Sunday, May 7, 2017

Brother John Martin Sahajananda's Fully Human, Fully Divine- The Vedic Vision and the Vision of Christ

Brother John Martin Sahajananda, a Benedictine Calmodolese Monk, disciple of Bede Griffiths, and one of the spiritual directors at the ShantivanamChristian Ashram in India, has written a very engaging short book with a long title, Fully Human, Fully Divine: Integral Dynamic Monotheism(A Meeting Place Between the Vedic Vision and the Vision of Christ).

The book was published in 2014. I have been a very avid reader of Brother Martin's books. I first discovered his writing when I saw and purchased his book, You are the Light:Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus, and then his next book, Hindu Christ: Jesus' Message through Eastern Eyes.

In all of Brother Marin's books, he seeks to find where Christianity and Hinduism meet. He is one of the leading exponents of Christian-Hindu dialogue. His father was a Hindu, and his mother was a Christian. He became a Catholic monk, and joined the Shantivanam Ashram and was discipled by Bede Griffiths, the great Catholic spiritual teacher and writer.

Over the three books I have read (Brother Martin has a couple of others), he has been developing his notion of non-dualistic truth in the Gospels and teachings of Jesus. In his book, Hindu Christ, he examines three aspects of Jesus' experience of God:

1) Dualistic: ("the Father is greater than I")
2) Qualified Non-Dualism ("I am in the Father and the Father is in Me")
3) Non-Dualism ("I and the Father are One").

We too, can relate to God in all three ways, and there is an ebb and flow between our dualistic and non-dualistic experiences of God.

In this book, Fully Human, Fully Divine, he explores the meeting place of the Vedic Vision and the Vision of Christ. He gives us an overview of the Upanishad's and Bhagavad Gita, and the Gospel, and provides a brief theological history of Hindu theologians and saints who had dualistic, qualified non-dualistic, and non-dualistic theologies. There are also several other hybrid and paradoxical views too, represented in Hindu Theology.

Brother Martin asserts that Hinduism is monotheistic, that even with all the millions of deities in popular religion, there is only One Reality without a second. Different deities are avatars or archetypes of the One God, who is the Ground of Being.

Brother Martin places Hindusim in the "Wisdom" tradition of world religions, along with Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism. He places Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, in the group of "Prophetic Monotheistic Religions."

Brother Marin explores the relationship of both types of religious traditions, and notes that the Wisdom tradition emphasizes our Spiritual ascent and oneness with Reality, and that the Prophetic religious traditions, our responsibility not only to love God but to love our neighbor and to work for social transformation.

Brother Martin explains that Integrated Dynamic Monotheism blends the truth of these two broad faith traditions, so that we understand ourselves as one with God but also one with our neighbor, who are our brothers and sisters. There is a harmony between prayer and contemplation, and social action.

Brother Marin explains how the different paths of Yoga- Jnana Yoga (Wisdom, associated with Meditation and study of Scriptures), and Bhakti Yoga (devotion to the Deity), and Karma Yoga (good deeds and social action, but done in detachment), can be integrated in our spiritual practice so that we may achieve Self-Realization but also help to transform the world.

Brother Martin's books are a breath of fresh air. It is a good thing to read and learn from a person who has a deep spiritual practice of their own, and has engaged in respectful dialogue with other faith traditions. I am not interested in polemics as much as the pursuit of God.

I had a professor in undergrad who was a Jungian analyst, and also, a Unitarian minister. He came up with a formula for this integrated way:"Contemplation + awareness = liberation (spiritual and social). I recommend Brother Martin's books for anyone seeking to know their true Self in God and others.









 

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