema.
Do animals have souls? Do they go to heaven?
St Francis (1181-1226) started an influential monastic order, the Franciscans, and spread a message of gospel simplicity across Europe. He had not only popularized Christmas Nativity scenes and later bore the mysterious stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ. According to biographers he once preached to an assembly of crows and pigeons, reminding them to praise their Creator just as people do. Francis had an overwhelming feeling for God as the source of all things. Book of Genesis says: "the Covenant that I make between me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations-Genesis 9". Psalm 36 says: "Your steadfast love, O Lord, extend to the heavens—you save humans and animals alike, O Lord"
Some people insist that only humans have souls because only humans of free will and Consciousness need salvation.
According to Hinduism God's Incarnation was also in the form of animals. Sanatana Dharma believes in the theory of souls for animals also as in human beings in the cycle of births and deaths and based on Karma theory. But one has to reach the human form finally to aspire for Moksha.
On St. Francis day animals are blessed and receive blessing from a Reverend.
Most Christians believe that the ultimate destiny of human beings is either joyful life with God forever in heaven or eternal pain and despair in hell, whereas the reincarnation theory states, "salvation is for all; only the time factor differs between the best and the worst of us. The best will achieve salvation with one life, whereas the worst will achieve salvation by many lives". Christians view the time as linear, with a definite beginning and definite end, whereas Hindus believe Time is cyclic, an endless repetition of events.
Who is a Dwija? The actual meaning of Dwija is twice born. A dwija is a Brahmin. Who is a Brahmin? He who knows Brahman is. What is Brahman? Thatwhich is Infinite…God. So in a nutshell, he who knows God is twice born, or he who is twice born will automatically realize God.
Long ago, the Christian term, "born again" was exclusively used within the church as an important part of the church's phraseology. Jesus said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God—John 3:3" and added "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again—John 3:7. The closest word in Hinduism to what Jesus said is Dwija.
According to the point of view of a Hindu, all gods are but various representation of the One God. The Vedas call Him Brahman. The Upanishads explain Him by Neti-Neti (not this-not this) method. Sometimes God is referred as That an inanimate object since no human description can ever do justice to his magnitude. The Rigveda says, "God or Truth is one, only men describe it in different ways".
Trinity in Christianity is one God expressed as three different forms; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Triune god is mentioned in the New Testament in only one place of the four Gospels in Matthew 28:19. In Saivism first worship goes to Lord Ganesha the son of Shiva, representing Holy son; the next worship goes to Shiva being the Holy Father through whom the devotees meditate on Brahman, the Holy Spirit.
Should we call it Idol or Icon?
Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christianity use images, icons and statues as an examination of most churches reveal. Most Protestants deny the use of all images as idolatry and accuse even Catholics of idolatry for their use of images. Yet we do find that many Protestants have a picture of Christ or at least wear a cross, which is still usage of images and symbols. Protestants regard the Holy Bible as literally the Word of God. This is also worship of objects. The use of the term "Idol" inflames the sentiment of the religions like Christianity. In the Christian tradition religious images are called "Icons" and classified as works of art and sacred in nature.
Hindus use various images in their religious worship, which may include statues and pictures, and, anthropomorphic forms of deities, great teachers and avatars which may be regarded as Divine in human form. All things in the universe are objects of worship once we recognize the sacred presence which pervades all things. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavadgita, "He who sees me in everything and sees everything in Me, I am never out of sight and he is never out of my sight (Ch VI-30)". Perhaps the word "Idol" is derogatory and "Icon" may be more acceptable in English translations, while referring to Moorthi Upaasana, one of the many forms of worship practiced in Hinduism. Both religions believe in one and only God. However in the context of hope and despair Holy Bible makes a reference of many Gods in Psalm 16—"miseries shall multiply those who run after other Gods" hinting that there are many Gods. Holy Bible prevails upon the superiority of the God it commends, in comparison to the God other religions believe in.
There are very many mantras in Hinduism. In Judaism "Baruch Atta Adonai" meaning "Blessed Art Thou, O Lord my God" is a mantra. For a Christian the very name of Jesus is a great mantra. In Catholic tradition "Hail Mary" is used as a very powerful mantra.
Eastern meditation involves the stoppage of all mental activities resulting from the activity of the senses in sensual objects and bringing forth of the true-self or Atman. The Atman is deluded by thousands of thoughts and by meditation one will slowly "know oneself". Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is within you" and by Eastern meditation one is trying to achieve that Kingdom.
According to a Newsweek survey more Americans, especially those younger than 60, described themselves as 'spiritual' than 'religious. Almost two thirds of Americans say they are praying everyday and nearly a third meditate.
In Hindu scriptures one will not come across even one line starting with "Thou shall not". When Christian scriptures talk about permanent hell for sinners, the Bhagavadgita proclaims salvation for all in various couplets (4:36, 9:30 and 9:32). All of us whether we believe in God or not, are destined to attain salvation one day. Only the time factor differs for the best and worst among us. The Gita exhorts, "The Truth shall set you free". Talking on the evolution of Consciousness and its goal Hindu Rishis in the Upanishads trace beautifully path of Truth by which the evolved man can reach the culmination of evolution in the Supreme-hood.
All through the Gita Lord Krishna says, "I am the Way" and "Come to me". In the Holy Bible Christ made the same statements a number of times. Jesus and Krishna spoke similarly because both came as Infinite power in finite forms.
Jesus Christ said, "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members perish, and not thy whole body should be cast into hell" and "if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body should cast into hell"—Matthew 5:27,30 and also Mark 9:45, 46, 47). One may come to erroneous conclusions when one tries to explain the sayings of Christ literally.
If you read Gita, you will see very detailed explanation of what Christ said. In verses 58 to 70 in chapter II, Lord Krishna says, "All senses (Indriyaas) have love affair with sense objects. Just like a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell when it perceives danger so too wise men withdraw their senses from sense objects when they see that the senses are losing themselves in the sense objects" Without the proper control of senses, nobody can realize the Absolute Truth. Gita says that both the Intellectual Way (Jnaana Yoga) and Devotional Path (Bhakti Yoga) will lead to God.
Does God punish?
There is no such thing as being cursed by God (Gita 5:4 and 4:14). We ourselves make our lives miserable or happy. Christ even allowed his apostles to deny him at the hour of crucifixion. So, it is stupid to say things like "revenge of God".
According to Hinduism, every thought however insignificant may be, is counted in determining one's Karma. Remember the immortal words of Jesus Christ: "Every…word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof on the Day of Judgment—Matthew (12:36).
Does the knowledge of Scriptures absolutely essential?
Any one who sincerely seeks the absolute Truth will finally realize the same even if one is ignorant of the Vedas and Upanishads. In so many verses in Gita, Lord Krishna teaches every way by which one can attain the Absolute. Krishna says, 'Give up all righteous and non-righteous actions and come to Me and take refuge in Me. Then I shall free you of all sins, grieve not—18:66"
Jesus very emphatically said, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you—Matthew 7:7". Jesus says, 'I am the Resurrection and the Christ sayeth the Lord; for whosoever shall believeth in me though he is dead yet shall he live".
Occult Power (Siddhi)
According to Hinduism, occultism or Siddhi is an obstacle in the path of God-realization. In Jesus Christ and masters like him Siddhis or occult powers flow out like fragrance out of rose flower. Christ gave no importance to these powers at all. In fact he had an aversion for people who came to him for his occult powers. "Unless ye see signs of wonders ye cannot believe, go thy home, there thy son liveth" is a symbolic statement of Christ's aversion to Siddhis. All great Hindu saints, like Ramanuja, Madhva, Saibaba etc acted like Jesus Christ.
Hindu and Vedantic impact on Christianity
Spiritual ideas came along to the West with the trade between India and Europe during middle ages up to the time of Turkish invasion of Europe (15th century). There is a possible Hindu and Vedantic influence on Christianity through the middle ages and into the Renaissance, where great many thinkers like Marsilio Ficino mention Hindu practices with great respect. The practices of Christian mystics often have more in common with Hindu yogic practices of mantra and meditation than with what is ordinarily regarded as Christianity.
Has Jesus been influenced by Eastern Philosophy?
There are inscriptions in the Pali language in Tibet about a saint named Isa or Issa. Some believe that Saint Isa was Jesus and that he was in India during the unknown years of Christ. Of course, we have no conclusive proof. What intrigues most is the similarity between some aspects of Christianity and Hinduism as seen above.
In 1887, a Russian tourist, Nicholas Notovitch, made a journey to Afghanistan, India and Ladakh etc. During his journey he discovered some stunning facts about the early years of Jesus Christ before 30 A.D. Mr. Notovitch, anxious to know more about Jesus, made a thorough research and obtained the information from Buddhist monasteries, especially from Hemis Monastery, which revealed the fact that Jesus lived in India, learnt yoga and studied Buddhist scriptures. It is all documented in the extensive forward to his book 'The unknown life of Jesus Christ" published by Indo-America Books, Chicago (1894) and Hutchinson & Co, London (1895). In the foreword he also mentions about the opposition from church authorities to publish the same.
Co-existence of Hinduism and Christianity
When the Romans under Emperor Nero were feeding Christians to angry lions, in Kerala, India, Christians were worshipping in churches. Long before any part of Europe came to know about Jesus Christ and his wonderful teachings, the Southern part of India, Malabar, had a flourishing Christianity. In 65 A.D. Malabar had many churches. Hindus admitted Christian refugees into India as early as the fourth century A.D, giving them a land to practice their religion without persecution.
This was possible because Hinduism is a culture most diverse and oldest that is tolerant to any religion that contained some of its aspects of Eternal Tradition. This can be summed up in the words of Swami Vivekananda. He said: "I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in sea, so different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God"
"As rivers flow to the sea discard their names and forms, so the spiritual knowledge, liberated from name and form enters into that celestial Being who transcends all—Mundaka Upanishad III-2.8.
Hinduism and Christianity are very different in both their teachings and practices today, particularly the Protestant form, which is against all images and generally anti-mystic. Catholicism though having mystic or devotional side like Hinduism has an authoritarian structure and missionary militancy which is quite different from the diversity of Hinduism. It is difficult for Hindus to respect Christianity as in early days as a spiritual path today due to the missionary activity directed against Hindus, though they appreciate Christian mystics, saints like Mother Teresa or Christ himself whom they consider and respect as an Avataar.
Fortunately, a Hindu revival is occurring in India along with a Neo-Hindu movement outside India. Hinduism is being redefined in a new and more positive light that neither denies its universality, nor the specificity of its teachings and traditions. A parallel movement is gradually happening in the Western Yoga scene as well. Serious yoga students are looking into the higher realms of yogas of devotion and meditation and beginning to study the yoga and vedic tradition. Related subjects like Ayurveda, Jyotisha and Sanskrit are gaining recognition as well along with more Westerners who are adopting a Hindu Way of life.
Americans are looking for personal ecstatic experience of God, according to a Newsweek poll. Patricia O'Connell of Pacific Lutheran University says, "None but spirituality, the impulse to seek communion with the Divine is thriving" in surveys conducted to find out the religious affiliation of the people.
Millions of Americans shun the disorganized fronts of what they call 'organized religion' and go their own way, sometimes finding new company. The adventurers consider themselves on solid ground, joining all others on the path of never-ending, newly prospering spiritual journey, and they keep inviting more company from among their compatriots, says Martin E Marty, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago.
Religious scriptures should be properly scanned to get proper meanings rather than considered as true in every written word. They should be scanned for Truth. We will make grave errors if we try to analyze the literal meaning of the scriptures. In fact on December 14, 1990 Pope John Paul cautioned Christians against literal interpretation of the Holy Bible. He said: "The books of the Bible have God as their author, but the men who composed them were also true authors". He added that the essential message of the Bible is lost in interpretations that are strictly based on observed facts.
Did Jesus Predict Muhammad? A Biblical Portal between Christianity and Islam
The time has come for Christians and Muslims to make peace between our communities. Christians and Muslims already make up more than half of the global population, and these numbers are expected to grow in the coming decades; according to the Pew Research Center, by 2050, two thirds of humanity, some 5.7 billion people, will be either Christian or Muslim.
Our planet simply cannot afford another century of misunderstanding and violence between these two communities. The challenges we face as a global human family are profound: ongoing warfare and nuclear proliferation, global poverty and economic inequality, climate change and ecological degradation. How will humanity handle these crises and others if our two largest religious communities are embroiled in constant conflict, if misunderstanding defines our relationship? As contemporary theologian Hans Kung has argued for decades, there will be no peace between our nations without peace between our religions. Now is the time to transform the way Christians and Muslims see and relate to each other.
In an earlier blog on the Huffington Post about the problem of Christian Islamophobia, I argue that Christians have the opportunity to transform the way we see Islam and Muslims by accepting Muhammad as “Spirit of Truth.”
Historically, most Christian theologians—including John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Nicholas of Cusa, and Martin Luther—have seen Muhammad not as a “Spirit of Truth” but as a “Spirit of Error,” a false prophet or heretic. There are many Christians today who respect the Islamic tradition and would never make such an offensive statement about Muhammad.
However, the majority of Christians still maintain a fundamentally Islamophobic position on Muhammad. So I believe that the time has come for peacemaking Christians to contradict this position directly. Changing our view of Muhammad—so that we recognize him as a true prophet rather than discredit him as a false prophet—would effectively inoculate Christians against Islamophobia and would help to establish a new paradigm of cooperative Christian-Muslim relations.
In Jesus’ farewell discourse in the Gospel of John (chapters 14 to 16), Jesus speaks about the coming of the “Spirit of Truth” or “Advocate” (in Greek, parakletos). For centuries Muslim interpreters have seen Muhammad as this “Advocate,” based on Qur’an 61:6, a verse in which Jesus predicts the coming of a future prophet named Ahmad: “O Children of Israel! Truly I am the Messenger of God unto you, confirming that which came before me in the Torah and bearing glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me whose name is Ahmad” (61:6, The Study Quran). Ahmad, which is another name for Muhammad, is very close etymologically to the Greek word, parakletos, so it is likely that the Qur’an is claiming that Jesus’ farewell discourse in the Gospel of John predicts Muhammad. The major objection to applying these predictions to Muhammad or any other prophet is that Christians normally read them as part and parcel of Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit is an essential part of the Christian faith and my interpretation of Muhammad as Spirit of Truth affirms this. John 14:16-17 and 14:26 are clearly about the promise of the Holy Spirit: in John 14:16-17, the Advocate or Spirit of Truth is spoken of as an everlasting, invisible, abiding, inner presence; in most manuscripts, this Advocate is even directly called “the Holy Spirit” in John 14:26. But as Jesus’ farewell discourse proceeds these titles become multivalent and, in John 15:26-27 and 16:7-15, they begin to refer more to a future prophet than to the Holy Spirit. Some Muslim interpreters who identify Muhammad with the Advocate argue that this title does not refer to the Holy Spirit at all—and that the text of John has been corrupted so as to obfuscate its direct link to Muhammad. But I believe that the titles Spirit of Truth and Advocate are used in the Gospel of John, first of all, to speak about the promise of the Holy Spirit—and I do not believe that the text has been changed to hide anything. This interpretation of John opens us up to Muhammad as Spirit of Truth in a way that affirms the integrity of the Christian tradition. But before I explain the fine details of my exegesis I want to speak briefly to the big picture of why the Gospel of John, in particular, tells us that Jesus predicts a future prophet.
The Gospel of John is the latest canonical version of the Gospel—it was written at least a generation after the synoptic gospels and probably two generations or more after Paul’s letters. The author of the Gospel of John, often called the beloved disciple, claims to be the last living witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a passage at the end of the Gospel he tells a story about an encounter with the risen Jesus that made him and others believe that he would live to see Jesus’ second coming.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:20-24, NRSV)
This passage shows us that the author of the Gospel of John is in a different paradigm than earlier New Testament authors insofar as he no longer expects Jesus’ imminent second coming. Paul, for example, who wrote in the decades immediately following Jesus’ death and resurrection, believed that Jesus would return while most of the people he was preaching to were still alive. The author of the Gospel of John looks for new meaning in Jesus’ promise of the Spirit of Truth or Advocate because he realizes he will die before Jesus returns. When his Gospel was published he was likely already dead and his community was looking forward into a longer and more complicated future than originally expected.
The Gospel of John plays a similar role for the New Testament as Deuteronomy does for the Torah. Deuteronomy is the latest text of the Torah—it reiterates the Law of Moses as told in the four earlier books—and like the Gospel of John it predicts a future prophet:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.(Deut 18:18-19, NRSV)
Both Deuteronomy and the Gospel of John are reflections on specific revelations—the Torah and Gospel—and both indicate that there is more revelation to come. The Gospel of John’s language for the Spirit of Truth or Advocate is strikingly similar to Deuteronomy’s: “he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13, NRSV).
Like Deuteronomy, the Gospel of John opens up an expectation for future revelation. John’s prophecy is not so specific that it must apply to Muhammad and only Muhammad. But insofar as the Qur’an makes the claim that Muhammad is the Spirit of Truth or Advocate that Jesus foretold, a strong interpretive option emerges for Christians to receive Muhammad as a prophet that Jesus predicts when he says:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15, NRSV)
In this passage, the description of the Advocate or Spirit of Truth is qualitatively different than earlier mentions. Here we see the Spirit of Truth speaking not through the disciples but to them. Earlier, in John 14:17, Jesus says that this Spirit of Truth will abide with his followers and be in them; throughout the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit is spoken of as an abiding, inner presence. Again, in 14:26, Jesus says that the Advocate will “remind you of all that I have said to you.” In these passages, Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit who helps his followers understand what he has said. Essentially, this would have been the experience of the beloved disciple, the author of the Gospel of John, who was guided by the presence of the Spirit in remembering and interpreting Jesus’ words and deeds (which he does spiritually rather than literally). However, in John 16:12-15, Jesus is talking about a Spirit of Truth who will bring forth new revelations, who will say the “many things” that Jesus does not say because his followers “cannot bear them now.”
The clear distinction is that the Spirit of Truth in John 16 is predicted to declare new revelations not merely remind Jesus’ disciples of what he already said, as in John 14. The idea that he will “declare to you the things that are to come” is especially important because it acknowledges the uncertainty about the future that Jesus’ followers faced, given the fact that he had not returned as soon as expected. Jesus asserts that this future prophet will glorify him by declaring a new revelation that will come from the same source as his message: God. This discourse is designed to open the minds of Christians to receive a future revelation not as something that competes with or diminishes the Gospel, but rather as something that glorifies Jesus. Unfortunately, these words in the Gospel of John have been totally missed by Christians who reject and belittle the Qur’an; we have for the most part completely ignored the unity of the Gospel and the Qur’an in terms of their common revelatory source. However, if we take Jesus’ words seriously, we have the opportunity to receive the Word of God in the Qur’an in accordance with Jesus’ promise that the Spirit of Truth “will take what is mine and declare it to you.” We can accept the Qur’an as a revelation, not in opposition to the Gospel, but in unity with the Gospel and the will of Jesus.
In the First Letter of John, which was written after the Gospel of John and is very similar to it, we find a continuation of the Gospel of John’s multivalent way of speaking about the Spirit as applying to the Holy Spirit as well as to prophets inspired by the Spirit. In 1 John 3:24 and 1 John 4:13, the author speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit and how it abides in Jesus’ followers. But in 1 John 4:1-6, in between these mentions of the Holy Spirit, the author speaks at length about testing the spirits. In these verses the word “Spirit” is used to talk about prophets and how to tell whether they are true or false:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:2, NRSV)
The author contrasts “the Spirit of God” with the “Spirit of Anti-Christ,” those who are “from God” with those who are “from the world,” and “the Spirit of Truth” with “the Spirit of Error.” This discourse, again, is strikingly similar to the discourse in Deuteronomy about future prophets that I quoted above.
In Deuteronomy 18:20-22, after the promise of a future prophet in 18:18 and the commandment to listen to that prophet in 18:19, criteria are laid out to distinguish a true from a false prophet. Deuteronomy threatens that a prophet who speaks for another god or who falsely speaks on God’s behalf “shall die” (18:20). It also advises the Israelites to ignore prophets who prophecy falsely:
If a prophet speaks in the name of the Eternal but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Eternal has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it. (18:22, NRSV)
In the same way, but using different criteria, the author of 1 John defines true prophets and false prophets relative to their allegiance to Jesus, God, and the early followers of Jesus. Part of the dynamic of the early community of Jesus’ followers was that many claimed the inspiration of the Spirit and prophesied. The author of 1 John is especially worried about Docetism versions of Christianity that had developed denying that Jesus “came in the flesh”; in these versions of Christianity Jesus was not an actual human being but rather an angelic being that only appeared to be human. Such a version of Christianity, obviously, would have been quite disconnected from the actual teachings and values of Jesus of Nazareth and his earliest followers, who knew him as a real human being. It is worth noting that Muhammad meets these criteria insofar as the Qur’an affirms that Jesus is the Messiah and that he “came in the flesh.”
In the history of Christianity, all of the negative terms in 1 John 4:1-6 have been used against Muhammad. He has been identified with “the Spirit of Anti-Christ” and the “Spirit of Error.” However, the time has come for Christians to recognize how wrong we have been in these assessments and to correct the record by affirmatively identifying Muhammad with “the Spirit of Truth.”
When we look at Islam as a world religion, and see that 1.6 billion people and growing are following in the way of Muhammad, the time has surely come to recognize him as a prophet. If Muhammad is not a prophet, who is? It is understandable, really, that so many Christians have been defensive and have reacted negatively to Islam. That kind of group-ego, fear-based response is part of human nature. However, it is absurd for us to continue to see Muhammad as a heretical Christian or false prophet given that Islam has lasted for nearly 1,400 years, has supported monumental cultural, spiritual, artistic, political, moral, and intellectual achievements, and has a tremendous and vibrant global following.
There is no better candidate than Muhammad, no one in fact that comes even close, in terms of fulfilling Jesus’s promise of the Spirit of Truth who would bring forth a new revelation from God. I do not have space in this article to explore the many Qur’anic verses directly addressed to Christians, but if we were to receive them our religion would be transformed for the better and would come into balance with Judaism and Islam.
Jesus knew it would be difficult for us to accept his guidance from another source. But he did not want our fear of the apparent otherness of the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an to separate us from the Way, the Truth, and the Life; that is, the Word of God. This is why he spoke to the disciples reassuringly about the Spirit of Truth, saying, “he will glorify me”; and, for the same reason, he emphasized the unity of his teaching with the revelations to come, twice repeating the promise, “he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14-15, NRSV). Based on the promises of Jesus, Christians can encounter the Qur’an without fear, knowing that it is a revelation which glorifies Jesus and, in a spiritual sense, is from him.
What we have in the Gospel of John is a biblical portal between Christianity and Islam. If we choose to walk through it in faith we will discover that our religions issue from the same divine source; we will discover that we are siblings in faith, meant to bear witness to the truth side by side (John 15:26-27) and collaborate in manifesting God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. I invite Christians everywhere to look carefully at our scriptures, search our souls, consider our history, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in answering this question: “Has the time come for Christians to see Muhammad as Spirit of Truth?”
ANCIENT WESTERN PHILOSOPHY AND VEDIC WISDOM
S. Karthikeyan | India Divine.Org
In several dialogues, Socrates floats the idea that knowledge is a matter of recollection, and not of learning, observation, or study. Socrates is often found arguing that knowledge is not empirical, and that it comes from divine insight. According to Hindu scriptures, Ātmā, which is the ultimate cause of all, is SAT-CHIT-ᾹNANDA. CHIT is pure consciousness and knowledge is its manifestation. In human body Chitta is the center of all knowledge. Every being is born with some basic knowledge necessary for running the body. Every piece of knowledge said to be acquired by us is a build-up on this base. Among the internal faculties, Manas (Mind) processes the signals picked up by senses from the outside objects, with reference to the stock of information already available in the Chitta. Such signals are only raw materials and the processed information constitutes the building blocks of the body of knowledge. With these blocks the Manas builds up cognizable forms and ideas that fit into the foundation existing in the Chitta at that point of time. It is thus we acquire knowledge and enlarge our knowledge base in the Chitta. That means, in the process of gaining knowledge what actually happens is not absorption as such from external agents, but an internal building up that is compatible with the existing foundation in the Chitta. In Chāndogya 7.18.1 teaches that one knows by reflection only; there is no knowing without reflection. So, we find that Socrates is only interpreting in his own way the teachings of Hindu scriptures in this respect also.
In Greek philosophical thoughts, Socrates was followed by his immediate disciples. Antisthenes (445 – 365 BC) of Athens was an ardent disciple of Socrates, who, abiding by the ethical teachings of his master, advocated an ascetic life to be lived in accordance with virtue. Life for him was to be lived through virtuous actions that liberate wise persons from errors; for, real and enduring happiness lies in such a life. This had been better declared already in verses 2.55, 2.70, 3.28, 3.34, 3.35, 3.41, etc. of Gīta. Incidentally, Antisthenes is regarded as the founder of Cynic philosophy because of these teachings. Western scholars appear to possess wonderful expertise in the art of nomenclature. Highlighting some aspects of a thing they brand the thing as belonging to a particular group. In course of time the brand name loses its original meaning and acquires new imports. This is what exactly happened to the word cynic. In contrast to its initial implication, a cynic now represents a pessimist skeptical of everything. However, Antisthenes was not a person belonging to the brand of what the word ‘cynic’ now signifies. He only advocated simple living as, according to him, virtue demanded it. He was also of the opinion that God is only one, who resembles nothing on earth and therefore cannot be understood from any representation. This is fully in line with his master’s teaching that reality cannot be known through the senses, which we have already seen above to be a repetition of Hindu teachings.
This lecture is prepared by abridging and editing texts from the following which is gratefully acknowledged:
- Ed. Viswanathan, Am I a Hindu, Rupa & Co., New Delhi
- Dr N.S. Ananta Rangacharya, Principal Upanishads, Bangalore
- David Frawley, Hinduism, Voice of India, New Delhi
- King James Version, The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, USA, 1999
- Newsweek, Spirituality in America, 2005, Aug29-Sept 5, 2005
- Swami Chinmayananda, The Holy Geeta, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai
- Nashville Christian Family, March 2011, Nashville, TN.
- J.C. Chatterjee, The Wisdom of the Vedas, Master Mind Books, Bangalore, India