While I definitely think of myself as a Christian, albeit of a slightly unconventional nature, I have long been attracted to Indian spirituality and India itself as a sort of spiritual homeland. The word love is hardly too strong to describe my feelings towards this country though I am not blind to its many shortcomings. I do believe that India represents something special for the whole of humanity. Spirituality is known and followed there like nowhere else even if, perhaps inevitably, it is abused there like nowhere else too.
But if that is the case why is India so unresponsive to Christianity? This is certainly true because although there are many Christians in India they represent a very small proportion of the population and I seriously doubt that proportion will increase much beyond its present state.
I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, India's own spirituality is so ancient and so profound that it feels it has no need for any other. In this it may well be correct. The paths of love and knowledge are both fully known there. Hindus have great respect for Christ and his teachings and see him as a real 'mahatma' or enlightened soul but not as the Son of God who was the template and pattern and archetype for all enlightened souls, and without whom there could be no enlightened souls or however you wish to describe the state of union with God. So they do accept Christ spiritually but not theologically.
This leads to the second reason. Maybe India already has its own Christ. Not the full revelation of Christ which took place in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago and which was as described in the Christian religion, a unique event which transformed the whole world and opened the gates of heaven to all humanity, but something like a partial revelation which took place several hundred years earlier. This was the incarnation of Krishna.
I am not fully comparing the two. I said this was a partial revelation. It was not the Incarnation. It did not have the same universal purpose and effect of ransoming us from sin and death. But on a smaller, more local level it was something similar. Krishna was a God of love. He brought love to Indian religion and initiated the whole bhakti movement. I'm not saying these things weren't there before but they weren't there in anything like the same way or to the same extent. Krishna activated something that was latent but undeveloped. He lit the fuse that led to love of God, and the Bhagavad Gita, the book of his teachings to his disciple Arjuna, is like the New Testament of India with the Vedas, of course, as the Old Testament.
So India does have its own Christ of a sort, a Christ who speaks to it in its own language. Christianity will always be foreign to India. It will always be the religion of outsiders and maybe, as a religion, it was only ever intended for the West. But it is possible that a prefiguration of Christ came to India (whether as the overshadowing of a disciple or as a direct spiritual influence of another kind, I don't know) and taught India the way to God in terms that were appropriate for that country. Even the names are similar!
I'm not really a fan of Theosophy even though I think it brought a lot to a Western world that was losing its religion. It introduced many concepts that revived a flagging sense of the spiritual and opened up a deeper exploration of truth for many people struggling with 19th century materialism. But it did rather materialise spirituality itself and it always lacked a genuine mystical heart not to mention a proper appreciation of God. But one thing I read in a Theosophical book years ago struck me as an interesting insight. This was that Ramanuja had been an incarnation of Jesus.
Ramanuja was an 11th century theologian and philosopher from South India who is best known today for teaching a qualified non-dualism which he formulated in response to the strict non-dualism of Sankara. Without going into too much detail Ramanuja sought to preserve the distinction of Creator and created which Sankara's non-dualistic interpretation of the Upanishads effectively abolished. In short he taught a theistic religion which accorded creation a full and proper reality in contradistinction to Sankara's teachings which allowed creation a provisional reality only which was ultimately denied when metaphysical ignorance was removed and all differences were seen as illusionary including the fundamental difference between the soul and God. So the goal was not to reach a spiritual union with God but to see that there was never any difference between the soul and God. They are not two. This, of course, denies love though modern followers of this path try to squeeze that in anyway using elaborate intellectual gymnastics. But if the personal God is on a lower level of reality than the impersonal absolute then love is part of the world of unreality as opposed to being fundamental to existence.
Sankara was clearly an intellectual (even though he is supposed to have written devotional poems) but Ramanuja, though obviously highly intelligent and a profound philosopher, was primarily a lover of God. Now, (and here's the point of all this) I don't believe that Jesus really did incarnate as Ramanuja but I do think that he might have been the inspiration behind him and that Ramanuja may have been a disciple of Jesus', born in India to correct the metaphysical errors of Sankara and help establish or re-establish a bhakti approach to religion, and underline the idea that the true way to God is through love rather than knowledge, even though knowledge is important too. But it must be knowledge grounded in and motivated by love.
So I see Jesus as present in India through Krishna and Ramanuja, both of whom had a significant impact on Hindu religion, especially the bhakti or devotional approach.
But why have I put this piece on Albion Awakening? What's it got to do with the theme of this blog? Not that much admittedly. But one might see a connection between England and India which was perhaps born during the time of the Raj and endures to this day. English, of course, is still an official language in India and the country continues to be run on vaguely British lines. But that's just externals. If the conjectures in this article have any substance to them (a very long shot you might say), they tie up strangely with the idea that Jesus came to Britain as a young man. Britain and India would be the only two countries other than the Holy Land* to have an association with him, and there may be a deeper meaning to that than we can at present understand. Could India and Albion together one day have something to teach the world?
File this post under speculation!
File this post under speculation!
*Just for fun I should add that Bethlehem is almost exactly midway between Cornwall (which Jesus is supposed to have visited) in England and Mathura (Krishna's birthplace) in India, about 2,500 miles from each.