KC and World Religions 1 – Judaism

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 1, 2012

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We will discuss about this topic of Krishna consciousness and world religions. I would like to give a little background about why I choose this topic and how this can be covered and then I will tell how I plan to cover this. I have taken Bhagavad Gita course classes and Bhakti sastri classes generally in chapter 17 when Krishna talks about ‘Sraddha traya vibhaga yoga ‘, three divisions of faith. In that I talked about the religions in the three modes. There I talked about the other religions apart from Sanathana dharma. Of course all religions ultimately exist in the sanatana Dharma, but historically as we know is the religions like Christianity, Islam I will be discussing about them at that time. Several devotees during this class expressed to me that, we practically get no forum to know all these. Till now I have spoken several times, but never as a separate class devoted to this topic, but as a part of the course in the Bhagavad Gita, especially when I am taking Ishopanishad, when I am talking about the misunderstandings of the deity worship, at that time also I take this. Understanding which are there in the Abrahamic religions. When we study different religions, they can be studied at different levels. If somebody is a seeker of the truth, he will be studying different religions to know what is the righteous and what is the path I should follow. So Srila Prabhupada says in a conversation that once you know your path all comparative religious study is just intellectual sense gratification. Because if you already know the path, just follow the path you will be purified, there is no need to study anything further. When thee studied he was not as a seeker looking for path or a  intellectual titillation.  The if we are not seekers looking for truth, but we are practitioners of particular path. Then what reason we might have to study some other paths. Obviously not interested in intellectual sense gratification. Devotees can have two folds, one is personal application and other is preaching application. Personal application would mean, that we can deepen our appreciation of what we have got by looking at other paths and see  the tradition how we are connected with uses a richer understanding of the universal underlying spiritual truths of life.  So I have taken a couple of years ago a Sunday feast on Yeast august Krishna consciousness in the west. At that time I have talked about the Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana. These three categories the clearest understanding is there in the Vedic literature. That’s one reason, to deepen our appreciation for what we have got. Anther, which is equally important, especially who are preachers is to be sensitive when we are interacting with the people of different audience.   Especially the Mumbai is the financial capital of India, the gateway to India and the devotees here are also now focusing on  becoming more receptive to an international audience. So I felt this is a reasonable topic to take. We are not taking it here in the sense of primarily proving the superiority of Krishna consciousness over all these religions. That can be one angle of taking and I will briefly talk about that. The focus will be to see these various religions from the Krishna Conscious perspective.  We will be focusing on three main sub-divisions within, depending how the course goes. I was planning separate class for each of the major religions. I am planning to Cover three things

  1. The History, how it originated and developed.
  2. Their primary beliefs
  3. If they had any interactions with Gaudiya Vaishnavas. For example if the Muslims or Christians had any interactions with us and what our Acharyas has said about that.

 

Our primary way of knowing is through Guru, Sadhu and Sastra. At the same time Guru, Sadhu, Sastra may not necessarily speak everything. They primarily focus on the spiritual world and what is the necessity for us to know about the spiritual world and to know about the spiritual path. For example: Srila Prabhupada may not in all his books may write about the Geography of India or the History of India. So in the Bhagavatam it is described that Sruti is the primary way to know. But along with Sruti Lord Krishna tells Uddhava in the Uddhava Gita in the 11th canto that there are four ways of acquiring the knowledge and he interestingly says that all of them are valid. Sruti hi Prathyaksha maithavyam anumaneca………. Vikalpatsita vajayte. He says Vikalpa, which means the various alternatives which are present in the sense gratification in the material world, Virajyate, one becomes detached from that by four ways. Sruti hi means Sravanam, we hear from the spiritual traditional. Then he also says Pratyaksham, pratyaksha pramana what we get, I think this is a historical record. Sometime if you want to say how greed is bad, we may tell some historical stories. Some time if you want to say how greed is bad, we say the story how a man was promised as much land as you can take it, run as long as you want. He was so greedy that he kept running and didn’t come back in time. They are traditional stories, they are not scriptural, but they are historical. So they are also accepted. The anumanesu, anuman generally we use it in negative sense, speculation, but anumana also here positively means inference. So by inference also we can learn. Now if you want to learn about other religions, what is our epistemology ( how do we acquire that knowledge). We will be acquiring knowledge primarily from the historical sources of religions and then we will what our acharyas, generally our acharyas before Bhakti Vinoda Thakura, never commented on other religions. At times when the islamic fanatics devastated vrindaban but in none of his Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita commentaries  he talks one word about Islam. The reason for that is simple because at that time the tradition was preserved in two ways. One is the oral tradition and other is the written tradition. The oral tradition means the seeker goes to the ashram of guru or he goes to the local sadhu in the village and that sadhu gives him the instructions, this is what you should do and this is what you should not do. Traditionally book were written primarily for the scholars, for Brahmanas.  So Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakur writing a book the purpose of that book is to explain the logical, philosophical and scriptural  soundness of the GV Philosophy. For other GV scholars and for the scholars of the other sampradayas to examine the soundness. So actually Srila Prabhupada books in that sense are distinctive. Srila Prabhupada books contain lot of practical instructions. A sadhaka should not overeat, should not over sleep, should not engage in sense gratification etc. so much practical instructions are there. So these Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakur books, Baladeva Vidhya Bhushan’s books, Jiva goswami book there were no practical instructions given. Why because in the traditional way of preaching, Sambandha Jnana was given through books through the written tradition and Abhidheya was given through the oral tradition. It means how to practice was rarely written down, because what need to be written down was the intricate logical philosophical scriptural arguments. Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakur comments on Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-Gita if we see they contain primarily three things – (i). His specialty that he goes into the heart of the speakers and he gives their conversations. Like what is Krishna feeling when he is saying this verse. Now Arjuna is saying this, what is his feeling. Then he gives further grammatical analysis, like this word means this this and this, but in this context it means this and gives some philosophical clarifications. Some rasiks of the insights of the character, some grammatical term clarification  and some philosophical elaboration. That are three things that the previous acharyas has given commentaries on. Because when the spiritual culture was living tradition, there is no need to give practical instructions through the books. They  were already available through the living tradition. But  since Bhakti Vinoda Thakura time, what happened was the living tradition became disconnected from the contemporary people. Because most of the Bhadralok, the people who were educated in British education system did not have much respect for the traditional spiritual teachers. So from Bhakti Vinoda Thakura’s time along with sambandha abhidheya was also put in written form, that means how a seeker should  practice and actually among Bhakti Vinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada’s books talk about the abhidheya the most. what a sadhaka should do and what a sadhaka should not do. So the point is before Bhakti Vinoda Thakura , religion which sort of interaction and confronted with GVism was Islam and Islam was never seen as an intellectual competitor to sanathana path. Because it was never a threat the books which were written for intellectuals never addressed Islam. Although  practically our acharyas did a lot to protect the deities. Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakur although lived in those turbulent times. The Jiva Goswamis and the Goswamis established Vrindaban during the reign of Akbar. Two generations after that was Aurangzeb and  Aurangzeb devastated practically devastated everything that the Goswamis had done. Then after Aurangzeb departed Chakravarti pad appeared in Bengal and he was inspired by the Lord to go to Vrindavan and he renovated everything. So he practically not scratch but nearly from the scratch. To start off, but he didn’t bothered to address other religions. But form Bhakti Vinoda Thakura time our acharyas started addressing the other religions. Of course before that we have CMP’s conversation with chand Kazi. In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, there are three interactions with Islam. One is Chand Kazi interaction. Two are in North India and one is in south India. We will come to that later. Specific interactions, but systematic cementations in the written form was started by Bhakti Vinoda Thakura.

 

When we talk about different religions the  world’s religions can be divided into two broad division. They called as Abrahamic religions and Dharmic religions.  Abrahamic religions.   So the word Dharmic? because all the religions that  sort of developed in India, that includes in modern days we call as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. They all have some concept like Dharma, In Buddhism it is called Dhamma. But they all have that there is an underlying order in the universe and we have to harmonize ourselves with the underlying order. Now what is that underlying order is  and how that harmony is to be achieved, these conceptions may vary. For example, when in Hinduism itself, the personalism and the impersonalism the conception of the underlying order varies. It is that according to impersonalism there is an impersonal absolute consciousness and the harmony means to enter into that consciousness. According to personalist understanding there is a person who is the underlying basis for all order and harmonization means surrendering to his will and live according to his desire. But the principle is there is innate underlying order in it. The Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These three are called Abrahamic religions. They are called Abrahamic religions, because they all accept Abraham as their first prophet. They all start with the Abraham as the first Prophet and they are all called as Abrahamic religions. Historically speaking, all these three religions go back to the same roots, but from the roots there are significant branches. Foundationally there are differences between these Abrahamic and Dharmic religions. Geographically the Dharmic religions are originated in India. Apart from that there are some small religions such as Taoism in China, Shintoism in Japan. But they are not never be much broad influence. So that’s why our focus is enhancing our personal appreciation of our path or learning a little sensitivity in our preaching. That why we will not bother much about Shinto,  Taoism and many of us never heard of them also. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t. So our focus will be primarily on the religions that we interact with – Christianity, Islam and to some extent Buddhism. Generally in our preaching we don’t encounter Buddhism much, but historically Christianity and Islam has been encountered a lot. When I was preparing the outline for this seminar, I realized that if we have to talk about Christianity and world religions the maximum time we have to devote is to on the relationship between the Krishna consciousness and Hinduism. Because Krishna consciousness has Achintya bheda abheda relation with the Hinduism. We will look into these relations briefly. As I said we are going to look at three main aspects –  (i). History, (ii). Main tents (iii). Interactions between those religions and GVism, if they have occurred.

 

Historically these religions  have been involved prophets. They have been founded and propounded. Founded means started and propounded to means spread. They have been founded and  propounded primarily by prophets. Now Prophets are fundamentally different from Rsis. Rsis are individuals who consciously sort the spiritual, they had serious spiritual discipline, They had a life style focused on attaining transcendental truths and for that purpose they practice Sadhana. It may be yoga, it may be Bhakthi, it may be Jnana. By that they got some insights and they share those insights with others. Of Course those insights may be divine, they are divine. But the focus in the case of sages is that they themselves practice Sadhana and throughout they are trying to practice Spiritual life.  Whereas in the case of Prophets, although there are similarities, Prophets are to Large extent personalities who convey the instructions of God. That means when a prophet is speaking it is understood that He is giving a message of God. That’s why when some predations comes out to be true, we say that it was Prophetic statement. Something which came out to be true. So the idea is the prophet is primarily  conveyer of God’s will. God’s instructions. That’s these religions there has not been much emphasis on systematic explanation of philosophy. Because the idea is that some person is speaking the word of God. That is the absolute truth. Just follow it and you will be delivered. So these religions they did not normally at least at the founding stages did not talk much philosophy. Let’s how it is charted.

Judaism, It’s a long history. I don’t want to go into the full history. But it all starts with Adam and eve. All of us know the story that Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden and then Satan as the snake tempted Eve first and then the Adam and they all fell. All of you know the story, I wouldn’t go into that. The point is that is the idea of the fall. It is said that Adam and Eve was said that the first man and first women and right at the beginning when God was there at that time Satan was there. Some time the conception of Satan is equated to the concept of Maya. But again there are lot of differences. The similarity is that Maya also tempts all of us away from Krishna and Satan also tempts people away from God. But the fundamental difference is that Satan was thought of a independent inimical entity independent of God. Satan is seen as an enemy of God and Maya is not seen as an enemy of God, Maya is a servant of God. Traditionally  according to all these religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we understand that each one of us we as souls rebelled against God and that’s why we came to this world. But when Adam and Eve fell according to these religions Adam and Eve were only the two people living on the whole planet. They were the first two human beings and everybody according to the Genealogy has descended from Adam and Eve. So because we have descended from Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the by eating the forbidden apple, which God told them not to eat. So  their idea is that the sin of the Adam and Eve has come down through all the generations. So all of us are sinful because we are born sinful. Why we are born sinful? Not because we had some past Karma that we did something wrong. It’s just because we are descendants from Adam and Eve and because Adam and Eve sinned against God,  so all of us are sinful. Their idea is that the sin is something like a genetic defect, that is passed down to generation to generation. It may sound little strange but that is how it is. Small children in the churches are often taught that all of you are sinful. Unless you save yourselves, unless you surrender yourselves to Jesus and get saved. Then historically when Jesus came and Jesus died on the cross, then many of the disciple who later became apostles, they felt that Jesus is actually the son of God and He was specially brought to the earth. Then they said Jesus is also born like all of us. Then they said if Jesus is also born like all of us, then he too would have got contaminated by sin. Then if he is the son of God, he would not have been contaminated. That’s have they have come up with the idea that Jesus would have born to a Virgin.  If you look at look at the Bible itself, there is no mention that Mary is actually a virgin. It is a very debated issue. The point is that this is their idea, that if Jesus would have born through a normal union then he too would have contaminated by sin. Since Jesus is born to a virgin he is not contaminated by the sin. This idea of inherited sin fails to explain why there is diversity of suffering. Why do some people suffer less and why do some people suffer more. This is one of the fundamental problem which the Abrahamic religions had to deal with. They have always failed to give a satisfactory answer and traditionally when from Adam and Eve civilization has started coming down, Historically actually when they started becoming active is at the time of Moses. Mosses is considered to be the founder of Jews. Judaism is the name of the religion of the Jews. So the Jews at that time were the slave in the Egypt. When they were slave in Egypt, they were persecuted and through a long series of events Mosses has saved miraculously through many dangers and  Moses came to know that God want him to be a prophet and God wants him to lead his people to freedom and glory.  It seem God told Moses that, ” You lead your people out and I will take you to the promised land. That promised land  was around Jerusalem. Today it is  the political area of Israel. Then they started off and that journey was filled with lot of dangers and among many miracles that according to the history that had happened and God repeatedly intervened and saved them. So now in these relations, Mosses is not considered to be incarnation of God. God is somebody remote, inaccessible and practically the interaction with him is in two ways. Practically he uses instructions to the prophet and the other is that He does the supernatural events. Like he may cause one of the famous incident that when they were chased by the Egyptians soldiers ahead of them was the sea, that how the saying has come, the trap between the devil and the sea. Devil was the pharaoh soldiers and the sea on the other side. At that time Moses prayed to the God and the sea parted and then they went through it. After that soldiers also wanted to cross and the soldiers drowned. There are several miracles like this which are described  through which God interacted with these people and they have a chain of people who are all ordinary and none of them were like  seekers in the sense of doing serious spiritual practices and seeking God and through them God spoke. They have tradition of Prophets which goes down, Now Judaism as it started, all these people who left from Egypt and came to Jerusalem. Before they reached Jerusalem, the Moses died and even after they reached they were a small band of travelling people and they were very vulnerable from other political kingdoms that were around and the hope that we would eventually be restored to the position of glory as well as promised was led to the idea that the future prophet will come and that prophet will fully deliver the kingdom of God to us. The kingdom of God was promised to Moses but it was not delivered fully. That will be delivered by a prophet who will come in the future. That gave the religions the Messianic ( means Messiah will come in the future). Messianic historical angle they got. Judaism was approximately in the 1400 B.C. that they debate some time the Moses was 1400 B.C. and they have their own generation of Kings who went up and down. They were repeatedly attacked and some time they were miraculously saved and sometimes completely devastated. But finally if we look at this history throughout in the Krishna Conscious perspective we will see two things over there. That first of all there is no direct interaction with God and there is not systematic philosophy that is there. Interestingly, Judaism prides itself on being non-philosophical. What is the pride in being non-philosophical? When I say something, today Judaism has many branches and some of them may be philosophical also. But generally they feel that Philosophy is so abstract and it’s only uncertain and debatable. So why bother about it. The importance is how you live and if you live what has God expected you to live, then you will be delivered. So philosophy is in that sense little relegated backwards. Although they have had their thinkers but in the original book that they have god. Now from the time Abraham on wards through Moses and throughout all the prophets periodically they kept speaking some things. Some words of Wisdom or what we consider the words of God. Those words that they spoke and the incidents that occurred, they were recorded and all of them became their Holy book.  That is called the Old testament. The old testament, if we see we have the concept of Sruti and Smruthi. Shruthi is the word of God that is directly revealed in the heart of Sages and he will speak it out. So like Bhagavad-Gita is the word of God. But Old Testament primarily have the words about the actions of the God with his people. In them also God is not a person who is there in the history God is just a force who is there in the nature about to burst out into reality but never bursts out. So God is primarily manifested through Supernatural elements and the miracles that happened. That means Old testament is primarily a narrative historical events. In that sense it is certainly not sruti. Is it smruti, we cannot say exactly, because Sruti contains historical events, but these are not ordinary historical events. The primarily historical events centered around the incarnation of the Lord or His devotees. If we consider the people who surrendered to Moses and followed him as devotees, then this literature can be called as Smruti roughly. But still even in the Smruti there is lot of Philosophy, where as in these literatures the philosophy is not much. So after this around the 1st century AD, when Jesus appeared , some of these Christians thought that the Jesus is the Prophet. Jesus is the Messiah that was promised and when Jesus appeared and when Jesus was crucified then they felt how could he be the messiah, because Messiah is supposed to deliver the whole world, but he could not could not deliver himself, he himself got killed. So many of them lost faith in the idea, but some of them felt that he delivered us by dying for our sins. So Jesus in one sense lived and died as a Jew. He was born in a Jewish family and basically the teachings are more are less same as Judaism. Except that he reformed some of the Smarta Brahmanas towards excessive ritualization that had come in them. But after Jesus died or was crucified then the followers of Jesus, they started feeling that Jesus had taught a message that was the distinctive. Although Jesus lived as a Jew, his followers started a new religion called Christianity. So in the historical sense if we see Christianity is a subset of Judaism. But from practical sense, the subset become much much bigger. The Christians are far more than the Jews in number today in the world. But Christians see a sort of continuity between Judaism and Christianity. They say that the promised prophet who is supposed to come, that is Jesus. Jesus died for our sins. The words that Jesus spoke about his life is called New testament. Srila Prabhupada has spoken very little about Judaism and about Moses. He has primarily spoken about the Jesus quite a bit and he has spoken a few things about Islam. But we know that historically Srila Prabhupada in the Islamic countries, there is not much chance to preach. The only Islamic country in which Srila Prabhupada went to speak was Iran. There he had a few interactions with some Muslims and as well as some devotees who were preaching to  Muslims. Over a course of time we will discuss what Srila Prabhupada’s mention Islam with. But Prabhupada did not commented much on Judaism. Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura wrote an essay called from Moses to Maha Prabhu and there he gives a sort of very brief analysis and he says how the historical revelation has progressed so he says that Jesus was the western savior and CMP is the eastern savior. He uses their language to sort of attract those people. He says that actually the rasa has gradually been revealed more and more. Moses gave some preliminary knowledge about God and the basic principle he taught was we have to be the servants of God. Like that he says that the knowledge about God and the relationship with God will be revealed progressively and Lord Chaitanya gives the highest revelation of the personality of God as well as methods of relationships with Him. Especially the idea of Madhurya ras, the conjugal romantic relationship with God. Bhakti Vinoda Thakura talks about the other religions in the evolutionary sense. Evolutionary sense means those religions gave some revelations about God, but CMP has given the summit of those revelations. Apart from that our acharyas might have not commented primarily on the old testament or the Islamic or Jewish religions in general. The Jews have had a tremendous influence in the world history. They are known to be a group of very intelligent people. They were intelligent at the same time they always tried to keep themselves isolated from others. Because they have the idea that the God has chosen us. That we were in slavery in Egypt and God chose us. Because we are chosen we have to stay protected. One way of protection is not mixing with others, not marrying with people of other religions, etc. This tendency of being isolated has also led to the being persecuted many times. Jesus was born as Jew and died as Jew. But many Christians today feel that Jews that it was the Jews who killed the Jesus. That’s why the Christianity was a child of Judaism, the relation between the Christianity and Judaism has not been very sweet. So in fact Hitler to a large extent is an atheist, he when he decided to kill the jews the Catholic church gave their full support. Catholic church gave full support because their idea was that this Jews have killed Jesus so they deserved to be killed. So the Jews since the time when the left Egypt, they were in Israel but they never had  their kingdom. It’s only 1948 of second world war after in Europe they were Killed to a large extent by Hitler that they decided to have their own kingdom. Americal also wanted to have a strong hold in the arabic area, there the oil was available and that’s how the Israeli nation was created.  So as of now Jews don’t have much number but they have a large amount of influence for many reasons. Because Jews have been active in the many regions of area of public influence. The media, the Law, The Politics, the entertainment industry etc. These are filled with the Jews. Although the number of people are small, they have influenced the world a lot. Although the ISKCON devotees who are preaching in India very unlikely to interact with the Jews much. But to a large extent the history of Islam and Christianity is founded  to merge at one particular point. So one of the most radical difference from our perspective between the Abrahamic religions and Dharmic religions, the Dharmic religions concept of God’s relationship with the world. So the idea is God is sacred and this world is profane( Dirty, contaminated, Sinful). That’s why God never comes in contact with this world. This duality between the God and this world is radically emphasized in Islam. Although it is there in general all the Abrahamic religions, but this duality is maximum in Islam. The practical consequence of this is that God is largely if not entirely other worldly.  Then God cannot manifest in the material form and therefore their idea is that if God is represented or depicted in any material form, then that material form will not be representing the true God. Therefore it is a false God. Historically the Moses got the ten commandments. Moses gone to the top of  mount Sinai hill on God revealed him the 10 commandments. You know thou shalt not kill, thou shalt love their neighbor etc. While he has gone up, he has told his people that who had coming with him from Egypt to wait, but while they were waiting the story was that they took all the gold that they had, the ornaments melted it and made it into a golden calf and they started worshipping that calf. When they started worshipping that calf, Moses came down and when he saw that these people worshipping this calf he was so enraged that these people are worshipping a false God. That the God had given the 10 commandments on the stone slab. Stone tablet. So in his anger he dropped the tablet. From the tablets they broke from the tablet he thought he had lost. That angered him further and then he came forward and he smashed those ideals into pieces and he punished all the people who were worshipping that particular image of a golden calf. From that time onwards, what Moses became the precedent for smashing and destroying any representation of God. Their idea is if God is completely in the other world, so God can never be represented by anything in this world. If something in this world is representing God, what it means is that this is not God. Something which is a false God and the false God is a competitor of true God. So they say that our devotion to true God is proven by destruction of false God.  We shouldn’t think that when Aurangzeb tried to desecrate the deities in Vrindaban, that is just the one of fanaticism of one ruler. No, this is central to their ideology. Repeatedly from Moses down to Jesus there are many different prophets. One consistent feature that we find in the old testament is that when ever any king, whenever any Jewish king conquers a new kingdom, the first thing he does is he goes to their temples and destroys the ideal that there worshipped. That is considered as an act that will bring great virtue.  We will discuss about Islam a little later, but according to Islam, Allah will forgive all sins, even the sin of cohabiting with your mother will be forgiven. But the sin of worshipping a ideal is unforgivable. This is the radical difference. Actually speaking, what has been told over there is not applicable to the deity worship, because in their religion they have no concept of God descending as matter. So because they don’t have the concept of God descending into matter, they feel any representation is simply a artificial depiction of God. So therefore, actually speaking it’s a false God. In one sense, we can understand it in modern time we see people making images of film stars, Sport stars, in south India the temples devoted to many film stars and in pune there is 40 crore temple to a Cricketer who is coming up. It’s a Museum, but the way it is been made to look almost like a temple. In calcutta there is a temple for a film star, where that film star is offered six bhogas everyday. So now this is an example of worshipping false God. These sort of ideals, we also have no objection if somebody goes and bashes them. Because there is one person who lived and died or who dies in future and you just make a stone statue and imagine that person is there and worship it. Actually what has to be offered to a deity has been offered to a human being. This is the example of false god. So, what was done by moses and other  prophets was in their understanding they were destroying false god. So they were either human being who were made into God or they were imaginary being who were thought to be God. In these two cases destroying their forms of worship is fine. But in their religion there is no conception of deity worship. That if God can manifest as matter, not as matter but through matter, by Achintya bheda abheda tattva.. we can also say as matter. They don’t have that conception. So what happens is if we look at these abrahamic religions,  they are primarily historical. They occurred specific events in the history and what happened to them was highly history-centric. Because they are historical, the historically specific, their insights are not necessarily universal. That’s why based on the precedence that they have in the tradition they think that there an icon, an ideal that is been worshipped, that is a false god. They extrapolate from there and they generalize it to all representations of God in matter. But if they start understanding properly, there is a great philosophy that is there behind the deity worship. In our tradition there is no dichotomy between god is there   in the world is here. Actually even this world is the energy of the Lord and Prabhupada makes this point very simply. He says matter and spirit are the energy of God and God can change either way. Because God can change, God can manifest in the matter. If we say that the world is so sinful, so filthy, so dirty, so contaminated so God can not manifest in the matter, then what it means is that the filthiness of this world is greater than the purity of God. Which is actually an insult to God. So we can go into the philosophy and show how that understanding that God cannot manifest in the matter is contextual. It is not universal. Because in these religions there is no clear description of the form of God. So naturally there is no emphasis on the representation of God through matter. Because if you don’t know what God looks like, how are you going to depict him. Naturally if you don’t know how a person look like and if he depicts it, that is a concoction. Therefore that concoction is stopped and there is nothing wrong in that. But in the other religions, where the description of God is quite clear and livid and based on that the divine is represented, then that’s actually a wonderful way to connect with divine. To have our senses used to connect us with the divine.

 

So to summarize today I have focused primarily on Judaism and go too much into the historical details. I started with how do we understand about the other religions, we look at the IP here and we look at sruti. We look at historically what is known about that religions and what our acharyas has said about that. Then I discussed about two main religions – Abrahamic and Dharmic. I briefly outlined the similarities and differences. Dharmic is focused on the underlying principle and that is what we have to discover and harmonize it. In the Abrahamic that is historical revelation and everybody has to just follow that revelation, We discussed briefly about the difference between the Prussia and prophet and then while talking about  the Abrahamic religions, we talked about the Judaism its origin was through Adam, Abraham and through Moses. Then how it is spread and how it faced danger and how it is survived and flourished. How it persecuted and still they are going on. When we discussed foundation difference in understanding of God, their  idea that God has nothing to do with matter and God cannot manifest through the matter. This is their understanding within the historical context, it is ok. But it is not universal. When it is universalized artificially and applied on other cultures which have a deeper understanding of God, then that can become very unfortunate. So we see this when we hear these incidents of some of these people coming and desecrating the deities, we should not see them as agents of hatred. We should see them as victims of misconception. They have certain misconceptions, which they have got from the interpretation that tradition has got and they are simply being victims of those misconceptions. If we can give the proper understanding of the deity worship, we can see that many of the leaders today most of them in one sense, the devotees who followed Srila Prabhupada, they were actually born and brought up in one of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism or Christianity. So  why they are exposed to the philosophy it dramatically transforms. Apart from considering that to be anything false,  now they are practicing it and they are teaching it. So the  potency of Krishna conscious wisdom is there to see for those who want to take it. In my  book ” Idle worship or Ideal worship”  I mentioned about this that how some of this hard-line propagators of Abrahamic religion may say that deity worship is wrong it’s like a doctor who is saying that this diagnosis is wrong. This is not the way to worship God. We cannot worship God through him, but we can see that people who have followed this have become purified and developed a very advanced level of love of God. So there is one doctor who is saying this diagnosis is wrong, this diagnosis is wrong and there are patients who have taken that diagnosis  and taking that treatment and getting cured also. So then the idea that the diagnosis is wrong is not correct. Even in this religions if somebody is truly a seeker of God and they  see how there have been authentic saints who have developed exalted level of love of God, then the sectarian boundaries which come because of historical context dissolve and people get a universal understanding.

Thank you very much.

 

Q1. What is the difference between Torah and the old testament ?

  1. The word Torah is something which is equivalent to our Veda. Just like the word Veda refer to four Vedas( Rig, yajur, Sama and Atharva) or it can refer to the body of Vedic literature. The Torah can refer even to the first five books with in the Old Testament. They call that as Pentateuch. That’s the narrow meaning of the word Torah. The other broad meaning is the full old Testament along with the writing of their great saints and Prophets combined together. So it can refer to one genera within the old testament or it can refer to whole genera of the religious literature of the Jews – The Old Testament and subsequent literatures.

 

Q2. Why is this religion could not reform these people and why did other religions apart from the Vedic religions have to.

A: Earlier they were connected to Vedic society. If we see firstly these religions history don’t go very far behind. We know Kaliyuga started 5000 years ago and the history of these religions don’t go very far behind. According to some literalist Christians Literalist means who try to interpret everything in the Bible as it is. According to Literalist the earth is only 6000 years old and there is no way to scientifically defend this. Although some Christians try to do that. If we look at their historical origins Kaliyuga started 5000 years ago and according to them earth only started  6000  years.  Moses was not very old, he was just 3400 years ago. So basically these religions have originated after the Vedic influence over the world started weakening. We know that Parikshit Maharaj was ruling the world. After that Janmejaya was the king. But because of the war of Kurukshetra and subsequently because of the effect of Kali yuga. The central rule of the Monarch at the Hastinapur started weakening. As it started weakening then other stage of thoughts started coming. If we see the Greek philosophy, I will talk about Christianity and I will talk about Greek Philosophy.  The Greek Philosophy is very similar to Vedic Philosophy. Not all of Greek Philosophy but some of the Greek philosophers. Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras all of them had understanding of so many reincarnations. We have Pythagoras saying that, “I can remember my past lives”. Made as he went to certain places,” I was this person this was the sword that I used”. I think they clearly believed in the reincarnation and the soul. Many Greek philosophers, their understanding is very similar to the Vedic understanding. So as the whole of the Central kingdom of Hastinapura weakened these different kings who were there even when the Hastinapura was the ruler, He was not the king. He was the emperor. King of Kings. There were separate kingdoms  and they had their own cultures. Those were broadly in agreement with the Vedic culture, but still they had their own individual cultures. But these individually started increasing more and more as they got political economy, political autonomy, the separate independence, they also started striving for cultural autonomy. We are not our rulers were like, we are different and gradually separate languages, separate cultures evolved. So now if we look at the historical point of view, what Krishna’s plan is , Krishna says ” Sambhavami Yuge yuge”. I come at different times. If we look in our tradition itself we see that Krishna doesn’t always give complete truth. He gave a very transitional truth.  Just the principle of Ahimsa, on the principle that this world is a place of misery, you desire to become free from misery. We see that there are other examples also. In Vedic tradition itself  we have the example of partial revelation given according to time place and circumstances. Similarly these prophets, our understanding is that Srila Prabhupada was quite clear that Jesus is saying that He is the son of God and Muhammad is also exalted saint. Prabhupada would refer to Hazrat Muhammad. Srila Prabhupada is saying in 4.8 purport only that God sends His son, His servant as messengers to elevate people. So in the absolute sense even these religions are Vedic. If we consider Veda is that which is revealed by God, then in that sense these are also coming from God these are also Vedic. But in the historical or geographic sense when we say that Vedic culture is what originated from what we know historically as India then these are non Vedic. We don’t consider non-Vedic in the absolute sense. In the absolute sense they are also revelations from God, there is no doubt. They are also plan of God to elevate people. So they are not non-Vedic. But Geographically and historically they have developed in a way that their link with the Vedic culture is primarily discovering the similarity of principles. It is not so much in the culture as we see it.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan das
1 Comments
  • Mangala dasi
    July 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you very much for this informative, well researched, intellectually sharp and spiritually inspiring presentation. I learned a lot which will help me in future interactions with devotees of other religions and I feel thoroughly convinced about the depth and uniqueness of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy.

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