KOTTAYAM: There are striking similarities in the philosophies of Adi Sankara (Sankaracharya) and Christian monk Isaac the Syrian, both of whom lived in the 7th century in India and West Asia respectively. The 'Advaita' philosophy (truth is one; not dual) propounded by Sankaracharya and the 'Divinization' theory ('Theosis' in Syriac) espoused by Isaac the Syrian convey the same idea, according to Dr Mary T. Hansbury, eminent Irish scholar in Syriac studies. Dr Hansbury , who holds a doctorate from the Temple University in Philadelphia in early Christian studies, is doing research on the similarities in the philosophies of the two great men and their contributions.
Isaac the Syrian was born in Qatar and later lived a solitary life in the present-day Iraq and Iran. In his works he writes about 'Theosis' and harmony between humanity and the natural world. "Now that his texts are available in India, I see the possibility of comparing them with those of Sankara, who taught Advaita, which are similar. Isaac's writings have probably been in India for a long time because the Syrian Church has been in Kerala since the 3rd century," Dr Hansbury told Deccan Chronicle here.
"My attempt is to find whether the two have influenced each other and how they are similar or different, which could be of great interest," Dr Hansbury added. The similarity is interesting as Isaac could cross the geographical and ecclesiastical boundaries. With Theosis, there is a possibility of an ongoing discussion in Asian Christianity in relation to Advaita, she added. Dr Hansbury's programme included Syriac language studies at Princeton University and Hebrew at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.