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Brahman

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A water drop

A water drop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Hindus Brahman is a concept that describes an eternal and entirely impersonal Ultimate Reality. In the Sanksrit, Brahman is the neuter form of Brahma. Many believe this Hindu idea is equivalent to the Jewish, Islamic and Christian conception of an absolute, single God. And the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism are said to be different manifestations of the one, all-pervading ground of Brahman.

The equivalency of the Hindu Brahman with the Middle Eastern monotheistic view of God may seem valid, especially when viewed from the surface. But a closer look reveals that, in some schools of Hinduism, the Brahman differs from the idea of God as depicted in other monotheistic religions. Sankara, for instance, believed the individual soul can merge and become one with the Brahman. Ramanuja, on the other hand, believed in the permanence of individual souls. Somewhat like Ramanuja’s interpretation, in orthodox Middle Eastern religions one doesn’t merge with but engages in a reverential “I-thou” relationship with God.

But the line between these two ways of understanding the individual and God is often blurred. Unorthodox Middle Eastern religions, for instance, exhibit beliefs similar to Sankara’s idea of the Brahman (e.g. Sufism). And the language used by Catholic saints such as St. Faustina Kowalska often approaches the idea of absolute unity, where a saint tries to be totally immersed in the Godhead.

English: Ramakrishna Paramhansacommons:Image:R...

English: Ramakrishna Paramhansacommons:Image:Ramakrishna.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the same time, Catholic saints differ from some Hindu saints on one very important point. Catholics reflect and participate in the Divine glory without claiming to be identical to God’s all-pervading power and wisdom. This particular kind of humility is not found in some branches of Hinduism. For example, Hindu holy men like Sri Ramakrishna claim they are avatars, which is something very different from being a mere saint. Even the highest saint in Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, the Virgin Mary, is said to have been born without taint of original sin and, as such, reflects the Holy Trinity. But, contrary to the Hindu avatar, she does not claim to be identical to God

This much being said, many believe that Jesus Christ was a man who believed he was equal to God. But this claim differs from other religions in that Christians – that is, followers of Christ – do not believe that this kind of ultimate identity with God is possible for themselves. For Christians, Christ is unique. The one and only Son. All Christians (except for the Virgin Mary) are born with the taint of original sin. So they generally see themselves as works in progress instead of liberated, enlightened or incarnated super-beings.

In short, the Christian loves and has an ongoing relationship with God, but doesn’t believe him or herself to be God.

Related Posts » Atman, Brahmin, Buber (Martin), Gnosticism, Kabbala, Sufism

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