Reviewer Bani Sodermark. Bani has a Ph.D in mathematical physics and has been a teacher of physics and mathematics at the university level in both India and Sweden. For the last decade, her interests have been spirituality, healthy living and self-development. She has written a number of reviews on http://amazon.com. Bani is a mother to two children.
Author: Abbot George Burke
Publisher: Light of the Spirit Press
The above title means a way of life that has been followed over the ages, a way of life that gives meaning and purpose to human existence. Sanatan Dharma enunciates principles of life that are concomitant with the spirit of all religions. The word “Sanatan” means the truth that is self-evident, and that has been followed over the ages. “Dharma” means a way of life that is unique to every human, a way of life that is an expression of his/her inner joy. When you live your Dharma, you prosper and the world prospers with you. Going against your Dharma, i.e. doing something not akin with your blueprint leads to ignorance, unhappiness and suffering.
The concept of Sanatana Dharma applies especially to this book. It is a book that partakes of the best of the King James version of the Bible and combines it with the wisdom of the ancient Indian civilization with a view to understanding the recently unearthed Gospel of St. Thomas.
There has been plenty of forthcoming evidence to show that Jesus spent the earlier part of his life in India. It is also rumoured that he spent the later years of his life in India after his resurrection and that his disciple Thomas followed him there and recorded his teachings for posterity in a manuscript which got lost. This manuscript has only recently been retrieved (Dec.1945) and translated from the original Coptic edition in several versions. This book expounds mainly on Thomas Lambdins version of the English translation of the Gospel of St. Thomas, while drawing also from other versions.
It has also been an accepted fact that the form of Christianity practiced in the West has been corrupted, the Bible being more or less rewritten during the Dark Ages. Therefore, the Gospel of St. Thomas, (unearthed by an Egyptian farmer in December 1945) is quite likely to yield a more authentic version of the living word of Jesus as understood by his direct disciple St. Thomas
In this book, the author has taken Thomas Lambdin’s version of the Gospel of St. Thomas and for each of the 114 verses, presented a discourse on their meaning. Each verse forms the subject of a whole chapter and is accompanied by an analysis which relates it to a corresponding verse from the Bible, the Gita or some other text with a similar import. This analysis is commensurate with the concept of Sanatana Dharma, or eternal religion of the ages, a concept that goes above and beyond the external attendant rituals that blinds practitioners of contemporary religion to the reality of the illusion that is life.
The corresponding chapters in the gospel of St. Thomas are akin to those in the Bible, only the injunctions are stronger, more clearly defined and with less possibility of misinterpretation. For instance, it is made clear that seeking knowledge can lead to being temporarily troubled.
“Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished and he will rule over the All.”
“Men think perhaps that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know that it is dissension that I have come to cast upon the earth, fire, sword and war.”
The above implies that one person’s seeking could bring about discord in his/her extended family, the author calls it “Divine Discord”. Many psychologists are familiar with this, changing oneself has implications for the members of the extended family, who are confronted with the choice of either acceptance of the change, or departure from the family unit.
This discord is what Jesus came to sow, so the seeker who perseveres, despite being troubled, ultimately rules over all.
A specific aspect of this book, that I personally found interesting, is that it glorifies the Eastern Orthodox tradition of the Christian Church, in contrast to much of popular Western ecumenical texts which are mainly restricted to churches grounded in the Western traditions and deal with Western saints, or those who have moved to the West.
Reincarnation is an accepted fact in this book. It is also suggested that Jesus had incarnated earlier as Adam and King David. Dying on the cross helped him to atone for the karma of those earlier incarnations. Contrary to popular Christian belief, he did not die to save the world and its people.
There are many more injunctions to devotees in this book, recounting them all would be outside the scope of this review. But one exhortation stands out, we are strongly and repeatedly cautioned against false prophets and to be vigilant against them.
This book is very multifaceted and the author displays enormous erudition, especially on Hindu religious symbols and personalities. The Western outlook on comparative Indian philosophy is always like a whiff of fresh air when compared to similar tomes by Indian authors and that holds true for this book as well.