Although SRF's attempts to promote unity between Hinduism
and Christianity appear commendable, such a goal can only be
realized by subtly glossing over significant, irreconcilable
differences between the two. The end result finds Hinduism
unscathed by the transaction, while Christianity becomes stripped
of its essential and distinguishing characteristics. The
characters and terminology of Christianity are retained, but
their historic meaning and significance are traded for the
esoteric pantheism of Hindu theology.
>>>>But "Christianity" is not that. Christianity is the continuing experience
of Christians in relation to one
another, to Christ, and to God. It is a thing that continues to evolve and is manifested in virtually endless
expressions. Lutherans historically have a different background, say, than Baptists, but both are groups
of Christians. Their background combined with their personalities, likes and dislikes, etc., mean they
express themselves and their beliefs differently. And this is not to mention the way it is with Christians all
around the world. Those in the Southern United States are a lot different than those in South Korea, for
>>>>Paramahansa Yogananda's background and upbringing are bound to have
an impact on his
understanding of Christ and Christianity. But essentially he was not interested in Christianity, per se, but
in the things that he perceived were held in common between Christ and the masters of India. It was
there he saw a connection between East and West, and a way of bringing the deeper spirituality and
heritage of the East to the West.
Let's examine some of the reasons why Christianity, in its
original form, can not be harmonized with Hinduism, or any other
The God of the Bible is distinctly an infinite, personal
Being, whose essence is Spirit. (2 Chronicles 6:18. Jeremiah
10:10. Exodus 3:14,15. John 4:24.)
He created the world out of nothing, not out of Himself. (Genesis 1:1.
The Hebrew word for "create" is "bara", which indicates something
coming out of nothing).
>>>>There's no place within creation or the universe where God is not.
It is however distinct from Him
in the sense stated above, the Father being "beyond creation." Yogananda would say that what is in
Creation is not objectively real anyway, but a dream of God, like the projection of a film on a screen. In
this he has the support of science, which is discovering that our "common sense" beliefs about Reality and
its solidity, this thing as a "thing", are illusions.
>>>>A good teaching on this would be Ken Wilber's "The Spectrum of Consciousness," who further goes
on to show that our whole sense of time and space are the primary and secondary dualisms, which when
we insist upon these we deny ourselves the consciousness of the One.
God created man as
an entity distinct from Himself, to exist into eternity as a
finite reflection of His own image; spiritual, personal, and
moral. (Genesis 1:26,27, Psalms 94:9, Numbers 23:19, 1
Corinthians 2:11, 1 Peter 1:16.).
>>>>The very limiting language of CRI's formulation here: "entity distinct"
and "finite reflection" doesn't
claim much for man, and certainly leaves out a lot of very rich and wonderful teachings of the Bible. How
can we leave out such marvelous teachings as 1 Cor. 2:16, "We have the mind of Christ"?, or Rom. 8:16,
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"?, or Eph. 3:19, "And to
know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (?)
There sounds like very little in all this that would be a limitation on humanity, on our potential or on what
we might attain in our relation with God.
>>>>There was one other Scripture cited above, 1 Peter 1:16, "Be ye
holy; for I am holy." This probably
has to do with man's "finite reflection" of God's image as a "moral" being. Indeed, Peter is speaking of
behavior or character. But there's nothing of a finite nature in all his discussion, since they are to see
themselves with an "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in
His purpose for creating man
was so that He and man might experience a personal, intimate
fellowship for all eternity (John 17:3, 1 Cor. 1:9, 1 John 1:3).
The Christian goal of union with God is not to lose one's
identity through absorption into the Divine Self. Man does not
need to be freed from his own personal, finite identity; it is a
gift from God, created in His image. For the Christian, to be
united with God is to enter into a unity of will and devotion
with that distinct Person who is the Absolute. Earthly marriage
speaks to us of this union in that two persons become intimately
united without losing their individual indentities. Self
realization then is realizing one's own dignified identity as a
being created in God's own image, and going on from there by
faith in Christ to become a child of God (Jn. 1:12), in order to
find our ultimate fulfillment; eternal fellowship with God. It is
not realizing that our true Self is God, for such thinking is the
very thing that has always led man away from the true God
(Genesis 3:4,5, Isaiah 47:8-10, Ezekiel 28:2).
>>>>Paramahansa Yogananda was specific in saying that man is not God,
but at some level God
becomes us. That's not much different than what Paul says.
This brings us to the question of how one reaches this union with God.
SRF's approach will only lead one into contact with fallen spirits posing
as God, or departed masters: it can never lead one into contact with the true God.
This failure is due to an ignorance of the true nature and cause of man's separation from God. Man is not separated from God because he is ignorant of his true union, as SRF affirms. Man is separated from God because he is guilty of breaking the moral laws which God established in the universe for the good of His creation. This disobedience originated with Adam, and has spread throughout the entire human race (Romans 5:12). According to the Bible, even the most moral, disciplined man is still a sinner (Romans 3:23), and thus incapable of reaching God through his own efforts, for God will not overlook his sin, or its just penalty.
>>>>As to man's
"own efforts" of reaching God, Paramahansa Yogananda said somewhere
that it's 25% man's effort, 25% guru's effort, 50% God's grace. It's doubtful that he meant
these percentages as being hard-and-fast, or absolutely true. The Bible, taken as a whole, and
not just a verse here and there, teaches that man has some role in establishing a good relation
between himself and God. The book of Romans, the first few chapters, mean to show that the
whole of humanity needs this, those under the law and those apart from law. In the world
thusly described, God reveals two expressions of Himself: righteousness (1:17) and wrath
(1:18). Paul sees that righteousness imputed to peole "if we believe on him that raised up Jesus
our Lord from the dead" (4:24). "Believing" then is man's role, or "faith" (3:28). We are to
"reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin" (6:11), and to be "spiritually minded" (8:6).
And then there is Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). In verse 18 he determines, "I will
arise and go to my father," very much a purposeful effort. The father meets him "when he
was yet a great way off (verse 20), and brings him back in glad procession to his home!
With man incapable of bridging the gap, it was up to God to do
something about it, which He did by sending His Son, in the form
of a man, sinless, to pay man's penalty through his sacrificial
death. For those who recognize that through their own efforts
they can not please God, and are willing to accept that through
Christ's finished work in the cross all that was necessary for
their salvation was done, God, in response to their faith, will
reinstate them into union with Himself.
>>>>The New Testament took the scandal of Jesus' death on the Cross
and reinterpreted it as a work of God, validated then
in His Resurrection. That interpretory work, as subsequent history has shown, has not been a static thing but evolves and
changes with the determinations of believers, however conceived and arrived at.
>>>>For someone to insist on their theory or their interpretation as
the final and definitive one for everyone shows both a
disregard for the history and content of Christian theology and a lot of nerve!
>>>>It seems likely that the truth is somewhere in the cosmic realities
unseen to the naked eye and to man's logic: that the
Bible is describing something profound in the nature of things, that God doesn't give up on us but ultimately provides for our
reunion. This gets us away from the "facts," such as Christ died on a given Friday in a given year, to the "reality" (Gal. 2:22)
that with Him, in God's continuing presence with us, "I am crucified" and that "I" am buried with him (Col. 2:12), and "I" am
risen with him (Ibid.).
This true form of enlightenment brings one into awareness of a living, loving, personal God who transcends the universe, not an impersonal cosmic consciousness who is the universe.
Such experience as cosmic consciousness is counterfeit and dangerous, because of the demonic element, and even more, because of the eternal loss such deception can lead one to.
is right now (John 3:16,18). There is plenty of deception that is keeping
people from their full place
as "children of God" (John 1:12). And much of it comes from groups within fundamentalist Christianity, who
would limit and deny access to God by very narrow interpretations. This would be more tolerable and
understandable if there was some flexibility and some gracious bending, but too often these interpretations are
hardened to the point that nothing else is allowed. Of course this is exclusivist to the point that if Jesus Christ
Himself showed up on a Sunday morning, He might not make it through the door!
Jesus Himself made it all too clear. "JESUS SAID TO HIM; "I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME." (John 14:6). "JESUS THEREFORE SAID TO THEM AGAIN, "TRULY, TRULY, I SAY TO YOU, I AM THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP. ALL
WHO CAME BEFORE ME ARE THIEVES AND ROBBERS; BUT THE SHEEP DID NOT HEAR THEM. I AM THE DOOR; IF ANYONE ENTERS THROUGH ME, HE SHALL BE SAVED, AND SHALL GO IN AND OUT, AND FIND PASTURE. THE THIEF COMES ONLY TO STEAL, AND KILL, AND
DESTROY; I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP." (Jn. 10:7-11) If they want to consider Jesus a prophet, then to be consistent with the definition of the term "prophet", they must acknowledge that the words He spoke were the true words of God.
>>>>Add to all
this that Jesus throughout the Gospel of John often speaks with a double
meaning, and even
seems to talk past people who do not understand; because they are listening with only a literal ear they miss his
deeper teaching. Examples include these: Nicodemus (chapter 3), who thinking being "born again" means entering
his mother and coming out a second time; the Samaritan Woman (chapter 4), who thinks the "living water" Christ
offers will keep her from coming to the well to draw; the Body and Blood (chapter 6), which offends many
disciples who turn away from Him because "this is an hard teaching" (but Jesus said, "the words that I speak unto
you, they are spirit, and they are life" John 6:63). When He says He is the Bread, He is the Vine, He is the Door,
etc., it is not that He actually is these literal things, but they have a deeper, spiritual meaning.
meaning of the verses from John above, then, no doubt have more to them
than a surface
reading would entail. Paramahansa Yogananda honors Jesus Christ as a fully realized spiritual man who is trying
to lead others to the Father. This has to do with the center of Christ consciousness in each one that connects to a
realization of God and all the rest of the experiences that Jesus knows. So, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the
Life," in that case means something like this: I (the Christ Consciousness fully realized) am the Way, the Truth, and
the Life... No one comes to the Father (makes that realized connection, experiences that fullness) but by me (in
the disciples' case, through their Teacher's teaching.) The other verses cited seem to be based in the conflict
between other teachers of Israel (parties) and the way of Christ (with the Christians). But here as well, the same
kind of argument or interpretation could be made for a deeper, more spiritual meaning having to do with
channeling one's spiritual energies in the right direction. Yogananda speaks often of "technique," doing things in a
particular way that "works," so he and Jesus seem to have this in common.
commentary of recent years, "The New Interpreters Bible," discounts the
the words of Jesus (John 14:6) are meant in an exclusive way.
These are only two of many passages in the New Testament that demonstrate the exclusiveness of Christianity. We must recognize that Christianity springs directly from Judaism, and in the Hebrew Scriptures one truth is continually hammered home: "FOR ALL THE GODS OF THE PEOPLES ARE IDOLS, BUT YAWEH MADE
THE HEAVENS." Psalms 96:5). The personal God who, for the ultimate benefit of the entire human race, revealed Himself in a unique way to the nation Israel, is sharply distinguished from the gods of the other nations, including the gods that were and still are worshipped in India.
the "gods of the other nations," the Bible writers were writing within
a heritage of monotheism.
That understanding, however, was something that evolved. There are numerous passages in the Old Testament
that show the people involved in idol worship and in serving "foreign gods." It was the prophets, men actually a
lot like the holy men of India whom Yogananda writes of in his "Autobiography," who insisted that there was one
God and finally established that truth as Israel's heritage.
then of "gods" worshipped in India is an interesting matter. No doubt
there are many
unsophisticated people, like the common folk of Israel, who do not have their theology straight. But the ones who
are well-grounded in their rich religious heritage teach that all the "gods" are in actuality manifestations of the one
God; it is kind of like the "Trinity," but with many more persons than three!
Rather than teaching reincarnation, the Bible tells us that it is appointed unto all men to die once, and afterwards to be judged (Hebrews 9:27). It would be easy and tempting for a member of SRF to simply close his eyes to the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Many seek to appease their consciences by giving honor to Christ, and yet they
refuse to make the absolute surrender to Jesus alone that He so clearly demands (Matthew 10:32-39). Truly, it is acknowledged everywhere, even among Hindus, that no man in history has deserved more honor than Jesus Christ. Yet, if one truly honors Christ, the wisdom of giving serious consideration to the things He said, in the context in which He spoke them, should be self-evident. To take His words out of context, and attempt to conform them to a foreign theology, is to risk facing the above mentioned judgement unprepared.
is not really a matter of the physical body, but a matter of the soul's
immortality. In the
teaching of reincarnation, it is actually a sign that the soul faced "judgment," and must face the round of birth and
death again. The "man" in that case is a different "man," though the same soul as had appeared before.
make any demand for "absolute surrender to Jesus" in the Matthew passage,
at least not in the
sense that some Christian groups insist on, i.e., to the exclusion of any other spiritual path. But he certainly sounds
like an Indian guru, saying that to follow Him means commitment all the way. He (as the Indian gurus) mean this
for the followers own good, not out of personal/ego ambition on His part. It follows, then, that any path that
produces the same outcome (realization of God), would be the same "surrender."