One Response to CRI

This response to CRI's critique of Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings are in the blue text that follows the >>>>.
The other portions of text are from the CRI paper and are in brown or red text immediately following:
Although SRF's attempts to promote unity between Hinduism
and Christianity appear commendable, such a goal can only be
realized by subtly glossing over significant, irreconcilable
differences between the two. The end result finds Hinduism
unscathed by the transaction, while Christianity becomes stripped
of its essential and distinguishing characteristics. The
characters and terminology of Christianity are retained, but
their historic meaning and significance are traded for the
esoteric pantheism of Hindu theology.

>>>>Christianity's essential and distinguishing characteristics are worked out and established in time and
from experience. There was Jesus the Christ, with His experiences.  There were the disciples with their
experiences together with Him.  From that, the Church was born. And with Paul the Church took on a
particular character. The full dimensions and truth of all this cannot be regained at this point, but we have
in the New Testament a wonderful record of some of it.

>>>>But "Christianity" is not that. Christianity is the continuing experience of Christians in relation to one
another, to Christ, and to God. It is a thing that continues to evolve and is manifested in virtually endless
expressions.  Lutherans historically have a different background, say, than Baptists, but both are groups
of Christians.  Their background combined with their personalities, likes and dislikes, etc., mean they
express themselves and their beliefs differently.  And this is not to mention the way it is with Christians all
around the world.  Those in the Southern United States are a lot different than those in South Korea, for

>>>>Paramahansa Yogananda's background and upbringing are bound to have an impact on his
understanding of Christ and Christianity.  But essentially he was not interested in Christianity, per se, but
in the things that he perceived were held in common between Christ and the masters of India.  It was
there he saw a connection between East and West, and a way of bringing the deeper spirituality and
heritage of the East to the West.

        Let's examine some of the reasons why Christianity, in its
original form, can not be harmonized with Hinduism, or any other
        The God of the Bible is distinctly an infinite, personal
Being, whose essence is Spirit. (2 Chronicles 6:18. Jeremiah
10:10. Exodus 3:14,15. John 4:24.)

>>>>This sounds like something that Paramahansa would teach, although his teaching goes a little bit
farther. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God the Father is beyond creation; i.e., this keeps his
teaching from being dualistic. The Son is God manifested within creation. The Holy Spirit is the vibratory,
active manifestation of God that objectifies or becomes creation. 
He created the world out of nothing, not out of Himself. (Genesis 1:1.
The Hebrew word for "create" is "bara", which indicates something
coming out of  nothing).

>>>>The Bible actually shows that He creates through His word. In Genesis He speaks and the thing is
done. The Gospel of John (chapter 1), speaking of the Word and creation, implies this as well.  Man's
creation is not complete until He breathes into him the breath of life, a direct connection with God.
Concerning the power of the Word, the book of Hebrews (1:3), says that He upholds all things by the
word of His power. Thus the universe essentially is not God, although His
infinite Spirit is present in all parts of it.

>>>>There's no place within creation or the universe where God is not. It is however distinct from Him
in the sense stated above, the Father being "beyond creation." Yogananda would say that what is in
Creation is not objectively real anyway, but a dream of God, like the projection of a film on a screen. In
this he has the support of science, which is discovering that our "common sense" beliefs about Reality and
its solidity, this thing as a "thing", are illusions.
>>>>A good teaching on this would be Ken Wilber's "The Spectrum of Consciousness," who further goes
on to show that our whole sense of time and space are the primary and secondary dualisms, which when
we insist upon these we deny ourselves the consciousness of the One.

God created man as
an entity distinct from Himself, to exist into eternity as a
finite reflection of His own image; spiritual, personal, and
moral. (Genesis 1:26,27, Psalms 94:9, Numbers 23:19, 1
Corinthians 2:11, 1 Peter 1:16.).

>>>>The Genesis passage cited teaches that God made people in God's image. They are distinct from
him to a certain extent but not wholly because of the image. And Genesis 3:22 seems to say that man has
more of a potential than he realizes, perhaps not such a "distinct" entity afterall. Psalm 94:9 appears to
have nothing to do with this at all, being a call for people to be aware that God hears and sees their
misdealings with one another; Numbers 23:19 has God being distinct from man in terms of not being one
who lies or "repents", changes His mind; however we do know that God "repents" a couple of times in
the Old Testament narratives. What this has to do with is to present God according to the character of the
ones who describe Him, and legitimately provides very little that one should systematize as a propositional
theology; 1 Corinthians 2:11 is a comparison, that just as the spirit of a person knows what goes on on the
inside, so the Spirit of God knows what goes on on deep within God; however, this is the very thing that
the Spirit of God reveals unto us (verse 10); when does He do this?: when we are the Temple of God,
where God dwells (1 Cor. 3:16 and Eph. 2:22).

>>>>The very limiting language of CRI's formulation here: "entity distinct" and "finite reflection" doesn't
claim much for man, and certainly leaves out a lot of very rich and wonderful teachings of the Bible. How
can we leave out such marvelous teachings as 1 Cor. 2:16, "We have the mind of Christ"?, or Rom. 8:16,
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"?, or Eph. 3:19, "And to
know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (?)
There sounds like very little in all this that would be a limitation on humanity, on our potential or on what
we might attain in our relation with God.

>>>>There was one other Scripture cited above, 1 Peter 1:16, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." This probably
has to do with man's "finite reflection" of God's image as a "moral" being. Indeed, Peter is speaking of
behavior or character. But there's nothing of a finite nature in all his discussion, since they are to see
themselves with an "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in
heaven" (1:4).

His purpose for creating man
was so that He and man might experience a personal, intimate
fellowship for all eternity (John 17:3, 1 Cor. 1:9, 1 John 1:3).

>>>>There is nothing in Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings that conflicts with this understanding.
The Christian goal of union with God is not to lose one's
identity through absorption into the Divine Self. Man does not
need to be freed from his own personal, finite identity; it is a
gift from God, created in His image. For the Christian, to be
united with God is to enter into a unity of will and devotion
with that distinct Person who is the Absolute. Earthly marriage
speaks to us of this union in that two persons become intimately
united without losing their individual indentities. Self
realization then is realizing one's own dignified identity as a
being created in God's own image, and going on from there by
faith in Christ to become a child of God (Jn. 1:12), in order to
find our ultimate fulfillment; eternal fellowship with God. It is
not realizing that our true Self is God, for such thinking is the
very thing that has always led man away from the true God
(Genesis 3:4,5, Isaiah 47:8-10, Ezekiel 28:2).

>>>>Paramahansa Yogananda and SRF would not speak of losing your identity through absorption.
However, they would probably agree with Jesus that to try to save your life is to lose it and to lose your
life for His sake is to save it.  Christ said he came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
The purpose is that people who have established a way apart from God would come to God for the
fullness of life, for abundance (John 10:10). This is not to lose, but to gain. The Apostle Paul looks at the
life that is not consciously in line with God in this way: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,)
dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not"
(Rom. 7:18).  But for the one "with Christ", "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me..." (Gal. 2:20). Paul's intention is not to be more of what Paul was, but to be more of
what Christ is, actually to the point where the two are one, and then beyond that: "And when all things
shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under
him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

>>>>Paramahansa Yogananda was specific in saying that man is not God, but at some level God
becomes us. That's not much different than what Paul says.

          This brings us to the question of how one reaches this union with God.
SRF's approach will only lead one into contact with fallen spirits posing
as God, or departed masters: it can never lead one into contact with the true God.

>>>>Jesus says that you know them by their fruits.  If the fruits that you see reflect a way of evil, people living like the devil,
then maybe so.  If you see "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22-23),
it might be best to reserve judgment, and just disagree in a friendly way.  The Bible tells several times of people who believed
themselves to be godly, but who were acting against the will of God.  Jesus spoke not of heathens somewhere but of religious
people when He said, "Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2).
Paul (as Saul) operated in this very way, well-meaning of course, but wrong.  The disciples thought they were doing Jesus a
favor when the Samaritans appeared to be inhospitable to Him, when they asked, "Wilt thou that we command fire to come
down from heaven, and consume them, as Elias did?" But Jesus said, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of" (Luke
9:55), and that to His own disciples. Are His disciples today always right and is everyone else always wrong? Or does the
word of Jesus the Master have any value still? Once when they saw one casting out devils in Jesus' name, they forbad him "because he followeth not with us."  But Jesu said, "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:49-50). 
          This failure is due to an ignorance of the true nature and cause of man's separation from God. Man is not separated from God because he is ignorant of his true union, as SRF affirms. Man is separated from God because he is guilty of breaking the moral laws which God established in the universe for the good of His creation. This disobedience originated with Adam, and has spread throughout the entire human race (Romans 5:12).  According to the Bible, even the most moral, disciplined man is still a sinner (Romans 3:23), and thus incapable of reaching God through his own efforts, for God will not overlook his sin, or its just penalty.

          >>>>Man's offense is against God, much as David says, "Against thee, thee only, have I
          sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Psalm 51:4) In Rom. 5:14 there were those from Adam
          to Moses who did not sin in the same way as Adam, i.e., by breaking a "moral law," but
          "death reigned" over them. It is going away from God that is the sin. Paramahansa Yogananda
          counseled people not to call themselves a "sinner," because sin is a matter of the past. If they
          are going toward God, toward consciousness of union with God, that's the opposite of a
          separation and maintaining that condition.

          >>>>As to man's "own efforts" of reaching God, Paramahansa Yogananda said somewhere
          that it's 25% man's effort, 25% guru's effort, 50% God's grace. It's doubtful that he meant
          these percentages as being hard-and-fast, or absolutely true. The Bible, taken as a whole, and
          not just a verse here and there, teaches that man has some role in establishing a good relation
          between himself and God. The book of Romans, the first few chapters, mean to show that the
          whole of humanity needs this, those under the law and those apart from law. In the world
          thusly described, God reveals two expressions of Himself: righteousness (1:17) and wrath
          (1:18). Paul sees that righteousness imputed to peole "if we believe on him that raised up Jesus
          our Lord from the dead" (4:24). "Believing" then is man's role, or "faith" (3:28). We are to
          "reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin" (6:11), and to be "spiritually minded" (8:6).
          And then there is Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). In verse 18 he determines, "I will
          arise and go to my father," very much a purposeful effort. The father meets him "when he
          was yet a great way off (verse 20), and brings him back in glad procession to his home!

With man incapable of bridging the gap, it was up to God to do
something about it, which He did by sending His Son, in the form
of a man, sinless, to pay man's penalty through his sacrificial
death. For those who recognize that through their own efforts
they can not please God, and are willing to accept that through
Christ's finished work in the cross all that was necessary for
their salvation was done, God, in response to their faith, will
reinstate them into union with Himself.

>>>>The issue here is on the nature of atonement. Christians have had varying theologies of this.  In Augustus Strong's
"Theology," he presents 1) The Socinian, or Example Theory of the Atonement; 2) The Bushnellian, or Moral Influence Theory
of the Atonement; 3) The Grotian, or Governmental Theory of the Atonement; 4) The Irvingian Theory, or Theory of Gradually
Extirpated Depravity; 5) The Anselmic, or Commercial Theory of the Atonement; and, 6) The Ethical Theory of the
Atonement.  Without going into an exposition of what these theories of atonement mean, there are some things they all have in
common: they are all backed up by Scripture, and they were believed by well-intentioned, serious Christian believers.

>>>>The New Testament took the scandal of Jesus' death on the Cross and reinterpreted it as a work of God, validated then
in His Resurrection. That interpretory work, as subsequent history has shown, has not been a static thing but evolves and
changes with the determinations of believers, however conceived and arrived at.

>>>>For someone to insist on their theory or their interpretation as the final and definitive one for everyone shows both a
disregard for the history and content of Christian theology and a lot of nerve!

>>>>It seems likely that the truth is somewhere in the cosmic realities unseen to the naked eye and to man's logic: that the
Bible is describing something profound in the nature of things, that God doesn't give up on us but ultimately provides for our
reunion.  This gets us away from the "facts," such as Christ died on a given Friday in a given year, to the "reality" (Gal. 2:22)
that with Him, in God's continuing presence with us, "I am crucified" and that "I" am buried with him (Col. 2:12), and "I" am
risen with him (Ibid.).

          This true form of enlightenment brings one into awareness of a living, loving, personal God who transcends the universe, not an impersonal cosmic consciousness who is the universe.

          >>>>These points have already been addressed.  There is no conflict between God and the universe; they are not
          at odds with one another.
          Such experience as cosmic consciousness is counterfeit and dangerous, because of the demonic element, and even more, because of the eternal loss such deception can lead one to.

          >>>>Paramahansa Yogananda mentions "tramp spirits", etc., messing with people.  "Cosmic consciousness" are
          words that have nothing to do with the demonic, but with a person's relation to God, a person's realization of
          God, etc.  By the same argument, you could say a person shouldn't pray because of demons.  Doesn't Paul call
          the devil the "prince of the powers of the air"? And some Pentecostal groups says that a distinguishing mark of
          speaking in tongues is that it's the language that the devil can't understand, and presumably can't tamper with on its
          way to heaven.  This, however, ignores other teachings of the Bible, that the distance between ourselves and God
          doesn't actually exist.  Again, we are the habitation of God (Eph. 2:22); we are the Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16).
          And "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).  The Bible doesn't teach us to dwell in
          fear of demons, and doesn't teach that we are to neglect spirituality because a demon might be lurking nearby with
          its own agenda.

          >>>>Eternity is right now (John 3:16,18). There is plenty of deception that is keeping people from their full place
          as "children of God" (John 1:12). And much of it comes from groups within fundamentalist Christianity, who
          would limit and deny access to God by very narrow interpretations. This would be more tolerable and
          understandable if there was some flexibility and some gracious bending, but too often these interpretations are
          hardened to the point that nothing else is allowed.  Of course this is exclusivist to the point that if Jesus Christ
          Himself showed up on a Sunday morning, He might not make it through the door!

          Hindus would be better off totally rejecting Christianity than trying to unify it with Hinduism.

>>>>There's one God. People around the world have been looking to God in various ways for centuries.  Christianity is a
recent development on the world scene.  Long before that, people loved God, worshipped God, lived happy lives, showed the
fruit of His goodness, etc.  It's not a matter of "rejecting" that is needed, but of seeing unity where it actually exists, and has
always existed.  Read "The Science of Religion," by Yogananda, or "The Perennial Philosophy" by Aldous Huxley, or "The
Spectrum of Consciousness" by Ken Wilber.  Humanity's best thinkers see past various distinct doctrines, cherished dogmas,
and all of our pet prejudices, to see a fundamental unity in our approach to God.
DESTROY; I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP." (Jn. 10:7-11) If they want to consider Jesus a prophet, then to be consistent with the definition of the term "prophet", they must acknowledge that the words He spoke were the true words of God.

            >>>The statement is that "Jesus...made it all too clear."  Then follows a few verses from John. No explanation is
          given for the verses, apparently because the meaning intended is obvious. However, within Christianity, there is a
          spectrum of belief on most teachings of the Bible. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of John have especially been
          subject to various interpretations; in fact many Christians scholars themselves do not believe that the historical
          Jesus even said a number of the things in this Gospel.  It is not really as "clear" and as simple as some would have
          us believe.  In this it's sometimes suggested that particular teachings of the Gospel have to do with the experiences
          of Christian communities in the decades after Jesus.  A "prophet" in a particular congregation might claim a word
          from "Jesus" that addresses a challenge they face.  For instance, if a community feels itself under siege or
          threatened by an opposing group (the "Jews" of John, for example), the word of "Jesus" for them might be
          phrased in such a way that it excludes that outside group and reinforces themselves, the in-group.  Something like
          this could be behind a passage like John 8 (a very conflictual chapter), such words as, "Jesus said unto them, If
          God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself,
          but he sent me" (verse 42).

          >>>>Add to all this that Jesus throughout the Gospel of John often speaks with a double meaning, and even
          seems to talk past people who do not understand; because they are listening with only a literal ear they miss his
          deeper teaching. Examples include these: Nicodemus (chapter 3), who thinking being "born again" means entering
          his mother and coming out a second time; the Samaritan Woman (chapter 4), who thinks the "living water" Christ
          offers will keep her from coming to the well to draw; the Body and Blood (chapter 6), which offends many
          disciples who turn away from Him because "this is an hard teaching" (but Jesus said, "the words that I speak unto
          you, they are spirit, and they are life" John 6:63). When He says He is the Bread, He is the Vine, He is the Door,
          etc., it is not that He actually is these literal things, but they have a deeper, spiritual meaning.

          >>>>The suggested meaning of the verses from John above, then, no doubt have more to them than a surface
          reading would entail.  Paramahansa Yogananda honors Jesus Christ as a fully realized spiritual man who is trying
          to lead others to the Father.  This has to do with the center of Christ consciousness in each one that connects to a
          realization of God and all the rest of the experiences that Jesus knows. So, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the
          Life," in that case means something like this: I (the Christ Consciousness fully realized) am the Way, the Truth, and
          the Life... No one comes to the Father (makes that realized connection, experiences that fullness) but by me (in
          the disciples' case, through their Teacher's teaching.) The other verses cited seem to be based in the conflict
          between other teachers of Israel (parties) and the way of Christ (with the Christians). But here as well, the same
          kind of argument or interpretation could be made for a deeper, more spiritual meaning having to do with
          channeling one's spiritual energies in the right direction.  Yogananda speaks often of "technique," doing things in a
          particular way that "works," so he and Jesus seem to have this in common.

          >>>>A well-respected commentary of recent years, "The New Interpreters Bible," discounts the likelihood that
          the words of Jesus (John 14:6) are meant in an exclusive way.

          These are only two of many passages in the New Testament that demonstrate the exclusiveness of Christianity. We must recognize that Christianity springs directly from Judaism, and in the Hebrew Scriptures one truth is continually hammered home: "FOR ALL THE GODS OF THE PEOPLES ARE IDOLS, BUT YAWEH MADE
THE HEAVENS." Psalms 96:5). The personal God who, for the ultimate benefit of the entire human race, revealed Himself in a unique way to the nation Israel, is sharply distinguished from the gods of the other nations, including the gods that were and still are worshipped in India.

             >>>>To say that the New Testament demonstrates the exclusiveness of Christianity is kind of like pointing out
          that a cookbook has nothing but recipes; that's what it's for.  The purpose of the Gospels is to remember what
          Jesus said to them in their situation, and to compile teachings useful for their situation as Christians.  The epistles
          are written to Christians in Christian churches living a Christian life.  They do not present a systematic,
          philosophical treatment of comparative religion.

          >>>>Concerning the "gods of the other nations," the Bible writers were writing within a heritage of monotheism.
          That understanding, however, was something that evolved.  There are numerous passages in the Old Testament
          that show the people involved in idol worship and in serving "foreign gods."  It was the prophets, men actually a
          lot like the holy men of India whom Yogananda writes of in his "Autobiography," who insisted that there was one
          God and finally established that truth as Israel's heritage.

          >>>>The idea then of "gods" worshipped in India is an interesting matter.  No doubt there are many
          unsophisticated people, like the common folk of Israel, who do not have their theology straight.  But the ones who
          are well-grounded in their rich religious heritage teach that all the "gods" are in actuality manifestations of the one
          God; it is kind of like the "Trinity," but with many more persons than three!

          Rather than teaching reincarnation, the Bible tells us that it is appointed unto all men to die once, and afterwards to be judged (Hebrews 9:27). It would be easy and tempting for a member of SRF to simply close his eyes to the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Many seek to appease their consciences by giving honor to Christ, and yet they
 refuse to make the absolute surrender to Jesus alone that He so clearly demands (Matthew 10:32-39). Truly, it is acknowledged everywhere, even among Hindus, that no man in history has deserved more honor than Jesus Christ. Yet, if one truly honors Christ, the wisdom of giving serious consideration to the things He said, in the context in which He spoke them, should be self-evident. To take His words out of context, and attempt to conform them to a foreign theology, is to risk facing the above mentioned judgement unprepared.

          >>>>The teaching of Hebrews 9:27 has nothing to do with reincarnation. The author is concerned to show that
          Christ died for sins once; He doesn't come back to die again and again (cf. Hebrews 6:6). That's the real teaching
          here, with verse 27 being a very common sense comparison: a person lives, a person dies, then the judgment of
          their life.

          >>>>Reincarnation is not really a matter of the physical body, but a matter of the soul's immortality.  In the
          teaching of reincarnation, it is actually a sign that the soul faced "judgment," and must face the round of birth and
          death again.  The "man" in that case is a different "man," though the same soul as had appeared before.

          >>>>He doesn't make any demand for "absolute surrender to Jesus" in the Matthew passage, at least not in the
          sense that some Christian groups insist on, i.e., to the exclusion of any other spiritual path.  But he certainly sounds
          like an Indian guru, saying that to follow Him means commitment all the way.  He (as the Indian gurus) mean this
          for the followers own good, not out of personal/ego ambition on His part.  It follows, then, that any path that
          produces the same outcome (realization of God), would be the same "surrender."

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