Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ch.2 : Islam and Christianity – A Hindu View


Hindus generally take a very charitable and romantic view of other religions, particularly the Abrahamic faiths, to the point of ‘Satgunavikruti’, a word coined by Veer Savarkar to describe that excessive goodness which leads to perversity. Hindu scholars have therefore never studied these religions closely in order to compare their world view with that of the Hindu religion. Conditioned to an attitude of Sarva-dharma-samabhava, it would not occur to Hindus to even presume that some of these religions can he inherently violent and inspired by hatred and intolerance. This lack of our scholarship has made us to rely on the biased scholarship of Western and Islamic scholars. Here the example of Adi Shankara comes lo mind. He reestablished Hinduism after defeating Buddhist scholars in intense religious debates covering the entire gamut of human existence, and as a result, they acknowledged the superiority of the Hindu religion and became his disciples. Sadly this tradition of studying the scriptures and traditions of other religions and asserting the superiority of our dharma has not been carried forward
since the time of Adi Sankara.

Consequently, Hindus have been deeply conditioned by the work of Western scholars on Hindu scriptures and Hindu religion to believe that Hinduism is not a historical faith but is based only on mythology and steeped in superstition and irrational beliefs and hence can benefit from coming into contact with ‘progressive’ Islam and Western Christianity. Hence it is very encouraging that scholars like the late Sri Ram Swarup1 have made efforts in this direction and published books on this subject which cover admirably the fundamental differences between the Semitic faiths and the non-Abrahamic, the so-called ‘pagan’ or ‘heathen’ faiths. The purpose of including Christianity in this discussion is that both Islam and Christianity are off-shoots of the same parent religion. In fact, Islam is only a logical and Final destination of the process initiated by Christianity.

The God of both teaches them to prosecute religions other than their own; both are dogmatic, fundamentalist and theological; both lack yoga or a proper science and discipline of inner exploration; both are aggressively self-righteous; and both by nature do not know true theory of peaceful coexistence. Another reason for including Christianity is that more critical and scholarly literature is available on this religion as a result of Renaissance, Enlightenment and the process of modernisation, whereas the intolerance of Islam has prevented such development which still resembles the Christianity of middle ages.

Categories of World Faiths

The religions of the world can be essentially classified in two categories. The present dominant category is that of the Semitic faiths (which may well be described to be ideologies or dogmas) - the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and their latest offshoot, the atheist Marxism. The other comprises of Eastern religions and philosophies like Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. It also includes various pre-Christian and pre-lslam faiths which pervaded all over the world before they were extinguished by the aggressive Islam and Christianity. The latter have distorted the meaning of the word ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ which essentially signify non-Semitic faiths. Due to constant propaganda these words are now synonymous with barbarism and irreligiosity. When this is clear, the word ‘pagan’ will not be as pejorative as it has been made to appear. It will he used frequently below since it enables us to consolidate various existing and extinct faiths and practices all over the world and hence unify various worldwide approaches leading to a common movement to establish a tolerant, humane and enlightened world order or dharma. Such a transformation is vital for co-existence.
The term ‘Hindu’ (or HINDUS as used in subsequent chapters) is used as encompassing all the religions and faiths originating in the Indian subcontinent, and apart from the Sanatanis who are usually called Hindus, includes the Buddhists. Sikhs and Jains too. Hindus are renowned for their acceptance and respect of others’ beliefs (Sarva-dharma-samabhava); they consider the land of their birth and this civilization as being wholly sacred (Punyabhoomi); they all believe in the law of karma, and know that all beings in Creation are the manifestation of the same Divinity. To them God is a unify and not a unit.

The Hindu Mission

Needless to say, the Hindu religion which embodies Dharma, continues to exist in spite of the relent- less attack on her for the last 800 years, and truly qualifies for its name ‘Sanatana’ or eternal dharma. It is eminently qualified to lead this movement, and this is perhaps what Sri Aurobindo implied in his message on the occasion of Indian Independence, “For I have always held and said that India was arising, ... as a helper and leader of she whole human race; the gift by India of the spiritual knowledge and her means for the spiritualisation of life to the whole race... The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun….That movement will grow; amid the disasters of time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and these is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to the psychic and spiritual practice.”

Islam and Christianity- Similar in Content

The spiritual equipage of Islam and Christianity is similar to each other. Their spiritual contents, both in quality and quantum, are about the same. The central piece of the two creeds is “one true God” of masculine gender who makes himself known to his believers through a single, favoured individual. The theory of mediumistic communication has not only a psychology, but also a theology laid down long ago in the oldest part of the Bible, m the Deuteronomy [18.19.20). The biblical God says that lie will speak to his chosen people through his chosen prophets : “I will tell him what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command. He will speak in my name, and I will punish anyone who refuses to obey him”. Similar sentiments are echoed even more vigorously in Islam. The whole prophetic spirituality, whether found in the Bible or in the Quran, is mediumistic in essence. Here everything takes place through a proxy, that is, through an intermediary or the sole agent. Here man knows God only through the proxy. The proxy is a favoured individual, a privileged mediator. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”, says the Bible. The Quran makes the same claim. “Muhammad is God’s Apostle” says the Allah of the Quran through his last prophet (48.29). Moreover, both of them are intrinsically incapable of promoting universal peace and harmony. The seeds of conflict, not only amongst the “believers” but also with the rest of the world, lie at the very heart of the two ideologies. Each of the two is presided over by a bellicose God, each chief of his own hosts; each claims sole sovereignty. A larger charity and mutual respect of others’ faiths and even tolerance and co-existence cannot be the strong points of such theologies.

Hence it is not surprising that the faithful belonging to these two religions were at each other’s throats when they finally came face to face. For centuries, they fought with fire and sword. At one time it seemed that Islam had gotten the better of crusading Christianity when it was knocking at the door of Europe. But the tide turned in favour of the West and Christianity when Europe eventually colonised the Americas, Asia and Africa and established empires all over the world and could not he challenged. It also added another weapon to its arsenal - ideological warfare. Christian theologians tried to prove the historicity of Jesus with the help of Quran, while the Muslims tried to prove Muhammad’s mission with the help of the Bible. The controversy was sharp, as it often is between creeds which share common beliefs and aims and methods. Both believed in the same God, but each claimed sole heirship to His throne. Both were rational in their critique of each other’s faith, but were emotional and unwilling to listen to reason when it came to defending their own. Although this quarrel goes on, their real and ultimate target remains destroyed idolatry and polytheism, which in effect means all religions of the past and most religions of the present. The Church has always appreciated Islam’s role in “cleansing the world of the scourge of idolatry, and preparing the way for the reception of a purer faith.” Similarly, Islam acknowledges Christians to be “people of the Book”, no small honour this and yet it does not stop them from waging murderous wars against each other wherever one or the other is in the minority - the countries of the middle-east (Lebanon), and south- east (East Timor and Irian Jaya) Asia and the nations of Africa (Sudan, Nigeria) being some of the most recent examples of their bitter enemity.

Exclusive, Jealous God

It is well known that Christianity and Islam derived their much vaunted monotheism from Judaism, but the Jews themselves were not monotheists in the beginning. Like other neighbouring peoples, they had their tribal god towards whom they felt a special loyalty but it did not occur to them yet to deny the gods of others. That other gods do not exist or were false, and that their god alone was true and enjoyed some sort of universal sovereignty, was a later development which had to wait till the arrival of their prophets, beginning with Moses. It seems that the early Jews did not know Jehovah according to the biblical testimony itself. ‘’By name Jehovah was I not known to them,” says the Bible (Exod.6.3). It is possible that the Jews may have borrowed Egyptian Gods, at least in some measure, while they were in Egypt and that they continued worshipping them even during the days of their wanderings in the desert. There are also indications that the new religion, whatever it was and whenever adopted, was imposed against great opposition and with great ferocity. While Jehovah revealed himself to Moses as the only God of the Jews, they were worshipping another God under the symbol of a Bull. “Slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour,” ordered Jehovah to those who truly followed him. Three thousand men were killed in a day and a new religion was inaugurated. The killers were consecrated and they became the priestly class, the Levites. The precedent for many similar such genocide in the name of religion in future, was thus established as early as in Biblical times.
In course of time, this God, in all his exclusiveness and jealousy, was adopted by Christianity and Islam. In fact, in their hands, he became still more exclusive and jealous. He also became more ambitious and bellicose. While with the Jews, he remained their God alone; but, except spasmodically, he refused the be the God of others. Other people had to make do with their own Gods, howsoever “false”, and these Gods had to be content with their own followers, howsoever benighted and out of grace with Jehovah. But things changed with the advent of Christianity and Islam. Through them, Jehovah came into his own and He offered to be THE GOD of all. This God was not a universal principle but a singularity, not a force of unification (monism) but one of separation (monotheism). The Semitic God lacks interiority – these is nothing to show that his followers know of a “god or gods in the heart” but they speak of a “god in heaven” or a sky –God. He also lacks universality and has suffered further contraction and denotation with the passage of time.

He asked His followers to go in all directions and preach His Name, to “go out in the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in.” He armed them and asked them to declare from housetops several times a day that He alone was true and that other Gods were false. Other could refuse this invitation or call only at their own peril, spiritual and physical. As His followers became more powerful, the threat became increasingly more physical!

The Prophets Of God

There is another major difference between Judaism and the two religions which were in fact off-shoots of Judaism. Though the Jewish God was single, yet he spoke through many prophets. Moses was probably the most important, but a plurality or prophethood was recognised. It is unfortunate that the Judaic religion could not take full advantage of this principle. As the Mosaic-Monotheistic tradition was too strong, in practice, the Prophetic message tended to be the same - more of the same Mosaic God. For the same reason, even some movements among -Jews like those represented by the Essenes, influenced by Hinduism-Buddhism, could not break away sufficiently from that tradition.

Just as the Jews finally believed that they are the special people of the only God, their Prophets and Messiahs also transformed likewise. They had initially many and Jesus also began as a Messiah of his people. But as he was rejected by them, he began to declare that God was terminating his covenant with Jews and entering into a new one with those who believed in His Son. Christians replaced Jews as God’s chosen people and Jesus himself was converted from a Messiah into a Saviour, into God’s First Begotten Son, the Intermediary between God and Man. This transformation took some time in the happening, and in order to get the better of their critics and their opponents, the Christians invented the myth of a Saviour, the Dying God and His Resurrection. In fact, many scholars regard Jesus’ life closer to myth than to history, and whether there was any historical Jesus at all is a much discussed question in academic circles (see previous Chapter). Apart from the figure of the Saviour, Christianity also borrowed most of its central rites from other creeds and mystery cults prevalent at that time. Its own contribution were the Cross, the concept of Hell, Satan, possession and exorcism.

Thus with time the idea of prophet took a new turn. It was not enough that God talked to you; what was equally important was that he did not talk to anyone else. And by the time Muhammad came it was not enough to be A prophet; he had to be THE prophet. He declared that he was the most authentic spokesman of God up to his time and also for all time lo come as well, and that he was the seal of prophecy, and that through him religion was now finally made perfect, and that any old revelation was now redundant and a new one presumptuous. He was able to get it established through the display of superior brute force and now this dogma is the most important part of the Muslim creed and to question it is punishable by death.
The question is why were persons specifically chosen for the role of prophet? Why were certain things revealed to them which were kept hidden from others before’? Had they some special moral or spiritual qualities to qualify for these roles? All of them have made such claims without trying to justify them.

Summarising this development, just as the Semitic God was evolving in theology into becoming the ‘only one’, he was also becoming exclusive in his communication. Even when he had a chosen people, these people had no direct approach to Him. He told them that he will send them a prophet and He ‘will tell him what to say and he (the prophet) will tell the people everything I command. He will speak in my name and I shall punish anyone who refuses to obey him.” In due course, the intermediary became more than a medium. In Christianity, he became the Saviour, in Islam, he became the Intercessor and also the last Prophet through whom God ever spoke. Claims began to be made on the prophet’s behalf, claims almost as tall as for the God he represented.

In fact, with passage of time, God tended to become redundant and the intermediary took his place, who in turn was ‘represented by his own nominees. The New Testament says: “Salvation is to be found through him (Jesus) alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us”. At another place it says: “God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the Church as the supreme Lord over all things.” The Koran makes even stronger claims for its Prophet. Such claims are offensive to man’s rational as well as spiritual sense (Buddha’s last message was, ‘Be your own light’), but they have proved highly profitable to those who speak in the name of these intermediaries. They represent a great vested interest.

Intolerance and its consequences

Intolerance must be the fruit of such bitter seeds. Other Gods must be dethroned, and so those who speak in the name of other Gods must die (Deut-18.18-19). Appendix A gives a number of verses from the Koran, which preach this even more stridently.
The Semitic God is jealous, and so is his sole prophet. Just like his God, he too can brook no rivals. Jesus tells us that “all who came before me were thieves and robbers” (Jn.l0.8). He warns his flock again and again against his rival claimants. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt.7.15; or 24.4). Muhammad admitted to the historicity and legitimacy of some prophets before him, in order to give his own prophethood an ancestry, but he abolished further prophethood. He was the latest and also the last prophet, the seal of Prophecy.

The fact is that intolerance is in-built into the basic Semitic approach and cursing comes naturally to it. The Bible is full of curses invoked on rivals - gods, prophets, apostles, doctrines. For example, Paul told his Galatian followers that “should anyone preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.” This tradition has continued and has been the strongest element of all branches of Christianity and Islam (see previous chapter as well as appendix A).

Christians claim that unlike the Jewish prophets, Jesus is an incarnation, an idea which was an innovation lo the Jewish tradition. It is not difficult to see that Christianity only incarnated a new religious intolerance! This tradition of intolerance Islam also faithfully continued with even greater zeal. Religious intolerance was there before, but it was spasmodic and it was not supported by a theology. It was only with the coming of Christianity and Islam that religious bigotry and arrogance descended on the earth on a pervasive scale and with a new destructive power. They know so little about themselves but they claim to know everything about God. And in imposing their definition upon others; they have killed millions of people. They have been even more fanatic about their founders. “If you won’t believe that you are redeemed by my redeemer’s blood, I’ll drown you in your own,” says the Christian, to put in the language of Aldous Huxley. The same is true of Muslims, in their practice, Muhammad has been more central to their religion than their One God. You could jest about his God but woe unto him who jests about the Prophet. His punishment is death.

If religious tolerance is a virtue, both Christianity and Islam do not possess it. Wherever they have gone, they have carried fire and sword and oppressed and destroyed so far as it lay in their power.

Christianity first spread all over Europe in this manner. They demolished and occupied the temples and shrines of others. Any tolerance shown was an exception. Hindus know the extent of the murderous campaigns that Muslims of various hues undertook against them and their land. Similar graphic descriptions are available about the genocide and extermination of the native peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean by Spanish and British Christians in the name of religion and Western civilisation. Their record has been matched only recently by Communism, considered a Christian heresy by thinkers like Bentrand Russel. In China, for example the Communist regime destroyed half million Buddhist shrines while in the Soviet Union, Stalin reportedly exterminated 20 million of his own people who either opposed him or the communist ideology.

The theology of a single god, a single prophet, a single revelation, a single church or ummah, and also of a single life and single judgement is very different from the one the world at large has known in the past and knows even today. Historically speaking, these religions which were local and small tribal faiths, may be considered an aberration, which consolidated themselves through conquest and propaganda, and which could impose themselves in no other way. These are different not only from polytheism, a religious expression at a more popular level, but also from religions which allow for mysticism and the internal quest for a spiritual life. They are certainly different from the spirituality known in the East by Hermits, Stoics, Pythagoreans. Taoists, Buddhists and Vedantins, particularly in their concept of deity, man and nature; different in their definitions, modes, theory and practice.

Worship and Sadhana

Every religion has its own modes and forms of worship, both public and private, informed by its dominant ideas of God, Creation and man. Prophetic religions take great pride in “one” God who despises idolatory, but have steadily degenerated into worship of relics and graves as we shall see with the Sufis. Spiritual practices or what Hindus call sadhana, are shaped by the way a religion intuits God, man and Creation. Religions like Hinduism and Buddhism prescribe a regimen of discipline known as sila, samadhi and prajna, to open up higher consciousness. They believe that even with all the guidance and help, each individual has to discover the spiritual truths for himself, that unless they are so done they can be of no use for him. When one cannot cat or clothe by proxy; how can one live spiritual truths by proxy? But as prophetic religions believe that God has already chosen them for no rhyme or reason and already revealed to them truths hidden from others, they do not need any sadhana. They already know the truth and they have nothing to learn or discover for themselves to. Prophetic religions prescribe only certain beliefs and the religious duty to convert others to those beliefs through preaching and holy wars.

It is therefore not strange that we find very little by way of sadhana in the New Testament. There are, on the other hand several exhortations aimed at pleasing this ‘one God’ or his Prophet or messiah. One such is “speaking with tongues” i.e. the believers gather together in the church and wait on the Holy Ghost to descend upon them and speak through them (I Cor.Ch.14). As is to be expected, it led to pandemonium. From all that people spoke, it was not clear what came from the Holy Ghost and what came from the Devil - a problem which continues to dog the Church! Most of the time, these phenomena arise from self-suggestion and make believe, and in extreme cases, border on abnormality.

The other is “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, which may be termed as the cornerstone of biblical teaching. This should be taken in conjunction with other teachings about sin, its remission by sacrifice, and its once-for-all atonement by the blood of Jesus. Christians are as self-conscious about being sinners as communists are about being proletarian. To be sinful has become a cult with them. Paul was (he “foremost of sinners” and “he received mercy for tins reason”. Allah also favours the sinner as seen in the previous chapter. The Christian and Muslim heaven has more joy over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance. All this could not be healthy either for the mind or the soul and has created a religion of what has been appropriately termed “spiritual terrorism.” It gave rise to much neurotic, masochistic-sadistic behaviour. Wisdom, enlightenment, opening up of higher consciousness were altogether unknown to them.

OF course we cannot leave out iconoclasm, the most important religious sadhana these prophetic religions have preached and practised. They have believed that demolishing the images on an altar, particularly in the temples of their neighbours, is the best way of worshipping their God and it is the service most acceptable to him. This unrelenting hostility towards ‘other’ Gods is the defining characteristic of the faithful. They have never realised that a good deal of religious reflection must take place before images are used in worship. In India, the outer images were most often contributed by men who practised most advanced internal disciplines. These were “icons”, internal realities expressed in outer forms in so far as that is possible.

Why are prophetic religions so hostile to images? Why do they nourish this obsessive hatred towards them? The images seem to have more attraction for and more power over iconoclasts than over the worshippers - some kind of idolatry or fetish worship in reverse. Through spiritual awakening some have turned idols into Gods; others of the unawakened soul have turned Gods into idols! Semitic iconoclasm is a child of crass materialism; it comes from the incapacity to see that the physical is also the standing ground of the metaphysical. Prophetic religions have given their God all human weaknesses and passions; on the other hand, Hinduism has thought of man with all divine virtues. The former have reified God, the latter have deified man.

Theology, Mission and Jihad

Every religion has its own ethos or distinctive characteristics which reflect in its theology or investigation of the Divine. It is shaped by the kind of questions raised and the answers given by the leaders of that religion. In Hindu religions, the seeker raised the question: what is real? What is the highest Good? What is man? What are his roots? Is he only his body or even his mind and intellect? His mind, his proud possession, is a prisoner of its passions; its knowledge is so little and so uncertain. Is there in him some other principle of greater and surer knowledge? Is there something by knowing which all this is known or at least makes sense? Hindu spirituality sought answers to these questions.

There is nothing to show that any spokesman of prophetic religions ever raised these questions. His questions were different. They were : Who is the true God? What is His will? How can it be fulfilled? We cannot explain how, but he arrived at the conclusion, often even before he raised the question, that he knew the true God, that the Gods his neighbours knew were false, that he was the mouthpiece of his God, and that unless others believed in him and followed him, they were damned. He felt strongly that it was his duly and God-given responsibility to propagate this view about his God and about himself. Men must be told the truth about this God and Ins authentic spokesman and be made to embrace this truth even by force if necessary. Their dominant ethos has been shaped by this theology.
Therefore the characteristic figure of these religions is a preacher, a crusader or a mujahid. He has nothing to learn; he has been sent to teach and correct and wherever possible even to punish. A Missionary is not taught to reflect but to act, and so he does not doubt that he knows the truth or whether his truths are worth knowing, or if what he knows are truths at all. His work is also accompanied by liberal use of force but the religious end justifies it as is seen from the record of several ‘saints’ like a Christian Xavier or a Sufi Ahmad Sirhindi.
With this kind of understanding of man and God and their own mission, Christianity and Islam started as soon as they gathered enough strength, along a career of persecution. They persecuted pagans, Jews, their own critics and mystics whom they branded and condemned as heretics. They were intolerant of cultures and people, and modes of worship which had a different conception of God. We in India know something of Islam in action, but the record of Christianity has been as black and as thorough in other continents. Similarly Islam has not only been a great imperialist, but it has also been a great suppressor of thought and opinion. It simply could not allow itself to be freely investigated and discussed by its followers. Conformity is secured by exercising ‘holy terror’ on “impostors”.
Phrases like “Kingdom of God within” have confused the Hindus. But it should be noted that that the very word ‘within’ is a mistranslation of the Greek word ‘entos’ which means ‘among’ or ‘in the midst’ and the phrase meant ‘the end of the world’, which was expected any day by Jesus (and even by Muhammad). Similarly the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is perhaps an interpolation, and is not organic to prophetic message and ethics. Various Christian Churches and sects in the past have not been very conscious of the Sermon, leave alone implementing it. In fact it is people like Gandhiji who have made the Christian theologians aware of it.
There is something false about the very idea of ‘founding’ a religion. To say the least, it is a thoroughly materialistic idea, and it must lead lo its own excesses. Again the falsehood that accompanies the business of religious conversion is even worse than its intolerance. Mahatma Gandhi called proselytising “the deadliest poison that ever sapped the foundation of truth”, and he regarded a Missionary “like any vendor of goods” though he pretends to be something else.

Prophetic and Yogic Spiritualities

How and why does this happen? As a matter of fact, the founder is often quite sincere in the ordinary sense of the term and has no intention of deceiving anyone. But what if he is himself deceived? Not to deceive others is relatively easy, but to prevent self-deception is very much more difficult. Sri Ram Swarup offers an insight for this phenomenon by invoking the following yogic insights for such ‘divine revelations’.

Yogic spiritualities like Hinduism differ radically from the family of prophetic religions. These begin by asking the fundamental question: what is man, and progressively proceed to delve deeper in consciousness to discover higher truths about the soul and the universe. The Upanishads speak of a consciousness (Satchidananda) which is unified, characterised by bliss, and knowing all (prajna). Hinduism gave us Gods that were friends of men and of each other, it gave us Gods that were conceived as mothers, fathers, consorts, sons and daughters. There cannot be a developed knowledge of Gods without a developed knowledge of self.
The concept of Dharma is unique to the religions of Indian origin. While there can be no adequate definition or description of Dharma, it is often used to mean Universal Law which creates and sustains all Creation. It essentially means that a code of conduct cannot be absolute or universal. This also does not mean that Hinduism encourages the concept of moral relativism. An individual’s dharma, that is, his svadharma will depend on his spiritual maturity and place in life. Ethics, in such an understanding, cannot be one monolithic code. Here it allows for plurality, different paths, different ways. It believes in higher spiritual beings, in God and Gods, and in the idea that they can be seen and experienced and one can live in fellowship with them. In fact, man knows God when he is most God-like (Shivarn bhutvll Shlvam yajet). It is obvious that in this kind of spirituality, there can be no place for a one-man revelation. A truth must become your own if it is to do good to you. One cannot live another man’s truth whatever his claims may be. Most advanced spiritualities in the world have held this approach and today Hinduism is its best example.

Yoga is the intense discipline of the mind and body that an individual practices when he turns his consciousness inward, into himself- a significant contribution of Hinduism. Some of its elements were borrowed by Christianity and Islam (Sufism) but these could not be fitted within their rigid system of beliefs and were either banished from the corpus of religious traditions or treated peripherally. Christianity has no place for self-reflection in its spiritual practices because religious experiences resulting from contemplation often contradicted established dogma and was therefore not encouraged. Its hermits and more pious monks practised fasting, vigils, and extreme and sometimes even competitive self-mortification. There was little place for contemplative methods. In Islam too mysticism in its off-shoot Sufism, is more of a graft than a natural flowering. According to the Dictionary’ of Islam, Sufism ‘is but a Muslim adaptation of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophers’. Prophetic Islam would have withered and died from its own formalism and legalism, but Sufism saved it from its fate by importing into it some principle of warmth and intenality. But in this association, it itself suffered a great setback as we shall see later. The Sufism that survived and even prospered was tame and poised to promote prophetism except for some great Sufi poets like Rumi and Attar. They became part and parcel of Islamic imperialism, its enthusiastic sappers and miners and also its beneficiaries as in India.
The ‘inward journey’ of Yoga which ultimately leads to samadhi and atma-jnana is unknown to the Semitic religions. It leads to the realisation that God alone is monism), which is quite different from saying that there is only one God (Monotheism). He is not known by those who say they know him, but he is known by those who say they know him not.

In a private communication, the author of ‘Hindu view of Christianity and Islam’, an advanced yogi, has given a Note which is meant to be incorporated in the above book. It is given at the end of this chapter as it explains the whole concept succinctly.

The Origin of Semitic God

A spiritual person of the non-Abrahamic faiths is struck by the amazing resemblance that these religions bear to asuric and rakshasic traditions. Our yogis have been too polite to throw light on this subject. Sri Ram Swarup, however, gives the following very interesting insight into how these gods are created and nourished.
Vyasa, in his commentary on Yogadarshana tells us that the mind has Five habitual planes (bhumis): mudha (dull or inert), Kshipa (restless), vikshiptta (scattered), ekagra (one-pointed) and niruddha (stopped). Samadhis can take place in all bhumis, but he adds a warning that the samadhis of the first three bhumis are non-yogic and asuric and only those of the last two are truly yogic, leading to proper spiritual development. These non-yogic samadhis or ecstasies in the lower bhumis (kumo-bhumis) have their own Revelations, their own Prophets and their own Deities with rajasic-tamasic inclinations. They project ego-gods and desire-gods and give birth to hate-religions and delusive ideologies. They have strong likes and dislikes, cruel preferences and favourite people, and implacable enemies. They are the ‘jealous god’ as described in the Bible and which offend the moral sense of our rational age too. For example Thomas Jefferson thinks that the “Bible God is a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.”
But why should these gods have such qualities? Why should they be called God? And why should they have so much hold? Yoga provides an answer. It says that though not a truly spiritual being, he is thrown up by a deeper vital source in the mind. He is some sort of psychic formation and carries the strength and attraction of such a formation; he also derives his rajasic qualities and dynamism from the chitta-bhumi in which he originates. This will explain that the biblical God is not unique and he is not a historical oddity. He has his source in man’s psyche and he derives his validity and power thereof; therefore he conies up again and again and is found in cultures widely separated.

In actual life, one seldom meets truths of the kama-bhumi and krodha-bhumi unalloyed. Often they are mixtures and touched by intrusions from the truths of the yoga-bhumis above. This however makes them even more virulent; it puts a religious rationalisation on them. It degrades the higher without uplifting the lower. Lower impulses are indeed difficult to conquer and even affect those who have experienced the truths of higher life. Hence the insistence of Yoga on a moral and spiritual discipline and on inner purification i.e. chitta-shuddhi. Without this, Yoga could be put to negative use as is done in the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ of the Jesuits for theological self-conditioning.

Yogic samadhi involves progressive purification; there are several levels and each level has its characteristic qualities. If the mind is sufficiently purified, it automatically moves from one stage to the next. This progressive movement is divided into several dhyunas. The first few are characterised by reflection, sustained application, joy, felicity, one-pointedness and mindfulness. Above these four dhyanas, from which the higher Indian spiritual traditions begin, comes samata or equal-mindedness which opens doors to many kinds of infinities or anantyas. Beyond lies the nirodhabhumi of Patanjala Yoga or the nirvana-bhumi of the Buddhists.

In prophetic religions the truths are restricted lo the first two or three dhyanas and include several good traits like faith, piety, belief, joy and fervour. But they don’t touch samata, the basis of higher truths. As a result the truths of the initial dhyanas are not secure because they have not been fortified by a higher vision. This has happened with the Semitic religions which on the other hand, are always under the gravitational pull of a different kind of vision derived from monotheism and prophetism. Their zeal turned into zealotry and became persecutory, their faith became narrow and dogmatic, their confidence arrogant and sectarian, ultimately constituting a danger to the rest of humanity. This subject is discussed in detail in the Note below.

But it does nut mean there are no believing Christians and Muslims now or in the past who did not overcome the fault of their theology. Many have loved their fellow believers without learning to hate their pagan neighbours. All this shows that man is greater than his creeds and ideologies and that humanity can survive its hate-ideologies. It gives great hopes that when India rises after winning the second phase of its freedom struggle of regaining its Hindu identity, it will play a leading role in the rise of a global and truly spiritual humanity by overcoming asaric and rakshasic forces as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo.

1. Hindu View Of Christianity and Islam, Ram Swarup, Voice Of India, New Delhi, 1995

Prophetic religions have no worthwhile theory of self-purification. They have felt that they do not need one. They deal in ready-made truths received from their God by their prophet in a revelation and communicated to his followers as dogmas. In Hinduism there is a problem of truth itself, the problem of receiving and communicating it. In this tradition, problems relating to the message, the medium and the source are important and are open to questions and inquiry. In prophetic tradition, to raise questions about them is unbelief, infidelity and is punishable.
Prophetic religions have at best a theory of inspiration (IIham and the holy ghost). But in actual practice, this doctrine is a veritable psychological trap and has often led to much charlatanism and to excesses. Apollonious, the great saint of the Greco-Roman world advises that we should avoid philosophies and people who “claim to be inspired, for people like that lie about Gods and urge them to do many foolish things.”

In prohetic religions, the prophet is supposed to speak for God, but in most cases, it is difficult to decide who speaks for whom - the prophet for God or God for the prophet. Similarly, it is not sure where God begins if he begins at all and where the prophet ends. In the case of the prophet of Islam, it was seen that his revelations were quite accommodative and served his convenience as Aisha, his young wife, pointed out. Sometimes it also happened that words supplied by the recorder became part of the heavenly text which upset him greatly. But Umar was flattered when he saw that some of the suggestions he had made became Allah’s injunctions.
Salmon Rushdie has discussed the phenomenon of revelations of Islam’s prophet in his Satanic Verses from the modern psychological angle. He finds there is no Allah and no message. It is prophe’ all over. He dictates with one mind and listens to what he himself has dictated with the other. We reed not disagree with Salmon’s observations about the prophet of his discussion. But we need not accept his larger intellectual format about spiritual life. Hinduism believes in Gods, in higher life and higher truth; it believes that this truth is not alien to man but is akin to him; that he is surrounded by it, lives in it and breathes in it, but to become aware of it requires a pure heart.

To a superficial look it may appear like prophetism, at least in some essentials. But a little discrimination will show that it is not so. Prophetism deals in special Gods, special revelations, special dispensation. Sanatana Dharma tradition is concerned with laws of the spirit that apply to all and are true for all time. It does not discuss historical oddities; it discusses higher life as a regular phenomenon of life. Revelation is taking place all the time and man is nourished regularly by heaven and he lives in interchange with Gods. Prophetism with its exclusive Gods and special messengers and revelations is a caricature of this truth.

Sanatana Dharma teaches that to become aware of the higher life and establish its rule, the soul has to develop new organs of perception like faith, dhyana or meditation (devout attention), discrimination and prajna. Faith is recognised in many religious traditions, but the others find emphasis mainly in Hindu tradition and those which are related to it, like the Greek, Pythagoreans and Neo-platonists Upanishads say that meditation is greater than thought and they found that the earth, atmosphere, waters, mountains, Gods as well as men, all are mediating as it were. In this tradition, spiritual discrimination (viveka) and purified intelligence {buddhi) are highly valued.

Upanishads also teach that a man becomes what he desires, aspires to, thinks and dwells upon. So it gives importance to purify his seeking, his desire and his thoughts. This can best be done by contemplating and dwelling on the objects of his seeking themselves.

In Hindu spiritual tradition, man’s seeking is for truth, for immortality, for light, for plenitude, for fullness, for the vast, for liberation. Lead me from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to deathlessness, from the small to the vast is the Upanishadic prayer. The Upanishads also teach that the best way to realise them is to meditate and reflect on them. The great truths of the spirit are also the great anusmritis and anudhyonas - that is subjects and objects worthy to be remembered and meditated upon reverentially again and again.
In Hindu Yogic tradition, there is a great emphasis on an in-gathered or recollected mind. A man can make no spiritual progress with a scattered mind. Such a mind is lost in its objects and it neither knows them nor itself properly. But once a mind is recollected, it knows what it is to be mindful. A dissipated mind is by nature sorrowful but a recollected mind is by nature joyful and luminous (vishoka and jyotishmati). A man with a recollected mind realises that he is more akin to mind than to its objects.

To conquer mind’s wanderings (vikshepa), it is necessary to acquire one-pointedness (ekagrata) For that one should practice the culture of One-principle (eka-tattva abbyasa). For this purpose, Indian Yoga has mentioned many subjects, objects and symbols for concentration and meditation (loosely rendered here as karma-sthana). They Help to settle the mind and a settled mind helps to purify them further.
Ultimately the best subjects and objects of dhyana are, as we just observed, the great truths of the Self itself but nothing that has a psychic and spiritual significance is ruled out. In India’s yogic tradition, friendliness, compassion, joy, passionlessness, mindfulness and equal-mindedness are considered great purifiers.

Many other subjects, symbols and objects are mentioned: elements, luminaries like fire, sun or sky and earth, any chosen deity or guru-figure, the mystic sound of Om, in short every symbol of psychic and spiritual potential is acceptable.
A karma-sthana is not good enough and subtle enough to start with. But the process of meditation itself sets up a process which purifies it further, removes its blemishes and makes it a fitting channel for further spiritual progress. Under the alchemy of meditation, the symbol becomes increasingly more luminous, joyful and psychic. The process of meditation converts it into a new currency and makes it worthy of a new journey in a new terrain. Opened to higher influences, it is further purified and raised up. Unknown inner doors open and new Gods are born.
All this transformation is necessary. Any chosen symbol or figure must purify itself before it purifies others; it must become spirit-worthy before it guides on the spiritual path. The transformation takes place as a matter of course in accordance with the spiritual laws; it cannot be manipulated; it is self-determined and charters its own course. Its moving power is the aspirant’s sincerity and intensity of aspiration. On the spiritual path, nothing that is honest and sincere is lost and all lost and all threads meet and everything is added up and taken into account.

The process of meditation accepts all sattwika sentiments, objects and symbols but has no use for those which are rajasika and tamasika. Those who sit with their eyes closed but dwell with their mind on its lower attractions become worse. Strong hatreds, egoistic opinions, prejudices and preferences- whether one’s own or one’s God’s and prophet’s does not matter, for let us remember that there is lot of self-worship through worship of one’s deities and prophets- are most unacceptable. They add another danger. In a meditative mind, they appear as visions, voices and commands of one’s deity. They have deep roots, a stubborn life. A cat has nine lives, they have ninety nine; they can remain dormant fora long time and reappear in many guises. To overcome them and to make them seedless is a great problem in the spiritual quest. But we are not taking up
that question here.

Though Semitic religions lack the culture of meditation, pious and believing Muslims and Christians have often dwelt on their founders with great piety and reverence. This has benefited the symbols and under the alchemy of piety greatly improved them. In fact, some Sufis have given us a very different kind of prophet than the one we know in history. This prophet-figure of piety is at adds with the prophet of history. In some ways, this has produced much confusion and one figure has been mistaken for the other. It also became a source of mischief. The figure of the prophet of piety is used to sell the prophet of history and to propagate his cult.

Similarly, Christian monks have often meditated on Jesus in their monasteries. In one way, he is better fitted for this role. For in his case, there is little history to contend with and to shed. But he is a figure of theology which makes him equally intractable and impervious to light. Meditation on historical Jesus also benefited the Jesus-figure. When dwelt upon with loving regard it tended to lose its blemishes and become more luminous. Thus it became acceptable to the meditating monks in spite of its inherent unreasonableness and untenability . And here too again as in Islam, the meditation-figure was used to promote the Jesus of theology.
For the sake of our Christian readers who lay great store by historical Jesus, let us dilate on the subject a little more. Let us say that Yoga does not care for a historical figure as such; it cares only for its psychic truth. It would suffice to say that to a man who sincerely follows the soul’s native aspiration for self-recovery, any chosen symbol, physical or psychic, historical or non-historical, any figure of a guru living or past - they are all acceptable starting points. The rest is added as he proceeds on the path and as the need arose. Therefore, a sincere Christian could, if he is so minded, adopt the figure of a historical Jesus without harm and even with profit In the simplest way, it provides a focus for his religious impulses - in itself no small gain. And if his aspiration is pure, persistent and one-pointed, it could take him further on the spiritual path. As the believer dwells on his chosen figure with loving care, a process of change is set up which transforms the symbol. What is redundant drops and what is necessary is added. Under this alchemy, the figure thaws, becomes freer and is released from its historical and psychological confines; it turns to light above and within, absorbs it and is converted into its likeness; under this influence, it loses it opacity and becomes transparent and a reflector of truths beyond itself.*

If the figure of normal Jesus was allowed to run its course, it could become a channel of further spiritual progress. If a man has it in his soul and is spiritually ready, he would realise that though the figure is now lighted, it has no light of its own. He would become increasingly more aware of the forces at work within him - forces that bind and those that liberate. His soul may wake up and become a aware of its original, untarnished status. This would open up his prajna, or wisdom-eye; he would realise that salvation is a lawful act and it does not depend on a historical accident; that soul in its original status is not sinful but pure, untouched by evil (shuddham apapaviddham); that man is raised and saved by the Self, his true light and refuge; he would meet the indwelling saviour - who is in all and belongs to all. He would realise that he is nothing and God is everything, in all.

But a Christian believer operates in a very different atmosphere. He is not to find his God or saviour for himself, but both are given to him by the Church; he is not to follow his inner light - he is taught to distrust it - but be guided by an official theology. Under its influence, the saviour is conceived as a mediator between an offended deity and a sinful man; the figure obviously belongs to those religious cults and practices in which blood and sacrifice, both human and animal, dominate, not inquiry and contemplation.

It is obvious that such theology can have no exalted idea either of God or man. This theology is spiritually disabling in other ways too; it gives its believers exclusive revelations, exclusive gods, exclusive saviours. It gives a god revealed to a chosen intermediary but to be believed by all; it gives a saviour who saves few but condemns many - the unbelievers invariably so. In this theology historical Jesus plays a pre-determined, ideological role. Under its influence, this figure deteriorates badly; instead of getting purified and uplifted as on the first route,. It is debased and lowered in conception and spiritual quality; instead of converting into a psychic truth, it becomes a fanatic and intolerant idea; instead of becoming luminous and transparent, it becomes opaque with little capacity for receiving and reflecting higher truths.

The figure of Jesus as developed and available in Christian tradition is tamasika-rajasika. It would be difficult for it to recover whatever other possibility it ever had; it has now become a symbol - a frozen symbol - of religious aggrandisement; it is badly infected with raaga-dvesha -inwoven with its followers’ ambitions and hatred. The believer operates in the atmosphere of what is called theological odium; he learns to hate on a large scale, hate under many names and guises, hate his pagan neighbours and the whole past of humanity. While he loves after a fashion his god - a form of self-love -he is taught to hate all other gods or rather the gods of others. While great claims are made for his god, gods of others are abominated and denied. Thus the figure of a historical Jesus is made to support a huge, doctrinal superstructure of denials and arrogant claims; it presides over a vast apparatus of repression and self-aggrandisement, In this approach while history and the fraternity of believers run amuck, eternity and humanity have little place.

Christianity is a living example of a case where an innocent symbol was destroyed by a bad theology. But it does not mean there are no believing Christians now or in the past who did not overcome the faults of their theology. Many have loved their fellow believers without learning to hate their pagan neighbours. All this shows that man is greater than his creeds and ideologies and that humanity could survive its hate-ideologies.

* This process should not be confused with the process that applies to cases like Krishna or Rama. Though these too could be abd often are used as karmasthana, they are differetly conceived. They are spiritual realities which took birth in the hearts of sages like Vyasa and Valmiki and given a psychic earthly life. But in the case of Jesus and Muhammad, they are historical characters being invested with a spiritual significance through the alchemy of piety : Psychically they were born - one in the mind of Paul and the other in the minds of Umar and Abu Bakr.

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