Mysteries, miracles, dogmas in Christianity

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • June 21, 2022
  • 659 views
  • Know about some Mysteries of Faith in Christianity. Can empirical methods be applied to interrogate these fundamental tenets of their faith? Some mysteries exist in Sanatan Dharma too.

We, the followers of the Sanatana Dharma must be humble enough to learn from the Abrahamic religions about our biases for logical positivism. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that we need to have rational answers for those categories of phenomena which do not lend themselves to empirical scrutiny.

How many of us are convinced that the Yogic body has more than 72000 energy channels or, nadis which cannot be seen? If we were so convinced then why do so many of us, at least within academic circles, buy into the Freudian model of the psychic apparatus and conveniently forget that The Haṭha Yoga Pradipika is less a text on a disease-free lifestyle than it is a Tantric text which shows how the entirety of Yogic praxes is Tantric in mode.

The followers of Sanatana Dharma often confuse and conflate various philosophical categories. We want scientific proof that Mahavatar Babaji exists when the existence of this sage cannot be proven like the existence of other beings or, qualia. Neither should one claim to be a follower of our sacred Dharma if we harp on logical positivism and the demands it makes for everything to be reduced to comprehensible materialist dialectics.

The Yoga Sutras speak of supernatural powers or siddhis. Now if someone has a problem with the nature of these siddhis then that person is not a follower of the Sanatana Dharma. It is wondrous that those who say they follow Sanatana Dharma do not hesitate to call schoolmasters and priests of other faiths, Fathers and Brothers, while these same people have problems with calling their own religious leaders Babas. These normative Hindus accept the sacerdotal and mysterious nature of the Christian vocation to the priesthood but balk at the sacerdotal and mysterious nature of those called by the Supreme Godhead within Sanatana Dharma.

The concept of the vocation is a mystery within both our Dharma and Christianity. A vocation is very different from a profession and is an anthropomorphic call which no amount of reasoning can explain; this author will write on vocations within our Dharma in another post in the future.

Instead of learning shraddha from Abrahamic faiths which teach their followers to trust in their holy books, most followers of Sanatana Dharma do not even know which are their holy books; forget reading them. The greatest threat to our Dharma comes from those who do not study our Faith with shraddha and open minds.

These same people do not hesitate to quote the Codes of Manu but are silent about polygamy among certain sects of Mormons and about an absolute ban on abortions among Roman Catholics. Roman Catholicism does not permit abortions even when a woman might die if the foetus is allowed to survive. If during regular prenatal checks, a foetus is found to have birth-defects, Roman Catholicism forbids aborting the foetus.

Seventh Day Adventists have an absolutist stance against blood transfusion even for hemophilia-patients. The Amish do not use electricity and modern automobiles even today in the United States since it is an Article of the Amish faith.

Anyone who happens to not agree with these Mysteries and Articles of these branches of Christianity are automatically excommunicated.

Some mysteries of Sanatana Dharma

What are some of the Mysteries of our Faith? Here we must be clear that ours is not a way of life. This ‘way of life’ discourse is a very nuanced and yet, wrong narrative. To explain how this narrative came into being and how it is sustained is beyond the scope of this article. Returning to the Mysteries of our Faith, we list a few here: 

1. There are many lives each jiva had to live, and many lives are to come till one has mukti. Mukti is different from salvation or redemption.

2. The law of Karma is at work, mitigated by the grace of the Supreme Godhead.

3. The Supreme Godhead is both without and with attributes.

4. The Supreme Godhead propels human history as various Incarnations as and when needed.

5. Our multiverses are in a constant state of flux.

6. We have souls and our souls are eternal. They were not created ex-nihilo, nor do we cease existing after we die. (One of the other Mysteries of the Christian Faith is that we are created ex-nihilo.) We are not stardust but as it were, God-dust. This is a Mystery of our Faith.

There are other Mysteries of our Faith like our knowledge of Yugas or aeons. To list them all here is impossible. Suffice it to say that Sanatana Dharma is a living religion with its own set of Mysteries. We need not have to prove to ourselves whether these Mysteries are scientifically feasible because then by their very definitions, these are no longer Mysteries. And, without the numinous there can be no religion. There can be ethical laws and communities built around those laws, but certainly no religion.

Mahavatar Babaji Cave, Dungairi in Kumaon.

We are not a legal community. We are a Faith community, with various patrimonies within the various branches of our Faith which are articulated in our Vedas, Tantras, Agamas, Siddhantas and in the Prasthana Traya. We are indeed one Faith community with various branches and not sects: since we all share in the aforementioned Mysteries.

Whether you are a Shaivite, or a Vaishnav, or a follower of the Nath tradition, you accept that it takes a long time to have mukti. All of us accept that Karma is real and without our lineage’s Gurus, we are nowhere. A great Mystery of our Faith is that the mantras are not divinized till an empowered Guru gives them to us. All followers of Sanatana Dharma agree in the power of the mantra. And all of us agree that these mantras are useless when simply read from dead books. 

Church in Stanford University, California. 2015.

Mysteries of Christianity 

Let us now turn to Christianity and try to learn from that religion with its various branches, some of their mysteries. Let us forget the past or how great we were in the past; let us look to some of the mysteries subscribed to by some of the most scientific people on earth. Do not forget that the Ivy League Universities are originally Christian Universities. People go to study at Jesuit run Universities like Boston University for the very quality of the rigor demanded by the Jesuits there. Again, let us not harp on how great we once were. If we are that great now, why do we hanker for Christian education in both our country and abroad?

A miracle in its truest sense is that which cannot be empirically proven now, nor can it be proven in the future by any advances within the empirical sciences. One can measure the effects of these miracles, but never the causes of those miracles. By this logic, the existence of God cannot be proven since God is in a different category of objects being the summum bonum of all miracles and mysteries. The very nature of the Supreme Godhead, being unknowable, that is, impassible, we cannot know God the way we can know any other embodied being.

1. To illustrate, the Historical Jesus Seminars’ scholars could prove that there existed Christ, but they could not prove that (according to Christians) Jesus was raised body and soul on the third day after the Crucifixion. That is a mystery of the Christian Faith. According to St. Paul, before his conversion called Saul, if anyone disbelieves in the death and the Resurrection of the Christ, then that person is not a Christian.

2. For Roman Catholics, it is an article of their Faith that the Mother of Jesus is a Virgin and she (and Jesus Christ who is fully man and God at the same time) alone among all humanity in the past and in the future, was raised body and soul to heaven. If a Christian does not believe in this, s/he is not a Roman Catholic but is a Protestant Christian. These are two of the Mysteries of Christianity.

3. Another mystery of the Christian faith is the concept of Original Sin. Other than Jesus for all Christians, and Jesus and the Holy Virgin Mary for Roman Catholics, all humanity before and after the birth of Jesus, are Fallen. This unique concept of Original Sin is also beyond human understanding. Why God allowed the Fall, to begin with, is unknown to this day and cannot be known in this life since according to the Bible, we see but darkly through a glass while alive.

Christian philosophers, theologians and scholars agree that Christianity in its essence is mysterious, and it is a mistake to apply empirical methods to interrogate these fundamental tenets of their faith.

4. For instance, Christians including the Mormons and the Amish, all believe in the existence of absolute evil not in a metaphorical sense but as very real - in the persons of Satan and Satan’s minions. There are no scientific explanations possible today or in the far-off future for the existence of Satan and other demons. This too is a mystery of the Christian faith - why does an all merciful, all loving God, allow evil to exist and persist? This is the Problem of Evil and is beyond ratiocination.

5. According to Roman Catholics, their Pope is infallible in matters only of dogma. The Pope, we must also mention, can never be a woman, because according to Canon Law, the Petrine Office is exclusively male. For Roman Catholics, the Pope is always right in doctrinal matters when he speaks as the Supreme Pontiff of his Church. Anyone who disagrees with the Pope is immediately a Protestant.

6. Catholics are beatified long after their deaths on the basis of two medically validated miracles on earth. If there are no miracles, then there can be no Catholic Saints. These miracles, as had been pointed out earlier, can never in the future be explained by science. We accept these miracles but reject our Faith’s own miracles and seek scientific validation.  

7. Evangelical Christians hold that outside of Christianity there can be no salvation. This too is a mystery as also are the existence of heaven and hell. Christians also believe in purgatory where the sins of the faithful are cleansed. These are not merely mysteries. They are dogmas in the strictest sense of the term dogma. If anyone disagrees with these mysteries, then that person ceases to be a Christian of that sect.

8. When a Roman Catholic priest celebrates the Holy Mass, then it is a mystery of that faith as also a dogma of Roman Catholicism that the wafer and the wine change to the flesh and blood of Christ, respectively. If any disagree, then s/he is not a Roman Catholic.

Calvinists believe in the mystery of predestination. Some wo/men are born already saved. Others howsoever holy in this life are born eternally damned to rot in hell.

9. Heaven, hell, purgatory, and limbo are mysteries of Christianity which are studied within the academic discipline of eschatology.

10. Pneumatology studies the existence of the Holy Spirit who is coexistent with God and His Son, Jesus, is also a mystery accepted by all Christians.

It seems to this author that only us Sanatana Dharmis must prove to ourselves that we are a living religion and a Faith Community and ours is not just another rational way of life. If someone is ill-read in philosophy, then they will counter that ours is neither an irrational way of life following the Western rule of excluded middle. One needs to understand that the opposite of rationality is not irrationality, but a world constructed through fallibilist theology. To provide an analogy, the Buddha’s Middle Path is not about eating in moderation, but it is about being neither a realist, nor an idealist. 

According to Christian polemicists, to think that all religious paths lead to the same result is a sign of religious and moral relativism. This author is in agreement with Christian theologians and polemicists. It is indeed erroneous to think that the Sanatana Dharma is the same as any other religion.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, if we are all Faith Communities and not legal communities, we as individuals are defined by what we believe in and not what we can only grasp through our perceptions/senses. If we only believe in that which can be perceived and cognized, then we are everything else but religious. We are then materialists and nothing more.

Buddhists, Jainas, Shaivites

Even Buddhists hold firm to their belief in dependent origination and whether one is a Theravadin or a Vajrayana practitioner, they all hold that the mystery of dependent origination is true. As followers of the Sanatana Dharma, we do not agree with Buddhism according to which the jiva does not actually exist. We hold that our souls are real since the Great Forest Upanishad teaches us that we are as caterpillars on leaves which go from one leaf to another while transmigrating from body to body. We do not agree with the Jainas that there is no Brahman or Supreme Godhead. From the Seventh Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, we are told that God is all too real. Our Shaiva Siddhantas hold that Shiva is indeed to be found in the jiva, but Shiva is also self-originated and external to all pashus (those of us who are in bondage through greed, lust, anger, and attachment). The Great Forest Upanishad says that one becomes what one is now through past actions; yet this same Upanishad says that we all have a foundational essence --- the Atman. Therefore, it is a patrimony and Mystery of our Faith that we know the nature or the essence of reality to be thick and not empty as the Buddhists hold.

When the epochal Avatara, Ramakrishna Paramhansa said that there are as many paths to God as there are people, He was referring to the Bhagavad Gita. He never said that all paths are the same, in fact he outlined the differences between religious paths. It is a very different matter that He being an Incarnation could subsume the many paths within Himself since He recapitulated in His Life the Universal Form of the Supreme Godhead as described in the Bhagavad Gita. We must not for a moment believe that we are like Sri Ramakrishna. We are pashus.

And to realize that we are the children of Brahman we must follow our Dharma which I repeat is not a mere way of life. When someone worships a tree, or thinks of the nirguna Brahman, that person is following the Sanatana Dharma, since all these dulia and hyperdulia gesture towards various forms of qualified and non-qualified monism.

The Supreme Lord says further in the Bhagavad Gita that only a child thinks that Samkhya and Yoga are different. When the Yoga Sutras speak of purity within and without, that text is pointing not only to the cleansing of the five basic materials constituting our bodies but also to the consequent resettling of the Tanmatras. So, without understanding Samkhya one cannot practice Yoga and without understanding either, one cannot practice for instance, the teachings of the Pancharatra texts.

Unless you believe that Yoga, Samkhya, and Vaishnava truths are all your patrimonies, you are not a Hindu. Let us learn from those of other Faiths that it does not matter whether you are a Tamil or a Garhwali or a Bengali or even someone who has been drawn to our Faith in Sudan, Argentina or, Canada. You are a Sanatana Dharmi if you accept our Shastras and the Mysteries of our Faith as those who follow the Abrahamic religions accept the Mysteries of their Faiths.

You are not alone, neither is it that you have no religion to follow, nor is it that yours is only another way of life: your coming into our Faith is itself a Mystery and miracle since The Katha Upanishad says the Supreme Godhead chooses whom It pleases to choose. You, the foreigner is a living example, of the Mystery called the Sanatana Dharma. 

The future of our Dharma is in the hands of those who have not been born to our religion and yet it is to them the Dharma has revealed Itself. They alone know about the Mysteries of other religions which they freely discarded as being intellectually and emotively untenable and then they have sought initiation in our Faith. 

Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay has a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in Prabuddha Bharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences. 

To read all articles by author

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2. Easter Traditions

3. Characteristics of Indian Philosophy 

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