I have read from many sources, that Hinduism or originally known as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way is non sectarian, and can be applicable to anyone regardless of religion or race. I am Hindu, but don’t understand how the Bhagavad Gita for instance is non sectarian, as Lord Krishna Himself says he is the Supreme God. I don’t see how a Christian/Muslim would be able to agree? Some of the teachings are universal, but many other religions do not believe in reincarnation either. Please clarify.
—SS, United States
Paramhansa Yogananda made a distinction between “churchianity” and true religion (or “Sanatan Dharma“). Specific to the example of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that you mention, the same use of the personal pronoun “I” is found in The Bible as spoken by Jesus Christ. Thus, one has to step back from such statements to understand the broader context of what and who is this “I.”
The famous “Tat twam asi” (“Thou art that” or “Aham Brahamasi“—I am Brahma) and similar statements from the very ancient texts of the Vedas and Upanishads hold the key to the underlying revelation of Advaita Vedanta. This refers to the teaching that underlies the form-centric expression of truth as manifested in formal sects or religions. It states that the only truth or reality out of which all diversity and creation comes and which sustains and unites all visible and invisible things is the One: the Infinite Spirit.
The One has divided Itself into three: the “Father” (Sat) beyond creation and untouched by the creation; the “Son” (Tat) invisibly immanent in every atom and every thought as the Intelligence and Feeling which animates all; and the Holy Spirit (Aum), the Divine Mother in the primordial form of the Aum vibration which is the “stuff” of multiplicity, name, and form.
This teaching of Oneness can be perceived as the basis for Hinduism (Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) by fairly easy investigation; for Christianity and the Abrahamic faiths with a bit more investigation. When Jesus was criticized for saying “I and my Father are One” his response was to quote the Old Testament of the Bible, saying “Do not your scriptures say ‘Ye are gods?'”
In Judaism is the famous mantra, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!” Jesus’ beloved disciple John wrote, “To as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God.”
Indeed, this was the core mission of Paramhansa Yogananda which he described as the Second Coming of Christ: uniting the original teachings of both Krishna and Jesus Christ. Yogananda focused specifically on The Bhagavad Gita and the New Testament to illustrate this teaching but this focus is easily expanded into other scriptural texts and religions.
At the heart of divine revelation is the question (and the answer to) “Who am I?” Jesus asked his disciples this very same question as Krishna answers it in the Gita when he gives to his disciple, Arjuna, an experience of his cosmic Self. This experience shows that the man Krishna is not the true self but is an incarnation of the Infinite Spirit of all creation and who appears in the consciousness and form of Krishna. This appearance, or avatara, does not purport to limit the Infinite (a contradiction in terms) but is intended to show Tat twam asi.
Your question is not unlike the question “Is my cup half full or half empty?” One inclined toward dogma and a sectarian attitude sees the half-empty cup that limits God or truth to their own faith. One inclined toward inclusion sees the cup as half full, inclined toward universality.
The time for knowing the “truth that can make us free” (that is, bring healing and acceptance to the world’s religions) has come, Yogananda pronounced (as have countless other hearts and minds).
Part of the conundrum in the history of religion as we perceive it is that the teaching that we, too, are “That” finds practical expression in the appearance of the “avatar:” one who has achieved the state of Self-realization. This teaching would not be real if there were never any person who embodied this teaching! Moreover, to make matters a bit more complex, to achieve such a state cannot be done, by definition, by the imprisoned self. A savior, or true (sat) guru, is needed to unlock the soul from the prison ego-identity. So naturally, a Krishna or Christ, taking human form, becomes the object of worship and is treated as separate when the core teaching is we are one!
Such is the paradox of duality, you see. We are not One until we are One. I hope this explanation is not too mental or esoteric to bring understanding.
We need to walk our path with integrity. Jesus repeatedly used the expression (connected to certain statements of deep truth), “For those with ears (or eyes) to hear (or see).” We recognize Truth. We don’t create it. So you and I, also, must walk step by step towards our spiritual unfoldment: both watching our step (meaning not go beyond our own experience) and at the same time keeping our gaze focused on the horizon of Eternity. So take from this what feeds your soul and let go of the rest for perhaps another time.
Blessings to you on your journey on the greatest adventure this is!