Hindu Dharma finds its summary in the great statements (Mahavakyas) of Vedanta, as taught in the Upanishads over three thousand years ago. These statements reflect the essential message of Hindu Dharma with its focus on Self-knowledge, higher consciousness and universal truth.
In this article we will examine two of these great Vedantic statements relative to the primary statements of faith in Christianity and Islam. These two main Vedantic statements are:
Aham Brahmasmi – I am Brahman
Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma – Everything is Brahman
“Brahman” is a term that is often translated as God or Godhead. It includes both the aspect of the Divine nature as the ruling intelligence behind the universe, the creator, preserver and dissolver of all, called Ishvara; and the transcendent Absolute beyond all manifestation. Brahman is further defined as Sat-Chit-Ananda or Being-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute.
The word “I” here does not refer to the bodily self or to the mental self, not even to the soul in its individual nature. It refers to the core of our being, the inner Self, the witness that stands beyond body and mind, time and space. That inner witness consciousness is one with the transcendent Brahman.
Some scholars translate Aham Brahmasmi as “I am God”, without defining either term properly. The Upanishads have a related statement Ayam Atma Brahma – this Self is Brahman. It is not the ordinary I or self that is Brahman but the I in itself, the pure I before its identification with any object, quality or identity.
Hindu Dharma is not content to proclaim the existence of any Supreme Being and its rulership over all. It takes us further to recognizing that the Supreme Being and our innermost Self are one. Though various mystics have hinted at such a state of unity, in Vedanta and Hindu Dharma it forms the foundation teaching, presented in a clear and comprehensive manner.
The second statement Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma is often translated as “Everything is God,” equated with pantheism or nature worship in the views of western religious scholars. The correct understanding of it is that everything in the universe is a manifestation of a Universal Consciousness of Being-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute, inherently one with it like the waves with the sea.
Not only is Brahman the Self of each individual, it is also the Being of the entire universe. The Self that is Brahman pervades all. It can be realized within the hearts of each one of us through Yoga and meditation. The entire universe dwells within us as our own Self, and our inmost Self extends throughout the entire world. This teaching is also rare in other spiritual traditions, particularly monotheistic traditions that separate the Divine from the world.
Comparison with Christianity and Islam
Christianity’s corresponding prime statement is “Jesus is the Only Son of God,” and the corollary that salvation, virtue and removal of sin is only possible by belief in Jesus. The goal of Christianity is to go to Heaven after death and dwell in the company of Jesus. There is in this Christian statement of the supremacy of Jesus no recognition of any Self or Atman as the unity of all. The Divine is reduced to a supposed historical person who saves us by proxy, not by our own efforts. Our belief is required but not any change of consciousness, much less a search for Self-realization.
Islam’s great statement is Allahu Akbar, meaning “God is Great” or “God is Greater.” Islam emphasizes the supremacy and absolute power of Allah, who nevertheless has personal preferences, prophets and a special community of true believers.
Islam not only requires belief in Allah, but recognition of Mohammed as the last prophet. The need for Mohammed brings in a personal and historical dimension to the religion just as in the case of Christianity. There is in this Islamic statement of the supremacy of Allah no sense of any One Self in all beings, much less a universal reality of Brahman or Being-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute beyond all beliefs.
Christianity and Islam similarly do not embrace the law of karma and rebirth that is the necessary basis for understanding the Self and the process of its realization.
These prime statements of Christianity and Islam, and the emotions generated by them, deeply color the religions, their practices and the behavior they instill in their followers. As these religions contain no overt recognition of a Universal Self within us, their main focus is outward and results in efforts to convert or conquer the world as the goal of their religious striving.
Self-knowledge is peripheral to these monotheistic orthodoxies and generally rejected by them, sometimes violently. History clearly reveals this through their inquisitions, jihads, crusades, oppression of mystics, and massacre of heretics – above all by their military and missionary activity in Bharat.
Consciousness Studies Today
Today there is a new study of the mind and consciousness through science and Dharmic traditions. We are learning that faith and belief are often forms of wishful thinking that can be misleading. They are conditioning factors that can promote misunderstanding and conflict. For true awareness, the practice of meditation is required. True spirituality is a way of Self-knowledge, not a religious faith that is blind or one-sided, insisting on an exclusive belief.
The great sayings of Vedanta and its path of Self-realization take us beyond all belief systems. Unfortunately, the conversion efforts of Christianity and Islam still have tremendous financial and political support, which can be intimidating. They must be challenged not only at the level of ideas, which is not difficult, but also at an outer level by creating sufficient resources, information and institutions to counter them. Otherwise the path of Self-realization in the world, which is the highest call of our species, may become further obscured.
Did you like this report? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.