By The Spiritual Explorer
Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have often thought that Hinduism, which honors many deities, could offer some of its wisdom to Christianity rather than being a question of Hinduism vs. Christianity. Sam P., New York, NY
Jesus in the Lotus
Dear Sam: Russill Paul in his book Jesus in the Lotus agrees with you, and while our core phrase might be called Hinduism vs. Christianity, we are not speaking of adversarial positions, but stances that are actually searching for similarities through alignment of self, destruction of selfishness, enlightenment, devotion and ultimate merging into the light of God. Whether your path is Christianity or Hinduism, all roads lead to Rome and not only do each one of them, ultimately lead to God, but through the insights and wisdom of each, either can be of service to the other, whether it be through chanting, yoga, service or renunciation.
I once met a soul on the path who appeared at first blush way different from me, but when speaking with him, I felt a commonality in our mutual desire to fulfill our paths. We met at the deepest part of our souls, the souls that recognized our similarities as committed aspirants on a noble path.
Father Bede Griffiths brings about similarities in Hinduism vs. Christianity
Russill Paul received much of this philosophical view from his scholarship and learning with the esteemed Father Bede Griffiths whose spiritual experiences were unique and similar to anybody attempting to practice Hinduism and Christianity. Although Father Bede had been schooled and trained originally in the culture of Christianity, he evolved in his beliefs and attempted to show how it was not about Christianity vs. Hinduism but a melding of the two to bring about enlightenment, an essential Eastern view. Even as a younger man, happily ensconced within his religion, he wished to travel to India but was initially refused by his elders. Noting his sincerity and recognizing his attainment in the church, they at last relented. He thereupon travelled to India and was much influenced by what was to be a seminal experience of Chritianity vs. Hinduism.
Father Bede came to believe,“The surrender of the ego is the only way of life.” And again, “The surrender of the ego is the most difficult thing we have to do.” In leaving for India, his spirit was lighthearted as he wrote to a friend, “I am going to discover the other half of my soul.”
In the light of this, it is easy to see how Indian monkhood so easily attracted F. Bede. The monk in the Hindu tradition is called a sannyasin, a renunciate. Father Bede was concerned for his return of the center, our true center. According to him, the problem with human existence is that we all have a self-centered personality. But it is through monastic vows that could help to free us from our egos.
Father Bede believed that explicitly spiritual practice was not the only arena of one’s life as a monk that could be deeply enriched by what the East had to offer. Those learning to be monks were given the opportunity to study three pillars of Indian spiritual culture.
Following through on Father Bede’s instructions, Russill Paul began a hatha yoga practice with an esteemed teacher. Later an equally remarkable practitioner came to the ashram to teach classical music which was believed to be a profoundly spiritual process, and then later another practitioner of Sanskrit arrived at the ashram.
Similarities with Hinduism and Christianity
Instead of comparing Hinduism vs. Christianity, let us see the similarities as outlined by Russill Paul:
The Hindu conception that Brahman, Atman and Purusha are similar and compatible with the Holy Trinity.
Both traditions emphasize the importance of establishing a personal relationship with the divine based in mutual love.
Eastern forms of enlightenment are similar to the anointed state of Christianity.
Jesus played a role similar to those of enlightened Yogis.
The spiritual ideals of both traditions—self realization and liberation in the Eastern tradition and salvation and forgiveness in Christianity both speak to the commonality to be found in both religions.
As a lesson to all of us, when attempting to view it as a model for Hinduism vs. Christianity, let us all equally attempt to see the similarities in these traditions. This could well serve as a model for peace and harmony amongst all in both Eastern and Western cultures.
If you have a question about “Hinduism vs. Christianity,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.
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