The Strengths and Limitations of Bede Griffith’s Christian Advaita in Tamil Nadu

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Joshua B. Kulak


Father Bede Griffiths devoted himself to contemplative life in South India, first at Kurisumala Ashram in Kerala and then at Saccidananda Ashram in Tamil Nadu. He endeavoured to create an authentic Indian theology by constructing a Christian advaita and living as a Christian sannyāsi. Despite living mostly in a rural Tamil context, Griffiths preferred a pan-Indian approach to inculturation, drawing upon advaita vedānta and other Sanskritic traditions rather than the rich, locally available variety of Tamil traditions. As a result, his work has engendered a mixed evaluation in India, ranging from enthusiastic support to stringent criticism. Perhaps the most penetrating criticisms of all was offered by Dalit theology and Tamil contextual theology. Again, Griffiths offered a potentially fruitful variety of Indian Christianity but one that was apparently out of touch with his own local context. In this article I elucidate Griffiths’ approach to inculturation, explore why he preferred an advaitic approach, highlight the criticism of his approach, and draw attention to his strengths. I aim here, in this article, to determine whether Griffiths provided his field with a useful model of inculturation or Hindu-Christian interaction.

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How to Cite
Kulak, J. (2019). The Strengths and Limitations of Bede Griffith’s Christian Advaita in Tamil Nadu. International Journal for Indian Studies, 4(2), 43-60. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Joshua B. Kulak, Independent Researcher