By Joshua Newton
Karl Rahner, one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century, whose understandings even influenced the Second Vatican Council said to a seminar presenter at Vienna University: ”We are spiritually primitive when compared to what the Indians have discovered!”
Thus, advaita (non-dualism) is popularly considered as India’s best contribution to mankind. And for those who believe Jesus is a founder of a semitic religion, the coinage of ‘Jesusian Advaita’ might seem confusing. Advaita came before India or what is considered as ‘Indian’ was formed in mass consciousness. Besides, the whole vedanta comes from vedas, which are also understood by one perspective as to have originated from Melchizedek of Salem (Jerusalem). Hence, we understand that advaita is not a property of any particular civilisation. Wisdom transcends such human perversions.
Did Jesus really teach Advaita?
Literally, advaita, the sanskrit word means non-dualism or more comprehensively, oneness. The core of advaita experience is an inward search for awakening to the knowing that duality (the other, an-eka) is a delusion. That there is only the Absolute Brahman and the rest is all a dream. When it comes to Jesus, he happens to be the only one who walked on earth who imbibed the mahavakya, Aham Brahmasmi in its complete sense. 1. John 10:30 } ‘I and the Father are one.’ 2. John 17:21 } ‘..That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us’.
Roman Catholic thinkers in India, like Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (1861-1907) and Raimon Panikkar (1918-2010) suggested that Christ is the Ishvara of classical advaita philosophy. Neo-vedantins like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Abhishiktananda, Swami Abhedananda, Swami Akhilananda, Swami Prabhavananda, Swami Ranganathananda, and others chose to reject the traditional Christian understanding of sin and salvation as illogical and accepted Jesus as a guide-guru of ‘the Kingdom of God’. They taught that as an incarnation of God, Jesus is a yogi of the highest order, established in union (yoga) with God. A yogi, who could declare ’1 am the self’ or ‘I am Brahman’ or ‘I and my Father are one’. Philosopher-President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan also had found that through his life, Jesus expressed a timeless spiritual fact of mystic human perfection.
A whitewashed Christianity?
From some quarters come the obvious question. Jesus is brought into the mainstream discussion, into academic interests. So does it mean Jesusian advaita is an attempt to introduce a whitewashed form of academic Christianity? While such a supposition is understandable, if one examines the content of Jesusian advaita, one might reach a more startling proposition: This could actually be the beginning of the end of Christianity. That’s because its metaphysics breaks the traditional Christian bastion of dualism between the Father and the faithful. Jesusian advaita demolishes and wipes off the predominant idea of the need of the creator for creation’s enslaved form of obedience, the final wrathful judgment of worthiness, and the certitude of sinship. Such forms of condescending father-terror is lovingly replaced by the Father-Sonship oneness. Something that reminds us of the mahavakya Aham Brahmasmi (I Am Brahman).
According to Jesusian advaita advanced by texts like A Course in Miracles, the theology is dominated by not just the sense of agape, but an essential sense of one-to-one belonging extended by Father. Individual’s identity is established in the Godhood. This apparently denotes the dissolution of ego-self and the reclaiming of Selfhood. On that terms, Jesus the Nazarene also obviously becomes an illusion like anyone else. Forms are gently dismissed as dreams and the Self as essence is established back in the primal cause. The whole cosmology loses its identity of existence in separation. The cosmic Self is introduced as the sonship that is one with the Father and the Son is no more treated as billions of sons, rather as the truer version created in His image, the one and only Self. In this light, Christianity looks like a child’s play with its archaic concept of a separate God self eager to punish and quell a helpless man on account of his actions in his dream. Such gross misrepresentations of Jesus’ original teaching is immediately left behind and the proposal of oneness is put back again on burner.
Though we may find apt quotes from the New Testament, it would not be safe to take our current understandings of advaita and project it on a document that was primarily written by Jewish converts of a new church in Jerusalem to bring in more new converts. Many of Indian studies of Jesus as an advaitin had based their assumptions on the New Testament. But now, several of its Jesus quotes have been found by theologians as interpolations or incorrect add-ons. So we cannot rely on Bible as a complete authentic source to get the original Jesusian teachings.
Enquiries based on fresh revelations
That’s where the new and revealed scriptures like A Course in Miracles come in. Reported to be dictated by Jesus consciousness to an atheist psychologist named Helen Schucman, this mind-boggling text has the presence, on all its pages, of a non-human (apaurusheya), non-judgmental, sympathetic source that is not of this world. Upanishads are also known to be received from apaurusheya sources. But upanishads clearly lack this sense of amity and affection with which the voice addresses its reader/student. Rather, it sounds reprimanding or admonishing in many instances, like most of the existing scriptures including The Bible.
The work, no doubt, demands a deep and sincere study.
It lends itself only to a long-term student, rather than being accessible to a random reader. Certainly, the parameters of the matrix that makes us believe of this canvas of duality is busted with such care and precision, that a reader obviously cognising from the point of consciousness that is already the domain of sense of duality will take a lot of undoing / unlearning to proceed into the core of the proposition. The question from an astonished mind then arises: So what did the master originally teach over 2000 years ago? What were transcribed? What were heard and digested and what ultimately got transferred and was put to be disseminated? When a student of the newly received original teachings of Jesusian advaita compares his earlier notes based on traditions popularised by Irenaeus, Augustine, Kempis, and even up to the most modern proponents of Christian apologetics like Barth or Ritschl or Pannenberg, he is bewildered to discover how off-track had the whole corpus of theology including eschatology over these centuries had gone from the light and love-filled teachings of the master. Jesusian advaita finally puts the human perspective of God upright. Hence, the significance of the new revelations.
The arrival of the new Gospel
The world had initially believed that what everything Jesus taught was held in place by the four gospels. Later, it discovered the lost gospels and sat up in wonder. By the time Christianity was already established in well-patterned groves beyond any salvation. But the revelations that happened from 1965-1972 that became A Course in Miracles, offered man a full majestic view of his true teachings once again. This received work, unlike The Bible (NT) is evidently ‘pure’ and almost uncorrupted by humans. Every reception of transmission from dimensions beyond the level of consciousness it remains is bound to have some elemental impurity that of the inner thought-system of the receiver. Beyond such innocent ‘dusts and specks’, the text is considered to be the Word of God by its students.
While the source of this scripture and two others dealt with in this study, is left to ascertained by reader himself, the content is beyond any doubt of uncommon profundity. An inspired student also would not miss to notice the similarity of the content of the text with that of the basic percepts of advaita vedanta from India. Yet, he won’t also miss its affectionate care in handling of the reader, so as not to hurt his sentiments even while his own ego-system is slowly pulled apart and left naked. Two years of study has convinced me that A Course in Miracles does this job quite grandly and lovingly. In this manner, the work also replaces the mere academic clinical nature and dry intellectuality of traditional vedanta with a compassionate sense of brotherliness.
Jesusian Advaita (JA) as presented in A Course in Miracles, A Course of Love, and The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of The New Testament teaches that Brahman (Father) is all that is, and everything else is illusion. Everything that is impermanent is unreal and the unreal does not exist. All that manifests to grab our attention are projections of our split mind that sees duality. All this, including the world, is to distract man from his true nature – that he is one with God, that he always was and always will be.
An inclusive perspective
Profundity often makes a school of thought claim exclusivity of truth. But Jesusian advaita does not claim that it is the only path to God. In fact, it acknowledges in the Course, that there are thousands of paths to Source. The idea of advaita is not easily understood. Clearly so, because it cannot be understood but only experienced. Only a relentless quest within ourselves can take us to this universal awareness of Oneness. From this vantage point of the absolute awareness, all sense of duality vanishes. The awareness itself becomes filled by the sense of knowing of one-without-a-second (ekam advithivam).
Fr. Jacques Dupuis, a senior theologian and author writes: “Paradoxical as it may seem, the Upanishadic [phrase] Aham Brahmasmi finds in Jesus its truest application: in him the saying becomes literally true and takes on a new meaning. Jesus’ [spiritual] life is entirely centered on the person of the Father. As he prays and adores, as he entreats and implores, the Father-centeredness of his human soul is so deep as to seem to have roots beyond the human sphere.”
In short, the figure found in the four gospels, as well as the teachings recorded in the other books of the New Testament, are often diametrically opposed to what is found in the Course. It would be safe and intellectually honest to accept that the biblical Jesus represents the collective projections of the various authors of the gospels and epistles, while the voice and person of Jesus in A Course in Miracles represents the ego-free being who lived and taught two thousand years ago.
Self-Enquiry in Jesusian Advaita
One of the cornerstones of both the original Jesusian teaching and Indian Vedantic insights, is the certitude in the unreality of existence. To get a feel of such a parallel, let us examine two sources from the two traditions.
First, we look at Yoga Vasistha (also known as Vasistha’s Yoga) is an Indian text traditionally attributed to Valmiki, the author of Ramayana. It recounts a discourse of the sage Vasistha to a young Prince Rama, during a period when the latter is in a dejected state. The contents of Vasistha’s teaching to Rama is associated with Advaita Vedanta, the illusory nature of the manifest world and the principle of non-duality. The book has been dated between the 11th and 14th century AD) and is generally regarded as one of the longest texts in Sanskrit (after the Mahabharata) and an important text of Yoga.“He remains alone in silence saying: ‘Of what avail is prosperity, adversity, house or intentions? Everything is only unreal.” [ Ch. 1 Verse 38 ] Also, from Chapter 1 verse 55. “What indeed are the unfortunate enjoyments in these manifestations (or worlds)? Surely, by delusion alone, we remain in vain with firmly rooted imaginations.”
Avadhūta Gītā is a text based on the principles of advaita vedanta. It has been dated to approximately the 9th or 10th century. The singer of the Avadhuta Gita is Dattatreya, an Avadhuta, and according to Swami Ashokananda, it is a text of Vedanta representing extreme nondualism: “Verily, there is no offshoot, essence, or absence of essence. Neither is there the movable nor the immovable, sameness nor variety. The Self is devoid of reason and unreason. Why dost thou, who are the identity in all, grieve in thy heart?”
I can go on further quoting loads of similar arguments from other scriptures. Ribhu Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Vivekachoodamani, Brahma Sutra Bhashya and more.
‘Illusion’ in Christian tradition
Now, to examine the Christian traditions, a quick look at a source like Saint Gregory of Nyssa. It is true that Gregory is not part of the modern Christ revelations. But how close he comes to the original Jesusian teachings when he declares that the world is indeed an illusion! Also known as Gregory Nyssen (335 AD– 395AD), he was the bishop of Nyssa until his death. He was venerated as a saint in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism. As Gregory puts it: “The life we build within this world is a world of lies. All that man pursues in this life has no existence except in his mind, not in reality: opinion, honour, dignities, glory, fortune—all these are the work of life’s spiders..” [ Commentary on the Pslams ] To switch back to gnostic traditions, the Treatise of the Resurrection says the resurrection story is affirmed: “Do not think the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is truth! In deed, it is more fitting to say that the world is an illusion rather than the resurrection.”
A Course in Miracles minces no words when it comes to analysing the nature of reality: “The world is an illusion. Those who choose to come to it are seeking for a place where they can be illusions, and avoid their own reality. Yet when they find their own reality is even here, then they step back and let it lead the way. What other choice is really theirs to make? To let illusions walk ahead of truth is madness. But to let illusion sink behind the truth and let the truth stand forth as what it is, is merely sanity.”
So, if the illusion is not the work of the Source, it must have a maker, since the phenomena is experienced by man, and the maker is found to be egomind. “…What God did not create does not exist. And everything that does exist exists as He created it. The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist.” ACIM, Workbook (W) p 23, Lesson 14. The learner of Jesusian advaita text A Course in Miracles is clearly taught that it is their wrong mind that seemingly made up an afflicted world (not to mention the entire physical universe), and therefore, again, it is only a ‘reversal of mind’ that can change this.
In fact, the central teaching of the Course says that the physical body and the world of form are illusions. It says only the spirit is real and as it was created by God. An interesting point to bear in mind is that the spirit is deemed to be an extension of God. “…In the creation, God extended Himself to His creations and imbued them with the same loving Will to create. You have not only been fully created, but have also been created perfect. There is no emptiness in you. Because of your likeness to your Creator you are creative….” ACIM, Text, p. 17. This extension of God into us, the real Son the Father created, the only truth about ourselves is the Self. That’s up to where the Course’s Self-enquiry gets you.
What causes your suffering?
This is the one major nagging question in the heart of all humans. But this question is not answered to intellectual or intuitive satisfaction by Bible or any other scriptures. A Course in Miracles specifically focuses on answers but then it also offers the cause of our collective and individual suffering. “A problem cannot be solved if you do not know what it is. Even if it is really solved already you will still have the problem, because you will not recognize that it has been solved. This is the situation of the world.” ACIM W. L.79. Course says that “Everyone in this world seems to have his own special problems. Yet they are all the same, and must be recognized as one if the one solution that solves them all is to be accepted.” The world seems to present you with a vast number of problems, each requiring a different answer. This perception places you in a position in which your problem solving must be inadequate, and failure is inevitable. No one could solve all the problems the world appears to hold. They seem to be on so many levels, in such varying forms and with such varied content, that they confront you with an impossible situation. There is only one essential problem: our belief in our sin-guilt-fear and that we are separated from our Source. All our problems are illusory by-products of this one problem. Course gives you a complete mind-purification programme that can change your view of everything resulting in you experiencing a continual life of miracles.
We are all Son, not just Jesus
This father-centredness does not wind up with Jesus himself. Course teaches us we are equal to him: “Equals should not be in awe of one another because awe implies inequality. It is therefore an inappropriate reaction to me…. There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you…. I am in [no] way separate or different from you except in time, and time does not really exist (T-1.II.3:5-6,10-4:1).”
Jesusian Advaita declares that Jesus is not the only son of God. The whole of mankind and every living being is. It’s termed as Sonship, in which all are considered equally holy as Jesus. This non-dualistic metaphysics of Jesusian advaita goes beyond even the highest teachings of the Vedanta, that emphasise the unreality of the world. It also uses a sophisticated psychology based on the understandings of Sigmund Freud, when it comes to explaining to us the dynamics of the ego, the false self based on guilt, projection, and attack.
We are not body
Jesusian Advaita says that bodies are only for learning and teaching, because we are not our bodies. As we become attached to body—ours and others—we fall into the mind trap of raga-dwesha (attachment and aversion). The cause of suffering is not desire, but the hidden guilt within our collective unconscious. But JA helps us to bring a radical shift in our perception without putting us through years or decades of meditation or prayers. It takes the traditional advaita far ahead indeed. It also denies that maya is a produce of brahman. In fact, JA clearly teaches that the brahman, the Source does not recognise our nightmares we call the world. If it recognises, this suffering shall become real. JA also offers us a practical, hands-on, no-nonsense, clear, and astonishingly effective manual to realise nitya anitya vasthu viveka (the capacity to discriminate between the real and the unreal). This is no hogwash.
A pragmatic programme for our mind-reversal
Vedantins in India wished for a programme. They believed they had it. But throughout history, the four-yoga programme (Jnana, Raja, Karma, Bhakti yoga systems) and all the varieties of meditations were found not be quite effective in true reversal of split mind. In fact, another extreme advaita text (relatively unknown both in India and outside) Avadhūta Gītā, calls meditator ‘shameless’, for how can the meditator and the object of meditation be two? ”As the self is filled by the Self, so is all filled continuously by you. There is no meditator or meditation. Why does your mind meditate shamelessly?” [ Ch-1 Verse 26, Avadhūta Gītā ] AG claims so because meditation pre-supposes a shameful forgetfulness of one’s true nature. ACIM teaches the same: ”Nor is lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary. All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose, yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a sate of present unworthiness and inadequacy.” [ T18.VII.4:9-11 ]
I’ve seen countless swamis and advaita vedantins in India, having spent decades in meditation, falling into the traps of ego, just like a snap. No matter how far one studied vedanta texts or meditates in Himalayas, it is found close to impossible to surrender one’s ego to the Absolute and to abide in the true Self. Many practitioners have confessed to this. “Over the centuries, question continued to crop up as to why the mind could not be at peace. Seekers continued to ask why the Self could not be realised even after years of rigourous contemplation.” [ The Self as a gooseberry in the palm of the hand; V S Krishnan; Mountain Path Vol 52, No.1 ] In contrast, Jesusian advaita comes with a realistic practical programme and a blueprint for reversal of mind that according to thousands of practitioners around the world, has actually brought a radical shift internally.
Recognition instead of renunciation
Truth cannot be learned. It can only be recognised. How can any learning possible by excluding your experiences in the dream? Don’t that fall into the realm of mere resistance than enquiries? Jesusian advaita, interestingly, does not ask you to wear saffron or sacrifice anything. Vairagya (renunciation), one of the basic stipulated requirements of vedanta is not suggested by Jesusian advaita. It rather shows the learner that relationships are direct doors to reach Godself through applied experience of transcendence of the dialectics manifested in interpersonal conflicts of interests. It directly shows the learner that his inner nature (prakriti) is true, unalloyed innocence and this is equally true in case of his neighbour too. Thus the equality of Sonship is undoubtedly established and invited to embrace. It is through the brother that you are invited into the Kingdom of God.
Prasthana Trayi of Jesusian Advaita (JA) }
As identified by Sankara, the traditional advaita vedanta’s prasthana trayi are Major Upanishads, Brahma Sutra Bhashya, and The Bhagavad Gita. Similarly, AnandaPatha identifies three foundational texts for Jesusian Advaita. They are the three newly revealed scriptures.
1. A Course in Miracles is the Sadhana Prasthāna (Practical Text), 2. The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of the New Testament, the Smriti Prasthāna (Remembrance Text), & 3. A Course of Love, is the Upadesha Prasthāna (Advisory Text).
These three collective fundamental texts are found to aid a seeker’s attempt in Self-Realisation. And Jesusian advaita finally promises something the vedanta does not. That when you root yourself in your daily practice, you will start getting guidance from the real guru within (Call it paramatman or your True Self or Inner Mentor or Holy Self or The Self or Holy Spirit). You are to leave your self under this holy guidance. By then, you begin feeling the ‘presence’ within and getting guided whenever you step back into awareness. Thus your atonement process runs in full speed. This whole process consequently turns our nightmarish life into a ‘happy dream’ before we step out of it all, by laying gently aside what we are not.
As A Course in Miracles says, a heart-based study and application of these texts shall:
“…bring you the rest and quiet, peace and stillness, and the safety and happiness you seek. This thought has the power to wake the sleeping truth in you whose vision sees beyond appearances to that same truth in everyone and everything there is. Here is the end of suffering for all the world, and everyone who ever came and yet will come to linger for a while. … Completely undismayed, this thought will carry you through storms and strife, past misery and pain, past loss and death, and onward to the certainty of God.” (W-pI.109.2:1)