Swami Vivekananda’s Christ ,The Messenger Part 1

by Dr. Samuel Inbaraja

“Vivekananda renounced the world and criss-crossed India as a wandering monk. His mounting compassion for India’s people drove him to seek their material help from the West. Accepting an opportunity to represent Hinduism at Chicago’s Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda won instant celebrity in America and a ready forum for his spiritual teaching.For three years he spread the Vedanta philosophy and religion in America and England and then returned to India to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Exhorting his nation to spiritual greatness, he wakened India to a new national consciousness. He died July 4, 1902, after a second, much shorter sojourn in the West.”

Swami Vivekananda (SV) delivered a speech at California on January 7, 1900. His topic was CHRIST ,THE MESSENGER. Though Swami Vivekananda had some grasp of some of the main ideas of Christianity, his presentation of Christ and his teachings is incomplete, erroneous and misleading. It is for this reason that a good critique to show his errors is needed.
1. “The voice of Asia is the voice of religion . The voice of Europe is the voice of politics. The voice of Europe is Greece…….. In Asia ,even today , birth or color or language never makes a race.That which makes a race is it’s religion…. We see therefore in the life of the messenger of life , the first watchword: Not this life but something higher; and, like the true son of the orient, he is practical in that.” -Swami Vivekananda.
Here Swami Vivekananda does a service to us by portraying Jesus as a true son of the orient. Many times the Hindus decry Christianity as foreign, but Swami Vivekananda doesn’t do that he actually finds common ground and looks at Jesus and the culture from which he came as something compatible, similar and familiar. But Swami Vivekananda doesn’t stop there . He attributes the spirituality of Jesus, the other worldly teaching of Jesus as coming because of his location in Asia. Swami Vivekananda concept is , “He is Asian , so he is religious”. Jesus’ teachings do not find their source in location or culture. John 7:15 The Jews were astonished and remarked, “How can this man be so educated when he has never gone to school?” John 7:16 Jesus replied to them, “My teaching is not mine but comes from the one who sent me. John 7:17 If anyone wants to do his will, he will know whether this teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. God was the source of Jesus’ teachings and it was not his orientalism as Swami Vivekananda suggests in his writings.
2. “The best commentary on the life of a great teacher is his own life . ‘Foxes have holes , birds of the air have nests , but the son of man has no place to lay his head’.That is what Christ says as the only way to salvation; he lays down no other way. Let us confess in sackcloth and ashes that we cannot do that . We still have fondness for ‘me and mine’.We want property ,money and wealth. Woe unto us!” Swami Vivekananda
Again SV startles me with his grasp of the central concept which even many Christians have not learned. He rightly quotes Jesus , then he says something which Jesus did not say and then gives a good comparison with a humble confession that ,we are not like that. The problem is with the underlined part. Jesus did say “self denial” is the only way anyone can become his disciple and be saved but he said so much more which leaves SV providing incomplete information .
What important things did Swami Vivekananda leave out about Jesus’ teaching on salvation? John 6:40 For this is my Father’s will, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him to life on the last day.”
John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” John 6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God: to believe in the one whom he has sent.”
John 8:24 That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me, even though he dies, will live. John 11:26 Indeed, everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe that?”
In all these passages the central teaching is very obvious.Jesus is asking people to believe in him as the messiah, to obtain eternal life.
   Swami Vivekananda says in the same book , ‘Suppose Jesus of Nazareth was teaching, and a man came and told him,
“What you teach is beautiful. I believe that it is the way of perfection, and I am ready to follow it; but I do not care to worship you as the only begotten son of God.” What would be the answer of Jesus of Nazareth ? ‘Very well , brother, follow the ideal and advance in your own way’’. Swami Vivekananda clearly articulates things contrary to the teachings of Christ. Jesus very clearly preached himself as the messiah, the ‘Son of God’. He very clearly taught that believing him as the messiah is the first prerequisite for having eternal life.Now after believing that Jesus is messiah one should follow his other teachings also . But without accepting Christ as Lord and worshiping him no salvation is possible.