Atma Jyoti Ashram: Christian Priests Uncloaked! —Catholic Ashrams: Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma
Atma Jyoti Ashram: Christian Priests Uncloaked!
by Swami Devananda Saraswati
Atma Jyoti Ashram community of Christian priests and brothers. The community has adopted a Hindu identity and the brothers have donned ochre cloth and assumed Smarta Dasanami names. Abbot George Burke, the large man in the photo, is now called Swami Nirmalananda Giri. The Atma Jyoti website promotes the Jesus in India fable and articles by the brothers appear in the Sri Ramanasramam journal Mountain Path under their Hindu noms de guerre.
In Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers, Sita Ram Goel describes the Christian missionary strategists’ plan to infiltrate Hindu society and gain the confidence of the people:
"Christianity has to drop its alien attire and get clothed in Hindu cultural forms. In short, Christianity has to be presented as an indigenous faith. Christian theology has to be conveyed through categories of Hindu philosophy; Christian worship has to be conducted in the manner and with the materials of Hindu puja. Christian sacraments have to sound like Hindu samskaras; Christian churches have to copy the architecture of Hindu temples; Christian hymns have to be set to Hindu music; Christian themes and personalities have to be presented in styles of Hindu painting;
Christian missionaries have to dress and live like Hindu sannyasins; Christian mission stations have to look like Hindu ashramas. And so on, the literature of Indigenization goes into all aspects of Christian thought, organization and activity and tries to discover how far and in what way they can be disguised in Hindu forms."
Sita Ram Goel wrote this in 1988, and he would not be surprised to learn that Christian priests and monks in America have adopted the very same tactics to attract a whole generation of American youth interested in Hindu spirituality, back to Christianity. The leader in this movement today is Abbot George Burke of Atma Jyoti Ashram in Cedar Crest, New Mexico. He is better known on the Internet as Swami Nirmalananda Giri.
Isha Jyoti to Atma Jyoti
Atma Jyoti Ashram was originally called Sri Isha (Jesus) Jyoti Sannyas Ashram and was located at Borrego Springs, California. Fr. George Burke is a Greek Orthodox Christian priest, and if reports are correct, most or all of the community of brothers attached to him are Christian priests.
On a visit to India, Fr. George met the Bengali saint Anandamayi Ma. She is said to have instructed him to remain in the Christian religion and continue his Christian practices. This is the usual advice from a Hindu guru to a foreign seeker. In spite of their spiritual enlightenment, most are grossly ignorant of Christianity’s ideology and imperial designs, bloody rituals, and militant prayers of world conquest and triumph over the heathen. Hindu gurus advise their foreign disciples to remain in the religion of their forefathers, not realizing the consequences of their thoughtless, irresponsible words.
Christianity is based on a false doctrine of vicarious salvation, and there is nothing in Hindu scripture or the ancient Rishi tradition to support the ill-conceived advice handed out to foreign seekers by Hindu gurus who do not want to take spiritual responsibility for their Western charges.
Anandamayi’s alleged instruction suited Fr. George and his followers to a T, and they quoted her later as their authority to don the ochre robes of Hindu sannyasis and adopt the Sanskrit titles and names of Smarta Dasnami monks. The fact that Anandamayi Ma was not an initiated Dasnami sannyasi herself and had no authority to give them ochre robes or Dasnami titles did not deter them in their impersonation drama.
They continued to perform the blood-stained sacrifice of the Christian Mass in secret, even as they presented themselves in public as simple, unaffiliated Hindu monks. It was the old fraud of Robert de Nobili and Henri Le Saux being repeated on an unsuspecting public, only this time it was an American and not an Indian public being duped by the sweet talking, persuasive snake oil salesmen.
Example of Christian cross engraved with Hindu sacred syllable ‘Om’
Fr. Bede’s Om on Cross. Above the cross in English letters it reads Om Namah Cristaya (‘Om Obeisance to Christ’). Below it reads Christa Sharanam (‘Christ as Refuge’).
Om on Cross
At one point in their career, while still the Sri Isha (Jesus) Jyoti Sannyas community in Borrego Springs, they were caught out in their charade by the Shaiva Siddhanta Church in Hawaii who already had experience of Christian priests posing as Hindu sannyasis. The priests and brothers did carpentry for a living, being followers of the Judean Carpenter, and one of the items they produced for sale was a Roman cross with the sacred Hindu word-symbol Om nailed to its cross bars. They sent a sample to Hinduism Today with the hope of attracting sales. They got instead a negative response and a return of the obscene article. Hindus, even modern American Hindu converts, are deeply offended by this kind of syncretism and do not understand the appeal it has for New Agers and gay Christian priests who flaunt it on their cassock fronts as a badge of their radical universalism.
The Catholic writer S. Kulandaiswami has said vis-a-vis Fr. Bede Griffiths and his bastardized Om-on-Cross iconography: "Rituals, rites, [and] ceremonies in Hinduism have not been changed to suit the whims of modern innovators. Griffiths, by superimposing the sacred word Om on a Cross, imagines he has created a new spiritual phenomenon. On the contrary, he confuses and insults both Hinduism and Christianity. He fails to realize that by such acts he is neither enriching Christianity nor honoring Hinduism. One has to respect the unique rites and rituals of each religion, which placed in another context, will be meaningless and confusing."
In a later debate published in the letters column of the Indian Express, Chennai, in 1989, the Hindu correspondent S. Venkatachalam wrote: "It is highly outrageous and objectionable to compare…Hindu leaders and religious heads with the Christian missionary experimentalists like Bede Griffiths, Hans Staffner [and the] Christian missionary Fr. Henri Le Saux, the so-called Abhishiktananda…. Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Ramana Maharshi and Paramacharya of Kanchi never resorted to such experimentation of a "cocktail religion" or "masala and kichidi religion" by mixing religious symbols, donning the dress of [a Christian] father or [Muslim] mullah, building church-like or mosque-like temples, fabricating Bible- or Quran-like Hindu slokas, or asserting that Rama or Krishna or Shiva is the only God and by accepting Him alone one can get salvation."
The Sri Isha (Jesus) Jyoti Sannyas Ashram brothers did not succeed in pedaling their original handcrafted Om-on-Cross to the Hindus of Hawaii then, but in their new incarnation as sadhus of Atma Jyoti Ashram they have succeeded in getting advertising space in Hinduism Today (this has been queried to HT without success) and the sponsorship of Sri Ramana Ashram in Tiruvannamalai. Yet they remain, so far as we know, Christian priests in orange robes with false Sanskrit names and titles, the usual New Age bells and beads added. They are quite a success in Christian duplicity, if not in Hindu spirituality.
Ashram renounces Hindu identity
The sponsorship of Sri Ramana Ashram and the publication of the Atma Jyoti Ashram brothers’ articles under assumed Hindu names in the Sri Ramana Ashram journal Mountain Path is not really surprising. Sri Ramana Ashram is a family business administered by a hereditary trustee. The current president is the ex-engineer and Advaita Vedanta paralogist V.S. Ramanan. The ashram was declared a protected non-Hindu institution in 1961 by a court order, on the specious ground that Sri Ramana Maharshi was the uncle of the then president Venkataraman, and that the Rishi’s ashram was therefore a private family burial ground.
This set a precedent for leading Hindu institutions in independent India, and Sri Aurobindio Ashram would follow suit and argue before the Supreme Court that it was a separate religious denomination different from Hinduism because Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy was a synthesis of different Hindu philosophies! Later, the Ramakrishna Mission would also renounce its Hindu identity, declare itself a "cosmopolitan" and distinct religious denomination because it had Christian members, and claim that it was entitled to protection under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution.
Theosophists and Benedictines
Hindu Om ‘crossed’ out. Wall painting opposite Sri Ramana Ashram on the Girivalam Road, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
Though Ramanan is the editor of Mountain Path as required by law, the real editor is the Australian theosophist Christopher Quilkey, a disciple of the anti-modernist French Sufi Rene Guenon. Quilkey is assisted in his editorial work by the American Catholic Benedictine monk Brother Michael.
Brother Michael divides his time between Sachidananda Ashram, or Shanti Vanam as it is better known, at Kulittalai near Tiruchirappalli, the Camaldolese Benedictine hermitage of the notorious Christian inculturation missionary Fr. Bede Griffiths, and Sri Ramana Ashram in Tiruvannamalai. He is a Catholic priest and will say Mass whenever and wherever the Catholic spirit moves him, including Sri Ramana Ashram and other sacred places of Hindu pilgrimage. His other duty is to vet articles sent to Mountain Path and forward them to Christopher Quilkey in Kodaikanal for acceptance and publication. Ramanan appears to take little or no interest in the articles selected for publication, and though the ashram follows Vedic Brahminical traditions and can afford to employ a professional, it is not able to find and keep a responsible and dedicated Hindu editor for its journal.
From our private correspondence with Ramanan, we can say categorically that he is in a state of denial regarding Christian residents in his own ashram and missionaries in general. He writes, "There is no doubt that Christianity has, over centuries been a proselytizing religion and some of the preachers had indulged in scurrilous propaganda against Hindu beliefs and mores. But there is nothing to worry. The worst is over and the Vedantic Truth is eternal and imperishable. I know a number of Christian priests who revere Hinduism and Vedanta. It is well known that Westerners are increasingly being drawn to Yoga and Vedanta which Swami Vivekananda called the ‘Religion of the Future’."
Nothing to worry, eh? The worst is over, eh? Either Ramanan is a fool or he is in league with the Christian priests who edit, and publish in, the ashram magazine.
The first articles to appear in Mountain Path by an Atma Jyoti Ashram member were by an American Catholic priest who resides in Tiruvannamalai and calls himself Swami Sadasivananda Giri. The articles were inoffensive enough, but because it was known to a number of sadhus and Sri Ramana Ashram devotees that the author was in fact a Christian priest masquerading as a Hindu sannyasi, the matter was brought to the Sri Ramana Ashram president’s attention with the request that Sadasivananda be identified by his real Christian name and titles to Mountain Path readers.
The letter was ignored, and when the April-June 2009 issue of Mountain Path appeared, it was discovered that not only did Swami Sadasivananda’s article appear without proper identification, but an article by Fr. George Burke, Greek Orthodox abbot of Atma Jyoti Ashram, New Mexico, was also included under the name Swami Nirmalananda Giri. The request to identify Christian contributors to the journal was not only denied by the Sri Ramana Ashram president Ramanan, but a strong message of contempt and scorn for Hindu sannyas traditions was given out by the Mountain Path editor and his dubious, uncommitted foreign assistants.
The Christ of India: Jesus lived most of his life in India before becoming a missionary-martyr of Eternal Truth (Sanatana Dharma) in the West. [Our] booklet presents the full story, including the historical texts about His life in India, and the inevitable conclusions that must be drawn about The Real Jesus and His Real Teachings. – Swami Nirmalananda on the Atma Jyoti Ashram Website
False: This is the cave north of Rishikesh in which Sri Isha (Jesus) lived for some time. In the last century both Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami (Papa) Ramdas lived there (at separate times), and had visions of Isha (Jesus) meditating there, though they had no prior knowledge of His having lived there. – Atma Jyoti Ashram Website
True: This is the cave north of Rishikesh in which Vashishta Rishi lived for some time. He taught Sri Rama yoga here on the banks of the River Ganga. These teachings are recorded in the famous text Yoga Vashishta. The cave is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site known as Vashishta Guha. – SDS
Infiltration by impersonation
The problem of Christian priests and missionaries masquerading as Hindu sannyasis is an old one in India. The impersonation charade was first carried out by Robert de Nobili in Madurai in the 17th century. It was continued and made notorious by Fr. Bede Griffiths (aka Swami Dayananda) in the 20th century, though his collaborator, the French Benedictine monk Fr. Henri Le Saux, was without doubt the most successful Hindu sadhu impersonator. He is known to this day by his assumed Sanskrit name Swami Abhishiktananda, and had none other than the late Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh as a patron.
The new twist in this criminal impersonation of Hindu sadhus is that Christian priests in the US are adopting Hindu names and dress in order to deceive and entrap America seekers who have already rejected the false doctrines and superstitions of Christianity, in the hope of bringing them back to Jesus and the Church.
Missionary activity in India has peaked under the benevolent gaze of the Christian-Congress UPA regime of Sonia Gandhi. Andhra Pradesh is now said to be 30% Christian and growing, with Tamil Nadu following closely behind. Both states will soon rival Kerala with their Christian populations.
But the real problem is not missionaries flashing American dollars or dressing up as sadhus in order to deceive unsuspecting villagers. Christians in India are doing what Christians have always done throughout history: they are subverting and subsuming the non-Christian cultures and societies that they are not able to conquer by force.
The real problem is without doubt Hindu leaders — political, social, cultural, and religious leaders. They are first of all in a state of denial, unwilling or unable to admit the Christian threat and the grave implications it has for Hindu civilization and society. Or, like the editor of the Sri Ramana Ashram journal Mountain Path, they take the out-dated, irresponsible, and non-Vedic theosophical view that all religions are one and the same anyway, so what does it matter if a few million villagers become dollar Christians.
Or, and this is especially true of Hindu religious leaders, they recognize the Christian threat, but are not sufficiently equipped or knowledgeable to counter it. Unlike Christian priests who study Hindu scriptures and philosophy in depth for years in order to critique them, Hindu religious leaders have never read the Bible or studied the imperialist Christian ideologies formulated out of the Gospel story. They are helpless, and they are made even more helpless by their own superficially understood, and often secularized, doctrines of an impersonal, universal, and abstract Brahman godhead.
Every popular religious teacher in India today espouses some form of Advaitic philosophy. Even the popular Christian newspaper Deccan Chronicle carries a weekly "spiritual" column of secularized Neo-Vedantic commentary called "Vedanta Rocks!" This de-mythologized Vedanta with its abstract terminology and concept of absolute Oneness, is the great love of the modern Indian secular sophist or Jesuit-trained Christian casuist. They can turn these Hindu concepts and ideals any which way they like and use them for any unethical purpose when they are taken out of their original Hindu religious context.
Deconstructing Advaita Vedanta
Most modern Indian religious teachers do take Advaita Vedanta out of its original Vedic religious context, and in so doing give a potent weapon to the enemy with which to attack Hindu religion and undermine Hindu society and culture. Sita Ram Goel, in Catholic Ashrams, writes: "[T]he literature of Indigenisation provides ample proof that several Hindu philosophies are being actively considered by the mission strategists as conveyors of Christianity. The Advaita of Shankaracharya has been the hottest favourite so far. The Vishistadvaita of Ramanuja, the Bhakti of the Alvar saints and Vaishnava Acharyas, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Vichara of Ramana Maharishi are not far behind."
The medieval Acharyas and more recent teachers of Vedic spirituality like Ramana Maharishi were able to know without difficulty the religious identity and affiliations of their disciples. They did not have to search out and verify their students’ political and religious backgrounds. This is not true today. Hindu society has become secularised in the cities and teachers are faced with multicultural audiences from different countries and traditions. It is therefore incumbent on all Hindu gurus in India and abroad to put their philosophical teaching into its original religious context, so that it cannot be abused and distorted by Hinduism’s scholarly Marxist and Christian enemies.
Apostle Paul and the Early Church Fathers conquered ancient Greece by forcibly secularising Greek society. They divided the unity of Greek religion and mythology from Greek philosophy and philosophic terminology. They then secularised and appropriated Greek philosophic terminology and took the Greek religious concept of an Unknown God for themselves. The religious vacuum that followed this secularization of Greek society was filled in with the Jesus cult and other Christian superstitions. Indian bishops are perpetrating the same apostolic fraud today when they claim that the pre-Christian Tamil weaver saint Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of the legendary St. Thomas! They add to their cultural crime by appropriating his "secular" ethical treatise Tirukkural as their own and declaring it a sectarian Christian book.
This is how ancient Greece became a Christian country, and how modern India is fast becoming a christianised Hindu country. The difference is that in modern India, ill-informed Hindu spiritual teachers and ashram administrators are assisting the Christian predators in the downfall and obliteration of Hindu religion and culture.
Perhaps we are mistaken about Atma Jyoti Ashram and its inmates; perhaps we have been misinformed about abbot Fr. George Burke and his Christian agenda. Perhaps he and his disciples have converted to Hinduism and gone through Vedic samskaras of purification and name change under the guidance of a Hindu priest.
If that is the case, let them produce their certificates of de-baptism and apostasy from the Christian religion. And as they claim to be Smarta Dasanami sannyasins and have the Giri title in their names, let them produce their certificates of sannyasa from a recognised Dasnami mahamandaleshwar and math. They can post these documents of religion on their popular website. We will then give them the benefit of the doubt and our blessing, for their discrimination in religion and their spiritual endeavour, and we will hold our peace.
- Atma Jyoti Ashram and their Jesus-in-India propaganda with Swami Devananda’s comments: www.vivekajyoti.blogspot.com/2009/02/jesus-in-india-pure-unadulterated.html
- Hinduism Today, "Catholic Ashrams: Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma": www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1986/12/1986-12-03.shtml
- Catholic Ashrams in Wikipedia: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Ashrams
- Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994: www.voi.org/books/ca/index.htm
- Christian Aggression: "Catholic Ashrams: Sachidananda Ashram gets a woman Acharya" www.christianaggression.org/item_display.php?type=NEWS&id=1155837015
- History of Hindu-Christian Encounters by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1996: www.voiceofdharma.org/books/hhce/
- Radical Universalism by Frank Morales: www.dharmacentral.com/universalism.htm