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Posts Tagged ‘Theology Articles’

Fully Human and Fully Divine- conclusions

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

 

Prophetic monotheism and the Dvaita (dualistic) system of Hinduism place emphasis on our separateness as human beings. Qualified non-dual monotheism puts the emphasis on the close interconnection between God and human beings. Non-dual monotheism emphasizes our essential oneness with God.

 

The first two have to do mainly with our humanity and the third one has to do mainly with our divinity. Christianity holds that Jesus was/is fully human and fully divine. Jesus integrated these three levels of consciousness within himself. He was human in every sense, a true son of God and one with the Father.

 

He opened this possibility to every truth-seeker. Each of us, whether we are conscious of it or not,  is fully human and fully divine. Divinity, we could say, is our source and essential nature and our human form is its manifestation or its vehicle. Divinity and humanity are intimately united in us all.

 

To realize our essential unity with God and live with wisdom and compassion in functional dualistic relationships in this world of time and space is, perhaps, the greatest miracle of life.

 

May all beings in the world be happy.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

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Growing into the Love of God and Love of Neighbour

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

 

In IDM, the focus is on growing into the love of God and love of neighbour. “The Father and I are one” and “whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me” are the two pillars of this monotheism. One has to begin with the dualistic love of God and love of neighbour, and grow into the qualified non-dual love of God and love of neighbour and finally arrive at the non-dual love of God and love of neighbour.

 

In a dualistic love of God, a person says: ‘God is my creator, I am a creature and my neibhbour is another creature of God.’ In a qualified non-dual love, a person says: ‘God is my Father, I am a manifestation of God and my neighbour is also another manifestation of God.’ In a non-dual love of God, it is seen: ‘Only God is. My Real self is God (aham brahma asmi) and the Real self of my neigbour is also God (tatvamasi).’ — It is God loving God.

 

In the first level, our knowledge (jnana) of God is dualistic, our relationship (bhakthi) with God and neighbour is dualistic and our actions (karma) towards our neighbours are dualistic.

 

In the second level, our knowledge of God is of a qualified non-dualistic kind and our relationship with God and neighbour is qualified non-dualistic and actions towards our neighbours are qualified non-dualistic.

 

In the third level, our knowledge of God is non-dual and our relationship with God is non-dual and our actions towards our neighbours are non-dual.

 

Grounded in IDM, our life-experience arises not only from deep wisdom or jnana, but from loving devotion or bhakthi and selfless service or karma.

The purpose of our human existence is to awaken and grow in consciousness, thus to manifest holy love, energy and grace in all our relationships

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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The Integral Dynamic Monotheism of Jesus

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

 

I would like to suggest now a different kind of monotheism that I believe Jesus modelled or exemplified and which can bring full freedom to each of us if we embrace it. I’m calling it Integral Dynamic Monotheism (IDM) and describe it as follows.

 

In this monotheism, God alone is. God alone is eternal (sathyam and nithyam). God cannot be put into any human categories. He/She/It is absolutely independent, creative, timeless, peace and love. God is personal, impersonal, and, at the same time, beyond these and all other opposites.

 

God isn’t an object or form but rather formless, like an infinite space. Our concepts of God are like houses that we build within the space. The infinite space allows the building of houses according to the needs and capacities of human minds, but the space always transcends them.

 

Our finite human mind can never build an adequate house to fill or accommodate the infinite space. God is the unconditioned space and systems (especially belief systems) are like conditioned space, within walls, as it were. Systems can never satisfy our deepest needs.

 

Creation (names and forms) is nothing less than a manifestation of God, and as such, is not illusory. It is, however, unreal in the sense that it isn’t eternal and infinite. Creation, like all the forms that constitute it, had/have a beginning and an inevitable end. All forms are temporal.

 

The universe is essentially one with God, but functionally different, like water and ice, energy and matter etc. Water and ice, as we have seen, are essentially one, but functionally different. Likewise, energy and matter are essentially one, but functionally different. We too, it could be said, are essentially one with God, but functionally different:

 

Names and forms are like mirrors in which ‘God’ reflects. When the reflection identifies with the names and the forms, it feels that it is finite and no more. However, when it looks to its source, it realizes it’s oneness with God.

 

We each have the opportunity in this life to evolve or move beyond our present spiritual capacity and experience more deeply our essential nature. The mystery we call ‘God’ undoubtedly has many different aspects for us to explore and experience if we will but drop our narrow concepts and go forward with an open heart and mind.

 

IDM is Integral: This monotheism I’m drawing attention to here integrates all the systems mentioned above and also other possible systems, but always transcends every system. God or Truth cannot be put into any system. It’s essentially non-dualistic but functionally qualified non-dualistic and dualistic.

 

This monotheism doesn’t exclude any mode of spirituality, but embraces all spiritual paths that help us to grow in our relationship with God, the Source of all, and with one another. The spiritual paths of wisdom (jnana), devotion (bhakthi) and action (karma) aren’t seen as exclusive, but mutually complementary.

 

IDM is Dynamic: The relationship between us and God isn’t static but dynamic. It’s a process of ascending and descending (or vice versa). It is like climbing a hill and coming down again (or vice versa).

 

We could, for instance, grow in our relationship with God, from a dualistic consciousness to a qualified non-dualistic consciousness and from there to a non-dual consciousness. Then we could move in consciousness from a non-dual awareness to a qualified non-dual awareness and from there to dualistic awareness again, and thereafter, fluctuate from one consciousness to another as our life-experience unfolded.

 

One can live from these three types of consciousness at the same time without any contradiction. It’s an essential unity of functional duality and non-duality. A useful metaphor could be a tree. The tree is essentially one, but functionally it has different parts such as leaves, branches, trunk and roots.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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The man of the full granaries

The heart of the man is a mystery, and one of the characteristics of this human heart is the radical dissatisfaction it suffers from. It is never totally satisfied; this is why it has been considered a restless heart. It is Saint Agustin’s definition: Our hearts are restless until they rest in You. And from that restlessness, we have tried to understand Jesus constant invitation to “be born again.”

Christians, more than any other man, are never satisfied with their achievements. It is not necessary to go back to the mother’s womb in order to be born again, as Nicodemo used to think. Neither is the effort for novelties, of the new for the new, necessary. Christianity is urged by the responsibility of the future.     

The new man is that who, having reached certain height, discerns who is awaiting him; and when he is over him, he glimpses a new peak. There are always new peaks awaiting and calling us. But the man who stays still in his achievements becomes fossilized. We are referring to Christians who always walk towards the best. It is not about the effort for novelties, but about a constant search. A real man is that who is never pleased with what he has and makes progresses from his current achievements to the new ones.

There is a meaningful example in the Gospel; Jesus Christ clearly explains: “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest? And he said, ‘this is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, and be merry! But Jesus said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom they will belong.” (Lk. 12. 16-20.) That man stayed still, thinking it was enough. Christ reacts before that attitude: – You are dead, this night you will be judged. He is referring to the Christians who, installed in their Christianity, think they know everything. The world is full of old Christians who hinder, as Saint Paul said: “For them, the name of God is blasphemed,” they hinder.   

The same was said by the Pope Benedict XVI not long ago in the opening mass of the Synod on the Eucharist: those who convert God in an empty devotion are actually expelling him of their lives, as well as those who deny him. An atheist with worries is much better than a Christian with no worries. A new man is much better than an old Christian.

The man is the core where God lives, and God is the God of the alive, not of the dead. So, we do not follow novelties, we follow this endless and interminable illusion as trying to hunt a butterfly that always escapes… And it will always be like this. This is our destiny and our glory: to walk.  

We know that the texts of the Gospel are always surprisingly new, and will still be new in ten millions years time. And we are surprised due to the fact that, this old man we are, functions thanks to paradigms, and inherited outlines. A paradigm is a system of thought that filters the information you receive, some information is kept and other is overlooked. 

For instance, if somebody tells you: -God died today at seven forty-five in the morning… you reject the news. Why? Because you know that God is immortal… Every day and every moment, we filter the information we are interested in from that we do not care about. Right now, you rejected many of the things we are saying, probably because you do not care. When referring to the religious paradigm, the problem becomes quite serious because, if you teach a child that God punishes those who do not behave, it will remain in the child’s paradigm and he will automatically think: -God is waiting for me at the corner to punish me.  

Let’s make it positive. To the child that has been disturbing for one hour, we should say: -God is pleased when you are a good boy, and the boy interprets that “good” means “being quiet.” This is the meaning of “good” we instill into the child: do not disturb! Let’s apply it to religion: -God is pleased when you go to mass, God is pleased when you receive Holy Communion, etcetera. Here we have one paradigm: being a good Christian means going to mass, and the world is full of Christians who think that, once they have gone to mass and received the Holy Communion, they are able to devastate the Amazons or anything that were before them, they do not care.

This is the old and aged Christian who ignores Jesus Christ talking about the new man. This is due to his desire of having the same (as the man of the granary), of keeping things unchanged to have everything under control. Christians are always new and happy, despite being 80 years old. Christian faith is not a list of things to believe or commandments to put into practice; it is a free and loving response to God’s will. Friendship with God never distorts the man; we are distorted by our desires of keeping in the past. God never distorts the man.

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Integral Dynamic Monotheism

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

We have here considered different types of monotheism:

Firstly, the simple monotheism of the Upanishads, which affirms one Reality (God, Brahman, Atman etc.) without a second, and which teaches we are ultimately one with that Reality (tatvamasi).

Out of this came the non-dual monotheism of Shankara which affirms that there’s only one God and that the world in all its forms is illusory or unreal.

A further development of this system was the qualified non-dual monotheism of Ramanuaja, which affirms that there’s only one God and that the universe is his ‘body’.

These systems were contrasted with prophetic monotheism, which affirms that there’s only one God and that his creation is essentially different and separate from him.

Prophetic monotheism was seen to have some parallels with the dualistic monotheism of Madhva, which affirms that there’s only one God, and that the material universe is also eternal and essentially different from God.

The experience of Jesus, recorded in the gospels, doesn’t fit exclusively into any of these monotheisms.  His experience is the marriage of Prophetic and Hindu monotheisms. So I’d like to describe him (but not to define him) as an Integral Dynamic Monotheist.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Was Jesus a Dualist, a Qualified Non-Dualist or a Non-Dualist?

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

We’re here dealing with this question retrospectively. These systems weren’t formerly established during the time of Jesus. But they do give us some tools to understand the experience of Jesus.

Jesus reportedly made three important statements: “my Father is greater than me,” “I am in the Father and the Father is in me’, and, “the Father and I are one.”

The first statement is in accordance with the dualistic system. God is the creator and Jesus is the creature. God is greater than him.

The second statement is in accordance with the qualified non-dualistic system. Here, the relationship is much more intimate. It’s not the relationship of creator and creature — it’s the relationship of Father and Son. He is in God and God is in him. It is an experience of mutual indwelling. Still there’s some distance between him and the Father. He is not the Father.

The third statement is in accord with the non-dual system. Jesus and the Father are one. There’s no distance. There’s no separation.

If we take these positions all together, then it appears Jesus is contradicting himself. If God is greater than him, then he cannot say, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” If there’s a distance between God and Jesus, then he cannot say that he and God are one.

I suggest that Jesus began his spiritual journey with the consciousness of being a creature and experienced God as being greater than him according to his religious tradition. Then, as he was baptised by John, he went beyond that relationship and realized that he was not so much a creature but a son of God — a manifestation of God!

Later, Jesus went beyond even this realisation and became conscious, or saw, that he was inseparably one with the Father — with God. The gospels indicate though that he didn’t remain pre-occupied with non-dual consciousness, but fluctuated between it and qualified non-dual consciousness and dualistic consciousness as long as he lived in his physical body and in the world of time and space.

We can say, therefore, that Jesus was essentially a non-dualist, but functionally a qualified non-dualist and a dualist. We cannot say, however, that he lived by any one of these systems to the exclusion of the other two. 


Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Focusing on the heart of Christians

When I was young, I walked at the bank of a river in the mountain. I liked picking up small stones and throwing them to the river. Sometimes, I tried to smash them, but it was difficult. I wanted to know how much water was inside those stones, which were in the river. One morning, I was able to smash one of them with my father’s hammer. I was amazed because there was no water in its interior; it was completely dry.

The stone had been in the water for a long time; but water had not penetrated it. This happens to people who are familiarized with the Gospel. There are cultures and countries that have been swamped with Christianity, totally immersed in its blessings, but they are still dry. It is not Christianity’s fault, but the roughness of their hearts’.

This is the main obstacle you may come across with when reading the Gospel: having the heart mummified, stiff as flint, surrounded by the love of God and his Word, but impenetrable.

Gumersindo Meiriño

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Was Jesus a Prophetic Monotheist or a Hindu Monotheist?

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

 

We can see that Jesus reportedly made statements which don’t fit within the popular versions of prophetic monotheism. He referred to God as his Father. He referred to himself as the Son of God.

 

He said that he was in the Father and the Father in him. He said he came from the Father and would return to the Father. He also claimed that the Father (God) and he were one. His stated experience of God doesn’t fit within the present belief systems of prophetic monotheism.

 

For Jesus, God wasn’t his creator and he wasn’t a creature. His origin, he reportedly said, was in eternity … eternal!

 

Judaism and Islam reject his claims and consider them blasphemous. They think that his statements are metaphorical and not metaphysical. Institutional Christianity accepts his claims, but limits them to Jesus alone and holds that they’re in no way applicable to others … like us.

 

The claims of Jesus seem very close to the non-dualistic and qualified non-dualistic systems of Hinduism. In fact, his statements make perfect sense to adherents of these two systems. In this regard, Jesus was more a Hindu monotheist than a prophetic monotheist!

 

In non-dualism and qualified non-dualism, these claims aren’t limited to any one particular individual but are a possibility for every human being … and, of course, for you and me.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Some Observations

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

It’s this writer’s contention that prophetic monotheism reduces us to mere creatures of God, and thus, closes the door to our realizing ourselves as sons or daughters of God and as being essentially one with God. The theory of creation out of nothing isn’t a very liberating theory as it seems to disallow the spiritual evolution of human consciousness.

Shankara opened to us the possibility of realizing ourselves as being one with God. He focused on our divinity, but this was done at the cost of discounting our humanity. Human existence and relationships seem to have had little or no significance in the light of his teachings.

Ramanuja tried to correct this extreme position and give some meaning and purpose to creation and human relationships. He accorded us the dignity of being divine manifestations and of having divine kinship, but it was done at the cost of denying our oneness with God … the All.

Madhva tried to bring God to the level of human beings with all their characteristics and limitations, but it was done at the cost of denying our essential divinity and thus our innate kinship with God.

The position of Shankara on the nature of the world is very ambiguous. If he really meant that the manifest universe is an illusion, then it could be said that we live a purposeless existence. If he meant that the material world, in the sense of names and forms, is not eternal then there is some meaning to the world and human existence. The names and forms aren’t eternal, but what is within the names and forms is eternal. In that sense the world is also divine in its essence just as human beings are essentially one with the divine in their essence.

Shankara gave some meaning and purpose to the world at the functional level which he called vyavaharika. Only in the ultimate level, paramarthika, is the world seen to be illusory. This position doesn’t give any positive role to the universe and human beings in the world of time and space. The entire focus seems to be on realizing our divinity and then everything comes to an end.

Ramanuja holds that Brahman is the material cause of the universe and human souls. In that sense they’re essentially one with Brahman though functionally they may be different like water and ice. If this is so, what then would prevent us from being merged with Brahman, just as melting ice is finally merged with the water in which it floats? It seems that there’s some contradiction in his proposition.

Madhva holds that creation is completely different from God. He also holds that the manifest world has no beginning as if it also is eternal. How can there be two eternal realities? Does this imply that there are two ‘Gods’?

These three Hindu monotheistic systems seem to have something to integrate just as the prophetic monotheistic religions need to open themselves to the higher divine-human relationship. There have been many great Hindu mystics, like Sri Ramakrishna, his disciple, Swami Vivekananda, and Swami Shivananda, who’ve tried to integrate these three systems. So also there’ve been many mystics in the prophetic religions who opened human consciousness to the higher level of divine-human relationship even though they had to face many difficulties.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

Continued next week

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Dvaita — Duality

 By Br. John Martin Sahajananda

The third position in the Hindu system we’re considering is called Dvaita, a system of duality, proposed by one, Madhva, in 12th century after Jesus. He disagreed with both Shankara and Ramanuja regarding the nature of God, creation and human souls and proposed dualism. Madhva would agree with Sankara and Ramanuja that God alone is eternal (sathyam).

But, according to his teaching, God is Brahman and Brahman is Vishnu and his other incarnations. The universe is essentially different form God. The material world is not an illusion (Shankara). It isn’t the manifestation of God (Ramanuja). It isn’t created by God. The universe, he taught, was there from the beginning, as if it is eternal, though essentially different from God.

Human beings, Madhva taught, are essentially different from God. There’s a gulf between God, the world and humankind. The immeasurable power of Lord Vishnu is seen as the efficient cause of the universe and the primordial matter or prakrti is the material cause of the universe. God is personal and has many qualities, saguna. The human soul is essentially different from God. This position keeps human beings somewhat distant from God and strengthens the relationship between them.

Madhva proposed the path of devotion, bhakthi marga, and good works, karma marga. One needs to surrender to God through devotion and do good works. It’s the Lord who performs actions — energizing the soul from within — awarding the results to the soul, but he, the Lord, isn’t touched by it.

According to Madhva, we are more or less creatures of God (though he may not like to use the word ‘creatures’, in the sense of being created out of nothing). We are essentially different from him and remain so after this life. We are urged to come closer to God through devotion, but we can never merge with him. Liberation (bliss) is awarded to us according to our actions at the end of our spiritual practice, which would be after our death.

These three systems believe that there’s only one God, one eternal Reality. In that sense they are monotheistic religions. But they don’t believe that this one Reality is a creator. This is the main difference between prophetic monotheism and Hindu monotheism. Many think that Hinduism is polytheistic. In practice it looks like that, but Hinduism teaches that there’s only one God and different gods are either various manifestations of that one God or like angels in the prophetic monotheistic systems.

It’s very interesting to note how the Vedic tradition reached its climax in the Upanishads, in the 5th century before Jesus, when it was realized that human consciousness is identical with the divine, and in the 12th century after Jesus, it came down to the dualistic understanding in Madhva, where an essential difference between God and humankind is affirmed.

We can now see that there are three important concepts of a human being: essentially one with God, as per the Advaita of Shankara; manifestation of God as per the Visista Advaita of Ramanuja; and essentially different from God, as per Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Dvaita system of Hinduism. What’s common to them all is the conviction that there’s only one God. In that sense they’re all monotheistic. The difference is in the way we relate with or to that one God.

Br. John Martin Sahajananda

 

Continued next week

 

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