In this short meditation on Vedantic Christianity, I will make the case that the Future of Christianity is Advaita Vedanta through and through. As always, I am indebted to Swami Sarvapriyananda for awakening my spiritual fire and teaching me the true lessons of Advaita Vedanta, which I am by no means qualified to teach but nevertheless feel compelled to share my thought process as a spiritual friend as I continue on my spiritual path, ever learning and growing.
28 There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
“The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
“I take refuge in the Self, the Indivisible, the Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute, beyond the reach of words and thought, and the substratum of all, for the attainment of my cherished desire.” ~ Sadananda, Vedanta-sara
Mainstream Christianity is currently in the process of slow self-destruction, falling into depravity and spiritual ruin as it continues to devolve into small and petty thoughts, making itself a tribalistic, materialist religion unfit for the properly universal impulse of true spiritual philosophy.
A Religion for the Future
I am convinced that if Christianity is going to survive with its spiritual well-spring intact in the 21st century then it will have to assimilate and internalize the Truth of Advaita Vedanta, so that it can once again return to the proper transcendental largeness of its spiritual roots, the very roots Jesus was fully tapped into.
St. Paul, the Great Mystic Himself, saw this clearly in Galatians 3:28 when he said we are all one in Christ Jesus.
What does this mean? What is the nature of this “oneness”? Advaita Vedanta gives us the answer by explaining that we ourselves are this Oneness, that Oneness itself is nothing apart from the True Self, which we always already are and always will be, Eternal and unchanging and whole, indivisible and the substrate of all manifest reality.
This Self is the indivisible Absolute of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
When we examine our Awareness, our Consciousness, do we find that Consciousness itself is Jewish or Greek? Male or female? No! Pure Consciousness is not differentiated whatsoever: it is Pure Subjectivity set apart from the merely apparent world of difference and multiplicity.
We look around us and we see all these divisions in the world: male, female, nonbinary, trans, cis, Black, brown, white, American, European, rich, poor, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, sick, healthy, conservative, liberal, human, animal, organic, inorganic, etc., etc.
And beyond that, at a more basic phenomenological level, we see in our experience a basic multiplicity insofar as we do not perceive a single mass of oceanic Being but rather a plurality of objects, tables, chairs, trees, rocks, people, animals of every variety. And our mind is filled with a teeming variety of ever-changing mental objects: thoughts, feelings, sensations, desires, beliefs, perceptions, imaginations, intuitions, etc., etc.
But according to Advaita Vedanta, all this multiplicity, this great teaming “Many-ness,” is but an appearance or illusion in an Absolutely nondual reality, which is called Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. This nondual reality admits of no difference whatsoever: All Is One, One is All, nothing existing apart from Pure Oneness itself qua Oneness, identical with itself qua Oneness.
This Absolute nonduality reality functions as the substratum in which and through which all experience of plurality is made possible, manifesting in the blooming, buzzing confusion of difference, change, causality, and finitude, which is the nature of the manifest, observable universe itself.
But at its core, all this manifest plurality is but a manifestation of a single unitary and One reality, which is Indivisible, perfectly divine, and beyond the reach of words and thoughts.
And where is nondual reality? What is this nondual reality? And more importantly, what is our relationship to this nondual reality?
Advaita Vedanta gives the same answer as Jesus of Nazareth Himself: this Kingdom of God, this Absolute nondual reality, it is the Self. We are that nonduality. We are it. It is us.
There are traditionally four great statements of Advaita Vedanta:
- “Thou art That:
- “This Self is Brahman”
- “Consciousness is Brahman”
- “I am Brahman”
In these four statements, we find also find the pure, beating heart of Christian mysticism.
“Thou art That.”
“That” is the Absolute, transcendental, Pure Existence, the ground of all Being, God, Oneness. And “That” is you. You are that Reality. It is your Self, which is at the absolute center of your Soul, which is within you. Thus, the Kingdom of God is within you, and among you, interpenetrating your Self and all of reality. Your Inner Soul is itself the substratum for all of Existence.
As the Ashtavakra Gita says,
“You pervade this universe and this universe exists in you. You are really Pure Consciousness by nature. Do not be small-minded.” chap 1, text 16
How small-minded the currents of mainstream Christianity are! Christians today have very little sense of their own divine Nature. They do not feel like they are divine, that they have the Kingdom of God within them. They feel like the Kingdom of God is this far-off “place” that exists in the future, after birth and/or confined to the absolutely separate reality of God who is split off from His own creation by an impenetrable wall, leaving us bereft of the Divinity that is our birthright.
But by necessity all differentiation between Creation and God would place limits on the Kingdom of God, making it subject to boundaries and limits, making it limited to “after death” or “not-Creation.”
But the pure philosophy of Vedanta cuts through such childish nonsense easily and points us to the great Truth: the Kingdom of Heaven is right here, right now, for it has never not been, for it is Eternal, Unchanging, Indivisible, Pure Oneness. And we are not separate from that reality; indeed, we are manifestations of it. As the Ashtavakra Gita says,
“As waves, foam, and bubbles are not different from water, so the universe emanating from the Self is not different from It.” ~ chap 2, text 4
“This Self is Brahman.”
This inner Kingdom of God is identical to the Absolute. Jesus was considered by the Pharisees a blasphemer when he said, “The Father and I are One.” But He was expressing this same, basic principle of Vedanta: I and the Father are One. Notice He did not say “Me this particular person Jesus of Nazareth is One with Father.” He said “I” and the Father are One.
Am I also not an “I”? Are you not also an “I”? Are we not all an “I”?
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “That yogi sees me in all things, and all things within me.”
“Consciousness is Brahman.”
When God the Father revealed his Divine Name to Moses, He said, “I am who I am.”
This is another way of saying this His True Nature is “I-ness itself” aka Pure Consciousness itself, completely set apart from all objects of Consciousness. Just Pure Consciousness itself, in which and through which all of Existence is Illuminated in the Light of Awareness such that this world of Nature is Light up in the blazing fire of Pure Consciousness.
This Pure Consciousness is not divisible or differentiated in any way. It is neither Greek nor Jew, male or female, free or slave. It has no parts for it is not an object at all! It is the Pure Subject, Pure Subjectivity, which stands apart from all possible objects of experience as an Eternal Witness.
This Pure Consciousness is not the body nor is it the mind, both of which are objects. The Ashtavakra Gita says,
“My child, you have long been caught in the noose of body-consciousness. Sever it with the sword of the knowledge ‘I am Consciousness’, and be happy.” ~ Chap 1, text 14
“Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of the conviction ‘I am the One, and Pure Consciousness’, and be free from grief and be happy.” ~ Chap 1, text 9
“I am Brahman”
Jesus said, “The Father and I are One.”
O how different Christians would act if they had the same powers of spiritual discrimination and utmost boldness to admit the same basic truth of Vedanta! True mystic Christianity recognizes that it was not just Christ Jesus who had the spiritual birthright to say He was One with the Absolute. We all are.
This is what Richard Rohr calls the Universal Christ, which interpenetrates all of incarnated reality. Christ as The Word was made Flesh incarnate, not just Jesus-of-Nazareth-incarnate. That means Christ is a universal spiritual principle of Absolute Oneness, not the last name of some human man who lived 2,000 years ago.
As Paul recognized, we are all One in Christ.
The great Catholic mystic of the 20th century, Thomas Merton, was able to discern this truth as well and had the spiritual boldness to declare it.
As James Finley writes,
“The underlying thesis of this work is that Merton’s whole spirituality, in one way or another, pivots on the question of ultimate human identity. Merton’s message is that we are one with God. What Merton repeatedly draws us to is the realization that our own deepest self is not so much our own self as it is the self one with the “Risen and Deathless Christ in Whom all are fulfilled in One.””
This is the only Christianity that deserves to survive into the future. All other small-minded Christianities should die off for they are not befitting the true inner divinity of humanity.
As Swami Vivekananda says,
“Temples or churches, books or forms, are simply the kindergarten of religion, to make the spiritual child strong enough to take higher steps; and these first steps are necessary if he wants religion. With the thirst, the longing for God, comes real devotion, real Bhakti. Who has the longing? That is the question. Religion is not in doctrines, in dogmas, nor in intellectual argumentation; it is being and becoming, it is realisation.”