A Hindu’s Jesus
In the fourth of this series hearing insights into Jesus from people of other faiths, Ramesh Pattni brings a Hindu perspective to the Gospels
The Hindu view of Jesus is a complex one. Hinduism has a spectrum of hermeneutic frames within which Jesus is understood – a hermeneutic frame being the way in which one interprets reality and what is contained in the world of names and forms, thoughts, feelings and sensations. The six classical orthodox schools of thought in Hinduism have their own interpretations of Reality, God, the universe and the place of the individual in the cosmos. Remember that there are different views about Jesus Christ in Christianity itself, such as the tension between ‘the historical Jesus’ and ‘the Christ of faith’.
There are also historical influences on how Jesus may be seen through Hindu eyes. These include both missionary activities in India from the earliest days of Christianity and reinterpretations of Jesus by Hindu missionaries in the west. Examples of the latter are Paramhansa Yogananada, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Akhilananda. Coming to the US in the late 1920s, Akhilananda wrote a book, Hindu view of Christ (Branden Books, 1949) which gives perspectives on Christ as an incarnation, a Yogi and as an Oriental.
Two of the main ideas in connection with Christ in Hinduism are incarnation and ideal. I will examine some of these views from different Hindu teachers, scholars and commentators who have looked at Jesus through their own framework of knowledge, wisdom and experience.
First, Christ as incarnation. Many Hindu religious and political leaders such as Gandhi and Radhakrishnan looked at Christ, not in a historical context, but as an incarnation (avatāra) of divine origin, accepting him as ‘a highly evolved spiritual being, transcending any particularity of time, place or context, providing a message and example of universal relevance’. This view could be highly problematic for Christians, for whom the particular time and place of Jesus’ life of context is absolutely central …
Dr Ramesh Pattni is a former chair of the interfaith committee of the Hindu Forum of Britain and former co-chair of the Hindu Christian Forum. He is a trustee of the Faith Based Regeneration Network and a Director of the Council of Dharmic Faiths UK
This is an extract from the October 2016 edition of Reform.