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Eastern Focus, Western Comment
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Rev Alvin V P Hart and Satyaraja Dasa Adhikari
Krsna [Krishna] Consciousness and Christianity:  East-West Dialogues (No Publication Information, 1989. 105p.)
(This book is out of print)

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This is a short little book, but it contains some weighty matters.  I read through it carefully, noting various points about Vedic religion, which I have not reviewed in some time.  This is a lively and congenial discussion by a Christian pastor and professor with a Teacher of Krishna Consciousness, popularly known as Hare Krishna.

The Personalities
Hart is an Anglican clergyman, who has long studied the writings and practices of the east.  Adhikari is a teacher of Vedanta and has spent a lot of time in the west, and both studying western religion and teaching western students of Vedanta.

Hart and Adhikari discuss the differences and similarities in the concepts of god, salvation and spiritual progress in the two religious traditions.  The Krishna Consciousness representative takes this opportunity to explain how his movement represents the oldest stream of Indian religious philosophical thought of monotheism, which is diluted in the more recent and more popular forms of what came to be called Hinduism.

Bridging Gaps
In the discussion I got the feeling that Hart makes the greatest effort to bridge gaps by trying to understand the point of view of the Vedantic scriptures.  Adhikari is congenial and interactive, but more like an advocate for his own point of view or that of his religion.

Hart is concerned to clearly understand the points Adhikari makes from his Hindu viewpoint.  Hart then makes points of contact with traditional Christian teachings and scriptural themes.  Hart seems more familiar with Vedanta scriptures than Adhikari does with Christian scripture.

The discussion seems to be more one-sided, as a discussion of Vedanta points by a Hindu and a Christian.  The guiding framework of the exchange is the Vedanta point of view and such points of contact as the Christian might make.  Hart points out where some Christian teaching or biblical theme might relate to some Vedanta focus.

Points of View
On occasion the discussion shifts to include more of the Christian point of view.  The mental picture I got as I read through the discussion was of Adhikari standing and presenting at a podium before a public audience, and Hart questioning and commenting from a seat to the side.

The Christian claims and historical theological motifs did not get the attention that the Krsna-Consciousness-interpreted Vedanta themes received.  This did not come off like a discussion between two religions, nor a comparisons of particular claims of each religion, either similar of distinctive.  A Hindu reading this booklet will not get much of an idea of Christina perspectives or beliefs.

Also, it appears that this book is a simple transcription of an oral public discussion.

There appears to have been no opportunity for either participant to fill out or clarify the points, or extend the discussion in writing and reflection later.  This probably accounts for the somewhat uneven tone of the material and the direction of the discussion.

The range of topics is also rather narrow, and could only be considered a sketch of what is offered in the title "East-West Dialogue."

The discussion will be of interest to casual observers and westerners interested in Vedanta.  Some avid Christians will find this helpful in clarifying the claims or themes of traditional basic Hindu thought.  Some, or perhaps most, Christians will be somewhat frustrated by the lack of similar clarity that seems to result on the Christian side.

Hare Krishna
I noticed also that there is not a clear distinction between the writings of the Vedanta texts themselves, and the focuses and teachings of the Krishna Consciousness Movement.

The movement is a recently "revival" movement for the more simple early Vedanta thought, without some of the later accretions of polytheism and occult.  However, Adhikari makes too much of a one-to-one claim for ancient Vedanta and Hare Krishna that it seems to me can be realistically warranted.

Those unfamiliar with Hinduism at all will find this a congenial introduction, but should be aware that this is a quite truncated view and should be considered particularly definitive.  The exchange is interesting if not in the end very valuable.  It is a good exercise of discipline for a westerner who is unfamiliar with eastern thought, especially an avid Christian who has had no contact with a Hindu believer.

Only a smattering of Hindu thought, even in its basic simple form as advocated by Hare Krishna (Krishna Consciousness), is actually available here.  This discussion is like a snapshot in a movie sequence.

The Hindu scriptures are massive and disparate.  There are different philosophies and worldviews in the "Hindu" religious cultures.  (Be aware that originally the word "Hindu" just meant "Indian.")

See related articles on this site:
[TXT] The Exclusively Inclusive Gospel
[review] Karma and Christ:  A Dialogue
[Review] Resources for Diversity
[TXT] A Simple Theology of Religions

This book is out of print.
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Reading Notes first written 27 July 2007
Review written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 17 November 2008
Last edited 24 March 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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