Logos Made Flesh: Jesus and Vedanta

Platonic Forms

“The concept of the avatar evolved from the theory of Logos in both Western and Eastern philosophy. In the west, the theory of Logos was first developed by the Greeks to bridge the gulf that separates God from man, the known from the unknown. Plato projected Logos as the supreme Good, under which all lesser ideas, i.e. archetypes of things, relations, qualities and values are subsumed. Later, the Stoics denied the validity of Plato’s supersensual archetypes. They perceived the principle of reason to be immanent and active in the universe. Philo, and Alexandrian Jew and contemporary of Jesus, combined Stoic reason with Plato’s transcendentalism, and added them to Hebraism. He declared that Logos was not only immanent in the universe but was transcendent as well, one with God. The author of the Fourth Gospel then used Philo’s Logos theory as the basis for his interpretation of the life of Christ, but gave it new vision…He stressed that the conception of Logos as word rather than reason, interpreting it as an expression of the divine will, an outpouring of God’s goodness, power, light, and love. To quote St. John:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’

The Logos, the “only begotten of the Father’ was ‘made flesh’ in Jesus Christ.

In the Vedas we find passages almost identical with the opening sequence of the Gospel of John: ‘In the beginning was the Lord of Creatures, second to him was the Word.’ ‘The word was verily Brahman.’ According to the Hindus, Brahman was conditioned by Maya, his creative power, is first manifested as the eternal undifferentiated Word, our of which the concrete sensible world then evolves. To the Hindus, therefore, the Word is incarnated through all beings, each of whom may directly realize God through he divine power of the Word. But like St. John, Hindus believe that in a special sense the Logos made flesh in the avatar-the avatar being the descent of God, whereas the ordinary man ascends toward God.”

Excerpt from ” The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta”  by Swami Prabhavananda, Vedanta Press 1946.

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The Origin of Change

Swami Vivekananda

“The Vedanta recognizes no sin it only recognizes error. And the greatest error, says the Vedanta, is to say that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature, and that you have no power and you cannot do this and that.” -Swami Vivekananda

Many people struggle with trying to change-habits, addictions, and unwanted thoughts or behaviors. Also, sometimes we feel stuck, unable to experience novelty, excitement or passion. We push ourselves, make resolutions, maybe give up and feel hopeless that we cannot change. In the quote above, Vivekananda affirms our power to act, to change, and to do anything. But where does this power come from? Another quote elucidates this conundrum:

“The will is not free – it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect – but there is something behind the will which is free.” -Swami Vivekananda

Thus when we use our will and force to act, we ultimately are thwarted by other forces- biology, chemistry, physics, social pressure, cultural context, etc. The power to act and the freedom to change arise from a deeper place. How can we reach that place? Vedanta teaches that “Many are the names of God and infinite the forms through which He may be approached.” And, take heart, Vivekananda assures us that “A tremendous stream is flowing toward the ocean, carrying us all along with it; and though like straws and scraps of paper we float at times aimlessly about, in the long run we are sure to join the Ocean of Life and Bliss.”

Download the Upanishads for free here. Translation by Swami

Paramananda, a Vivekananda disciple and the man who founded the Ashrama where I grew up.

Swami Paramananda

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