Advaita and Christianity

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 28 14:52:06 CST 2000

On Mon, 27 Mar 2000 12:51:50 -0600, Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan
<kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU> wrote:

>> 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
>>  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!

 Notwithstanding these definitions, the Bible itself provides several
 attributes of God such as Omniscience, Omnipotence, sovereignity,
 and even jealousy:

 "For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous,
 is a jealous God": Exodus 34:14

 As Charles pointed out, the description found in the Bible is essentially
 that of the saguNa Brahman. And what is advocated is the worship of
 this saguNa Brahman. Certainly, this is compatible with the advaita
 position on saguNa Brahman or Ishvara, but the important point is
 this is not the distingushing feature of advaita teachings which really
 has to do more with the nirguNa Brahman and the denial of duality.

 The three aspects - the world, the individual soul, and God, (jagat,
 jIva, and Ishvara) are all interdependent concepts! One cannot survive
 without the other two. A world without a God and souls is no world at
 all. An individual soul (jIva) has no meaning if there is no world
 where it engages in karma and reaps the rewards of its karma which
 are given out by God. Again, a God with no world and souls to rule
 over is no God at all. What advaita says quite emphatically is that
 all these three - jagat, jIva, and Ishvara too - are illusory.
 (To clarify, jIva and Ishavara, bereft of their respective mAyA's
 lose their identities and become Brahman.) I very much doubt if this
 point can be reconciled with Christianity or for that matter with any
 religion that is based on the worship of the saguNa Brahman.

>>  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.

 Since I have not studied the Bible, I am not denying the possibility of
 interpreting the Bible (or the book of any other religion) according to
 advaita. This may have some benefit for someone who is interested in
 reconciling his/her Christian beliefs with advaita. For other advaitins,
 this may not be of much significance and is like  going to the store
 to buy milk when you already have a cow at home that gives you plenty
 of milk.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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