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Krishna Consciousness and the Judeo-Christian Tradition
A Guide to Interfaith Discussion

Dr. A. L. Basham

In 1989, an Appeals Court Justice in San Diego, California favorably compared Krishna Consciousness with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order. Dr. A.L. Basham, author of The Wonder That was India and The Cultural History of India, sees many similarities between Krishna Consciousness and the Christian monastic traditions:

"Well, I think you have quite a lot in common. You take a vow of poverty. You live very simply—without superfluous material comforts and possessions. As for chastity, your strict celibate lives. Even...the married members, abstain from sex unless they wish to conceive children.

"As far as obedience is concerned, reverence for the teachings and guidelines laid down by the scripture and by the guru are certainly quite important in your order. To live in your ashramas, one must follow certain strict rules concerning diet and conduct and so on. So, you have much in common with the Christian monastic orders. Certainly you dress much more gaily, though...

"In monastic life the whole world over, there are many things in common, if not in theology and dogma, then at least in moral and spiritual practice.

"Especially in olden times," explains Dr. Basham, "the monasteries used to feed travelers, the beggars, and the poor, and you do the same. They were religious centers of prayer and song, music, literature, and story telling, and you’re doing pretty much the same thing. There is quite a lot in common between you...

"Usually the monastics have a good grounding in theology and they approach their theological dogmas in a rather different spirit from that of the lay person. Their involvement is obviously more experientially oriented, as is yours. Yes, I’m sure you can find quite a lot in common with Benedictine and Cistercian monks.

"The bhakti tradition is very close to Christianity—Christianity of the devotional type—in its psychological attitudes. It comes particularly close to some aspects of mystic Catholicism. If you read the poems of mystics such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa, you find attitudes rather close to those of the bhakti poets of medieval India.

"I would say, for this reason, among others, that one shouldn’t look on Krishna Consciousness as a rival of Christianity...there’s really no need for the Christians to look on you as their rivals...They ought to recognize you for what you are: a movement with doctrines and ideas very close to their own, with much the same aims and rather an ally than a foe."


Go on to:  04 - Dr. Diana Eck

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