Advaita and Christianity
Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan
kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Mon Apr 3 12:43:54 CDT 2000
On Sun, 2 Apr 2000, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:
> There's been a great deal of discussion comparing religions. Jaldhar
> has espoused a view, which he has called the "fundamentalist"
> view-point, which in my opinion is not the mainstream advaita view. As
> per the doctrine of karma each person is born in a religion and
> environment suitable for further advancement. That is why advaitins or
> any other Hindu sub-sect for that matter will not preach intolerance
> towards any other religion. That does not mean anyone who finds the
> advaita doctrines reasonable cannot adopt them even if they were not
> born in that sect. This should be quite clear to anyone who reads
> conversations of the Sringeri Sankaracaryas.
> It is interesting to see what the sUta sa.nhitA has to say about this.
> This text has a commentary by mAdhavamantrin (14th century) and is
> considered very important in the advaita school. Vidyaranya quotes it
> quite often. I don't have the time to type out all the relevant
> verses. I'll just type out the translation by Sri A. Mahadeva Sastri:
> "As the highest salvation is only of one kind, the knowledge which
> leads to it must be of one kind and one kind only. The vedAnta treats
> of Sankara as the non-dual Atman. No other path treats of him directly
> as vedAnta does. Therefore knowledge produced by the veda alone is
> wisdom . Knowledge obtained by other means is avidyA. The other paths
> themselves cannot lead to moksha. They are serviceable only as leading
> to it through the intervening steps...
> A man allures an erratic cow by holding out grass, so does Maheshvara
> hold out some pleasure and then gives supreme wisdom as the mind
> becomes perfected.
> Thus these paths, laid out as they are by Siva, are all of them true
> and seviceable. How can Siva be a deceiver?"
> The text is clear that moksha is by attaining advaita GYAna only.
> However all other paths are also capable of producing *mental
> purification* which will lead to the true gnosis finally. Vidyaranya
> makes the same point in his jIvanmuktiviveka and points out all
> religions emphasize restraint, purity, etc.
The verse speaks of the knowledge *produced* by the Vedas and not
knowledge *of* the Vedas.
practising any religion --> purification of the mind --> study of VedAnta
--> Self-enquiry --> GYAna
Here the "study of VedAnta" must be taken in a broader sense to mean the
study of the *essence of VedAnta philosophy* and not literally the books
that constitute the end of the Vedas. To make my point clear, it does not
mean that one who knows only Tamil and not Sanskrit cannot achieve GYAna
since he cannot study the Sanskrit books constituting the end of the
Vedas. If he is taught by a Guru like Ramana who is essentially teaching
the philosophy of VedAnta in Tamil, it is the same as studying the
In this sense, if the Bible is read from the perspective taught by Ramana,
I don't see how it is any different from the essence of VedAnta philosophy
itself. OTOH, if one reads dualism into it, it's no different from the
dvaitins' reading of the upanishhads (which can also be called "VedAnta").
> This is a far cry from claiming that all religions are exactly one and
> the same.
What I was quoting was from the Talks. When a woman asked Ramana for the
"best religion to follow" he replied, "All methods and religions are the
same" and then during the course of the talk, went on to add, "so long as
they lead to Self-enquiry."
> But it's also much different from the "fundamentalist"
> viewpoint. That's a loaded term anyway and brings to mind unsavory
> characters, best not to use it.
> I also cannot agree with what John wrote:
> <<<In that case, I might suggest one other:
> Vempeny, Ishanand, S.J. _Krsna and Christ._ Anand, India: X. Diaz
> Rio, 1988. Cloth, 498 pp. ISBN: None shown. $20.00.
> Prof. Vempenny introduces his "Dialogical Method" which operates on
> "conviction that no religion possesses the truth totally and
> exclusively, that
> every religion has enough wealth to enrich other religions, and that
> religion is worthy of love and respect." He states that his method is
> love-centered than knowledge-centered" and that it "lays more emphasis
> right attitude than right logic." (Quotes are from the Prologue.)
> I have not read the book, but this is the first thought which comes to
> my mind. Since Prof. Vempeny has concluded that there is some good
> from all religions that the others can learn, he is superior to every
> teacher of every religion since he has sifted out the chaff from the
> grain in all religions. So theoretically, the grain from all religions
> could be combined to produce a super religion, which would be better
> than all existing religions!
This is the same opinion that you had regarding Ramakrishna's teachings.
I think you're keen on maintaining an exclusivity insofar as the VedAnta
philosophy goes, restricting it to the study of the upanishhads and
related works. If someone else has constructed the necessary framework of
the philosophy of VedAnta in Hebrew quite independently from the Vedas,
"it just cannot be because it cannot be."
bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam
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