Just as we have looked at Griffiths' evaluation and understanding of religions based on the characteristics of the three particular phases in his own life, we undertake here to situate his own experience and articulation of advaita in his life. Since advaita is something that has intimately to do with a non-dual experience of the whole cosmic reality , including oneself, it would be no exaggeration to claim that it will have a significant effect on his own personal life. That is precisely what happened. After he suffered a stroke in 1990, he became even more personally convinced and mature in his personal assimilation of advaita. So it would be better for us to subdivide his experience of advaita, into four phases in his life instead of the normal three, as we have been doing till now. In the last phase (1990-1993), we shall see the final flowering and integration of advaitic insights in his own life.

            The procedure in this chapter is first to introduce the significant term advaita from the context of general Indian philosophy with special reference to _a_kara (also spelled as Shankara , A.D. 788-850). Then we try to trace Griffiths' advaitic insights in his life phases. In the first phase, we can only trace some elements of advaita, and it is just before his death that we find its culmination. So schematically we can divide his life phases and his articulation of advaita as follows:


Phases of Life            Views of Religion            Notion of Advaita


1. Catholic            Individuality                   Initial Advaitic Traces

2. Monk            Fulfillment                     Initial Articulation

3. Advaitin            Complementarity             Christian Advaita

                                                            Living out Advaita


            Basically we trace the meaning of advaita from dvaita . Dvaita means two or duality, and, since a is a negating prefix, advaita means not two or not dual. This implies a relationship which is not two, not dual. This has to be differentiated from monism. We can say, in short, that philosophically advaita is used to denote a relationship (therefore not pure monism) which does not lead to duality. This concept was perfected by _a_kara in the ninth century AD. Basically it expresses a relationship between God and world or between God and soul, that is between j_v_tman and param_tman . Classically this relationship or t_d_tmya would imply possessing that as one's deeper self. T_d_tmya could be studied in terms of non-reciprocity, dependence, non-separatedness, non-otherness and distinction as given below.


T_d-_tmya : The Non-reciprocal Relation Between J_v-_tma and Param-_tma.


            Since the absolute self is the total Cause of the universe, both its up_dh_na (cause giving rise to reality ) and nimitta k_ra a (efficient cause), it is immanent in its effects as Illuminator,143 as supreme Witness (S_k in )144 and Indwelling spirit (Antary_min ).145 So _a_kara holds that the relation between the world and Brahman and individual soul and Brahman is one of t_d_tmya . This term t_d_tmya could be translated as `identity'. Etymologically it means that (tat ) as one's _tman,146 that is, the world of soul has that as its _tman. That is, Brahman is considered as being the innermost reality of its effects but not identical with them. Having shown the non-difference or non-duality of cause and effect, _a_kara wants to speak about the various characteristics of this relation. He maintains that in spite of the non-difference of cause and effects, we cannot insist on an absolute equality of characteristics. "If absolute equality is insisted on. . . . The relation of up_dh_na cause and effect would be annihilated."147 The non-difference of cause and effect does not do away with the superiority of the cause. Some of the characteristics of this t_d_tmya (non-difference) are:


            Non-reciprocity : The relation of the effect to the _tman is not mutual. There cannot be a relationship of mutuality between the cause and effect. "The effect has its _tmans in the Cause, but not the Cause in the effect."148 Thus "the apparent world has Brahman for its depth [or ontological] nature and not vice versa."149 So this relation is one-sided. There exists only a logical relation from cause to effect, whereas from effect to cause there is a metaphysically real relationship. This creatureship is intrinsic to creatures but creatorship is only extrinsic to creator.


            Dependence : Effect has no existence apart from the cause. It is totally and ontologically dependent on the cause. "It is an accepted principle even in the world that an effect is intimately dependent (anuvidhayin ) on its Cause."150 


            Non-Separateness: Non-separateness is due to the total, ontological dependence upon the cause. "All the created beings abide within the Puru a, for every effect rests within its cause."151 "The effects with all its qualities do not exist without the _tman of the Cause either now or before its actual beginning."152 


            Non-Otherness : This denies otherness strictly understood, that is, mutual foreignness, heterogeneity and ontological independence from its cause. If beings are considered as `other' with regard to Brahman, they would be independent absolutes. There would be no satk_ryav_da (effect pre-existing in the cause). Being would be ontologically unrelated as the nine substances of the vaise ika and the prakriti and puru a of the S_mkhya philosophy . For _a_kara non-otherness is non-existence apart from the cause. He says it is impossible to bring an effect which is different from its cause.153 "There exists in the past, present or future not one thing simply other than the _tman, simply non-_tman, separated by space or time, utterly subtle, disconnected and remote."154 


            Distinction: Though _a_kara insists on the non-difference of Cause and effect, he denies at the same time their absolute identity. The immanence of the up_dh_na (reality giving cause) into its effects is brought out by saying that the effect exists through the _tman of the cause. He also stresses that the effects are always superseded by their inner cause and thus inferior to cause. Hence it is distinct from it. If absolute equality and identity were insisted on, the relation of cause and effect would be done away with.155 


            The philosophical complexity that emerges from an attempted rational understanding of advaita 156 is best shown by Griffiths through the characteristics of intuitive knowledge and love. Where love is deep and mutual, it is proper to claim that the two loved ones are neither one (that is, submerged into one) nor two (that is, separated individa). Their mutual interdependence and interaction give rise to a wholeness that is greater than the mere sum of their parts.157 This is the fundamental intuition lying behind Griffiths' formulation of Christian advaita. Such an understanding of advaita is applied both to the divine mystery of the Trinity – that is, to the relationship that exits between the Divine persons in the Trinity158 – and to the mystery of the relationship between the God and soul/world. Besides that of love, there is also, according to Griffiths, a relationship of knowledge within the divine mystery and between the world and the soul.

            The primary adversary in Griffiths' attempts at formulating a Christian advaita is the `pure' or `strict' advaita, which is nothing but pure monism. The pure advaita is an interpretation that the divine mystery is in itself undifferentiated and beyond all possible relationships since it is the "One without a second,"159 and it is all and it is beyond all. The most tragic consequence of such a view of advaita is the fact that it ultimately leaves no possibility for the real existence of either the soul or the world. Differentiation, according to this interpretation, is merely an illusion born out of ignorance and is to be eliminated with the final enlightenment.

            His reflections upon the advaita as a philosophy and as an experience of the divine mystery have significant and far-reaching impact not just on his personal life. It draws him further towards a vision of how the different religions converge and how the cultures of the world may move beyond mutual distrust and competition towards mutual co-operation and complementarity .




            The primary intuitions of Griffiths about advaita can be traced even to his early writings and to his early experiences with nature, though in a very germinal form .160 Here of course, if we be allowed to speak of some advaitic insights, it would be at a very initial and undeveloped level, specially in relation to nature, as in the poets and philosophers of romanticism. We could also trace it to the epistemological union between knowledge and the knower.

            Thus a basic foundation of advaita lies in our daily experiences at a depth level. Hermeneutically speaking, there is a union in every significant knowing; a link between the knower and the known. Between the known and the knower there is a kind of union or "connaturality"161 which the knower has with the known through the medium of knowledge. This could be extended to the spiritual level to claim that there is a fundamental relation between the experience and the experienced, even in the experience of self-transcendence in a unitive knowledge or in a loving surrender. Again there is another sort of non-duality between the very process of knowing and that of loving. For at the depth level, there cannot be true knowledge without some sort of intimate love and conversely there cannot be genuine love, without at least some sort of knowledge. "This is essentially a mystery of love. When two people love one another they do not lose their distinction of person , they become more fully personal."162 In this way we can claim that there is a non-duality between the act of knowing and the act of loving and this relationship continues between the knower and the known and between the lover and the loved. This intuitions of advaita in any relationship have been with Griffiths throughout his life. In that significant experience of the evening walk,163 when he felt so much one with the nature, elements of advaitic experience could be traced. Still it would be an exaggeration to claim that he could then consciously articulate such an experience in advaitic categories. But the germinal experience, which was only latent at that time, bore its mature fruit later with his deeper encounter with Hinduism .




            Griffiths had been in close contact with Ved_nta philosophy ever since he reached India in 1955.164 His many encounters with exponents and interpreters of Ved_nta in Bangalore led him to a deep admiration for and a nagging skepticism of Ved_nta. It is this ambivalent reaction which could be perceived even in his own formulation of a Christian advaita .

            Positively, in his writings of 1960s, he acknowledges that the Hindu witness to advaita is vitally significant for all, including Christians. This experience of advaita is for him a mystical intuition and not just a metaphysical conclusion about the human soul being in the center of a relationship to the divine mystery . Negatively, it was evident for Griffiths that advaita, as it is commonly understood and practiced, with its denial of the world realities, was not fully acceptable to him.

            Further, it is interesting for us to see how Griffiths describes the early encounters with advaita , in the first stage of his life in India . He is certainly positively oriented. He describes this advaitic experience as:165 


            [U]ltimately an experience of the soul in its inmost depths; through it we get beyond the world of the sense, beyond our imaginations, beyond all the world of thought which always occupies us, until we reach the inner center where the soul is resting in itself. Maritain calls it an "experience of the substantial being of the soul," the soul in its ground of reality .


            This advaitic intuition of the soul resting in itself is "a very great thing"166 for him and has, he holds, nothing suspicious about it. So he vehemently disagrees with R.C. Zaehner's critique of advaita as a doctrine whereby the soul is being "closed" in itself, that is, in "isolation" leading to the "deadest of dead-ends."167 With regards to this opinion of Zaehner, Griffiths affirms:168


            I agree with Professor Zaehner that the Hindu experience is an experience of the soul in itself, beyond image and concept in the "ground" of its being, but, so far from its being "closed," I would maintain that it is precisely in this "ground" that the soul is "open" to all beings. So far from a "dead-end," it is a living point, which opens on the infinite. In other words, it is at this point above all that man is open to God.


            Meanwhile Griffiths draws on "the extraordinary fertility" that this advaitic experience has shown in the course of human history to support his claims for the validity of such an experience . This sort of an experience of the soul in its very "center" beyond all images and concepts, which is described as a realization of the non-dual reality , is actually an encounter with the divine mystery .169 He has absolutely no quarrel with it. Though Hindus and Buddhists may describe this experience quite differently, according to Griffiths, their realizations are fundamentally the same. The general orientation toward the interior life implicit in such a realization is what Christians can learn from them. At the same time Christians also have to offer some significant correctives and modifications to the Eastern religions in this experience.


Growing Awareness of Advaita


            At this second stage, it is obvious, that Griffiths has come to relate to the advaitic tradition much more closely. This has a profound impact on his own personal life. We first see his direct encounter with advaita and see how he differentiated between the actual experience of advaita and the various interpretations that follow from this experience. He does it in order to distance himself from many (even prominent) interpretations of this basic experience , which he feels are defective. In the next step, we try to follow Griffiths in articulating his own convictions of a Christian advaita. Committed to his Christian vision of society and of the world, he does take a reserved attitude towards the monistic trends in advaita and vigorously rejects the pure advaita which affirms the absolute identity between Brahman and the soul. On the other hand, he denotes this union by the term `mutual co-penetration.' In formulating his own Christian vision, he is very much influenced by Eckhart 's mystic vision of reality . Finally, in the Trinity , with its positive understanding of the person , he sees an articulation of his own growing view of advaita.

            In this second phase, Griffiths differentiates between the `experience ' and the `interpretation ' of advaita in Hinduism in no uncertain terms. He affirms that "[t]his Hindu experience, though it has various interpretations which may not be altogether adequate, is a very great thing."170 Further, for him the defects and weakness of advaita are actually due to the distorting interpretations that follow from the positive experience of advaita. Since Indian philosophy does not have an adequate way to describe the relationship between the world and the divine, the experience of non-duality overshadows the reality of differences. This actually removes the ground for any relationship that could occur, be it between the divine and the world or between the param_tman or j_v_tman . So the obvious danger of such an interpretation is that it undercuts and relativizes reality. Griffiths sees in _a_kara such a radically devastating position. This ninth century philosopher, said to be the founder of advaita Ved_nta , is supposed to represent a view according to which all differences are to disappear in the experience of non-duality, confirming the unreal status of the real world. In fact, the entire world of experience, the world of difference, is a misperception of a `superimposition' upon the non-dual reality and is actually m_ya (illusion) . When one is awakened through mystical discipline and recognizes this fact of m_ya, the dream of this world of appearances disappears and the true reality, Brahman , is experienced.171 

            As Griffiths notes, within Ved_nta tradition itself there are various diverging views and oppositions to this pure advaitic position of _a_kara. Some other schools within Ved_nta tried to defend a personal God and to deny such a strict interpretation of m_ya and the world. The Vi_i _dvaita or "qualified non-dualism" of Ramanuja (11th century) and `dvaita' (dualism) of Madhva (13th century) are examples. The bhakti (devotion) tradition also emerged as a reaction to the strict Ved_ntic interpretations.

            As opposed to _a_kara (interpreted classically), Griffiths is more attuned to the early 20th century sage from Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ghose. For Aurobindo, in a genuine spiritual awakening, rather than dissolving like a dream or illusion, the world will actually be taken up, transformed and experienced as consisting within the divine mind itself. Griffiths says that in Aurobindo's philosophy "there is a wonderful synthesis, based on the Ved_nta , of ancient and modern thought. In him the values of being and becoming, of spirit and matter , of the One and the many, of the eternal and the temporal, of the universal and the individual, of the personal God and the absolute Godhead, are integrated in a vision of the whole, which has never been surpassed in depth and comprehensiveness. In the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo the values of matter and human consciousness and the experience of a personal god are not lost in the ultimate reality , the divine Saccid_nanda . Matter and life and consciousness in the human being are seen to be evolving towards the divine life and the divine consciousness, in which they are not annihilated but fulfilled."172 Further, he asserts that this is the Christian advaita . Nevertheless, Griffiths remains skeptical. He is not sure if Aurobindo's system adequately resolves the fundamental issue of the relationship of the world to the divine mystery .

            So Griffiths maintains that "[f]or the Ved_nta the problem always arises that if the world is conceived to be real it is never adequately distinguished from God, so that it falls into pantheism, that is to say, the world is considered to be divine; or if, like _a_kara, it is determined to preserve the purity of the divine nature, then it is compelled to deny the reality of the world."173 

            From these reflections, it could be inferred that two issues which Griffiths tries to see in his advaitic vision are the relationship with the Godhead and the reality of the world. To emphasize this is the next step as Griffiths goes on to formulate a Christian vision of Ved_nta .


First Expressions of Christian Advaita


            Two Primary Differences. As already indicated, it is Griffiths' fundamental intuition that reality is non-dual. This non-duality is to be confirmed not only by his own personal, contemplative experience s but also by the general Christian experience . At the same time he thinks that Christianity can contribute to and enrich the understanding of advaita mainly in two ways:


            a. By introducing the relationship of love that exists between soul and God;

            b. By affirming that the reality of this world is to be taken seriously.


            Firstly, Griffiths holds that the relationship between the soul and God cannot be one of total identity, whereby the soul loses itself completely in the Divine. Even in the highest communion with God the individual does not cease to exist, does not just dissolve into the Ultimate. Griffiths articulates this position quite emphatically:174 


            For the Hindu and the Buddhist , . . . in the ultimate state there is an absolute identity. Man realizes his identity with the absolute and realizes that this identity is eternal and unchangeable. In the Christian view man remains distinct from God. He is a creature of God, and his being raised to a participation in the divine life is an act of God's grace, a gratuitous act of infinite love, by which God descends to man in order to raise him to share in his own life and knowledge and love. In this union man truly shares in the divine mode of knowledge, he knows himself in an identity with God, but he remains distinct in his being. It is an identity, or rather a communion, by knowledge and love, not an identity of being.


            This basic distinction could be traced back to the differing concepts of interiority between Hinduism and Christianity . "For the Hindu interiority consists in a progressive detachment from everything both external and internal, leading to the isolation of the soul in its pure interiority. But for the Christian, interiority begins with repentance; it is the discovery of the abyss which separates the soul from God. But with this discovery goes the discovery of the love which bridges this abyss. Thus the soul in the interior abyss of its own being confronts God in the abyss of his being."175 Griffiths stresses the aspects of love, knowledge and relationship that are involved in such a state. Such a union would not be characterized by the drop-ocean analogy , according to Griffiths.176

            At the same time Griffiths acknowledges that there are diverse views in Hinduism regarding the relationship between soul and God. But he agrees that the pure advaitic doctrine of _a_kara predominates among the Hindu elite. So he affirms:177 


            We can say that there is a continual tension in Indian spirituality in its aspiration after union with God. On the one hand there is the doctrine that in the ultimate state all differences disappear, so that the soul and God are one in absolute identity of being; on the other hand there is the belief that the soul and God are really distinct and that in the ultimate state of bliss there is communion but not identity. But it must be said that today the tendency is to hold that whatever differences may exist in the relative sphere, in the ultimate state the advaita doctrine of _a_kara has the last word and all differences disappear.


            Secondly, Griffiths is convinced, following his Christian commitment, that the world has to be understood as real. Such a corrective is needed in his opinion to prevent the dangers of monism and pantheism. In the former, the reality of the world is lost in God, and in the latter the transcendence of God is lost in the world and God becomes subject to the vicissitudes of time and space. Christianity , for Griffiths, is a reconciliation between these two extremes.178 Concretely Griffiths refers to the Christian doctrines of creation and incarnation which would be beneficial to resolve the difficulties found in advaita . The doctrine of creation supports a clear delineation between the Creator and the creature. Even admitting the "analogy of participation ," the differences and distinction between the Creator and the creature can never be totally eliminated. So Griffiths could boldly assert: "The world is not an emanation from God nor an appearance of God, but a creation; a relative mode of being dependent on his absolute Being, existing temporally not eternally and dependent for its existence no less than for its essence on him. It is this doctrine which gives that reality to the world, distinct from God yet totally dependent on him, which Ramanuja and Madhva were seeking."179 The incarnational experience of Jesus and his intimate relationship with his Father indicate that even his profound experience of union in love has not led to a loss of identity. Further, incarnation affirms the reality and purpose of the created world and human history. Such a world and history is consecrated by God and becomes a symbol for God. This world and history do not just disappear in God ultimately, but retain their essential character. In other words, the world is destined to be a "new creation."

            In spite of these two fundamental differences, Griffiths holds that the Christian experience of God and world could be truly interpreted as advaitic . The key to such an understanding and interpretation lies in the nature of the divine mystery , as expressed in the doctrine of Trinity .180 According to our author "it is only in the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and incarnation that the mystery of love and personal relationship in God and between man can be reconciled with the absolute unity and simplicity of the Godhead, and its absolute transcendence ."181 Our author sees Rahner 's attempt at formulating an "ontology of symbolic reality " as a proper move in this direction.182


            Eckhart 's Contribution. In Meister Eckhart , Griffiths finds a clear case of Christian advaitic realization. Even admitting that some of Eckhart's theological articulations are not precise (and so he was rightly condemned by the Church), Griffiths holds that his basic insight is orthodox and enables us to maintain the necessary distinction and relationship between God, soul and the world and within the Godhead itself. Griffiths traces in Eckhart an advaita as he recalls:183 


            [W]e must remember that Eckhart was building on the Christian doctrine of grace. This ascent to God takes place for him `in Christ', that is in the Word , and what he seems to be seeking is the participation of the intellect in God's own knowledge of himself. Now it is strictly true to say that in God's own knowledge of himself in his Word there are no real distinctions. God knows himself and all created things in one simple pure act of knowledge, which is identical with his being. In this sense it is true to say that the knowledge of God is `advaita ', without duality. As Aquinas teaches, `ideas' in God, that is God's knowledge of created things, are identical with the divine essence. If therefore the soul by grace should participate in God's own mode of knowledge it would know all things, itself included, in this simple mode of knowledge `without duality'.


            So as Trapnell remarks184 Griffiths finds in Eckhart the insight that the Christian advaita is experienced through God's own self-expression in the Word , participating in the experience of Jesus. By sharing in Jesus' experience of God as Father , one participates in the very life of the divine persons who represent the mystery of love, who is God. Here again we see the importance of love and knowledge in a Christian advaita. In the Trinitarian mode of revelation, as we shall see in the next section, this characteristic of, and interplay between, oneness and relationship can be found. The identity that is experienced between the soul and God is a participation in God's own self-revelation, in his knowledge. Herein neither the soul not the world loses itself in dissipation:185 


            [I]t remains true, that, though `identified' with God by knowledge, the soul yet remains distinct by nature. Though the mode of knowledge is different, and distinctions, as we conceive them, cease to exist, yet the distinctions remain in reality . Man and the world are not lost in God, nor are the persons absorbed in the unity of Godhead. It is these distinctions which Christian orthodoxy is concerned to maintain, since they allow for relationship both between man and man in the mystical body of Christ, and between man and God. They leave a `space' for the relation of love between persons, between the person of God and his creatures and between the persons within the Godhead. It is probable that Eckhart intended to retain these distinctions, but his language often obscures them.


            Trinity. This distinction that lies in the realm of reality is not merely in the realm of human concepts. This important distinction of non-duality, claims Griffiths, is grounded in the fundamental differentiation between God and God's self-expression, which is symbolized in the Trinity and which exemplifies the paradox of relationship within unity that is characteristic of all knowing and loving. Griffiths calls this unity and distinction at the level of knowing and that of loving as a "mutual co-penetration."186 Such a distinction could be properly understood only from the perspectives of two (or more) persons entering into a mutual and meaningful relationship. Without a realistic concept of person , even this rich concept of relationship remains not fully understandable. Further, Griffiths concludes rather boldly that this notion of person and "the mystery of the Person, both in God and in man is something which Indian thought has never properly conceived, and which was in fact brought to light only through the revelation of Christ. It is actually in this very mystery of the Person that the paradox of relationship and identity is grounded and could be reconciled."187 The very profound notion of "person " enables one to understand freedom, responsibility and even human love. For such a personal view of humanity the model in Christianity is the Trinity itself.

            Thus, it is significant that Griffiths finds the basis for the advaitic experience in the fundamental Christian doctrine of Trinity . The Trinity is further used to understand and even to justify the fundamental Hindu insight of advaita . So we can already find a very rich and mutually benefiting interaction between Hinduism and Christianity at this stage. It may at the same time be remembered that Panikkar, Griffiths' close companion, has used the very profound symbol of Trinity as a means to unify and relate religions. So it is extremely interesting that the symbol of Trinity, which seems to be so unique to Christianity and which some unfortunately find rather embarrassing today, and which has even become rather paradoxical,188 emerges in these thinkers as a unifying symbol between various religious traditions .

            The two correctives which Griffiths advocates for a Christian advaita are that of "relationship and realism."189 For him in the ultimate experience of union with the divine neither the soul nor the world is lost in complete oneness, as exemplified in Jesus. A relationship, which is a sign of the realization of how all is already known and loved by God, and is preserved in this state of absolute union.




            In the later stage of griffiths' spiritual and intellectual development, one can see both continuity and the development of his earlier writings. Griffiths continues to hold the principles of relationship and realism that we already have seen above. At the same time his stay in __ntivanam and his reflections from 1968 contributed significantly to a better and more profound understanding of a Christian version of advaita .


Overcoming Difficulties


            Persisting Problems. The earlier world-negating interpretation of _a_kara's advaita was corrected by Griffiths with the guidance of Richard De Smet and Sara Grant. Both have attempted to understand and interpret _a_kara from a Christian perspective.

            Still the problem that persists with _a_kara is his teaching that the personal God (Bhagaw_n ), who forms part of the world of appearance, is relative.190 Instead of rejecting this position of _a_kara as misleading, Griffiths evaluates it as reciprocal. He sees this view of _a_kara's philosophy as "complementary"191 to the advaitic experience of the devotee. That is, the blissful unitive experience captured by the Upani adic mah_v_kya (Aham brahm_smi) is seen as neither contradictory to, nor fulfilled by the experience of relationship to a personal God of love. This could be further verified by the fact that in the Bhagavad G_t_ and the later Upani ads the theory of a personal God192 in the symbol of Puru a is very discernibly developed. Griffiths concludes that not only the symbols _tman and Brahman , but also that of Puru a point to, and express, the experience of divine mystery in Hinduism . These symbols and their corresponding experiences are thus complementary.

            Therefore, Griffiths dares to re-interpret and expose the truth behind _a_kara's interpretation of advaita . He claims:193


            This is the deep truth behind the advaita doctrine of _a_kara. When considered apart from Brahman – the absolute Reality – this world has no reality at all . It is pure illusion, absolute nothingness. It has no more reality than a conjurer's show, or the form of a snake which is imagined a rope is seen in the dark. Wisdom consists in the awakening to the unreality of this world, to the knowledge that `all is Brahman'. But once this is realized, then the world recovers all its reality. Apart from Brahman, there is nothing at all, but when it is known as Brahman, then it is Reality itself, it is the absolute Fullness of being. Everything that exists in this world, down to the minutest particle of matter , exists eternally in Brahman. Here we see everything separated in space and time, changing from one moment to the next, but there everything is present to everything else in an absolute simplicity of being `without duality'. Here all is multiplicity and change, there everything is one in eternal repose. . . . There is nothing here, no positive value whatsoever, no being, energy, life, intelligence, virtue, grace, no particular beauty of earth or sky or sea, which is not there present in its totality .


            In spite of such a positive evaluation of advaita , his reservations with regards to the lack of a healthy concept of a personal God in Hinduism remain. Griffiths says as late as 1989 that none of the accounts given by the various schools concerning the relationship between God, soul and world are fully satisfying.194 

            At the same time Griffiths is quite clear that Hinduism has much to offer to Christianity . No tradition can stand independently alone and seek the Truth for itself. Mutual fecundation is absolutely necessary.195 


            Griffiths' Creative Proposals. Though his theology of religion has shifted from a fulfillment to a complementarity model, according to Trapnell ,196 Griffiths continues to propose the Trinitarian model as the best one for describing the advaita of Hinduism . So the question may be posed: How can one rec oncile the experience of union with the Ultimate whereby all distinctions vanish with the experience of communion in love with the Trinitarian model? In an effort to answer these criticisms, Griffiths writes in 1976:197 


            It would seem that it is only the Christian doctrine of the Trinity , which is able to resolve this dilemma by conceiving the Godhead as absolute Being, `one without a second', infinitely transcendent, and at the same time having relations within itself, relations of knowledge and love, expressed in terms of a Trinity of persons, who are one in essence (and therefore in no sense dual) and yet related by knowledge and love. The way is open therefore to communion within the Godhead; the Godhead is not simply being, knowledge and bliss; but also love and therefore communion.


            Thus for him, the Trinity is the divine basis for non-duality, the "unity in relationship ," potential in the soul's relation to the divine. So Griffiths refers to the Jesus prayer, "That they may be one, as thou, Father , in me and I in thee, that they may be one in us"198 as a key passage to this effect. Further, according to Griffiths, the Trinitarian doctrine and the contemplative experience s derived from this doctrine can shed much light on the Hindu experience of advaita .

            Only with such a Trinitarian model can we reconcile love (relationship ) with an advaitic experience . Since we cannot metaphysically describe God both as "One without a second"199 and as "love,"200 we can very well understand the Hindu reservations to give primacy to Love in God. The basic intuition that God is love is very much present in Hinduism as well. So Griffiths asserts:201 


            The Hindu believes that God is love in a sense, and that you can love God but not that the Godhead itself is love. There cannot be love without two. If God is a pure monad as He is in Islam , as He tends to be in Hinduism , He cannot be love in Himself. But in the Christian concept the Godhead itself is love, is a communion of love. There is a distinction within the Godhead itself, distinction beyond our comprehension which we crudely express in terms of person and relation. These are human terms pointing to the reality . The reality is that God is love, that there is something which corresponds to personal communion in love in the Godhead, and we are called to share in that communion of love.


            Further, this love has been one of the key elements in Bede Griffiths which complements and corrects the normal advaitic vision of Hindu reality . This deeply divine and at the same time deeply human love, which has its origin in the Trinity is beautifully captured by Griffiths:202 


            [I]n love, we give ourselves, communicate ourselves to another, transcend ourselves in self-surrender. So also in the divine being, in the absolute reality , there is a movement of love, a self-giving, a self-surrender. God gives himself to man, communicates his own spirit, his inner self to man, but this in turn reflects a movement of self-giving, of self-surrender in the godhead; the movement of self-knowing, of self-reflection, of self-consciousness in God, is accompanied by another movement of self-giving, of self-surrender, of ecstatic love.


            Though he admits that the doctrine of the Trinity is limited, he is certain that it conveys a richer understanding and a more intelligible account of the other expressions of the divine mystery found in other religions.

            Before making his own proposals towards a better interpretation of advaita , he affirms once again the identity and the uniqueness of individual persons. Similarly he makes a special effort to formulate a healthy understanding between the world and the Divine Reality. Finally it is in the lógos , that he sees the meeting point between these two realities and thus attempts to find a synthesis.


            The Relation between J_v_tman and Param_tman. To explicate further the relation between the divine Spirit and the human soul, Griffiths applies the paradoxical principle of unity in relationship , sharing love and knowledge to such a relationship. And it is definitely analogous to the relationship between the persons in the Trinity . The relationship between the whole and part as developed even in the modern physical theories by K. Pribram and D. Bohm through the principle of hologram gives an apt symbol to describe the relationship between j_v_tman and param_tman . So Griffiths affirms: "In the ultimate state the individual is totally there, totally realized, but also in total communion with all the rest."203 He also uses the illustration of a ray and mirrors whereby each mirror reflects on light and all the other mirrors. In this illustration he sees diversity (of reflections) and unity (one light). It is interesting to dwell more on his imagery of the light:204 


            [W]hen the image has been restored to its divine likeness, the light of the Word shines on it. It is now like a mirror from which every speck of dust has been removed, so that the Word reflects itself in it. This Word is the express image of God, in which the plenitude of the Godhead is reflected, and each human being, each particular image, reflects this divine light according to its capacity.


            Thus Griffiths is emphatically against the view that the soul vanishes totally in the divine Spirit , wiping away the "dream" of individuality . On the contrary, the individual soul is transformed, taken up, aware of both its uniqueness and oneness with the divine.205 Here Griffiths uses another interesting image. "Suppose a drop of water, thrown into an ocean of orange water, were alive and could speak, would it not cry out in great joy: `True, I am living, yet it is not myself who lives, but this ocean lives in me, and my soul is hidden away in its depths'? The soul that flows into God does not die, for how could she die through being drowned in life? Rather, she lives by not living in herself."206 The Pauline affirmation, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,"207 is also a declaration of Christian advaita or "unity in relationship ."

            This sense of advaita as communion in love is also Jesus' relationship to the Father . "Jesus prays for his disciples that they may be one. `As Thou in me and I in Thee, they may be one in Us.' Jesus does not say, `I am the Father' – that would be pure advaita, pure identity. But `I am in the Father and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one, but yet I am not the Father.' And so with his disciples: I am in God, God is in me, but I am not God. And yet there is unity."208 


            Co-inherence: Relation between World and Divine Mystery. As already hinted, it is the firm conviction of Griffiths that the individual is not lost but transformed through union with God. In this context, Griffiths speaks of the mystical body of Christ as a universal consciousness in which all persons are both distinct and united in the Person of Christ.209 The same love characteristic of the interpersonal life in the Trinity also unites all persons in the mystical body too. Griffiths sees the relation between the interpersonal communion or `co-inherence' of the Trinity with the unity in the mystical Body of Christ as follows:210 


            This concept of `co-inherence' of mutual indwelling of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father through the Spirit of love, helps us to understand not only the nature of the Godhead, but also the nature of human relationship within the Godhead. When human nature is taken up by the Spirit into the knowledge and love of the Father and the Son, the human consciousness is opened up to the divine mode of consciousness . Each human consciousness is expanded so as to embrace all other spheres of consciousness, both of gods or angels and of men. There is mutual interpenetration at every level. Every being becomes transparent to every other being; each one mirrors the other and the whole.


            In the Word : The experience that grounds the relationship between the divine mystery and the world is that of God's Word through whom all things were made and in whom all things continue to reside:211 


            [W]e have this coming forth of the Word from the Father , and the Word comes forth as distinct from the Father. All distinctions in creations are found in principle in the Word. This is important because in the Hindu view you often hear that all differences disappear in the final state. We would say that those differences are eternally in the Word. There is the distinction between the Father and the Son which is the basis of the distinction of all creation from God, distinction and yet unity. The Son is really the principle of differentiation, and all the distinctions of the created order are contained in the Son as the Word or Lógos.


            So it is obvious that Griffiths sees an advaitic experience in the Word . He summarily concludes, even if it sounds a bit abrupt: "All are one in the Word and the Word is one with the Father ."212 So the Word, which unites and contains everything and at the same time fulfills everything, is advaitic in nature. This advaitic nature is complemented by the Spirit promised and sent by the Word. The Spirit unites the world and humanity with the Divine through the Word.


Lógos and Love as Mediating Advaita


            Griffiths understands religious symbols as means through which the experience of the divine mystery is expressed. According to Rahner 's ontology of "Realsymbol ," the expression and experience of the divine mystery is based on the inherent nature of being to know and to love, a nature whose fulfillment is represented in the symbol of the Trinity . The supreme example of this Realsymbol is the lógos , the Word , who serves as the object of divine self-knowledge and love, mediated by the Spirit . The lógos also draws together the vast diversity of the created world. Following two key analogies used by Griffiths the lógos may be visualized as: 1. the idea or archetype containing all other ideas/archetypes representing creation in God's mind, or as 2. the Person (Puru _ttama, Supreme Person), in whom all persons belong and realize their true nature. The lógos is the ultimate and eternal symbol of the Divine (for itself) and serves as the ultimate ground for all other symbols in the real world. The religious symbols in our daily experiences have the reverse function of participating in and pointing beyond themselves to the lógos.

            True to his Christian heritage, Bede Griffiths experiences and understands the Divine primarily as love. Love for him is the mystery that the living and historical symbol of the lógos (Jesus Christ) is made present in a concrete form and which continues to be made present today through the particular symbol of the Christian community. Among the various symbols in the Church, those of creation, incarnation and Trinity are specially important to point to the divine mystery of love. Out of love, the Divine expresses and manifests itself in the world (creation) in its own image, the lógos. In this process an advaitic relationship between the Creator and the creatures is maintained, whereby all distinctions in the creatures are nevertheless preserved. This love is further a compassionate love expressed in Jesus Christ (incarnation) through whom all may return to a non-dual relationship with the Divine. The continuation of Jesus' mission on earth makes present the mysteries of divine love.

            We can also say that that which moves the Divine to express and communicate itself in human consciousness and that which draws this consciousness to itself is the same love that moves and guides the relationship within the divine mystery itself. This dynamism found both within the divine mystery (Trinity ) and in the human consciousness can be seen as one love in two movements: a going out of the lover to the loved and a return of the beloved to the lover. These movements in the Divine and in human consciousness occur within a context of an advaitic relationship between the lover and the loved. They are aneka and advaita ("not-one and not-two"). Further, Griffiths maintains that these movements could be found even in Rahner 's understanding of the Trinity.


            The Triune Movement. The double movement indicated above is extended further by Griffiths to imply a third dimension. He traces three movements in the divine love, in tune with the Trinitarian foundation. The first movement is the love within the Godhead itself. As the second instance, this love is extended to the whole of humanity, whereby the love moves from God to humanity, or to the human consciousness . And at the third level, the love which the soul and the world experiences returns to the Godhead. This third return movement is quite important for Griffiths.213 All three together constitute an integrating movement.

            Our author suggests ultimately that the soul and the world are realized as within the divine mystery . At the same time he holds that what is generally called "pure advaita " where all distinctions disappear is an incomplete realization of the ultimate reality or divine mystery. Griffiths admits that in the state of sam_dhi ("the still state of Brahman "), the world of differences is indeed lost, corresponding to the level of being called avyakta (the unmanifest or the imperishable). Drawing inspiration also from the Bhagavad G_t_, Griffiths asserts that one must go beyond not just the physical and psychological realms, but also this state of sam_dhi in order to discover the Puru _ttama (the Personal God, the Supreme Person) or Christ. In encountering the Supreme Person at the deepest level, the "distinction and yet unity" in the lógos can be experienced .


            Ruysbroeck 's Contribution. Bede Griffiths finds his inspiration for this integrating movement of love in the fourteenth century Rhineland mystic Jan Ruysbroeck . For Ruysbroeck the relationship of the soul with the Divine is non‑dual and is parallel to the non-duality of the Persons within the Trinity . So Griffiths quotes Ruysbroeck approvingly:214 


            Since the almighty Father has perfectly comprehended himself in the ground of his fruitfulness, the Son, who is the Father's eternal Word , goes forth as another Person within the Godhead. Through this eternal birth all creatures have gone forth eternally before their creation in time. God has thus seen and known them in himself – as distinct in his living ideas and as different from himself, though not different in every respect, for all that is in God is God.


            Griffiths further finds in Ruysbroeck a rich and meaningful account of the soul's participation in the inner life of the Trinity , one that engages the soul in an eternal going forth and return, which actually corresponds to the movements of love. This enables Griffiths to interpret Ruysbroeck's vision of contemplative union with the Divine as follows:215 


            This is a coming back to the original unity. Everything comes forth from that original unity, from the Father , in the Son and the Spirit . We come forth in time and space with all our differences, all our conflicts, with all the sin and evil of the world, and then we are drawn back by the love of God. Love is drawing us out of our sin and out of the limitations of this world to the inner image, to the archetype within, and then in that image, in Spirit, we return through the Son to the Father and we reach unity again. We know ourselves in God, as God.


            Union in Surrender. Again, we see here the dynamic role of love for both Griffiths and for Ruysbroeck . For Ruysbroeck, participation in the inner life of the Divine draws the soul back to a restful union within the Divine and then moves the contemplative to serve the creaturely world. This dual movement of love, clearly reflecting Jesus' own experience , is reflected in the Christian doctrine of love of God and of the neighbor. In the later thought of Griffiths the contemplative encounter with God leads one back to the world. Thus, openness to God through the Spirit brings about a renewed availability for the entire creation. This utter willingness to serve in love is achieved by surrender or sanny_sa (renunciation). Griffiths' own account of sanny_sa is typical:216


            You renounce all external attachments, all attachments to your own psyche, your own personality, and open up to God beyond, but when you encounter God, the infinite One at that point, you encounter love. You open on to a sphere of total inner freedom, and you're open now to humanity again. At each point you go in, and then you find the deepest center, you open out on everybody and everything. This is the secret really. You discover the Holy Spirit as Love, and love is a dynamic power which sends you out. And it may send you to live in a cave in the Himalayas. . . . But equally, you might be sent to the slums of Calcutta as a sanny_si .


            The life of surrender of a sanny_si is more than a renunciation of the world but also a return to it. For anyone on a spiritual journey, there must be an element of renunciation in this life "in order that we may find the space in which the spiritual life can blossom."217 The freedom resulting from a full self-transcendence beyond "the world of signs" necessarily returns one to that "world" to serve either through silence or through action. The soul which has actually experienced the oneness with the transcendence , a communion of love with the Divine naturally moves out to recreate that communion in community. "As you open yourself in surrender to God in love you create community."218 Love does not remain static. It has to seek to include, to embrace everything within its dynamic and non-dual communion.

            This return movement of the soul in love is termed "integration" or "reintegration" and is typified in the resurrection of Jesus Christ which has completed his incarnation and death.219 It may be emphasized that after his death, Jesus did not merely rejoin the Father in union. Rather, he returns himself through his Spirit to continue the work of transformation of the world, drawing all things to himself in love through the symbol of his own Person as lógos . Such a transcended, integrated and transformed soul is thoroughly transparent, uniting and integrating the One and the many, the transcendent source and the world of multiplicity . In this context we can very well understand Griffiths' repeated call to "go beyond" the symbol to experience the symbolized. So for Griffiths, transcending the religious symbols is indeed a necessary step towards experiencing the reintegration of that symbol in consciousness as an intrinsic self-expression of the divine mystery .

            Further, according to Griffiths, this non-dual relationship that characterizes in general the relation between symbol and symbolized can be best, even though still imperfectly, portrayed by love. From this basic insight of love as the bond or relationship follows a series of parallel relationships, each characterized by love, whom Christians identify as the Spirit : between Source and lógos (Father and Son), divine Spirit and human soul (Param_tman and j_v_tman ), God and world (creator and creation). The ultimate symbolized, that which all the symbols communicate and express is the non-dual reality of love, that is God, the Divine mystery .220 

            Still it might be remembered that all these theoretical constructs fall short of the fullness of truth or the Ultimate Truth , as Griffiths warns us:221 


            We are all within that total unity which is ultimately non-dual. This is an absolute unity and yet it embraces all the diversity and all the multiplicity of the universe. It must always be remembered that these are only words we use to describe a reality infinitely beyond our conceptions, but they are useful in so far as they point us toward that reality.


Advaita as a Universal Mystical Experience


            Non-Syncretic Universality. Given the various mystical experience s that Griffiths encountered both in Hinduism and in Christianity as well as in other Eastern religions, it is not surprising that Griffiths claims that there is a commonality of advaitic experience which is to be found in the mystical traditions of all the major world religions.222 He hopes for a final convergence and meeting of all different religions on this mystical commonality, rather than on the resolution of the various conflicting doctrines. Such a convergence at the mystical commonality, like the very experience of advaita itself, does not deny the importance of religious differences, but integrates these differences in a "unitive pluralism."223 So for Griffiths, harmonization between the various religious traditions, based on a mutual recognition of their differences as well as an advaitic commonality, is vitally important, especially for the future. To cite Griffiths himself: "This, it seems to me, is the problem of the modern world; on this [integration of religious traditions without denying their differences] depends the union of East and West and the future of humanity. We must try to see the values in each of these revelations, to distinguish their differences and to discover their harmony, going beyond the differences in an experience of `non-duality', of transcendence of all dualities ."224 

            It must at the same time be emphasized that his attempt at finding a commonality and convergence is certainly not syncretic. He does affirm the differences. So he holds, "What I am suggesting is that in each tradition there is an experience of transcendent reality , of the transcendent mystery , which is interpreted in terms of non-duality. It has different expressions in each tradition but basically they are the same."225 As Trapnell 226 notes, Griffiths does not equate the actual experiences in various traditions, but he does indicate the convergence in the transcendent mystery, to which the various divergent experiences open up. Still it must be accepted that Griffiths finds an impression of non-duality permeating the diverse experiences.

            To trace such a commonality of non-duality in the 1980s, he first concentrated on the five great religions, Hinduism , Buddhism , Judaism , Christianity and Islam . Later in the 1990s, his attempt was extended to Taoism , Sikhism and the primitive religions of the American and Australian aboriginals. Without claiming to have conducted an exhaustive study, it was his approach to concentrate on a key mystical thinker in each of these traditions to investigate this theme of non-duality.227 Added to it, the strength of his own personal advaitic experience has led him to search for a convergence. This found its productive expression in his Universal Wisdom having the subtitle: "Universal Wisdom in the Scriptures of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity."

            Therefore the universal mystical experience in each religion contains in itself advaitic insights. He generalizes these insight and enumerates them into three characteristics, wherein the advaitic trend is visible.


            Three Fundamental Advaitic Characteristics. After careful studies, Griffiths concludes on three fundamental characteristics in every religion which would shed broad light on the advaitic nature of reality :

            Firstly, each tradition witnesses to an ultimate reality , which is non-dual. This in turn leads him to formulate that "[e]very religion goes beyond dualism to, in the mystical traditions , the non-dual."228 

            Secondly, he discerns in each of these mystical traditions some principle of differentiation within the non-dual reality . The best example of such a principle is, of course, the doctrine of the Trinity . In each tradition there are significant numbers of believers who claim that within the divine mystery all differences are contained, and that the mystery is in some sense personal and that the relationship between this mystery and human beings is expressed as non-dual or as a "relationship in unity."229

            Thirdly, he finds in each of these traditions a self-transcendence or surrender as the shared principle to open to this non-dual mystery . Inspired by Karl Rahner , Griffiths writes:230 


            Every human being has the power to go beyond himself and to open to what he [Rahner ] calls the holy mystery . We are all in the presence of a mystery , and there is something in us which is capable of transcending our limits and opening ourselves to that transcendent mystery. When we do that we go beyond, and what happens then is not in our hands anymore. I think that it is what happens in each religious tradition . There is a going-beyond, an exploring of that mystery. Each has a different way of expressing this mystery and of relating to it.


Towards a Convergence of Religions


            The self-transcendence leading to non-duality leads to "an exploring" through grace of the divine mystery . Griffiths claims that in at least some of these traditions , along with this exploring, a discovery of the inner dynamism within the divine mystery itself has occurred. In other words, the mystic, by transcending the dualism and the self-referencing of space/time, opens to the timeless reality of the divine mystery, in which the "movements" of going out, return and going out again, of self-giving, union and self-giving again, all happen eternally or "before" being expressed in the world of time and space. So the ground and goal of the surrender in these traditions is the continuous interior and external self-surrender with a "Trinitarian " dynamic.

            Agreeing with R. Panikkar, Griffiths holds that the Trinitarian nature of the non-dual divine mystery may be "the focus of convergence for the various religions of the planet."231 And so he quotes Panikkar approvingly:232 


            The Trinity . . . may be considered as a junction where the authentic spiritual dimension s of all religions meet. The Trini ty is God's self-revelation in the fullness of time, the consummation of both of all that God has already `said' of himself to man and of all that man has been able to attain and know of God in his thought and mystical experience . In the Trinity a true encounter of religions takes place, which results, not in a vague fusion or mutual dilution, but in an authentic enhancement of all the religious and even cultural elements that are contained in each.


            Then he goes on to explore the possible "focus of convergence" in the Trinitarian symbol 233 and concludes that the Christian understanding of the Trinitarian God may inform and be informed by other similar Indian symbols234 and experiences of the divine mystery .


             The Cosmic Person . As the next step in articulating the Trinitarian nature of the ultimate reality as the center and focus of inter-religious dialogue , Griffiths develops the theory of the cosmic person . In this cosmic person, the divine mystery expresses himself and communicates itself in the living symbol of the great religious teachers like Krishna , Buddha , Lao Tzu , Jesus and Mohammed. The cosmic person of Griffiths' understanding stands for the fullest self-realization of the divine mystery in the manifest world, and thus reveals the dynamism within the divine mystery, represented through the symbolized and a symbol and through the mutual relationship between these two. Such a cosmic person could be portrayed as the supreme archetype within which the archetypes of all created things are integrated and contained.235 While Christianity has achieved this most explicitly in the interpersonal account of the Trinitarian nature of the divine Godhead, Griffiths agrees with Panikkar and holds that the various religions have much to teach one another about this point through mutual sharing and listening in dialogue.236 

            Finally drawing together his perceptions concerning the advaitic insights in the cosmic Person and in the major world religions, Griffiths concludes:237


            We can thus discern a basic pattern in all the great religious traditions . There is first of all the supreme Principle, the ultimate Truth , beyond name and form , the Brahma of Hinduism , the Nirv_ a and 'S_nyata of Buddhism , the Tao, without a name of Chinese tradition, the Truth of Sikhism, the Reality – al Haqq – of Sufism, the Infinite En Sof of the Kabbala , the Godhead (as distinguished from God) in Christianity . There is then the manifestation of the hidden Reality, the Sagu a Brahman of Hinduism, the Buddha or Tathagata of Buddhism, the Chinese Sage, the Sikh Guru, the personal God, Yahweh or Allah of Judaism and Islam and the Christ of Christianity. Finally there is the Spirit , the `_tman' of Hinduism, the `Compassion' of Buddha, the Grace (Nadar ) of Sikhism, the "Breath of the Merciful' in Islam, the `Ruah ', the Spirit, in Judaism and the Pneuma in Christianity.


            Ultimately, according to him, the wholeness ("the supreme Principle" or "hidden Reality") to which one opens through the various religious paths of self-transcendence "contains" within itself both a principle of differentiation ("the manifestation of the hidden Reality") and an internal dynamism ("Spirit ") through which that wholeness relates to all of its manifestations. It is to this basic, Trinitarian "pattern" of advaitic reality that each tradition has pointed with its own religious symbols , according to Griffiths.


            Call for Recognizing Advaita in All Religions. Further, for Griffiths the challenge of each religion, as of the dialogue between religions, is to recognize fully the implications of the common experience of non-duality. After having shown the advaitic dimension in most of the mystical traditions in the world religions, he is clear: "I seriously feel that this is the philosophy of the future and that we ought to be able to see how we can build our theology around this basic principle."238 The practical dimensions of such a recognition are certainly important. The roots of divisions within the world community may be traced to overly dependent, rationally dualistic and logically speculative minds, forgetting the intuitive and potentially transcendent and unifying orientation. Meditation is the means to achieve such an intuitive orientation. So he affirms:239 


            [T]he whole world is opening up to the mystical traditions in the different religions. . . . [W]e ourselves have to meditate and open ourselves to the transcendent reality . If we only work on the rational plane we are not going to make any real advance. We have to be open to the transcendent in the depth of our hearts and that is where we meet. When the Jew, the Christian, the Moslem, the Hindu and the Buddhist open themselves in prayer, in meditation , to the transcendent mystery , going beyond the word, beyond thought, simply opening themselves to the light, to the truth , to reality, then the meeting takes place. That is where humanity will be united. Only through transcendence can we find unity.


Love as Symbol of Advaita


            Unique Christian Experience of Communion in Love. As a result of four decades of creative interaction and dialogue with Hinduism and Christianity Griffiths has been able to articulate a Christian advaita that is closely related to, and derived from, the classical advaita. The Hindu witness to the reality of a non-dual relationship to the divine mystery has much to offer to Christian culture in general with its predominantly dualistic and rationalistic understanding of Christianity in particular. Christianity in turn has some significant insights to offer to Hinduism, so that the monistic and non-realistic tendencies in Ved_ntic interpretation can be avoided. Concretely, Griffiths affirms that the doctrines of Trinity , incarnation and creation can resolve some of the logical difficulties that Hinduism encounters in formulating a satisfactory vision of advaita, of the relation between param_tman and j_v_tman , world and divine.

            In the course of time, as Griffiths extended his dialogue to include other religious traditions, he has been able to trace significant and powerful symbols for the inherent dynamism and principle of differentiation within the divine mystery itself, which for him as a Christian are best represented in the symbol of the Trinity and of lógos . He could see traces of such a movement in the Hindu symbol of Saccid_nanda and the Buddhist symbol of 's_nyata, though they symbolize the same movements in different ways. Additionally, the symbol of "Cosmic Person " found in almost all religions could be very favorably compared to lógos in the Christian tradition . He is emphatic that the various symbols in various traditions do point predominantly to an experience of non-duality in the divine mystery, with their complementary aspects. At the same time, he suggests from his personal and mystical experience s that there are unique Christian symbols, which express themselves in the Person Jesus and in the various Christian doctrines, and which mediate an understanding of the divine mystery as an interpersonal communion in love. Even though his study of other traditions has widened in content and so become comprehensive, his conviction about this unique Christian experience remains firm.

            Resulting from the many encounters and reflections on various traditions , Griffiths concludes that there is a pattern of movement in the spiritual journey toward advaitic union with the divine mystery that is universally present. This pattern reflects actually the stages of encounter between the non-dual reality and human consciousness . Religious experiences communicate some aspect of the divine mystery in the depths of human consciousness and at the same time draw the person (that is his body, soul and spirit) back to this mystery, through self-transcendence . Since the connection between the divine mystery and human consciousness is very intimate, this experience may mature into the realization of the unity that exists between them. Admitted that there are some who argue that this union leads to a complete dissolution of individuality (of j_v_tman ), Griffiths argues that a more probable and deeper religious experience leads to the recognition that there is a further movement in which individuality is not just transcended but also is integrated in a more complete experience of the divine mystery. This leads to the deeper realization that relationships actually exist within unity. Such a unity cannot be a pure unity strictly devoid of all multiplicity .


            Inner Dynamism of Love. The divine mystery therefore represents a dynamic "unity in relationship ." In the same way, the symbols that express and communicate this mystery serve to reunite human consciousness with its source by transforming individuality and multiplicity , rather than dissolving them. Griffiths argues that just as the perfection of the unity of being lies in its unitive plurality (symbolized in the loving communion of the persons in the Trinity ), so too the perfection of the unity of consciousness with its source in the divine mystery resides in its realization of how the world of multiplicity is contained within itself. Thus the final goal of reintegration is a reflection (mirroring) of the divine mystery itself.

            The Christian revelation evokes, according to Griffiths, a unique awareness of the correspondence between the life of the divine mystery and that of human consciousness . Specifically, the movement of human consciousness in returning to a non-dual union with its source is seen in the person of Jesus Christ and in symbolic re-enactments through the liturgy and theology in the Church. Thus following Christ, the individual and the very human consciousness itself may undergo incarnation (symbolization), death (self-transcendence ) and resurrection (reintegration) through its participation in the life of Christ. This process of (self-) realization culminates for a Christian in the experience of the "Kingdom of God" or "New Jerusalem" in which all of created reality serves as reflection of the divine reality. The world is thus an "immediate symbol ," a mirror of the face of God.

            Our author goes on further to identity the inner dynamism and power within the divine mystery as Love.240 It is this love, which moves the human consciousness towards full integration and fulfillment . "It is the very nature of love that it cannot be completely satisfied with physical contact or emotional sympathy. It seeks a radical fulfillment in total self-giving."241 For some, sexual union is a way to this total self-giving, still others may experience it in the ecstasy of love of nature, or others may find it in loving service and self-sacrifice. So it is not an accident that even mystical experience is described in terms of this sexual union. "This is not a `sublimation' in the Freudian sense. Rather is it an opening of human nature to the full dimension of its being."242 Whichever way we take to realize our love and fulfillment, we cannot do it in isolation, but only in the communion of love.

            This fulfilling love, which is the Holy Spirit itself, motivates the Father 's self-expression in the Son and draws the Son back into union with the Father. As "the advaita of God," the Spirit is the representation of the mystery that unites two in love and knowledge and yet leaves them distinct, "not-one" and "not-two." It is also this love which motivates the self-expression of God in creation through the lógos . Again coming to individual life, it is out of love that one is born into this world, transcends this world and then reenters it to serve out of union with its Creator. Each of these three steps indicates a progressive and comprehensive degree of surrender to the movement of life itself that is love. Thus each person is a dynamic symbol of God or an instance of the divine mystery symbolizing and reuniting with itself. It is the person who is the encountering agent with God.243 


            Universal Love. As seen already, for Griffiths love is the most effective symbol of advaita ,244 for the nature of divine mystery and for its relationship to the soul and the world. Of course, he is not exclusive in this aspect. He also acknowledges sincerely the value of Saccid_nanda and 's_nyata as powerful symbols of this divine mystery within their own traditions . Remaining deeply faithful to his own Christian tradition , Griffiths appreciates at the same time the symbol systems of other traditions. While upholding the uniqueness of Christian revelation of the divine mystery as an interpersonal communion of love, he acknowledges that this love is present in other major religious traditions as well:245 


            [T]here is one expression of the Spirit which is more meaningful than all others and that is love. Love is invisible, but it is the most powerful force in human nature. Jesus spoke of the Spirit, which he would send as Truth but also as Love. "If anyone loves me, my Father will love him and he will come to him and make our abode with him." This is the love, the prema and bhakti , which was proclaimed in the Bhagavad G_t_ , the compassion (karu a) of Buddha , the rapturous love of the Sufi saints. Ultimately a religion is tested by its capacity to awaken love in its followers, and, what is perhaps more difficult, to extend that love to all humanity. In the past religions have tended to confine their love to their own followers, but always there has been a movement to break through these barriers and attain to a universal love. The universal Wisdom is necessarily a message of universal Love.


            Thus love and wisdom are both universal and interrelated. This universal love is further elaborated by him and related to yoga . He says:246 


            Yoga means the practice of a spiritual discipline. Bhakti yoga is the discipline of love, that is, to open our hearts to love. Love in its fullness, i.e., both the love of God for us and our love for God. In the Bhagavad G_t_ we read: "Hear again my Word supreme, the deepest secret of silence. Because I love thee well I will speak to thee words of salvation." (Chapter 8). This is the nature of the religious experience . To know the love of God is to reflect on it, to realize it, to experience it in the heart. This love, as St. Paul says, `passes knowledge', and is poured into the heart of the Holy Spirit who is given us. By entering into this heart man discovers not only that he can love God but that he is loved by God.


            This entering into the divine heart is the advaitic union for Griffiths. This is achieved through a loving heart, a love with its reciprocal movements. This love would fulfill the advaitic union.




            As we come to the end phase of his life, we see how much Griffiths himself is influenced and shaped by his own advaitic insights. That is clear from the way he accepted the stroke he suffered and in how he lived a different life after that. So this last phase is crucial for us, to see how life-transforming his central insights about advaita were. It may also be remembered that it is through mantra and meditation that he tries to live out and deepen this advaitic awareness.


            The Stroke and Its Aftermath. In his lectures of 1991, Griffiths offers a glimpse into his own contemplative practices and the effects of the stroke upon his spiritual experience s . He understands contemplation (or meditation ) as the practice of the presence of God and so places himself within the tradition of "pure" or non-discursive prayer taught by the desert fathers.

            Further, Griffiths emphasizes the importance of an integrated practice, involving all three aspects of (the Pauline) anthropology: body, soul/mind and spirit. He advocates the Eastern tradition of silence and mantra in order to achieve such a concentration and integrated practice. Mantra will also open one to the divine Spirit through one's own spirit. Finally by going through and beyond the m_ntric symbol , one may realize that humanity is an organic whole, part of the even greater cosmic whole, all of which stands in a non-dual relationship to its creator.247 At the same time for him, the special character of Christian meditation is also to be noted: "All methods of meditation are ways of coming to that inner center, that point of the spirit, being opened to the divine, the transcendent. But what happens there depends upon one's particular faith and tradition. And for a Christian the point of the spirit is the point where the love of God is poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit."248 So it is evident that Griffiths' understanding of mantra has also much to do with advaita and a realization of advaitic insights and with a loving communion with this advaitic reality .

            Griffiths' Christian faith and his understanding of advaita have clearly shaped his own evaluation of the stroke he suffered in 1990. Using language clearly parallel to the account of Christian meditation and contemplation, Griffiths describes the stroke as "the greatest grace I've ever had in my life" and he elaborates: "I died to the ego, the ego-mind and also the discriminative mind, separating and dividing . . . it all seemed to have gone. Everything flowing into everything else. And I had this sense of a unity behind it all."249 This so called "death-experience" brought in him a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit , enabling him to be open to the Spirit. Several days after the stroke, he felt an urge to "surrender to the Mother ." When he responded to this inner urge he felt "a psychological breakthrough to the feminine ." He adds, "An overwhelming experience of love came over me. It was like waves of love."250 Griffiths himself understands this as an indication that the feminine within him had been long repressed and was finally released, transforming and making him whole.

            So in himself there was a silencing of the discriminative mind allowing a more intuitive and unifying mode of mental activity. This is understood by Griffiths as the release of the feminine within his consciousness 251 by which he was open to a new quality of mental experience . It may be noted that following the stroke for several days he was unable to speak and he had no memory of these days. Gradually normal consciousness returned to him, along with the added intuitive and profoundly integrative consciousness. He himself explains it as reason being "taken up" into an intuitive mode, similar to the two birds of the Man ukya Upani ad.

            Bede Griffiths' spiritual journey continued further. The experience of the primary symbol through which he felt himself drawn to a fuller experience of the divine mystery still remains the Trinity . So he says, "Trinity more and more is the focus for everything for me . . . to me the Trinity is the heart of the whole reality ."252 By the contemplation of this experience Griffiths comes more and more in a fuller appreciation that the multiplicity is not lost, but contained and transformed in the divine mystery. Conversely the very encounter with the Trinity enables him to deepen his own experience of self-transcendence and surrender as the "way of love" and of the divine mystery as an interpersonal communion of love. It is from this perspective of an intimate personal experience that the following passage of Griffiths is to be understood, where he speaks of flowing into an "ocean of love" in a non-dual existence:253 


            [T]his is the experience of God which we have to seek: to transcend ourselves in a total self-giving in love and find ourselves taken up into an ocean of love which is at once deeply personal and at the same time transcends all human limitations. It's deeply personal, and we must always keep that in our hearts; but it is also beyond anything we can conceive of person . It's like an ocean really. So the two aspects are there. It's a personal communion, a personal relationship , but it transcends all the limitations of a person and takes us into the depths of the divine being itself.


Final Reflections on Advaita


            Griffiths' own ongoing experience of the non-dual has naturally been accompanied by theological reflections, especially with regard to the relation between the Trinity and advaita. For this mutual encounter he relies heavily on the New Testament and the Upani ads. Particularly after the stroke , Griffiths busied himself with the nature of the New Testament and with the person of Jesus Christ and tried to discern an orientation to the non-dual in the very teachings of Jesus Christ himself.


            Jesus' Advaitic Experience. Based on his studies of the New Testament exegetes, he contrasts the actual teachings of Jesus with that of the early Church , which was organized into an institutional religion. It is significant for Griffiths that Jesus has not left behind anything except the Holy Spirit , that is, no structures, no rituals and not even many sayings. As an exceptional case, Griffiths considers the Aramaic word Abba , which expresses Jesus' intimacy with the Father (symbolized ). Abba could be contrasted to the Old Testament image of Yahweh , an image that reinforces divine transcendence and the unbridgeable duality in the human's relationship with God.

            According to Griffiths' understanding , Abba could have served Jesus as a kind of mantra , mediating the intimacy with the Father and thus moving him beyond the dualistic relationship of Judaism . Without denying the validity of the dualistic experience of the Jews, Griffiths sees it as a necessary stage beyond which Jesus had gone and humanity must go.254 While Jesus himself is conditioned many times by the dualistic trends, Griffiths sees Jesus' own complete self-surrender and the surrender of all his dualistic tendencies at his death. This death led him to be transformed into a being of total love in communion with the divine mystery . The risen Lord is the embodiment of advaita beyond all dualistic limitations and is no longer "under the sign" of the historical identity, but has a very real and timeless presence .

            The New Testament witness to Jesus' transcending the Jewish dualistic concepts could be perceived in the 17th chapter of John's Gospel , the "summit of Christian religion." Reflecting on the key verse of this chapter (17:21),255 Griffiths sees his own advaitic experience reflected here, pointing to a deepening mystical love to the Father :256 


            [Jesus] was taking us to the point where we go beyond all dualities and the marvelous expression of it is in the Gospel of St. John: "that they may all be one as thou, Father , in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us." Jesus is totally one with the Father and yet he is not the Father. It's a non-dual relationship . It's not one, and it's not two. It's the mystery of love. Love is not one, and it's not two. When two people unite in love, they become one, and yet they have their distinction. Jesus and the Father have this total communion in love. So Jesus asks us to become one as he is one with the Father, that is, a total oneness in the non-dual being of the Father. That's the Christian calling.


            So, according to Griffiths we meet this risen Lord and not the Jesus of history in the sacraments and in meditation . Another clear distinction that Griffiths introduces in 1991 is between the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the real presence of Christ found in the silence of contemplation/meditation. Acknowledging that the Eucharistic presence has a vital role in the Church, he affirms that it is our call to go beyond and experience Jesus' Spirit directly through meditation. In meditation, we encounter the real presence of Jesus. So the aim of the Christian experience of the presence of Christ is formulated thus:257 


            [H]ere . . . one must be careful. We speak of the `real presence ' of Christ in the Eucharist. Of course it's very central in our rite and our religion, but it's still a sacramental presence . In the Eucharist, Jesus is present under the sign of bread and wine. . . . We need some sign like that to touch and to taste and to share. But the presence itself is not limited by signs. Jesus is present in the heart of all. And when we leave the Church, we don't leave Jesus in the tabernacle. It's simply a sign of his presence. But we carry him along in our heart. In meditation we try to go directly to the presence in the heart. That is our aim.


            Mantra to Deepen Advaitic Consciousness. In meditation one moves through the humanity of Jesus (symbol ) to that which it symbolizes, the Father . Formulated otherwise, in meditation one moves through and beyond mantra , beyond name and form , to experience the interpersonal and non-dual "communion of love," who is God. Griffiths cites his most favorite quotation from John Main here:258 


            Jesus reveals the Father as a source of infinite love which he shares with the Father. And this is the goal of Christian meditation , as Father John [Main] said, "to share in the stream of love which flows between Jesus and the Father and is the Holy Spirit ." . . . In our meditation we enter into that depth where the Holy Spirit is present. And it takes us into the inner mystery of God's life in love.


            For him to remain at the sign level or to "stop short" at the sign, even if it be the human Jesus, the Eucharist or any mantras, instead of moving through to the beyond to the divine mystery , is idolatry .259 

            Further, his advaitic experience has confirmed his own convictions regarding the relation of the doctrine of Trinity with that of God's love. He sees both the doctrines as necessarily interrelated. Again, he is fully convinced that the deepest experience of union with God does not entail leaving behind the empirical world, as the so-called "pure" advaitins suggest. The intimate unity he experiences is a unity that includes multiplicity . A "reintegration" of the unity with the multiplicity is achieved in this deepest union with the divine mystery . So he asserts:260 


            My understanding of advaita is [that] there is a unity which is beyond and within the whole universe. And if you concentrate on the beyond, then this universe may seem as nothing. But when you look more deeply, you see that all differences in this world and you and I and every human being are integrated in the unity of the one. It's not a blank unity. Like the void of Mah_yana Buddhism , it's not just emptiness. It's the world of paradox, that it's both empty and it is full. . . . Nirv_ a and sa s_ra , the way of the world, are one. It's a wonderful insight: You go to nirv_ a , you leave the world behind and you enter this emptiness and then you rediscover the whole multiplicity of the world in nirv_ a. And that to me is the deepest insight. And that was my experience very much. When I had this break as it were, the mental faculties had rather collapsed; . . . unity was found; but everybody and everything was in the unity. And that's where I feel we have to move.


            So the soul and the world are not at all illusory, but the relationship between the divine mystery , the soul and the world is clearly non-dual.261 

            Here again the principle of transcendence and integration, which Griffiths so cherishes is essential. One is called to transcend all one's projections and images of God, only to receive a more inte grated vision of the divine mystery , which is all the more surprising and intimate. Letting go of the world (sa s_ra ) entirely, one discovers it anew in the light of a deep underlying unity (integration). "The corn has to die to find life."262 Giving oneself completely in love, one finds oneself "taken up into an ocean of love," not dissolved in this ocean but in a distinct relationship of the loved to the lover. Forsaking all forms and symbols , one goes beyond to experience the totality of reality as non-dual, yet a non-duality where all the forsaken symbols and forms are contained and reintegrated. That is why for him the final "[r]edemption – at-one-ment – is the return to unity." Further, "Christ at the resurrection returned to himself, to his eternal being in the Word of God. He manifested on earth that state of undivided being in the Word beyond the limitations of space and time."263 

            So far we have seen in this vital chapter the understanding and development of advaita in Griffiths' own life. His initial fascination for advaita has matured in the later years so that he could live fully by it. His own creative Christian interpretation of advaita is remarkable. Without in any way sacrificing the unique contributions of Christianity he has marvelously achieved a living synthesis with the basically Hindu insight of advaita. In the following chapters we wish to show that this advaitic insight forms the hermeneutic key to his own inter-religious dialogue . Before doing so, we proceed to show Griffiths' future vision of the world, which is of course advaitic.