In 1893 an
unknown Hindu monk arrived at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He was Swami Vivekananda, whom I have mentioned already.
He made a stunning impression on those who heard him, both by his appearance —
beturbaned and robed in orange and crimson — and by what he said. He was
immediately lionized by high society in Boston and New
at Harvard were mightily impressed. And it wasn't long until he had gathered a
hard core of disciples who supported him and his grandiose dream: the
evangelizing of the Western world by Hinduism, and more particularly, by
Vedantic (or monistic) Hinduism. Vedanta Societies were established in the
large cities of this country and in Europe. But these centers were only a part of his work. More
important was introducing Vedantic ideas into the bloodstream of academic thinking.
Dissemination was the goal. It mattered little to Vivekananda whether
credit was given to Hinduism or not, so long as the message of Vedanta reached
everyone. On many occasions he said: Knock on every door. Tell everyone he is
Today parts of his message are carried in
paperbacks that you can find in any bookstore — books by Aldous Huxley,
Christopher Isherwood, Somerset Maugham, Teilhard de Chardin, and even Thomas
Thomas Merton, of course, constitutes a special
threat to Christians, because he presents himself as a contemplative Christian
monk, and his work has already affected the vitals of Roman Catholicism, its
monasticism. Shortly before his death, Father Merton wrote an appreciative
introduction to a new translation of the Bhagavad Gita, which is the
spiritual manual or "Bible" of all Hindus, and one of the foundation
blocks of monism or Advaita Vedanta. The Gita, it must be remembered, opposes
almost every important teaching of Christianity. His book on the Zen Masters,
published posthumously, is also noteworthy, because the entire work is based on
a treacherous mistake: the assumption that all the socalled "mystical
experiences" in every religion are true. He should have known better. The
warnings against this are loud and clear, both in Holy Scripture and in the
Today I know of one Catholic monastery in California where cloistered monks are experimenting with Hindu
religious practices. They were trained by an Indian who became a Catholic
priest. Unless the ground had been prepared, I think this sort of thing
couldn't be happening. But, after all, this was the purpose of Vivekananda's
coming to the West: to prepare the ground.
Vivekananda's message of Vedanta is simple enough.
It looks like more than it is because of its trappings: some dazzling Sanskrit
jargon, and a very intricate philosophical structure. The message is
essentially this: All religions are true, but Vedanta is the ultimate truth.
Differences are only a matter of "levels of truth." In Vivekananda's words: "Man is not travelling from error to
truth, but climbing up from truth to truth, from truth that is lower to truth
that is higher. The matter of today is the spirit of the future. The worm of today — the God of tomorrow. The Vedanta rests
on this: that man is God. So it is for man to work out his own salvation.
Vivekananda put it this way: "Who can help the Infinite? Even the hand
that comes to you through the darkness will have to be your own."
Vivekananda was canny enough to know that straight
Vedanta would be too much for Christians to follow, right off the bat. But
"levels of truth" provided a nice bridge to perfect ecumenism — where
there is no conflict because everyone is right. In the
Swami's words: "If one religion be true, then all the others also must be
true. Thus the Hindu faith is yours as much as mine. We Hindus do not
merely tolerate, we unite ourselves with every religion, praying in the mosque
of the Mohammedan, worshipping before the fire of the Zoroastrian, and kneeling
to the cross of the Christian. We know that all religions alike, from the
lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, are but so many attempts of the
human soul to grasp and realize the Infinite. So we gather all these flowers
and, binding them together with the cords of love, make them into a wonderful
bouquet of worship."
Still, all religions were only steps to the
ultimate religion, which was Advaita Vedanta. He had a special contempt for
Christianity, which at best was a "low truth" — a dualistic truth. In
private conversation he said that only a coward would turn the other cheek. But
whatever he said about other religions, he always returned to the necessity of
Advaita Vedanta. "Art, science, and religion," he said, "are but
three different ways of expressing a single truth. But in order to understand
this we must have the theory of Advaita."
The appeal to today's youth is unmistakable.
Vedanta declares the perfect freedom of every soul to be itself. It denies all
distinction between sacred and secular: they are only different ways of
expressing the single truth. And the sole purpose of religion is to provide for
the needs of different temperaments: a god and a practice to suit everyone. In
a word, religion is "doing your own thing,"
All this may sound far-fetched; but Vivekananda
did an effective job. Now I'll show how successful he was in introducing these
Hindu ideas into Roman Catholicism, where his success has been the most
Swami Vivekananda first came to America to represent Hinduism at the 1893 Parliament of Religions.
1968 was the 75th anniversary of this event, and at that time a Symposium of
Religions was held under the auspices of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of
Chicago. Roman Catholicism was represented by a Dominican theologian from De
Paul University, Father Robert Campbell. Swami Bhashyananda opened the meeting
with the reading of good-will messages from three very important people. The
second was from an American Cardinal.
Father Campbell began the afternoon session with a
talk on the conflict of the traditionalist versus the modernist in modern
Catholicism. He said: "In my own university, surveys taken of Catholic
student attitudes show a great swing towards the liberal views within the last
five or six years. I know that the great Swami Vivekananda would himself be in
favor of most of the trends in the direction of liberal Christianity."
What Father Campbell apparently didn't know was that the modernistic doctrines
he described were not Christian at all; they were pure and simple
So there will be no question of misinterpretation,
I shall quote the Father's words on the modernists' interpretation of five
issues, just as they appeared in three international journals: the Prabuddha
Bharata published in Calcutta, the Vedanta Kesheri published in Madras, and Vedanta and the West, published in London.
"Truth is a relative thing, these doctrines and dogmas (i.e., the nature
of God, how man should live, and the after-life) are not fixed things, they
change, and we are coming to the point where we deny some things that we
formerly affirmed as sacred truths."
"Jesus is divine, true, but any one of us can be divine. As a matter of
fact, on many points, I think you will find the liberal Christian outlook is
moving in the direction of the East in much of its philosophy — both in its
concept of an impersonal God and in the concept that we are all divine."
On Original Sin: "This concept is very offensive to liberal
Christianity, which holds that man is perfectable by training and proper
On the world:
"The liberal affirms that it can be improved and that we should devote
ourselves to building a more humane society instead of pining to go to
On other religions: "The liberal group says: 'Don't worry about the
old-fashioned things such as seeking converts, etc., but let us develop better
relations with other religions.'"
So says Father Campbell for the modernistic
Catholics. The modernist has been led like a child by the generous offer of
higher truth, deeper philosophy and greater sublimity — which can be had by
merely subordinating the living Christ to modern man.
Here, then, we see the spectacular success of
Hinduism, or Swami Vivekananda, or the power behind Vivekananda. It's made a
clean sweep of Roman Catholicism. Her watchdogs have taken the thief as the
friend of the master, and the house is made desolate before their eyes. The
thief said: "Let us have interfaith understanding," and he was through
the gate. And the expedient was so simple. The Christian Hindus (the Swamis)
had only to recite the Vedanta philosophy using Christian terms. But the
Hindu Christians (the modernistic Catholics), had to extrapolate their religion
to include Hinduism. Then necessarily, truth became error,
and error, truth. Alas, some would now drag the Orthodox Church into this
desolate house. But let the modernists remember the words of Isaiah: Woe
unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light, and
light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe unto
them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
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