After suffering from an unidentified illness for several weeks, Lady Julian, a thirty-year-old woman, lay dying in Norwich, England (Julian VII). Around 3100 B.C. a war called the Mahabharata erupted in India. The destruction of villages and despair of the Indians was the result (Gita VIII). The two events are separated by thousands and years. They seem to have very little in common. However, both events have led to profound theological text that has been read for centuries. The texts are as different as their origins. Lady Julian’s work was shaped by her devout Christian faith in the Middle Ages. Her ideas seem to be unrelated to the holiest texts of Middle Eastern religions. Julian’s ideas on God’s love transcending human suffering and the desire to move beyond it are similar to those expressed in The Bhagavad Gita, the most important book of the Mahabharata.
Both Revelation of Love as well as The Bhagavadgita discuss the need of God when we are in despair. Julian’s focus on God is evident when she is suffering: “……I felt my body dead… [but] i thought to myself I was fine, as my eyes were focused [on God and] the heaven, which I trusted would come …”. She says, “… I felt my body was dead… [but] I thought to myself that I was well, because I set my eyes on God and heaven, where I trusted to come…” (Julian 6). Her despair, she states clearly, would have overcome her without God. The Bhagavad Gita describes a warrior named Arjuna turning to Krishna to seek help for his spiritual battle with despair and desolation.
Arjuna’s compassion was overwhelming and he spoke with sorrow, “O Krishna… I am unable to move and my tongue is dried up.” The bow slips and my skin burns fiercely, Krishna… It is better that I die in battle unarmed, with my cousins’ weapons. Arjuna’s mind was overwhelmed by despair and sadness after he said this on the battle field and cast aside his arch and arrow. (Gita 1:30-47)
Arjuna’s faith is also lost when he throws down his bow. Julian and Arjuna both have their moments of triumph, but neither is fully overcome. Both receive visions of God. Arjuna is given a vision of Krishna, while Julian sees Jesus. Krishna laughs at Arjuna’s grief and says, “You cry for things that are not worth crying about.” The wise does not grieve either for the alive or for the deceased. Arjuna asked, “Why do you weep, Arjuna? These monarchs were always here, and neither will they ever disappear in the future. Krishna continues his characteristic Buddhist/Hindu saying, “Life is dukkha.” (Gita 4.) In both Eastern religions, the great goal of life is to overcome this sadness. This term refers to more than just sadness. This term is often used to describe a profound angst that is associated with death or separation from God. Julian’s revelations reflect this idea.
Julian sees Jesus in a vision and he tells her “Whither is the purpose of your pain?”- “Whatever you do, sorrow will follow.” You must understand that the whole of your life has been a penance for you …”. Krishna and Jesus emphasize that the struggles of despair are similar in both texts. Love is also the key for their disciples to overcome their suffering.
Both Julian’s Revelations and Krishna’s Teachings center on the theme universal love between God’s creations. Julian explains: “For God loved us even before he made them; and we loved God when they were created… The soul of the human being is therefore made by God. Julian says: “All souls are bound in this knot. All souls are united in oneness. And they become holy because of his holiness.” The Bhagavadgita also expresses absolute love when Krishna declares: “Brahman is present in all things.” No one hates me. “I am very close with those who are devoted to me out of love” (Gita, 9:29). Western Christianity is less likely to mention this idea, even though it’s common among Eastern religions. God is usually seen as separate and unrelated to the self. The Bhagavadgita, as well Julian’s own revelations, both elaborate on the idea that God or Spirit (Brahman), is always present.
A theme is that God/Brahman performs all actions, and that he is therefore the “true actor” in that action. “One can see the Lord appearing in every living being… Whoever understands and believes that every work is performed by such powers, will not regard himself as the one doing it” (Gita 13, 28-29). Krishna’s verses state that: “The wise who know the truth thinks ‘I don’t do anything.’ This is because they see, hear, touch, smell, walk, sleep, breathe, and speak, give, take, open and close the eyes. Julian says the same thing: “…I was able to clearly see that God performs all actions, even those that are the smallest. I also saw that God has the power to do the most insignificant of tasks. Unexpectedly, this concept from the East is found in a Western work. Julian is a woman of openness and intuition, accepting a foreign idea and applying it to herself. Julian continues by saying that she saw no difference in God’s nature and ours. She said: “…I didn’t see a difference in God and my substance. I just thought we were all God. The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are all enclosed within us …” (121). The Bhagavadgita as well Julian’s Revelations emphasize God’s presence everywhere. God is always present in people who love each other. We love God by loving all His people. This idea links to a world of peace and makes God’s Love more personal. The Bhagavad Gita describes how: “…the intelligent are able, through worshiping God like a real person, to have human-like relationships (Gita 9) with Brahman. D. Platt explains the belief of this belief when he introduces The Bhagavad Gita. The love of God can be developed much more easily when God is considered a person. It is possible to trigger spiritual awakening through such love, as long as it is pure and unselfish (Gita 6). Julian makes the same point when she describes Jesus as Brother or Mother, Savior and Lover, both Lords and Servants, and dear friends (Julian 121-29). This love for God makes it easier to devote yourself to God. The Revelation of Love, The Bhagavadgita and Julian’s pain are all a result of this love.
The similarities between Julian’s revelations and The Bhagavad Gta text still amazes me. It is difficult to imagine that it has been centuries since these texts were penned, and the differences between Hinduism & Christianity have grown so much. The two are almost indistinguishable, despite the fact that their basic ideals share many similarities. Even though I believed in this ideal before, now I am more convinced than ever that all religions are one. Julian said in her last revelation: “Would You Know Your Lord’s Meaning in This Thing? Love was the meaning of his life. Who taught you this? Love. What did you see? Love. What was the reason he showed it to you? For love. You will learn and know more if you hold yourself in that place. But you won’t learn or know anything else there. These texts are very different, but they have similar messages. They are all about Love. Their message is Love.
Original: In conclusion
Paraphrased: To sum up
Julian of Norwich wrote that God is always present. Trans. Trans. Skinner, John. New York: Doubleday published this. 1996.
The Bhagavadgita Trans. The American Gita Society. Khapara Mohal: Bhavan Books. 1992.