Home - Sanatana Dharma, Vedanta, and the Bible : Essential Differences

Sanatana Dharma, Vedanta, and the Bible : Essential Differences

sanatana dharma, om and bibleQ: Although I don’t have a problem understanding all the concepts of Vedanta, the minute I reflect upon the Christian Bible it seems to all confuse me. I find the teachings so different, although they must be the same.

It is the Bible that is confused because it (the New Testament) has been edited to conform to the theology of the new state religion called Christianity at the beginning of the fourth century. The original teachings of Jesus were those of Sanatana Dharma which he learned in India. Please see The Christ of India on our website. (Also available as a book.)

I understand that beyond everything there is only Brahman. The Bible does talk about the devil, and possession. Vedanta won’t address the issue.

In India they are very conversant with evil spirits and exorcism. Sri Ramakrishna had many experiences with various kinds of spirits. Once he went to a place where there were earthbound spirits. They told him his presence tormented them and asked him to leave, which he did.

Please do not equate Vedanta with Sanatana Dharma. Vedanta is just one of the orthodox systems of philosophy within Sanatana Dharma. And Advaita is only one form of Vedanta. There are also Dwaita and Vishishtadwaita Vedanta. Vedanta Society is another thing, altogether, being the Western branch of the Ramakrishna Mission which is just one of thousands of spiritual institutions in India, though certainly one of the largest.

You say “A spirit may become flawed in its evolution.” How can a spirit, essentially Brahman become corrupt?

I said: “A spirit may become flawed in its evolution and become corrupted, twisted and negative. Then we say it is evil, though the spirit is never evil, only its bodies, which include the mind and will.”

 When the Christian Bible talks about the Revelation for example, the fight between good and evil, it leads us to believe there is a devil and that he can manipulate people and occupy their body and that we will be on one side or the other at the end of time. It talks about evil spirits as though there really is an opposite force which could lead us to hell.

Certainly there is a force which works against our development and liberation. It is called the play of Maya. You may recall that Sri Ramakrishna saw in a vision two men come out of his body–one dark and one light. They were the papa (evil) purusha and the punya (righteous) purusha, the forces of light and darkness in each person. The punya purusha struck the papa purusha with a trident and killed him. Then the punya purusha merged back into Sri Ramakrishna’s body. This must be understood in the context of Sanatana Dharma, not that of Christianity (Churchianity) and its mistaken views.

Vedanta, I don’t think, believes in hell. Why not? How can the Christian Bible be opposing to Vedanta? I’m trying to match them up in some way to make sense of it, but I’m failing. For 2 years I’ve tried and still cannot understand the disparity.

Sanatana Dharma believes in the existence of numberless heavens and hells whose character differs according to the karma of individuals when they enter the astral world.

Again, Jesus was a Sanatana Dharmi, not a follower of Judaism or Christianity. Furthermore, all religions are not the same and they most certainly are not one in essence. They differ greatly in degree of truth understanding. Some are destructive in their effect even if their intentions are to “save” people. Only Sanatana Dharma believes in the divine nature of the Self (Atman), for example, and that is a very basic concept that affects every other aspect of Sanatana Dharma. All religions may have a common basis, but only Sanatana Dharma knows what it is.

Sri Ramakrishna said this: “The Hindu religion alone is the Sanatana Dharma. The various creeds you hear of nowadays have come into existence through the will of God and will disappear again through His will. They will not last forever.… The Hindu religion has always existed and will always exist” (Nikhilananda translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, under the heading of Monday, October 20, 1884)

Is it possible that people like Hitler can have such a corrupted soul that they come back to earth to haunt people? Is this a corrupted soul?

Many evil people become trapped in the earth plane and harm people. They are then called “demons.” Such are certainly corrupted in their subtle energy levels. But in time their eternal, divine status will assert itself. They will have a tremendous amount of karma to undergo and overcome. They will have to do as much good to humanity as they did evil. It will take a long time, perhaps creation cycles, but they will turn back. Eternal alienation from God is impossible for anyone, since we are all rooted in the very Being of God: gods within God.

When a disaster strikes, for example the holocaust, how can it be that all those people deserved that? Vedanta says we only get what we deserve. It does seem strange to me that all those people who deserve what they got just happened to be in the same place at the same time.

Why should it be strange? The universe is a perfect evolution machine, and karma is a major factor. Group karma operates as precisely as individual karma. In May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation? I have cited the words of the great Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus, in the Daily Prayer Book, edited by Philip Birnbaum (Hebrew Publishing Company, New York). In the second chapter of the section entitled: Ethics of the Fathers, the seventh section says: “He [Hillel] saw a skull floating on the surface of the water. He said to it: Because you drowned others, others have drowned you; and those who have drowned you shall themselves be drowned.” The persecuted have been persecutors in previous lives, and the present persecutors shall be the persecuted in the future. We may think the world is flawed, but it is seen as perfect when we hold the profound overview of the Indian rishis.

Vedanta also believes in re-birth until you reach moksha or liberation, but the Bible teaches us that we go to heaven or hell. Am I right to compare to try to make sense?

After each birth we go to a world very much like this one, or to a miserable one (a hell) or a happier one (a heaven), all according to the nuances of our karma. It is not true that there is only one life, or that anyone can go to hell forever. If you compare the views of Sanatana Dharma and those of the Bible in these matters you can only conclude that one is true and the other is false.

In my writings I quote from the Bible to show that a great deal of it escaped the deformation of those who reworked it to reflect “official” Christianity, and that it demonstrates the original, fully oriental (Indian) character of Jesus and his teachings. A person who wishes to follow Jesus must follow him to India. I recommend that you read The Second Coming of Christ by Paramhansa Yogananda.

My confusion is with the opposites. If I chose either Christianity or Vedanta maybe I wouldn’t have this problem. But I have experienced both and now it has become a problem for me, and I love both.

A very dear friend of mine was a niece of Edith Gray, a Canadian who went to India and became a disciple of Sri Ma Sarada Devi. My friend showed me a copy of a letter written to Miss Gray by Swami Saradananda at the time Holy Mother was in Benares. Miss Gray had asked why it was she was sometimes more attracted to Jesus and at other times more attracted to Sri Ramakrishna. Saradanandaji wrote to her that this was very natural, and that Sri Ramakrishna had told him that he (Saradananda) and some of the other disciples had been disciples of Jesus.

We should love all God’s messengers to humanity such as Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Ramakrishna and Jesus. And insofar as they convey the true teachings of those great ones, we can respect the religions that bear their names. But we must also be like the wise ant who can take sugar and leave the white sand behind. In The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna says: “Books–I mean the scriptures–contain a mixture of sand and sugar. The sadhu takes the sugar, leaving aside the sand. He takes only the essence.” We must do the same.

You say, “Free will is a fundamental condition of all spirits. Those who set their wills to evil become ‘demons.’” I totally agree, but does Vedanta?

Sanatana Dharma certainly does, as is seen by the sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. It brings us inestimable good to read a chapter of the Gita daily.

Please would you help me, or direct me to some understanding. Why don’t I understand when I love and adore God so much?

You do understand, but you are trying to fit or see everything according to the things which those who claim to be authorities have told you. This is a common affliction of those who are in the West and attempting to adopt the wisdom of the East. They see one thing but have been told to think/say it is something else.

Books and teachers from the East often say things that may sound good as platitudes and “positive thinking,” but do not conform to reality, and therefore are not a viable philosophy at all. We must always keep our sugar-from-sand intelligence working. And if others do not like it, that is their problem.

As Paramhansa Nityananda, one of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries greatest yogis, told people: “You were born with a brain, not a book.” We must be honest in our conclusions at all times. There is nothing at all wrong in concluding that something is mistaken, no matter who is saying or doing it.

Consider how Swami Vivekananda never at any time failed to speak how he saw and felt. He even told Sri Ramakrishna he considered him deluded! Sri Ramakrishna often said that one could attain liberation if they always spoke the truth. And Swamiji’s truthfulness and assertion of what he saw as truth led him onward to the Truth. He said: “Awake! Arise!” He did not say: “Listen; accept; believe and obey.”

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