OCTOBER 23, 2016
Is Sat-Cit-Ananda or Trimurti the equivalent of the Holy Trinity?
While researching the subject of the “squatting Mass”, I came across two pictures of a long-time friend Fr. Bryan Lobo (Mangalore/Bombay) and a fellow Jesuit saying Mass wearing saffron shawls over civilian dress.
Fr. Bryan Lobo SJ is no ordinary priest. He is the Director of the
Department of Theology of Religions, part of the faculty of Missiology at the Gregorian University Rome.
In the pictures (below) he prefers a chair to sit on while celebrating Mass, instead of floor-squatting.
Source: “Jesuits Fr. Neelam Lopes (left) and Fr. Bryan Lobo (right) celebrating the Eucharist.”
Source: “Fr. Neelam (the first one, wearing a yellow scarf) and Fr. Bryan (sitting close to him wearing an orange scarf) during the Mass.” I suppose they mean “shawl” instead of “scarf”.
THE SQUATTING INDIAN RITE MASS
MAY PRIESTS WEAR A SHAWL WHILE CELEBRATING HOLY MASS
On December 18, 2006, Fr. Bryan Lobo wrote to me:
I have just finished my second chapter of the Thesis and it was on the founding father of Indian Christian Theology: Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (1861-1907) of Calcutta who was a Hindu Brahmin and then converted to Catholicism. He has attacked Annie Besant and the whole theosophy movement which was taking shape during that time and which has influenced the New Age movement a great deal. He depended a lot for his theology on St. Thomas Aquinas. His arguments are extremely theological and he has even defeated Besant in an open challenge on the question whether God is personal or impersonal. I recommend two books if you are interested. -Julius J. Lipner, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay: The life and thought of a revolutionary (New Delhi: Oxford Press, 1999). -Julius J. Lipner & George Gispert-Sauch, The writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. I, II (Bangalore: The United Theological College). There are more but these will suffice. Well next year is his centenary celebrations. The Indian Church is going all out to see that his message reaches the Catholics and the Clergy. In your Catholic Times you should have something on him especially his arguments against, Blavatsky, Besant, Vivekananda and the group. They are extremely theological and doctrinal. You could pick up a lot from the early writings of Upadhyay against the New Age and i assure you your arguments will be well appreciated.
I had studied about Brahmabandhab Upadhyay when I did my Master’s in Christian Studies and Master’s in Philosophy & Religion. He did have some excellent propositions, but some of the things he proposed were not very favorable if I recall… but now I am uncertain as to what. He is also looked at by the Catholic Ashram Movement as a father figure– I am not sure if it’s their problem or his- and you know what that has deteriorated into (my report on CATHOLIC ASHRAMS).
Fr. Bryan Lobo replied:
That is precisely the point. The whole Ashram movement in India has taken Brahmabandhab Upadhyay as a father figure (as you rightly said) but have not understood him or his zeal at all. Now if you show those Ashram movement fellows that their very founding father was against this New Age kind of theology and philosophy, you will strike them at their very roots. I have already written an article (I was asked by the editor of Vidyajyothi to contribute for the centenary celebrations in Delhi where Hindus and people of other religions will be there. My article would rather shock them and also the Christian theologians (especially the likes of Michael Amaladoss SJ*) but it is extremely doctrinal following Upadhyay.
Ashram is only a word that seems Hindu. It is the underlying patterns of thinking that have to be challenged theologically.
You know that I too am against the New Age movement. I found that if Brahmabandhab Upadhyay was alive today he would have gone headlong against the New Age movement. He wanted Christianity to be Indian in outlook so that Indians could come to recognise Jesus Christ as the true Lord and God. He wanted the whole of India to be Catholic in religion and Hindu in culture (without compromising the faith). *He has been castigated by Rome for his bad theology and was one of my professors for the contact classes during my M.A. in Christian Studies
Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, a Brahmin convert on the sat-cit-ananda principle as the Holy Trinity (see p. 16):
Here is an August 2012 write-up (pages 2-11) of Fr. Bryan Lobo SJ (my footnotes and comments in green):
Tripersonalising the Parabrahman – Brahmabandhab Upadhyay
Fr. Bryan Lobo SJ
The Hindu-Christian dialogue has led to a great enrichment of Christian theology in India. The initiative for such a dialogue has mostly, if not always, been from the Christian side. Has this dialogue ever helped Hindu theology in general and Advaita (Advaita Vedanta) in particular? If this dialogue is a sign of a Hindu-Christian symbiosis, then the symbiosis is incomplete if there is no learning or give and take on both sides.
Indian Christian theology has gone miles ahead in integrating many aspects of Hindu theology and culture into its ever widening gamut of concepts, symbols and images, theology and philosophy. But the Hindu mind at the conceptual, philosophical and theological level has not been affected much by Christian theology. In fact our dogmatic assertions, in principle, especially with regard to the Trinity, seem absurd if not downright foolish to the Advaitin. On the other hand the Christian impact in India has been negatively perceived as one of robbing people from their religion with promises of education, social liberation from caste system and finally eternal salvation, to christianize them and widen the Church in India. This has put our Indian Christian theologians on guard against an exclusive and inclusive theologizing much to the benefit of interreligious dialogue.
But has Christian theology ever had a positively transformative impact on the theological and spiritual concepts of Hinduism? Would an Advaitin affirm the veracity of the tripersonal God in the same way as an Indian Christian theologian affirms the veracity of the Advaita doctrine?1 At the most, a personal dimension of the Divine, which Christianity has, would be considered as a lower level conception, which cannot be accorded to the Parabrahman. If the Advaitic sadhus and Gurus and Pandits and scholars have not at least in principle seen the truth of the Trinity as a Christian theologian does, then Hinduism stands to loose [sic]
and Indian Christian theology has still a long way to go.
If the Hindu-Christian dialogue has enriched a great deal the Indian Christian thinking, it needs to do the same to Hindu thinking as well. For this we need to thank Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (henceforth Upadhyay), the founding father of Indian Catholic theology, who by
spearheading the hinduization of Christianity on the basis of his Thomistic reading of saccidānanda, has indirectly presented a challenge to the God conception of Advaita, envisioning thereby the Parabrahman, as personal/tripersonal. This article is written having this direction in mind. It will show that by tripersonalizing the Parabrahman of Advaita, Upadhyay has offered to Advaita a totally new and revolutionary horizon of understanding God.
This article has three sections
The first is the background which will deal with the understanding of the Parabrahman according to Śankara and the understanding of God as personal / tripersonal in Christian scriptures and tradition.
The second section will deal with Upadhyay’s reaction to the translation of nirguna as impersonal and his subsequent presentation of the saccidānanda as tripersonal.
In the final section we shall present some reflections that would emerge from Upadhyay’s vision.
1. Why would an “Indian Christian theologian affirm the veracity of the Advaita doctrine?”
Advaita is monistic and non-dualistic. Those philosophies are antithetical to the truths of Christianity.
Advaita (literally, “not-two”) is the oldest extant sub-school of the Vedanta schools of Hindu philosophy and religious practice. One of the classic Indian paths to spiritual realization, Advaita postulates that the true Self, Atman, is the same as the highest Reality, Brahman, providing Hindu scriptural authority for the postulation of the non-duality of Atman and Brahman. Followers of Advaita seek liberation/release by the acquisition of vidya (knowledge) of the identity of Atman and Brahman. It emphasizes jivan mukti, the idea that moksha (freedom, liberation) is achievable in this life. Many scholars describe it as a form of monism, some as non-dualism.
1. Śankara’s idea of the Parabrahman
It is a well-known fact that for Śankara the ultimate reality is the Parabrahman.1
But did Śankara ever think of the Parabrahman as a personal Being? This is really not clear.22 As of the relational understanding of person today, in principle, Śankara cannot accept the Parabrahman as a personal Being because the very idea of person would signify necessary relation, and necessary relation would be seen as a limitation because it involves a dependence on another. So Parabrahman who is infinite and unlimited cannot be possessing this limitation.3
Secondly the world which is mistakenly taken to be real by unenlightened humans, is, according to the Advaitic God experience actually unreal.4 So the Parabrahman cannot be relating to something that is unreal or actually an illusion.
Thirdly, Śankara takes the Parabrahman to be one-only-without-a-second (ekam eva advitiyam). This would mean that the Parabrahman is alone, a monad by himself, but residing in total bliss. It is only when the Parabrahman is seen in relation to the world that a distinction has to be made between the highest Brahman namely the Parabrahman as nirguna (without ties) and the lower Brahman as saguna (with ties).3 So it is only the saguna Brahman that is related to the world, which in the final analysis is an illusion, a dream.5
Positing personality to the Parabrahman would be heretical in Śankara’s idea of the Parabrahman. On the other hand the neti neti (not this, not this, Br. Up. II.3.6), formula is applied to the questions regarding the attributes of the Parabrahman. So as regards the attributes or qualities nothing can be spoken of the Parabrahman. But to avoid this type of talk to fall into a kind of general void, Śankara, positively describes the nature of Brahman as reality, knowledge, infinity (sat, cit, ananta). The term ‘ananta’ became ‘ānanda’ among the later Vedantists making it sat cit ānanda (Being, intelligence, bliss).6 The Parabrahman is therefore sat, cit, ānanda.
From the presence of cit (intelligence), one could infer that Śankara had a subjective understanding of the Parabrahman, namely that, the Parabrahman is a subject (a Being that could not be taken as an object), but whether he understood the Parabrahman as a person in the modern sense of the term, is doubtful, or rather impossible.
The philosophy of Śankara was propounded by great scholars and commentators, and invariably the Parabrahman was presented as an impersonal God. According to them this is the highest realization that man could reach in their search for God. So if man has reached the very foundation or the ground of all existence, in his attempt at brahmajijñāsā (desire to know the nature of Brahman), through the Advaitic experience in which God is propounded as the Impersonal God, then any notion of the personal God is bound to be taken as a lower level idea or as mentioned in Advaita, as the saguna Brahman.
The Christian God who is basically encountered as a Personal God therefore recedes into the background of the saguna level. This is precisely what Upadhyay will challenge on the basis of the saccidānanda affirmation of Śankara. Before we deal with it, we need to briefly look into the personal / tripersonal God encountered in Christian scriptures and tradition.
2. “This is really not clear“? Fr. Bryan should have instead written “NO.” If Adi Shankara had ever believed or posited that the Parabrahman was a personal Being, it would be common knowledge.
3. Saguna Brahman is Brahman conceived of as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe corresponding to Isvara. Advaita Vedanta, however, considers Nirguna Brahman as the only Reality. See page 23
1Parabrahman would generally refer to the Nirguna Brahman which is presupposed as the higher Brahman that is not related to creation, in contrast to the Saguna Brahman which is Brahman related to creation.
2There is no small controversy regarding this assertion. It is well know that the great Hindu scholars like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan held that the Parabrahman is impersonal. Modern scholars with the help of the Purusha sukta (Rg Veda 10.90) argue just the opposite. See Subhash Anand4, Hindu Inspiration for Christian Reflection: Towards a Hindu-Christian Theology (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2004), pp. 10-14. Here Subhash Anand is taking the Purusha Sukta as central to Vedanta.
But if the Purusha Sukta is intrinsically connected to creation, then according to Advaita Vedanta it should fall into the category of the saguna Brahman.
3Relation is basically seen as a dependence because it presupposes a relation ad extra on some object or person. If God is taken to be One then any relation posited of him has to be posited ad extra. A relation ad intra would be inconceivable to the mind of Śankara. So Brahman does not depend on the world, rather it is the other way about. It is the world that is dependent on Brahman as the effect depends on the cause. The idea of tādātmya signifies this. See Sara Grant, “Contemporary Relevance of Advaita,” in New Perspectives on Advaita Vedānta: Essays in Commemoration of Professor Richard De Smet, S.J., ed. Bradley J. Malkovsky (Leiden: Brill, 2000), pp. 153-154. This view is contested although not radically by Bede Griffiths. See Albano Fernandes, The Hindu Mystical Experience (New Delhi: Intercultural Publications, 2004), p. 173.
4 For the idea of the unreality of the world in Advaita, see Pierre Johanns, S.J., “A synopsis of, To Christ through the Vedanta,” Light of the East Series, no. 4 (Ranchi: Catholic Press 1930), p. 29
5According to Upadhyay this higher, lower distinction of Brahman is found in the last section of the last chapter of the Vedanta Sutra, and is the keystone of Vedantic Theism. The Twentieth Century, vol. 1, no. 3 (31st March, 1901), p. 62.
Upadhyay’s articles will be documented under the general title of his magazines. Most, if not all the primary sources on Upadhyay could be found in the Goethals Library of St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta. See also, Julius Lipner & George Gispert-Sauch, The Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II (Bangalore: The United Theological College, 2002), p. 302.
6See, Timothy C. Tennent, Building Christian on Indian Foundations (Delhi: ISPCK, 2000), pp.125-128.
4. Subhash Anand is a liberal priest-theologian who promotes the ordination of women as priests.
2. The personal God in Christian Scripture and Tradition
2.1 In the Old Testament
The idea of the personal God hits the reader at the very outset of the OT. The anthropomorphic ways of describing God’s behaviour were precisely intended to present a personal God. In the book of Genesis we have God talking to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8-19), making a covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:17-21), wrestling with Jacob (Gen 32:22-32). The high point of this personal encounter with God is seen in the book of Exodus where God reveals his ‘name’ to Moses as “I am” (Ex 3:13). “Thus you shall say to the Israelites ‘I am has sent me to you.'”(Ex 3:14). Many more references could be given from the OT presenting the anthropomorphic symbolisms used for God, just to show how the living God is personal.
As Ludwig Köhler says, “Through the anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament God stands before man as the personal and living God, who meets him with will and with works, who directs his will and his words towards men and draws near to men. God is the living God (Jeremiah 10:10).”7
This statement of Köhler is important because the anthropomorphisms used for God in the OT are not (as many would think) primitive ways of expressing the Divine experience, but the expression of the encounter with a God who really invades the human situation in a very personal way: He talks, dialogues and relates to human beings. The relationship which today is seen as fundamental in the understanding of person, is seen as belonging to God in his relationship with man as highlighted in the OT.
2.2 In the New Testament
The personal identity of God reaches scandalous proportions for the Jews in the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, by addressing God, the all-powerful creator and liberator, as ABBA was most shocking the Jewish hierarchy. The Jews had conceived of God as Father-Creator, but never as ABBA. “Jesus came across as expressing a unique filial consciousness and as laying claim to a unique filial relationship with the God whom he addressed as ‘Abba’.”8
The Synoptic Gospels are unanimous in presenting Jesus as the “Son of God.”9 They show others recognizing Jesus as the Son of God.
To name a few, the centurion after the death of Jesus (Mk 14:33, 16:16; Mt 27:54); the angel announcing his birth as the Son of God (Luke 1:32-35); the evil spirits tempting him or naming him with the same title (Mt 4:3, 6; Lk 4:3, 9, 41; Mk 3:11; 5:7).
This title given to Jesus was not like the one used in the olden times for Kings (Ps 2:7), Prophets and Israel (Ex 4:22). It was not even a title given to show some kind of adoption or choice by God. It was a title given to Jesus to show his ontological oneness with the Father perceived through his life, actions, death and resurrection. “Those functions (his ‘doing’) depended on his ontological relationship as Son of God (his ‘being’).”10
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus was the spectrum through which his eternal pre-existence was perceived as an obvious conclusion. This became a valid pre-supposition of Pauline Christology and soteriology as well.11, 12 John, asserting the pre-existence of Jesus as the eternal Logos, sets the stage for the second person in the Godhead.
The Holy Spirit, which will be given by the Father at the behest of the Son (John 14:15), is the ‘Advocate’, “… the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him”12 (John 14: 16-17), is received at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) and convinces the early Christians of its distinct existence within the Godhead because “the Holy Spirit (was) not a mere impersonal gift, … (but) also a personal giver … the third person of the Trinity.”13, 14
It was then left to the coming generation to make sense of this deposit of revelation of the inner nature of the personal God that appeared to be tri-personal.
2.3 Defending the Tri-Personal God
The monopersonal God of the OT reveals himself as the tripersonal God in the NT. Not that there was an evolutionary change in God from one to three. He was always tripersonal, but, it needed the incarnation of the second person (Son of God) for a concrete understanding of the tripersonality of God even in the OT. This was basically seen through the context of the Christ event. It was therefore the Christ event that enlarged the vision of a monopersonal God to a tripersonal God.
The problem that the early Fathers of the Church faced was of how to present the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (revealed in the NT), in God as one yet three. To put in modern terms, how to present the threeness in the oneness of God.
The Greek word prosopon, which was used by Hippolytus to connote the distinctive individuality of one’s social role, 14 was used by Tertullian with its Latin translation of persona, for the three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in the Godhead. The use of persona, was not in its original sense of ‘individuality’ but its Biblical sense of dialogue and relation.15
Tertullian finally gave his definition for the Trinity as “una substantia-tres personae,” three persons in one substance. But this definition rather than making matters clear for one’s faith led to more problems and heretical explanations because of the prevailing philosophies. We cannot get into the history of the Trinitarian heresies here. Finally the Church put an end to all the divergent views by its Trinitarian explications at the Council of Constantinople (381).16 In short, God was three distinct persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), united in one divine substance. The philosophies of that time which tended to seek logical arguments and consistencies in their conceptions about God could not simply conceive of a God of seeming contradictions, namely of being One in Three or Three in One.
As the Church Fathers fought might and main to present the three distinct persons of the Trinity united in substance, it became clear that ‘relation’ was the only possible category to defend such a distinction. In the bargain person itself came to be understood as relation. This was evident from the way the Greek Fathers presented the persons in the Trinity as a communion, (koinonia), existing in a ‘perichoretic’ way.17
For Augustine ‘person’ seemed as an answer to those who would ask “three what.”18 In his De Trinitate Augustine in his attempt at trying to explain the threeness and oneness of the tripersonal God, gave many images from creation. But he finds in man the true image of the Trinity (Gen. 1.28) and more particularly in the human soul, which led to the famous psychological analogy (mind – knowledge – love).19
Kasper5 was right in stating that Augustine’s psychological analogy determined the course of later speculation for Latin Trinitarian theology.20
It was Boethius who defined person as “an individual substance of rational nature.”21 Later it was Aquinas who under the influence of Aristotelian metaphysics22 and scholastic epistemology23 used the psychological analogy to present one of the most comprehensive, convincing and lasting treatises of the Trinity in Latin theology.24 Having thus clarified philosophically the way the Trinitarian dogma could be understood, Aquinas does not present this as a comprehension of the Trinity. Instead he says it is only a way to understand analogically the ineffable Mystery of the Trinity which always remains beyond comprehension.
Among the saints we have many who have had the vision of the Trinity in symbolic ways. St. Ignatius sees the Trinity as three keys of the piano. He also sees himself as placed with the Son. The mystical experiences of the Christian saints also speak of a deep union with God, as, e.g., St Theresa of Avila. Never has any saint denied the Trinity. They did surely uphold that God is one (this could be taken to mean one-without-a-second), but God was always tri-personal. The Trinitarian dogma has been maintained in all the mystical experiences of the Saints who had them. Upadhyay, on the other hand not only stood by the Trinitarian mystery to the very end, but applied the Thomistic presentation of that mystery to the saccidānanda of Śankara, in turn revivifying it with a fresh personality that is three dimensional.
5. Cardinal Walter Kasper was leading the liberal lobby of reform against the conservatives who opposed the proposed fundamental changes (in marriage, divorce, etc.) at the 2014-5 Synod on the Family
8 Gerald O’ Collins, S.J., Christology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 126.
9 Although this title, not shown as explicitly used by Jesus, is implied because it is applied to Jesus.
10 Collins, Christology, p. 126.
11 Ibid., especially p. 128
12 Italics mine to show that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit as a person.
13 Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (New York: Crossroads, 1989), p. 210. Brackets mine.
14See, Edmund J. Dobbin, “Trinity”, in The New Dictionary of Theology, eds. J.A. Komonchak, M. Collins, D.A. Lane (Bangalore: TPI, 2003), p.1054.
15For a detailed exposition of this aspect see, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Concerning the notion of Person in theology,” in Communio, vol. XVII, no. 3 (Fall 1990), pp. 439-447.
16ND 306/1-24, DS 153-176.
17See Gerald O’Collins, S.J., The Tripersonal God (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999), p. 132.
18De Trinitate, 5.10. Here Augustine acknowledges the great poverty of the human language to answer the question “three what.” But he feels it better to say something rather than be silent because there was no going back on the conviction that there is plurality in God (which was revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
19Books IX, X and XI of his “De Trinitate” deal concretely with Augustine’s Psychological image or the Mental image of the Trinity. PL 42, 8.
20 Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, p. 272.
21Boethius, “DePersona et duabus naturis contra Eutychen et Nestorium”, 3. PL 64, 1343.
22Aristotle through logical arguments reaches the conclusion that the intellectual activity is the life of God, “…for intellectual activity is life, and God is that activity; and the essential activity of God is the life which is best and eternal.” Meta., bk XII, ch. 7, 1072b26. Secondly since all operation tends towards the good, the intellectual operation in God also tends towards the same giving Him the greatest pleasure (Meta., bk XII, ch. 7, 1072b16). Since the greatest good is God Himself then it follows that God has to be thinking about himself which gives Him the greatest pleasure.
23The scholastic (Thomistic) epistemology in short (which is also Aristotelian in origin), is that ‘the knower becomes one with the object that he knows. Thus the knower becomes the known.’ This depends upon the theory that like is known by like, simile simili cognoscitur. (ST Ia. 84, 2 responsio). Here Aquinas quotes Aristotle, De Anima I, 2.
404b17. Aquinas also holds the Aristotelian idea of the intellect which is understood as a writing tablet on which nothing is written. (ST Ia. 84, 3, sed contra). Thus it is always in potency and its knowing anything is always in act in the sense that it comes to know the essence of the object by having the form of the object impressed upon it (which is immaterial). The final act of knowing is the word (verbum mentis) which contains the definition of the object known (which in turn contains the explanation of the essence of the object). For a detailed explanation of what I have said above see Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. II (London: Burns & Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1950), pp. 388-398. In God the object of His knowledge is He Himself, which gives rise to the Word (which proceeds as subsisting in the same nature unlike in human beings), and in this knowing He gets the greatest pleasure which is signified as love by Aquinas. So the Father is the principle without principle, Son being the Word that is generated (Generation within the Godhead is eternal) from the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the love that flows from the Father and Son. ST Ia, qq. 33-37.
24Refer to ST Ia, qq. 27 -43 for Aquinas’ detailed exposition of the Trinity.
The Parabrahman is Tripersonal
The main contention of Upadhyay was that the Parabrahman is personal because he is sat cit ānanda (being, consciousness and bliss). It was only from this premise that he could develop his Trinitarian theology using the Thomistic argument. With this conviction in mind he could not tolerate the translation of ‘nirguna’ as ‘impersonal’.
1. Translation of “Nirguna” as “impersonal”
The problem of the ‘impersonal’ reality of Brahman arises from the translations of the works of Śankara during the time of Upadhyay. It should be noted that the translations into English were done by Christian scholars or western scholars who had come from Christian backgrounds. Since relationship was intrinsic to the idea of a person, it was natural that a Being having no relations should be considered as impersonal. But this does not justify the translation of nirguna as impersonal, because nirguna can very well have been translated into ‘tie-less’ (as Upadhyay would suggest). But the translators never had any intention, like Upadhyay had, of reconciling the Christian God with the Parabrahman. If this was the case they would have been extremely careful in their translations. They simply felt that ‘unrelational’ is against ‘personal’ so therefore should be impersonal. Therefore the absolute Brahman is impersonal.
It is also interesting to see that the word ‘impersonal’ was not problematic for other scholars except for Upadhyay.
In fact A. Hegglin, S.J., who defines theism, in contrast to Advaita, as “that system of philosophy which teaches the existence of a Personal God, infinitely perfect and independent, creator of the universe out of nothing, the Preserver and Ruler of the world,”25 gives names of some scholars who would go with his line of thinking. He mentions the names of Prof. Monier Williams, R.N. Apte, Rev. Goreh, Murdoch, Rev. Lal Dey, Prof. Frazer, Prof. Weber and Prof. A.E. Gough.26
He quotes Gough, the author of the philosophy of the Upanishads as saying, “There is, according to the Vedanta, but one substance or reality, and this is the supreme spirit, the impersonal self…”27
He also quotes Weber on Vedanta saying, “The notion that creation is but an illusion, and that the transcendental Brahman is alone the Real, but throning in absolute infinitude without any personal existence, is the fundamental doctrine of this system.”28
With impersonal being the common denominator used to express the Brahman of Advaita or even Vedanta, it was evident that M. Thibaut an Indologist and Professor at Varanasi and Allahabad, 29 translated the nirguna as impersonal when he translated the dense work of Śankara’s Vedanta Sutras, into English. It is the response, rather the reaction of Upadhyay to this translation that is enlightening and has in fact set the tone for this whole article.
2. Upadhyay’s response to the translation of Nirguna into impersonal
Upadhyay vehemently opposed this translation of M. Thibaut. It was evident by the forceful language he uses in this article where he says, “M. Thibaut has, to the great misfortune of the civilized world, seen the Vedanta through coloured glasses… (he) has been subject to a huge misconception… nothing can be more unjust than to translate
“nirgunam” as “impersonal.”30 In the ensuing argument in which Upadhyay tries to validate his point it is interesting to note how he finally presents the nirguna brahman itself as supra-personal “to avoid confusion”, which literally would involve the dynamics of being personal, that in its very definition embodies relatedness, although in a different way. Or, shall we say in an analogical way?
Upadhyay says, “He (Parabrahman) is “nirguna”, lit., tie-less, because “guna” means rope, a tie.”31
To be ‘tie-less would mean to be unrelated and this is exactly what he maintains about the Parabrahman, but later towards the end of the paragraph he says, “To be a person is to be related. A person is self-conscious, free individual… God is self-conscious and free, though unrelated, and can not therefore be styled an impersonal being. To avoid confusion he may be called supra-personal.”32
In this way he could affirm the personhood of God because he prepares the reader a little before by saying that intelligence (cit) and bliss (ānanda) are not attributes of the Being, God (Parabrahman), instead they are part and parcel of his nature. Since “guna” ordinarily means attribute and since we are dealing with the nirguna Brahman, we are talking of God as being, intelligence and bliss (sat, cit, ānanda) as God’s nature, without talking about His attributes. So the God who is being, intelligence and bliss is evidently self-conscious and free, which in turn are the premises for the definition of a person. The Parabrahman is therefore a person.
The Sanskrit language, on the other hand has no proper equivalent for ‘person’.33 So logically Śankara would not have had the concept of a person in human terms when talking positively of God as sat, cit, ānanda or (ananta).
But Upadhyay, precisely on the basis of the sat, cit, ānanda affirms the personality of God. This he could do because he carried within him the Thomistic definition of person, namely subsistens distinctum in natura rationali (that which subsists as distinct in a rational nature).34 Since intelligence (cit) implies rational nature it follows that Parabrahman has to be personal.
But having the fear of this being understood in a human way, Upadhyay felt it better to use the word “supra-personal” “to avoid confusion.” What he actually had in mind was that when the term person was applied to God, it had to be applied in an analogical way. In the bargain what Upadhyay does is to present the nirguna Brahman as a person (which would be totally against Śankara’s understanding, but well in keeping with the Christian analogically understanding of God as personal). But as Upadhyay says, if nirguna means unrelated, and “to be a person is to be related,” is he contradicting himself by presenting the nirguna Brahman as a person or (supra-personal)? Not really. This shall be briefly clarified in the next point.
The problem of Relation solved:
Moving towards the Tripersonal Parabrahman Nirguna which literally means unrelated, is a perfect application to the highest Brahman in the logic of Advaita philosophy since relation (as we have mentioned before), to an object outside oneself meant dependence and therefore a limitation to absolute existence. Since God is absolute existence he cannot be limited in this way and therefore attributing relation to Parabrahman (transcendentally), is a limitation.
So if ‘person’ means to be related then it cannot be applied to the Parabrahman. One seems to have arrived at an impasse here because the argument is fully valid and Upadhyay was fully aware of its validity. The only way that he could get out of this conundrum was to take recourse to the Trinitarian concept of Christian theology. If God is taken to be one and not Triune, then there is no way out but to accept the logical proposition stated above.
Even Śankara (who was well known for his arguing skills) would have hammered this very point to the utter dismay of his opposition. But using the very principle of Śankara’s sat, cit, ānanda, and combining it with the psychological analogy of Aquinas, one can show God to be personal, related within himself (ad intra), and not necessarily outside himself (ad extra). This is exactly what Upadhyay did. He understood relation in this sense, not as limitation.
If God is sat, cit, ānanda, then it necessarily follows that God is tripersonal, as shown in the Thomistic Trinitarian theology, and therefore related within himself and not without. Relation without is dependence and limitation, not relation within. So if God is conceived as one and not triune then relation has to be understood as implying relation with an object outside (without) therefore a limitation, but if God is conceived as triune (that is oneness in threeness), then relation is evident, but within, avoiding the limitation of a necessary relation without. In this way Upadhyay personalises the Parabrahman, using the very system of Śankara but interpreting it in the light of Thomistic Trinitarian theology.35
At this point we shall give some quotes from Upadhyay himself to substantiate the point that we have made so far. Upadhyay had given a lecture in the Framji Cowasji Hall in Bombay, the summary of which appeared in the next month’s December issue of Sophia Monthly. Here he is quoted to have said, External relationship indeed implies limitation; but not so internal relationship. The Infinite self-sufficient Being is related within Himself. He is not necessitated to enter into relationship with any objective unit external to Himself. The Subjective Self of God sees and contemplates the Objective self of God and in this single, eternal act are his knowledge and love fully satisfied.36
In the following quote we find Upadhyay asserting that God is a person by rational argument. By reason we can also prove the personality of God. Every cause must be adequate to its effect. There can be no excess in the effect over the cause. If there be any then that excess will have no cause, which contradicts the first principle: every effect must have a cause.
The First Cause, then, is adequate to its effect – the universe. Therefore, there can be nothing in the universe which is not contained in the First Cause in a pre-eminent way.
We find there are beings endowed with intelligence and will; therefore the First Cause must contain intelligence and will pre-eminently. Therefore God is a person, the definition of person being an individual having intelligence and will. We are aware that this proof is beset with many difficulties. But it can be shown that those difficulties cannot upset our simple and logical proof of the personality of God.37
Finally we give a quote from the same summary mentioned above, which is directly connected to the Trinity and the Personal God. “The Vedantist went further and proclaimed that this Infinite unity, was no cold intellectual abstraction, but a Personal Being who knows all, who watches over us with a Father’s eye – a Being who is the plenitude of being; consciousness, pure and luminous, and bliss supreme: sat, chit, anand.”38
From the above, we see that Upadhyay explicitly states that God is a person, because of intelligence and will (cit and ānanda). He therefore is indirectly saying that the Parabrahman (sat, cit, ānanda) is actually personal. The problem of relations is solved by falling back on the same concept of the sat, cit, ānanda, but this time giving it a threefold interpretation within the context of the tri-personal God of Christianity. Therefore sat, cit, ānanda is the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We shall deal very briefly with this assertion of Upadhyay through his Canticle to the Trinity.
4. Canticle to the Holy Trinity (Vande Saccidānandam)
39: Tripersonalising the Parabrahman In his wonderful canticle to the Holy Trinity, Upadhyay presents the Parabrahman in a tripersonal way. He says, “the canticle sings of the Father-God (Parabrahman), the Logos-God (Śabda-Brahman) and the Spirit-God (Śvasita-Brahman), One in Three, Three in One.”40
Although Upadhyay is not giving theological explanation in this hymn, we shall insert his theological pre-suppositions wherever necessary, for a better understanding of his ideas.
In the last line of the first stanza Upadhyay refers to God as trisańga (thrice related) which is actually referring to the three-fold subsistent relation, the three Persons in God, which represents the inexpressible inter-subjectivity, a community.41
The first person, the Father, the Parabrahman, the Sat is dealt with in the second stanza. He is called the Supreme Lord, the creator. His creation is considered intelligent (īksana), and therefore a personal act, not an impersonal evolution.42
But this act of creation is outward and unnecessary (as Upadhyay would always affirm). But there is an act which is necessarily within Being (Sat) itself because for the “Parabrahman … to be is to know.”43
So therefore knowing is the first act within oneself, which results in selfknowing. This act leads to a distinction within Being as the knowing self and the known self, which then necessarily involves a self-related cit.44
The third stanza, which is addressed to the Son, the cit, has amidst some titles given to the Son, namely, “Infinite” and the “Word” (om), the title of the Purusha (meaning Person), given to the Son, which goes far beyond the Samkhya terminology of an intelligent monad because He is prasūta, which is begotten (in eternity).45
Here again the explanation of Cit in the Parabrahman which leads to a second self in the act of knowing Himself, is taken for granted. So Cit, which technically means, ‘intelligence,’ is the ground of self-knowledge where the one ‘I’ becomes a second ‘I’ by virtue of intelligence. Upadhyay beautifully puts it, “Parabrahman, the supreme Being, is essentially Cit…. He reproduces his self as Sabdabrahman (Logos) by īkshana (beholding).”46
This beholding of the Parabrahman is understood by Upadhyay in a very Thomistic way (see ft.nt. 24), as the self-comprehension of the Parabrahman. He can therefore very categorically state in his Sophia Monthly about the Parabrahman saying, His eternal self-comprehension or word is to be conceived as identical with the divine nature and still as distinct from the Supreme Being in as far as He, by comprehending Himself generates His word. God, knowing Himself by producing or generating His own image and word, is called Father; and God as known by Himself by this inward generation of the word is called the Word or the Son.47
The fourth stanza, Upadhyay dedicates, to the Holy Spirit, who is Ānanda or bliss. By the very way he begins the stanza it becomes clear that he is thinking of Ānanda as not just an emotion or state of rest in the Godhead but as a ‘someone’ (a ‘One’), who in this context is presupposed as a person. He says, “One who proceeds from the union of Sat and Cit, the blessed (breath), intense bliss.”48 Although here, as in the previous two, there is no argument to affirm the personhood of bliss (Holy Spirit), but it has already been solved in Upadhyay’s previous argument where he tries to assert a personal distinction within God yet maintaining God’s unity by supporting it with the understanding of sattva, rajas and tamas as three distinct elements which are found unitedly in prakriti.49
For Upadhyay it was very clear that the Trinity – saccidānanda exhibited “the very nature of God as one essence possessed undividedly by Three Persons.”50
His understanding of person was also in keeping with the contemporary Christian theology.
He says, “The term ‘person’… denotes a rational individuum, a being endowed with reason and free will.”51
Finally to sum up we shall quote
The knowing Self is the Father, the known Self or the Self begotten by His knowledge is the Son; and the Holy Ghost is the spirit of reciprocal love proceeding from the Father and the Son. It is a necessity, Christian revelation teaches us, for the subsistence of the Godhead to be related within the term of Its essence without being divided.
Thus lives the Supreme Being in the beatitude of triple colloquy, from eternity to eternity, selfsatisfied, self-sufficient, without any need of external communication or response from without.52
25 A. Hegglin, S.J., “Vedantism and Maya”, in Varia: Miscellaneous articles by or on Upadhyaya Brahmabandhab, p.184 (Italics mine).
26Ibid., p. 212.
27Ibid. (Italics mine).
28Ibid. (Italics mine).
29In Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Bramabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II, p. 283, ft.nt., 38.
30The Twentieth Century, vol. 1, no. 2 (28th Feb., 1901), pp. 36-7. Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II, pp. 293-4.
31The Twentieth Century, vol. 1, no. 2 (28th Feb., 1901), p. 37. Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II, p. 295.
33R.V. De Smet, “Ancient Religious Speculation”, in Religious Hinduism (Allahabad: St. Paul Publications, 1964), p.46.
34See Karl Rahner, The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (London: Burns & Oates), p. 104, ft.nt., 25.
35Refer to ft.nt., 24, for any clarification on Thomistic Trinitarian theology and its epistemological presuppositions.
36Sophia Monthly, vol. 4, no. 12 (December, 1897), p. 3.
37Sophia Monthly (September 1897), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1 (Bangalore: The United Theological College, 1991), pp. 124-5.
38Sophia Monthly, vol. 4, no. 12 (December, 1897), pp. 1-2.
39Henceforth we shall use saccidānandam wherever necessary for sat, cit, ānanda. This word is normally used in adoration to God (‘vande’ would connote the similar meaning), and “is a compound of three traditional philosophical religious terms, which in their simple form are sat (existent, being), cit (consciousness, intelligence) and ānanda (bliss, felicity).” In G. Gispert-Sauch, S.J., “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” Religion and Society, 19/ 4 (1972), p. 66.
40Sophia Monthly (Oct. 1898), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol.1, p. 126.
41See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” p. 70. We shall not be entering into the intricate usage of Sanskritic literature and aspects of Hindu religious culture and worship used in this hymn. For this, refer the article of Gispert-Sauch stated above.
42Ibid., p. 71.
43Sophia Monthly, vol. 6, no. 3 (March 1899), p. 238; Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1, p. 128.
44For a brief explanation of this see, Tennent, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, pp. 233-234.
45Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” p. 72.
45 Sophia Monthly, vol. 6, no. 3 (March 1899), p. 238; Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1, p. 128. Īkshana is a technical term used in Vedanta to show how creation takes place by the
beholding of Parabrahman. Creation is therefore an intelligent and a personal act. See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, p. 71.
45 Sophia Monthly, vol. 2, no. 4 (April, 1895), p. 11, in Tennent, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, p. 225.
45 Sophia Monthly (Oct. 1898), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol.1, p. 127.
46Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” p. 72.
47Sophia Monthly, vol. 6, no. 3 (March 1899), p. 238; Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1, p. 128. Īkshana is a technical term used in Vedanta to show how creation takes place by the beholding of Parabrahman. Creation is therefore an intelligent and a personal act. See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, p. 71.
48Sophia Monthly, vol. 2, no. 4 (April, 1895), p. 11, in Tennent, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, p. 225.
49Sophia Monthly (Oct. 1898), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol.1, p. 127.
50Sophia Monthly, vol. 4, no. 2 (Feb., 1897), p. 8.
51Ibid., p. 9.
52Ibid., p. 8.
In short what we have said above is that Upadhyay, in connecting the saccidānanda of Śankara, to the Triune God of Christianity, is offering the Advaitin, a tripersonal Parabrahman. Saccidānanda is not a Trinitarian concept in Advaita. What Upadhyay does is to transforms that term by giving it a tri-prersonal (sic) hermeneutics from the Christian perspective and transforms it from within. Something similar happened with the terms
like ‘Logos’ and ‘persona’, in the history of the first three centuries, when they were pulled out from their contexts and placed within the transfomative (sic) experience of the Christ event.
THE SACCIDĀNANDA IS THE TRIPERSONAL GOD: FURTHER REFLECTIONS
From the above it becomes very clear that Upadhyay is re-visioning the monistic understanding of the Parabrahman through the Trinitarian hermeneutics of Thomas Aquinas. This re-visioning does not destroy the Advaitic concept of the Parabrahman, because Trinity in itself contains unity, in the sense the Triune God is One God and three persons. So the Trinty (sic) gives Advaita an abundance, it makes it three-dimensional, from one it makes it three, without loosing (sic) the one. Upadhyay is not doing this consciously.
He was basically interested in presenting Christianity in Hindu terms especially in Advaitic terms. In the bargain those very Advaitic terms attain a Christian flavour.
The proposals that follow are some reflections that spring up in the whole context of what we have said above.
1. Saccidānanda re-signified
The term saccidānanda which contains in its essence the teachings of the Upanishads (although appearing late in the Upanishads), is central also to Advaita. It is like an ādeśa, which is a compact presentation of a truth.53
It enjoys the status of the spiritual formulas like om, neti neti (cf. Bķ.-Ā. Up. 2.3.6), tattvamasi, aham brahmāsmi, tadvanam etc.54 So when this formula is uttered in the Advaitc (sic)
system it is pregnant with meaning. It carries within it the Advaitic experience. At the same time it is a positive statement made about the Parabrahman namely that the Parabrahman is being, consciousness and bliss. This statement is philosophically defended by later commentaries of which the Pancadaśi, is famous55 and was to be fully translated by Upadhyay who could not complete it due to his untimely death. Continuing this philosophical trend, Upadhyay, in his articles and magazines, defends the personality as well as the tri-personality of the Parabrahman through this very formula, as we have seen before.
It is by doing this that he re-signifies the formula saccidānanda. In fact he places himself in the very tradition of the earliest trends of Christian inculturation where the words Logos and Persona were appropriated in the Christian system due to which they received a meaning that did not destroy their original meaning instead, added to them dimensions that were not perceived before, but became perceptible precisely because they were in some way seen through the Christian eye. The original meaning of the words were not destroyed rather enhanced. Talking about the word Persona, it was a translation from the Greek prosopon by Tertullian who finally defined the Trinity as “una substantia-tres personae” (as stated above).
This appropriation re-signifies the word ‘Persona’ to the extent that from its original meaning of ‘individuality’ it attains the Christian meaning of dialogue and relation.56 It was the God that we encountered in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ that styled our way of understanding person.
… the concept of person arose from two questions that have from the very beginning urged themselves upon Christian thought as central: namely, the question “What is God?” (i.e., the God whom we encounter in Scripture); and, “who is Christ?” In order to answer these fundamental questions that arose as soon as faith began to reflect, Christian thought made use of the philosophically insignificant or entirely unused concept “prosopon” = “persona”. It thereby gave to this word a new meaning and opened up a new dimension of human thought.57
What Upadhyay did was the same thing. He gave the saccidānanda a new dimension by presenting it as three dimensional through his Christian reading of the same.
It is through this reading that the tri-personal aspect of the saccidānanda has been excavated so to speak and brought to the fore, that renders it more brilliant and still more mysterious.
53See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay”, p. 66.
55See Śrimad Vidyāranya Swāmi, The Panchadasi, translated into English by a humble devotee of Śri Gopala Krishna (Bombay: Tatya-Vivechaka Press, 1912).
56For a detailed exposition of this aspect see, Ratzinger, “Concerning the notion of Person in theology,” pp. 439-47.
57 Ibid., p. 439.
2. Maintaining the mystery of the Parabrahman
In the Advaita system, if saccidānanda is proclaimed as the nature of the one supreme God and if it is taken to be the last insight that one could have about the nature of God then it remains very much at the philosophical level because that insight was logically reached by Aristotle as well. In his Metaphysics this is precisely his search and finally he arrives at a Being, whose essence is to exist intellectually and in happiness.58
So if saccidānanda is the last word on the inner nature of God then the Advaitin with Aristotle can jump up victoriously and say that finally I have discovered it: God is sat, cit, ānanda (being, intelligence, bliss). It would mean that I have understood this God and there is nothing more left to know about Him. He has been reflected upon by acute selfawareness with the resultant being that his nature is sat, cit, ānanda.
If Aristotle would have been present today just to here that his conclusion, that Being is intelligent and happy within Himself or (Itself), which he reached through a scientific enquiry (Metaphysics) into the Supreme Being is the same conclusion of the spiritual enquiry of the Advaita system, then he would surely be deluded into thinking that the ineffableness of God does not exist. God can be understood and there is nothing else to wonder about Him. But then on the other side it is the neti, neti of Advaita that really challenges this very assertion of Advaita.
It is in neti neti that the seeker finally says “I don’t know,” rather, “I know but I cannot express it.” It is here that the mystery is maintained just to allow another mystery to sink in which is expressed in words but still remains a mystery and that is the Trinity. To say that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one in substance but distinct in relations, is not explaining away the mystery because it still remains a great puzzle as to how can three persons be all one and at the same time different. How can Monotheism allow tri-personality? Doesn’t Trinity amount to Tritheism?
More than clarity, this created and still creates confusion. The proud philosopher seeking clarity in divine things, did not want to live with this confusion. The temptation of clearly understanding God in human categories was always at work. This is exactly what the early Church fought against right from the inception of its Trinitarian assertion.
So rather than explaining away the mystery of God it entered deeper into it, recognising that it has still not captured it and never will. This Trinitarian affirmation that maintains the mystery finally bows down to the ineffableness of God. It is to this Trinitarian mystery that the philosophy of Aristotle was put to use as an ancilla theologiae (handmaid of theology) and it is to this Trinitarian mystery that the philosophy of Advaita is put to use through its saccidānanda formula maintaining fully the mystery of the Parabrahman in its initial and humble whisper of “neti neti.”
3. The Impersonal God is dead
If for Nietzsche God was dead then for Upadhyay the impersonal God is dead. As we said before, Hindu scholars of Advaita have interpreted the Parabrahman as the impersonal God the worship of whom or which, is considered as the highest form of worship.59
The question that arises is that when they mentioned the ‘impersonal’ Brahman, did they mean that He was not a ‘Subject’?
Is the nirguna Brahman a kind of object or shall we say ‘subjectless Being’?
They surely could not have called him an object because if I am a subject and if I am Brahman then Brahman has to be a subject.
Secondly if He is a subjectless Being then it is a contradiction because Being cannot be without consciousness because to lack consciousness means deficiency in Being.60
This is precisely why Upadhyay would fight for a personal Parabrahman. But the point that we are trying to make is that, the impersonalists have no option but to maintain a Parabrahman that is a Subject therefore self-conscious and therefore a person.
Parabrahman is therefore personal right from the start. Otherwise the impersonalist Advaitins would be preaching a New-Age, Theosophist kind of God which is a Divine principle, a kind of a divine immanent energy that is etheral, a life-giving force that has to be harnessed and to which all beings have to be attuned to. Once this attuning reaches perfection there is moksha, liberation, Nirvana, awakening and enlightenment.
Great sages, spiritual leaders, swamis and gurus are attuned to this principle or become one with this principle feeling one with the Divine and so are able to utter the Mahavakya for themselves; Aham Brahmasmi. (I am Brahman). This New Age kind of God concept is rather diffuse.61
The danger of such impersonal theology finally lands up in a no God’s land. Once again we could blame the translators for translating nirguna as impersonal which was subsequently used by Hindu Scholars. Probably or rather certainly Śankara may have really meant a personal being whose deep personal experience led him to forget himself in a way that St Paul says, “its no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
He gave expression to this experience in an Advaitic, non-dualistic way, which seemed to unfortunately portray a God that was impersonal. It was Upadhyay who way back in the 19th century held that the very Parabrahman or nirguna Brahman that Sankara preached was personal thanks to his Thomistic formation. It is only at the personal level that the neti neti of the Upanishads (Advaitic mystics), and the nada nada of the Spanish Christian mystics meet.
Even Aquinas after having the Divine vision towards the end of his life, never abrogated all that he wrote on the Trinity or what he wrote in the Summa Theologica. He only compared it to a straw which only goes to say that the Christian mysteries are truths, but ineffable, and beyond comprehension.
The Triune God is therefore not negated through that experience of Aquinas, rather it is upheld with a greater and mysterious profundity. God’s personality is much much greater than we can imagine, “Supra-personal,” to repeat what Upadhyay said. We can only talk about that personality analogically through our personality. It is only because God is personal rather tri-personal that we are Persons but in a much human way.
4. The problem of the concept of person and understanding it in the light of God’s tri-personality
The concept of person, with its rationalistic definition, after Descartes, attained a kind of individualism which practically destroyed its communitarian dimension. Today many theologians frown on the usage of persons for the Trinity in God especially after the critique of Rahner. But Rahner himself is not against the use of the concept of person.
He is rather cautioning against a prevalent understanding of person that is harmful to the understanding of person in God, which cannot be understood individualistically because then that would destroy the unity and lead to a tri-theism.62 So what is required is a better understanding of the concept of person namely as “distinct manners of subsisting.”63
Even if one thinks of abandoning the word ‘person’ and using “three distinct manners of subsisting” it does not help prayer and worship. O’Collins says, “Personal language for God makes our prayer and deep relationship to God possible.
How could one adore and glorify Rahner’s “three distinct manners of subsisting?”64
Rahner himself declares that “there is really no better word, which can be understood by all and would give rise to fewer misunderstandings.”65
So the concept of person remains and once again referring to what Cardinal Ratzinger said, that it was precisely because of the usage of ‘person’ in the Trinity, that its understanding was modified to the benefit of humanity. In the same vein, person in the Trinity cannot be understood without relations. Even Aquinas had placed his discourse on relations before dealing with the persons in the Trinity.66
The persons in the Trinity are Father, Son and Holy Spirit, precisely because they are related to each other. Now if Ātman is Brahman or if we are in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), then we too are intrinsically relational beings yet distinct. It is by our understanding of persons in the Trinity, that our personhood has to be understood and not vice versa.
Our personhood cannot be understood without relations imbued with self-giving love. In fact it is the self-giving (kenosis) that is crucial to understand the relations as well as the oneness of the persons in the Trinity. It is this understanding that actually breaks down the very barriers of caste and Dalit oppression because its existence would be an insult to the tri-personal Parabrahman itself. On the other hand it would be that Parabrahman who would become the model of our communion and togetherness helping us to live like members of one family, a real Vasudaivakutumbakam.
O’Collins beautifully puts it:
The Trinity’s koinonia or absolutely blissful communion of love presents itself as the ultimate ground and goal of all other such relations-in-communion. In a world where sharing and community have often tragically broken down, the perichoretic existence of the tri-personal God invites us to live in communion with each other and with our God.
Because the divine life is one of total self-giving and unconditional sharing, human beings, because they are made in the divine image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), are invited to exist in a communion and loving solidarity with each other and with the divine persons.67
5. Love or Bliss?
Finally the question that arises is, if self-giving love is crucial to the understanding of the inner nature of the Triune Godhead, then would it mean discarding the term ‘ānanda’ (bliss), which is again crucial in the saccidānanda experience of Advaita? Certainly not.
In fact the article of (Fr.) Gispert-Sauch, “Ānanda, Hēdonē and the Holy Spirit,” argues precisely against this point.68 He leads the reader towards understanding that bliss is basically the non-dualistic unity of the Father and the Son. This bliss (ānanda) is precisely the Spirit. So rather than understanding the Spirit as love proceeding from the knowledge of the Father and the Son, it could be understood as a state of rest in the blissful union of the Father and the Son.69 He quotes Abhishiktananda extensively for this Advaitic way of understanding the Spirit in the Godhead.
This is true of Love also. Love is basically unifying rather than dividing. Balthasar, as quoted by Gispert-Sauch is saying the same thing, that the Spirit as love expresses and seals the unity between the Father and the Son.70 So the question of love or bliss does not arise. We have to talk of love and bliss. Both the words can carry positive and negative connotations based upon contexts. This then is important even when seeing how Abhishiktananda or Gispert-Sauch have understood Ānanda wonderfully as bliss of union between the Father and Son precisely because they understood it in the context of the Trinity.
In Advaita union cannot exist because there is only one reality or to put it more appropriately reality is non-dual. So it is not ‘I and Brahman are one’ but ‘I am Brahman.’ So bliss in Advaita if applied to the social context could be understood as individualistic or in isolation to the detriment of social communion. It is only in the context of the Trinity that bliss gains a unitive perspective. So both love and bliss go hand in hand precisely in the Trinity or saccidānanda, where love unites to rest in bliss. Applying this to the social context would mean self-giving love in blissful communion. It would mean in our very self-giving love there is bliss and because there is bliss there is self-giving love. It is like the self-giving love of the cross is intrinsically connected to the bliss of the resurrection. We cannot separate one from the two.
The basic proposition of this article has been that Upadhyay, by placing the saccidānanda, that signifies the Parabrahman, in the context of the tri-personal God and applying the Trinitarian theology of Aquinas to it, has (according to us), presented a tripersonal Parabrahman to Advaita. This may not be acceptable to the Advaitin. It may seem as an invalid superimposition of foreign, Christian concepts and belief systems over the pure and simple experience of Advaita.
He or she may find the sacred saccidānanda profaned by the Trinitarian dogma. But the Indian Christian through his deep encounter with the Triune God in Jesus Christ cannot but see the saccidānanda, glow with a three dimensional personality of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is this perspective that makes the Parabrahman come alive, whom we can worship and adore together with Upadhyay singing “Vande Saccidānandam“.
58Refer to ft.nt., 23.
59″Radhakrishnan maintains that understanding God as personal does not fully satisfy our religious needs. Therefore the worship of the Absolute is higher that (sic) that of a personal God.” In Anand, Hindu Inspiration for Christian Reflection, p. 11. Vivekananda is quoted to have said, “The highest ideal in our scriptures is the impersonal and would to God everyone of us here were high enough to realise that impersonal ideal.” In Ibid., pp. 10-1.
60This is a basic Thomistic argument but one finds it also among some Christian Hindu-scholars like, Bede Griffiths, Vedanta and Christian Faith (Los Angeles: The Dawn Horse Press, 1973), p. 20.
61Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”, a provisional report by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue (Mumbai: Pauline Publications, 2003), p. 64.
See Rahner, The Trinity, pp. 103-15.
62Ibid., p. 114.
63Collins, The Tripersonal God, pp. 175-6.
64Collins, The Tripersonal God, pp. 175-6.
65In Ibid., ch. 10, end note, 2, p. 222.
66ST Ia. qq. 28-29.
67O’Collins, The Tripersonal God, pp. 179-80.
68In Indica, 16 (1979), pp. 83-102.
69Ibid., pp. 94-7
70Ibid., p. 96.
After the first few pages, I decided to drop my commentary on Fr. Bryan Lobo’s thesis (although he is a high-ranked theologian, keep in mind that the above is only a thesis [it is “theologizing”] and not the opinion of the Church). But I would like to now include my own submissions on this sat-cit-ananda-is-the-Trinity thing, in no particular order.
My comments are, as always, in green colour. I use red and blue to highlight phrases.
1. The Swami from Oxford – Fr. Bede Griffiths Wants To Integrate Catholicism and Hinduism
Say Robert Fastoggi Ph. D., associate professor of religious studies at St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas,
Jose Pereira, a native of Bombay and professor of theology at Fordham, the translator and editor of ‘Hindu Theology: A Reader‘ (Doubleday), Crisis, March 1991, Issues – heresies,
“The dubious quality of Griffiths’ attempt at a Hindu-Christian integration is also revealed in his attempt to explain
in Hindu terms. In his book The Marriage of East and West Griffiths equates the Trinity with the Hindu triad of Being-Consciousness-Bliss
(sat-chit-ananda). As he writes: “we could then speak of God as Saccidananda, and see in the Father, sat . . . we could speak of the Son as the cit . . . we could speak of the Spirit as the ananda.”
While there might be some apparent similarities between the Christian Logos and Hindu Consciousness and between the Christian Spirit (who is Love) and Hindu bliss,
the differences between Saccidananda and the Trinity
are so pronounced as to discount any attempt to equate them.
For Hinduism, the triad of Being-Consciousness-Bliss refers to nothing other than three aspects of the same reality, which are distinguished only in concept but not in reality. There is no question of any of them originating from either or both of the others as in the Christian Trinity. These Hindu qualities are better identified with scholasticism’s three transcendental attributes of being– unity, truth and goodness–to which they largely correspond.
If Griffiths persists in equating the Trinity with the Hindu Saccidananda, then he is either distorting the meaning of the Hindu triad, or he is promoting a view of the Trinity which is unacceptable in Christian orthodoxy.
Griffiths is also guilty of theological distortion in his attempt to identify God the Father with the Hindu concept of nirguna brahman, the Qualitiless Absolute, and God the Son with saguna brahman, the Qualitated Absolute. He describes the Father as the “infinite abyss of being beyond word and thought” and the Son as the “Self-manifestation of the unmanifest God.” However, from the Hindu viewpoint, the Qualitated Absolute is an inferior aspect of the deity, an illusory deformation of it projected by an ontological ignorance. If Griffiths is serious about his equation, he has made the Son less than the Father in a way destructive of Christian orthodoxy.” See explanation on page 3
literally is ‘Pure Being – Pure Consciousness (Awareness/ Knowledge) – Pure Bliss’ or
SAT-CIT-ANANDA. Or, the Absolute Joy that proceeds from the Absolute Self-Realization of Absolute Being.
This concept is equated with the Christian understanding of the
three Persons of
the Holy Trinity, with
being the Father,
the Holy Spirit, and
the eternal Logos that proceeds from them. At least three Indian Catholic Ashrams have this name, “a Hindu term for the godhead used as a symbol of the three persons of the Christian Trinity,” as one ashram brochure explains, emphasis mine.
The ‘trimurti‘ according to Hindu tradition represents the three aspects of the Godhead as Creator (Brahma), Destroyer (Shiva) and Preserver (Vishnu) of the universe. This has been one of the “inculturations” of the Indian Church.
2. Seminary as gurukul: church quietly going ‘swadeshi’ in BJP’s bastions
By Milind Ghatwai, Bhopal, October 23, 2007 EXTRACT
Fr Rajesh of Satchitanand Gurukul [seminary] says, “The Indian idea of
(truth, consciousness, bliss) and the Christian concept of the trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit)
gel in a way. The philosophies of all religions converge at some point. We have also realised that when we adopt Indian names it helps us gain acceptance among locals.”
At the seminary, yoga and meditation are very much part of the curriculum. So it is in many churches.
The statement of Fr. Rajesh and all the Indian theologians and bishops who propound the Hindu idea of sat-chit-ananda as being identical to the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity is a blatant falsehood.
Sat-chit-ananda is used by Catholic Hinduisers variously as Saccidananda, Satchidananda, Sachidananda etc. I visited the Saccidananda Ashram, also called Shantivanam, at Thaneerpalli, Kulithalai in Tamil Nadu for seven days in
December 2004, and that resulted in my October 2005 report on the heretical, New Age CATHOLIC ASHRAMS Movement http://ephesians-511.net/docs/CATHOLIC_ASHRAMS.doc.
According to ashram literature,
they christened the ashram
SACCIDANANDA for the Christian Trinity.
Saccidananda Ashram would mean “hermitage of Being-Consciousness-Bliss“.
In naming the ashram as such: “a Hindu term for the godhead used as a symbol of the three persons of the Christian Trinity,” ashram literature explains that “they intended anticipating [!] the Second Vatican Council and the
All-India Seminar (Bangalore, 1969), to show that they sought to identify themselves with the Hindu ‘search for God’… and to relate this quest to their own experience of God in Christ in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.”
Brahmin convert to Catholicism
Brahmabandhab Upadhyay [1861-1907], regarded as a pioneer of the ashram and inculturation movement, was the first to propose that “the Christian doctrine of God as
is exactly the same as the Vedantic conception of Brahman as
Sat-Chit-Ananda” as explained by Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ in ed. (RSCJ Sr.) Vandana Mataji’s occult work Shabda Shakti Sangam, page 294.
3. In the CATHOLIC ASHRAMS report, I wrote about Saccidananda Ashram, quoting ashram literature:
“The church building is called the temple or mandir. Ashram literature continues: “The church is built in the style of a South Indian [Shaivite] temple. At the entrance is a ‘gopuram ‘ or gateway on which is shown an image of the Holy Trinity in the form of a ‘trimurti‘, a three-headed figure, which according to Hindu tradition represents the three aspects of the Godhead as Creator, Destroyer and Preserver of the universe. This is taken as the symbol of the three Persons in one God of the Christian Trinity. The figure is shown as emerging from a cross, to show that the mystery of the Trinity is revealed to us through the cross of Christ.”
The de facto guru of the ashram, Bro. Martin Sahajananda, commented thus on the Trinity at one of his “satsanghs”: “The language used is old and dogmatic, and does not appeal to us or have any meaning for us today.“
One of the contributors to Shantivanam’s golden jubilee souvenir Saccidanandaya Namah
wrote that, while still in France, the “only thing” Fr Jules Monchanin (Swami Parama Arubi Ananda), one of the ashram’s co-founders, wanted was to contemplate the mystery of Sat-Cit-Ananda
“in a Hindu ashram.”
But Fr. Henri Le Saux was not to be left out. Monchanin said of him, “Fr. Le Saux has returned from a stay of two months at Arunachala, the sacred place of Hinduism, a triangular mountain which according to myth is the tejolinga (fire lingam of Siva) where Ramana Maharshi lives, and from where he has brought back an essay which moved me… I believe that no one has yet gone as far in the spiritual understanding of Hinduism, an understanding which requires a rethinking of the Holy Trinity and of Creation.“
(Letter to Edouard Duperray, 30/12/1953)
Fr. Thomas Matus OSB confirms this, “From the beginning, Fr. Monchanin had insisted (against Abhishiktananda’s taste for Gregorian chant) on the priority of meditative practice with respect to liturgical solemnity.“ The letters exchanged between the two priests from 1948-1952 are missing and would have been revelatory. The first letter in 1947 written by Monchanin to Le Saux in France listed the problems posed by meeting Christian thought- the Trinity, the Mystical Body, the salvation of non-Christians, Creation, etc. with that of Hinduism.
(Spanish theologian Raimundo) Panikkar is the favourite of all shades of liberal theologians. He calls for a ‘universal Christology’ in inter-religious dialogue which makes room not only for different theologies but different religions as well. He makes clear that his ‘Christ’ is not to be identified exclusively with Jesus of Nazareth [The Trinity, page 53]. Jesus is simply one of the names for the cosmotheandric principle.
In An Indian Benedictine Ashram, chapter 6, A Life of Prayer, “The holy syllable AUM should be the object of constant meditation, which should not be considered as the exclusive ownership of the Hindus.”
Making an analogy with the
Hindu trinity of Sat-Cit-Ananda, Le Saux says, “And just as AUM is one sound out of three elements (A, U, M), so also the mystery of the one identical essence in three ‘hypostases’ may be expressed by that pregnant sacred utterance.”
Further on in the same report on the CATHOLIC ASHRAMS, concerning the
Trinity and Sat-Cit-Ananda, and quoting from Jules Monchanin: Pioneer in Christian-Hindu Dialogue, ISPCK, 1993, I wrote,
“Sten Rodhe on pages 67-68 of Jules Monchanin: Pioneer in Christian-Hindu Dialogue, ISPCK, 1993, quotes Bede (Griffiths OSB) ‘on the problem of the relation between Christian Trinitarian faith and Hindu advaita, which was at the centre of Monchanin’s thinking’ and comments,
“Griffiths does not mention here that
towards the end of his life Monchanin more and more found Hindu advaita and Christian Trinitarian faith, which according to Griffiths are complementary, separated by an abyss.”
From the above we see that after his life-long search at the well-springs of advaitic Hinduism, Monchanin found it, along with its two flagships yoga and the Sat-Cit-Ananda principle, irreconcilable with Biblical Christianity, in fact separated from it by an “abyss” in the words of two different biographers. Yet … the Ashram Movement’s protagonists (in the Indian Church) have doggedly continued to tread the advaitic path towards that abyss.”
The “Catholic” Anjali Ashram is situated about four kilometers from Mysore City founded in 1979 by Fr. D.S. Amalorpavadass, the brother of Cardinal Lourduswamy, the architect of the squatting Indian rite Mass, has the Sat-cit-ananda temple (as they call it), the temple of ‘being-knowledge-bliss’.
4.“Asato ma sat gamaya” and “OM, Shanti, Shanti” chanted at the beginning of Holy Qurbana at Delhi Syro-Malabar Convention
“Asato ma sat gamaya” and “OM Shanti, Shanti” were chanted at the beginning of Holy Qurbana at Delhi Syro-Malabar Convention on 16th November, 2008 against the instructions of the Holy See. Who cares for the Holy See or the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church!
In this connection, we reproduce below the relevant portion of an article written by Bishop Mar Abraham Mattam (cfr. The Nazrani, vol. 15, No.5).
St Thomas introduced the Gospel in Tamizhakam, as described above, in the Dravidico-Semitic cultural milieu. There were Jewish presence, and besides Dravidian race and culture manifest much affinity with Semitic Jewish culture. The Church in South India in its growth absorbed many elements from the local culture in living the Christian faith and was well established before the arrival of the Nambudiris in the 7-8th centuries. What is said about inculturation by the Second Vatican Council and the Roman documents deal with new encounters of the Gospel with cultures and new Christian communities? This is not the case with the Apostolic Syro-Malabar Church as if we were new converts of yesterday. Jawaharlal Nehru in his book Discovery of India says: “There were large numbers of Syriac Christians and Nestorians in the South and they were as much part of the country as anyone else” (Discovery of India, p.12). The Western image of Christianity in India was the result of Western missionaries and the Protestant and Latin Churches. Well read Hindus understand this difference.
Syncretism: Syncretism in the religious sphere means choosing and mixing up of elements from different religions, as for example, borrowing elements from Hinduism or Jainism into Christianity. The Church does not approve such steps in the name of inculturation, because they may have a different religious significance. The Roman document The Roman Liturgy and Inculturation brings out the following points which are equally valid for other liturgies.
It says: “The liturgy is the expression of faith and Christian life, and so it is necessary to ensure that liturgical inculturation is not marked, even in appearance, by religious syncretism. This would be the case if the places of worship, the liturgical objects and vestments, gestures and postures let it appear as if rites had the same significance in Christian celebration as they did before evangelization. The syncretism would be still worse if biblical readings and chants or the prayers were replaced by texts from other religions, even if these contain an undeniable religious and moral value” (RLI n. 47). (For a detailed treatise on the subject, see Bishop A. Mattam, “Forgotten East”, Satna, 2001, “Christianity and Inculturation” pp. 235-263).
In India, we are facing a serious problem in this connection. Hindu scriptures and terms are used in some Christian circles, without verifying their exact meaning, and sometimes giving a Christian interpretation contrary to the universally accepted meaning. We may mention a few cases in concrete. “Vande Saccidanandam“, “OM“, “Asato ma sat gamaya…” etc. are chanted. Some people think “asat” means untruth and “sat” truth, whereas “asat” means unreal or maya and “sat” real. This chant is taken from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28 where it means “Lead me from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality”. “Saccidananda” is applied to the Holy Trinity. But this is not what has been revealed by Christ. Holy Spirit is not “ananda” or bliss, but a Person of the Trinity.
These and other similar texts and chants were incorporated in the “Indian Mass” prepared for the Latin Church and the “Indianized Mass” composed by some CMI Fathers of Dharmaram c. 1979. They were sent to the Holy See for approval. The use of “Indian Mass” was prohibited by the Congregation for the Sacraments. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches made several Observations on these compositions in a letter to the Syro-Malabar Bishops on 12-8-1980. To quote few lines from the comments. On ‘asato ma’… it is stated: “In point of fact God has already drawn us out of the unreality, darkness and death: possessing Christ we are in the supreme reality of the new creation, we have eternal life, we have become sons of the light … It must also be noted that in the original context well-known to all the Upanishad from which the prayer in question is taken, the unreal, the darkness and death are nothing but the phenomenal world, in which we are immersed as long as we are drawn along in the cycle of rebirths and from we are liberated by knowledge of its merely apparent existence and out identity with the Brahman”.
On “Sachidananda” the Communication from Rome further points out: “Besides – to reduce – as is here done – the proclamation of the Trinity in the three terms “Being, Knowledge, Bliss”. The people of God have the right to call God by the three names by which he has revealed Himself. And above all, has the right and duty to do so at the supreme moment of the Eucharistic doxology. “Saccidananda”…..in the original Sanskrit, it has even more a formal connotation, being compounded in a single name: It is all the more suggestive, and, therefore, all the more unacceptable as a formula of worship”.
On the invocation “OM” the Holy See observes, “…according to what innumerable passages of the Upanishads continually and repeatedly affirm is the synthesis of all the Vedas and of all the “gnosis” of Hinduism… (OM) is charged with meanings so unmistakably Hindu, that it simply cannot be used in Christian worship… Moreover, “OM” is an essential, integral part of Hindu worship”. If these Hindu terms and chants are not to be used in Christian worship it is not proper either to use them in Christian prayers.
In spite of all this, “asato ma sat gamaya” and “OM Shanti, Shanti” were chanted at the beginning of the Holy Qurbana of the Delhi Syro-Malabar Convention 2008. To say the least, it was unfortunate.
5. The Paganized Catholic Church in India
By Victor J. F. Kulanday, 1985
Appendix X – Bede Griffiths and Indianisation, by Moti Lal Pandit EXTRACT
Please read the article by Rev. Fr. Peter Lobo in the ‘LAITY’ of Feb. 1979 on inculturation’. Things from other religions cannot be just imposed on the Catholics. In the name of Indianisation and inculturation what is being done is systematic Hinduisation reducing Catholicism to Hindu religion. It is a matter of conscience for me. I cannot equate the Holy Trinity with Hindu Trimurti*
while claiming to be a Christian.
*Saccidananda or Sachidananda
6. Saccidananda, A Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience
By Swami Abhishiktananda (“Bliss of the Anointed One”, Catholic Fr. Henri Le Saux OSB, 1910-1973), ISPCK.
“If Christianity should prove incapable of assimilating Hindu spiritual experience from within, Christians would lose the right to claim that it is the universal way of salvation,” he says, page 44.
The Back cover states, “The emblem on the front cover brings together two symbols of the transcendent, the ‘Om’ and the ‘Alpha and the ‘Omega’.”
7. Translation and Inculturation in the Catholic Church
By Stephen M. Beall, Ph.D. June 10, 1995, Online Edition – Vol. II, No. 6: October 1996, Presented at the International Conference on “Rethinking Translation”, Milwaukee
Third World Linguistic Experiments: Inculturation or Syncretism?
Still more radical experiments in linguistic inculturation have been undertaken in the Third World. In the 1970s, the bishops of India approved for experimental use a form of the Eucharistic prayer which integrates native religious concepts.
Although it was never approved by the Vatican, this prayer was represented in a more recent (1990) ICEL publication as a model of inculturation (Puthanangady, “Cultural Elements in Liturgical Prayers,”
in Shaping English Liturgy 327-40).
In the following passage, we see a rather ingenious juxtaposition of Biblical and non-Christian language for the Trinity:
In the Oneness of the Supreme Spirit through Christ who unites all things in his fullness, we and the whole creation give to you, God of all, Father of all, honour and glory, thanks and praise, worship and adoration, now and in every age, for ever and ever. Amen. You are the fullness of Reality, One without a second. Being, Knowledge, Bliss. Om, tat, sat.
In this prayer, traditional language about God as Father and Son is followed by the phrase “Being, Knowledge, and Bliss”, which corresponds to a Sanskrit expression, saccidānanda.
According to Father Puthanangady, “this interpretation of the divine life makes more sense to an Indian than the highly intellectual and abstract term ‘Trinity'”. Indian concepts are also incorporated into the following summary of salvation history:
Because we disobeyed you who are goodness itself we lost eternal life; dharma declined; ignorance immersed us in spiritual darkness. Nevertheless, in the indescribable tenderness of your love, you remembered us and promised us salvation. Through the prophets and establishers of dharma, you revealed to us the message of salvation in various ways. The fall of humanity is summarized in the striking phrase “dharma declined”, and “ignorance” is cited as the cause of our spiritual darkness. Father Puthanangady explains that “ignorance” has been substituted for “sin” and that “the decline of dharma” signifies the social disorder which sin causes. “The work of the prophets and of Jesus Christ:” he explains, “is to re-establish dharma, to bring about order in the lives of people and thus create a just world which bespeaks the kingdom of God.”
It must be noted, however, that “ignorance” is a drastic modulation of the western concept of “sin”. Indeed, traditional theology holds that ignorance, the “darkening of the intellect”, is a consequence, rather than the essence, of original sin. Another problem attends Father Puthanangady’s interpretation of “dharma” as a “just world”. We have seen that some of the recent work in inculturation incorporates trans-cultural ideologies as well as traditional native ideas. It is not clear to me, however, that the concept of dharma lends itself to Father Puthanangady’s activist world-view any more readily than it does, say, to the philosophy of
Saint Thomas Aquinas. Terms such as dharma have historically conditioned associations (e.g., the caste-system) and are likely to resist assimilation by foreign ideologies of any kind.
It is probably better to leave them alone.
What Fr. Paul Puthanangady SDB proposes is EXACTLY what New Age is, according to the Vatican Document:
In New Age there is no distinction between good and evil. Human actions are the fruit of either illumination or ignorance. Hence we cannot condemn anyone, and nobody needs forgiveness. Believing in the existence of evil can create only negativity and fear. #2.2.2
New Age … involves a rejection of the language of sin and salvation, replacing it with the morally neutral language of addiction and recovery. #4
For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God rather than on any technique. The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can only be rectified by God’s action: sin is an offense against God, and only God can reconcile us to himself. In the divine plan of salvation, human beings have been saved by Jesus Christ who, as God and man, is the one mediator of redemption. In Christianity salvation is not an experience of self, a meditative and intuitive dwelling within oneself, but much more the forgiveness of sin, being lifted out of profound ambivalences in oneself and the calming of nature by the gift of communion with a loving God. The way to salvation is not found simply in a self-induced transformation of consciousness, but in a liberation from sin and its consequences which then leads us to struggle against sin in ourselves and in the society around us. It necessarily moves us toward loving solidarity with our neighbour in need. #4
Are we tempted to deny sin or do we accept that there is such a thing?
In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques… The most serious problem perceived in New Age thinking is alienation from the whole cosmos, rather than personal failure or sin. #4
[New Agers] replace personal responsibility to God for our actions with a sense of duty to the cosmos, thus overturning the true concept of sin and the need for redemption through Christ. #6.1
Fr. Puthanangady, if one substitutes ignorance for sin, one doesn’t need Christ anymore, does one?
What you call “the western concept of “sin”” is not a western or European concept but a Christian one.
The Hinduisation of the Church in India through the NBCLC and the ashrams will serve to consolidate the reign of what the Pope describes as “the dictatorship of relativism”.
Fr Paul Puthanangady SDB (1934-2013) was a former Director of the notorious National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC) in Bangalore. In 1984, he succeeded Fr. D.S. Amalorpavadass who was one of the architects of the squatting Indian rite Mass that Puthanangady continued to promote, and remained in office till 1991. He was a progressive theologian and personally told me in 1999 at the Divine Bible College in Muringoor that he no problems with yoga, pranic healing, reiki etc.
Brahmabandhav Upadhyay (L), Keshab Chandra Sen (R)
Actually, it was
Brahmabandhav Upadhyay (1861-1907, born Bhavani Charan Banerjee) who was the originator of the concept of Trinity as sat-cit-ananda (see page 2).
The term was coined by Keshub or Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-1884) in 1882. He was a Bengali Hindu philosopher and social reformer who attempted to incorporate Christian theology within the framework of Hindu thought. Born a Hindu, he became a member of the Brahmo Samaj in 1856 but founded his own breakaway “Brahmo Samaj of India” in 1866. Later he came under the influence of Ramakrishna and founded a syncretic “New Dispensation” or Nôbobidhan inspired by Christianity, and Vaishnav bhakti and Hindu practices.
We have seen that the principle of sat-cit-ananda as an equivalent to the Christian Trinity is a deception.
I can provide loads of additional information that I came across on the Internet, but I think that what I have included already will suffice. One cannot accept our personal God as the sat-cit-ananda that some syncretists propose in “Indian” Trinitarian theology, without compromising on a Christian perspective based on Biblical revelation and Church teaching.
An example is the indiadivine.org article further below (sat-cit-anand is “a synonym for Parashakti. Lord Siva’s Divine Mind …” and “This Hindu concept has no relationship to the Catholic concept of the Trinity of God.“) Hindus are clear about what it means. Catholics promoting it as the Blessed Trinity are deceived.
Fr. Ivo Coelho SDB, now a high-ranking official at the Salesian Generalate in Rome hailed the Holy Trinity with the Vande Saccidānandam of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay at the Don Bosco School in Nashik on the feast of the Holy Trinity on May 30, 2010: http://donboscoparishnashik.blogspot.in/2010/05/hail-to-trinity.html.
If sat-cit-ananda is unacceptable to Catholics, neither is Vande Saccidānandam a “Canticle to the Holy Trinity” (pages 2 and 12).
But clergy like Fr. Bryan Lobo SJ persist in advocating Brahmabandhav Upadhyay and his theology.
1. Catholics Consider Including Sanskrit in Prayers
Patna, October 21, 2002
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church said Monday they were considering adding a Sanskrit word to liturgical prayers to make Christianity more acceptable to Hindi speakers. A synod of archbishops and bishops from India and Philippines, which began Sunday in Patina, was studying a proposal to include the word “Sachidanand” in liturgical prayers.
B.J. Osta, the archbishop of Patna, stated “The word ‘Sachidanand,’ meaning the Trinity of Gods, also conforms to the Christian precept of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In India, Christians generally say prayers in English or in literal translations into local languages. Osta said the church was also considering publishing a Hindi-language magazine and setting up a press to publish liturgical books in Hindi. The three-day meeting was called to find ways to make Christianity more amenable to Hindi-speakers in the wake of increasing criticism of Christian conversion activities in India. HPI adds: The word “Sachidanand” or, more properly “Satchidananda” or “Sachchidananda,” means literally “Existence-consciousness-bliss,” a state which can be experienced in the deepest meditation.
One definition is, “A synonym for Parashakti. Lord Siva’s Divine Mind and simultaneously the pure superconscious mind of each individual soul. It is perfect love and omniscient, omnipotent consciousness, the fountainhead of all existence, yet containing and permeating all existence. It is also called pure consciousness, pure form, substratum of existence, and more.”
This Hindu concept has no relationship to the Catholic concept of the Trinity of God.
2. Church Remembers Theologian Who Pioneered Inculturation A Century Ago
Kolkata, December 19, 2006
Church people in eastern India are reviving the memory of a man who struggled a hundred years ago to develop a Christian theology and way of life based on Indian traditions.
On Dec. 13, Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta opened the yearlong death centenary celebration of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, an upper-caste Brahmin Hindu who became Catholic and tried to Indianize the faith. He addressed about 100 scholars at the archbishop’s house in Kolkata. Archbishop Sirkar told the gathering that Upadhyay was Hindu by birth and culture, but Catholic by faith, and the Church hierarchy of his time could not understand him (Obviously! They were neither progressives nor modernists). Wanting to practice his new religion in his own culture, he walked barefoot, wore the saffron garb of a Hindu sanyasi (ascetic) and lived a strict, disciplined life until his death on October 27, 1907, the prelate said.
When Upadhyay was born in 1861 in a village 55 kilometers from Kolkata, he was named Bhavani Charan Banerjee. He became a Catholic in 1891 and took the name Theophelos (love of God), later adopting the name Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, the Sanskrit translation of his baptismal name, Archbishop Sirkar explained. He proclaimed his knowledge of God to all and remained a Christian “in India,” trying to put Indian culture into his religion, the archbishop said.
Father George Pattery, head of the Jesuit’s Calcutta Province, described Upadhyay as a man of three identities — Christian, Hindu and Indian — which he tried to reconcile fully. One can be a true Indian nationalist, a Hindu in culture and a good Catholic, the priest told fellow participants. He concurred with Archbishop Sirkar’s observation that Upadhyay tried to infuse Indian culture into Christianity. Jesuit Father Anil Mitra, a scholar on Upadhyay, told fellow participants, “It is better late than never to commemorate and appreciate the visionary.” But “we need to understand the man,” he added.
Father Mitra refuted claims that Upadhyay reverted to Hinduism in his final days. He quoted Upadhyay: “I can believe in the possibility of losing chastity, but as for my faith no doubts cross my mind. It is impossible to go against the Holy Church, and I am not boasting.” The scholar-priest also cited Upadhyay as saying that he submitted to Church authorities. Just four days before his death, according to the priest, he said: “Wonderful vision of life, wonderful has been my faith.”
Still, Father Mitra continued, faith was distinct from culture for the convert. He explained that while Upadhyay was a Hindu in terms of culture and traditions, he greatly appreciated the Christian truth and individual object of salvation, and zealously proclaimed this among Indians. At the same time, he was of the view that Christianity could never grow in India unless grafted onto Indian traditions, the priest said. His research has revealed “very little appreciation” for Christianity among Hindus of the time, who were put off by European garb, eating habits and other customs. However, Father Mitra also pointed out that much controversy erupted in the Church when Upadhyay allowed Hindu boys in his boarding school to attend rituals relating to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. For Upadhyay, Saraswati was a symbol not of a goddess but of learning and art, just as Europe has statues representing ideals such as faith, wisdom and liberation.
Diocesan Father Sunil Rosario, archdiocesan dean and head of the Commission for Dialogue and Ecumenism, said all “must read about this great man and must accept some of his ways of inculturation so that by experiencing God, we may reach out to people of all faiths.” Also editor of the archdiocesan weekly Herald, he released a special Bengali-language issue entirely on the life and work of Upadhyay. Father Rosario said Upadhyay’s writings would be compiled and published into a book. He pointed out that Vande Saccidanandam, a popular Sanskrit bhajan (hymn) hailing the Trinity, which is sung in churches up to now, is “an enduring legacy” of Upadhyay’s attempt to create an Indian theology.
I am no theologian and I cannot rebut Fr. Bryan Lobo’s article (pages 2-11) line by line or even in its entirety, but all of the above information that I have provided on pages 12 through 16 is quite sufficient to convince the reader that the propositions of Fr. Bryan Lobo equating or trying to draw parallels between the Christian Trinitarian God and the Hindu sat-cit-ananda concept are erroneous to say the least, even if he has based them on the theologizing of the eminent Brahmin convert Brahmabandhab Upadhyay.
Fr. Bryan Lobo posits in his thesis: “Indian Christian theology has gone miles ahead in integrating many aspects of Hindu theology and culture into its ever widening gamut of concepts, symbols and images, theology and philosophy“. One point I must make is that it is not ‘culture’ that they assimilate but the Hindu religion. India has hundreds, if not thousands, of distinctive cultures, but all that is ever adapted into Catholic liturgy is HINDU as my numerous reports have shown (see list of files at the end of the present file).
Fr. Bryan Lobo is honest in admitting that Catholic theology has been steadily integrating Hinduism into it.
Look into any issue of the Vidyajyothi magazine for which Fr. Lobo was asked to contribute his article (page 12); the average Catholic would not understand head or tail of most of what the journal contains. The same goes with most of the theses submitted by our priests (Bishop Thomas Dabre’s on “the God experience of Sant Tukaram — a study in religious symbolism“, 1979, is a good example, and he rose to be Chairman of the CBCI’s Doctrinal Commission — and advocates yoga and the use of the “OM”) for their doctorates.
One will find that they are on Hindu-Christian “comparative theology” which benefits the salvation of Catholics and the development of Church doctrine absolutely nothing. But the priests who the seminaries have been turning out know little else and an examination of their curriculum explains why. One of my priest-friends who heads a seminary turned down a tithe from us in support of vocations, asking me not to waste my money!!!
In his August 2012 thesis Fr. Bryan Lobo appeals to a number of 20th century “Catholic” Ashram leaders.
It is relevant to us because most “Catholic” ashramvasis claim Brahmabandhab Upadhyay as a father figure.
The reader will find some of their photographs in the files THE SQUATTING INDIAN RITE MASS
and MAY PRIESTS WEAR A SHAWL WHILE CELEBRATING HOLY MASS.
Fr. Bede Griffiths OSB (1906-1993), a Camaldoli Benedictine, also called Swami Dayananda,
pioneered the heretical, New Age “Catholic” ashrams movement in India. His Indian rite “Masses” were travesties of the Holy Mass. Western New Agers lived in his Saccidananda Ashram and some wrote their theses there.
Saccidananda ashram, Shantivanam’s golden jubilee commemorative was named Saccidanandaya Namah.
I include one more image here, that of the infamous Sr. Vandana Mataji RSCJ, the editor of the occult tome Shabda Shakti Sangam mentioned on page 13.
SOME RELATED FILES
ARATI IN THE LITURGY-INDIAN OR HINDU?
BHARATANATYAM AT HOLY MASS AT CATHEDRAL OF ST THOMAS IN MADRAS-MYLAPORE ARCHDIOCESE
BINDI OR TILAK MARK ON THE FOREHEAD-INDIAN OR HINDU?
CARDINAL IVAN DIAS LIGHTS A LAMP FOR THE HINDU DEITY GANESHA
CATHOLIC BECOMES PRIEST OF SHIVA TEMPLE
CATHOLICS CAPITULATE OVER CHRIST NOT SANTA CLAUS
CATHOLIC WORSHIP OF ELEPHANT GOD GANESH IN MANGALORE
7/14 SEPTEMBER 2016
DANCING AND BHARATANATYAM IN THE MASS
FR ANTHONY DE MELLO-WRITINGS BANNED BY THE CHURCH
FR JOE PEREIRA YOGA GURU CELEBRATES NAVRATRI AND GANESHOTSAV 8 SEPTEMBER 2016
HABEMUS PAPAM INDIANUM-WE HAVE AN INDIAN PONTIFF
HINDU FLAG POLE AT CATHEDRAL OF ST THOMAS IN MADRAS-MYLAPORE ARCHDIOCESE
HINDUS STILL BELIEVE THAT INCULTURATION IS A CATHOLIC PLOY TO CONVERT THEM
INDIAN JESUIT THEOLOGIAN FR MICHAEL AMALADOSS UNDER INVESTIGATION BY ROME
INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE 01-POPE BENEDICT XVI
INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE 02-GOA CATHOLICS OPPOSE
INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE 03-THE FALSE KIND
INCULTURATION OF THE LITURGY AND SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM-JON ANDERSON-AND MY RESPONSE
IS HOLY COMMUNION EQUIVALENT TO PRASADAM-IS IT SAFE FOR CATHOLICS TO CONSUME PRASADAM?
IS THE SYRO MALABAR CHURCH NOW OPENLY PROMOTING ITS HINDUISATION?
JESUS THE YOGI AND THE DANCING JESUS
KERALA PARISH CELEBRATES CHURCH FEAST JOINTLY WITH HINDU TEMPLE FESTIVAL
LOTUS AND THE CROSS-THE HINDUISATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN INDIA
MANGALSUTRA-INDIAN OR HINDU?
MANTRAS, ‘OM’ OR ‘AUM’ AND THE GAYATRI MANTRA
MAY CATHOLICS CELEBRATE THE FESTIVAL OF HOLI?
MAY CATHOLICS CELEBRATE THE HARVEST FESTIVAL OF PONGAL?
MOTHER TERESA AT PRAYER IN A BUDDHIST TEMPLE
NBCLC-HARBINGER OF THE INDIAN RITE MASS AND LITURGICAL ABUSE
PAGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA 01
PAGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA 02
PAGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA-RESPONSES
PILAR PRIEST FR PETER CARDOZO VENERATES THE HINDU DEITY GANESHA
PILAR PRIESTS CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY-GOA ARCHBISHOP ENDORSES
PILAR SEMINARY, GOA-SYNCRETISM AND NEW AGE
PRIESTS VESTMENTS AND THEIR MEANINGS
RANGOLI AND KOLAM DRAWINGS ARE BASED ON SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS
RUDRAKSHA BEADS AND THE HINDU DEITY SHIVA
SONIA GANDHI-CATHOLIC OR HINDU?
SHOULD CATHOLICS PERFORM BHARATANATYAM-SUSAN BRINKMANN
TAMIL NADU CLERGY VENERATE THE HINDU DEITY GANESHA
THE GOLDEN SHEAF-A COLLECTION OF ARTICLES DEALING WITH ECCLESIASTICAL ABERRATIONS
THE HINDUISATION OF MUSIC IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
THE HINDUISATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH-IMAGES
THE ONGOING ROBBERY OF FAITH-FR P K GEORGE
THE PAGANISATION OF THE LITURGY IN INDIA-C B ANDRADE
THE PAGANIZED CATHOLIC CHURCH IN INDIA-VICTOR J F KULANDAY
THE ST PIUS X SEMINARY CELEBRATES HINDU DEITY GANESH
THE TWELVE POINTS OF ADAPTATION FOR THE INDIAN RITE MASS-WAS A FRAUD PERPETRATED ON INDIAN CATHOLICS?
VASAI PRIEST FR THOMAS DSOUZA WORSHIPS GANESHA
WAS JESUS A YOGI? SYNCRETISM AND INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE-ERROL FERNANDES
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NAMASTE AND ANJALI HASTA?
WHAT DOES THE KUTHU VILAKKU OIL LAMP SIGNIFY?
WHY INDIAN CATHOLICS DO NOT WANT AN INDIAN POPE
Categories: Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India