India’s Advaita Vedanta

Integrator of Paths, Faiths, and Philosophies

by Babaji Bob Kindler

Indian Philosophy and Practice in All Religious Traditions

In all religions — Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, etc., it is mundane convention which acts as the main despoiler, veiling most of the transformative substance naturally present within them. The world, and especially the Christian-based West, must take a cold, hard look at this fact and then fashion a swift return to the original teachings of Jesus still held sacrosanct by sincere and nonviolent Christian practitioners of the day. Jesus favored the view of “I and my Father are one” which has long been the essence of all Vedic pathways, and which is certainly present in the esoteric teachings of religions like Judaism and Islam as well. It is this subtle but crucial nondual element, called Advaita in India, which brings out the Truth in religion and philosophy, and Its transforming power as well, rendering the spiritual path both practicable and realizable. With Vivekananda as our guide, we examine this subject.

Much has been written and proposed over the last century about the precious, refined, yet rare art of integrating disciplinary practices, religious faiths, and spiritual paths. This bold move towards innovative integration, far from diluting or abolishing the religious traditions of the world, will reveal and offer up the bountiful but heretofore hidden spiritual wisdom which lies, mostly undiscovered, within the boundless and timeless terrain of Truth. Like a necklace of pearls which cannot be admired without the invisible string running through them, likewise it is verily impossible to benefit from the esoteric wisdom available in the religious traditions of the world if the subtle spiritual string of Nondualism is not recognized and duly acknowledged. It is this thread of Nonduality, called Advaita in India’s Vedanta philosophy, that subtly permeates the warp and woof of the sacred cloth of all religious traditions. Bringing it forward, in religion, philosophy, mind, life, even action, will afford the noble principle of Universality to manifest and mature on earth.

The Great Descent

The planet Earth first felt the fortuitous footfall of one who truly epitomized authentic Universality in the mid-1800s. This was Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, known today the world over. As He Himself once stated about the comprehensive spirituality He developed and exemplified for the world: “I have practiced and realized the goal of the different religious traditions of the world and, making a fragrant garland of them, have offered them reverently at the feet of the Divine Mother.” If one of the world’s most revered beings has exemplified this principle so adeptly, then it must be time for it in this day and time. He, Himself, declared that this Universality was the intended ideal of modern times.

Teach Principles, Not Power and Personalities

Greatly due to the descent of such a great being on the world scene at that time, the America of the mid- to late-1800s was fertile with expectation with regards to both religious pluralism and spiritual freedom. It was as if awaiting guidance along this fresh, new inspirational trajectory. So when Sri Ramakrishna’s disciple, Swami Vivekananda, arrived on the scene in 1893 at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, jumping the ocean like Hanuman in the epic Indian scripture, The Ramayana, the people of England and America, themselves approaching a new millennium called the Twentieth Century, duly received that guidance from a past master. Symbolically, the Western-dominated world of that century can be likened to the objective of Hanuman’s famous leap. He was set upon rescuing Mother Sita from the evil Ravana, she representing the lost and stolen soul of a nation and he symbolizing the rank materialism that leads the soul astray. As Swami Vivekananda himself observed after he arrived on Western shores:

“The West is a nation of Mammon-worshippers. Money comes before everything. Thus, it will take a long time for the Westerners to understand higher spirituality. Everything is money to them. If a religion brings them money or health or beauty, or long life, they will all flock to it, otherwise not. This is a thoroughly materialistic country. The people of this Christian land will recognize religion if only you can cure diseases, work miracles, and open up avenues to money, and understand little of anything else.”

This is a sobering statement, but it rings of truth — and astutely summarizes the need to awaken to this moral and religious predicament. Due consideration is called for on the part of the people of this contemporary American culture, and all those who are emulating it. This obsession with money and power has been directly responsible for the deterioration of religious vitality, thereby also bringing about the downfall of great nations. For, when religion is undermined or compromised, then to be used for purposes of gain and profit like a business, the collapse of a society, which has been erected with such painstaking care and effort, is not far off. As the great Swami also noted:

“Those to whom religion is a trade are forced to become narrow and mischievous by their introduction into religion of the competitive, fighting, and selfish methods of the world. I pity them. It is not their fault. They are children, yay, veritable children, though they be great and high in society.”