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SOUTH ASIA INSTITUTE OF ADVANCED CHRISTIAN STUDIES

TRINITY AS SACCIDANANDA IN THE THEOLOGY OF KESHAB CHANDRA SEN AND BRAHMABANDHAB UPADHYAY- A CRITICAL REFLECTION

Submitted to Dr. Ashish Chrispal

In Partial fulfillment of the Requirements of the Course Contextual Theology

Due Date: September 21, 2013 Expected Time: 12:30 pm Expected word Count: 2500

Date Submitted: September 20, 2013 Actual Time: 03:30 pm Actual Word count: 3033

I declare that this assignment is my own unaided work. I have not copied it from any person, article, website or other form of storage. Every idea or phrase that is not my own has been duly acknowledged.

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By Blesson Philip Admission #1347 September 20, 2013

TRINITY AS SACCIDANANDA IN THE THEOLOGY OF KESHAB CHANDRA SEN AND BRAHMABANDHAB UPADHYAY: A CRITICAL REFLECTION

1. INTRODUCTION The doctrine of Trinity is one of the most enigmatic doctrines in the Christian faith. The doctrine of God as triune has perplexed many a brilliant mind and many teachings concerning it have been, at times, considered heresy by the Church in light of the Biblical witness. It is therefore dumbfounding that such a mystical doctrine has found very less expounders from India, particularly in comparison of Christology or Pneumatology; considering the fact that India has long been considered a land of mystics, for whom reason was not a barrier in accepting incomprehensible or even paradoxical concepts. One of the earliest explanations of the doctrine of Trinity from an Indian view point came not from a Christian thinker but from a Hindu thinker, Keshab Chandra (K.C.) Sen (Boyd 34). It was he who first expounded the doctrine as Saccidananda a concept of Brahman found in the advaitic thought of the Vedanta (Boyd 34). Later on, this idea of Trinity as Saccidananda was picked up by thinkers such as Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, Monchanin and Abhishiktananda (originally Dom Henri Le Saux, a Benedictine monk). This paper seeks to understand the concept of Saccidananda, as applied to the doctrine of Trinity by K.C. Sen and Upadhyay, and critically evaluate it in the light of orthodox formulations of the doctrine.

2. TRINITY AS SACCIDANANDA IN THE THEOLOGY OF KESHAB CHANDRA SEN Unlike Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who had many interactions with the western Unitarians and was influenced by them, K.C. Sen (despite interacting with Unitarians) moves towards a Trinitarian understanding of God and this can be seen in its full-fledged form in his lecture- That Marvellous Mystery- The Trinity (Boyd 34). In this lecture, he calls the Trinity a reality in consciousness and not merely a logical idea or a transcendental mystery (Sen 223). For him, God the Father is the Supreme Brahma of the Vedanta and the Jehovah of the Old Testament (Sen 224). He is the unrealizable and the incomprehensible infinite Being (Sen 224). Out of that impenetrable and unapproachable 1

existence in the void, a voice was heard the Word, Logos which is the cause of all creation (Sen 225). According to Sen, this Word is constantly evolving and its manifestations were visible in the world at different epochs (Sen 226). This Word, or Logos, is the beginning as well as the perfection of creation, as can be seen in the New Testament incarnation of Christ (Sen 226-227). This same Word, spreads through the whole of mankind, carrying it heavenward (Sen 227). This is the work of the Holy Spiritmaking all mankind partakers of Divine life (Sen 227). It is from this understanding of the Christian God that he expounds the advaitic idea of Saccidananda.

He explicates the three persons of the Trinity in the following ways, starting with the Trinity and ending with the Saccidananda, thus forming a triangle, at the apex of which is the very God Jehovah, the Supreme Brahma of the Vedas- the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost; the Creator, the Exempler, and the Sanctifier; I am, I love, I save; the Still God, the Journeying God, the Returning God; Force, Wisdom, Holiness; The True, the Good, the Beautiful; Sat, Chit, Ananda; Truth, Intelligence and Joy (Sen 228). According to him, the Trinity of the Christian doctrine has a striking resemblance to the Saccidananda of Hinduism (Sen 228). He sees it as the three manifestations, three conditions, three phenomena of divinity (Sen 228). He explicitly asserts that the true Trinity is not three persons, but three functions of the same Person (Sen 229). He spends more time explicating the nature of the Son of God, Christ. Christ, according to him, is the eternally begotten and yet distinct from the unbegotten Father (Sen 234236). On the other hand, he rejects the Christ of popular theology (Christ of history), whom he calls the little Christ, in favor of the more eternal Logos of the Fathers who can be seen in all the religions and faiths of the world (Sen 237238). This Christ he calls the Chit the pure intelligence, who came to teach about the divinity in man and not about the purging of sin (Sen 238-240). The Holy Spirit, he explicates as the power that can convert outward truth into inward purity (Sen 242). The divinity reproduced in millions is carried by the Holy Spirit back to the infinite Being (Sen 243).

3. TRINITY AS SACCIDANANDA IN THE THEOLOGY OF BRAHMABANDHAB UPADHYAY Brahmabhandab Upadhyay, who came under the influence of K.C. Sen at a very young age, took hold of the only concept that the Vedanta uses to explain the Brahman, that of Saccidananda (Boyd 69). However, he made a detailed study of Roman Catholic scholasticism, particularly that of Thomas Aquinas, and accepted them in their entirety (Boyd 6970).

The Father as Sat For Upadhyay, the self-existence of the being is necessary and is given (Upadhyay 127). There is no proof necessary for the existence of the pure being (Upadhyay 127). All other matter is contingent on this being, which he calls Sat (Upadhyay 128). Sat is not dependent on anything else thats external nor does it derive its existence from anything else (Upadhyay 128). According to Upadhyay, it has the reason of its existence within itself (Upadhyay 128). This is what the Vedanta calls the eternal Being, the ParaBrahman (Upadhyay 128).

The Son as Cit According to Upadhyay, to be is to act as there can be no being without an act and it is this act of the being that leads to relatedness, either external or internal (Upadhyay 136). Further on, If God is cit (intelligence), as is claimed by the Upanishads, then He must know himself, as he cannot know anything external to himself, since that would violate the very basic rule of asanga (Tennent 224). He, on the lines of Aquinas, reconciles the problem of duality that arises from the subject and object of knowledge through the internal relationship between the Father, who knows and the Son, who is known, in the Trinity (Tennent 226). Upadhyay explains this as the eternal generation of Gods eternal wisdom i.e. cit (Tennent 227). Thus, the act of self-knowledge of the self-existent being is confined within itself, thus preserving the asanga (non-relatedness to anything external) of the Brahman (Upadhyay 136). According to the Upadhyay, this also contributes to the eternal distinctions within the Godhead. The supreme Being reproduces his self as SabdaBrahman (Logos) by iksana (beholding) (Upadhyay 128). 3

Although Upadhyay insists upon eternal distinctions in the Godhead by saying that the the Infinite begets itself in thought, is self-knowing and self-known, he agrees that what distinguishes the generating self from the eternally generated self cannot be known by any rational process of thinking (Upadhyay 137). Upadhyay insists that just because one cannot reasonably explain the distinction between the knower and the known, the supreme Being is not robbed of its intelligence because to deny its intelligence is to deny that it acts and consequently to destroy its very Being (Upadhyay 137).

The Holy Spirit as Ananda Having established the necessity of eternal distinctions between the persons in the Trinity, Upadhyay proceeds to explain the Holy Spirit as Ananda, or bliss. According to Upadhyay, Ananda is the complacent repose of a being upon its own self or its like (Upadhyay 137). In effect, bliss is the enjoyment of one in his own self and in this line Upadhyay argues that it is impossible for one to repudiate or feel repugnance towards ones own self (Upadhyay 137). Accordingly Upadhyay states that the Infinite Self knows itself and necessarily takes delight in the objective self projected by thought (Upadhyay 137). If the eternal Being is not able to take repose and be self-satisfied, then it is lacking, according to Upadhyay and is not the self-existent being and hence the necessity of bliss (Upadhyay 138).

The Trinity as Saccidananda in Economy The whole of the Trinitarian theology of Upadhyay revolves around the intra-trinitarian relations, primarily to establish the Trinity as Saccidananda which is asanga. However he does posit the work of the Trinity in the economy, which is not necessary for the Infinite Being itself, but necessary for the creation. According to him, God is not only sat, but is also power- in him all things have their endurance (Upadhyay 130). His selfknowledge or cit is manifested as the mind which manages and preserves the universe (Upadhyay 130). Finally, the ananda is revealed as the love and holiness of God on a relative plane (Upadhyay 130).

4. A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF SACCIDANANDA IN THE THEOLOGIES OF SEN AND UPADHYAY Upadhyays Trinitarian theology presents a fuller and rational development of the concept than that of Sen. Sen asserts that the Trinity is not three persons but three functions, manifestations, or phenomena of one divinity. This, as Tennent points out, is because of the Sens reluctance in accepting eternal distinctions in the Godhead as he saw it leading to polytheism, something which Brahmo Samaj, of which he was a leader, vehemently rejected (Tennent 224). Upadhyays Trinitarian theology, on the other hand, although capitulates to the mystical facet of both the advaitic thought and the Trinitarian conception at times, emphasizes the eternal distinctions between the persons of the Trinity very strongly. This he believed was necessary, as Tennent points out, to stay faithful to the historic Christian position regarding the Trinity (Tennent 224). On the other hand, Sen places a greater emphasis on the work of the Trinity in the world with Christ being seen as the one who came to teach about the divinity that already exists in man and the Spirit as the one who carries the creation back with him into a union with God. The advaitic influence on Sen can be clearly seen in this. On the other hand, Upadhyay tends to be dualistic at the point of cit (the Infinite Beings self-knowledge, creating a subject-object duality). Although, he tries to logically reason it as nondualistic, he concedes in the end that it is too great a mystery to be possible to explain.

5. A METHODOLOGICAL CRITIQUE A comparative study of how Saccidananda is seen in the advaitic thought and how it has been expounded by Upadhyay and Sen does provide some interesting insights. In the advaitic thought, saguna Brahman, or the Brahman with attributes, is from the viewpoint of ignorance (avidya), and as such, Brahman (the higher Brahman) in itself is without any attributes, name or form (Potter 74). Thus, Saccidananda can be seen as a depiction of Brahman, but it is the result of the ignorance of the people. Therefore the application of this aspect raises questions as to its effectiveness when reaching out to the Vedantan.

The second methodological problem concerns the concept of cit as is seen in the advaita Vedanta. In the advaitic thought, to preserve the non-duality of Being, there is no duality 5

of knower and known, rather cit is expressed as pure consciousness a knowledge in itself (Potter 75). As Potter states, the consciousness that is Brahman is not a relational consciousness between knower and known (Potter 76). The following statement captures the very idea within the advaitic thought which refutes any form of duality:

Although Brahman is self-luminous it should not be inferred that it is the object of its awareness. Brahman can never be the object of knowledge, properly speaking. By the same token Brahman cannot be literally identified as the knower, the subject that knows objects. Both knower and known are products of avidy and not ultimately real; likewise the relation between them is unreal (Potter 76).

In such a situation, Upadhyays connotation of cit as self-knowledge to preserve the asanga nature of the Trinity does pose a problem to the Vedantin.

From a different methodological perspective, Vebjorn Horsfjord provides an interesting critique concerning the usage of advaitic thought to develop an Indian Christian theology. All of these conceptualizations, particularly those based on advaita, lose their basis as theology when they negate or neglect the narratives in the Scripture and other Biblical witness (Horsfjord 46). This is particularly evident in the theologies of Upadhyay and Sen, who rarely make any reference to the Biblical witness. This is indirectly the result of transplanting a universalistic idea that seems to disregard history in favor of more eternal nature of things, at the least, into a faith thats thoroughly rooted in history and speaks of Gods intervention in history (Horsfjord 46). Further on, although Indian population majorly comprises of the so-called Hindu population, majority of them do not adhere to advaitic thought form. Instead, most of the Hindus follow a form of popular Hinduism, with a pantheon of isvaras, which is considered a much lower form of Hinduism by the Vedantin. Apart from that, it does not account for a huge chunk of the population that comprises of tribals, dalits and others, who see Hinduism as a form of oppressive faith. The question then arises- for whom is being theology done? Is it for a few intellectual elite, or for the oppressed masses? Theology has to be done for the elite as well, but it has to first identify with the underprivileged masses, particularly in a country like India. 6

6. A CRITIQUE FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF DOGMATIC THEOLOGY Having looked at the Trinitarian theology of Upadhyay and Sen from a methodological perspective, this section deals with their theology in light of orthodox formulations of the doctrine. The doctrine of Saccidananda-Trinity as formulated by Sen can be easily discounted as a form of modalism, which was declared to be heresy by the early church. Modalistic Monarchianism, which is associated mostly with Sabellius, solves the paradox of threeness and oneness by asserting that God is one person with three different, names, roles, or activities (Erickson 335). Such a view fails to account for the Biblical witness where all three persons of the Trinity appear simultaneously, for e.g. the baptismal scene.

The Trinitarian theology of Upadhyay, however, deserves a closer attention and scrutiny as it vouches for eternal distinctions between the persons in the Trinity, while preserving the unity of the same. Millard Erickson, in his book Christian Theology, provides a few aspects that are essential for the formulation of the doctrine of Trinity, such as of Upadhyay.

i. Erickson asserts that any study of the doctrine of the Trinity has to start by taking the Biblical witness into account, and being faithful to it (Erickson 323). As such, there is an astonishing lack of Biblical references to the doctrine of Trinity in the Trinitarian theology of Upadhyay. Upadhyay starts from the advaitic idea of Saccidananda, seeing it in the light of Aquinas scholastics, rather than referring directly to the Bible. ii. A true Trinitarian theology has to start with the unity of God, keeping in mind the monotheistic belief in the Jewish-Christian tradition (Erickson 337). Upadhyay combines the non-dualistic idea of advaita and Augustinian/Aquinas conception of Trinity to start with the unity of God. iii. The deity and equality of each of the three persons , the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, must be equally affirmed (Erickson 337-338). Upadhyays assertion that the very self-existence of the Infinite Being implies an act of knowing and finding repose (bliss) in itself shows the equality that exist between the three- the Sat (the Being), Cit 7

(the intelligence, knower and the known) and ananda (the bliss in beholding ones self). iv. The threeness and oneness are not the same and hence there is an eternal distinction between the three persons of the Trinity (Erickson 337338). This is where Upadhyays conception of Trinity comes to its full force. His explanation of the Infinite Being as an intelligent Being which knows itself and in that act of knowing, begets the Logos, is an excellent example of the distinctions yet relatedness within the Trinity (asanga). While this may not be entirely acceptable to a vedantin who see it as degenerating into duality, Upadhyays position does hold on to the traditionally accepted formulation of the doctrine of Trinity. v. The Trinity is incomprehensible and hence one can never understand, fully, the mystery of the Trinity (Erickson 338). Upadhyay too accedes this fact when he saysThe Infinite Being begets itself in thought, is self-knowing and self-known, but what distinguishes the generating self from the eternally generated self cannot be known by any rational process of thinking (Upadhyay 137).

Further, Upadhyay gives equal weightage to the work of Trinity ad extra, which he sees as an overflow the intra-trinitarian relations, in keeping with Rahners axiom the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity and vice versa thus keeping the Trinitarian distinctions consistent ad intra and ad extra.

Upadhyay works from a Thomistic point of view, which in turn was highly influenced by the Trinitarian understanding of Augustine. Augustines understanding of the Trinity, which he borrows from the human psychology, resonates well with the advaitic ideal of Saccidananda. However, Upadhyays Trinitarian understanding suffers from the same flaw as that of the Augustinian understanding. Both tend to depersonalize the Holy Spirit to the level of an emotion or force (love/bliss). This is one shortcoming in Upadhyays understanding of the Trinity, which otherwise is a fairly orthodox formulation (as it is accepted by the Church) of the doctrine.

7. CONCLUSION- THE RELEVANCE OF SACCIDANANDA AS TRINITY FOR INDIAN CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Saccidananda as the Trinity does open up new vistas for dialogue with the Hindu, particularly the elite intellectuals. Saccidananda can also bring about a point of confluence between the Trinitarian monotheistic faith and the strict non-dualistic faith of advaita provided it leads a fuller understanding of the Godhead as is seen in the Scripture. Further on, Saccidananda can be an useful tool as long as it doesnt undermine the role of history in the human development and particularly the salvation history, which is a concrete historical event, unlike the advaitic idea of everything being an illusion or rather manifestations of the only one reality. To reconcile these two, under the common umbrella of Saccidananda-Trinity, is what the future theologians will have to contend with.

WORKS CITED

Boyd, Robin. An Introduction to Indian Christian Theology. Delhi: ISPCK, 2000. Print. Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998. Print. Horsfjord, Vebjrn L. Challenging Contexts: a Study of Two Contemporary Indian Christian Theologians and a Reflection on the Need for Intercontextual Dialogue. Studia theologica 55.1 (2001): 4157. Print. Potter, Karl H. The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Advaita Vednta Up to akara and His Pupils. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications, 1981. Print. Sen, Keshub Chunder. Lectures: That Marvellous Mystery- The Trinity. Keshub Chunder Sen. Ed. David C. Scott. Bangalore: The Christian Literature Society, 1979. Print. Tennent, Timothy C. Building Christianity on Indian Foundations: The Legacy of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay. Delhi: ISPCK, 2000. Print. Upadhyay, Brahmabandhab. The Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay. Ed. Julius Lipner & George Gispert-Sauch. Vol. 1. Bangalore: The United Theological College, 1991. Print.

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