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Posts Tagged ‘ashram saccidananda’

Visista Advaita, Qualified Non-Dualism

The second Hindu system we’re considering is called Visista Advaita, a system of qualified non-dualism, proposed by one, Ramanuja, in the 11th century after Jesus. He disagreed with Shankara’s position regarding the nature of God, the universe and humankind. For Ramanuja, as with Shankara, God (Brahman) alone is eternal (sathyam). But according to him, God is not nirguna, without qualities, but saguna, with qualities.

Ramanuja taught that God is personal. The universe and our world (jagat) is the manifestation of Brahman (not a mere appearance, mithya, as with Shankara). The universe isn’t created by God, but rather is seen as an emanation from God. God is the instrumental and the material cause of creation. We are part of God but not identical with God. There’s a subtle essential difference between God and us.

Ramanuja saw the universe and humankind as the ‘body’ of God. The relationship between God and the universe, he taught, is like soul and body, or the body and the hair that grows on and from the body. God and the universe are inseparable. The material world isn’t an illusion, mithya or maya. Maya, he teaches, is the creative power of God through which he manifests the world and everything in it.

If we go back to the analogy of water and ice, Brahman, according to this system, is water; ice is the universe. The universe isn’t an illusion. It’s the manifestation of Brahman. It’s the body of Brahman. But there’s a subtle difference between God and the universe, which includes humankind — it isn’t identical with Brahman.

Ramanuja also proposed the way of devotion, bhakthi marga. One has to surrender to God, he taught, through devotion or faith — to God’s will — and one finds peace and joy in this surrender. There’s no human soul identifying with God. No one can say, ‘God and I are one.’

For him, a personal relationship with God is very important. If a human soul was one with God, then no personal relationship is possible — it takes two to tango! He taught that we can have a personal relationship with God in one or more modes such as: father and child, lover and beloved, protector and protected, physician and patient, owner and the owned, sustainer and sustained, supporter and dependent, sun and lotus etc.

Ultimate liberation, Ramanuja taught, happens only after the death of the physical body. In general he is considered to be a pantheist. But this may not be correct since he holds that there’s a subtle essential difference between God and the universe in general or humankind in particular. From the Sun come many rays, but one cannot say that every ray is a Sun. There is only one Sun and the universe is its manifestation.

John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Hindu Monotheism

The expression Hindu monotheism may surprise some. In general Hinduism is described as monism, non-dualism, pantheism and polytheism! But one has to be aware that according to Hinduism, there’s only one God or absolute Reality (monotheism) but this God isn’t the creator but he/she/it manifests everything that is known. Hinduism doesn’t propose the theory of creation out of nothing. This is the basic difference between prophetic monotheism and Hindu monotheism.

There are three important theological positions in Hinduism. These positions are based on the interpretations given to the teachings of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Brahma Sutras — the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. The Upanishads belong to the period of 5th century before Jesus and the Bhagavad-Gita belongs around the 1st century before or after Jesus.

These scriptures didn’t propose any theological system, but the systems came later. The fundamental question of these systems is the relationship between God and the universe, or, God and humankind. In prophetic monotheism, this question seems to have been resolved with the theory of creation out of nothing. Since Hindu monotheism doesn’t accept this solution, it needs to propose different solutions.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Prophetic Monotheism (and II)

According to traditional Islam, God is the creator and human beings are creatures of God. There’s an essential difference between God and his creation. God revealed his will through the prophets in the Old Testament and through Jesus, but he revealed his final will in the Koran (or, Qur’an) through the prophet, Muhammad. Hence the Koran is the final word of God and the prophet, Muhammad, is the last prophet.

According to Islam, God didn’t reveal himself but rather revealed the Koran in which he tells human beings what they should do and what they should not do. The Koran is considered as the eternal word of God dictated to the prophet, Muhammad. Submission to the will of God — revealed in the Koran — is necessary for salvation. To obey the Koran is to obey God. If one lives a moral life according to the Koran, one will go to heaven and if one does not live a moral life, then one will go to hell after one’s death.

According to these three religions, God is the creator and human beings are creatures of God. A significant difference between Judaism, Islam and Christianity lies in their attitude to Jesus and the Trinity. Jews and Muslims don’t believe that God is triune. They think the notion of trinity violates the unity of God. They don’t believe that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.

Jews and Muslims don’t believe that Jesus is the only son of God and that he is the only way, the truth and the life. They believe that Jesus was a human being like any other human being. They think of him as a messenger of God or reformer of Judaism. If he called himself ‘the son of God’, they maintain, it was only in a metaphorical sense and that everyone is essentially a son or daughter of God.

These three religions are called monotheistic religions because their adherents believe that there’s only one God and this one God is the creator of the universe. Their general teaching is that God created this universe out of nothing, and, that there’s an essential difference between God and his creation … which includes us.

In Christianity, an exception to this belief is made for Jesus. Jesus, it is believed, isn’t a creature of God but an incarnation of God. There’s an essential difference between Jesus and other human beings.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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