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Is there anything in Hindu traditions that we might recognize and acknowledge as genuine holiness?

"But that is not the way you learned Christ! Assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Hinduism incorporates an extraordinarily diverse range of beliefs and practices drawn from equally diverse traditions which create and shape its philosophical system, religion, spirituality, rituals, arts, poetry and literature thus encompassing the way of life of its devotees.1 Dr David Frost in the lecture titled Holiness in Eastern Religion: an Orthodox Christian Perspective draws particular attention to one such Hindu tradition, namely Bhakti movement, asserting that there is holiness to be found everywhere in Bhakti tradition.2 Such a view, in particular the one illustrated in the lecture comparing Bhakti tradition's "holy" men, worship and way of life to the passages of the Holy Scripture is, at best, a far fetched theological speculation, or at its worst, a by-product of syncretic ecumenism with its "dogma" that holiness and accordingly the Truth exist in various Christian and non Christian religions,
Cybelle Shattuck - Hinduism; & Encyclopaedia Britannica, online version entry on Hinduism. Of particular interest for the author of this paper is Dr Christine Mangela Frosts lecture transcript titled Holiness in Eastern Religion: an Orthodox Christian Perspective. In the absence of his spouse, Dr David Frost has read and expounded on the topic for the IOCS Summer School in July 2008
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traditions or philosophical systems outside of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church (the Church). However, this is at odds with the Scriptures and the Tradition held fast by the Fathers of the Church.

Searching for the etymological meaning of the word holiness, what it meant in the Old Testament, how it developed, and how it reached its fullness in Jesus Christ and was stamped by the Holy Spirit in the writings of the Holy Fathers, is of utmost importance in attempting to answer the question. In the English language holiness and sanctification (sanctus lat.) derive their meaning from Hebrew Kadosh and Greek Agios. Etymologically kadosh or agios means to be set apart, to be singled out from that which is common, implying a relationship of totally belonging to God. Paul Evdokimov states: If all words are shaped by realities of this world, then there is an exception in the case of "holiness," for it has no direct reference to the human dimension. Wisdom, power, even love have analogies in human life but holiness is par excellence of the "wholly Other," the most striking manifestation of the Transcendent One.3 Semantic evolution has frequently detached the word holy from its roots, and has taken on moral meaning. The Church however has retained the ontological significance of the word holy. There is none holy as the Yahweh (1 Samuel 2:2) says the prophet Samuel. This Old Testament revelation that the fullness of holiness rests in God is very significant to Christian understanding on what holiness is. Since only God is holy, creatures can be holy in

Paul Evdokimov In The World, Of The Church St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 2001

derived sense, by participating in His holiness through synergy of Gods grace and human effort.

Saint Gregory Palamas in his defence of the hesychasts expounded on the Churchs teaching regarding Gods energies. His exposition of Theology in One Hundred and Fifty Chapters makes a clear distinction between Gods essence and Gods energies. He affirms that man can only participate in Gods energies and not His nature. Gods nature, His essence, is unchangeable. The Holy One does not expand nor contract according to the number of deified men.

In the beginning of time God created. The pinnacle of His handiwork was creation of man. God sanctified man by creating him in His image and likeness, however the Fall of our ancestors marked the beginning of mans ruin where corruption and death reigned. God who is all loving, all merciful worked out the salvation of men, and thus the possibility for humanity to ascend to holiness, by sending His Word, Jesus Christ to participate in human nature thereby deifying it. He was born of the Virgin, died on the Cross and resurrected defeating death and corruption, which humanity inherited through the fall of our forefather Adam. The assumption of human nature by Logos of God from the womb of the Virgin is the foundation of his incarnation and of the deification of humanity;" 4 Christs salvific work included establishment of His Church, of which He is the head and the body. The faithful participate in His

Georgios I. Mantzaridis "The Foundation of the Teaching on Man's Deification" p.31

deified body/humanity through the sacraments. Saint Justin of Serbia elaborated: The means and methods of this all-human God-human union of all in Christ have been provided by the Church, through the holy sacraments.5

Furthermore, to participate in Christ is to be in the Church, and to be in the Church is only possible through three-fold immersion in baptismal waters, dying with Christ to sin and resurrecting with Him to life. The fallen human nature is prone to sin, therefore the participation in Life, and thus in holiness, is through communion with God through Christ in the Eucharist.

However the Eucharist, Communion with God, is only available to the faithful who confess faith in Him, and who, through repentance become partakers in Christs holiness. Since Logos restored the possibility of mans participation in Gods divine uncreated energies by His incarnation and assumption of human nature, therefore only through Him, man can become holy.

In his lecture Dr. Frost finds holiness in "everyday life of Hindus. He states: Many pious Hindus are 'thirsty for God'; and they express their longing for the divine, in music, poetry and even dance, drawing inspiration from what is known as the Bhakti tradition. This is a long established path of love and grace for personal god..." 6 what is objectionable in such a desire for the divine is that it is not longing for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but longing for Shiva, Krishna, Rama or Devi, the gods of the
Father Justin Popovich Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ p.24 Dr David Frost Holiness in Eastern Religion: an Orthodox Christian Perspective IOCS lecture July 2008
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bhakti and Hindu traditions. Gods Logos, Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, One God, does not even rate a mention in the bhakti movement. These deities, these personal gods of the Hindus are no more gods or divine then the Golden Calf, Zeus, Apollo or Diana. In other words, they are idols for which apostle Paul says:" We know that an idol in this world is nothing, and that there is no God but one. If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live." (Corinthians 8:4-7)

If longing for a personal god of bhakti tradition is one of the many paths to sanctification outside the Church, the question arises, why did many Christians refuse to offer sacrifice to any other god, except the bloodless sacrifice to the Holy Trinity. Our martyrs can testify with their blood for staying faithful to the living God, and not accepting that the Truth can be found elsewhere, except in the One that said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) This refusal to offer sacrifice to any apparent truths, half-truths or semblance of truths was that which sanctified them. God sanctified them, made His servants holy, so that their contemporaries and future generations will have the torchbearers to illumine the narrow path that leads to God; to be able to discern from a multitude of roads and paths; to be able to discern God from Belial for which apostle Paul says: "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them (be holy), says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you" (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

The professor also recognizes the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Bhakti tradition stating: By what criteria does one recognise the presence of the Holy Spirit in the bhakti tradition Personally I find that they fit well in the profile of a genuine believer that Christ has given in the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in Spirit - this is abundantly evident in their constant self-emptying. Blessed are the meek - there is no spiritual posturing or preening as we detect in the guru-cults or advaita. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness - the Bhakti poet may not use the word 'righteousness' but they have a strong sense of their unworthiness, and seek spiritual purity and perfection through surrendering to God."7 This notion that bhakti poets surrender to God fails at once when one discovers that their surrender is to one or more of the multitudes of Hindu deities and not to the Holy Trinity, One God. Their surrender is, therefore, submission to false gods and idols.

While the bhakti semantics and deeds may in some ways resemble Christianity as indeed many religions do (some even


monotheistic!), their God given inherent moral law common to all humanity is clearly of introductory nature, and of slight significance when compared to the wisdom contained in the revelation of Christ8

Of great concern is that Dr Frost would even contemplate the possibility, let alone believe that the meek truth-loving, bold bhakti poets experience God in a vision of light when according to the Holy Gospels only three of Gods disciples witnessed Gods uncreated light on Mount Tabor. Were these poets more worthy then the other nine Apostles, and many Gods saints that lived and reposed in the Church and have not seen Gods uncreated light?

No matter how hard one tries to find holiness outside the Church, one comes out empty handed. Therefore, it is imperative that these bhakti gods, are stripped to their essence: their gods are in fact demons; and that the experiences and powers which the pagan gods can and do provide are satanic in nature.9 There is an intrinsic danger in speculating that bhakti gods can provide a path to holiness/deification or that the bhakti poets can be holy while composing their poetry to Hindu idols. The consequence of this speculation is that many of those of shallow faith may seek salvation in some kind of syncretic synergy of Hinduism and Christianity thereby becoming prisoners of the evil one.

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Georgios I. Mantzaridis "The Foundation of the Teaching on Man's Deification" p.27 Fr. Seraphim Rose Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future p.36