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How do Hindus view Jesus Christ? - The Examiner

Felix Machado ()
October 10, 1998

Title: How do Hindus view Jesus Christ?
Author: Felix Machado
Publication: The Examiner
Date: October 10, 1998

For many Hindus Jesus Christ remains an inspiration for social
teaching. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) would be an eminent
example among these. He found the whole social teaching of Jesus
Christ beautifully summarised in the Beatitudes. More than as a
person, Jesus Christ is understood as a moral principle or an
ethical symbol by Mahatma Gandhi. In other words. Gandhi was
simply fascinated by the message of the Gospel or the thought of
the preaching of Christ. This is what he said: "I can say that
the historical Jesus never interested me. Nothing would change
for me if someone proved that Jesus never lived and that the
Gospel narration was a fictitious story. Because the message of
the Sermon on the Mount would always remain true for me". He was
certainly moved to a profoundly spiritual action but his
attitude couldn't be said to be evangelical. At best it could
be described as a Gospel value-based attitude. Going through the
writings of Mahatma Gandhi one may reach the conclusion that he
was attached to the person of Christ. M. Gandhi once said,
"During many years of my life I considered Jesus of Nazareth a
great Master, perhaps the strongest the world has ever known...
I can say that Jesus holds a special place in my heart as a
teacher who has exerted a considerable influence on my life".
However, it could not be said to be a commitment of faith in
Christ. Jesus Christ remains for Hindus like Gandhi a supreme
human model to be imitated or an inspiration to be referred to.

It must be noted that Hindus scarcely distinguish between the
human and the divine. That Jesus Christ was Divine is hot a
disputable question for many Hindus. However, they find it
difficult to believe it when the Christian understanding affirms
Jesus Christ as the only incarnation of the Divine. Hindus tend
to interpret the Mystery of Jesus Christ exclusively from the
Hindu point of view. Thus, in consistency with the Hindu
weltanschauung (Hindu world-perception), for many Hindus Jesus
Christ is one among many Masters or Prophets or Incarnations.

For Keshave Chandra Sen, a Hindu who lived from 1838 to 1884,
the person of Jesus Christ becomes his central preoccupation.
Rooted in patriotism he understood Christ as an authentic Asian
person. He asked, "wasn't Christ and also his disciples Asian?
Christianity was founded and first developed in Asia". Marked
profoundly by the Bhakti tradition of Hinduism K.C. Sen
expresses, in emotional fervour, his deep love for the person of
Christ. The fundamental Mystery of Jesus Christ as God and Man
at the same time is overlooked by Hindus like K.C. Sen.

Syncretism is a phenomenon viewed negatively in the West. But
calling it "an attempt towards synthesis" all such efforts are
regarded with high esteem by Hindus. Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan
(1888-1975) typifies this attitude. He is known for his astute
mind, eclectic ideas and comprehensive vision. Like many
intellectual Hindus his approach to the Mystery of Christ is a
philosophical one. Deeply rooted in the Neo-Vedantic vision he
interprets Jesus Christ as an example of the birth of a mature
and evolved humanity. In other words, Jesus Christ is not an
individual person but a symbol of progressively evolved humanity
or it is a humanity realised itself its a full manner. This is
what he wrote, "Every event in the life of Christ, because he is
born of the Spirit, is to be seen as a universal-symbolic stage
of spiritual life; Christhood is the state of glorious interior
illumination in which divine wisdom has become heritage of the

Many Hindus like S. Radhakrishnan have an idealist view of Jesus
Christ, i.e. they completely de-historicise Jesus reducing Him
to an illusion. Such a view comes close to gnosticism. Obsessed
by a dream of the so-called universal religion S. Radhakrishnan
sees the Mystery of Jesus Christ as a historical formulation of
the formless Truth.

It is interesting to note the radically different vision of
history which the Hindus have in comparison with the Christian
perspective. History is always a partial knowledge of reality
according to Hindu tradition; therefore, it is imperfect
knowledge of reality. In that context to identify the Mystery
of Jesus Christ with historical fact is to reduce God to an

Swami Akhilananda (1894-1962), whose mission was to the West,
interprets the Mystery of Jesus Christ as one who is already an
integral part of Hinduism. The goal of Hindu dharma is self-
realisation and Jesus Christ is the supreme example of this
"soul which is totally illumined". The ultimate liberative
experience in Hinduism is described as aham Brahma asmi, i.e.
the realisation that I am That (Absolute). Only Jesus Christ,
according to Hindus like Akhilananda who meditate the Gospel
according to St John, is capable of identifying that Truth with
Himself ("I and the Father are one").

Taking Christ as an example Akhilananda argues for the greatness
of Hinduism as the supreme religion: Hinduism is the experience
of Christ lived. Once again we see here the Mystery of Jesus
Christ separated from its historical roots.

Attracted by a Hindu portrait of Jesus Christ M.C. Parekh (1885-
1967) converted himself to Anglican Christianity. He has said,
"More I am a Hindu closer I follow Jesus". In Advaita Hinduism
all duality is made to disappear. Following this, M.C. Parekh,
describes Jesus Christ as the supreme Yogi who surpassed in his
being all duality of subject-object. Based on the model of
advaita experience many Hindus like M.C. Parekh make Jesus a
superhuman, inaccessible being.

Bhawami Charan Banerji (1861-1907) represents an interesting
view of Jesus Christ held by many Hindus. He took the name of
Brahmabandhava Upadyaya when he converted to Christianity and he
retained the Vedas (Hindu Scripture) as guiding principles for
the religious life. He said, "The Vedas speak of the Supreme
Being, who' knows everything, a Personal God who is Father
Friend, even brother of the faithful, who recomposes good to the
virtuous and punishes the evil-doers, who controls the destiny
of all men". Like many Hindus who love Jesus Christ and His
Gospel B. Upadyaya rejected all superstitious beliefs
interpolated in Hinduism in the course of its history. Proud of
his Hindu heritage he declared, "By birth, we are Hindus and
till death we will remain Hindus. It is by dvija, i.e.
sacramental birth, that we are Catholics, members of one
indefectible communion which embraces all ages and all places".
Following in his footsteps today many Hindus like to repeat the
slogan attributed to B. Upadyaya, i.e. religiously we are
Christians but socially we are Hindus.

There are Hindus who incorporate the Mystery of Jesus Christ in
their lives and imitate Him as an ethical' teacher, revere Him
as an object of devotion, explain Him as a philosophy (wisdom),
serve Him as a theology, admire Him as an ascetic or contemplate
Him as a mystic. These models generally represent the overall
mentality and attitude of many Hindus who in their own way love
and admire Jesus Christ. Questions that are of fundamental
importance to the Christian faith do not seem to make any
difference to them. In fact this is the greatest obstacle in
Hindu-Christian dialogue.

(Fr Felix Machado, Addeto for Asia, The Pontifical Council for
Inter-Religious Dialogue, Vatican)

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