Here the non-dual teachings of Jesus are succinctly presented.
The following are excerpts I have put together from the introduction of the book ‘Happiness and the Art of Being’ by Michael James. I felt there were so many gems and biblical quotes packed in tightly together in just the introduction of this book – someone else perhaps would have made the introduction alone into an entire book – I felt that it would be worthwhile to tease out some of the points about Jesus’s teachings and put them together into a post for the benefit of seekers. It very nicely sums up the inner teachings of Jesus in light of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and points to the core teachings of both.
You can read the entire book, ‘Happiness and the Art of Being’, online for free here, and I encourage you to make a donation to the author and/or buy a hard copy of the book in order to support the author.
Bold type and subheadings have been added by myself. I have also changed the paragraph structure of the text in places – I hope these aid the readability of the text and assimilation of the key points.
Also see: Recommended Reading: Books for Enlightenment, Liberation and Self-Realisation
Jesus – ‘do not love the world or things in the world’
The true aim of all religions
The inner aim of all religions and spiritual traditions is to free us from this illusory state in which we imagine that we are separate from God, the one unlimited and undivided reality.
For example, in Christianity this state in which we violate the oneness and wholeness of God by imagining ourself to be an individual separate from him is called the ‘original sin’, which is the root cause of all misery and unhappiness.
The Truth shall set you free
Because we can become free from this ‘original sin’ only by knowing the truth, Christ said,
‘[…] ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8.32).
The truth that we must know in order to be made free is the truth that we are nothing but the adjunctless pure consciousness ‘I am’ – that ‘I am’ which is the true form of God, as disclosed by him when he revealed his identity to Moses saying,
‘I am that I am’ (‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’ – Exodus 3.14).
Die to your (individual) self
To ‘know the truth’ does not mean to know it theoretically, but to know it as a direct and immediate experience. In order to destroy the illusion that we are a limited individual consciousness, a person separate from the perfect whole which is called God, we must experience ourself as the unlimited and undivided pure consciousness ‘I am’.
Therefore, to know the truth and thereby be made free from the illusion called ‘original sin’, we must die and be born again – we must die to the flesh and be born again as the spirit. That is why Christ said,
‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. […] Except a man be born of […] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3.3 & 3.5-6).
That is, to experience and enter into the true state of God, we must cease to exist as a separate individual, a consciousness that identifies itself with the flesh and all the limitations of the flesh, and must rediscover ourself to be the unlimited and undivided spirit, the pure, unadulterated and infinite consciousness ‘I am’, which is the absolute reality that we call ‘God’.
When we identify ourself with a body made of flesh, we become that flesh, but when we cease to identify ourself with that flesh and know ourself to be mere spirit, we are born again as our original nature, the pure spirit or consciousness ‘I am’.
The need for us to sacrifice our individuality in order to be born anew as the spirit is a recurring theme in the teachings of Jesus Christ:
‘Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal’ (John 12.24-25).
‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it’ (Luke 17.33).
‘And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ (Matthew 10.38-39).
‘If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matthew 16.24-26, and also Mark 8.34-37 and Luke 9.23-25).
That is, in order to rediscover our true and eternal life as the spirit, we must lose our false and transient life as an individual. If we seek to preserve our false individuality, we shall in effect be losing our real spirit. This is the price we have to pay to live as an individual in this world. Therefore, whatever we may gain or achieve in this world, we do so at the cost of losing our real self, the state of perfection and wholeness (which in this context is what Christ means by the term our ‘own soul’). In exchange for regaining our original and perfect state of wholeness, we have only to give up our individuality and all that goes with it. Which is truly profitable, to lose the whole and gain merely a part, or to give up a mere part in exchange for the whole?
Take up thy cross
In order to give up or lose our individuality, as Christ had done, he says that we must follow him by denying ourself and taking up our cross. To deny ourself means to refrain from rising as an individual separate from God, who is the whole – the ‘fullness of being’ or totality of all that is. To take up our cross means to embrace the death or destruction of our own individuality, because in the time of Christ the cross was a powerful symbol of death, being the usual instrument of execution. Thus, though he used somewhat oblique language to express it, Christ repeatedly emphasised the truth that in order to rediscover our real life as the spirit we must sacrifice our false life as an individual.
This sacrifice of our individuality or identification with the flesh, and our consequent resurrection or rebirth as the spirit, was symbolised by Christ through his own crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. By dying on the cross and rising again from the dead, Christ gave us a powerful symbolic representation of the truth that in order to become free from the ‘original sin’ of identification with the flesh and thereby to enter the ‘kingdom of God’, we must die or cease to exist as a separate individual, and thereby rise again as the pure spirit, the infinite consciousness ‘I am’.
The Kingdom of God
The ‘kingdom of God’ which we can see and enter only by being born again as the spirit is not a place – something that we can find externally in the material world of time and space, or even in some celestial world called heaven.
When Christ was asked when the kingdom of God would come, he answered,
‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17.20-21).
The kingdom of God cannot be found by observation, that is, by any form of objective attention – by looking externally here or there. It cannot be found in any place outside us, either here in this world or there in heaven, nor indeed is it something that will come in the future. It exists within us even now.
To see and enter into it, we must turn our attention inwards, away from the external world of time and space that we observe by means of the limited flesh-bound consciousness that we call our ‘mind’, and towards our true consciousness ‘I am’, which is the underlying base and reality of the observing consciousness ‘I am so-and-so’.
The true teaching
The exhortation ‘behold’ that Christ used in the above passage is very important. He did not merely tell us the fact that the kingdom of God is within ourself, but exhorted us to look and see that it is within ourself. That is, he did not merely tell us the truth that he saw, but told us that we should each see it for ourself.
In more modern English, we would express the passage
‘[…] neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you’
‘[…] and they should not say, ‘Look here or look there’, because, see, the kingdom of God is within you’.
This exhortation that Christ makes to us not to look here or there but to see that the kingdom of God is within ourself, is the essence of the spiritual practice taught by Sri Ramana and all other true sages. We should give up attending to anything outside ourself, and should instead turn our attention inwards to see the reality that exists within us.
The kingdom of God is not a place but a state – our natural state of pure self-conscious being. When we see it within ourself by turning our attention towards the innermost core of our being, we enter into it and become one with it.
This is the state of being born again as the spirit – the state of mystical union with God that all Christian contemplatives seek to attain. In this state called the ‘kingdom of God’, the pure consciousness ‘I am’, which is the spirit or true form of God, exists and shines alone in all the splendour and glory of its undivided oneness and unlimited wholeness.
The teachings of Sri Ramana
The teachings of Sri Ramana thus throw a fresh light upon the spiritual teachings contained in the Bible. In the same manner, they also throw fresh light upon the spiritual teachings of all other religions.
Though his teachings are easily recognised as a fresh and clear expression of the ancient teachings of advaita vēdānta, they in fact clarify the inner essence not only of advaita vēdānta but also of all other spiritual traditions.
The truth that he taught is not a relative truth that is limited to any particular religion or human culture, but is the absolute truth which underlies all human experience, and which is the source and foundation of the spiritual teachings of all religions. For certain cultural or other reasons, in some religions this truth is expressed less openly and clearly than in others, but it is nevertheless the truth that lies at the heart of every religion.
Though this truth is not recognised by most of the followers of the various religions, particularly by the followers of those religions in which it is hidden more obscurely, it is nevertheless expressed in some form or other in the scriptures and the philosophical and mystical writings of every religion, and it can be discerned and recognised by all who have the eyes to see it. The teachings of Sri Ramana, if understood clearly and correctly, give us the eyes or insight required to discern and recognise it wherever it is expressed, no matter how seemingly obscure may be the words that are used to express it.
Dualistic vs non-dualistic teachings
All words are open to interpretation – and misinterpretation. This is particularly true of words that speak about the spirit – the reality that lies beyond the limitations of physical matter, and that therefore cannot be perceived by the five senses, or known as an object of consciousness. All interpretations of such words fall into two distinct categories – interpretations that are strictly non-dualistic, admitting no division of the one and only reality, and interpretations that are either completely dualistic, or that at least concede that within the one reality there are divisions and distinctions that are real.
Ultimately the interpretation that we each choose to accept depends not upon the truth itself – because the nature of the truth cannot be proved objectively – but upon our own personal preferences.
Most people – whether they hold religious beliefs or cherish a more materialistic outlook on life – prefer to take a dualistic view of reality, because such a view assures them of the reality of their own individuality, and of the world they perceive through their senses, and (if they choose to believe in God) of God as a separately existing entity. Therefore the only basis for a dualistic view of reality is the attachment that people have to their own individuality, to the world that they think gives them happiness, and to their idea of a God who they believe will give them the things that will make them happy….
One truth in all religions
…This non-dual reality is the one truth about which all religions speak. Though they do not always describe the non-dual nature of this truth in explicit terms, all religions do so implicitly in one way or another.
No religion has a monopoly on the truth. What is true in one religion is true in every religion. The truth can never be in any way exclusive, because if it were, it would only be a partial truth and not the whole truth – a relative truth and not the absolute truth. To be wholly and absolutely true, the truth must be all-inclusive – it must be the one whole that includes everything within itself.
The one whole truth that does include everything within itself is the infinite spirit, the single consciousness that we all know as ‘I am’. Everything that appears to exist does so only within this consciousness. Though the manifold forms in which things appear are unreal as such, the one real substance of all things is the consciousness in which they appear. Therefore the one truth about which all religions speak is the single, all-inclusive and non-dual whole, the spirit or consciousness in which all things appear and disappear.
The Universal Christ and the ‘I Am’
However, because they interpret the spiritual teachings of their religion in a dualistic manner, most of the followers of the various religions tend to believe that their own religion somehow has a monopoly or exclusive claim upon the truth, and is therefore the only means to salvation. For example, throughout the history of Christianity, most ordinary Christians have believed that true salvation can be attained only through the person of Jesus Christ, and that atheists, agnostics and the followers of other religions can be saved only by converting to Christianity. They have justified this unreasonable and arrogant belief by their dualistic interpretation of Christ’s saying,
‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14.6).
Because of their dualistic understanding of his spiritual teachings, they interpret the words ‘I am’ and ‘me’ that he used in this passage to denote only the individual person Jesus Christ, who was born at a certain time in a certain place called Bethlehem.
However, Christ did not mistake himself to be merely an individual person whose life was limited within a certain range of time and place. He knew himself to be the real and eternal spirit ‘I am’, which is unlimited by time and place. That is why he said,
‘Before Abraham was born, I am’ (John 8.58).
The person who was Jesus Christ was born long after the time of Abraham, but the spirit which is Jesus Christ exists always and everywhere, transcending the limits of time and place. Because that spirit is timeless, he did not say, ‘Before Abraham was born, I was’, but, ‘Before Abraham was born, I am’.
That timeless spirit ‘I am’, which Christ thus knew to be his own real self, is the same ‘I am’ that God revealed to be his real self when he said to Moses,
‘I am that I am’ (Exodus 3.14).
Therefore, though Christ appears to us to be a separate individual person, he and his Father God are in fact one and the same reality, the spirit that exists within each one of us as our fundamental consciousness ‘I am’. That is why he said,
‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10.30).
Therefore, when Christ said,
‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14.6),
by the words ‘I am’ and ‘me’ he was referring not merely to the time-bound individual called Jesus, but to the eternal spirit ‘I am’, which he knew to be his own real self. The inner meaning of his words can therefore be expressed by rephrasing them thus,
‘The spirit “I am” is the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the spirit “I am”, which is the Father or source of all things, but by this same spirit’.
The spirit ‘I am’ is not only the truth or reality of all things, the source from which they all originate, and the life or consciousness that animates every sentient being, but is also the only way by which we can return to our original source, which we call by various names such as ‘God’ or the ‘Father’.
Except by turning our attention within towards the spirit, the consciousness that we each experience as ‘I am’, there is no way by which we return to and become one with our source. Therefore true salvation can only be attained not merely through the person who was Jesus Christ, but through the spirit which is Jesus Christ – the eternal spirit ‘I am’ that exists within each one of us.
See here for more: Jesus – ‘do not love the world or things in the world’
We can become one with Christ and God
Not only did Christ affirm his oneness with God, his Father, he also wanted us to become one with him. Before his arrest and crucifixion, Christ prayed for us,
‘Holy Father, […] that they may be one, as we [are]. […] that they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us […] that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one’ (John 17.11 & 21-23).
That is, the aim of Christ was that we should cease to mistake ourself to be an individual separate from God and should know ourself to be the one indivisible spirit, the pure fundamental consciousness ‘I am’, which is the reality of God.
Thus oneness or non-duality is the central aim of the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ.
Differences between religions are only superficial
Every religion consists of a vital central core of non-dualistic truth, expressed either explicitly or implicitly, and a thick outer shell of dualistic beliefs, practices, doctrines and dogmas. The differences that we see between one religion and another – the differences that throughout the ages have given rise to so much conflict, intolerance and cruel persecution, and even to bloody wars and terrorism – lie only in the superficial forms of those religions, their outer shells of dualistic beliefs and practices.
All the disharmony, conflict and strife that exist between one religion and another arise only because most of the followers of those religions are too attached to a dualistic view of reality, which limits their vision and prevents them from seeing what all religions have in common, namely the one underlying truth of non-duality.
Therefore true peace and harmony would prevail among the adherents of the various religions only if they were all willing to look beyond the external forms of those religions and see the one simple and common truth of non-duality that lies at the heart of all of them.
If we accept and truly understand the truth of non-duality, we will have no cause to quarrel or fight with anyone. We will be happy instead to let each person believe what they want to believe, because if a person is so attached to their individuality that they are unwilling to doubt its reality, no amount of reasoning or argument will convince them of the truth of non-duality.
Therefore no one who truly understands this truth would ever try to convince the unwilling. If anyone does try to force the truth of non-duality upon someone who is unwilling to accept it, they are only displaying their own lack of correct understanding of that truth.
Non-duality is not a religion that needs evangelists to propagate it, or converts to join its ranks. It is the truth, and will remain the truth whether or not anyone chooses to accept and understand it. Therefore we can and should do no more than make this truth available to whomsoever is ready to understand it and apply it in practice.
The true blasphemy
Many religious people believe that it is blasphemy or sacrilege to say that we are one with God, because they mistake such a statement to mean that an individual is claiming himself to be God. But when we say that we are God, what we mean is not that we as a separate individual are God, which would be absurd, but that we are not an individual separate from God. By thus denying that we have any existence or reality separate from God, we are affirming that the reality we call God is one, whole and undivided.
If instead we were to claim that we are in reality separate from God, as most religious people believe us to be, that would be blasphemy or sacrilege, because it would imply that God is not the one and only reality. If we were to have any reality of our own separate from God, then he would not be the whole truth, but only a part or division of some larger truth.
If we believe that the reality that we call God is truly the infinite ‘fullness of being’, the one undivided whole, then we must accept that nothing can exist as other than or separate from him. He alone truly exists, and all else that seems to exist as separate from him is in fact nothing but an illusion or false appearance whose sole underlying reality is God.
Only in the state of perfect non-duality is the true glory, wholeness and fullness of God revealed.
So long as we experience a state of seeming duality by mistaking ourself to be an individual separate from God, we are degrading and demeaning him, denying his indivisible oneness, wholeness and infinity, and making him into something less than the only existing reality that he truly is.
The Truth is often unpalatable
Though the inner aim of all religions is to teach us the truth of non-duality, in their scriptures this truth is often expressed only in an oblique manner, and can be discerned only by people who are able to read between the lines with true insight and understanding. The reason why the truth is not expressed more openly, clearly and unambiguously in many of the scriptures of the various religions is that at any given point in time the majority of people have not yet reached a state of sufficient spiritual maturity to be able to digest and assimilate it if it is told as it is. That is why Christ said,
‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now’ (John 16.12).
However, though most of us may be unable to bear and accept the raw and naked truth of non-duality now, with the passing of time we will each eventually gain the spiritual maturity required to understand and accept the truth as it is, and not merely as we would now like it to be.
39 thoughts on “The Non-Dual Vision of Jesus Christ and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi | Non-duality | Advaita |Christianity”
thank you so much for sending me emails, sometimes I do not have time to read them but this time I read this one all the way through and I was actually a little bit tearful by the end because it laid out so precisely and eloquently what I have been trying to put into mental thought for months now. I understand it! I understand it all and I am privileged that I have reached the spiritual maturity in my life that you describe.
thank you so much for writing it out so clearly. I just had to write and thank you
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I’ve only just seen your comment now for some reason – sorry for not replying earlier. Thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad these blog posts are of benefit to you.
Please check: Kundan: The Gospel of Thomas. A guide to awakening. 2014. It`s about the enlightenment teachings of Jesus.
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I hope you’re cool with this exchange continuing ? I fully agree that this is an important conversation that we are having. In fact, I have thought for a long time that there is a need for dialogue between the “religious” and the “spiritual but not religious.” I suppose that I float somewhere between those two poles. I also agree that secular modernity has a tendency to conflate the spiritual and the psychological – which is one of the many detrimental effects of the penetration of scientific materialism.
Onto a more controversial subject….
Would you mind clarifying for me what you regard as “pop” Christianity? I’m concerned that, for you, it simply amounts to historic Christianity that is not nondual. A version of Christianity that sees Christ as a Buddha like figure, basically an avatar, and not as the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. The idea that Christianity “cannot comprehend the deep presentation of the ancients “ and consequently remains “stunted, shallow and underdeveloped “ merely amounts, I fear, to name-calling. And that’s not very helpful.
That said , I grant you that Christianity as it is typically practiced and understood in the West has degenerated significantly. But, I wouldn’t necessarily chalk it up to not having “grown” into something completely different and other. The original post above describes a “Christianity” that plainly isn’t Christianity. To my lights, it’s a generic “nondualism “ extracted from the matrix of Asian religion and spirituality and articulated in a Christian terminology. The notion that historic Christianity is somehow fundamentally flawed by virtue of a massive two millennia old misunderstanding is highly dubious on numerous levels. Christ as avatar is majorly revisionist .
I’d like to end this comment on a more agreeable note . I’m inclined to say that the teaching of the triune God is the place where Christian classical theism and nondual panentheism intersect and represent a fertile place for dialogue. I also agree that Ramana Maharshi is one of the best exemplars of true ecumenical spirituality and theology . His deep understanding and genuine practice of both jnana and bhakti yoga was truly inspiring.
Vincit Omnia Veritas
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This is a wonderful post.
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You’re most welcome Zed
Hello, I just saw your page for the first time. I was wondering if you are aware of the work of Mary Baker Eddy and her movement called Christian Science. It was begun in 1875. She basically matched Advaita Vedanta and the Christian scriptures.
I’m not, not in any great detail…namaste
‘Holy Father, […] that they may be one, as we [are]. […] that they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us […] that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one’ (John 17.11 & 21-23).
Jesus said that! This is so beautiful and perfect and everything I ever needed to hear! Thank-you Jesus!
Thank-you ever so much Tom for bringing this to my attention! Thank-you!
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You’re most welcome Zain 🙏
THANK YOU TOM. ONE OF YOUR BEST WORK
Reblogged this on contruple and commented:
Jesus. NONDUAL. I AM
This is an interesting interpretation of Christianity . But I’m afraid that this perspective doesn’t hold up . The Christian tradition is a species of classical theism and is based on a metaphysic that is largely at odds with the monism that you clearly favor . The claim that the individual is illusory is difficult to square with a theology that is rooted in love – which requires duality and difference . That said , it must also be understood that all contingent reality does not exist apart from the constant creative activity of the Divine in the present moment . The identity of Creator and created is a nondual perspective , but the classical theist rejects this in favor of dependence rather than identity.
To love , there must a lover and beloved.
Do you love your body? You nurture it. You are intimate with it, You are one with it. Marriage. a mystery. This is the Church. The Body . They shall become ONE flesh. What? Nondual. True Christianity is great. Nondual. But so few have tried it. The Lover and the Beloved.
Thanks for your response. I basically agree with what you said , though probably in a different way that what you have in mind . When you say “ true” Christianity are you suggesting that mainstream Christianity is false? . Let’s not forget that the word “religion” means to re-attach or unify, so the traditional Christian faith would certainly fall into the category of religion . After all , deification or theosis is front and center going back to the desert fathers. Let’s also not forget that nonduality comes in several different versions . It all depends on emphasis . You appear to favor a qualified nondualism in which differences are real – yet parts of a unified whole . This was the position taken by Ramanuja in opposition to the unqualified nondualism of Advaita Vedanta. But both of these positions are objectionable to the classical theist to the extent that they blur the distinction between Creator and creator and threatens to collapse into pantheism.
With regards to your examples of loving your own body ; I’m not sure if that works . I think genuine love requires real otherness . When there is true love their is self sacrifice of the individual self for the sake of the other forming “ one flesh” as you say . The beauty and sublimity of love comes from the personal will to sacrifice oneself for the good of the beloved and enter into sacred union or marriage . But again, that requires real separateness , not apparent separateness as in your metaphor of the body.
Thanks for your response. I think you are convoluting the profound simplicity of non-duality, such as popular Christianity has done for the past 2000 years. You have a good overall understanding of this important subject which i deeply appreciate . popular Christianity is not “Wrong” it is just not True to the Essence of Christ teaching. Which is Essentially Non-Dual. Popular Christianity is Superficial.
The Hypostasis teaching of the third century ( which sure you are aware) tried to capture the essence of the Trinity but falls short as pop religion today.
The nuance and essence of true Christ teaching only threatens to blur the distinction between Creator and Creature when the ego resists to go with the flow of transformational Spirit which again is the Essence of true Christianity and the teaching of the Trinity.
The body and marriage fit the teaching of Christ as a form to illustrate formlessness which only a moment of enlightenment can clarify.
I really like this exchange . I’m not sure how I’m convoluting the simplicity of nonduality . If nonduality was so
simple , then the century old conflicts between the six schools of Vedanta would have ended long ago . Surely , Madhva and Nimbarka understood Shankara and Gotama and yet had problems with their monistic metaphysic.
I think a nondual interpretation of Christianity is rather suspect both historically and philosophically . Not that it’s not a legitimate position , but it seems to me that there are far more reasons to accept the Tradition as it has been handed down through the millennia.
I’m not sure why you claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is “ pop religion” or that orthdox Christianity is “superficial” ? On what grounds ?
Christian mystics throughout the ages have experienced theosis, union with the Divine , and yet would not necessarily say that their individuality is illusory . I think we should careful not to fall into the presumption of monism and thereby (possibly) subordinating or delegitimizing bhakti yoga , the path of love .
“ It takes two to make a jingle right , it takes two to make it out of sight!”
Sorry , I couldn’t help myself .
Hello again Cassiodorus,
Ramanuja seems interesting and I will inquire further into his experience. But at first glance he seems to lean heavy on Bhakti….which is only part of the full picture. I like this quote ” When the field of Vision has been Unified, the inner Being comes to Rest, and that inner peaceableness flows into the outer world as harmony and compassion”
I’m not sure why you claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is “ pop religion” or that orthdox Christianity is “superficial” ? On what grounds ?
I dont think I said the doctrine of Trinity is pop religion… if I did I meant that the modern pop recognition of the significance of this doctrine which trys to convey the teaching of Christ is for the most part ignored. And rarely if ever talked about as having any significance to daily life. It is a kind of Koan that stops the limited mind to consider something that IS beyond mind…. Spiritual…. metaphysical…. profound…beautiful…. and the REAL Meat that Jesus was trying to put down for the any ear that could hear it and receive it. He of course did not use the term Trinity but he talked primarily about his relationship with the Father and the Spirit. That makes Three. But that again was just another way of expressing the Perichloresis. Another term not used in 1st century Christianity.
Eastern Orthadox has a lot going for it… for sure… as in deification or theosis. But they cant seem to let the Jeanie out of the bottle with all the tradition. Surely they could have gone deeper the past 1200 years or so. for that reason I say they are stuck. Superficial. Something just aint right Agree?
Again , thanks for your comments.
Ramanuja’s Visistadvaita or “qualified” nondualism, is , indeed interesting . He rejected Shankara’s doctrine of illusion and insisted that differences and the realm of the relative are real . That included the difference between individual souls and Brahman. Consequently , this school advocated devotion to a personal God as the path to liberation . Nevertheless , Ramanuja still affirmed the all-inclusiveness of the Absolute making his philosophy another species of nondualism.
I think the fact of these conflicting perspectives is extremely important . Should we conclude that Ramanuja (and many others) simply did not “see” the Truth ? Why didn’t he experience the Supreme Identity and recognize “ Thou Art That” ? Why did he insist that Bhakti and grace represents the highest spiritual path rather than jnana and intellection?
I was once of the mind that there is a “perennial philosophy” or a universal mysticism at the heart of all true religions . This rang so powerfully true for me and still does in some way. But , any honest examination of the facts casts a considerable amount of doubt on this claim. Contrary to the universalists, the reports of the mystics throughout the ages are not unanimous Again, look at the history of Hinduism and Vedanta in particular . The Dvaita school came centuries after Shankara and Ramanuja and Dvaita rejected both of their teachings! Madhva, its founder, was more of a theistic dualist and insisted that there is an absolute ontological distinction between God and His creation similar to the Abrahamic religions . Was he , too , simply not spiritually mature enough to see the Truth of the Supreme Subject and the “I” inside ? I don’t think so.
In similar fashion , do you really think that historical Christianity or any tradition of classical theism is basically under developed spiritually? The doctors of the Church and the desert fathers didn’t go “deep enough”? They didn’t understand Jesus ? Thomas Aquinas and Maximos the Confessor missed what Christ was really talking about?
Of course not . I’m sorry , for me , this is beyond the pale to believe . A nondual interpretation of Christianity is a possibility, but it’s not a possibility that is compelling .
Thanks for commenting
~~~ , do you really think that historical Christianity or any tradition of classical theism is basically under developed spiritually? The doctors of the Church and the desert fathers didn’t go “deep enough”? They didn’t understand Jesus ? Thomas Aquinas and Maximos the Confessor missed what Christ was really talking about?~~~
What i am commenting on is the… current…popular… understanding of the before mentioned . Todays pop Christianity in my opinion has done little to nothing to develop or expand these ancient truths . It has NOT grown on a practical level to reach the common people that Jesus spoke to for example. When a doctrine has not grown it is stunted… shallow…yes indeed….underdeveloped. This is why our conversation is so meaningful. Even today the best efforts of secular….”popular” mindfulness training is psychological….. not “Spiritual” . its by and large about connecting to reality….not Ultimate Reality….its about connecting to the physical universe…not the Entire Universe. Do you see what I mean Cassiodorus?
The Trinity for example is a Template for “Christian” Living. I grew up and remained in “Church” for many decades and never ever whatsoever heard read or conversed with anyone anywhere about a personal experience involving the Trinity. How can you say that the Trinity teaching is not non dual?
A far as a comprehensive teaching of nonduality in practical experience there is non better than Ramana Maharshi. Shout out to the shining light of Tom Das teaching.
However the Nondual teaching of Jesus is undeniable. Is just that the predominate pop Christianity can not comprehend the deep presentation of the ancients. Why? Because it was not time. Until NOW. Selah
I fully agree that this is an important conversation that we are having. In fact, I have thought for a long time that there is a need for dialogue between “the religious “and the “spiritual but not religious “. I suppose that I float somewhere between those two polls. I also agree that secular modernity has a tendency to conflate the spiritual and the psychological which is one of the many detrimental effects of the penetration of scientific materialism.
Onto a more controversial subject…. Would you mind clarifying for me what you regard as “pop Christianity? I’m concerned that, for you, it simply amounts to historic Christianity that is not “nondual “. A version of Christianity that sees Christ as a Buddha like figure and not as the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. The idea that Christianity “cannot comprehend the deep presentation of the ancients “and consequently remains “stunted , shallow and underdeveloped “ merely amounts to name-calling. And I don’t think that’s very helpful or even explanatory.
That said , I grant you that Christianity, as it is typically practiced and understood in the West , has degenerated significantly. But I wouldn’t necessarily chalk that up to not having “groan “into something completely different and other. The original post above describes a “Christianity” that isn’t Christianity. To my lights , it’s a generic “nondualism “ extracted from a matrix of Asian religion and spirituality and articulated in Christian terminology. The notion that historic Christianity is somehow fundamentally flawed by virtue of a massive two millennia old misunderstanding is highly dubious on numerous levels . Christ as an avatar among other avatars is majorly revisionist to say the least.
I’d like to end this post on a more agreeable note. I’m inclined to say that the teaching of the triune God is the place where Christian classical theism and nondual panentheism intersect and represents a fertile place for dialogue. I also concur that Ramana Maharshi is one of the best exemplars of true ecumenical spirituality and theology. His deep understanding and authentic method of both jnana and bhakti yoga was truly inspiring.
Vincit Omnia Veritas
yes. Good insight and truth. WE are more than conquerors. Pop Christianity is simply the popular religious beliefs that refer to Jesus the Christ as the 3rd person of the Trinity without understanding that this is a template for life. It is more than a dusty page in a theology book. The ancients used the word Hypostasis …. which means substance…. however translated ” person” in English. “Substance” is not the stuff of person…or personality that the popular Christian attributes to the ” TRINITY”. Since 325 via the First Council of Nicaea adopting the Nicene Creed the word Hypostasis or Substance has not been understood by the common guy or gal. Which is really all that matters as far as I am concerned.
This “Substance” experienced as a non dual Ultimate Reality is akin to TURIYA. When we realize these 3 as the ONE SUBSTANCE there is the All encompassing 4th. The Essence of Consciousness manifesting as the self in all three states.
Christ is a word describing the anointing of the 4th. Not an Avatar among avatars because there is only One avatar. It is unperceived , unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, and indescribable.One Spirit in Infinite form
Indeed i am tracking a ” generic” nonduality extracted from a matrix of east, west, north and south.
From the Father of Rest. Prajna. The same knowledge givin to Peter. You are the Christ. the son of the Living God.
from where have you gained your much knowledge?
I suspect we could go back and forth for quite a bit – I hope you’re okay with continuing this exchange . Your reinterpretation of Christian theology through the filter of a non-theistic metaphysic is within your rights , of course . I just haven’t encountered anything to make me think that it’s true, logically or spiritually . Nor do I think your claim is historically true either, that is , the significance of Christ and His teachings were misunderstood or misrepresented . As I said , this amounts to revisionist history , metaphysics and theology of the highest order . The question is why any traditional Christian should believe it?
My personal view is not that Christianity needs to change into something new, but that it needs to return to something that it was. Not exactly like it was in the past , of course , because we cannot literally turn back the clock nor should we want to. Nevertheless , perhaps we can recapture the fire of the Saints and the thirst for the Absolute as of old.
If you look at the history of Christianity there is certainly much to be ashamed of. Corruptio optimi pessima – the corruption of the best is the worst . And that’s why we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water . Gaudete ! Cristus est natus!
With regards to my personal history and perspective , here’s a brief summary. I grew up in a nominally Christian home , culturally Catholic basically. I had no tuck with religion as a young person , but I always was a seeker at heart even when I was an atheist. Eventually, I dived into the vastness of the contemporary spirituality literature. I was a devotee of figures like Ken Wilber, Aurobindo, Joseph Campbell , Alan Watts and CG Jung. A watershed moment came when I discovered the Perennialist School through the writings of Huston Smith.
This put the religions of the world “back” (sort of) on the map for me and I ultimately migrated back to the tradition of my youth , Catholic Christianity . But I continue to be fascinated and engaged with the simple fact of spiritual and religious pluralism .
Thank you for sharing bit of your philosophical development and spiritual journey. But I think we need to get down to brass tacks as they say about the matter of ” Substance” . This is what’s presented in the doctrine of the Trinity as the teaching of the personal experience of Jesus. It is this personal experience of the impersonal Substance of Ultimate Reality that I consider True Christianity. I dont know how to say it any clearer than that at this point in our discussion. Plato spoke about Substance as an unchanging Unitive form which is reflected in the material world. This intuitive knowledge was shared by so many before in many ways and many images. The knowledge I agree is intuitive but there is an experience which is beyond mental capabilties to express as you know. The old finger pointing to the Sun routine. Jesus said “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know the teaching, whether it is of the Absolute, or I speak of myself.” What is his will? Be still and Know. Kant said” Introspection does not reveal any substrate remaining unchanged in life ” At the risk of sounding name calling…”BUNK”
Me knows better. Yes it has been declared intuitive throughout human history. However human experience and now the empirical evidence of quantum ” Stuff” would get Aristotle excited and recant his resistance to Substance as Ultimate Reality and physical reality.
What is “Substance”?… what is True Christianity? What was dem guys talking about in the Nicene Creed? Be Still and Know.
I’m not entirely clear as to the nature of your objection to classical Trinitarian theology . I think the meaning and significance of hypostases is at the center of that objection and the related issue of “substance”. Perhaps it is necessary to point out that underlying Christian Trinitarianism is the classical conception of Deity . God is pure Being or existence itself and yet utterly distinct from time, space and things . However, the Supremely Real maintains creation in existence at every moment in the present and apart from whose ongoing conserving action it would be instantly annihilated .
None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. God is not “a” being among beings, rather, He is the very ground of Being Itself , totally transcendent and radically omni-present. This I would regard as a “weak” panentheism , right on the cusp of monism because God and the world could be described as a “continuous discontinuity. “ So, it is very important to recognize the deeply apophatic nature of classical theism, especially when attending to that most mysterious doctrine of the Trinity. The reason why I press this is that “non-duality” is by no means a forgone conclusion , either logically or experientially .
In response to Tom Das:
Here the non-dual teachings of Jesus are succinctly presented. The following are excerpts I have put together from the introduction of the book ‘Happiness and the Art of Being’ by Michael James. I felt there were so many gems and biblical quotes packed in tightly together in just the introduction of this book – someone […]
Comments on your comments: below
I’m not entirely clear as to the nature of your objection to classical Trinitarian theology . I think the meaning and significance of hypostases is at the center of that objection and the related issue of “substance”.——-
Yes. Exactly. Not only the meaning and significance but the experience.
Perhaps it is necessary to point out that underlying Christian Trinitarianism is the classical conception of Deity . God is pure Being or existence itself and yet utterly distinct from time, space and things . However, the Supremely Real maintains creation in existence at every moment in the present and apart from whose ongoing conserving action it would be instantly annihilated .——
Yes Indeed. Absolutely true.
None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense.
yes Indeed. We are created in His ” IMAGE”. Another word for “WORD” or “SEEING”
or ” Projection”
God is not “a” being among beings, rather, He is the very ground of Being Itself , totally transcendent and radically omni-present. ——–
This I would regard as a “weak” panentheism , right on the cusp of monism because God and the world could be described as a “continuous discontinuity.
Please explain further
“ So, it is very important to recognize the deeply apophatic nature of classical theism, especially when attending to that most mysterious doctrine of the Trinity.——-
Apophatic yes but also kataphatic. Thus the Kenosis in which we are also a part and experiencing just as Jesus as been recognized. This kenosis is at the heart of the Trinity experience which I hope we can continue to explore from a conceptual and experiential dialogue.
The reason why I press this is that “non-duality” is by no means a forgone conclusion , either logically or experientially .——
Here the rubber is beginning to feel the heat of the experiential road. Non-duality is the Joy that Jesus said I am giving you which no one or any thing or any objective experience can take away. He gives this by sharing His experience. His shared Being. This is most conclusively a conclusion my Friend.
This is the “DOUBLE ATTENTION” that Gurdjieff talked about.
We can hold both of these states as One. Also known as the Body, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Source. 5 states
Is this all we can say? Be Still and Know? Does the Buck Stop Here?
Pure Awareness -=The impersonal Witnessing Presence IS the Joy I give you Jesus said.- experienced in life as happiness. which happily comes and goes by The Way. Consciousness at Rest is Peace. Consciousness in Motion is Happiness. But the Peace/Joy remains. What a GIFT! When you know yourself as the Witnessing Presence.
Its kind of like watching your favorite comedian as you lose yourself in the absurdity of the presentation. Or the enjoyment of a horror movie because DEEP INside you know its not Real.
But wait there is more! You get to participate in the movie. Experience the movie on the screen and in the screen and behind the scene. Write and direct the movie. By experience I mean be surprised, saddened, elated and excited in the movie. or calmly observe in wonder at your own creativity which IS given to YOU in Kenosis and being given for the pure pleasure of it
This is why Jesus said you will go in and out of Rest to a reality that is ever increasing in complexity and diversity while still maintaining an All pervading Oneness which IS Immutable , Incorruptible and Eternal.
I described classical theism as a kind of ““continuous discontinuity” as a way of pointing out that there is an absolute ontological distinction between creator and created yet there is no “gap” between them . The world is not an independent object in the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician which exists only when he plays and then vanishes the moment he stops. In this metaphysical framework , God creates ex nihilo a world that is real ; where differences are real and individuality is real . I stress this in contradistinction to various forms of Asian nondual philosophy that regards creation as an appearance, that is ,maya or “illusion”. These traditions speak of identity between the relative and the Absolute, rather than dependence, in which the goal of the spiritual path is to “realize” or “see” this supreme Truth and awaken from ignorance of “separateness”. It seems to me that this is the prism through which you interpret Christian doctrines such as the Incarnation and the Trinity . However, traditional Christianity responds differently to the experience you alluded to in your treatment of Trinitarianism; the traditional Christian speaks of union with the Divine, or deification .
The Catholic theologian and metaphysician Jean Borella asks of nonduality…..
Does all this involve the literal identification of the creature’s substantial being with God? Certainly not. The created being a such remains a created being, and never “becomes”the Creator… far from effacing the creature, deification alone makes it possible for it to exist in it’s integral truth. If deification were equivalent to a negation of the creature, it would be a sheer contradiction, since to negate the creature is the negate the creative will of God and therefore God himself. Deification is ,to the contrary, the only possible affirmation of the creature.
It is, in fact, the completion of that process which the Christian tradition calls “creation “. The final paragraph of Borella’s book is full of significance…
The grace of the active assumption of finiteness is conferred on us by the passion of Christ dying on the Cross. “Abandoned” of God, he renounces the “God” of his natural will and goes, with a single loving rush, right to the end, right to the exhaustion of created being. In him the human will, espousing in a mortal and crucifying union the creative will of divine Love, except being only what it is; it wills its own ontological finiteness, it accomplishes the infinite will of the Father.
Such definitions as “classical theism”, and comments such as “it wills its own ontological finiteness, it accomplishes the infinite will of the Father.” need to be qualified in the Big Picture of our own experience and the finer, spiritual, understanding of Christian scripture. Otherwise we are throwing out the baby of our spiritual transformation and regurgitating what is not the True Essence of the Christian experience.
2Cor.3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
I could go on with many examples such as THIS. But even here just consider what is being said here. The GLORY of THE LORD. CHANGED in to the SAME IMAGE
1 Cor. 15:8 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
Does all this involve the literal identification of the creature’s substantial being with God?
OF course. Its ALL God. There aint nothing but God. If there was something other than God then God would not be God. However the very Nature of God is to Share his, your, my Being.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
With God there is always the experience of “OTHER” because God IS LOVE. BUT always the ESSENCE of ONE. When “classical theism”, misses this mark. It misses True Christianity.
Your last comment contained what I believe is the root of what’s at issue in this exchange .
“It’s ALL God . There aint nothing but God. If there was something other than God then God would not be God. However, the very nature of God Is to share his, your, my Being.”
Non-dualism, or any variety of monism , is a legitimate philosophical worldview . Granted. But the claim that “ If there was something other than God then God would not be God.” seems dubious at best . Why should that be so? If that were the case , then we would be implicitly rejecting God’s act of creation.
To my lights, there is nothing logically that compels us to accept it . The world need not be identical to God , only dependent on Him.
Now , you could say that this is not a conclusion of reason , but the result of direct experience, intuition , or gnosis. But , that too , is not particularly compelling for the simple fact that there is not even close to a consensus among the world’s mystics and contemplatives past and present .
Mysticism is not monolithic. Also, as I alluded to in a prior comment , it is telling that even the Vedantans themselves have been arguing over these matters for centuries .
You are most excellent at the overall history and understanding of the issue at hand. But I think it is as simple as considering the magnitude of the Greek poets quoted in
Acts 17:27 in reference to the god zeus.
In Him we live and move and have our Being. We are His Offspring.
Granted philosophers and mystics have debated this for centuries. But Now Here … you and I can finally settle the confusion. At least as far as we are concerned. Like Jesus said…you only need the awareness of a child to enter the kingdom of God in your awareness. Even though you never left. To live and move in awareness of this kingdom is what is known as walking in the Spirit.
Or “Lucid Waking” or Turiya. It IS a continuity of Consciousness throughout the experience all 3 states of waking , dreaming and deep sleep. Not the limited mind illusion of Controlling what is happening in those states but simple RESTING in the Nature that Pervades those experiences in Wholeness.
many times this is simply a matter of semantics and checking our experience from a Universal and common Awareness point of view. In other words. Its staring us ALL in the FACE.
I’m not sure if there is any confusion and I doubt if anything is likely to be settled . To your point, it is often said that nondual traditions like Hinayana Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta do not ask their adherents to believe anything , but simply to test and confirm claims within the seat of their own Consciousness . This fundamentally empirical approach makes these traditions more like spiritual “therapies”and less like Western religions which are based on Revelation and dogma.
I think that’s true as far as it goes . But , this “first hand” verification that reveals unity and oneness does not necessarily apply to the totality of reality . For those of a different spiritual persuasion , these practices reveal the unity of creation and are preparatory for genuine bhakti that features real union between Lover and beloved . And that can’t truly happen if the individual ceases to exist or never existed at all.
Like Ken Wilber said. ” Everybody’s Right” . If Tom Das would be gracious enough to allow you to see this. WE can go further if you so desire at firstname.lastname@example.org . I do not want to continue to use Tom’s space without his insightful comments to help us along.
I think it has been an interesting and insightful exchange.
Tom – thank you for this wonderful article. And while words fall short as to why it resonated with me – Truth, by Its very nature, is Self-evident.
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Thank you Ken 🙏