JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF
“Tandem vicisti, Galilaee”
—said to have been uttered by Julian, the Apostate emperor.
[Sidenote: Pantheism does not lead to belief in “the Son of God.”]
Pantheism, it has been said, lends itself to the lead to belief idea of avatars or incarnations of deity, and Hinduism, therefore, is familiar with avatars. Observation contradicts this a priori reasoning, nay, it justifies a statement almost contrary. To the philosopher who is thinking out a pantheistic system, or to the ascetic who is seeking after identity of consciousness with the One, the Hindu Avatars are only a part of the delusion, the Maya, in which men are steeped. To a pantheist, holding that his own consciousness of individuality is delusion, born of spiritual darkness and ignorance, the conception of an avatar or concrete presentation of deity as an individual is only still grosser delusion. “The name of God and the conventions of piety are as unreal as anything else in Maya,” writes a modern British apostle of Hinduism, while advocating the realisation of Maya as our salvation. It does not seem to me justifiable to say that through Pantheism the Indian mind can approach the thought of Christ the Son of Man and the Son of God. But pantheism, with its allied doctrine of transmigration, may encourage the thought that our Lord was a great jogi or religious devotee, the last climax of many upward transmigrations, and that Christ had attained to the goal of illumination of the jogi, namely, identity of consciousness with deity, when he felt “I and the Father are one.” That statement about Our Lord is sometimes made in India.
[Sidenote: The avatars of popular theology.]
It is not through the pantheism of the brahmanically learned and of religious devotees that the Indian mind has come within Christ’s sphere of influence, but rather through the beliefs of the multitude and the new education of the middle class. And how, we ask, has Christ been introduced to India by association with the popular beliefs—how, rather, has the attempt been made to do so? The theology of the people begins, as has been already stated, with the Hindu Triad, the three great personal deities, namely, Brahm[=a], Vishnu, and Siva,—Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer respectively. From these and other deities, but particularly from Vishnu, the Preserver, there descended to earth at various times and in various forms, human and animal, certain avatars. Best known of these avatars of Vishnu, the Preserver, are Ram, the hero of the great epic called after him, the R[=a]m[=a]yan; and secondly, Krishna, one of the chief figures of the other great Indian epic, the Mah[=a]bh[=a]rat; and thirdly, Buddha, the great religious teacher of the sixth century B.C. Ram and Krishna have become deities of the multitude over the greater part of India. Buddha, latest in time of these three avatars, and unknown as an avatar to the multitude, has not yet been lost to history. Such is the genealogy of certain of the Hindu gods and their avatars, and the object of setting it forth is to enable us to see how Jesus Christ has presented Himself or been presented to the Hindu people.