Q: Many teachers of the Advaita Vedanta branch of Hinduism teach that all human beings have the capacity to realize their true nature, which is oneness with God and feel that Christ''s teachings reflect his identity and oneness with God.
As a Hindu for the past 17 years, I am currently struggling with trying to break free from the concept of pantheistic monism and the Eastern goal of attaining "oneness with God" (similar to Christian "Quietism"). The passage, "Be still and know that I am God" has also been used by many Hindus to advocate meditation techniques for the purpose of realizing one''s inner Divinity. In this view, Christ died on the cross simply to show His obedience to God, not for any other reason. And Christ rose from the dead because all Avatars have power over death and over the elements, not just Christ.
I am wondering if you can provide scriptural references which clarify this issue, as I long to understand the true meaning of Christ''s life and teachings.
A: The key to correctly understanding the teachings of Jesus is to look up the passages that are cited. I have often heard New Age and Vedantic teachers cite the Bible with a completely different meaning that the one clearly intended in the context of the writing, sometimes exactly the opposite meaning! The example you have given (“Be still and know that I am God”) is a great example of this. This is a quote from Psalm 46. I have quoted the entire Psalm for you below, putting the quotation in bold.
The context of this song is one where there is trouble and disaster of some kind around. “Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” This is clearly some natural disaster used as a example of perhaps the most terrible disaster that could come naturally on the earth (and therefore on men). The contrast to this disaster is then given “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…” In other words, God is not destroyed of undone; though the earth may fail, God will not fail. The next line says, “God is within her, (the city of God) she will not fail. The writer of this song then turns to the troubles of the nations (political turmoil, war, etc. assumed) “The nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;” In contrast to this trouble again the song writer appeals to the person of God. “He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow…” In fact, the writer even suggests that God is behind some of the troubles and turmoil—bringing them to an end: “Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth…”
Now comes the quote that you referred to, “Be still and know that I am God.” In context, you can see that this has nothing to do with meditation, not even prayer. It is a phrase of comfort in the midst of troubles. It is an exhortation to men to realize that God has not left us when troubles and wars and turmoil break out. It is the call to realize that God is not undone and remains unmoved.
Let me give you another example I heard to show you the simple need to consult the context. I heard a major western New Age teacher cite Exodus 3. This is where God reveals His name to Moses. The teacher said, quoting a phrase that God in each of us, just as God said to Moses, “I am.” His point was that God is in each of us and Moses was pointing this out—teaching us that “I am” is proof from Moses that he wanted us to know that we are each divine. Did God say this to Moses? Yes and no. Did he say, “I am” to Moses? Yes. Did God mean God is within when He said this to Moses? Absolutely not! Moses is called by God to go to Egypt and be the leader to set the Israelites from their slavery. Moses says he does not even know God’s name and asks, “Who shall I say sent me?” God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’"
Notice how the quotation of this by this teacher actually turns what God says upside down. Here is God, as a separate being communicating with Moses as a man. The New Age teacher says that God is inside of Moses and he needs to know this, and that “I am” teaches this. The truth is that when you look it up in context it means that God is simply saying to Moses that He is God—God who is self-existent and uncreated; not merely the God of Israel, but God.
I think you will find that this simple technique of simply looking up what they say the Bible says to check them out will solve most of the troubles you may encounter. There are two kinds of people who quote the Bible in this way, those who simply haven’t read the Bible, and those who knowingly use it deceptively. I think many know very well that the Bible does not teach these things, but want to validate their own teaching so much that they make the Bible say something it does not say.
The best way to understand who Jesus is, is to read the Gospels in the Bible. This assures that you are not taking someone else’s word for it, or someone’s interpretation. You will be able to read it in context and understand. There are four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Ammachi’s teaching runs quickly into contradiction from the words of Jesus himself. He clearly declares He is the only Son of God and the only way to God. (e.g. John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.). The clearly stated purpose for the cross is not that men would realize their divinity, but that they would have a basis for forgiveness (the substitution of Jesus in paying the penalty for our sins). This is evident from the reading of the Bible.
Again, the best and easiest thing is to read for yourself what Jesus said in the Bible. This is the antidote to uncertainty about the teaching of Jesus. Yes, there will still be some things you may not understand. However, you will be able to understand that Jesus is not an avatar, Jesus is not teaching Vedantic doctrine.
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to A song.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.