Advaita and Christianity
Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan
kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Mon Mar 27 12:51:50 CST 2000
Although Jaldhar's posting was comparing advaita-Vedanta with Christianity
*as practised by a majority of those who claim to be Christians*, I was
very careful to avoid the term "Christianity" in my reply. I only claimed
that the *Bible* was strongly leaning towards the philosophy of advaita
*as taught by Ramana*, in the opinion of Ramana Himself.
My point is: if one accepts Ramana's views on the Bible, and at the same
time wants to dispute the claim that the Bible's teachings are in line
with advaita Vedanta, he's only attempting to show that 1=2.
There is almost a whole chapter devoted to an interpretation of the Bible
in the light of advaita Vedanta in Arthur Osborne's book `Teachings of
Ramana Maharshi,' where Osborne has culled quotes by Ramana on the Bible
and presented the views in a consistent manner. There can be no doubt as
to the fact that Ramana was of the opinion that the Bible taught pristine
non-dualism. I have already provided a couple of quotes in my last posting
on this subject. There are LOTS more.
IMO, the comparison of the philosophies of the Bible and Vedanta has to be
done ONLY along the line of interpretation of the Bible as suggested by
Ramana. If one goes by the interpretation of the Bible as suggested by the
Pope, sure, one is left with dualism. For that matter, if one goes by the
interpretation of the GItA as suggested by mAdhvAchArya, one is again left
with dualism, albeit of a different nature. There is little use in
bringing up the views of Catholics and Protestants into this discussion.
Arthur Osborne grew up in the ramaNAshram learning Ramana's teachings from
his father Adam Osborne, who was one of the close followers of Ramana.
Arthur Osborne correctly understands that Ramana was not representing any
particular tradition, but was simply teaching from his own experience of
the Truth and the reflections of the same in the religious books that he
came into contact with. The Bible was one of them, and Ramana fully
endorsed it as a book in line with the teachings of the GItA. If Ramana
felt so, I should think the discussion ends right there.
On Mon, 27 Mar 2000, Anand Hudli wrote:
> On Sat, 25 Mar 2000 13:52:06 -0800, jkcowart at cari.net <jkcowart at CARI.NET>
> >At 03:47 AM 03/25/2000 +0000, Anand Hudli wrote:
> >>Simply because some system seems to agree with advaita on a point or
> >>two does not mean that this system essentially preaches nonduality
> >>of the advaitic kind.
> >It is indeed wise to practice accuracy in these matters.
> >I, for my part made no systematic claim for Christian nonduality.
> >On Wed, 22 Mar 2000 19:32:57 -0800 I simply stated:
> >>There is a strong non-dual tradition in Christianity (Eckhardt and
> I am sorry if I gave the impression that I was responding to such
> a claim of yours. At this point, the comparison of advaita and
> Christianity is only out of curiosity.
Even if according to Ramana, the Bible=GItA insofar as it teaches Vedanta?
The original posting that started all this was, if I remember right, that
one can be a Christian (here I'm using the term in the broader sense so as
to include Christians reading the Bible with Ramana's interpretation) and
still believe in the *essential tenets* of advaita Vedanta. The answer is:
yes, of course.
> >It may not be "essentially preached" but its *essence* is there none-
> I can understand your position as a Christian (I presume that is your
> faith) who is familiar with advaita. Even if I were in your place, I
> would certainly attempt to reconcile any differences between Christianity
> and advaita. Reconciliation at the empirical level is certainly possible.
> But ultimately, advaita is something more than any religion can offer,
> because it tells us that even God is transcended at a certain stage!
> This is what makes a true reconciliation between advaita and any so called
> theistic religion difficult. Based on this point of even God's merging into
> the absolute attributeless Brahman, theistic systems in India have had
> quite vehement disputes with advaita. I am not saying that advaita itself
> is not theistic. It does not deny God as He is commonly understood, but
> transcends Him.
By "commonly understood," you mean the Catholic definition, according to
which "He" is omnipresent, etc.
Instead, take Jehovah("I am")=Brahman=Self and "Father-in-heaven"=Ishvara
(as according to Ramana). It makes for easier understanding!
> Of course, I agree that non-duality can come in different flavors.
> It is possible to accept non-duality without accepting the unreality
> of the world. We have an outstanding example of this in India - the
> vishishhTa-advaita of RamAnuja. Here, although there is non-duality,
> the world is accepted as real. This means the world, and the souls
> are parts or qualifiers of the one Reality. We all are parts of the one
> God. Non-duality is thus preserved.
This only shows that the Bible, like the GItA, may also be interpreted in
ways both advaitic and vishishhTAdvaitic.
You can only say that India has been fortunate enough to produce exegetes
who have shown that the Vedas are to be interpreted in the light of
> I expect to see a similar analysis of teachings of Christ or other
> saints to convince myself that they were advaitins too.
You need to read Osborne's book referred above. I shall provide the other
quotes later when I find the time to type them all. The coming weekend, if
there's any serious interest.
bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam
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