Vedanta, Hinduism, and the Ramakrishna Order/Vedanta Society | John Ankerberg Show

Vedanta, Hinduism, and the Ramakrishna Order/Vedanta Society

By: Dr. John Weldon
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By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999
Vedanta claims to represent the true teachings of the Vedas, and offers spiritual liberation through yoga and meditation practice.

Vedanta, Hinduism, and the Ramakrishna Order/Vedanta Society

I. Vedanta

Info at a Glance

Name: Vedanta

Purpose: To attain knowledge of the ultimate God Brahman in the Upanishads (the philosophical portion of the Vedas) and spiritual liberation through yoga and meditation practice.

Founder: Shankara (9th century A.D.); Ramanuja (11th-12th century A.D.); and Madhva (13th century A.D.)

Source of authority: The Vedas and Upanishads; the Bhagavad Gita; the Brahmasutras of Badarayana, etc.

Revealed teachings: Yes; the rishis (Hindu seers or psychics) experienced the Vedas as being divinely revealed (shruti) to them.

Claim: To represent the true teachings of the Vedas.

Theology: Due to contradictory teachings and textual/hermeneutical difficulties in Vedanta as whole, the overall theology is contradictory, e.g., Vedanta may be monistic, qualified monistic or dualistic; God may ultimately be personal or impersonal, one or many, etc.

Occult dynamics: Development of psychic powers, spiritism, divination, magic and other occult practices.

Key literature: “M” (Mahendranath Grupta), The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Nikhilananda; Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works and large numbers of books from the various Vedantic schools, such as scripture commentaries.

Attitude toward Christianity: Rejecting

Quotes:

“It is blasphemy to think that if Jesus had never been born, humanity would not have been saved. It is horrible…. Never forget the glory of human nature. We are the greatest God that ever was or ever will be….” — Swami Vivekananda in Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works, p. 885.

“We are the God of the universe. In worshipping God we have always been worshipping our own hidden Self.”[1] —Vivekananda

“Let us be God!”[2] —Vivekananda

“Among Hindu groups, none has made as great an impact on America as the Vedanta Society.”[3] —J. Gordon Melton

Note: Vedanta has a variety of subschools. In this introduction we consider only three principal ones. For the principal group cited in illustration of Vedanta (The Vedanta Society/Ramakrishna Order), we provide additional introductory charts.

Doctrinal Summary

God: Brahman and lesser deities.

Jesus: A man who realized his divine nature, a yoga adept.

The Christ: The divine part of Jesus.

Trinity: Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva.

Salvation: By human effort.

Man: God (inwardly), part of God, or a creature of God.

Sin: Ignorance or evil.

Satan: Sometimes a synonym for evil.

Fall: E.g., into ignorance of our divine nature.

Bible: One of many world Scriptures; Vedic authority is supreme and provides the proper worldview for biblical interpretation.

Death: A transitory state between incarnations; life and death are one; death is beneficial if one’s consciousness has the proper orientation at death. After full enlightenment there is, for example, eventual “absorption” into Brahman.

Heaven and Hell: Largely states of consciousness or temporary experiences here or in between incarnations.

II. The Ramakrishna Order /Vedanta Society

Info at a Glance

Name: The Ramakrishna Order/Vedanta Society.

Purpose: To help people realize their true inner deity.

Founder: Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and Vivekananda (1863-1902).

Source of authority: Official writings plus occult experiences.

Revealed teachings: Yes.

Claim: Ramakrishna is the “one whose teaching is just now, in the present time, most beneficial” (Teachings of Swami Vivekananda, p. 227).

Occult dynamics: Spiritism, possession, occult powers.

Examples of key literature: “M” (Mahendranath Guptam), The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Nikhilananda, Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works.

Attitude toward Christianity: Outwardly accepting; inwardly hostile; rejected as an incompatible and unenlightened form of religion.

Quotes:

“Who can bind me, the God of the universe?”[4] —Swami Vivekananda

“Christ, Buddha, and Krishna are but waves in the Ocean of Infinite Consciousness that I am.”[5] —Swami Vivekananda

Note: Although relatively small in numbers, the Vedanta Society has had large impact through its influence upon prominent intellectuals such as Gertrude Stein, William James, Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood and Gerald Heard.

Doctrinal Summary

God: Brahman (satchitananda, or impersonal being: (sat), consciousness (chit) and bliss (ananda).

Jesus: A great son of God like Ramakrishna.

The Christ: The divine part of Jesus.

Holy Spirit: Occult power.

Salvation: By works:

Man: Part of God (inwardly), illusion or maya (outwardly).

Sin: Ignorance.

The Bible: One of many scriptures.

Death: Reincarnation toward eventual union with Brahman.

Heaven and Hell: States of consciousness, not places.


NOTES

  1. Swami Nikilananda, Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953), p. 332.
  2. Ibid., p. 517; cf. p. 519
  3. J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions, Vol. 2 (Wilmington, NC: McGrath Publishing Co., 1978), p. 360.
  4. John Yale, ed., What Religion Is in the Words of Vivekananda (New York: The Julian Press, 1962), p. 77.
  5. Swami Vivekananda in Swami Nikhilananda, Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953), p. 72

Dr. John Weldon

Dr. John Weldon

Dr. John Weldon (born February 6, 1948) went to be with the Lord on August 30, 2014 following a long-time battle with cancer. John served for more than 20 years as a researcher for The John Ankerberg Show. During his tenure, he authored or coauthored more than 100 books, including the best-selling Facts On Series of books that has sold more than 2.5 million copies in 16 languages. His final book, published in July 2014 with Harvest House Publishers (coauthored with John Ankerberg), is especially fitting. How to Know You’re Going to Heaven offers a biblical and personal look at the way God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and the confidence the believer can have of eternity with Him in heaven (1 John 5:13). John’s life and work have touched countless others seeking to grow spiritually and better understand the Bible. His friends describe him as genuine, humble, and passionate to share the hope of eternal life with everyone he met. His work will continue through his many books, his online writings at The John Ankerberg Show website (JAshow.org), as well as through the many people John has personally influenced through his ministry.
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