Christ Across the Ganges
Hindu responses to Jesus
In the last two centuries, some of Hinduisms greatest saints and scholars have lovingly embraced Christ and made him their own. Continuing and aggressive Christian mission in India is now making some Hindus anti-Christ as well as anti-Christian. Mission agencies are pouring millions into India to "save" the "heathens." Religious tensions are increasing, hitting the headlines and claiming lives. Find out why mission disturbs Hindus. Find out how they have responded to their encounter with Christ and Christianity from colonial to contemporary times, in India and in the West. This is their story in their words. Discover how Hindus revere the Christ of faith rather than the Jesus of history. Explore the universal but not exclusive Christ of Hinduism. Find out the rich social and spiritual dimensions Hindus bring to reflection on Christ. Knowing and understanding others is always challenging. Make your own interfaith journey and discover what happened when Christ crossed the Ganges.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- In her well-researched book, Sandy Bharat has studied in depth some of the Hindu encounters with Christ. This book is part of the growing literature on the Interfaith movement, and will be of value to students both of Hinduism and Christianity. One can only hope and pray that despite the negative factors, the process of dialogue and the attempt to genuinely understand the foundations of the world's religions will continue to grow, so that even though each one of us will continue to follow our own religious tradition we will be able to approach the others with a positive mindset. ~ Dr Karan Singh, Member of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of the Indian Parliament
- Hindu Encounters with Christ provides a fascinating account of interaction between Hindus and Christians, offers a refreshing view of Christ seen through the eyes of some of the greatest Masters who walked the face of the earth...The book is an open window into a wonderful world where labels and designations break down to reveal the unifying expressions of love, devotion and self-realization. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be an invaluable resource for those who seek to build bridges of understanding and dialogue between faith communities. ~ Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
- Faith is at the centre of dialogues on issues confronting the world. Multiculturalism in Western society is being questioned and too often communities are guilty in interpreting religions to suit their beliefs. It is for this reason that your book will make an important contribution in understanding Hinduism and its encounters with Christianity. ~ The Lord Dholakia of Waltham Brooks OBE DL, House of Lords, UK
- A fascinating and challenging Hindu argument that Jesus Christ is best understood as an avatar. ~ Dr Robert Traer, Dominican University of California
- The book contains writing from many respected Hindus; it is time to have the perspectives of genuine practitioners rather than Christian interpretations. ~ Celia Storey, Christians Aware
- We live in a pluralist and above all interfaith society, and we need to know what the other faiths of our communities think about Christianity. We learn of others faiths and faith practices, so it is heartening to know of the responses of other faiths to our own. The book starts, very helpfully, with a description of the Hindu faith. This leads us then into the whole interaction over the years of the two faiths, cultures and understanding of each other. Some very interesting insights into the meetings of the various proponents of each faith set, lead to way that each faith perceives each other and the position they hold in society and culture. The writings of the Lord Krishna, the understanding of Jesus as an avatar, the way that Hinduism effects society and cultures and the whole understanding of the faith are entered into in detail: a very interesting book which has led me to understand much more about an area I realise I knew little about. ~ Ian Gibson, www.thegoodbookstall.org.u
- This book is the story of Jesus through Hindu eyes. It moves from the early encounters between Christians and Hindus to present day encounters. One chapter is â€˜The Inculturated Christ,â€™ and includes an introduction to leading thinkers who have experienced and written about the Christ from a Hindu perspective. There is a separate chapter on the Ramakrishna Mission whose founder, Sri Ramakrishna, when asked why he revered Christ said, â€˜Why I look upon Him as an incarnation of God,like Rama or Krishna..â€™ The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is studied, including its special link between Krishna and Christ and its understanding of Krishna as God and Christ as the son of God. Many reflections from Hindus and Christians are included. The hope of it is that there will be more listening, understanding and acceptance between people of faith. ~ , Christians Aware
- Here are two books (including A Global Guide to Interfaith) based on knowledge and experience gained over many years of study and practice within the Hindu tradition and at the International Interfaith Centre in Oxford by Sandy and her husband Jael, who sadly died last year. Their work and writing demonstrate compassion, clarity and commitment to the sanatana dharma (Eternal Truth that has no beginning and no end). The importance of coming together and listening to the other person is shown to be absolutely essential. This is what both books do so well. Their books and work allow people of religion and faith to be heard in an attitude of trust and respect. The authors do not distance themselves from the material they write about but are able to communicate their own positioning of tolerance and compassion for all whilst both acknowledging and embracing difference as the context.
Christ Across the Ganges demonstrates the complex and contextual relationships within the Hindu tradition and its encounter with Christianity over time. The legacy of suspicion, from earlier encounters with Christian missionaries from the 18th Century onwards, where targeting of poor and lower caste Hindus was the norm, with enticement of improvement in social conditions, isnâ€™t ignored. In spite of an imposition of doctrinaire Christianity, and the acknowledgement by Hindus that there was an immense chasm between the Christ being preached and the lives of Christians they encountered, the complex nature of the Hindu tradition did mean that over time both Jesus as a man and Christ as an avatar (Divine incarnation come to earth with a special message for humanity) became absorbed into the Hindu tradition. The history of how this came about is complex as the impact on different groups and over time has varied hugely depending on encounters at different times, places and positioning within the caste system. The value of this book is the way in which the complex strands are untangled and clarified by a Hindu scholar and practitioner.
The Unitarian influence on Rammohun Roy, 1772-1833, from the Priestley Brahmin caste is of particular interest in the understanding of Jesus as a great moral teacher. Unitarians in Britain thought that Rammohun Roy and the movement Brahmo-Samaj would become wholly Christian but this was never to be, signalling the first inculturation of Jesus into a Hindu context.
Through the great Hindu figures of, Aurobindo Ghose, Gandhi, Radhakrishnan and others we see the influence of the Western religious and philosophical traditions producing new integrated ways of religious, political and social thinking and understanding of Christ within the homeland of the Hindu tradition. For the great religious figure, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa 1833-1886 and his disciple, Swami Vivekenanda, Christ was as much their own as other divine figures, having appeared to Sri Ramakrishna one Christmas Eve. Here were the seeds of the Ramakrishna Mission to the West, which now has one hundred and thirty branches worldwide. As earlier Christian missionaries had taken and imposed a Christian Christ on the Hindu tradition now Hindu missionaries brought a new way of understanding Christ to the West, a Hindu Christ freed from Christian doctrine.
The above is but a brief glimpse of the first part of a fascinating and topical book bringing us right up-to-date, fifty years following Indiaâ€™s independence.
As with other books by this author an excellent glossary, bibliography, including on-line, and comprehensive list of resources and links are included. ~ Joan Wilkinson, Unitarian Publications
- This is a detailed survey of the interaction between Christians and Hindus over the centuries. Sandy Bharat traces the origins of the Christian presence in India, commencing with early travellers and missionaries, progressing to the work of organisations founded by teachers who have incorporated the person or teachings of Jesus into their own thinking.The best known of these are discussed, for example Vivekananda and Mozoomdar, who addressed the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, Rammohun Roy's Brahma Samaj, Aurobindo Ghose, M K Gandhi, Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship, Sivananda's Divine Life Society and Swami A C Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada and his International Soiety fo Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the 'Hare Krishna' movement. A subsequent chapter deals with 'Contemporary responses from India', including Satya sai Baba, and the less well known Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel. There are many other figures, some better known than others, who feature in the book, which is impressive for its breadth of coverage. A further chapter makes observations about 'Jesus through Hindu eyes'. The book draws on a good range of historical sources together with conversations and interviews with leaders, e-mail exchanges, and a questionnaire, which was administered to a variety of Hindu scholars and religious leaders in 1994. The full questionnaire and responses are recorded in appendices.
The author rightly notes that not all encounters between Christians and Hndus have been dialogical, or even amicable. She is particularly critical of early missionary activity, such as that of Francis Xavier, and the 'Serampore Trio' (William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward), who railed against the Hindu faith, asserting the superiority of Christianity. Later encounters between Christian and Hindu were more interactive, however, and Bharat demonstrates how all of the Hindu teachers mentioned above - with the exception of Goel - found a place for Jesus within their world views. Particularly useful is the author's distinction between those who acknowledged Jesus solely as a teacher, such as Roy and Gabdhi, and those who have claimed him as another avatar (divine 'descent'), for example Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan, Sivananda, Vivekananda and Yogananda. The former found the Christian faith unduly dogmatic; some found particular difficulty with ideas such as Christ's divinity, his atoning work, and the Trinity, although Yogananda finds no problem wuith the notion of Christ taking on other people's karma. The latter have been happy to acknowledge the possibility of God becoming human, as he has done at other times, for example in the form of Rama or Krishna. Bharat successfully demonstrates the variety of ways in which Hinduism can appropriate Jesus.
Much of the book consists of direct quotation, either from these teachers themselves, or from the author's informants. While a more continuous narrative might have helped the flow of the text, the extended use of quotation has the advantage of authenticating these responses, and making the book into a useful anthology of source material. The book also has the merit of rejecting or ignoring spurious source material. Bharat is rightly critical of the legend of Thomas going to India in 52 CE and appropriately she does not consider accounts of Jesus' alleged encounters with Indian gurus. The book is firmly anchored in the historical and verifiable.
Bharat seems to endorse the 'spiritual democracy' of her Ramakrishna informants, that 'all religions, and all sects within religions are equally valid routes to the same one ultimate reality' (p130). The author clearly prefers Hindu inclusiveness to the dogmatism and competativeness that she ascribes to Christianity, confessing that she originally embarked on her research with ' a missionaruy attempt to promote Hinduism' (p106). Although the book is by no means an apology for Hinduism, I nevertheless felt that she could have afforded to be more critical of her Hindu sources. Claiming that Hinduism can shed new insights on Christianity, she cites Gandhi's observation that Jesus on the cross manifested satyagraha ('devotion to truth'). I wonder how true this is: was not a similar observation made many centuries earlier by Peter, when he wrote 'when they hurled their isnults at him, he did not retaliate' (1 Peter 2:23). Again, I think Bharat could profitably be more critical of her sources. For instance, she refers to Sai Baba's claim that "Christ did not declare that he will come again, he said, 'He who made me will come again'" (pp.95-96), apparently endorsing his claim that this is an authentic verse that became omitted from the New Testament. While Bharat is no doubt right in claiming that many Christian missionaries asserted Christianity's superiority over Hinduism, such statements appear to privilege Hinduism over Christianity. The real problem - which remains to be addressed not merely by Bharat, but by the interfaith movement more widely - is how to create a dialogue which avoides the extremes of missionary imperialism and of a 'spiritual democracy' that blurs over important differences between the world's traditions. ~ George Chryssides, Faith and Freedom
- A sociological study that is an absolutely fascinating read regarding the many and various effects Jesus has had on India, and Hindu beliefs in particular. Dr. Bharat uses numerous quotations (probably Â¾ of the text are opines from other sources) to build a rich and detailed tapestry dedicated to educating the reader as to the perceived impacts of Jesus, with special emphasis on missionary tactics - as they affected the Indian and Hindu subculture. Interlaced in the text, is a large amount of beautiful Hindu acumen from many luminaries such as Ramakrishna, Gandhi, Mata Amritanandamayi, and a host of others. The book is an essential resource for anyone interested in India, Hinduism, or the West's arrogant treatment of other systems of thought. As well, this book will serve as an excellent reference as it has an extensive bibliography. I didn't give it 5 stars as I wished Sandy Bharat would have lent a bit more of her own insights to the work, in any event - a very important and educational work! ~ Matthew J Schimpf, New York
- This book is a refreshing view of Christ seen through the eyes of some of the greatest Masters who walked the face of the earth. ~ Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
- A must for anyone interested in the history of religious traditions. ~ Marianne Rankin, Alister Hardy Society