The Hindu-Christian dialogue has led to a great enrichment of Christian theology in India. The initiative for such a dialogue has mostly, if not always, been from the Christian side. Has this dialogue ever helped Hindu theology in general and Advaita (Advaita Vedanta) in particular? If this dialogue is a sign of a Hindu-Christian symbiosis, then the symbiosis is incomplete if there is no learning or give and take on both sides.

Indian Christian theology has gone miles ahead in integrating many aspects of Hindutheology and culture into its ever widening gamut of concepts, symbols and images, theology and philosophy. But the Hindu mind at the conceptual, philosophical and theological level has not been affected much by Christian theology. In fact our dogmatic assertions, in principle, especially with regard to the Trinity, seem absurd if not downright foolish to the Advaitin. On the other hand the Christian impact in India has been negatively perceived as one of robbing people from their religion with promises of education, social liberation from caste system and finally eternal salvation, to christianize them and widen the Church in India. This has put our Indian Christian theologians on guard against an exclusive and inclusive theologizing much to the benefit of interreligious dialogue.

But has Christian theology ever had a positively transformative impact on the theological and spiritual concepts of Hinduism? Would an Advaitin affirm the veracity of the tripersonal God in the same way as an Indian Christian theologian affirms the veracity of the Advaita doctrine? At the most, a personal dimension of the Divine, which Christianity has, would be considered as a lower level conception, which cannot be accorded to the Parabrahman. If the Advaitic sadhus and Gurus and Pandits and scholars have not at least in principle seen the truth of the Trinity as a Christian theologian does, then Hinduism stands to loose and Indian Christian theology has still a long way to go.

If the Hindu-Christian dialogue has enriched a great deal the Indian Christian thinking, it needs to do the same to Hindu thinking as well. For this we need to thank Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (henceforth Upadhyay), the founding father of Indian Catholic theology, who by spearheading the hinduization of Christianity on the basis of his Thomistic reading of saccidānanda, has indirectly presented a challenge to the God conception of Advaita, envisioning thereby the Parabrahman, as personal / tripersonal. This article is written having this direction in mind. It will show that by tripersonalizing the Parabrahman of Advaita, Upadhyay has offered to Advaita a totally new and revolutionary horizon of understanding God.

This article has three sections
  • The first is the background which will deal with the understanding of the Parabrahman according to Śankara and the understanding of God as personal / tripersonal in Christian scriptures and tradition. 
  • The second section will deal with Upadhyay’s reaction to the translation of nirguna as impersonal and his subsequent presentation of the saccidānanda as tripersonal. 
  • In the final section we shall present some reflections that would emerge from Upadhyay’s vision.

The Background

1. Śankara’s idea of the Parabrahman

It is a well known fact that for Śankara the ultimate reality is the Parabrahman.1  But did Śankara ever think of the Parabrahman as a personal Being? This is really not clear.2   As of the relational understanding of person today, in principle, Śankara cannot accept the Parabrahman as a personal Being because the very idea of person would signify necessary relation, and necessary relation would be seen as a limitation because it involves a dependence on another. So Parabrahman who is infinite and unlimited cannot be possessing this limitation.3   

Secondly the world which is mistakenly taken to be real by unenlightened humans, is, according to the Advaitic God experience actually unreal.4   So the Parabrahman cannot be relating to something that is unreal or actually an illusion.


1Parabrahman would generally refer to the Nirguna Brahman which is presupposed as the higher Brahman that is not related to creation, in contrast to the Saguna Brahman which is Brahman related to creation.

2There is no small controversy regarding this assertion. It is well know that the great Hindu scholars like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan held that the Parabrahman is impersonal. Modern scholars with the help of the Purusha sukta (Rg Veda 10.90) argue just the opposite. See Subhash Anand, Hindu Inspiration for Christian Reflection: Towards a Hindu-Christian Theology (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2004), pp. 10-14. Here Subhash Anand is taking the Purusha Sukta as central to Vedanta. 

But if the Purusha Sukta is intrinsically connected to creation, then according to Advaita Vedanta it should fall into the category of the saguna Brahman.

3Relation is basically seen as a dependence because it presupposes a relation ad extra on some object or person. If God is taken to be One then any relation posited of him has to be posited ad extra. A relation ad intra would be inconceivable to the mind of Śankara. So Brahman does not depend on the world, rather it is the other way about. It is the world that is dependent on Brahman as the effect depends on the cause. The idea of tādātmya signifies this. See Sara Grant, “Contemporary Relevance of Advaita,” in New Perspectives on Advaita Vedānta: Essays in Commemoration of Professor Richard De Smet, S.J., ed. Bradley J. Malkovsky (Leiden: Brill, 2000), pp. 153-154. This view is contested although not radically by Bede Griffiths. See Albano Fernandes, The Hindu Mystical Experience (New Delhi: Intercutural Publications, 2004), p. 173.

4 For the idea of the unreality of the world in Advaita, see Pierre Johanns, S.J., “A synopsis of , To Christ through the Vedanta,” Light of the East Series, no. 4 (Ranchi: Catholic Press 1930), p. 29 

Thirdly, Śankara takes the Parabrahman to be one-only-without-a-second (ekam eva advitiyam). This would mean that the Parabrahman is alone, a monad by himself, but residing in total bliss. It is only when the Parabrahman is seen in relation to the world that a distinction has to be made between the highest Brahman namely the Parabrahman as nirguna (without ties) and the lower Brahman as saguna (with ties). So it is only the saguna Brahman that is related to the world, which in the final analysis is an illusion, a dream.5

Positing personality to the Parabrahman would be heretical in Śankara’s idea of the Parabrahman. On the other hand the neti neti (not this, not this, Br.Up. II.3.6), formula is applied to the questions regarding the attributes of the Parabrahman. So as regards the attributes or qualities nothing can be spoken of the Parabrahman. But to avoid this type of talk to fall into a kind of general void, Śankara, positively describes the nature of Brahman as reality, knowledge, infinity (sat, cit, ananta). The term ‘ananta’ became ‘ānanda’ among the later Vedantists making it sat cit ānanda (Being, intelligence, bliss).6 The Parabrahman is therefore sat, cit, ānanda.

From the presence of cit (intelligence), one could infer that Śankara had a subjectiveunderstanding of the Parabrahman, namely that, the Parabrahman is a subject (a Being that could not be taken as an object), but whether he understood the Parabrahman as a person in the modern sense of the term, is doubtful, or rather impossible.

The philosophy of Śankara was propounded by great scholars and commentators, andinvariably the Parabrahman was presented as an impersonal God. According to them this is the highest realization that man could reach in their search for God. So if man has reached the very foundation or the ground of all existence, in his attempt at brahmajijñāsā (desire to know the nature of Brahman), through the Advaitic experience in which God is propounded as the Impersonal God, then any notion of the personal God is bound to be taken as a lower level idea or as mentioned in Advaita, as the saguna Brahman.

The Christian God who is basically encountered as a Personal God therefore recedes into the background of the saguna level. This is precisely what Upadhyay will challenge on the basis of the saccidānanda affirmation of Śankara. Before we deal with it, we need to briefly look into the personal / tripersonal God encountered in Christian scriptures and tradition.


5According to Upadhyay this higher, lower distinction of Brahman is found in the last section of the last chapter of the Vedanta Sutra, and is the keystone of Vedantic Theism. The Twentieth Century, vol. 1, no. 3 (31st March, 1901), p. 62.

Upadhyay’s articles will be documented under the general title of his magazines. Most, if not all the primary sources on Upadhyay could be found in the Goethals Library of St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta. See also, Julius Lipner & George Gispert-Sauch, The Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II (Bangalore: The United Theological College, 2002), p. 302.

6See, Timothy C. Tennent, Building Christian on Indian Foundations (Delhi: ISPCK, 2000), pp.125-128. 

2. The Personal God in Christian Scripture and Tradition

2.1. In the Old Testament

The idea of the personal God hits the reader at the very outset of the OT. The anthropomorphic ways of describing God’s behaviour were precisely intended to present a personal God. In the book of Genesis we have God talking to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8-19), making a covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:17-21), wrestling with Jacob (Gen 32:22-32). The high point of this personal encounter with God is seen in the book of Exodus where God reveals his ‘name’ to Moses as “I am” (Ex 3:13). “Thus you shall say to the Israelites ‘I am has sent me to you.’”(Ex 3:14). Many more references could be given from the OT presenting the anthropomorphic symbolisms used for God, just to show how the living God is personal. 

As Ludwig Köhler says, “Through the anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament God stands before man as the personal and living God, who meets him with will and with works, who directs his will and his words towards men and draws near to men. God is the living God (Jer 10:10).”7 

This statement of Köhler is important because the anthropomorphisms used for God in the OT are not (as many would think) primitive ways of expressing the Divine experience, but the expression of the encounter with a God who really invades the human situation in a very personal way: He talks, dialogues and relates to human beings. The relationship which today is seen as fundamental in the understanding of person, is seen as belonging to God in his relationship with man as highlighted in the OT.

2.2. In the New Testament

The personal identity of God reaches scandalous proportions for the Jews in the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, by addressing God, the all-powerful creator and liberator, as ABBA was most shocking the Jewish hierarchy. The Jews had conceived of God as Father-Creator, but never as ABBA. “Jesus came across as expressing a unique filial consciousness and as laying claim to a unique filial relationship with the God whom he addressed as ‘Abba’.”8

The Synoptic Gospels are unanimous in presenting Jesus as the “Son of God.”9 They show others recognizing Jesus as the Son of God.


7 Ludwig Köhler, Old Testament Theology,, 06/12/06.

8 Gerald O’ Collins, S.J., Christology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 126.

9 Although this title, not shown as explicitly used by Jesus, is implied because it is applied to Jesus.

To name a few, the centurion after the death of Jesus (Mk 14:33, 16:16; Mt 27:54); the angel announcing his birth as the Son of God (Luke 1:32-35); the evil spirits tempting him or naming him with the same title (Mt 4:3,6; Lk 4:3,9,41; Mk 3:11; 5:7).

This title given to Jesus was not like the one used in the olden times for Kings (Ps 2:7), Prophets and Israel (Ex 4:22). It was not even a title given to show some kind of adoption or choice by God. It was a title given to Jesus to show his ontological oneness with the Father perceived through his life, actions, death and resurrection. “Those functions (his ‘doing’) depended on his ontological relationship as Son of God (his ‘being’).”10 

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus was the spectrum through which his eternal pre-existence was perceived as an obvious conclusion. This became a valid pre-supposition of Pauline Christology and soteriology as well.11 12 John, asserting the pre-existence of Jesus as the eternal Logos, sets the stage for the second person in the Godhead. 

The Holy Spirit, which will be given by the Father at the behest of the Son (Jn 14:15), is the ‘Advocate’, “… the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him”12 (Jn 14: 16-17), is received at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) and convinces the early Christians of its distinct existence within the Godhead because “the Holy Spirit (was) not a mere impersonal gift, … (but) also a personal giver … the third person of the Trinity.”1314

It was then left to the coming generation to make sense of this deposit of revelation of the inner nature of the personal God that appeared to be tri-personal.

2.3. Christian tradition : Defending the Tri-personal God

The monopersonal God of the OT reveals himself as the tripersonal God in the NT. Not that there was an evolutionary change in God from one to three. He was always tripersonal, but, it needed the incarnation of the second person (Son of God) for a concrete understanding of the tripersonality of God even in the OT. This was basically seen through the context of the Christ event. It was therefore the Christ event that enlarged the vision of a monopersonal God to a tripersonal God.

The problem that the early Fathers of the Church faced was of how to present the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (revealed in the NT), in God as one yet three. To put in modern terms, how to present the threeness in the oneness of God.


10 Collins, Christology, p. 126.

11 Ibid., especially p. 128

12 Italics mine to show that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit as a person.

13 Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (New York:Crossroads, 1989), p. 210.

Brackets mine.

The Greek word prosopon, which was used by Hippolytus to connote the distinctive individuality of one’s social role,14 was used by Tertullian with its Latin translation of persona, for the three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in the Godhead. The use of persona, was not in its original sense of ‘individuality’ but its Biblical sense of dialogue and relation.15 

Tertullian finally gave his definition for the Trinity as “una substantia-tres personae,” three persons in one substance. But this definition rather than making matters clear for one’s faith led to more problems and heretical explanations because of the prevailing philosophies. We cannot get into the history of the Trinitarian heresies here. Finally the Church put an end to all the divergent views by its Trinitarian explications at the Council of Constantinople (381).16 In short, God was three distinct persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), united in one divine substance. The philosophies of that time which tended to seek logical arguments and consistencies in their conceptions about God could not simply conceive of a God of seeming contradictions, namely of being One in Three or Three in One.

As the Church Fathers fought might and main to present the three distinct persons of the Trinity united in substance, it became clear that ‘relation’ was the only possible category to defend such a distinction. In the bargain person itself came to be understood as relation. This was evident from the way the Greek Fathers presented the persons in the Trinity as a communion, (koinonia), existing in a ‘perichoretic’ way.17 

For Augustine ‘person’ seemed as an answer to those who would ask “three what.”18 In his De Trinitate Augustine in his attempt at trying to explain the threeness and oneness of the tripersonal God, gave many images from creation. But he finds in man the true image of the Trinity (Gen. 1.28) and more particularly in the human soul, which led to the famous psychological analogy (mind – knowledge – love).19 Kasper was right in stating that Augustine’s psychological analogy determined the course of later speculation for Latin Trinitarian theology.20


14See, Edmund J. Dobbin, “Trinity”, in The New Dictionary of Theology, eds. J.A. Komonchak, M. Collins, D.A. Lane (Bangalore: TPI, 2003), p.1054.

15For a detailed exposition of this aspect see, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Concerning the notion of Person in theology,” in Communio, vol. XVII, no. 3 (Fall 1990), pp. 439-447.

16ND 306/1-24, DS 153-176.

17See Gerald O’Collins, S.J., The Tripersonal God (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999), p. 132.

18De Trinitate, 5.10. Here Augustine acknowledges the great poverty of the human language to answer the question “three what.” But he feels it better to say something rather than be silent because there was no going back on the conviction that there is plurality in God (which was revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

19Books IX, X and XI of his “De Trinitate” deal concretely with Augustine’s Psychological image or the Mental image of the Trinity. PL 42, 8.

20 Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, p. 272.

It was Boethius who defined person as “an individual substance of rational nature.”21 Later it was Aquinas who under the influence of Aristotelian metaphysics22 and scholastic epistemology23 used the psychological analogy to present one of the most comprehensive, convincing and lasting treatises of the Trinity in Latin theology.24 Having thus clarified philosophically the way the Trinitarian dogma could be understood, Aquinas does not present this as a comprehension of the Trinity. Instead he says it is only a way to understand analogically the ineffable Mystery of the Trinity which always remains beyond comprehension.

Among the saints we have many who have had the vision of the Trinity in symbolic ways. St. Ignatius sees the Trinity as three keys of the piano. He also sees himself as placed with the Son. The mystical experiences of the Christian saints also speak of a deep union with God, as, e.g., St Theresa of Avila. Never has any saint denied the Trinity. They did surely uphold that God is one (this could be taken to mean onewithout-a-second), but God was always tri-personal. The Trinitarian dogma has been maintained in all the mystical experiences of the Saints who had them.

Upadhyay, on the other hand not only stood by the Trinitarian mystery to the very end, but applied the Thomistic presentation of that mystery to the saccidānanda of Śankara, in turn revivifying it with a fresh personality that is three dimensional.


21Boethius, “DePersona et duabus naturis contra Eutychen et Nestorium”, 3. PL 64, 1343.

22Aristotle through logical arguments reaches the conclusion that the intellectual activity is the life of God, “…for intellectual activity is life, and God is that activity; and the essential activity of God is the life which is best and eternal.” Meta., bk XII, ch. 7, 1072b26. Secondly since all operation tends towards the good, the intellectual operation in God also tends towards the same giving Him the greatest pleasure (Meta., bk XII, ch. 7, 1072b16). Since the greatest good is God Himself then it follows that God has to be thinking about himself which gives Him the greatest

23The scholastic (Thomistic) epistemology in short (which is also Aristotelian in origin), is that ‘the knower becomes one with the object that he knows. Thus the knower becomes the known.’ This depends upon the theory that like is known by like, simile simili cognoscitur. (ST Ia. 84, 2 responsio). Here Aquinas quotes Aristotle, De Anima I, 2.
404b17. Aquinas also holds the Aristotelian idea of the intellect which is understood as a writing tablet on which nothing is written. (ST Ia. 84, 3, sed contra). Thus it is always in potency and its knowing anything is always in act in the sense that it comes to know the essence of the object by having the form of the object impressed upon it (which is immaterial). The final act of knowing is the word (verbum mentis) which contains the definition of the object known (which in turn contains the explanation of the essence of the object). For a detailed explanation of what I have said above see Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. II (London: Burns & Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1950), pp. 388-398. In God the object of His knowledge is He Himself, which gives rise to the Word (which proceeds as subsisting in the same nature unlike in human beings), and in this knowing He gets the greatest pleasure which is signified as love by Aquinas. So the Father is the principle without principle, Son being the Word that is generated (Generation within the Godhead is eternal) from the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the love that flows from the Father and Son. ST Ia, qq. 33-37.

24Refer to ST Ia, qq. 27 -43 for Aquinas’ detailed exposition of the Trinity.


The main contention of Upadhyay was that the Parabrahman is personal because he is sat cit ānanda (being, consciousness and bliss). It was only from this premise that he could develop his Trinitarian theology using the Thomistic argument. With this conviction in mind he could not tolerate the translation of ‘nirguna’ as ‘impersonal’.

1. Translation of ‘Nirguna’ as ‘Impersonal’

The problem of the ‘impersonal’ reality of Brahman arises from the translations of the works of Śankara during the time of Upadhyay. It should be noted that the translations into English were done by Christian scholars or western scholars who had come from Christian backgrounds. Since relationship was intrinsic to the idea of a person, it was natural that a Being having no relations should be considered as impersonal. But this does not justify the translation of nirguna as impersonal, because nirguna can very well have been translated into ‘tie-less’ (as Upadhyay would suggest). But the translators never had any intention, like Upadhyay had, of reconciling the Christian God with the Parabrahman. If this was the case they would have been extremely careful in their translations. They simply felt that ‘unrelational’ is against ‘personal’ so therefore should be impersonal. Therefore the absolute Brahman is impersonal. 

It is also interesting to see that the word ‘impersonal’ was not problematic for other scholars except for Upadhyay.

In fact A. Hegglin, S.J., who defines theism, in contrast to Advaita, as “that system of philosophy which teaches the existence of a Personal God, infinitely perfect and independent, creator of the universe out of nothing, the Preserver and Ruler of the world,”25 gives names of some scholars who would go with his line of thinking. He mentions the names of Prof. Monier Williams, R.N. Apte, Rev. Goreh, Murdoch, Rev. Lal Dey, Prof. Frazer, Prof. Weber and Prof. A.E. Gough.26

He quotes Gough, the author of the philosophy of the Upanishads as saying, “There is, according to the Vedanta, but one substance or reality, and this is the supreme spirit, the impersonal self…”27

He also quotes Weber on Vedanta saying, “The notion that creation is but an illusion, and that the transcendental Brahman is alone the Real, but throning in absolute infinitude without any personal existence, is the fundamental doctrine of this system.”28

With impersonal being the common denominator used to express the Brahman of Advaita or even Vedanta, it was evident that M. Thibaut an Indologist and Professor at Varanasi and 25A. Hegglin, S.J., “Vedantism and Maya”, in Varia:Miscellaneous articles by or on Upadhyaya Brahmabandhab, p.184 (Italics mine).


26Ibid., p. 212.

27Ibid. (Italics mine).

28Ibid. (Italics mine).

Allahabad,29 translated the nirguna as impersonal when he translated the dense work of Śankara’s Vedanta Sutras, into English. It is the response, rather the reaction of Upadhyay to this translation that is enlightening and has in fact set the tone for this whole article.

2. Upadhyay’s response to the translation of Nirguna into Impersonal

Upadhyay vehemently opposed this translation of M. Thibaut. It was evident by the forceful language he uses in this article where he says, “M. Thibaut has, to the great misfortune of the civilized world, seen the Vedanta through coloured glasses… (he) has been subject to a huge misconception… nothing can be more unjust than to translate
“nirgunam” as “impersonal.”30 In the ensuing argument in which Upadhyay tries to validate his point it is interesting to note how he finally presents the nirguna brahman itself as supra-personal “to avoid confusion”, which literally would involve the dynamics of being personal, that in its very definition embodies relatedness, although in a different
way. Or, shall we say in an analogical way?

Upadhyay says, “He (Parabrahman) is “nirguna”, lit., tie-less, because “guna” means rope, a tie.”31
To be ‘tie-less would mean to be unrelated and this is exactly what he maintains about the Parabrahman, but later towards the end of the paragraph he says, “To be a person is to be related. A person is self-conscious, free individual… God is self-conscious and free, though unrelated, and can not therefore be styled an impersonal being. To avoid
confusion he may be called supra-personal.”32

In this way he could affirm the personhood of God because he prepares the reader a little before by saying that intelligence (cit) and bliss (ānanda) are not attributes of the Being, God (Parabrahman), instead they are part and parcel of his nature. Since “guna” ordinarily means attribute and since we are dealing with the nirguna Brahman, we are talking of God as being, intelligence and bliss (sat, cit, ānanda) as God’s nature, without
talking about His attributes. So the God who is being, intelligence and bliss is evidently 29In Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Bramabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II, p. 283, ft.nt., 38.


30The Twentieth Century, vol. 1, no. 2 (28th Feb., 1901), pp. 36-7. Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II, pp. 293-4.

31The Twentieth Century, vol. 1, no. 2 (28th Feb., 1901), p. 37. Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. II, p. 295.


self-conscious and free, which in turn are the premises for the definition of a person. The Parabrahman is therefore a person.
The Sanskrit language, on the other hand has no proper equivalent for ‘person’.33 So logically Śankara would not have had the concept of a person in human terms when talking positively of God as sat, cit, ānanda or (ananta). But Upadhyay, precisely on the basis of the sat, cit, ānanda affirms the personality of God. This he could do because he carried within him the Thomistic definition of person, namely subsistens distinctum in
natura rationali (that which subsists as distinct in a rational nature).34 Since intelligence (cit) implies rational nature it follows that Parabrahman has to be personal.

But having the fear of this being understood in a human way, Upadhyay felt it better to use the word “supra-personal” “to avoid confusion.” What he actually had in mind was that when the term person was applied to God, it had to be applied in an analogical way. In the bargain what Upadhyay does is to present the nirguna Brahman as a person (which would be totally against Śankara’s understanding, but well in keeping with the Christian analogically understanding of God as personal). But as Upadhyay says, if nirguna means unrelated, and “to be a person is to be related,” is he contradicting himself by presenting the nirguna Brahman as a person or (supra-personal)? Not really. This shall be briefly clarified in the next point.

3. The problem of Relation solved: 

Moving towards the Tripersonal Parabrahman Nirguna which literally means unrelated, is a perfect application to the highest Brahman in the logic of Advaita philosophy since relation (as we have mentioned before), to an
object outside oneself meant dependence and therefore a limitation to absolute existence. Since God is absolute existence he cannot be limited in this way and therefore attributing relation to Parabrahman (transcendentally), is a limitation.

So if ‘person’ means to be related then it cannot be applied to the Parabrahman. One seems to have arrived at an impasse here because the argument is fully valid and Upadhyay was fully
aware of its validity. The only way that he could get out of this conundrum was to take recourse to the Trinitarian concept of Christian theology. If God is taken to be one and not Triune, then there is no way out but to accept the logical proposition stated above.


33R.V. De Smet, “Ancient Religious Speculation”, in Religious Hinduism (Allahabad: St. Paul Publications, 1964), p.46.

34See Karl Rahner, The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (London: Burns & Oates), p. 104, ft.nt., 25.

Even Śankara (who was well known for his arguing skills) would have hammered this very point to the utter dismay of his opposition. But using the very principle of Śankara’s sat, cit, ānanda, and combining it with the psychological analogy of Aquinas, one can show God to be personal, related within himself (ad intra), and not necessarily outside himself (ad extra). This is exactly what Upadhyay did. He understood relation in this sense, not as limitation.

If God is sat, cit, ānanda, then it necessarily follows that God is tripersonal, as shown in the Thomistic Trinitarian theology, and therefore related within himself and not without. Relation without is dependence and limitation, not relation within. So if God is conceived as one and not triune then relation has to be understood as implying relation with an object outside (without) therefore a limitation, but if God is conceived as triune (that is oneness in threeness), then relation is evident, but within, avoiding the limitation of a necessary relation without. In this way Upadhyay personalises the Parabrahman, using the very system of Śankara but interpreting it in the light of Thomistic Trinitarian theology.35 

At this point we shall give some quotes from Upadhyay himself to substantiate the point that we have made so far. Upadhyay had given a lecture in the Framji Cowasji Hall in Bombay, the summary of which appeared in the next month’s December issue of Sophia Monthly. Here he is quoted to have said, External relationship indeed implies limitation; but not so internal relationship. The Infinite self-sufficient Being is related within Himself. He is not necessitated to enter into relationship with any objective unit external to Himself. The Subjective Self of God sees and contemplates the Objective self of God and in this single, eternal act are his knowledge and love fully satisfied.36

In the following quote we find Upadhyay asserting that God is a person by rational argument. By reason we can also prove the personality of God. Every cause must be adequate to its effect. There can be no excess in the effect over the cause. If there be any then that excess will have no cause, which contradicts the first principle: every effect must have a cause.

The First Cause, then, is adequate to its effect – the universe. Therefore, there can be nothing in the universe which is not contained in the First Cause in a pre-eminent way.


35Refer to ft.nt., 24, for any clarification on Thomistic Trinitarian theology and its epistemological presuppositions.

36Sophia Monthly, vol. 4, no. 12 (December, 1897), p. 3.

We find there are beings endowed with intelligence and will; therefore the First Cause must contain intelligence and will pre-eminently. Therefore God is a person, the definition of person being an individual having intelligence and will. We are aware that this proof is beset with many difficulties. But it can be shown that those difficulties cannot upset our simple and logical proof of the personality of God.37

Finally we give a quote from the same summary mentioned above, which is directly connected to the Trinity and the Personal God. “The Vedantist went further and proclaimed that this Infinite unity, was no cold intellectual abstraction, but a Personal Being who knows all, who watches over us with a Father’s eye – a Being who is the plenitude of being; consciousness, pure and luminous, and bliss supreme: sat, chit,

From the above, we see that Upadhyay explicitly states that God is a person, because of intelligence and will (cit and ānanda). He therefore is indirectly saying that the Parabrahman (sat, cit, ānanda) is actually personal. The problem of relations is solved by falling back on the same concept of the sat, cit, ānanda, but this time giving it a threefold
interpretation within the context of the tri-personal God of Christianity. 

Therefore sat, cit, ānanda is the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We shall deal very briefly with this assertion of Upadhyay through his Canticle to the Trinity.

4. Canticle to the Holy Trinity (Vande Saccidānandam)39 : Tripersonalising the Parabrahman In his wonderful canticle to the Holy Trinity, Upadhyay presents the Parabrahman in a tripersonal way. He says, “the canticle sings of the Father-God (Parabrahman), the Logos-God (Śabda-Brahman) and the Spirit-God (Śvasita-Brahman), One in Three, Three in One.”40 

Although Upadhyay is not giving theological explanation in this hymn,
we shall insert his theological pre-suppositions wherever necessary, for a better understanding of his ideas.


37Sophia Monthly (September 1897), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1 (Bangalore: The United Theological College, 1991), pp. 124-5.

38Sophia Monthly, vol. 4, no. 12 (December, 1897), pp. 1-2.

39Henceforth we shall use saccidānandam wherever necessary for sat, cit, ānanda. This word is normally used in adoration to God (‘vande’ would connote the similar meaning), and “is a compound of three traditional philosophical religious terms, which in their simple form are sat (existent, being), cit (consciousness, intelligence) and ānanda (bliss, felicity).” In G. Gispert-Sauch, S.J., “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” Religion and Society, 19/ 4 (1972), p. 66.

40Sophia Monthly (Oct. 1898), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol.1, p. 126.


In the last line of the first stanza Upadhyay refers to God as trisańga (thrice related) which is actually referring to the three-fold subsistent relation, the three Persons in God, which represents the inexpressible inter-subjectivity, a community.41

The first person, the Father, the Parabrahman, the Sat is dealt with in the second stanza. He is called the Supreme Lord, the creator. His creation is considered intelligent (īksana), and therefore a personal act, not an impersonal evolution.42 

But this act of creation is outward and unnecessary (as Upadhyay would always affirm). But there is an act which is necessarily within Being (Sat) itself because for the “Parabrahman,… to be is to know.”43 

So therefore knowing is the first act within oneself, which results in selfknowing. This act leads to a distinction within Being as the knowing self and the known self, which then necessarily involves a self-related cit.44

The third stanza, which is addressed to the Son, the cit, has amidst some titles given to the Son, namely, “Infinite” and the “Word” (om), the title of the Purusha (meaning Person), given to the Son, which goes far beyond the Samkhya terminology of an intelligent monad because He is prasūta, which is begotten (in eternity).45 

Here again the explanation of Cit in the Parabrahman which leads to a second self in the act of knowing Himself, is taken for granted. So Cit, which technically means, ‘intelligence,’ is the ground of self-knowledge where the one ‘I’ becomes a second ‘I’ by virtue of intelligence. Upadhyay beautifully puts it, “Parabrahman, the supreme Being, is essentially Cit…. He reproduces his self as Sabdabrahman (Logos) by īkshana (beholding).”46 

This beholding of the Parabrahman is understood by Upadhyay in a very
41See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” p. 70. We shall not be entering into the intricate usage of Sanskritic literature and aspects of Hindu religious culture and worship used in this hymn. For this, refer the article of Gispert-Sauch stated above.


42 Ibid., p. 71.

43Sophia Monthly, vol. 6, no. 3 (March 1899), p. 238; Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1, p. 128.

44For a brief explanation of this see, Tennent, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, pp. 233-234.

45Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” p. 72.

45 Sophia Monthly, vol. 6, no. 3 (March 1899), p. 238; Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1, p. 128. Īkshana is a technical term used in Vedanta to show how creation takes place by the
beholding of Parabrahman. Creation is therefore an intelligent and a personal act. See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, p. 71.

45 Sophia Monthly, vol. 2, no. 4 (April, 1895), p. 11, in Tennent, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, p. 225.

45 Sophia Monthly (Oct. 1898), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol.1, p. 127.
46Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay,” p. 72.


Thomistic way (see ft.nt. 24), as the self-comprehension of the Parabrahman. He can therefore very categorically state in his Sophia Monthly about the Parabrahman saying, His eternal self-comprehension or word is to be conceived as identical with the divine nature and still as distinct from the Supreme Being in as far as He, by comprehending
Himself generates His word. God, knowing Himself by producing or generating His own image and word, is called Father; and God as known by Himself by this inward generation of the word is called the Word or the Son.47

The fourth stanza, Upadhyay dedicates, to the Holy Spirit, who is Ānanda or bliss. By the very way he begins the stanza it becomes clear that he is thinking of Ānanda as not just an emotion or state of rest in the Godhead but as a ‘someone’ (a ‘One’), who in this context is presupposed as a person. He says, “One who proceeds from the union of Sat and Cit, the blessed (breath), intense bliss.”48 Although here, as in the previous two,
there is no argument to affirm the personhood of bliss (Holy Spirit), but it has already been solved in Upadhyay’s previous argument where he tries to assert a personal distinction within God yet maintaining God’s unity by supporting it with the understanding of sattva, rajas and tamas as three distinct elements which are found unitedly in prakriti.49

For Upadhyay it was very clear that the Trinity – saccidānanda exhibited “the very nature of God as one essence possessed undividedly by Three Persons.”50 

His understanding of person was also in keeping with the contemporary Christian theology.
He says, “The term ‘person’… denotes a rational individuum, a being endowed with reason and free will.”51


47Sophia Monthly, vol. 6, no. 3 (March 1899), p. 238; Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 1, p. 128. Īkshana is a technical term used in Vedanta to show how creation takes place by the
beholding of Parabrahman. Creation is therefore an intelligent and a personal act. See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, p. 71.

48Sophia Monthly, vol. 2, no. 4 (April, 1895), p. 11, in Tennent, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, p. 225.

49Sophia Monthly (Oct. 1898), in Lipner & Gispert-Sauch, Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol.1, p. 127.

50Sophia Monthly, vol. 4, no. 2 (Feb., 1897), p. 8.

51Ibid., p. 9.


Finally to sum up we shall quote

Upadhyay himself:

The knowing Self is the Father, the known Self or the Self begotten by His knowledge is the Son; and the Holy Ghost is the spirit of reciprocal love proceeding from the Father and the Son. It is a necessity, Christian revelation teaches us, for the subsistence of the Godhead to be related within the term of Its essence without being divided. 

Thus lives the Supreme Being in the beatitude of triple colloquy, from eternity to eternity, selfsatisfied, self-sufficient, without any need of external communication or response from without.52

6. Conclusion

In short what we have said above is that Upadhyay, in connecting the saccidānanda of Śankara, to the Triune God of Christianity, is offering the Advaitin, a tripersonal Parabrahman. Saccidānanda is not a Trinitarian concept in Advaita. What Upadhyay does is to transforms that term by giving it a tri-prersonal hermeneutics from the Christian perspective and transforms it from within. Something similar happened with the terms
like ‘Logos’ and ‘persona’, in the history of the first three centuries, when they were pulled out from their contexts and placed within the transfomative experience of the Christ event.

From the above it becomes very clear that Upadhyay is re-visioning the monistic understanding of the Parabrahman through the Trinitarian hermeneutics of Thomas Aquinas. This re-visioning does not destroy the Advaitic concept of the Parabrahman, because Trinity in itself contains unity, in the sense the Triune God is One God and three persons. So the Trinty gives Advaita an abundance, it makes it three-dimensional, from
one it makes it three, without loosing the one. Upadhyay is not doing this consciously.

He was basically interested in presenting Christianity in Hindu terms especially in Advaitic terms. In the bargain those very Advaitic terms attain a Christian flavour.

The proposals that follow are some reflections that spring up in the whole context of what we have said above.

1. Saccidānanda re-signified

The term saccidānanda which contains in its essence the teachings of the Upanishads (although appearing late in the Upanishads), is central also to Advaita. It is like an ādeśa, which is a compact presentation of a truth.53  


52Ibid., p. 8.

53See Gispert-Sauch, “The Sanskrit Hymns of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay”, p. 66.


It enjoys the status of the spiritual formulas like om, neti neti (cf. Bķ.-Ā. Up. 2.3.6), tattvamasi, aham brahmāsmi, tadvanam etc.54 So when this formula is uttered in the Advaitc system it is pregnant with meaning. It carries within it the Advaitic experience. At the same time it is a positive statement made about the Parabrahman namely that the Parabrahman is being, consciousness and bliss. This statement is philosophically defended by later commentaries of which the Pancadaśi, is famous55 and was to be fully translated by Upadhyay who could not complete it due to his untimely death. Continuing this philosophical trend, Upadhyay, in his articles and magazines, defends the personality as well as the tri-personality of the Parabrahman through this very formula, as we have seen before. 

It is by doing this that he re-signifies the formula saccidānanda. In fact he
places himself in the very tradition of the earliest trends of Christian inculturation where the words Logos and Persona were appropriated in the Christian system due to which they received a meaning that did not destroy their original meaning instead, added to them dimensions that were not perceived before, but became perceptible precisely because they were in some way seen through the Christian eye. The original meaning of
the words were not destroyed rather enhanced. Talking about the word Persona, it was a translation from the Greek prosopon by Tertullian who finally defined the Trinity as “una substantia-tres personae” (as stated above). 

This appropriation re-signifies the word ‘Persona’ to the extent that from its original meaning of ‘individuality’ it attains the Christian meaning of dialogue and relation.56 It was the God that we encountered in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ that styled our way of understanding person.

Ratzinger says:

... the concept of person arose from two questions that have from the very beginning urged themselves upon Christian thought as central: namely, the question “What is God?” (i.e., the God whom we encounter in Scripture); and, “who is Christ?” In order to answer these fundamental questions that arose as soon as faith began to reflect, Christian thought made use of the philosophically insignificant or entirely unused concept
“prosopon” = “persona”. It thereby gave to this word a new meaning and opened up a new dimension of human thought.57

What Upadhyay did was the same thing. He gave the saccidānanda a new dimension by presenting it as three dimensional through his Christian reading of the same.


54 Ibid.

55See Śrimad Vidyāranya Swāmi, The Panchadasi, translated into English by a humble devotee of Śri Gopala Krishna (Bombay: Tatya-Vivechaka Press, 1912).

56For a detailed exposition of this aspect see, Ratzinger, “Concerning the notion of Person in theology,” pp. 439-47.

57 Ibid., p. 439.

It is through this reading that the tri-personal aspect of the saccidānanda has been excavated so to speak and brought to the fore, that renders it more brilliant and still more mysterious.

2. Maintaining the mystery of the Parabrahman

In the Advaita system, if saccidānanda is proclaimed as the nature of the one supreme God and if it is taken to be the last insight that one could have about the nature of God then it remains very much at the philosophical level because that insight was logically reached by Aristotle as well. In his Metaphysics this is precisely his search and finally he
arrives at a Being, whose essence is to exist intellectually and in happiness.58 

So if saccidānanda is the last word on the inner nature of God then the Advaitin with Aristotle can jump up victoriously and say that finally I have discovered it: God is sat, cit, ānanda (being, intelligence, bliss). It would mean that I have understood this God and there is nothing more left to know about Him. He has been reflected upon by acute selfawareness
with the resultant being that his nature is sat, cit, ānanda. 

If Aristotle would have been present today just to here that his conclusion, that Being is intelligent and happy within Himself or (Itself), which he reached through a scientific enquiry (Metaphysics) into the Supreme Being is the same conclusion of the spiritual enquiry of the Advaita system, then he would surely be deluded into thinking that the ineffableness of God does not exist. God can be understood and there is nothing else to wonder about Him. But then on the other side it is the neti, neti of Advaita that really challenges this very assertion of Advaita. 

It is in neti neti that the seeker finally says “I don’t know,” rather, “I know but I cannot express it.” It is here that the mystery is maintained just to allow another mystery to sink in which is expressed in words but still remains a mystery and that is the Trinity. To say that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one in substance but distinct in relations, is not explaining away the mystery because it still remains a great puzzle as to how can three persons be all one and at the same time different. How can Monotheism allow tri-personality? Doesn’t Trinity amount to Tritheism?

More than clarity, this created and still creates confusion. The proud philosopher seeking clarity in divine things, did not want to live with this confusion. The temptation of clearly understanding God in human categories was always at work This is exactly what the early Church fought against right from the inception of its Trinitarian assertion.

So rather than explaining away the mystery of God it entered deeper into it, recognising that it has still not captured it and never will. This Trinitarian affirmation that maintains the mystery finally bows down to the ineffableness of God. It is to this Trinitarian mystery that the philosophy of Aristotle was put to use as an ancilla theologiae (handmaid of theology) and it is to this Trinitarian mystery that the philosophy of 58Refer to ft.nt., 23.

Advaita is put to use through its saccidānanda formula maintaining fully the mystery of the Parabrahman in its initial and humble whisper of “neti neti.”

3. The Impersonal God is dead

If for Nietzsche God was dead then for Upadhyay the impersonal God is dead. As we said before, Hindu scholars of Advaita have interpreted the Parabrahman as the impersonal God the worship of whom or which, is considered as the highest form of worship.59 

The question that arises is that when they mentioned the ‘impersonal’ Brahman, did they mean that He was not a ‘Subject’? 

Is the nirguna Brahman a kind of object or shall we say ‘subjectless Being’? 

They surely could not have called him an object because if I am a subject and if I am Brahman then Brahman has to be a subject. 

Secondly if He is a subjectless Being then it is a contradiction because Being cannot be without consciousness because to lack consciousness means deficiency in Being.60 
This is precisely why Upadhyay would fight for a personal Parabrahman. But the point that we are trying to make is that, the impersonalists have no option but to maintain a Parabrahman that is a Subject therefore self-conscious and therefore a person.
Parabrahman is therefore personal right from the start. Otherwise the impersonalist Advaitins would be preaching a New-Age, Theosophist kind of God which is a Divine principle, a kind of a divine immanent energy that is etheral, a life-giving force that has to be harnessed and to which all beings have to be attuned to. Once this attuning reaches perfection there is moksha, liberation, Nirvana, awakening and enlightenment.

Great sages, spiritual leaders, swamis and gurus are attuned to this principle or become one with this principle feeling one with the Divine and so are able to utter the Mahavakya for themselves; Aham Brahmasmi. (I am Brahman). This New Age kind of God concept is rather diffuse.61 

The danger of such impersonal theology finally lands up in a no God’s
land. Once again we could blame the translators for translating nirguna as impersonal which was subsequently used by Hindu Scholars. Probably or rather certainly Śankara may have really meant a personal being whose deep personal experience led him to forget himself in a way that St Paul says, “its no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me” (Gal 2:20). 


59“Radhakrishnan maintains that understanding God as personal does not fully satisfy our religious needs. Therefore the worship of the Absolute is higher that that of a personal God.” In Anand, Hindu Inspiration for Christian Reflection, p. 11. Vivekananda is quoted to have said, “The highest ideal in our scriptures is the impersonal and would to God everyone of us here were high enough to realise that impersonal ideal.” In Ibid., pp. 10-1.

60This is a basic Thomistic argument but one finds it also among some Christian Hindu-scholars like, Bede Griffiths, Vedanta and Christian Faith (Los Angeles: The Dawn Horse Press, 1973), p. 20.
61Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life : A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”, a provisional report by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue (Mumbai: Pauline Publications, 2003), p. 64. 
See Rahner, The Trinity, pp. 103-15.

He gave expression to this experience in an Advaitic, non-dualistic way, which seemed to unfortunately portray a God that was impersonal. It was Upadhyay who way back in the 19th century held that the very Parabrahman or nirguna Brahman that Sankara preached was personal thanks to his Thomistic formation. It is only at the personal level that the neti neti of the Upanishads (Advaitic mystics), and the nada nada
of the Spanish Christian mystics meet. 

Even Aquinas after having the Divine vision towards the end of his life, never abrogated all that he wrote on the Trinity or what he wrote in the Summa Theologica. He only compared it to a straw which only goes to say that the Christian mysteries are truths, but ineffable, and beyond comprehension. 

The Triune God is therefore not negated through that experience of Aquinas, rather it is upheld with a greater and mysterious profundity. God’s personality is much much greater than we can imagine, “Supra-personal,” to repeat what Upadhyay said. We can only talk about that personality analogically through our personality. It is only because God is personal rather tri-personal that we are Persons but in a much human way.

4. The problem of the concept of person and understanding it in the light of God’s tri-personality

The concept of person, with its rationalistic definition, after Descartes, attained a kind of individualism which practically destroyed its communitarian dimension. Today many theologians frown on the usage of persons for the Trinity in God especially after the critique of Rahner. But Rahner himself is not against the use of the concept of person.

He is rather cautioning against a prevalent understanding of person that is harmful to the understanding of person in God, which cannot be understood individualistically because then that would destroy the unity and lead to a tri-theism.62 So what is required is a better understanding of the concept of person namely as “distinct manners of subsisting.”63

Even if one thinks of abandoning the word ‘person’ and using “three distinct manners of subsisting” it does not help prayer and worship. O’Collins says, “Personal language for God makes our prayer and deep relationship to God possible.

How could one adore and glorify Rahner’s “three distinct manners of subsisting?”64

Rahner himself declares that “there is really no better word, which can be understood by all and would give rise to fewer misunderstandings.”65


62Ibid., p. 114.

63Collins, The Tripersonal God, pp. 175-6.

64Collins, The Tripersonal God, pp. 175-6.

65In Ibid., ch. 10, end note, 2, p. 222.

So the concept of person remains and once again referring to what Cardinal Ratzinger said, that it was precisely because of the usage of ‘person’ in the Trinity, that its understanding was modified to the benefit of humanity. In the same vein, person in the Trinity cannot be understood without relations. Even Aquinas had placed his discourse on relations before dealing with the persons in the Trinity.66 

The persons in the Trinity are Father, Son and Holy Spirit, precisely because they are related to each other. Now if Ātman is Brahman or if we are in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), then we too are intrinsically relational beings yet distinct. It is by our understanding of persons in the Trinity, that our personhood has to be understood and not vice versa. 

Our personhood cannot be understood without relations imbued with self-giving love. In fact it is the self-giving (kenosis) that is crucial to understand the relations as well as the oneness of the persons in the Trinity. It is this understanding that actually breaks down the very barriers of caste and Dalit oppression because its existence would be an insult to the tri-personal Parabrahman itself. On the other hand it would be that Parabrahman who would become the model of our communion and togetherness helping us to live like members of one family, a real Vasudaivakutumbakam. 

O’Collins beautifully puts it:

The Trinity’s koinonia or absolutely blissful communion of love presents itself as the ultimate ground and goal of all other such relations-in-communion. In a world where sharing and community have often tragically broken down, the perichoretic existence of the tri-personal God invites us to live in communion with each other and with our God.

Because the divine life is one of total self-giving and unconditional sharing, human beings, because they are made in the divine image and likeness (Gn 1:26), are invited to exist in a communion and loving solidarity with each other and with the divine persons.67

5. Love or Bliss?

Finally the question that arises is, if self-giving love is crucial to the understanding of the inner nature of the Triune Godhead, then would it mean discarding the term ‘ānanda’ (bliss), which is again crucial in the saccidānanda experience of Advaita? Certainly not.

In fact the article of Gispert-Sauch, “Ānanda, Hēdonē and the Holy Spirit,” argues precisely against this point.68 He leads the reader towards understanding that bliss is basically the non-dualistic unity of the Father and the Son. This bliss (ānanda) is precisely the Spirit. So rather than understanding the Spirit as love proceeding from the knowledge of the Father and the Son, it could be understood as a state of rest in the blissful union of the Father and the Son.69 He quotes Abhishiktananda extensively for this Advaitic way of understanding the Spirit in the Godhead.


66ST Ia. qq. 28-29.

67O’Collins, The Tripersonal God, pp. 179-80.

68In Indica, 16 (1979), pp. 83-102.

69Ibid., pp. 94-7

This is true of Love also. Love is basically unifying rather than dividing. Balthasar, as quoted by Gispert-Sauch is saying the same thing, that the Spirit as love expresses and seals the unity between the Father and the Son.70 So the question of love or bliss does not arise. We have to talk of love and bliss. Both the words can carry positive and negative connotations based upon contexts. This then is important even when seeing how Abhishiktananda or Gispert-Sauch have understood Ānanda wonderfully as bliss of union between the Father and Son precisely because they understood it in the context of the Trinity. 

In Advaita union cannot exist because there is only one reality or to put it more appropriately reality is non-dual. So it is not ‘I and Brahman are one’ but ‘I am Brahman.’ So bliss in Advaita if applied to the social context could be understood as individualistic or in isolation to the detriment of social communion. It is only in the context of the Trinity that bliss gains a unitive perspective. So both love and bliss go hand in hand precisely in the Trinity or saccidānanda, where love unites to rest in bliss. Applying this to the social context would mean self-giving love in blissful communion. It would mean in our very self-giving love there is bliss and because there is bliss there is self-giving love. It is like the self-giving love of the cross is intrinsically connected to the bliss of the resurrection. We cannot separate one from the two.


The basic proposition of this article has been that Upadhyay, by placing the saccidānanda, that signifies the Parabrahman, in the context of the tri-personal God and applying the Trinitarian theology of Aquinas to it, has (according to us), presented a tripersonal Parabrahman to Advaita. This may not be acceptable to the Advaitin. It may seem as an invalid superimposition of foreign, Christian concepts and belief systems over the pure and simple experience of Advaita. 

He or she may find the sacred saccidānanda profaned by the Trinitarian dogma. But the Indian Christian through his deep encounter with the Triune God in Jesus Christ cannot but see the saccidānanda, glow with a three dimensional personality of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is this perspective that makes the Parabrahman come alive, whom we can worship and adore together with Upadhyay singing “Vande Saccidānandam”.

70 Ibid., p. 96.

Fr Bryan Lobo S.J is a Jesuit Priest and currently lives at the Pontifical Gregorian University