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This essay presents an Introduction to the evolution of the spiritual and theological encounter between Advaita Vedanta and Christianity. It gives special emphasis to the contribution of two recent Roman Catholic theologians, Richard De Smet, S.J., and Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux), who sought to grasp the meaning and significance of Hindu teaching on nonduality for Christian theology and spirituality. Whereas De Smet attempted to correlate Advaita doctrine with Christian teaching on the conceptual level, Abhishiktananda pursued an experiential preconceptual approach to the truth of Advaita. This essay advocates the view that both approaches are viable and necessary for an in-depth encounter between Advaitins and Christians. It also acknowledges with Abhishiktananda the challenge that new religious experience presents to traditional theologizing.

"Nonduality" is a term used variously by Hindus, Buddhists, and Taoists to express some fundamental insight about the unity of reality. When employed in such a broad sense, nonduality is an ambiguous and somewhat obscure term. To come to a more precise understanding of what nonduality is or might mean, we must return to the original linguistic and philosophic contexts from which the word has been translated into English. [1] If we limit a probe of the meaning of nonduality to Hindu Sanskrit literature, we find that the most commonly used term is "advaita." However, even here, when the range of our investigation is limited to a single tradition and to the analysis of a single word, the problem of vagueness recurs to a certain extent. For, the ancient term "advaita" is not a precise concept; it is to be taken neither as a strict metaphysical definition nor as an analogical statement about being. Its meaning is thus initially elusive. Etymologically, "advaita" does not so much present a clear assertion about th e nature of being as it attempts to rule out from the beginning a false understanding of reality. Advaita is basically a denial; it is literally the negation of a duality (a-dvaita) of some unspecified type. Advaita is, therefore, only indirectly and negatively a proposition about the nature of being. Hence, the term leaves itself open to a variety of interpretations as to its exact meaning. As we shall see, the interpretations given to advaita in our time are very broad, indeed.

In Hinduism advaita not only indicates a certain ontological position, but it is also the name of the predominant system (darsana) of Hindu metaphysical thought. This body of advaitic teaching has been preserved by a school [2] founded more than 2,500 years ago in India to preserve and propagate teachings about nonduality and to cultivate and nurture attitudes and practices that foster a correct vision (darsan) of life. [3] The full and proper name of this school is Advaita Vedanta, or the nondualistic interpretation of Vedanta. [4] "Vedanta" of itself signifies any one of a number of soteriological movements that derive chiefly from the Upanisads (ca. 900-200 B.C.E.). [5] Advaita Vedanta in particular specifies the tradition that attempts faithfully to preserve a nondualistic understanding of the Upanisads, those revealed scriptures (sruti) that are said to announce the highest truth of reality and the path that overcomes creaturely suffering. [6]

Advaita Vedanta -- whether regarded in modern times as a philosophical system, [7] a theology, [8] or, more precisely, a theology that is essentially exegetical [9] -- remains today, as it has since the nineteenth century, the school of Hindu thought that has been the best known to Western students of Indian religious history. [10]

There is some reason to believe that Advaita Vedanta has been the dominant school of Hindu thought since the time of Samkara (ca. 700 C.E.) [11] or soon after. Samkara or Samkaracarya ("Samkara the Teacher") is the Advaita tradition's most important commentator (bhasyakara) of its sacred canon. Little is known about Samkara's life with certainty other than that he was a monk, a founder of monastic centers (math-s) of advaitic learning in various parts of India, and the religious thinker most responsible for the ascension of advaitic or nondualistic Vedanta to a place of unequaled rank among all those schools seeking a proper interpretation of the Upanisads, a place it holds today after almost thirteen centuries. Samkara is so important for the tradition of Advaita Vedanta that it is customary to distinguish "pre-Samkara" from "post-Samkara" periods of Advaita history. Furthermore, Samkara is historically the most controversial of Hindu thinkers, the one most often reviled by those who do not adhere to advait ic doctrine. In the course of history he has risen to such importance as to become the reference point for the philosophizing of not only his followers but also of Advaita's detractors. According to P. T. Raju, "Every subsequent philosopher, whether or not he was a Vedantin, had to reckon with the views of Sankara." [12] S. Radhakrishnan has also pointed Out, "The upholders of other views generally support their positions by refuting those of Samkara." [13] Samkara's influence on Hindu metaphysical thought is perhaps even greater than that of St. Thomas Aquinas on Roman Catholic systematic theology.

Among the many great teachers of Advaita's venerable tradition, Samkara is the one most familiar to Christian theologians and contemplatives seeking to grasp the meaning and significance of Hindu teaching on nonduality for Christian theology and spirituality. [14] However, how these theologians interpret Samkara and Advaita Vedanta varies greatly. The focus of this essay will be on the disparate ways two recent Roman Catholic thinkers have attempted to affirm Hindu teaching on nonduality. The first is represented by Richard De Smet, S.J. (1916-97), who sought to correlate Advaita doctrine with Christian teaching on the conceptual level. The second position, that of Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux, 1910-73), emphasizes an experiential pre-conceptual approach to the truth of advaita. These two Christian teachers have been chosen because they continue to be determinative today for the ongoing encounter between Hindu and Christian thinkers on the issue of nonduality and the related question of divine person hood. Further, De Smet and Abhishiktananda carry the authority of decades of lived dialogue and friendship with Hindu thinkers and contemplatives. De Smet, a Belgian, arrived in India in 1946 and resided there, primarily as a professor of Indian thought, until close to the time of his death forty years later. Abhishiktananda, born in France, made India his home from 1948 until his passing away after a twenty-five-year spiritual search. Not an academic, he was a monk and spiritual writer.

I will first sketch briefly that Advaitic understanding of reality that is most traditional -- for there is more than one Advaitic ontology -- a view that is still the predominant one among Hindu nondualists, even though this position has been increasingly called into question in the twentieth century with advances in critical Samkara scholarship. Now that many spurious works have been eliminated from Samkara's corpus, it has become possible and even necessary to note discrepancies between his authentic doctrine and the teaching of post-Samkara Advaita. Second, I present some summary remarks about the basically hostile and condescending attitude taken by Hindu Advaitins and Christian theologians toward each other until fairly recently and give some reasons for this animosity. This traditional attitude contrasts markedly with the more sympathetic approach taken to Advaita by the two Christian thinkers under review. Third, I review some of the more important observations made by De Smet and Abhishiktananda on the Christian encounter with Advaita.

The goal of this essay is not only to provide the reader with an introduction to the Advaita-Christian encounter. I hope, in addition, that it will show the viability and necessity of the approaches of both De Smet and Abhishiktananda, while acknowledging with Abhishiktananda the challenge of religious experience for the theological encounter of Advaita Vedanta and Christianity.

Traditional Advaitic Teaching

The essence of Advaitic teaching is frequently summarized according to the following verse: "Brahman is real, the world is an illusory appearance; the individual soul is Brahman alone, not other." [15] Though this statement does not originate with Samkara, [16] it expresses well the common interpretation of advaita or nonduality as a form of monism. Accordingly, though we experience ourselves as belonging to a world of multiplicity and change, there is really only one reality, brahman, the changeless and eternal ground of being; all else is but a passing appearance that vanishes in the higher intuition of oneness. From the perspective of the highest truth or standpoint (paramartha-avastha), only brahman is. When interpreted along these lines, Advaita Vedanta may be regarded as a form of acosmic illusionism.

Through inexplicable ignorance (avidya) or illusion (maya) there is the appearance of contingent reality. Within this illusory appearance of being, moreover, there reigns over the world a personal Lord (Isvara, saguna brahman) of power and grace, who is the overseer of the law of karma and the object of human devotion.

It is only within the lower dualistic consciousness vyavahara-avastha) that the appearance of contingent being and of multiplicity is to be found as also the experience of suffering and bondage. That ignorance (avidya) of one's true nature is the source of human bondage is a truth revealed authoritatively and repeatedly by the Upanisads. But, how is avidya the cause of bondage? Through ignorance of one's true nature there occurs misidentification with the body. The individual self (jiva), which is by nature pure, quiescent consciousness, falsely -- and inexplicably -- takes itself to be the bodily-mental conglomerate. Thus, it turns outward to the body and the mind, to their feelings and experiences and activities, and to the worldly sense-objects with which the body-mind aggregate interacts. It is the common condition of people to be ensnared by this consciousness [17] and, consequently, to be ignorant of the unchanging unity of being and of their true identity as brahman. Ignorance of the inner Self (praty ag-atman) inevitably results in the strict identification of oneself with the constantly changing states of body and mind. This false attribution gives rise to the perception that one is essentially a limited agent (kartr) and a worldly experiencer (bhoktr), rather than the desireless and joyous Self.

The practical result of this misperception is incessant and inescapable misery, for the individual soul is restless and unfulfilled. Because its essentially quiescent nature is hidden by ignorance, [18] it becomes subject to its desire for gratification in the physical and mental realms. However, no worldly good can satisfy its longing for permanent beatitude. The soul vainly gives itself to the pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of objects and the attainment of goals that reveal themselves as only limited and short-lived. It is inevitably confronted with the frustration of insatiable desire, of loss, of pain, and of the fear of death. Nevertheless, trapped as it is in darkness and despair, the soul unfortunately does not easily learn from its experiences of repeated frustration and disappointment to recognize the pattern and causes of its pain. The individual jiva grows weary as it is tossed about from one psychological state to another. It does not realize that the causes of its suffering are ign orance, desire, and action. It has not learned to recognize the illusory nature of its limited psychophysical selfhood. Samkara likens this condition of the suffering jiva to a person adrift in an infinite ocean of suffering:

[T]he world ... is like a vast ocean, that is filled with the water of sorrow arising from ignorance, desire, and action; that is infested with huge sea-animals in the form of acute disease, and age, and death; that has no end and limit and provides no resting place; that affords only momentary respite through the little joy arising from the contact of senses and objects; that is full of the high waves in the shape of hundreds of evil [sic], stirred up by the gale of hankering for the objects of the five senses; that resounds with the noise of cries and shrieks of "alas! alas!" ... issuing from the beings condemned to various hells like Maharaurava ... [19]

In another dramatic passage Samkara lists the multiple ways in which the jiva falls from its center of freedom and serenity through attachment to changing mental and physical states and to the persons and objects it holds most dear. Note in the following example the many ways in which "I" and "mine" are linked to passing states and temporal objects:

His eyes are bound with the cloth of delusion, he being tied with many thirsts for various kinds of seen and unseen things like wife, son, friend, animals, kinsmen, etc. Being enmeshed by hundred and thousand snares of misery, he goes on shouting, "I am his son, these are my friends, I am happy, I am in misery, I am deluded, lam wise, I am virtuous, I have friends, I am born, I am dead, I am emaciated, I am a sinner, my son has died, my wealth is lost; alas! I am undone, how shall I live, what will be my lot, what relief is there for me?" [20]

The only remedy to this malady is the removal of ignorance about the "I" through the awakening to one's true nature. The higher experiential realization of nonduality of self and brahman overcomes the distinction of craving subject and coveted object, of individual and world, of devotee and God. With the dawning of enlightenment, all distinctions, even that of the world and self, are dissolved. The personal God, too, the divine "Thou," is unmasked as an illusion. The triad of creator God, world, and limited individual self vanishes, is transcended, so that the underlying permanent partless reality of brahman shines forth. What remains is the impersonal, perfect brahman-consciousness beyond relation, which is infinite, simple, eternal, joyous, self-shining. [21] Nothing remains to compromise the radiance, simplicity, fullness, and transcendence of this One.

The goal, then, in Advaita Vedanta is to awaken to the one simple, eternal, and infinite Reality beyond all name and form, in which there is no trace of impurity or suffering. The implications of this teaching are radical, for Advaitins are quick to add that, in truth, in the event of self-awakening there is no passing by anyone from a lower to a higher state, from ignorance and bondage to enlightenment and freedom, for, truly, only brahman exists. The perception of bondage itself belongs to the sphere of ignorance. The redemption of a limited, embodied self is only apparent. In reality only the higher Self (atman) is.

Ignorance, then, says Samkara, is "a kind of deep slumber in which the transmigrating souls sleep without any consciousness of their real nature." [22] But, when the unity of brahman is experienced, "the knots of the heart are untied and all doubts are resolved"; [23] transmigration is destroyed; [24] "all ideas of duality, involving action, accessories, etc." are removed; [25] "self-identification with the body etc. ceases"; [26] fearlessness is attained; [27] one realizes the deathless state; [28] sin is ineffective; [29] one passes beyond earthly happiness and sorrow; [30] all questions are put to rest by the "fullest conviction" of the Self; [31] and both virtue and vice are eliminated. [32] Liberation is, in short, "the realization that 'I am the Self which is one and is characterized as consciousness and freedom from all sorrow."' [33]

Advaita and Christian Faith in Conflict

Despite the sporadic encounters between Christians and Advaitins that have taken place since the time of Roberto de Nobili in the seventeenth century, it is only from the late nineteenth century onward that a more extensive and permanent exchange has occurred. This new phase of interaction was not initially characterized by a real openness by either side to learn from the other. Both parties tended to feel themselves superior to the other in their attempts to convert or to repel the attempts of the other to triumph in debate. The relationship between Hindu intellectuals on the one hand, especially important figures of the Hindu Renaissance, and Christian missionaries and theologians living in India on the other was markedly polemical and apologetic in nature. [34] Even now, when, among practitioners of dialogue, encounter has advanced beyond the stage of a simple desire to convert, there remains much misunderstanding as to what Christianity and Advaita Vedanta really teach. Many sincere attempts at open dial ogue are hampered by fear and the distrust that "dialogue" is simply a ploy of Christians aimed at a new kind of covert missionizing.

The normal Advaitic view of Christian faith is fairly uniform and can be easily summed up. This view has been much influenced by Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), the first major Hindu apostle to the United States, who enormously impressed the participants of the World's Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893 with his inspirational oratory. [35] Vivekananda valued devotional spirituality highly, but he made all religious experience, including that of Christians, ultimately subordinate to the supreme intuition of nonduality. For him, all religions find their fulfillment in Advaita. [36] Of course, from the perspective of the devotee, Advaita would then not be as much the fulfillment of devotional religion as its negation.

Since Advaitins, especially those at Indian universities, normally espouse an acosmic monism, it is not surprising that they view Christianity as an inferior religion because of its orientation to a personal God at work in creation and because of the primacy it gives to love over enlightenment. They sometimes regard the Christian doctrine of creation as a form of dualism, because the world's reality seems to them to set limitations on the infinity and absoluteness of the divine. The world, after all, is a place where, prior to revelation, God would seem to be absent; it is only through a covenant with the people of Israel that the creator finally chooses to become present to the created world. It is difficult to avoid spatial metaphors here; from the Advaitic perspective, God and the world in the Christian sense appear in relation to each other as limited parts of a larger whole. God is outside the world, and the world is outside God. The two exist alongside each other in their separate realms. Only in the c ourse of time does God freely choose to become present to the world. Therefore, from the perspective of Advaita, how could the God of Christians be regarded as a true Absolute, since God is merely a ruler of the world, who enters history from the "outside," from the sphere "above," but who is not, after all, infinite and total reality? Advaita questions the logic of Christian ontology: how, finally, could anything or anyone co-exist with that One (tad ekam) who is by nature the plenitude of being? Does not scripture (sruti) teach that brahman is "Reality, Knowledge, Infinite"? [37] It is axiomatic for Advaitins generally that the affirmation of a being's relationality, as, for example, in the case of the Christian doctrine of God, amounts to a denial of its sovereignty and transcendence. So the Christian God, who is conceived in relational terms as creator and redeemer, does not appear to enjoy the absoluteness of the Advaitic brahman, beside which nothing could exist to take away from the plenitude of its being.

Further, it is not uncommon for Advaitins to regard talk of a personal God as an anthropomorphic projection. In the biblical account, God has all too humanlike qualities: Yahweh makes decisions, stretches out a hand, speaks a word to be obeyed, favors one people over another, becomes angry, destroys nations, repents of anger, rejoices, and sings. God is a father, a mother, a judge, a teacher, a friend, and a king, but he is not the changeless ground of all being (sat), pure consciousness (cit), and serene beatitude (ananda). What has the God of the Bible to do with the brahman of the Upanisads? There seem to be little agreement and few if any points of contact between Christianity and Advaita Vedanta about either the nature of the supreme reality or the relation of the Absolute to the phenomenal world.

Thus, from the perspective of mainstream Advaita, when Christians speak of the centrality of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ for human salvation, when hope is placed in the eschatological consummation of the world brought about in accord with a divine plan, they reveal that they are trapped on the lower level of awareness (vyavahara-avastha) in which distinctions are perceived and trusted as real. Christians need to transcend the distinction of creator and creature, God and world, self and other and realize the infinite impersonal brahman, which is without distinction and relation.

Yet, it is also true that Advaita Vedanta is willing to concede the relative usefulness of devotion to a personal God for liberation. Many Advaitins, in fact, maintain that the normal path to enlightenment need not circumvent the practice of worship and the prayer for divine grace. The path to the impersonal, in most instances, leads first through the personal. [38] Devotion to the God of biblical revelation or to any of the personal gods of the Hindu pantheon may serve as a stepping-stone to purify and focus the mind, so that it becomes disposed to realize the impersonal brahman. This, of course, also means that, when brahman is realized, the personal Lord must finally disappear in the intuition of oneness.

What of Christian attitudes to Advaita? The broadest traditional Christian approach to nondualistic Vedanta, whether Catholic or Protestant, with but few exceptions, takes the strict illusionistic tradition at its word. Because Advaita denies the reality of the created world and of history and, therefore, of the incarnation, because it teaches that the Absolute is impersonal rather than personal, and because its spirituality is oriented to knowledge and identity rather than to love and to a communion of persons, it is not surprising that a widespread Christian response is to deny all possibility of harmonizing Advaitic doctrine and Christian faith, that is, that Christians have nothing to learn from Advaita because Advaita is basically false teaching. In this view there is a complete doctrinal incompatibility between Christian and Advaitic teaching. This is the stance taken especially by many evangelical and other Christians in India and abroad, for Advaita confirms their conviction that non-Christian religi ons are nothing more than the futile strivings of sinful and misguided humans, deprived of grace, to attain to a divine state through their own effort. [39] There is no awareness on the part of this kind of Christian that a truly liberating experience may lie at the root of Advaitic teaching. There also seems to be little recognition on the part of Advaitins that Christian doctrine, too, is ultimately grounded in the liberating experience of God active in history.

A more conciliatory Christian approach to Advaitic doctrine should also be noted, which, however, maintains a somewhat condescending attitude toward monistic doctrine. Several theologians during the first half of the twentieth century, especially Roman Catholics living in India, [40] were more sympathetic to Advaitic doctrine than their predecessors had been, and they attempted a more open and constructive approach, but always from the vantage point of a perceived higher doctrine. Like Roberto de Nobili centuries before, they were willing to recognize a number of true teachings within the body of Advaitic doctrine, true inasmuch as they coincided with Christian doctrine. At the same time they pointed Out much that they considered to be outright false. In their estimation, Christianity contained the fullness of truth, whereas Hinduism, Advaita included, contained a mixture of truth and falsehood that required the correction of Christian revelation. Through Christian teaching, the partial truths of Advaita wou ld come to their completion, and the deepest strivings of the Hindu would find their fulfillment.

One example will illustrate this approach: In the 1920's and 1930's, Pierre Johanns, a Jesuit scholar living in Calcutta, wrote a series of articles on various aspects of Vedantic teaching, called "To Christ through the Vedanta." [41] Johanns was convinced that Samkara's system of Advaita more correctly preserved the utter transcendence and simplicity of God than did any other Hindu system. However, he felt that Samkara was able to do this only at the cost of denying the material world. What Samkara needed, he felt, was the Christian teaching of a real creation, one that stressed that God remained unchanged and undivided even after the creation of the world. [42]

This approach, though unacceptable to Advaitins, is basically good-willed and nonconfrontational, seeking to elevate the Hindu nondualist to a higher Christian wisdom. Nevertheless, in this model of encounter, the Christian seeks to teach but is not ready to be taught and certainly is not ready to enter into a spirituality of a different kind than that of his or her own tradition. The encounter, which is one-way, is at the conceptual level only.

Advaita Vedanta and Christian Faith in a Dialogical Encounter

In the model of dialogical encounter, the meeting of faiths is not limited to the doctrinal or philosophical spheres or mere conceptual comparisons but includes the attitude of attentive listening and a readiness to broaden one's religious experience and thereby to undergo inner transformation. This is not to say that a doctrinal encounter does not take place; it does occur and remains essential, but the context has changed. Now a conscious attempt is made to appreciate and perhaps even to enter the experience of the other, so that the existential truth underlying doctrinal articulation may be discovered. This, of course, presupposes that experience can be articulated in more than one way and that there is a variety of perhaps very different religious experiences. It is no small wonder that in India, from the Christian side, the most important bridge-builders between Advaitic and Christian experience have all been contemplatives, people such as Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux), [43] Richard De Smet, [44] Sara Grant, [45] Bede Griffiths, [46] and Raimon Panikkar. [47] These five do not agree on all points regarding Advaita-Christian dialogue -- for example, whether and to what extent apologetics has a place -- but all do hold that what is needed is to meet the Advaitin "in spirit" and to acknowledge the profundity of Advaitic insights into reality.

Before I summarize some of the major contributions of De Smet and Abhishiktananda, it will be useful first to say a few words about some of the revisions made and questions raised about Samkara and his relation to the tradition of Advaita Vedanta by scholars working mostly outside India. These revisions have a bearing on the contemporary encounter between Christians and Advaitins.

The Impact of Recent Indological Scholarship

Among all the teachers in the history of Advaita it is especially Samkara and his particular interpretation of nonduality that has become a focal point in the contemporary Advaita-Christian encounter. There are two reasons for this. First, Samkara is the most important representative of the entire tradition of Advaita Vedanta; he enjoys the highest teaching authority after scripture itself, so he becomes an obviously important source of Advaitic doctrine. Second, as will be seen, modern scholarship has shown that a plurality of interpretations regarding some of Samkara's major teachings is possible, whereas with regard to the post-Samkara Advaita tradition this cannot so easily be said. Some of the new twentieth-century interpretations of Samkara have opened up rich possibilities of correlation and agreement with Christian thought, even when significant differences and diverging emphases remain.

Of the five Christian contemplatives named above, only Abhishiktananda largely bypassed the works of Samkara when he set out to enter into the Advaitic mystery. [48] The others make use of the findings of recent scholarship that has noted discrepancies between the teachings of Samkara and the doctrines of post-Samkara Advaita.

Later Advaita authors diverge from Samkara in their understanding and use of the terms "avidya" (ignorance), "maya" (illusion), "vivarta" (illusory appearance), "Isvara" (the Lord), and other metaphysical topics. [49] The German Indologist and theologian Paul Hacker was especially responsible for noting the fluidity of Samkara's understanding of the divine; personalistic and impersonalistic elements are combined to form a "vibrant union," he said. [50] This approach to deity contrasts markedly with the more systematizing later Advaita, which subordinates the personal to the impersonal. Though Hacker did regard Samkara as an illusionist -- quite in keeping with mainstream Advaita -- his work in general opened the door for the investigations of other scholars to determine what is unique to Samkara in contrast to the tradition that followed him. [51] The traditional manner of interpreting Samkara primarily through the lenses of his commentators and sub-commentators now appears questionable to some scholars. Sam kara's writings must be reread with new eyes so that his authentic teaching may be either verified or discovered anew. The results of this new approach are noteworthy. While correlation between Christian teaching and traditional Advaita doctrine faces almost insuperable barriers, a comparison of Christian thought with a newly recovered Samkara is presently unveiling hitherto unexpected points of contact. Foremost in the creative correlation of nondualistic and theistic views of reality has been Richard De Smet.

Richard De Smet

Though De Smet occasionally addressed himself to the issue of religious experience, the great bulk of his writing was dedicated to the philosophical reconciliation of Samkara's doctrine and Christian teaching, in particular Catholic doctrine as articulated by Aquinas. In doing so, De Smet set out from his earliest writings onward to combat misunderstandings on two fronts. First, he felt that Samkara's ontology, far from being the illusionism so often attributed to him by the majority of his interpreters, represented a rather subtle form of realism. The reasons for this will be explained below. The second misunderstanding De Smet worked to offset was the widespread Advaitic view that Christian ontology was ultimately dualistic, not the dualism of matter and spirit or of soul and body but, rather, that the Christian understanding of God and world did not allow for a real absoluteness of deity. De Smet's writings, largely directed to a Hindu readership, were therefore sometimes apologetic in nature. He presente d Christianity to Advaitins not only as a religion founded on divine revelation but also as an intellectually defensible philosophy of being centered on personalism and love.

Perhaps the point De Smet made most often in his writings on the Advaita-Christian encounter was that, despite all appearances, Samkara and Aquinas were in basic agreement as to the ontological relationship between the Absolute and the world. Samkara's nonduality finally amounted to a doctrine of creation, one that guaranteed the relative reality of the world. [52] Because the world-as-creation is one of the foundational doctrines of Christian faith, it is clear that at least on this main point Samkara was in harmony with Christian teaching. De Smet treated both Samkara's advaita-vada and the Christian doctrine of creation as legitimate expressions of nonduality, as long as nonduality is understood as the denial of dualism, not the affirmation of monism. [53] De Smet went so far, in fact, as to assert that nonduality, properly understood, was the ontological presupposition of all Christian doctrine. [54] His understanding of nonduality, moreover, presupposed and guaranteed a place for personalism, relation, and love. This is what made it distinctively Christian. [55]

Before we proceed to a discussion of Samkara's "realist" ontology, it may be useful first to note other commonalities between the Advaitic master and St. Thomas. De Smet argues that Samkara and Aquinas converge on a number of significant points. Both teachers, for example, although rationally consistent in what they wrote and taught, finally subordinated reason to the authority of revealed scripture. [56] Both, too, set out to preserve the divine transcendence and simplicity at all costs. [57] Brahman for Samkara and God in se for Aquinas are characterized as an absolutely simple and undivided plenitude of being, transcendent, changeless, eternal, free, infinite, and ineffable. Both the Hindu acarya and the Christian magister, further, apply the method of analogia nominum (analogy of names or terms) to attain a correct understanding of the Absolute, and they make divine revelation the starting point of this analogical method (laksana). [58]

The three steps of via affirmationis, via negationis, and via eminentiae employed by Christian scholastics closely correspond to Samkara's use of the triple method of (1) adhyasa or adhyaropa, attempted predication of brahman using ordinary meanings of words; (2) apavada, negation or elimination of the finite meanings of these terms; culminating in (3) paramartha-laksana, a legitimate, supreme indication of brahman. [59] Analogy, then, is capable of indirectly indicating the supreme reality without formally or properly defining it. Both Samkara and Aquinas are also practical in their orientation; they make spiritual liberation the ultimate goal of their teaching, a liberation defined by De Smet as "the blissful intellectual experience of the Godhead and the complete cessation of [human] ignorance." [60]

However, in De Smet's view, the one topic of Samkara's teaching that provides the key to the whole of his thought, one that likewise intersects with Aquinas and is the basis for Samkara's understanding of nonduality, is his concept of relation. [61] Again, the agreement between Samkara and Aquinas is striking. Though they use an entirely different frame of reference, both theologians end up with a similar vision of the link between the world and the Absolute. According to De Smet, Samkara's negations in describing the world must not be understood in an absolute sense, as if Samkara were denying the existence of the universe. Samkara's point of reference in speaking of finite existents is the infinite brahman; his language is therefore implicitly comparative and value-oriented. The Advaitic master, then, must be regarded as "a radical valuationist who measures everything to the absolute Value, the Brahman, and declares its unequality to it rather than the degree of its participation in it. This manner of thin king and speaking is legitimate but it has misled many into acosmistic interpretations of his doctrine." [62]

By contrast, De Smet went on to say:

St. Thomas generally prefers the language of participation. A participated being is in its own deficient way that the absolute Esse is without any restrictions. This Esse or Being is not a logical genus but the ontological Reality of God. And its participations are not parts of that partless Reality, nor accidents, complements, explications or developments of it, nor in any way additive to it. [63]

That is to say, both Aquinas and Samkara attribute the same ontological status to the world; for both of them the world enjoys a relative reality and is entirely dependent on its transcendent source. Their description of the world in either more negative or more positive terms is due to their center of reference and chosen emphasis.

The relation of the world to its source for both Samkara and Aquinas may best be described, according to Sara Grant, a student and colleague of De Smet, as a "non-reciprocal dependence relation." [64] In this understanding, the creature's very existence is constituted by its relation to or dependence on its source, whereas God or brahman -- the cause of the creature's existence -- remains unchanged in its own perfect Being even while creating. [65] De Smet drew on Aquinas's theory of relation when he summarized this by saying that the relation "is real on the side of the creature but merely logical on the side of the Creator." [66] Samkara, he said, "does not deny the universal causality, lordship, etc. of brahman -- for they are logically entailed by the true fact of the world's ontological dependence upon it -- but only that they affect the simplicity of its essence." [67] The relations of brahman to the world as cause, Lord, and so forth "cannot be ontological but logical only. They are not intrinsic attr ibutes (visesana) but extrinsic denominators (upadhi)." [68] The relation between creator and creation, then, is true; it is in no sense an illusion. However, this relation in no way defines the ontological status of the Absolute. This is what Samkara appears to have meant when he stated, "Names and forms (that is, the world's multiplicity), in all their states have their atman in brahman alone, but brahman has not its atman in them." [69]

De Smet affirmed that such a theory of relation also allows for a genuine relation of love between creator and creature without destroying the truth of the nondualistic insight:

Since God's love for us ... does obviously not change or perfect God but does perfect us, it is this change in us which is the foundation of the relation which arises from it. This foundation being extrinsic to God, the relation of God to us as our Lover is only logical though true (since it has a ground). As to our relation to him as the terms of his love, it is a perfecting actuation of our potentiality and thus an ontological complement of our being, that is to say, a real accident. [70]

De Smet appears to have seen it as his main theological task as a Christian theologian to open Hindu nondualistic thought to the possibility that the supreme reality, brahman, is capable of love, causation, and grace, but in such a way that the simplicity, plenitude, and transcendence of brahman are in no way compromised thereby. Accordingly, he attempted to synthesize two understandings of divine presence. The foundational nondualistic presence of creator to creature witnessed to by the Upanisads and Samkara was compatible with the interpersonal, dialogical loving presence of God and human person known in biblical religion and in the devotional theistic traditions of India. Why a synthesis of two kinds of presence instead of a focus on one?

Non-dualistic presence, because I cannot exist apart from this Cause of maya reality any more than a jar can exist apart from clay (though it can exist apart from the potter who only gives it shape). This creative mode of divine presence is fundamental and can never be supplanted by another. It can, however, be complemented in personal beings by the even better mode of divine presence which results from the spiritual self-revelation of the supreme Atman in his free inter-personal communication with creaturely persons (this possibility was already formulated in one of the Upanisads). [71]

By "inter-personal communication" De Smet was suggesting that the liberating intuition of the divine essence is granted to the creature as a gift, one that leads to "an ultimate increase of the advaita which links us with God," [72] but he found the pinnacle of unity with the divine to be the experience of love.

For De Smet the union of love brought about through the mutual surrender of the human and the divine presupposes and implies the ontologically prior nonduality of creator and creature. [73] The first unity is the ontological foundation for the second. One's very created existence is naturally permeated with the presence of the Absolute. The Upanisads make us aware of this fact, first theoretically and then directly, in the experience of enlightenment (anubhava). But this experience of ontological unity with brahman can be deepened in an even greater intimacy of love. For De Smet, this is possible because the Absolute is finally personal in nature:

But a more important restriction has now to be made ... Let us remember that this should be a perfect intuition of the very nature of God, the Absolute. Is it possible that God should be, like a lifeless thing, investigable to man at will? Should we not say that the intimacy, the mystery, which characterize even the human person, are surely to be found in Him in the most eminent degree? How could God be within the reach of any sort of conquest when even the personality of a child remains hidden and inaccessible to our grasp unless he freely reveals himself to those he loves. No knowledge from outside can substitute for self-communication. A free being can retain his own secret even though he is subjected to the worst torture. Love alone, which is a free surrender, can unfold that secret. But God cannot be anything but the very Fullness of Consciousness, Freedom and Love. No one, therefore, can enter into His mystery, unless He first freely reveals and surrenders Himself to him. God, of course, can gain nothin g by self-surrender to us. The Fullness cannot be improved and supreme Love is supremely disinterested. But we have everything to gain. [74]

During his fifty years in India Richard De Smet found himself increasingly accepted as a Christian philosopher at national philosophical gatherings that were attended mostly by Hindus, such as the All-India Philosophical Congress and the Indian Philosophical Association. Most of his writings were the result of lectures delivered before largely Hindu audiences. Deep and lasting friendships with Hindu thinkers were forged through the open exchange of ideas and scholarship. As he gained the regard of Indian philosophers for his competence in Hindu thought, the invitations to lecture on both Christian and Vedantic themes at Hindu universities across India also grew, as did requests to give spiritual talks at Hindu monastic communities.

Swami Abhishiktananda

Not all Christians actively involved in the encounter with Advaita Vedanta give primary concern to the theoretical reconciliation of nonduality and Christian doctrine. For some, it is not enough to draw conceptual parallels between the ontology of Aquinas and Samkara or to find echoes of Advaita in the nondualistic-sounding articulations of Christian mystics of the past. One does not truly understand Advaita prior to the experience of Advaita. Once one "has" the experience of Advaita, any theology that hitherto attempted to define nonduality neatly in a sense that is acceptable to both Hindus and Christians may be regarded as suspect.

It was Swami Abhishiktananda [75] (Le Saux) who most forcefully warned against the dangers of conceptual reductionism. Although he died more than a quarter-century ago, Abhishiktananda's writings are still important today in the Advaitic-Christian encounter precisely because of their relentless reminder that the mystical experience of Advaita escapes all attempts at articulation and objectification.

Abhishiktananda, or "Swamiji" as he was affectionately called, did not deny the presence of Advaita in the Christian tradition. He affirmed that "advaita is already present at the root of Christian experience. it is simply the mystery that God and the world are not two." [76] Like De Smet, he spoke of "the advaitic dimension of revelation and of Christianity." [77] Yet, as he immersed himself more and more in the Advaitic experience, Abhishiktananda grew increasingly impatient with theologians who, he felt, merely wrote and thought about nonduality rather than lived Advaita as an experience. [78] The Christian, he declared, ran the risk of "constructing for his own use a Christian version of Advaita which excludes on principle anything that does not fit into a previously determined framework -- and this, even before he has made any attempt to enter into the advaitic experience from within." [79] The challenge to Christian theology and Christian faith, for Abhishiktananda, derived from the experience of Advai ta, not from its conceptualization.

Abhishiktananda also felt that the same problem existed for some Hindu interpreters of Advaita. For both Hindus and Christians, Advaita was too often a "magnificent idea" for the mind to reflect on rather than an overwhelming and transforming experience in the depths of one's being:

There are in general two classes of people, both among Hindus and among Christians, who are concerned with Advaita. There are those for whom it is a magnificent idea, and there are those for whom it is an overwhelming experience in the depths of the spirit. For the first Advaita is particularly attractive in that one can discuss it endlessly, because it defies all attempts to define it in concepts. Christians can develop an equal enthusiasm for making theoretical comparisons between the formulations of Advaita and Christian dogma. This kind of interest always remains somewhat superficial; it is like the problems of pure mathematics, which are completely absorbing and yet commit one to nothing outside the conceptual order. However, such an Advaita is surely not the genuine Advaita, for Advaita is essentially an experience... Can an experience about which one can talk, be any longer an experience? As Lao-Tse asked, "Is the tao that is talked about still the tao?"

Spiritual problems can never be reduced to problems of the intellect. [80]

What is the spiritual problem to which Abhishiktananda referred? It was not merely the inability to convey the advaitic intuition on the conceptual level. Rather, it was the difficulty he faced in trying to harmonize traditional Christian experience and theology, which are focused on the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, with his new, profound experience of advaita. The intense advaitic experience of pure consciousness seemed to relativize, even obliterate, both the importance of history and all notional approaches to God and Christ. The experience of advaita apparently compelled Abhishiktananda to abandon all the trusted theological formulations of the past.

Five months before his death Abhishiktananda suffered a heart attack in the Rishikesh bazaar, [81] which, while leaving him lying helpless in the dust, also brought about a final liberating awakening. Abhishiktananda's final letters to his closest friends contain some of his most radical utterances and must be read in the context of his profound awakening, an experience that gave him indomitable serenity and joy. [82] In a letter to Fr. Murray Rogers, Abhishiktananda struggled to articulate what the awakening meant for Christian faith and reflection:

The more I go, the less able I would be to present Christ in a way which could be still considered as "Christian"... Anything about God or the Word in any religion, which is not based on the deep I-experience, is bound to be simply 'notion', not existential. From that awakening to self comes the awakening to God -- and we discover marvelously that Christ is simply this awakening on a degree of purity rarely if ever reached by man.

Yet I am interested in no christo-logy at all. I have so little interest in a Word of God which will awaken man within history (...). The 'Word of God' comes from/to my own 'present'; it is that very awakening which is maya self-awareness. What I discover above all in Christ is 'I AM'... There remains only the Ah! of the Kena Upanishad. Christ's experience in the Jordan -- Son/Abba -- is a wonderful Semitic equivalent of 'Tat tvam asi'/-ahram brahmasmi.' [83] Of course I can make use of Christ experience to lead Christians to an 'I AM' experience, yet it is this IAM experience which really matters. Christ is this very mystery 'that I AM', and in this experience and existential knowledge all christo-logy has disintegrated. It is taking to the end the revelation that we are 'sons of God.'

...The discovery of Christ's I AM is the ruin of any Christian theology, for all notions are burnt within the fire of experience ... I feel too much, more and more, the blazing fire of this I AM, in which all notions about Christ's personality, ontology, history, etc. have disappeared. And I find his real mystery shining in every awakening man, in every mayathos ...

...So you realize the dilemma in which I find myself, whenever I am asked to speak on Christian interiority and contemplation. [84]

A month later, in speaking about his "message," Abhishiktananda wrote to Rogers: "The Christ I might present will be simply the I AM of maya (every) deep heart, who can show himself in the dancing Shiva or the amorous Krishna! And the kingdom is precisely this discovery ... The awakening is a total explosion. No Church will recognize its Christ or itself afterwards." [85]

As one important Indian theologian, G. Gispert-Sauch, has noted, Abhishiktananda stands for "the dismissal of all conceptual thought including his own," adding that this monk "comes finally to a position where theology is renounced and the stress is solely on the I AM experience." [86] For that reason Abhishiktananda, even prior to his great awakening, doubted the necessity of bringing Christ to Hindus, since the mystery of Christ was already present to every human consciousness:

I would not know how to give a good answer to the question whether Christ is necessary for Hindus. I only know that plenty of people who do not know his person have access to his 'mystery' (not to his 'concept') in their inner deepening and also in transcending themselves in the love of their brothers. The mystery of the Heart of Christ is present in the mystery of every human heart....And in the end it is this mystery--at once of oneself and of each person, of Christ and of God -- that alone counts. The Awakening of the Resurrection is the awakening to this mystery! [87]

Not all Christian readers will be happy with Abhishiktananda's formulations, since they seem to dispense altogether with any pre-mystical theological reflection and appear also to ignore the centrality of the historical life and death of Jesus for an authentic Christian spirituality. Some Christian Advaitins such as Sara Grant, a close friend of Abhishiktananda and a translator of one of his books, [88] have not overlooked the importance of history for Christian faith: "... whereas biblical tradition and Christian faith are rooted in history, and their historical character is essential to their identity, Hinduism has no such preoccupation with history." [89] Gispert-Sauch, too, seems to criticize Abhishiktananda mildly for ignoring the eschatological dimension of faith. [90]

Swami Abhishiktananda's spiritual life was enveloped in paradox. On the one hand the Spirit of God seemed to be leading him inward to a thoroughly Hindu experience of Advaita, [91] while on the other hand he anguished over the fact that, as he said, "I find it more and more difficult to see how to integrate Christianity with Hindu experience -- and yet this is essential for catholicity." [92] Elsewhere he wrote, "If Christianity cannot include Advaita, then it is obvious that the truth of Advaita surpasses that of Christianity." [93] In speaking of Abhishiktananda's radical openness to all experience, Jacques Dupuis has remarked that "one must have an interior experience of the encounter of the religious experience of both traditions and allow them to react upon each other in ones own person, while remaining completely open to what might be produced by the shock of an encounter which surely had never before taken place at the necessary and intended depth." [94]

What is noteworthy about Abhishiktananda's reflections on the Advaitic experience is his success -- despite certain acosmic tendencies -- in steering away from the controversy as to whether Advaita ultimately means acosmism or not. His language is seldom argumentative or polemical; his primary goal was not so much directed toward convincing Hindus of a world-affirming interpretation of nonduality as it was "to sensitize Christian thought to the treasures that await it" in India, and "to prepare Christians for dialogue." [95] He saw himself as a witness to an experience of interior freedom that is seldom understood or appreciated by Christians. The articulation of this experience does not center on talk of "I" and "thou," on a communion between two distinct persons, the one divine and the other human. [96]

Truly speaking, there is no such thing as advaitic prayer. Advaita is the central teaching of the Upanishads, and no prayer remains possible for him who has realized the truth of the Upanishads. The equivalent of what is called in monotheistic religions the "experience of God" has here nothing to do with any notion of God whatsoever, for the duality which makes it possible for man to think of himself as standing in front of God has disappeared in the burning encounter with the Real, sat ... This experience is not prayer, meditation or contemplation in the commonly accepted sense. It is a kind of consciousness, an awareness to which man finds himself raised beyond the reach of his faculties, hearing, seeing, feeling or even thinking ... [97]

Though Abhishiktananda did not speak of an I-Thou relationship in this context, he did not hesitate to assert that this experience of liberation is the result of "a grace which erupts in the depths of the soul," a teaching that he also believed Samkara to have upheld. [98]

Among Christians involved in the encounter with Advaita Vedanta it is no doubt Swami Abhishiktananda who Hindu nondualists feel has come closest to understanding and articulating both their experience and the radical demands of the path leading to interior awakening and freedom. Swamiji was and still is widely accepted by Advaitins living in India and abroad. Not only did this man enjoy deep friendship with Hindu monks; his life continues to serve as an example that the final spiritual goal is attainable in this life as long as one is willing to sacrifice everything to attain brahman.

It is perhaps in the ashrams of India, where some of Hinduism's greatest contemplatives live, rather than at Hindu universities, that the truly deepest exchange between Christian and Hindu Advaitins is taking place. This encounter, however, need not be restricted to a discussion of spiritual experience but may extend "outward" to the plane of philosophical reflection. Grant, herself a philosopher and for many years head of a Christian ashram, reports that in her visits to Hindu ashrams in both north and south India she has been humbled by the openness she received in presenting a realist interpretation of Samkara's Advaita. Her listeners found it "extraordinary and almost unbelievable" that a Christian could offer such a profound interpretation of Samkara's nonduality. [99]

An exchange at this depth is rare, however. There are only a few individuals equipped conceptually to bridge the gap between East and West and still fewer who have united in themselves experientially the truth of Advaita and Christian faith.

Concluding Remarks and Prognosis for the Future

This essay has attempted to trace the evolution of the encounter between Christians and Hindu Advaitins from an attitude of mutual rejection to one of acceptance and willingness to enter into the depths of the other's experience. However, it is clearly noticeable that it is more the Christian than the Hindu who actively initiates such an exchange. Though there are Hindus who express admiration to Christians for their appreciation of Advaita Vedanta, very few indeed are genuinely curious to find out what Christian revelation has to offer. There are at least two reasons for this.

First, there is a widespread conviction among educated Hindus that whatever truth exists in other religions is already present in Hinduism in one form or another, since Hinduism witnesses to an absolute eternal truth that is unchanging. A revelation that claims to take place through the medium of history cannot really add anything substantially new to the changeless truths of human and divine nature. The second reason for the reluctance of Hindus to participate in dialogue with Christians is distrust. According to Y. D. Tiwari, an Indian Christian theologian and historian of religions, "It is a common notion among Hindus that dialogue seems to be a cover under which the Christians want to convert Hindus and increase their numbers." [100] Tiwari is himself a convert from Hinduism.

Thus, although progress has been made since the nineteenth century in the encounter between Advaita Vedanta and Christianity, the exchange must be regarded as still in its infancy. It appears that for the foreseeable future it will continue to be mostly Christians who take the initiative in the encounter. This means not only that they will seek consciously to immerse themselves in Advaitic spirituality but also, when appropriate, that they will articulate what they perceive to be significant similarities and differences between Christian and Hindu revelation, doctrine, and experience. For Christians to enter into the Advaitic experience requires, among other things, [101] a thorough acquaintance with Advaitic texts. Abhishiktananda preferred the Upanisads above all else, but others, including Grant and De Smet, have greatly profited, in addition, from the attentive pondering of Samkara's writings. In any case, the Upanisads, like the Bible, are recognized by Christian Advaitins as having the power to transfo rm. Samkara therefore often spoke of the "grace of scripture." [102]

Christians have much to gain by the encounter with nondualistic thought. For, despite the harmony between Christian and Hindu metaphysics suggested by Christian Advaitins, and despite the assertion that Christianity may claim nonduality as part of its own tradition, the fact remains that many Christians conceive of God and creation in a dualistic sense. In this view God and world are not only regarded as distinct, but they are also taken to be ontologically separate realities. A reappropriation of nondualistic insight within the Christian tradition, together with an appreciation of the teaching of nonduality in the traditions of others, may contribute to a broadened and deepened Christian perception of God and of divine presence. [103]

The major challenge for Christian Advaitin theologians involved in dialogue with Hindu Advaitins will be conveying the ultimate value of love. Attempts must be made "to show that love is possible for an advaitin (nondualist) who otherwise loses a great deal by minimizing its importance." [104] The goal is not merely to relate conceptually the truth of self-less love to the truth of ego-less duality but, rather and foremost, to mediate an experience of nonduality that is centered on love. What language shall one use to convey this experience?

It is impossible to know where the encounter of Advaita Vedanta and Christianity will lead. The exact significance of the Advaitic experience for Christian faith remains unanswered for now. Many Christian thinkers are still wrestling with the meaning of Abhishiktananda's experience. Nonetheless, it is the conviction of the major Christian figures involved in this dialogue that the conceptual and spiritual encounter that has progressed thus far -- both of which are advances in truth -- has done so under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who continues to guide the seeker into the deep things of God. Those involved in such dialogue trust that the Spirit will continue to guide both Christians and Hindus to an ever-greater awareness of truth in the future.

Bradley Malkovsky (Roman Catholic) has taught comparative theology at the University of Notre Dame since 1992, specializing in the Hindu-Christian encounter. He holds two degrees in Roman Catholic theology from the University of Tubingen: a "Diplom" (1983) following seven years of study at several German faculties, and a Ph.D. in systematics (1994) after five years' of research at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Sanskrit, University of Poona, Pune, India (1984-89). He also studied philosophy and German in the B.A. program of St. John's University, Collegeville, MN, where he later taught systematic theology (1990-92). He has served on the Board of Directors of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies (1994-98) and has lectured and conducted workshops at Notre Dame and in the surrounding community. His articles have been published in the Journal of Religion, Horizons, and the Hindu-Christian Studies Bulletin. He edited New Perspectives on Advaita Vednta (Brill, 2000), which includes Hindu, Christian, and Budd hist contributors. Brill will also publish his revised dissertation, "The Role of Divine Grace in the Soteriology of Sri Sankaracarya," in 2001.

(1.) David Loy has remarked, "No concept is more important in Asian philosophical and religious thought than nonduality ... and none is more ambiguous" (David Loy, Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988], p. 17; his emphasis), adding that "the term has been used in many different but related ways" (ibid.).

(2.) Or, perhaps originally a collection of schools.

(3.) This vision (darsan) is to culminate finally in the direct intuition of experience (anubhava) of the highest reality, brahman.

(4.) There are other interpretations of Vedanta as well. Thus, in addition to Advaita Vedanta, we find schools such as Visistadvatita (qualified nondualistic) Vedanta, Dvaita (dualistic) Vedanta, etc.

(5.) Along with the Upanisads, two other texts or collections of texts constitute the so-called "triple canon" or "triple foundation" (prasthana-traya) of Advaita Vedanta. They are the Bhagavad-Gita (ca. 200 B.C.E.) and the Brahma-Sutra (ca. 400-450 C.E.). The word "Vedanta" initially refers to the Upanisads, which are the anta or "end" of the Vedas in a double sense: First, the Upanisads are the chronologically final portion of the Vedas; second, they represent the culmination or final meaning of Vedic truth. "Vedanta" more commonly signifies any school of thought that makes the Upanisadic revelation the primary basis of its teaching.

(6.) The Upanisads do not themselves present ontology in a systematic or completely unified manner. The Indian historian of religion, S. N. Dasgupta, e.g., believes there to be three main currents of ontology in the Upanisads. These three appear to be contradictory when read without the help of a higher synthesis. Taken in isolation, the individual texts sometimes seem to propound the view that brahman, the ultimate ground of existence, is the sole reality and that the world is a mere appearance or illusion. One may also read verses that appear to represent a pantheistic view of the universe. Finally, some Upanisadic verses seem to teach a sort of transcendental theism, in which brahman is a world-governing Lord. See S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 1 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988), p.50.

(7.) See Paul Deussen, The System of the Vedanta (Chicago: Open Court, 1912). Most Advaitins in the twentieth century have referred to their tradition as philosophical rather than theological, because of its logic, rationality, and experientially verifiable method.

(8.) See Richard De Smet, The Theological Method of Samkara (dissertation for the Pontifical Gregorian University, 1953). De Smet was the first to show convincingly that Samkara's Advaita Vedanta is essentially theological, for it is founded on revealed scripture that reason may support but never challenge.

(9.) See Francis X. Clooney, Theology after Vedanta: An Experiment in Comparative Theology (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993).

(10.) Recently, however, there has been a growing body of scholarship on other forms of Indian thought and spirituality, in particular on Sri Vaisnavism. See the work of John Carman, Vasudha Narsyanan, Clooney, and others.

(11.) The traditional dates for Samkara, 788-820 C.E., are regarded as spurious today by a growing number of critical scholars.

(12.) P. T. Raju, Structural Depths of Indian Thought, SUNY Series in Philosophy (Delhi: South Asian Publishers; Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1985), P. 383.

(13.) Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, 2nd ed, (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.; New York: The Macmillan Co., 1929; Bombay: Blackie & Son, 1983), p. 451.

(14.) The first reference by a Christian theologian to Samkara is in Roberto de Nobili's Informatio de quibusdam moribus nationis indicae (1613). See Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988), p. 40.

(15.) Brahma satyam jagan mithya jivo brahmaiva na'parah ... (T.M.P. Mahadevan, Outlines of Hinduism [Bombay: Chetana, 1984], p. 141). Also see Eliot Deutsch, Advaita Vedanta: Philosophical Reconstruction (Honolulu, HI: East-West Center Press, University of Hawaii, 1969), p. 47.

(16.) Mahadevan explicitly attributed this verse to Samkara but did not give a source. Deutsch did not offer a reference at all. In fact, this advaitic "creed" originated with the Balabodhini, a work authored by a later Pseudo-Samkara. See Richard Brooks, "The Meaning of 'Real' in Advaita Vedanta," Philosophy East and West 19 (October, 1969): 385.

(17.) Sengaku Mayeda has suggested that the doctrine of original ignorance in Advaita Vedanta is the functional equivalent of original sin in Christianity. See Sengaku Mayeda, "Sankara's View of Ethics," in H. D. Lewis, ed., Philosophy East and West: Essays in Honor of Dr. T.M.P. Mahadevan (Bombay: Blackie & Son, 1976), p. 192.

(18.) See Samkara's commentary on Brahma-Sutra III.ii.5.

(19.) Aitacya-Upanisad-Bhasya I.ii.1, in Swami Gambhirananda, tr., Eight Upanishads: With the Commentary of Sankaracarya, vol. 2, 2nd ed. (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1966), PP. 27-28.

(20.) Chandogya-Upanisad-Bhasya V.xiv.2, in ibid., p.48.

(21.) According to Dasgupta: "The Upanisads held that reality or truth was one, and there was no many' anywhere, and that Sankara explained it by adding that the 'many' were merely an illusion, and hence did not exist in reality and was bound to disappear when the truth was known. The world-appearance is maya (illusion). This is what Sankara emphasizes in expounding his constructive system of the Upanisad doctrine" (Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 1, p.

(22.) Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya I.iv.3, in Swami Gambhirananda, tr., Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya, 4th ed. (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1983), P. 249.

(23.) Mundaka Upanisad II.ii.8, quoted by Samkara in ibid., I.i.4, p. 30.

(24.) Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya I.i.1, pp. 11-12.

(25.) Ibid., I.i.4, p. 23.

(26.) Ibid., p. 40.

(27.) Ibid., I.i.19, p. 71.

(28.) Ibid., I.i.28, pp. 98-100.

(29.) Ibid., I.ii.15, p. 130.

(30.) Ibid., I.iii.40, pp. 237-238.

(31.) Ibid., I.iv.22, p. 290.

(32.) Ibid., III.iii.26, pp. 690-695.

(33.) Ibid., IV.i.2, p.817.

(34.) See Ronald Neufeldt, "The Response of the Hindu Renaissance to Christianity," in Harold Coward, ed., Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Perspectives and Encounters, Faith Meets Faith Series (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1989), pp. 28-46.

(35.) A good summary of Vivekananda can be round in Halbfass, India and Europe, pp. 228-242.

(36.) See Bradley Malkovsky, "Swami Vivekananda and Bede Griffiths on Religious Pluralism: Hindu and Christian Approaches to Truth," Horizons 25 (Fall, 1998): 217-237.

(37.) Taittiriya Upanisad II:1: satyam jnanam anantam brahma.

(38.) See, e.g., A.G. Krishna Warrier, God in Advaita (Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1977).

(39.) On the origins of this particular approach of Christians living in India, see Richard De Smet, "Die Theologie in Indien," in Herbert Vorgrimler and Robert Vander Gucht, eds., Bilanz der Theologic im 20. Jahrhundert: Perspektiven, Stromungen, Motive in der christlichen und nicht-christlichen Welt, vol. 1 (Freiburg: Herder, 1969), pp. 407-408. A theological summary and assessment of the conservative evangelical attitude toward other religions can be found in Paul Knitter, No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes toward the World Religions, American Society of Missiology Series 7 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985), pp. 75-96.

(40.) See De Smet, "Theologie in Indien," pp. 411-416. De Smet mentioned, among others, J. N. Farquhar, P. Dandoy, and P. Johanns.

(41.) Pierre Johanns, Vers le Christ par le Vedanta, 2 vols. (Louvain: D. D. B., 1932). See also idem, "Synopsis of 'To Christ through the Vedanta,'" The Light of the East Series, nos. 4, 7, 9, 19 (1922-24).

(42.) "Samkara derived a fatal negative conclusion: the doctrine of the unreality of the world. Starting with the hypothesis, admitted as Vedic by all the Vedantins except Madhva, that all causation is some self-evolution of the cause, Samkara had to choose between giving up the independence of God or giving up the reality of the world. For, on his own showing, a self-evolution on the part of God would mean that God is not independent" (Johanns, "To Christ through the Vedanta," No.3 [December, 1922], p.3). Bede Griffiths explicitly concurred with Johanns that the "lack of a clear concept of creation" is Hinduism's "principal weakness" (Bede Griffiths, "Hinduism," in New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 6 [Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1967], p. 1136). M. Ledrus agreed that no reference to creation could be found in Samkara and, therefore, concluded triumphantly, "The doctrine of creation is the Great Advaita (mahadvaita), the synthetic white light in which alone the various colors of the Indian philosophical rainbow will one day find their systematic reconciliation" (M. Ledrus, "Advaita and Creation," The New Review 8 [July-December, 1938]: 259).

(43.) [Swami] Abhishiktananda, Hindu-Christian Meeting Point: Within the Cave of the Heart, tr. Sara Grant, rev. ed. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1976); idem, The Secret of Arunachala: A Christian Hermit on Shiva's Holy Mountain (Delhi: ISPCK, 1979); idem, The Further Shore (Delhi: ISPCK, 1984); idem, Saccidananda: A Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience, rev. ed. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1984); James Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda: His Life Told through His Letters, rev. ed. (Delhi: ISPCK, 1995).

(44.) Richard De Smet, "Sankara and Aquinas on Liberation (Mukti)," Indian Philosophical Annual, vol. 5 (1960), pp. 237-247; idem, "Is the Concept of 'Person' Congenial to Sankara Vedanta?" Indian Philosophical Annual, vol. 8 (1972); pp. 199-205; idem, "Does Christianity Profess Non-Dualism?" The Clergy Monthly, vol. 37 (1973), pp. 354-357; idem, "Origin: Creation and Emanation," Indian Theological Studies, vol. 15 (1978), pp. 266-279; idem, "Love Versus Identity," Indian Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 7 (1980), pp. 519-526; idem, "Light from the Christian Jnana-Karma-Bhakti-Samuccaya," in T. S. Rukmani, ed., Religious Consciousness and Life-Worlds (Delhi: Indus, 1988), pp. 64-83. Since De Smet's publications run into the hundreds, I have restricted myself to his most representative essays. For an introduction to his scholarly achievement, see Bradley Malkovsky, "The Life and Work of Richard De Smet, S.J.," in Bradley Malkovsky, ed., New Perspectives on Advaita Vedanta (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2000), pp. 1-17.

(45.) Sara Grant, "Christian Theologizing and the Challenge of Advaita," in M. Amaladoss et al., eds., Theologizing in India (Bangalore: Theological Publications, 1981), pp. 70-80; idem, Lord of the Dance (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 1987); idem, Descent to the Source (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 1987); idem, Towards an Alternative Theology: Confessions of a Non-Dualist Christian (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 1987); idem, Sankaracarya's Concept of Relation (Delhi: Motilal, 1999).

(46.) Bede Griffiths, Vedanta and Christian Faith (Los Angeles: Dawn Horse Press, 1973); idem, The Marriage of East and West (London: Collins; and Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1982); idem, The Cosmic Revelation (Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1983); idem, "Transcending Dualism: An Eastern Approach to the Semitic Religions," Cistercian Studies, vol. 20 (1985), pp. 73-87; Wayne Robert Teasdale, Toward a Christian Vedanta: The Encounter of Hinduism and Christianity according to Bede Griffiths (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 1987); Judson Trapnell, "Bede Griffiths' Theory of Religious Symbol and Practice of Dialogue towards Interreligious Understanding," Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1993.

(47.) See [Raimon] Panikkar, "Advaita and Bhakti: Love and Identity in a Hindu-Christian Dialogue," J.E.S. 7 (Spring, 1970): 299-309; idem, The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1973); idem, The Vedic Experience (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1981).

(48.) In interpreting Advaita, Abhishiktananda's guide was not Samkara or medieval Hindu scholastic thought but sources from the immediate present and from Indian antiquity. Antiquity was represented by the Upanisads, the primary font of Indian nondualistic teaching. For the present, as Abhishiktananda gave ample testimony, he felt led by both the Holy Spirit as inner teacher and guide and by the inspiring example of Ramana Maharshi, the best-known twentieth-century Advaitin sage, at whose feet the Swami considered himself blessed to have been able to sit, even if for only a short time. See Abhishiktananda, The Secret of Arunachala. Yet, despite a general negligence of Samkara in his reading, Swamiji did report in a letter to Mme. O. BaumerDespeigne late in his life that for a number of weeks he had been reading Samkara commentaries. This had led him to note favorably Samkara's teaching that "awakening is not caused by anything, and causes nothing" (see Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, p. 239).

(49.) A brief summary is provided by Karl Potter, Advaita Vedanta up to Samkara and His Pupils (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), p. 115. Decisive for critical Samkara scholarship in the second half of the twentieth century has been Paul Hacker, "Eigentumlichkeiten der Lehre und Terminologie Sankaras: Avidya, Namarupa, Maya, Isvara," "Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, vol. 100 (1950), pp. 246-286; repr. in English in Wilhelm Halbfass, ed., Philology and Confrontation: Paul Hacker on Tradition and Modern Vedanta (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), pp. 57-100.

(50.) Hacker, "Eigentumlichkeiten," p. 109.

(51.) The recovery of the real Samkara is remarkably akin to the way twentieth-century Christian theologians have learned to distinguish the authentic teaching of Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) from the developments of later Neo-Thomist doctrine.

(52.) De Smet thus disagreed with Johanns' interpretation of Samkaras's ontology as presented above.

(53.) See De Smet, "Does Christianity Profess Non-Dualism?"; idem, "Love Versus Identity," p. 523.

(54.) See De Smet's review of Doctrine de la Non-dualite (advaita-vada) et Christianisme by Un Moine d'Occident, in Indian Theological Studies, vol. 23 (1986), p. 68, where he wrote of "the non-dualistic core of Christian theology."

(55.) "Mainstream Christianity implies a refined sort of non-dualism" (Richard De Smet, "Interphilosophical and Religious Dialogue in My Life," in A. Pushparajan, ed., Pilgrims of Dialogue, Fr. Albert Nambiaparambil Festschrift (Munnar. Sangam Dialogue Centre, 1991), p. 5.

(56.) See Richard De Smet's unpublished dissertation, "The Theological Method of Samkara," Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 1953. This work will appear in 2001 through the University of Notre Dame Press together with some of De Smet's later essays.

(57.) Richard De Smet, "The Correct Interpretation of the Definitions of the Absolute according to Sri Sankaracarya and Saint Thomas Aquinas," The Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 27 (1955), pp. 187-194.

(58.) Richard De Smet, "The Fundamental Antinomy of Sri Sankaracarya's Methodology," Oriental Thought, vol. 2 (1956), pp. 1-9; idem, "Love Versus Identity," p. 524. See Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ (New York: Crossroad, 1989), pp. 96-98, on the use of analogy in Christian scholastic theology.

(59.) See Richard De Smet, "Indiens Beitragzur Allgemeinen Metaphysik," Kairos, vol. 3 (1961), pp. 170-173; idem, "Forward Steps in Sankara Research," Darshana International, vol. 26 (1987), p. 45. For a concrete example of Samkara's use of the analogical method in regard to brahman, see his commentary on Taittiriya Upanisad II.1.

(60.) De Smet," Sankara and Aquinas on Liberation (Mukti)," p. 239. De Smet's realist interpretation of Samkara's ontology is expressed consistently in his understanding of enlightenment. When brahman is directly intuited, the result is not that the world vanishes altogether, once and for all. Rather, the higher knowledge "implies a passing away of the world as we know it in Avidya but a recovery of it in the eminent knowledge of its total Cause. This is absolute unalloyed felicity (Ananda)" (Richard De Smet, "Moksha -- Deliverance," undetermined source, [1972], p. 2; my emphasis). See similarly the realist understanding of liberation offered by D. M. Datta, "Some Realist Aspects of the Philosophy of Samkara," in Kalidas Bhattacarya, ed., Recent Indian Philosophy, vol. 1 (Calcutta: Progressive Publishers, 1963), pp. 344-345.

(61.) Outside of Dc Smet's writings, this point was verified by Grant, who stated in Towards an Alternative Theology, p. 28, that it was De Smet who put her on to her dissertation theme: "He advised me to explore Sankara's concept of relation, saying that this was a subject he had hoped to explore further himself, but he did not think he would now have time to do so. It would, he was sure, provide the key to the whole of Sankara's thought" (Sara Grant, "The Concept of Relation in Sankaracarya," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Bombay, 1972).

(62.) De Smet, "Origin," p.275. See also Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism, 2nd ed. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994), P. 415; he arrived at a similar view: "To understand Sankara's statements one must always see them in the frame of reference in which they are made: all his assertions are explicit or implicit comparisons with absolute reality, which alone is of interest to him." For this and some of what follows, see also the discussion by Bradley Malkovsky, "The Personhood of Samkara's Para Brahman," The Journal of Religion 77 (October, 1997): esp. 556-559.

(63.) De Smet, "Origin," p.275.

(64.) Grant, Towards an Alternative Theology, p. 35.

(65.) "Advaita ... affirms the unicity of the Absolute (Brahman-Atman) which alone is Being (Sat) in the supreme sense of the term (paramarthatah) ... No other being exists or can exist independently of, and apart from, that Sat (tad-vyatirekena). All depend on it for their existence, persistence, orderly experience, and activity (bhoktrtva-kartrtva-ca) and for reaching it as their goal and end. It is their internal cause (upadana) and supreme Atman (paramatman) ... Christianity affirms similarly that God is the one absolute Existent whose sole will has produced freely a world of contingent beings totally dependent on him for their origin, for every moment of their existence and activity, and for the achievement of their end. They are created from nothing else but him alone but this modifies him in no way. He is the partless, undifferentiated fullness of perfect reality" (De Smet, "Does Christianity Profess Non-Dualism?" pp. 354-355).

(66.) De Smet, "Love Versus Identity," p. 522.

(67.) Richard De Smet, "Radhakrishnan's Interpretation of Sankara," in G. Parthasarathi and D. P. Chattopadhyaya, eds., Radhakrishnan: Centenary Volume (Delhi: Oxford University Press,1989, p. 62.

(68.) De Smet, "Forward Steps," p. 39.

(69.) Taittiriya-Upanisad-Bhasya Panikkar has pointed out that this understanding of relation, which is common to both Christian and Vedantic scholastic thinkers, presupposes that "divine causality is precisely of a unique type that results in a dependence that is only one-sided." As a solution that attempts to safeguard both the transcendence and fullness of God as well as the reality of the creature, it is "the least vulnerable philosophical attempt," a theory that "transcends dualism" (see Raimundo Panikkar, The Unknown Christ of Hinduism: Towards an Ecumenical Christophany, rev. and enlr. ed. [London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1981], p. 145). In Doctrine de la Non-dualite an anonymous contemporary Western monk compiled an impressive list of nondualistic passages from authoritative figures of the Christian past, such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, and Nicolas Cusanus. According to Bernard, "(Deus est) qui suum ipsius est, et omnium esse" (God is He who is His own being and the being of al l) (Dc Consideratione, See De Smet's review (in Indian Theological Studies), p.65. Piet Schoonenberg, in "Gott als Person und Gott als das unpersonlich Gottliche: Bhakti und Jnana," in Gerhard Oberhammer, ed., Transzendenzerfahrung, Vollzugshorizont des Heils (Vienna: Indological Institute of the University of Vienna, 1978), p. 229, pointed out an important medieval nondualistic axiom regarding creation. With the act of creation there are, as a result, "plura entia sed non plus ease (more beings, but not more Being)." Grant, in Towards an Alternative Theology, p. 37, similarly quoted the anonymous fourteenth-century author of "The Scale of Perfection": "He is thy Being, but thou art not his Being."

(70.) Richard De Smet, "Is the Concept of 'Person' Congenial to Sankara Vedanta?" Indian Philosophical Annual, vol. 8 (1972), p. 200.

(71.) Richard De Smet, "The Trajectory of My Dialogical Activity," unpublished essay, 1991, p. 21; my emphasis. The example of pot, potter, and clay used here is but a limited and imperfect analogy for the divine creator and the human being, as De Smet well recognized. Whereas the jar can exist apart from the potter, the jiva or embodied soul in Samkara's thought, while being ontologically distinct, is never separate from its divine prototype. See De Smet, "Does Christianity Profess Non-Dualism?" p. 356.

(72.) Richard De Smet, "Towards a Real-Life Indian Theology," Vidyajyoti 59 (June, 1995): 409.

(73.) "Having acquired early the notion of the various modes of divine presence, I never felt a contradiction between the causative presence of the Brahman-Atman (or of God as all-Creator) and his presence as the Trinity that adopts us into the sonship of the absolute Logos. The second implies the first. Through my faith I was focused on the second. But, through my study of the Upanisads and then of Sankara Vedanta, I was focused so strongly on the first that it became a constant pole of my mind" (De Smet, "Trajectory," p. 21).

(74.) Richard De Smet, "The Nature of Christian Philosophy," in R. J. Singh, ed., World Perspectives in Philosophy, Religion, and Culture: Essays Presented to Professor Dhirendra Mohan Datta (Patna: Bharati Bhawan, 1968), pp. 366-367. Whether the supreme brahman should be regarded as personal is another key theme in De Smet's work. In answering this question in the affirmative, he was quick to note that communicating an understanding of the Absolute as personal is one of the main difficulties he faced "constantly" in his dialogue with Hindus. Too often, he wrote, Hindu thinkers shun the use of the terms "person" and "personal" for God, because such attributions are taken to mean "limited, anthropomorphic individual." From this perspective it is understandable that Advaitins would desire rather to refer to brahman as "impersonal" (see De Smet, "Interphilosophical and Religious Dialogue," pp. 5-6). For an extensive analysis of the arguments for and against regarding brahman as personal, see Malkovsky, "Personh ood," esp. pp. 547-562.

(75.) Le Saux took the Sanskrit compound "Abhishiktananda" (the bliss of Christ) for his Indian monastic name.

(76.) Abhishiktananda, Hindu-Christian Meeting Point, p. 100; his emphasis.

(77.) Ibid., p. 101.

(78.) It is not clear whether Abhishiktananda's attack on such theologians in Hindu-Christian Meeting Point was in part directed at De Smet. Certainly, Abhishiktananda was impatient with Jacques-Albert Cuttat, the Swiss Ambassador to India, who, Swamiji felt, wrote misleadingly of Advaita by reducing it to a system of brilliant conceptual insights. See the summary of Abhishiktananda's letters to Panikkar on this point in 1966 in Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, p. 179. His attack on Cuttat notwithstanding, Swamiji was a participant in the famous "Cuttat group" meetings of the 1960's, which were devoted to promoting a true spiritual encounter between Hindus and Christians. De Smet attended the second and third meetings of the Cuttat group in 1962 and 1963, respectively, but he and others were excluded by Abhishiktananda from the first meeting in 1961 because of Swamiji's aversion to philosophical theorizing when discussing nonduality. After this it is difficult to determine Abhishiktananda's attitude to De Smet , as his writings are silent on this point. De Smet's own thought, it must be said, matured over time, and his writings witnessed more and more to a greater mystical sensitivity, even as he philosophized.

(79.) Abhishiktananda, Hindu-Christian Meeting Point, p.95.

(80.) Ibid., p. 105. Perhaps the closest Abhishiktananda ever came to defining Advaita was through the use of negation: "But Advaita means precisely this: neither God alone, nor the creature alone, nor God plus the creature, but an indefinable non-duality which transcends at once all separation and all confusion" (ibid., p.98).

(81.) This occurred on July 14, 1973. He died on December 7 of the same year.

(82.) Stuart, in Swami Abhishikdananda, pp. 306-322, offers some of the most important of Swamiji's final letters as well as a brief account of the heart attack episode.

(83.) "That thou art."/"I am brahman." These are two of the most central statements of the Upainsads. The first is from Chandogya Upanisad 6.8.7; the second is in Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 1.4.10.

(84.) Letter to Murray Rogers, dated September 2, 1973, in Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, pp. 310-311; Abhishiktananda's emphasis.

(85.) Letter to Murray Rogers, dated October 4, 1973, in ibid., p.311.

(86.) G. Gispert-Sauch, "Swami Abhishiktananda," Vidyajyoti 54 (June, 1990): 301-302.

(87.) Letter to Antonia Fonseca, dated October 4, 1972, in Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, p. 277.

(88.) Abhishiktananda's Hindu-Christian Meeting Point was translated from the French.

(89.) Grant, Towards an Alternative Theology, p. 62. See also Griffiths, Marriage of East and West, pp. 180-181.

(90.) Gispert-Sauch, "Swami Abhishiktananda," p. 303.

(91.) In reflecting on the Upanisadic experience, Abhishiktananda wrote: "One can never forget that the Spirit leads man freely and that no one can ever know or ask the Spirit from whence he comes and where he goes" (Abhishiktananda, Further Shore, p. 117).

(92.) Letter to Anne-Marie Stokes, dated August 24, 1969, in Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, p. 218.

(93.) Abhishiktananda, Saccidananda, p. 49.

(94.) Jacques Dupuis, Jesus Christ at the Encounter of World Religions, tr. Robert R. Barr, Faith Meets Faith Series (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), p. 67.

(95.) Letter to Panikkar, dated May 18, 1966, in Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda, p. 180.

(96.) Dupuis summarized Abhishiktananda's experience of nonduality thusly: "At the awakening of the experience of advaita, the ontological density of the finite seer itself vanishes. The awakening to absolute awareness leaves no room for a subjective awareness of self as finite subject of cognition: there remains only the aham-('I'-) awareness of the Absolute ... What abides is the awakening of the one who knows to the subjective consciousness of the Absolute itself. And it is not an objective knowledge of the Absolute by a finite me. In the process of illumination, the human 'me' gives way to the divine Aham. Such is the radical demand of advaita" (Dupuis, Jesus Christ, p. 61).

(97.) Abhishiktananda, Further Shore, p. 105.

(98.) Ibid., pp. 63-64. On this last point, see Bradley Malkovsky, "The Role of Divine Grace in the Soteriology of Sri Sankaracarya," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tubingen, 1993. Some of this research is summarized in Bradley Malkovsky, "Samkara on Divine Grace," in Malkovsky, New Perspectives, pp. 70-83.

(99.) Grant, Towards an Alternative Theology, p. xii.

(100.) Quoted by Richard W. Taylor in "Current Hindu-Christian Dialogue in India," in Coward, Hindu-Christian Dialogue, p. 123, from Anthapurusha, "The Hindu Response in Dialogue Initiated by Christians," Serampore B.D. thesis typescript, Bishops College, Calcutta, 1987.

(101.) See Samkara's fourfold requirement for setting out on the path toward realization of brahman in Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya I.i.1, p. 9.

(102.) See, e.g., Brhadaranyaka-Upanisad-Bhasya II.i.20, IV.v.15; and Katha-Upanisad-Bhasya II.i.15. In Upadesasahasri I.xviii.3, Samkara stated that scripture (sruti) teaches with the zeal of a devoted mother.

(103.) Karl Rahner appears to have concurred with the view of a widespread Christian ontological dualism, for he boldly declared: "Im Abendland wird praktisch weithin unter der Voraussetzung einer extremen Aposterioritat der Gotteserkenntnis gedacht und gelebt, und von daher wird dann die Verschiedenheit von Gott und Welt in einer Weise gedacht, in der die Anschauung eines raumlichen Nebeneinander von Gott und Welt vorherrscht, die zwar naturlich im Begriff der Koexistenz von Gott und Welt nicht behauptet wird, a ber doch in diesem Begriff als Anschauungsgrundlage sich gefahrlich geltend macht" (Karl Rahner, "Welt in Gott: Zum christlichen Schopfungsbegriff," in Andreas Bsteh, ed., Sein als Offenbarung in Christentum und Hinduismus, Beitrage zur Religionatheologie 4 [Modling: Verlag St. Gabriel, 1984), pp. 74-75; my emphasis).

(104.) Panikkar, "Advaita and Bhakti," p. 299.
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