Relationship of Advaita Vedanta to other religions

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Jul 15 22:49:39 CDT 2002

Let me begin by saying it is the Advaitic teaching that all things are
pervaded by Brahman.  Of that there is no doubt.  However the capacity of
various things to realize this is different.  A rock for example will
never get mukti because it lacks chetana.  People have the capacity to
transcend avidya but many choose not to or fail in the attempt.  This is
the crux of the matter for us, not _whether_ Christians can also achieve
moksha but _how_ they are to do so.  It is like the case of the
non-dvijas.  Shankaracharya upholds the traditional view that they are not
entitled to Vedic study but that is not the end of the matter.  Because
e.g. women have the same capacity to know Brahman if it isn't through the
Vedas, there must be some other way.  So is Christianity also "another
way"?  This is why I asked Rev. Mathew about Christian sadhana.  To assess
the efficacy of Christianity as a means to moksha, first we must find out
what exactly the Christians are trying to achieve.

[this is a combined answer to several posts on this thread.]

Malolan R Cadambi wrote:

> Hence, I do not feel that Shankara did know a lot about Jews and the
> Syrian Christians.

Perhaps.  But like I said it is at least conceivable.  Kerala was one of
the most cosmopolitan places in those times.  Last Tuesdays' New York
Times had an article about how archaeologists had discovered an ancient
city in Egypt which was the center of trade with the East during Roman
times.  Sanskrit documents and other traces of Indian influence were found
there. There is a map illustrating trade routes that shows two places,
Barygaza (Sankrit Brghukaccha or modern Bharuch in Gujarat) and Muziris
which corresponds to some place in Kerala (does anyone know what it is?)

See for an account by
a 1st century AD traveller to Arabia and India.

The point is if Shankaracharyas' main goal had been the unity of
religions, one would have expected him to seek them out and Kerala would
have been the ideal place to do it.  But unity in that sense is not the
goal of Advaita Vedanta.  It is freedom from delusion and the cycle of
death and rebirth.  I agree that greater understanding of Vedantic
principle will lead to more tolerance but this is a fortunate side-effect
not the main goal.

S Jayanarayanan wrote:

> Later, he said that Christ-consciousness was the same as Self-realization,
> and that it required a mature mind to grasp the real meaning of Christianity.

Again perhaps that is true.  But for ourselves, isn't it a little
presumptious for us to say we know the real meaning of Christianity
without finding out what the Christians themselves have to say about it?

Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:

> One of the ideas of Eastern Christianity is theosis i.e.
> to be like God ( literally, to live as Christ did because
> Christ was the full expression of God ).

I agree that Eastern Christianity is more mystically-oriented than
the Catholic or Protestant kinds.  Jersey City where I live has a large
Coptic (Egyptian Orthodox) population and I discussed this with a friend
of mine from that community once.  He was quite emphatic that the goal was
to be like Christ, not to be Christ which would be a heresy.  So it is not
advaitic at all.  Even in India, non-dualists do not have a monopoly on

Because the books of the New Testament were written in Greek not Jesus's
own language of Aramaic (plus at the time of their composition the Church
was trying to distance itself from the politically suspect Jews) the
Jewish character of Jesus's teachings have been obscured but scholars have
made much about it recently.  The Jewish dream was they would one day
become independent again and the messiah in their conception is not just a
spiritual leader but a military one.  "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews"
it said on His cross and historians surmise it was as a rebel against
their rule that the Romans executed Him.  So statements like "The kingdom
of God is within you" may have meant something more like "Israel will
become free in your lifetime."

After Jesus's death and resurrection various disciples began preaching in
His name and they were many 'books' of their teachings only some of which
were accepted into the canonical Bible.  There was also a wide variety of
ideas and traditions in the early church.  For example, many continued
following Jewish law and considered themselves merely Jews whose messiah
had come.  Others who eventually prevailed believed Jesus had established
a new covenant and it was not necessary to follow Jewish practices
anymore.  The Gnostics were quite an influential sect with more mystical
beliefs than the mainstream Church (which eventually declared them to be
heretics.)  Gnosis (synonymous with Jnana) may have had an Indian
influence but from what I've read it seems to me they were radical
dualists, more like Samkhya than Advaita Vedanta.

from our point of view it is possible to regard Jesus as an enlightened
master but first we should be sure what He actually taught.  We could say
it is the "Jesus of literature" we are interested in.  After all the
historical evidence for Shankaracharya is even flimsier but it doen't
impact our belief because it is the "Shankara of the bhashyas" we follow.
The problem is from the Christian side.  All Christians (even the
gnostics) have insisted it is the historical fact of His incarnation and
ressurection which make Jesus special.

And I don't have to explain the problems in Christians saying salvation is
_only_ through Jesus Christ.

If Rev. Mathew and others in his church have thought about this there may
be some way of reconciling Christianity with Advaita Vedanta but ignoring
them will only result in superficial attempts I'm afraid.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list