A Critique of Rev. Dr. K. P. Aleaz’s Theological Contributions


Rev. Dr. Selvam Robertson
A Critique of Rev. Dr. K. P. Aleaz’s Theological Contributions

Introduction
             As I embark on to discuss the theological contributions of Aleaz, let me star with his insights to the religions department, particularly highlighting his definition of religion, preferential method to study religions, theology of religions underlying pluralism, pluralistic inclusivism, relational convergence of religions and the connection between religion and culture.
Following his contributions to the religious studies, I shall focus on his contributions to Indian philosophy by underlining his consideration of pramanas, Advaita, Christian Response to Indian philosophy and Indian Christian Philosophy.
Next in the order is his interpretation of theology, mainly focused on Indian Christian theology, Eastern Christian thought and Dalit theology. His proposal for an Indian spirituality is no less a significant contribution. Aleaz’s bent of knowledge and commitment can further be drawn from his important constructs like Jesus, Gospel and proclamation &mission.

1 Religions
            Aleaz’s theological contribution can in the first place be discussed under the title religions, as he is a professor of religions. Under this heading his contribution to the definition/meaning of the complex term religion, his proposal for a relevant integral approach to study religions particularly in India, his contribution to theology of religions with reasonable consideration to the principle of pluralistic perspective and special emphasis to pluralistic inclusivism, his contribution to the resulting relational convergence of religions and the connection between religion and culture in India can be analyzed.

1. 1 Defining Religions
            As opposed to the customary way of defining religion, Aleaz suggests a novel and relevant approach which the modern students of religions are expected to take into consideration. He says ‘the meaning of religion has to be understood today in terms of an evaluation of the history of ones own religion by its fruits’.[1] Again he says “rather than evaluating other faiths in terms of one’s own faith we are entering an era where we will evaluate our own faith in terms of the positive aspects of other faiths.”[2] His focus is that religion needs to be fruitful and needs to take into account the positive contributions of other religions. His supplement to the existing considerations about the definition and meaning of religion has its background in the earlier notion that Christianity alone will be the final religion. 
            Added to the above two insights are the views that all religious experiences are authentic in their own context and plurality of religious expressions is natural. He writes “our point is all the expressions of all the religious experiences are authentic in their own realm. Plurality in experience and expression is something natural to religions and we should take note of this point in our understanding of what religion is.”[3]
Another important lesson is that expressions of the same religious experience can also vary.  In the words of Aleaz “in our understanding of what religion is, we should note that expressions of the same religious experience can vary and also religious experiences are numerous, all being authentic in their own realm.”[4]
The contributions of Aleaz in defining religion is appropriate as it is not concerned with the content of religion rather with the applicability and possibility of relating one religion with the other while upholding the reality of many religions. This proposal is put forward keeping in mind the possible relational convergence of religions from the perspective of pluralistic inclusivism. His contribution would have become more outstanding had it emphasized the need for religions to focus upon life sustaining issues.

1.2 Methodology
Although there are different approaches to study religions Aleaz suggests for an integrated approach consisting sociological, social anthropological and philosophical methods. In his own words “Sociological and social anthropological approaches as well as philosophical approach together may constitute an integral Indian approach to the study of religion.”[5] He is also of the view that such an integrated approach can take into account even the primal religions.[6] The underlying authentic assumption in this attempt is harmony of religions or relational convergence of religions. This has been stated as “the integral Indian approach to the study of religions is conceived as dialogical in its essence on the basis of a vision of relational convergence of religions.”[7]
The reason for selecting sociological approach is to explain the connection between religion and society; socio anthropological approach is to highlight the human aspect of religion and society; and philosophical approach is to show that in India religion and philosophy are interconnected. As Indian philosophy is undertaking the orderly arrangement of religious elements, its contribution to the scientific study of religion is an issue. Although one may discern the life sustaining vision implicit in the selection of the other two methods, Aleaz has not spelt it out explicitly. It may also be argued that, rather than confining to these approaches a historical study of the religions will be helpful to understand the general significance and limitations of religions. This will further strengthen dialogical relation between religions.

1.3 Theology of Religions
On the basis of dialogical existence of religions or relational convergence of religions from the perspective of pluralistic inclusivism Aleaz has developed his theology of religions. For him “theology of religions signifies the particular way in which one conceives other faiths in terms of one’s own faith.”[8] Again he writes “theology of religions enquires into how from the perspective of one’s own religious faith, a person can account for the diversity of the world’s religious quest and commitment.”[9] Still further, “the issue of the relationship between one’s own religious faith and other faiths is the focus of attention in theology of religions.”[10]
From these it is clear that theology of religions is concerned with how one conceives other faiths in terms of one’s own faith, how one accounts for the reality of many religions and how one relates with the others. In fact in his definition of religion Aleaz has given priority to other religious insights in understanding one’s own faith-tradition. Here on the contrary he focuses how one can relate with the other from his or her own standpoint. That is, the focus has moved from the other to one’s own faith tradition.
Hence it may be correct to say that, theology of religions is the study of the ways in which a person understands faith-traditions other than his or her own and how he or she relates his or her tradition with others.
In the pursuit of relational convergence of religions Aleaz has missed a significant aspect of the definition of theology of religions, that, not only faith traditions but ideologies also contribute to the life sustaining relational convergence of religions. Hence it may be appropriate to maintain that, theology of religions is not just confined to religions alone. It is concerned with ideologies as well. Its main aim is to interpret various faiths and ideologies in a way to building up a constructive relation between them, without disregarding the unique differences, for working towards a common goal, i.e. life sustaining vision.

1.3.1 Pluralism
Aleaz’s own proposal is to accept pluralistic inclusivism as the right approach to theology of religions. Nevertheless, he is comfortable with the strand of pluralism as well. He writes, “the Pluralist perspective maintains that other religions are equally salvific paths to the one God.”[11] This definition can raise a crucial question that how does pluralism accounts for religions which do not believe in the existence of God. Another shortcoming of the definition is that the role of other ideologies is undermined by excluding them. The school of pluralism, no doubt, has a place for all religions which believe in God, religions which do not believe in God and ideologies which are constructively contributing towards life sustaining pluralistic perspective.
      Aleaz is of the view that “in the religious history of India we notice Hinduism accepting religious pluralism theologically.”[12] One can also recall without doubt that the predominant Hindu perception of other religions is relativism. Aleaz himself writes “in the view of Neo-Vedanta which reinterprets Advaita, each religion is a path leading to the same goal.”[13] It is also obvious at present that the hardcore Hindu fundamentalist and communal representation is no where near to pluralism.
            Yet Aleaz goes on to suggest that “Hindu culture accepts religious pluralism theologically through the concepts of adikara bheda and Advaita.”[14] This assertion needs reconsideration as the present day politicized Hinduism is committed to a communally charged one monolithic Hindu culture.
In support of his position Aleaz argues that “the pre-Diamper (pre1519) St. Thomas Christians upheld Pluralism in theology of religions.”[15] His appreciation and aspiration for the pre-Diamper days need to take in to account the increasing intolerant attitude of some sections of Christianity against other religions.

1.3.2 Pluralistic Inclusivism
Aleaz’s agreement with pluralist interpretation of religions no way disturbs his unyielding preference for pluralistic inclusivism. This is evident as he writes, “Pluralistic Inclusivism can be conceived as a viable Indian Christian theology of religions in the context of dialogue.”[16] Aleaz also points out that ‘the pre-Diamper (pre1519) St. Thomas Christians upheld the perspective of Pluralistic Inclusivism in social life.’[17] It implies that one can be pluralist in terms of theology of religions and pluralistic inclusivist in terms of social life.
Since pluralistic inclusivism is Aleaz’s own construct, it is necessary to further understand this principle. According to him, “Pluralistic inclusivism inspires each religious faith to be pluralistically inclusive i.e., on the one hand each living faith is to become truly pluralistic by other faiths contributing to its conceptual content and on the other hand inclusivism is to transform its meaning to witness the fulfillment of the theological and spiritual contents of one’s own faith in and through the contributions of other living faiths.”[18]
Two important insights emerge from the above explanation. One is that every religion should become pluralistic with the contributions of other religions and the second is that the inclusivistic tendencies of the religions should seek fulfillment from the contributions of other religions. This of course is in contrast to the traditional way of thinking that all other religions will be fulfilled in Christianity. These are, in fact, the radical proposals of Aleaz against the existing tendencies that if a religion is pluralistic it positively considers other religions and if it is incluvisistic it seek the fulfillment of other religions. In the words of Aleaz “in Pluralist Inclusivism both Inclusivism and Pluralism undergo change in their previous meanings. It makes Pluralism inclusive and Incluvism pluralistic.”[19]
            A major outlook of pluralistic incluvism is obvious in Aleaz’s writing from the point of Advaita that “Pluralistic Incluvism is an attempt to make Christian faith pluralistically inclusive i.e., the content of the revelation of God in Jesus is to become truly pluralistic by other faiths contributing to it as per the requirement of different places and times and it is through such pluralistic understanding of the gospel that its true inclusivism is to shine forth. Here pluralism transforms itself to focus on its centre which is God as God in the universally conceived  Jesus and inclusivism transforms itself to bear witness to the fulfillment of the Christian understanding of Christ in and through theological  contributions from people of other faiths.”[20] Aleaz’s elucidation looks speculative and unconceivable from the point of some of the traditional claims of Christianity.
            His proposal that other faiths will contribute to the Christian faith according to the situation is hard to digest for an ordinary mind. Similarly universal Jesus cannot be understood except from the point of Advaita. The underlying assumptions behind this bold proposals is stated as “the basic affirmation here is that there is a possibility of the fulfillment of the theological and spiritual contents of one’s own faith in and through the contributions of other living faiths.”[21] The doubt that may arise here is that how is it possible for Aleaz to seek a universal Jesus while arguing for pluralistic inclusivism.
            It was already maintained that Pluralistic Inclusivism in reality is the approach of dialogue for the simple reason that as in dialogue in pluralistic inclusivism each religious faith receives from the other religious faiths new insights regarding its own conceptual content.[22] It may be asked if dialogical approach is the same as pluralistic inclusivism what is the necessity for galvanizing for pluralistic inclusivism.
Another point is that in Pluralistic Inclusivism ‘religious resources of the world are conceived as the common property of humanity’.[23] This is further explained as “all religious experiences and traditions are simultaneously ours. We do not have any one particular religious tradition alone as our own and other as belonging to others. All are mine as well as all are for all others. All belong to all. It is a religious perspective in which while remaining in one’s own religious faith-experience, one can consider other faiths as one’s own, as the common property of humanity, for a more and more blessed and enriched life. Here the otherness of the other is negated.”[24] Aleaz is true in considering all the religious resources of the universe as the common property of humanity. But this concern needs to be addressed in the realm of freedom of religion where every individual should be entitled to follow the religion of his or her choice.
Another aspect is that in Pluralistic Inclusivism, “there is social justice maintained in the realm of religious experiences by sharing with those who do not have, but this is entirely different an attitude from that of imposing upon others forcibly what they do not want. Pluralistic Incluvism always maintains humility to see that others have better things than us. The superiority of others is always affirmed in it, rather than claiming our own superiority.”[25]
Aleaz’s unwavering commitment to Pluralistic Inclusivism draws resources not only from Hinduism but also from the Syadvada or Anekantavada of Jainism. His assumption is that pluralistic inclusivism contributes to the relational convergence of religions.

1.3.3 Relational Convergence of Religions
Aleaz envisages ‘a relational convergence of religions’[26]  through pluralistic inclusivism.  In other words, ‘Pluralistic Incluvism gives birth to relational convergence of religions’.[27] His dedication to promote pluralistic inclusivism is vivid in his declaration that “for the last twenty five years I have been pleading for the relational convergence of the thoughts and experiences of diverge religious faiths in terms of a particular perspective in theology of religions which I call pluralistic inclusivism.”[28]
What is relational convergence of religions and its content can be deduced from his writing that “an important aspect of relational convergence of religions is mutual conversion. Being born in a religion does not mean that we should die in that religion in the same way as we were born. We can get converted into the true spirit of once own religion and in that very conversion get converted into another religious experience as well.”[29] Aleaz should not be misunderstood as promoting conversion from Christianity to other religions. He always maintained that the words proselytizing and conversion should not be confused. His priority is to see a conversion or change of attitude in a person in the light of the contributions of other religions. This is to say that to develop positive attitude towards others while being critical to one’s tradition.
This aspect is illustrated as “for example, if the gospel of God in Jesus has to emerge from the hermeneutical context of India, we can rightly say that Indian Christians are in a process of converting to the Indian religio-cultural context.”[30]Aleaz’s explanation looks tuff, but the simple point is that the Gospel should be relevant to the context. This is further made clear as “in the very conversion to Jesus in India, there is a conversion to the religio-cultural context of India, effecting thus a double conversion and this hints to the possible relational convergence of religious experiences.”[31]
Aleaz, no doubts, allows space to consider that “inter-relation as well as relational convergence of religion is a possibility.”[32] That is, it is not there but we can go in that direction.

1.4 Religion and Culture
              In connection with the relation between religion and culture Aleaz argues that ‘the basic feature of Indian culture is its integral relationship with Indian religions’.[33] He further states “religious enlightenment constitutes the fundamental source of creativity for Indian culture and the Indian psyche.”[34] He is also of the opinion that “there was no imposition of Aryan culture on the existing Indian cultures, but only a diffusion of it through an acculturation process.”[35]                                                  
              Aleaz’s respect for Indian heritage is admirable, but it cannot be ignored that as there are many religions, there are many cultures. Similarly the infiltration of Aryan influence including culture in various spheres of Indian life cannot be denied. It is true that there is a connection between religion and culture in India.  But promoting one religious culture as the Indian culture is dangerous and it is no way different from communalist tendencies. In fact the Sang Parivar in India is arguing for a single monolithic Hindu culture, although Hindu culture is not Indian culture.
              Of course, Aleaz perceives a double gospel emerging from Indian culture. According to him “one is the gospel of integral relation between religion and culture, resulting in cultural symbiosis and a composite culture through an ongoing interaction between religions. The second meaning of the gospel of Indian culture points to an understanding of the gospel of God in Jesus emerging from the Indian culture or rather the Indian hermeneutical context which in reality goes beyond the scope of the previous Christian concepts like ‘indigenisation’ or ‘inculturation’.”[36] The third gospel of Indian culture for Aleaz is ‘the gospel of interreligious harmony and integration’.[37]
            The two gospels-gospel of composite culture and gospel of God in Jesus emerging from the Indian hermeneutical context are limited to the outcome of the confluence of Christianity and Hinduism. But the fact remains that India has many cultures and many religious traditions/gospels. Aleaz also graphically reflects, without emphasizing the many religions and cultures, the possibility of inter-religious harmony.[38] He also asserts, as indicated earlier that, theologically Hindu culture accepts religious pluralism is vivid in the principles of adikara bheda and Advaita.[39]
              In the view of Aleaz ‘the most important feature of Indian culture is its integral relationship with Indian religions’.[40] He calls this relationship as Advaitic.[41] And affirms Advaita cannot be tied down to the narrow boundaries of any one particular religion. It stands for unity and universality in the midst of diversities. As a result it can very well function as a symbol of Indian composite culture.[42] The possibility of this suggestion may be questioned.
Aleaz, almost in line with the Sang Parivar, claims “it was its cultural unity based on religion that held India together historically as one.”[43] Again “the survival of the political unity of India is based on its cultural unity within which there persists a ‘core’ of religion to which the sense of Advaita or ‘not-twoism’ makes an enduring contribution.”[44] The Advaitic explanation and political unity based upon cultural unity may amount to communal and fundamental nature. Such notions are disadvantageous to Indian context. Aleaz also needs to analyze the dangers lurking behind such notions.
It is a fact that India does not have one single culture. It houses many cultures. Unity in diversity is the principle that keeps India going. Seeking for a religious culture based upon Hinduism is the communalist blunder of religionised political parties in India. Hindu culture cannot be considered as Indian culture. Cultures can exist side by side by mutual respect and interaction. Whether cultures can create a composite culture is a difficult question.

2 Philosophy
            Having analyzed Aleaz’s contribution to theology from the point of religious studies, now his theological contributions in terms of Indian philosophy can be discussed. It is obvious that he is an ardent advocate of Advaita Vedanta of Sankara. Before underlining some of his creative and radical constructs in line with Advaita, his understanding of the six pramanas(Sources of Knowledge)[45] of Indian philosophy can be discussed.

2.1 Pramanas
Aleaz is sentimental in using the six pramanas in Indian Christian theology.  As he finds a close integration of reason and revelation in the pramanas Aleaz considers giving total freedom to the Pramanas of Indian Philosophy to function as Indian Christian Pramanas. His sentiments are expressed as, “we receive the Pramanas of Indian Philosophy totally as they are; neither do we reject them nor do we reinterpret them to suit a pre-formulated christen epistemology.”[46]
Aleaz’s devotion to the pramanas is understandable. At the same time we cannot encourage uncritical application of them in Indian Christian theology. A positive consideration of the pramanas is possible if they can serve as tools of interpretation. 
Aleaz’s reverence for the pramanas is so serious that he maintains “one cannot add some more pramanas just like that to the list of the six got fixed through centuries of investigation by the best minds of India;…”[47] This is, in fact, his reaction to A.J. Appasamy’s proposal to consider saba(church) as a pramana and Paul Gregorios’ interpretation of sabda as tradition. Another suggestion is experience (Anubava) cannot be confused with, perception and it cannot be considered as a pramana.
Aleaz also complains that the Indian Christian theologians have not considered using all the six pramanas. Nonetheless, in his positive declaration Aleaz maintains “it is our conviction that the construction of a Christian epistemology has to take place from the very use of the Indian Philosophical Pramanas.”[48] This dedicated acceptance leaves with questions such as, can we accept the pramanas uncritically, can’t we modify some of them, and can’t we add new pramanas. In fact we cannot and should not blindly accept them and use them because they are also human products and all of them are not used by all schools of thought in India.
Whereas it is insightful to learn that even in the pramanas there is close integration of reason and revelation, Aleaz’s contention that there cannot be any other pramans than the accepted ones and that Indian Christian philosophy has to be developed from within the pramanas, can be subjected to further scrutiny.
As theologies today are down to earth realities, Aleaz needs to reconsider some of the claims. Our approach should be from below and struggle for sustenance based. In this connection the pramanas may not be of absolute help to us.

2.2 Advaita/Sankara
Philosophically Aleaz is oriented towards Advaita Vedanta of Sankara. It may be because of his perception that ‘Advaita is neither monism nor pantheism, but gives value and meaning to jiva and the world.’[49] It may be also because for him “the proclamation of Sankara is that the Atman as Pure Consciousness and Witness pervades, illumines and unifies the whole world, the whole of history and the entire human personality, giving significance to world and history as well as meaning and purpose to human life on earth.”[50]
The intention behind the choice is that for Aleaz, the Advaita Vedanta is helpful to understand God, world and life as not separate entities but one reality understood at different levels. Another current is that Advaita Vedanta principle that the reality is one without the second, is a convenient vehicle to emphasis religious harmony. Of course, as Aleaz is for relational convergence of religions, he could promote Advaita, but may not be appropriate to declare that this is the only viable option.  Although it is not his intention, it is implied that other philosophical and theological constructs are insignificant compared to Advaita Vedanta.
            Still further Aleaz is convinced that “Advaita Vedanta makes Christian faith-experience new and refreshing.”[51] This is an extraordinary claim in pursuing the good cause of religious harmony. Not all Indian thinkers have taken up this position. At the same time it needs to be remembered that there are constant appeal to Vedanta to be refreshed with the light of Christianity. Hence it may be fitting to consider every religion as a whole and explore the possibilities of working together towards a life sustaining vision on the strength of varying spiritual resources.
From the point of other religions and issues, Aleaz has accepted Advaita as the only philosophical system acceptable to all Hindus and other religious communities. He is also reflecting the notion that Advaita alone has solutions to all the problems in theology, religion and society. This is stated as “through the Advaita Vedantic understanding that each idea of god is but a stage in the religious journey, tolerance and acceptance of all different religions become natural and spontaneous for a Hindu.”[52] The meritorious point deserving appreciation is Aleaz’s commitment in pursuing religious harmony. At the same time there should be room to account for the different strands of Hindu understandings, because one of the salient aspects of Hinduism is its principle of Adiharabheda and istadevada. I am sure Aleaz will not disagree.
Aleaz’s faithfulness to Advaita facilitates much broader prospects to Advaita. According to him Vedanta transcends all religious boundaries.[53] But the fact that Advaita Vedanta has its background in the Siva tradition cannot be forgotten. Its universalistic tinge is welcome, but it cannot be made obligatory on all other religious communities and even on the Hindus who would subscribe to the various other interpretations available in their own tradition.

2.3 Christian Response to Indian Philosophy
Aleaz’s Christian Responses to Indian Philosophy is based on his commitment to the pluralistic context of India. He is of the opinion that an analysis of the responses of Christian thinkers to the philosophical systems of India will be the first step in this direction.
According to Aleaz, Krishna Mohan Banerjea and Nehemiah Nīlakantha Sastri Goreh have responded to all the major doctrines of the six philosophical systems and presented Christian concepts superior to them. Nehemiah Nīlakantha Sastri Goreh’s approach is exclusive because he has entirely disagreed with the six systems of philosophy in the light of his Christian understanding to the extent of suggesting that they are error.
Aleaz emphasizes that in Christian response to Indian philosophy, the relation between reason and revelation warrants special consideration. He also appeals that all the scriptures should be accepted as revelations. 
The growth of Navyanyaya within the Nyaya system as presented by John Vattanky tries to remove the blame of atheistic tendency of the original school. Along with Aleaz, John Vattanky maintains that it is not possible to separate religion and philosophy or reason and revelation in Indian systems of thought.
Aleaz is concerned that some Christian thinkers have misunderstood, and confused yoga philosophy with other general expressions of yoga.  For him the main principle that ‘Yoga means only separation of the soul from matter and not any union or communion of the soul with God’ is often distorted in the Christian usage.  While constantly pointing out this mix-up Aleaz amply credit the number of scholars who are trying to relate Yoga with Christian experiences.[54]
In the view of Aleaz, Francis X. D’Sa has approached Mimamsa Philosophy without relating to the Christian thought but highlights the eternal character of Sabdah and its significance in life. Aleaz is perturbed to see that instead of creatively using the Mimamsa insight of sabdah in biblical hermeneutics Francis X. D’Sa suggests kavyasastra’s Dhvani method of interpretation.[55] 
            Aleaz attempts to compare and contrast Dhvani of kavyasastra (Poetics) with sabdah (pramana), to suggest a biblical-theological hermeneutics in India. While proposing that, insights from dhvani can enrich sabdah method of interpretation, Aleaz, on the basis of Vedantians consideration of Sabdah, prefers the application of sabdah method in India.
Coming to the Christian thinkers who have responded only to Vedanta Aleaz is content with those positive responses and suggests that a Christian philosophy is in the making. His conviction, almost uncritical, without considering those who have followed to other ways of relating and interpreting the gospel is that Advaita is the hermeneutical context of India and Advaita enriches Christian faith experience.
            Aleaz presents the Jaina principle of Syadvada as helpful philosophical principle in the context of many religions and to pursue religious harmony.  In spite of a few negative Christian responses to Indian philosophy, Aleaz’s aim is to cull out resources from all the positive Christian responses to the Indian philosophical systems to initiate Indian Christian Philosophy.

2.4 Indian Christian Philosophy
Aleaz’s priority is to suggest a Christian philosophy based upon Indian philosophy, specifically anchored on the six pramans (sources of valid knowledge). The seeming possibility of this process is conveyed by highlighting the concomitant connection present between reason and revelation in Indian philosophy. Added to this is the accent supplemented to the sublime fact that “Indian philosophy is an applied discipline for human transformation and not a merely theoretical one.”[56] His conviction is that Indian philosophy can potentially address to the plural context of India particularly from the point of pluralistic inclusivism.
Although strong advocate of Advaita, Aleaz views A.J. Apppasamy’s creative use of Ramanuja’s philosophy to interpret Christian faith as one of the positive resources for Indian Christian philosophy.[57]
Aleaz is very emphatic that of all the Indian philosophical schools, it is Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta that is found resourceful in providing support for an Indian Christian philosophy.  Aleaz has used this principle to interpret Jesus. To site one example, “Jesus is the most beautiful representation of the ever-existing integral relation between god and creation, which includes humans.”[58]
The proposal that the Sabda-Dhvani method of biblical-theological hermeneutics can explore the possibility of having diverse interpretation of scripture is positively educative. According to Aleaz ‘his endeavors to bring out the significance of Sabda method of understanding and interpretation in Biblical- theological hermeneutics stands out as though feeble, a single-handed effort’.[59]


3 Theology
In terms of theology Aleaz’s contributions are tinged with the theology of Eastern Church. For him “theology primarily is not a conceptual exercise based on ‘revealed premises’, but an expression of true Christian experience.”[60] His definition of theology is in concomitance with the Eastern tradition is conspicuously clear from the statement that ‘theology is the spontaneous and thankful praise of God; it is our experiential relationship with God’. His reliance on the Eastern tradition directly come from him as “Christian theology for the East is always a means; a means to attain union with God or deification.”[61]
In short, theology for Aleaz is the expression of one’s god experience, or one’s relation with god. He also feels that various faith experiences/expressions may be encouraging to the faith community. That is “it is the faith experience of the community which gives authority and validity to theological propositions.”[62] He also reiterates that the church has given him the freedom to express his viewpoints freely and these kinds of free expressions in the church create theology.
                  
3.1 Indian Christian Theology/Thought
In continuation with his definition of theology and taking clue from Eastern Christian tradition Aleaz defines Indian Christian theology as “according to Indian thought theology is a mode of being, theology is participating in being and here Eastern Christian thought comes close to Indian thought.”[63]           Unlike the previous definition, his commitment for radical insights in theology is reflected in his definition of Indian Christian theology that “Indian Christian thought is a conversion of Christian thought to the Indian religio-cultural context.”[64] For him, this conversion is the result of one’s conversion to Jesus and he calls it as double conversion. 
In contrast to interpreting the Christian truth using Hindu or other religious categories Aleaz feels Christian theology should be converted to the Indian religio-cultural context as Christians are already converted to Jesus. Of course, in order to interpret our own faith we need not go to the extent of professing other convictions. We can do it efficiently if we give up aggressive and antagonistic attitude to other religions. Connected to this is developing of a positive approach to other faith traditions.
With regard to the sources of Indian Christian theology Aleaz maintains that Indian Christian theology has accepted the Indian philosophical principle of relation between reason and revelation. For him this connection is provided by the Indian pramanas. At the same time it is to be remembered that the present developments in the Indian theology is not concomitance with the proposal that the insight emerging from the Indian pramanas should be used in Indian Christian theology. In other words the newly emerging Indian contextual theologies are not in line with Aleaz’s thinking. Against this challenge Aleaz asserts that Advaita Vedanta best explains the Dalit theology.
            From the point of Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, securing the oneness of god and the rest is the main thrust of Indian Christian theology. This is explicit in Aleaz’s presentation of God and Jesus. For example “from the Indian Christian interaction with the Upanisadic thought, we may note that the Upanisads can give guidance not only in the Indian Christian conceptions of God and Jesus, but even in acquiring new insight related to the Indian Christian understandings of human person and the world.”[65]
            On the basis of Advaita Aleaz argues, “there is an inseparable relation between humans and Nature because the material world as well as the material body are constituted by the same five elements (Pancabhuta) and each indria (sense-organs) is composed of the same element, the quality of which is sensed by it.”[66] No doubt, the consideration of Aleaz is loaded with ecological implication, but pursuing Indian Christian theology from Advaita is only one of the many approaches.
Of course, Aleaz is of the view that the Indian Christian theologians are slowly recognizing the fact that Advaita enriches their faith-experience particularly in matters of God, humans, creation and deeper meaning of the person and function of Jesus. He explains the relation between God and Jesus as   “according to Vedantic Christology the central lesson of the life of Jesus to an Indian is the undermining of the false antithesis between human person and God. Jesus had a non-dual relation with God the Father and he is inspiring all the humans also to have the same relation with God through the renunciation of the lower self.”[67] While recognizing the fact that even without the aid of Advaita many theologians have explained the relation between God and Jesus similar to Advaita, the real question here is are we in a position to see what religious category explain the Christian categories better or, are we in a context to gently and honorably accept the marvel of plurality of religions.
           
3.2 Eastern Christian Thought
Having analyzed Aleaz’s understanding of Indian Christian theology, now we can move on to his perception of Eastern Christian thought. In the Eastern Church theology is a means to attain union with God/deification.[68] Union with God or deification implies not participating in the essence of God but the energy of God. With the insights from Advaita, Aleaz is inclined to accept that God can be explained as essence and energy. At the same time no one may forget that the final reality is still beyond and is mystery.
Aleaz finds intimate tie between Advaita and Eastern Christian theology. According to him “both Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian theology proclaim that theology is a mode of being, is participation in being. There is no theology apart from realization”[69]  In other words, theology is the experience of divine human unity. 
Besides the connection between Advaita and Eastern Christian thought, Aleaz convincingly states that Advaita can help develop Eastern Christian theology. He writes “the basic contention is that Advaita Vedanta of Hinduism can dynamically enrich eastern Christian thought in its further developments.”[70] It is not just his statement but he takes initiatives to invite Advaita to enrich the Eastern Christian thought. [71] It is more interesting that he is inviting Advaita to assist Eastern Christian theology in reformulating its theology, so that the resulting new creative Christian theological insights will benefit the Eastern Church, Church in general and even the other living religious faith traditions.
            Whether his conviction is right, the invitation is extendable, beneficial to the Eastern Church, Christianity and other religions needs to be answered by the church, although Aleaz asserts that the church has given him the freedom to express himself freely.  One pertinent issue is, whether such an uncritical acceptance of Advaita is permissible in the wider context of newly emerging theologies. From the point of religions as well, the Vaishnava Bhakti tradition condemns Sankara and Advaita.

3.2.1 Eastern Christian Thought, God-Creation
Aleaz’s earlier point that the Eastern church upholds that there is a distinction in God between essence and energy of god is made clear as “the Orthodox Christian tradition draws a distinction between the essence, nature or inner being of god, on the one hand, and power, His/Her energies, operations or acts of grace, life and power, on the other.”[72] In other words “if the essence signifies the radical transcendence of god, the energies points to his immanence and omnipresence.”[73]This goes well with the Advaita view of Brahman and Isvara.
The Eastern Christian idea of human beings is that “a human person’s very nature is truly itself only in as much as it exists ‘in God’ or ‘in grace’.”[74] This is to say that there is a close connection between God and humanity. In other words, ‘while human beings can do nothing without God, God does nothing, regarding goodness, righteousness and holiness, without human co-operation’.[75] Although Aleaz is particular about the meeting and supporting of Eastern Christian thought and Advaita, here a kind of Visistadvaita principle is in operation.
In the Eastern Christian thought, the union of human and God is further explained in terms of deification.  As stated above human union with God or deification takes place at the level of energy of God but not in the essence of God.[76] This union is illustrated with the example of the union between Jesus and God. For example ‘in Jesus there is a ‘communication’ of the divine and human ‘energies’.[77]
Again a more Advaitic form of interpretation is echoed in the explanation of God realization or God knowledge. Aleaz maintains “the more we are able to participate in God, the more God becomes unknowable.”[78] This is in line with the Vedantic notion that a fully realized person cannot explain his experience because he has become Brahman. The same tempo is maintained in explaining knowledge. For example it is said “the very realization of His/Her incomprehensibility is a knowledge.”[79] It is not the ordinary knowledge but the ultimate knowledge which is superior to all other knowledge. For example, ‘we should remember that the goal of apophatic theology is not God as object, but god as subject or union with God’.[80] Aleaz’s acceptance that ‘in the Eastern Christian thought God is understood as Mystery’[81], is much more open and conducive to theology of religions than Advaita realization. Here Aleaz’s invitation may have to experience reconsideration.
The eastern Christian understanding of creation is also explained in line with the Advaita that “creation is the work of will, and consequently is not coeternal with God.”[82] Having said that creation is not the essence of God the principle of time is explained as “in God’s thought eternally, creatures exist only potentially. Their actual existence occurs in time.”[83] In other words, creation is not fully separate from God, although it is not the essence. The manifestation of creation was the conceptual beginning of time.
Another surprising thought is that the human beings are mediators between the creation and god in whatever capacity permissible. It is maintained that “Eastern thought upholds the mediatory role of human presence in creation. Humanity’s vocation is to be the mediator or the frontier being mediating between the material and the spiritual between the secular and the sacred, between God and creation.”[84]  The reason may be that “according to Orthodox world-view God has formed two levels of created things neotic and material. Human person alone exists in both levels at once.”[85] Creation cannot be viewed separately from God. The integral relation between God and creation is metaphorically stated as “Christ is symbol of the integral relation that exists between God and creation.”[86]
            Again an Advaitic understanding is utilized to explain the image of God. For example “it is the humanity together with the material creation that constitutes the ultimate image of God.”[87] Then Aleaz moves to explain the theological speculations of image and likeness with the Eastern Christian framework. He writes, “the image of God is the essence of human person while ‘likeness’ points to the ethical being of human person.”[88] This falls within the parameters of his explanation that in the fall human did not miss the essence but the ethical aspect. In spite of the bent of Vedantic influence Aleaz tends to accept that the Christ event has restored humanity and creation together. It is said “human person’s restoration in Christ is simultaneously a restoration of the cosmos to its original beauty.”[89] The thought is comprehensive as it includes the restoration of cosmos as well. But the difficulty is as Aleaz is averse to atonement-theories based explanation of the Christ event, how it is possible to come to this conclusion.
Aleaz’s conviction that the Advaita needs to be invited to help Eastern Christian theology to formulate its theology is challenging. Certain areas are pointed as opportunity for Advaita to assist Eastern Christian thought. One such realm is ‘the unknowability of Brahman’ which ‘helps Eastern Christian theology to go deeper into the dimensions of apophatic theology’.[90] Another point of help is ‘the Advaitic interpretation of Brahman/Atman as Pure Consciousness enlightens Eastern Christian interpretation of God’.[91] Still further Aleaz feels that ‘the Advaita Vedanta provides deeper insights regarding the energies and operations of God in creation for the further development of Eastern Christian thought.”[92] This is further substantiated as “Advaita Vedantic understanding of creation further enlightens the creation ex nihilo interpretation of Eastern Christianity.”[93]
The difficulty associated with Aleaz’s invitation to Advaita to assist eastern Christian thought is that Christianity ceases to be Christianity. Of course Aleaz may be well pleased with it. But the best possible approach may be to accept each theologies/philosophies as they are and then explore the possibilities of cooperation from the adherents to challenge common issues that threaten life as a whole.

3.2.2 Eastern Christian Thought, Fall-Restoration
The main point of emphasis here is that sin is not an inherited quality but an inherited morality that is ‘in Greek patristic thought original sin was viewed not as inherited quality but as inherited morality’.[94] This means certain adjustments and disciplines can set things right.
In contrast to the theological perception that in the fall humanity has lost God’s image Aleaz maintains “according to it (Orthodox Theology), though the divine image in human person was obscured, it was not obliterated.”[95] Similarly his response to the view that after the fall humans have completely lost the free will is “fall has not destroyed a person’s free choice, but only restricted it.”[96] With regard to the lose of image and free will in the fall, Aleaz is of the view that they are not completely obliterated but obscured. This may be nearer to the Advaitic understanding of ignorance. His explanation is in absolute continuity with his thought that what humanity and the creation long for is restoration of the image and will to the first level.
For Aleaz the Eastern tradition considers that the evil has entered into the world through the will. Therefore, ‘evil is not a nature, but a condition’.[97] This is vividly explained as “the real source of evil in the world is the inappropriate exercise of free will, of self-determination, causing a separation of humans from God.”[98] 
Since evil is attempt to de-link from god the restoration means reestablishing the link. Aleaz makes a distinction between the approach of Jesus and created beings. In order to restore the communication Jesus descended to the earth hence the created beings have to take the opposite direction of ascendancy. In the words of Aleaz, “the path which Christ, the divine Person took, was that of a descent towards created being and taking upon himself of our nature. If that is so the path of created person has to be that of ascent, a rising up towards the divine nature by means of union with uncreated grace communicated by the Holy Spirit.”[99]
In aleaz’s view, human person’s restoration through Christ is effected by the involvement in the church and sacrament. He writes “in the church and through the sacraments our nature enters into union with the divine nature in the hypostasis of the Son, the head of his mystical body.”[100] It is also superficially suggested that “Eucharistic worship of the Orthodox occurs when the Spirit transports us into the presence of the heavenly throne.”[101] Therefore it is treated as ‘an act of freedom, love and joy’.[102] It is not just the church and sacrament but also the church liturgy has a part to play in this ascension. This he writes as, “Eastern liturgy is the passage from this world into the world to come, it is a procession and ascension to the Kingdom.”[103]
In the process of restoration to the original status Aleaz envisages that the entire cosmos will be restored.[104]             How he will invite Advaia here is not clear because Aleaz maintains that the church, sacraments and the liturgy directly facilitates the upward mobility. This also may go against his definition of pluralistic inclusivism and relational convergence of religions. It will be worthwhile if he admits directly that other worship places, sacraments and liturgies have similar effect.

3.2.3 Eastern Christian Thought-Deification
Eastern Christian thought in general conceives salvation as deification.[105] The implications of deification are stated as “Deification points to communion with God and that communion is one’s destiny since the individual’s creation is according to God’s ‘image and likeness.”[106] In other words it is ‘a rising up towards the divine nature by means of union with uncreated grace communicated by the Holy Spirit’.[107] The theological significance of this process is pointed out as “in the theology of the Eastern Church, the person of the Holy Spirit, the giver of grace is always distinguished from the uncreated grace or energy which he confers.”[108]
The deification process is engineered in the heart. According to Aleaz, “the ascetic tradition of the Christian East considers the heart as the centre of the human being…thus the heart is the source of all intellectual and spiritual activity.”[109] The functioning of the process is energized by prayer (Jesus Prayer).[110] In the words of Aleaz, “the ceaseless prayer of the heart can lead a person out of lusting after things of the earth. It can make a person firmly grounded in memory of God alone.”[111]
 The deification actualized by grace and prayer does not deprive humanness from people. For example “the patristic tradition stands for a god-centered humanism where deification does not suppress humanity but makes human person truly human.”[112] This is further supported by the theory that “apart from tears of repentance there is thus another level of tears in the spiritual tradition of Eastern Christians namely the tears of compassion…”[113] Aleaz will be justified if only the deification goes beyond humanism to include the entire creation, because he also has maintained that “Integral God-human-nature relationship (cosmotheandrisam) is the gospel of both Vedic and Vedantic dharma.”[114]

3.2.4 Eastern Christianity and Religions
According to Aleaz Advaita helps Eastern Church to reformulate her Christian experience. This new experience can benefit all people of all living religious faiths.[115] He is of the view that “the St. Thomas Christians in their glorious history upto the end of 16th c. had very positive approach to their neighbour’s faith i.e., Hinduism, which is identified today through an analysis of the Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Diamper of 1599.”[116] He is also of the view that “St. Thomas Christians upheld Pluralism in the theology of religions. They had the vision to see that a Hindu can be saved in his/her own dharma.”[117]
It is understandable that Aleaz is striving to usher in the church, pre Diamper attitude towards other religions, particularly Hinduism. He also appreciates the pluralistic stand of the pre Diamper church that Hindus could be saved in their own religion. Earlier also it was shown that he has no problem with the pluralistic school. If he is comfortable with pluralism what is the necessity for pluralistic inclusivism.

3.3 Dalit Theology and Advaita Vedanta
Aleaz is often viewed with suspicion as promoting Brahmanic worldview. But time and again he proves the other way. He challenges the Dalit theologians to draw lessons from the neo Vedanta of Vivekananda. His argument is that the Dailts should revolt against the Brahmins and not against Advaita. They should take the neo vedantic insights of One Innermost Atman, equality and justice. He writes, “if the Dalit theologians today hold that the suffering of the Dalits should be the basis or starting point of Dalit theology, Swami Vivekananda through his practical Vedanta is inspiring them to add to it the basis of the One Innermost Atman shared by all alike as well. The practical Vedanta through its message of equality and social justice stands for the cause of the Dalits. The Dalits need not revolt against Advaita; rather their revolt has to be against those upper castes who are ignorant of the teaching of equality of Advaita.”[118] It looks Aleaz suggests that the original proponents of Advaita did not understand Advaita well.
Aleaz is not only suggesting new lessons from Vedanta but also sees the possibility of convergence  between Advaitic theology and Dalit theology and argues “Advaita can provide deeper foundations for Dalit theology and Dalit theology can make Advaitic theology, a people’s theology.”[119]
Aleaz is emphatic that this possibility was actualized in the life and work of Sri Narayana Guru and therefore the Dalit theologians should not ignore it. He writes “Sri Narayana Guru is specially significant for the contemporary Indian context as in his life and thought we notice a wonderful coming together on Dalit and Advaitic theologies, something which the Indian Dalit theologians who project Dalit theology as a counter theology, have to carefully take note of.”[120]
Aleaz attempts to demonstrate with the examples of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Narayana Guru that ‘Advaita theology is not anti-Dalit theology, rather on the one hand Advaita can provide deeper foundations for Dalit theology and on the other it is Dalit theology that proclaims Advaita Vedanta practically’.[121] Of course it may be a bitter pill for Dalit theologians to swallow.

4  Indian Spirituality
In the understanding of Aleaz, “Spirituality is our recognition of the involvement of the spirit in us and in the whole creation.”[122] Another significant dimension of the definition of spirituality is being available to God. In Aleaz’s phrase ‘spirituality implies being open to reality in all its dimensions’.[123] Another deeper dimension of spirituality is the response of the self to the rest. It is said “spirituality represents the total response of the self to the self-world-God trio.”[124] Aleaz writes about the comprehensive content of spirituality as “a wholesome spirituality has three aspects namely passion for justice, compassion for people and communion with God.”[125] In short spirituality includes the recognition of the involvement of the spirit, being open to the reality, self’s response to the rest and passion for justice, compassion for people and communion with god.
Coming to the model spirituality Aleaz writes, “Jesus is the supreme example to show that there is no spirituality of an exclusive vertical dimension. His was a humanizing spirituality, a life-sustaining spirituality which has to mould and lead us.”[126] The life sustaining aspect left in the previous attempts of definition and explanations is included here. Whether the life sustaining is inclusive of the entire God’s creation is to be clarified. As poverty is the out come of all forms of injustice no definition of spirituality will be all inclusive unless it addresses the issue of poverty. In the words of Aleaz, ‘there can be no spirituality without an active concern for the poor’.[127] Again he says a “Christian spirituality is lived by one who has the spirit of Christ.”[128] It is a call to follow the life of Christ and not a call for christocentric paradigm.
Aleaz is earnestly committed for a contextual Indian Christian spirituality. He wants Christian spirituality to be inclusive and plural. He is also talking about a Christo-centric spirituality. The content of such spirituality, for him, should be, a life-sustaining spirituality, which is people centered, Christ centered and pluralist in nature. 
He also sees the possibility of forming a relevant Indian Christian spirituality by culling resources from other religious tradition as well. In his own words “a contextual Christian spirituality is the focus, receiving insights from spiritualities of sister religious faiths.”[129] In this direction he finds the first meeting point in Namajapa. He writes “Namajapa or prayer of the name is a meeting point of the spiritualities of Hindu and Christian traditions.”[130] Aleaz also establishes Christians can glean resources form Sufiism as well. In the words of Aleaz, “Islam has immensely contributed to spirituality through Sufism from which Christianity can profit much. The Sufis laid stress on the interior spiritual life, on knowledge of God by experience (kashf) rather than by pure reasoning.”[131] He also finds resources for a spirituality of pluralism in Jaina tradition. It is maintained ‘Syadvada stands for a spirituality of pluralism in theology of religions and thus contributes ideologically to the harmony of religions’.[132] Aleaz’s intention to gather resources from Indian religious resources is a courageous attempt to make Indian spirituality wider and inter-religious.

5 A Few Salient Constructs
            Certain constructs of Aleaz deserve special mention as they are quite radical, innovative and provocative as well. Here we shall discuss Aleaz’s explanation of Jesus, Gospel and proclamation and Mission.

5.1 Jesus
Aleaz is convinced that “the Hindu religious experience and thought categories can really enrich Christian faith experience and also bring out new meanings regarding the Christian notion of God as well as the person and function of Jesus”.[133] Hence, in understanding and explaining Jesus Aleaz takes support from the Advaita Vedanta. He writes, “our method is to give complete authority to the authentic writings of Sankara in order to explain ‘who Jesus is’.”[134] Aleaz already maintained that deeper meaning of the person and function of Jesus are emerging from within Advaita Vedanta’.[135] The point here is that Aleaz finds the Advaitic principles are helpful to explain the relation between God and Jesus and the rest.
Aleaz is of the opinion that the connection between Brahman and Jiva is helpful in understanding and explaining Jesus, because ‘it provides the best framework in the construction of an understanding of Jesus’.[136]  
This is further supplemented as “Jesus, the human representative is a reflection (abhasah) of the Supreme Self like the semblance of the sun in water (jalasuryakadivat). Jesus as reflection of the Supreme Self conforms to the characteristics (dharmanuyayi) of the extrinsic denominators of Jesus, but according to the supreme sense the Self does not have these characteristics. There does not occur any change (parinamah) in the Self due to Jesus’ reflection.”[137] More elaborately, “as representative Jiva, Jesus has no separate reality for himself; his reality lies in sacrificing himself and finding his reality in Brahman. Jesus in particular form is unreal (akaravisesatoanrtam); he is real only in his own form which is the form of Being (svatah sanmatrarupataya satyam).”[138]Like the Jiva which has no other existence apart from Brahmaan Jesus has no existence apart from God. This may go well with the notion that the word became flesh or God descended in human form to rescue creation. At the same time it will be in disagreement with the notion that God sent his only begotten son to save the creation.
Aleaz, in contrast to the formal Christian belief, maintains that “the symbol ‘Son’ cannot express the depth of the relation between Jesus and Brahman; name and form (namarupa) would be a better symbol; and India suggests this through Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta.”[139]  The real Advaitic interpretation is that “Jesus, the representative name and form pre-existed in Brahman as unmanifested name and form (avyakrtanamarupah); as the potential seed (bijasaktih). Being the representative of the whole humanity, Jesus is the representative name, form and action of the whole humanity.”[140]
Another insight is in ‘Aleaz’s Jesulogy, Brahman is the cause, Jesus is the effect. Jesus, the effect existed in Brahman, the internal reality-providing (upadanakaranam) as well as efficient cause (nimittakaranam) even before he took birth in this world’.[141] This idea particularly can be helpful in clearly understanding the relation between Jesus and God.
Aleaz disagrees with the atonement form of interpretation of Jesus. He writes “human sacrifice was a Jewish idea and to fit the gentle and loving Jesus into Jewish beliefs, the idea of human sacrifice in the form of atonement or as a human scape goat, by Christianity, was really unfortunate.”[142] This contention is elaborated as “we may have to qualify atonement theory as a Jewish Christian interpretation of the meaning of Jesus which makes no sense to Indians. That is the reason as an alternative understanding of the function of Jesus, in our Jesulogy we are explaining Jesus elaborately as the expression of the all pervasive, illuminative and unifying power of the Supreme Self; as the expression of the eternally present human liberation. Also we are showing that the function of Jesus is to show us the supreme Brahman which is Pure consciousness, as the Witness and Self of all. Such an understanding, we believe, can be a meaningful conception of the function of Jesus as far as Indians are concerned.”[143] Aleaz insists that in every aspect of Jesus we should recognize Brahman. This he puts as “the person of Jesus proclaims that if we identify any aspect of his person as Brahman, we are in ignorance; but if we identify in every aspect of his person Brahman and Brahman alone, we have come to the experience who he truly is.”[144]
Aleaz does not stop with saying that we should see Brahan in every aspect of Jesus, but goes on to suggest that “the mission of Jesus was to communicate to humanity the uniqueness of Brahman as the only illuminative principle.”[145] As Aleaz immerses in the current of Advaita, admits that, our hermeneutical context is plural and Advaita is just one such hermeneutical context. His openness to other strands of thought is clear when he says that “the resources of God, which were available to Jesus, are open to all and if we struggle as he did, we will develop the God in us.” [146] Aleaz in his quest for Indian Jesus can also do justice to similar interpretations put forth by other eminent theologians, from different perspectives.

5.2 Gospel
            As Aleaz is committed to Indian Jesuology, he also has an Indian version of Gospel. According to him, gospel emerges from the Indian culture- one emerges from the interaction between religion and culture, another emerges from the interaction of religions and yet another emerges from the hermeneutical context of India.[147] He is also of the opinion that ‘the understanding of Jesus emerging from the Indian hermeneutical context only ratifies the harmony and integration that exist between religions in India as well as the resultant Indian composite culture’.[148] It is to be underlined that in order to be more relevant Aleaz needs to recognize plurality of cultures in India. Similarly, overemphasizing the connection between religion and culture may not be condusive in the context of communal politics and fundamentalist thinking.
            According to Aleaz, the religio-cultural context, which is the hermeneutical context, of India will decide the ‘gospel of God in Jesus’.[149] He also says religious pluralism is a hermeneutical context and it will contribute to the content of the gospel.[150] He also suggested that Advaita is the hermeneutical context of India. In nutshell, for Aleaz, “the gospel of Indian culture is the gospel of interreligious harmony and integration.”[151] This deserves acceptance.
He also gives reason for this transition as “the gospel is not pre-formulated, but is in the process of formulation through the guidance of Hindu and other religious experiences.”[152] Aleaz envisages a conversion to the new gospel. For Him Indian Christian theology is this conversion.[153] It may be appealing, if our initiatives are in the direction of addressing newly emerging life threatening issues, rather than  compressing everything to the religio-cultural jacket.
            Aleaz’s call for the gospel emerging from the hermeneutical context of India has a provision for the gospels of other religions which are also the resultants of the Indian hermeneutical context. He writes, “though our strife is for the experience of the one Gospel of the One God/Reality in the vision of a relational convergence of religions, gospels as experienced by people of other faiths have to be affirmed as significant, as a primary step.”[154] Here Aleaz’s openness to other faiths and his call for relational convergence of religions are vivid.
             The full development of his thought in this direction is found when he includes the contexts of globalization. He writes, “Gospel has to emerge from the hermeneutical context, from the experience of the oppressed and suffering people due to globalization on the one hand and from the diverse enriching religious experiences of human kind on the other.”[155]

5.3 Proclamation & Mission
            Aleaz feels Pauline presentation of salvation explanation is not relevant to the present context, because ‘today we do not find any of the atonement theories-the conception of salvation as being brought about by Jesus’ death as an atonement to God for human sin-as attractive or convincing’.[156] This contention is in view of the Hindu notion that every one is responsible his or her deeds.
His commitment and dedication for the cause of religious harmony is clearer when he writes, “a Christian has to proclaim the liberative elements in other religious faiths seeking forgiveness for the damage done in the past by way of oppression, destruction of local religions and cultures as well as misinterpretations.”[157]
            Coming to Christian mission, he calls for a reconception. This reconception is based upon his contention that Christianity also receives insights from other religious traditions, mainly Advaita. Therefore, against the formal superiority claims, Aleaz maintains, “this receiving aspect is proposed today as the thrust of an Indian Christian theology of mission.”[158] It is emphatically stated as “Christian faith in India must stop proselytizing and encourage conversion.”[159] This is not conversion from one religion to other but conversion to Jesus and religio-cultural context.
His commitment to the cause of Advaita is obvious as he says ‘the Indian Christian mission in this context is to present the gospel as Advaita Vedanta’.[160] Here he has reduced the gospel only to proclaim that Advaita is the gospel.
It does not deprive Aleaz’s comprehensive understanding of mission. For example, he writes “a Christ-centered humanism has the best opening of making its impact in the Indian dialogic social existence.”[161] He has not failed to find a place for women. He writes “We also noted the point that the essential values of any religion can contribute to the education and development of women in India.”[162]
Aleaz’s understanding of proclamation and mission is quitedistinct. But they simply reflect his commitment for inter religious relation or relational convergence of religions from the point of pluralistic inclusivism, deriving insights from Advaita.

Conclusion
Aleaz’s definition/meaning of religion would be substantial had it emphasized the need for religions to focus upon life sustaining issues. Further,the life sustaining implications present in the methodology should become explicit. Aleaz’s definition of theology of religions is focused on the pursuit of relational convergence of religions. Yet it needs to have space for religions and ideologies which believe in the nonexistence of god, yet committed for the life sustaining relational convergence of religions.
Although proponent of pluralistic inclusivism, Aleaz is sympathetic with the school of pluralism. His evaluation of pluralism can also include the necessity of considering the ideologies and atheistic religions that contribute to common causes. In the light of the relativist school Aleaz’s view that Hinduism stands for religious pluralism needs reconsideration. His expectation of the return of the pre-Diamper Christianity cannot ignore the growing exclusivistic tendencies of the churches. Other related questions are how does pluralistic inclusivism and universal Jesus go together.
Considering the entire religious resource of the universe as a common property of all may well fit within the parameters of freedom of religion/human rights rather than pluralistic inclusivism. Relational convergence of religions in the frame work of pluralistic inclusivism is not the solution to all issues, but it is the life sustaining vision that leads to relevant solution. Promoting one particular thought pattern alone, for strengthening religious relations may lead to another form of exclusivism.
Over emphasis of the connection between religion and culture may shelter communal ideologies and fundamentalist thinking. Pursuing a composite culture, in the place of multi culture, may lead to mono-culture which is not Indian at all. Likewise, promoting the assumption that there is connection between culture and politics in India can also bring about adverse consequences in the line of Sang Parivar’s ideology. Hence there is a great need to reiterate the fact of many religions and many cultures in India. Accepting Hindu culture as Indian culture is incorrect.
Aleaz’s uncritical acceptance and application of Indian philosophical pramanas for the construction of Indian Christian philosophy is not in consonance with the spirit of the present theological developments. His respect for Advaita on the basis of its world-god-life relation cannot draw the conclusion that Advaita is the only way to relational convergence of religions.  Aleaz’s overemphasis on Advaita, is not in conjunction with his idea that ‘even within the same school of religious experience(Swami Ram Tirtha and Sister Nivedita) there is the possibility of divergent expressions’. 
            In the definition, sources and the main thrust of Indian Christian theology, the Advaitic elements flow profusely. It also needs to be noted that many Christians in India connect Advaita with the symbol of oppression.
            Aleaz’s presentation of Eastern Christian thought of God and creation, supposed to be from Advaita point of view, swings among, Advaita, Visistadvaita and Eastern mystery. His invitation to Advaita to assist Eastern Christian thought is the outcome of the concerns that Aleaz is addressing.
            In Aleaz’s presentation of fall and restoration the proposal for descent and ascent is comprehensive as they have space for the entire cosmos but there is no role for Advaita because church, sacrament and liturgy are quite conclusive in their role to the members of the church.
            Whether salvation as deification comprehends the Advaitic god-human-nature composition is a legitimate question. Aleaz’s anticipation for the pre Diamper days, i.e. pluralism, does not synthesis with his constant appeal for pluralistic inclusivism. Parallel to this is the position of Aleaz that Advaita best suits Dalit theology, in the context of Dali theologians’ protest against Advaita.
            Most advanced and comprehensive form of thought is found in Aleaz’s proposal for Indian Christian spirituality where he ventures the life sustaining model of Jesus or Christo-centric model. Here he comes explicitly and declares that other religions can contribute to the Indian Christian spirituality.
            Having concluded that the Christian understanding of ‘Son’ does not explain the meaning of Jesus, Aleaz is of the view that Hindu categories, particularly Advaita, can explain Jesus well. He does not accept the Pauline presentation of Jesus as the atonement on the cross. For Aleaz, the mission of Jesus is to present Brahman as the whole.
In contrast to the other places Aleaz’s call for the emergence of gospel from the hermeneutical context of India has provision for other faiths, as they can produce their gospel from the texture.
Aliaz’s original and radical insights in relation to religious harmony or relational convergence of religions from the perspective of pluralistic inclusivism shines as he declares that our proclamation is not atonement theories, but the truth in other religions. For him proclamation of the truth in other religions is not enough but also we need to ask for forgiveness from other religious communities for the damages we have done to them. This is what he calls as Mission of reconception or conversion. Apart from the other pleas, Aleaz also feels that Christ-centerd humanism is relevant and any good understanding of religion must have place for the liberation of women.
One may be tempted to say that Aleaz has concentrated on Advaita and applied this paradigm in all his ideas, rather than  aspiring for a systematic and gradual development of theological thinking. It may be also alleged that rather than promoting Kingdom values Aleaz has worked for the promotion of other religious values limiting himself to a select few concerns.
            Besides the above observations there are many constructive insights in the theological contributions of Aleaz. To start with, his consideration that religions have to be defined on the basis of their fruits is constructive from the point of Indian realities. Added to this is the appeal to develop positive consideration about the positive aspects of other religions. Aleaz’s broader perspective is clear as he states that all religions are authentic in their own context and plurality of religions is natural. More comprehensive is the view that expressions of the same religious experience can vary according to the context.
The major shift in Aleaz’s definition of religion is from content to applicability of a religion to the texture. The underlying expectation in his integral method to study religion is religious harmony or relational convergence of religions. Correspondingly, in his definition of theology of religions, the focus has moved from the other to one’s own faith tradition. The magnitude of pluralistic inclusivism is that all religions become pluralistically inclusive and inclusivistically pluralist. 
            One of the radical thoughts of Aleaz is that Christian faith receives insights from other religions. His openness to dialogical approach while upholding pluralistic inclusivism conveys that in the ultimate analysis all are seeking for religious harmony.
            Other new thoughts are that all the religious resources of the universe is common property of all and others will be viewed as superior to us,  in pluralistic inclusivism. In the relational convergence of religions there is mutual conversion and the context will decide the content of the gospel of God in Jesus for India.
            Aleaz’s uncritical acceptance of other religious insights is the revelation of his urge for religious harmony and respect for other religious traditions. He asserts that no one else has attempted an Indian Christian philosophy based on pramans, Advaita and very specially sabda-dvani method, which is relevant for biblical interpretation.
            An unselfish struggle for religious harmony is vivid in his invitation and request to Advaita to assist Eastern Christian thought. His hope for the pre-Diamper approach to people of other faiths is his commitment for the church to come forward with openness in relation to other religions.
            Aleaz’s Indian Christian spirituality based on inclusion of resources from Indian religions, his interpretation that Jesus is the reflection of Brahman, and his view that gospel has to emerge from the religio-cultural context of India are courageous proposals. His ultimate dedication for religious harmony is fully embedded in his view of proclamation and mission.

By
Dr. S. Robertson
Principal
Bethel Bible College
Guntur 522 006
Andhra Pradesh

Religion and Dialogue





[1] K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995, P.2.
[2] Ibid., P.2.
[3]Ibid.,  P.283.
[4] Ibid., PP.299-300.
[5]Ibid.,  P.299.
[6] K.P. Aleaz, Religion in Christian Theology, 2001,P.7.
[7]K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995, P.299.
[8] K.P. Aleaz, Harmony of Religions: The Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, 1993, P.233.
[9]K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,PP.227-228.
[10]Ibid., P.168.
[11] Ibid., P.170.
[12]K.P. Aleaz, Harmony of Religions: The Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, 1993, P.236.
[13] K.P. Aleaz, The Gospel of Indian Culture, 1994, P.286.
[14] Ibid., P.286.
[15] K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995,P.285.
[16] Ibid., P.283.
[17] Ibid., P.285.
[18] K.P. Aleaz, Harmony of Religions: The Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, 1993,P.234.
[19] K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,P.172.
[20] Ibid., P.172.
[21] Ibid., P.172.
[22] Ibid., P.322.                                                                                                        
[23]Ibid.,  P.1.
[24]Ibid., P.176.
[25]Ibid.,  P.184.
[26]Ibid.,  P.1.
[27]Ibid., P.173.
[28] K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian Thought, 2000, P.xv.
[29] K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,P.180.
[30] Ibid., P.180.
[31] Ibid., P.180.
[32] K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995, P.2.
[33] K.P. Aleaz, The Gospel of Indian Culture, 1994, P.1.
[34] Ibid., P.287.
[35]Ibid.,  P.284.
[36] Ibid., P.2.
[37] Ibid., P.283.
[38] Ibid., P.283.
[39] Ibid., P.286.
[40]Ibid.,  P.283.
[41]Ibid.,  P.283.
[42] K.P. Aleaz, Christian Thought  Through Advaita Vedanta, 1996, P.1.
[43] Ibid., P.1.
[44] K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian
Thought, 2000,P.Xvi-xvii.
[45] Perception-pratyaksa, inference-anumana, scripture or verbal testimony-sabda,
comparison-upamana, postulation-arthapatti, and non-cognition-anupalabdhi.
[46] K.P. Aleaz, The Role of Pramanas in Hindu-Christian Epistemology, 1991, P.4.
[47] Ibid., P.119.
[48] Ibid., P.4.
[49] K.P. Aleaz, Religion in Christian Theology, 2001, P.1.
[50] Ibid., P.2.
[51] Ibid., P.10.
[52] K.P. Aleaz, Harmony of Religions: The Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, 1993,P.240.
[53] K.P. Aleaz, Christian Thought  Through Advaita Vedanta, 1996, P.1.
[54] K.P. Aleaz, Christian Responses to Indian Philosophy, 2005.
[55] K.P. Aleaz, Christian Responses to Indian Philosophy, 2005.
[56]K.P. Aleaz, For a Christian Philosophy From India: Cambridge Teape Lectures – 2005, 2006.
[57]K.P. Aleaz, Christian Responses to Indian Philosophy, 2005.
[58] K.P. Aleaz, For a Christian Philosophy From India: Cambridge Teape
Lectures – 2005, 2006.
[59]K.P. Aleaz, For a Christian Philosophy From India: Cambridge Teape
Lectures – 2005, 2006.
[60] K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian Thought, 2000,P. 67.
[61] Ibid., P.76.
[62] Ibid., P.106.
[63] Ibid., P.80.
[64] K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,P.9.
[65] K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995,P.286.
[66] Ibid., P.289.
[67] K.P. Aleaz, The Gospel of Indian Culture, 1994, P.293.
[68] K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian Thought, 2000,P.76.
[69] Ibid., P.130.
[70] Ibid., P.xvi.
[71]Ibid.,  P.xix
[72]Ibid.,  P.3.
[73] Ibid., P.4.
[74] Ibid., P.44.
[75] Ibid., P.45.
[76]Ibid.,  P.6.
[77]Ibid.,  P.6.
[78]Ibid.,  P.66.
[79] Ibid., P.67.
[80] Ibid., P.78.
[81] Ibid., P.79.
[82]Ibid.,  P.17.
[83]Ibid.,  P.18.
[84]Ibid.,  P.35.
[85] Ibid., P.38
[86] Ibid., P.19.
[87] Ibid., P.20.
[88] Ibid., P.24.
[89] Ibid., P.91.
[90] Ibid., P.129.
[91] Ibid., P.145.
[92] Ibid., P.146.
[93] Ibid., P.171.
[94] Ibid., P.91.
[95]Ibid.,  P.26.
[96] Ibid., P.37.
[97] Ibid., P. 26.
[98]Ibid.,  P.45.
[99] Ibid., P.11.
[100]Ibid.,  P.10.
[101]Ibid.,  P.98.
[102] Ibid., P.99.
[103]Ibid., P .110.
[104] Ibid., P.19.
[105]Ibid.,  P.33
[106] Ibid., P.13.
[107] Ibid., P.11.
[108]Ibid.,  P.11.
[109] Ibid., P.52.
[110] Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me/Jesus, son of god, have mercy upon  me/ Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.
[111] K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian Thought, 2000,P.63
[112] Ibid., P.68.
[113] Ibid., P.21
[114]K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995, P.121.
[115]K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian Thought, 2000, P.xix
[116] Ibid., P.Xviii.
[117]Ibid.,  P.xviii.
[118] K.P. Aleaz, Harmony of Religions: The Relevance of Swami Vivekananda, 1993,P.242.
[119] K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995,P.291.
[120] K.P. Aleaz, Religion in Christian Theology, 2001,P.2.
[121] K.P. Aleaz, For a Christian Philosophy From India: Cambridge Teape Lectures – 2005,
2006, p.151.
[122] K. P. Aleaz, The Quest for Contextual Spirituality, 2004, P. 11.
[123] Ibid., P. 21.
[124] Ibid., P. 22.
[125] Ibid., P. 26.
[126] Ibid., P. 11.
[127] Ibid., P. 27.
[128] Ibid., PP. 27-28.
[129] Ibid., P. 9.
[130]Ibid.,  P. 29.
[131] Ibid., P. 32.
[132] Ibid., P. 84.
[133] K.P. Aleaz, Dialogical Theologies: Hartford Papers and Other Essays, 2004, P.122.
[134] K.P. Aleaz, Christian Thought  Through Advaita Vedanta, 1996,P.90.
[135] Ibid., P.212.
[136] Ibid., P.90.
[137] Ibid., P.95.
[138]Ibid.,  P.98.
[139] Ibid., P.96.
[140] Ibid., P.96.
[141] Ibid., PP.96-97.
[142] Ibid., P.99.
[143] Ibid., P.99.
[144] Ibid., P.98.
[145] K.P. Aleaz, A convergence of Advaita Vedanta and Eastern Christian Thought, 2000,P.253.
[146]K.P. Aleaz, For a Christian Philosophy From India: Cambridge Teape
Lectures – 2005, 2006.
[147] K.P. Aleaz, The Gospel of Indian Culture, 1994, P.2.
[148] Ibid., P.2.
[149] K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,P.180.
[150]Ibid.,  P.8.
[151] K.P. Aleaz, The Gospel of Indian Culture, 1994, P.283.
[152] K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,P.180.
[153] Ibid., P.180.
[154]Ibid.,  P.8.
[155] K.P. Aleaz, Religion in Christian Theology, 2001,P.13.
[156] Ibid., P.13.
[157] Ibid., P.11.
[158] K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995,P.292.
[159] K.P. Aleaz, Theology of Religions: Birmingham Papers and other Essays, 1998,P.350.
[160]K.P. Aleaz, Dimensions of Indian Religions, 1995, P.294.
[161] Ibid., P.285.
[162] Ibid., P.290.

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