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Vedanta and Jesus
Nick: What’s a Vedantin’s view of Christ? I grew up in a Methodist church, and as you can imagine it didn’t quite click for me.
Sundari: You must keep in mind that the teachings on non-duality are not exclusive to Vedanta, they cannot be, because non-duality is the nature of life. The scriptural teachings of Vedanta unfold with pristine logic how the whole mandala of existence functions, but it does not “own” non-duality. Non-duality can appear under the guise of other paths, but in fact it is the pathless path that underpins all paths. Once you can discriminate between ignorance and knowledge, you can spot both a mile off, no matter where they appear. There are some Vedantins who see Christ as a non-dualist, and in many ways, things he said definitely pointed to that. The thing is, if he existed, he was not different to anyone else, just someone who knew who he was and was too outspoken about it, which cost him his life. The problem is not with Christ, it’s with the Christians who deified him. My parents were staunch Catholics and they often said don’t confuse Christ with the Christians. Same applies to the Buddha. The thing is, Christ may have said some pretty accurate things, but he offered no system of teaching – just inspirational wisdom. His sayings were turned into a religion, but no matter how enlightened the approach to Christianity, it still comes up short on a valid systematic teaching capable of removing the ignorance of your true nature as unlimited, ever-present, ever-full, unchanging consciousness.
Nick: Now, I’m in a unique and for the most part positive situation. I got hired for an incredible gospel band in an all-black church. I’m the only white person in the building, which obviously doesn’t matter, but just to give you the full picture. I love the music, people of the church and the steady, good-paying gig. But if you’ve never experienced a church like this, it’s wild! Everyone speaking in tongues, the pastor and his wife, the co-pastor, are both self-proclaimed “prophets” and they “deliver or save” these people every Sunday. So people getting sleighed by the spirit left and right, hitting the floor, crying and shouting gibberish in the name of Jesus! All the while we play really soulful music that adds to their whole experience.
Meanwhile, the pastors get rich because whatever you tithe in Jesus’ name you’re guaranteed 1,000% return. So I’m the only one in the room thinking this all might be a big show, but I can say these people are for sure sincerely experiencing something even if it’s not real, and these pastors believe in what they’re doing. And the message overall and sense of community these people get is very positive. So, would you look at this as a sort of bhakti? It’s often all about miracles, so a sense of spiritual materialism is there for sure, which bothers me a bit. And they tend to personify God.
Sundari: Yes, it’s the emotional power of bhakti – dualistic worship. God bless them all, it’s better than many other things they could be doing! They are all worshipping the Self, they just think it is something other than them. Join in and have fun, enjoy the bhakti.
Nick: So I guess I’m trying to find my karma yoga attitude toward this church gig. And the Vedanta perspective of how Jesus plays in to the big picture: an avatar? I’m definitely adding to these people’s spiritual experience every Sunday by playing for them as they worship Christ, but it is a bit weird for me to wrap my head around or to try and participate in spiritually. But I feel that I should find a way to from a Vedanta perspective. Any thoughts?
Sundari: There is no harm in it. See them all as the Self, enjoy the show and the good feelings it brings, but keep discriminating. It’s all mithya, and devotional practice is a good thing. See the article I attached, which is a rewrite by James of an article on what God is, by Swami Paramarthananda.
Nick: Sorry such a long email and so many questions. I’m hoping to get unstuck spiritually while still moving forward in my career and as a father/husband.
Sundari: I have given you enough to keep you busy for a while! You are doing great, Nick, keep up the good work.
~ Much love to you too, Sundari