Christianity and the
Vedic Teachings Within It
By Stephen Knapp
When we consider the story of how baby Jesus appeared in the heart of his mother Mary by immaculate conception, as well as the bright star appearing in the night sky, we can discern a direct parallel to Lord Krishna’s birth three thousand years earlier in Vrindavana, India, as recorded in the Vedic literature. It is described in the ancient Vedic texts how Krishna appeared in the mind of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, and was then transferred into the heart of His mother, Devaki. During Krishna’s birth, the bright star Rohini was high in the sky, and the king at the time, Kamsa, actually ordered the killing of all the infants in an attempt to kill Krishna, similar to the way Herod was supposed to have done as described in the gospel of Matthew. And just as a multitude appeared among the shepherds in the hills praising God at the time of Jesus’ birth, there were also many demigods who came and danced and sang about the glories of Krishna when He was ready to appear in this world. Krishna was born in a cave-like dungeon, while Jesus was also born in a cave, although some say a manger in a barn. Rays of light illuminated the area after they had taken birth. While newly born, they both spoke of why they had come to this world. And as wise men were supposed to have presented Jesus with frankincense and myrrh, baby Krishna was also presented with gifts that included sandalwood and perfumes.
At the time when Krishna left this planet, His foot was pierced with an arrow, while Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear. There was a darkness that descended when Jesus is said to have been crucified, just as there was a darkness and many calamities taking place when Krishna left this world. And as there is a description of many ominous signs that are to signify the second coming of Christ, there are even more symptoms of the terrible age of Kali that we are going through that indicates the time before the coming of Krishna’s next incarnation as Kalki. Many of these I have included in my book, The Vedic Prophecies. There are many other parallels that we could refer to that are disclosed in the Vedas, which were written many hundreds of years before the Bible.
Jesus preached in a way that can also be compared to the sayings of Krishna. For example, in Bhagavad-gita (7.6-7) Krishna said, “I am the cause of the whole universe, through Me it is created and dissolved, all things are dependant on Me as pearls are strung on a thread.” Jesus said, “Of Him and through Him, and unto Him, are all things. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1.3) Krishna had said (Bg.4.7), “For the establishment of righteousness I am born from time to time.” This compares to Jesus in John 18:37, wherein he says, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” These and many other comparisons can be made. Nonetheless, the fact is that the history of Krishna is thousands of years older than that of Jesus.
In this way, practically speaking, what we find in the Bible regarding Jesus’ birth is a description of the appearance of Lord Krishna, but only the names have been changed. Of course, there are different theories about how this happened. One theory is that when the Christians went to India, they found out that this story was there in the Bhagavat-Purana; so, they immediately had to change the date of when the Bhagavat-Purana was supposed to have been written. So now the historians generally say that it was written about 1400 years ago. Otherwise, how could they explain the story of Krishna’s birth being so similar to the story of Christ’s birth? They thought that the Vedic pundits must have heard about the story of Jesus and adapted the story to their own incarnation, as if the Vedic scholars would demean themselves by putting a story into their scripture that was heard from people who were considered low-born foreigners. Actually, what happened was just the opposite.
Since both the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam contain many similar sentiments and descriptions to Christianity, numerous Christian scholars have tried to prove that the stories therein had been borrowed from the Bible. However, this has been proved to be quite the reverse. This is has been accepted by Reverend J. B. S. Carwithen, known as one of the “Brampton Lecturers,” who says, as quoted in Reverend J. P. Lundy’s Monumental Christianity (pp. 151-2), “Both the name Crishna and the general outline of his story are long anterior to the birth of our Savior [Jesus Christ]; and this we know, not on the presumed antiquity of the Hindoo records alone. Both Arrian and Strabo assert that the God Crishna was anciently worshiped at Mathura, on the river Jumna, where he is worshiped at this day. But the emblems and attributes essential to this deity are also transplanted into the mythology of the West.”
Monier Williams, one of the accepted early Western authorities on Hinduism, Professor at Oxford in London and a devout Christian, also focused on this issue when writing for the “Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge” in his book, Indian Wisdom. Therein he states: “To any one who has followed me in tracing the outline of this remarkable philosophical dialogue, and has noted the numerous parallels it offers to passages in our Sacred Scriptures, it may seem strange that I hesitate to concur to any theory which explains these coincidences by supposing the author [of such Vedic books as the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam] had access to the New Testament, or that he derived some of his ideas from the first propagators of Christianity. Surely it will be conceded that the probability of contact and interaction between Gentile systems and the Christian religion of the first two centuries of our era must have been greater in Italy than in India. Yet, if we take the writings and sayings of those great Roman philosophers, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, we shall find them full of resemblances to passages in our Scriptures, while there appears to be no ground whatever for supposing that these eminent Pagan writers and thinkers derived any of their ideas from either Jewish or Christian sources. In fact, the Reverend F. W. Farrar, in his interesting and valuable work, Seekers After God, has clearly shown that ‘to say that Pagan morality kindled its faded taper at the Gospel light, whether furtively or unconsciously, that it dissembled the obligation and made a boast of the splendor, as if it were originally her own, is to make an assertion wholly untenable.’ He points out that the attempts of the Christian Fathers to make out Pythagoras a debtor to Hebraic wisdom, Plato an ‘Atticizing Moses,’ Aristotle a picker-up of ethics from a Jew, Seneca a correspondent of St. Paul, were due in some cases to ignorance, in some to a want of perfect honesty in controversial dealing. . . It must indeed be admitted that the flames of true light which emerge from the mists of pantheism in the writings of the Indian philosophers, must spring from the same source of light as the Gospel itself; but it may reasonably be questioned whether there could have been any actual contact of the Hindoo systems with Christianity without a more satisfying result in the modification of pantheistic and anti-Christian ideas.”
Again, Monier points out the antiquity of the Vedic culture, practically over and beyond all others, when he explains on page iv of his book: “It should not be forgotten that although the nations of Europe have changed their religions during the past eighteen centuries, the Hindu has not done so, except very partially. Islam converted a certain number by force of arms in the eighth and following centuries, and Christian truth is at last slowly creeping onwards and winning its way by its own inherent energy in the nineteenth; but the religious creeds, rites, customs, and habits of thought of the Hindus generally have altered little since the days of Manu. . .”
In light of all this research, by myself and others, we can conclude with the words of T. W. Doane in his book, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions. Therein he goes so far as to say at the beginning of Chapter Twenty-Eight, “. . . the mythological portion of the history of Jesus of Nazareth, contained in the books forming the Canon of the New Testament, is nothing more or less than a copy of the mythological histories of the Hindoo Savior Crishna, and the Buddhist Savior Buddha, with a mixture of mythology borrowed from the Persians and other nations. . .”
One archeological find that proved that knowledge of Krishna antedated Christianity by at least 200 years was the Heliodorus column, built in 113 B.C. in central India by the Greek ambassador to India, Heliodorus. On it is an inscription commenting on the ambassador’s devotion to Lord Vishnu (Krishna) and mentioning when the column had been erected. The column still stands near the town of Vidisha.
We must remember that when the Christians first came to India to preach, they were not very well received by the local people. There was very little penetration because the Christian priests and missionaries were seen for what they were: mlecchas and yavanas, more or less unclean cow-killers or untouchables in local terminology. So it is doubtful that the Vedic pandits spent much time even listening to them, what to speak of writing scripture or changing the story of Krishna’s birth on account of hearing these missionaries. Of course, now as Indian society has deteriorated and become more attracted to Western values (partly due to being indoctrinated by the British rule years ago), Christianity is more easily accepted.
So, the conclusion we must arrive at is that the story of Lord Krishna’s birth, along with numerous other parts of the Vedic philosophy, must have come to the mid-eastern part of the world because of the many trade caravans going back and forth at that time from India to the region of Palestine. Since there were no real witnesses of Christ’s birth and hardly any history in the gospels of the life of Christ up to the age of thirty, it is likely they applied the story of Krishna to Jesus’ life. Otherwise, there is little historical evidence that any of it is factual.
There is evidence, however, as more facts are being uncovered, that contends that Jesus may have been nailed to the cross but did not die on it. After having been taken from the cross, he later recovered from the ordeal rather than rose from the dead. The Shroud of Turin, if it is authentic (which has been a great debate by itself), seems to provide some evidence that Christ was not dead when taken from the cross since his body was still bleeding while wrapped in the cloth. Even if Christ did appear to die on the cross, being a yogic master, he could have put himself into trance to be revived later. This goes on even today with yogis in India or fakirs in Egypt who can appear to die, be buried for hours, days, months, or sometimes years, and then be uncovered and resurrected from their apparent death. Even the Koran (4.157) claims that Jesus did not die on the cross.
There is also evidence that after the crucifixion Jesus traveled through Turkey, Persia, and then India. The Russian scholar Nicolas Notovitch discovered in 1887 Buddhist documents at the Hemis monastery in Ladakh that describe the life of Issa. Issa is the Tibetan spelling while Isa is the Arabic spelling of the name Jesus, and the name commonly used in Islam. The manuscript was originally from Lhasa, translated into Tibetan from the Pali language. Jesus’ ascension into heaven may have referred to his entrance into Kashmir, an area considered by many to have been like heaven or the promised land.
Furthermore, the Bhavishya Purana, dating back to 3000 B.C. and compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, also described the future coming of Jesus and his activities. Dr. Vedavyas, a research scholar who holds a doctorate in Sanskrit, said that the Purana tells of how Jesus would visit the Himalayas and do penance to acquire spiritual maturity under the guidance of the sages and siddha-yogis of India. Dr. Vedavyas says that besides describing the future events of Kali-yuga, the Purana predicted that Jesus would be born of an unmarried woman, Kumari (Mari or Mary) Garbha Sambhava, and would first go to India when he was 13 years old and visit many Hindu and Buddhist holy places. This was his spiritual training in a time of his life of which the gospels are totally ignorant. Furthermore, the actual burial place of Jesus is believed to be in Anzimar or Khanyar, Srinagar’s old town in Kashmir, where thousands of pious pay homage to the tomb of Issa each year. There is where he settled and died sometime after the crucifixion.
In any case, the Christian Church began with what Paul said about the resurrection of Jesus. Whether the resurrection actually happened or not cannot be proved. Nonetheless, a new faith was born. But through the years there has been much controversy about the nature of Jesus and whether he was actually God as some Christians seem to believe. None of his direct disciples believed that he was, and, indeed, there are many Bible verses which state directly that he was the son of God, such as Luke 1.35, Matthew 17.5, John 4.15, 8.28, 14.28, and others. Only Paul put forward the idea that Jesus was God. But historically it is said that Paul never met Jesus personally, and was converted to Christianity several years after Jesus’ disappearance. Other than that, most of Jesus’ followers thought that perhaps he was the Jewish Messiah. But the Jewish Messiah, according to their prophecies, was not God but rather a Jew who was empowered by God. This actually fits into the Vedic view because there are many empowered living beings who appear from time to time who are sent by God to represent and disseminate His law. Furthermore, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, one of the great Vaishnava spiritual masters in the Madhava-Gaudiya line of disciplic succession, has stated that Jesus was a shaktyavesha avatar, or an empowered living entity meant to preach the glories of God.
People may say that Jesus walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, so he must have been God. But even today in India there have been yogis who have walked on water or who can do other amazing things, like walking over hot coals. This is not like the Hollywood fad of fire walking, but the yogis let the coals burn for days and get so hot that you cannot even get near them without burning your clothes. Then, after spending one month in penance, praying to Durga, they walk across the fire and do not even burn their feet. But some people will say this is the work of the devil. However, is this not peculiar logic to say that walking across fire is of the devil, but if one walks across water he is God? This kind of thinking that is usually found amongst fundamentalists simply shows a great ignorance of yogic powers, which is all walking across fire or water is. Therefore, the miracles of Jesus are a sign of his knowledge of the mystical powers that come from practicing yoga. But it is not a proof that someone is God.
One important part of Eastern knowledge that was present in early Christianity was the understanding of karma and reincarnation. I have already discussed this and pointed out some of the verses that showed the acceptance of reincarnation in the Bible in The Secret Teachings of the Vedas; so, I will not go into it so deeply here. But it is known that the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. threw out all references to reincarnation and stated that the idea of it was a myth, and anyone who believed in it would be excommunicated. Of course, this action would not be unexpected in light of the other things the Church has done throughout history in order to place itself as the only way to reach heaven and attain the mercy of God. By eliminating the possibility of reincarnation and the soul’s existence prior to this life, there could be no chance for the soul to reach the state of spiritual perfection over a period of several lifetimes. There would only be this one lifetime in which the soul came into existence, and one chance for a person to reach either heaven or eternal hell, which would be determined by the intervention of the Church. In other words, the Church felt threatened by the fact that the soul has an eternal and personal relationship with God that must be rekindled either in one, two, or however many lifetimes it takes, and this relationship does not necessarily depend on one’s good standing in any religious organization. Thus, people could try to re-establish their relationship with God by other means than the dictates of the Church, which is what the Church could not tolerate.
Unfortunately, by taking out the knowledge of reincarnation and karma, the Church has created huge gaps in its philosophy which leave questions it cannot answer. For example, the Christians cannot explain why one person may be born blind, poor, deformed, or sickly, while another may be born healthy and rich. They do not understand why reversals in life may happen to some, and others seem to have a life of ease. They cannot explain why these differences take place and, in fact, they sometimes blame God for such things, which only shows their ignorance of spiritual knowledge. Furthermore, they do not understand the science of the soul and our spiritual identity, the nature of the spiritual realm, the characteristics of the personality of God, nor the pastimes and incarnations of God, and so on. Thus, the spiritual knowledge that the Christians utilize in their philosophy is very elementary and incomplete. And as we have already established in our previous writings, reaching complete spiritual perfection is not possible in such an incomplete spiritual process. At best, it promotes good moral values, detachment toward worldly life, attachment and devotion to God, and the possibility of reaching the heavenly planets. However, the heavenly planets are still within the material cosmic manifestation and not in the spiritual realm. A real religionist or transcendentalist is interested only in reaching the level of spiritual realization that enables him to directly perceive his spiritual identity and enter the spiritual strata far beyond this material creation.
Actually, Christians still must accept the understanding of karma and reincarnation to some extent in order to explain logically how one can have a life after death in heaven or hell. According to the Christian doctrine, qualifying for heaven or hell depends on one’s actions in this life. That is called karma in Vedic literature. And as one enters heaven or hell in his next life, he takes on or incarnates in a different form. This is reincarnation. So Christians must, at least to this degree, accept karma and reincarnation whether they fully understand it or not. But to understand it more completely, as explained in the philosophy of the Vedic literature, allows us to realize that our good or unpleasant situations in this life depends on our activities from past lives. And by our activities in this life we can cause our future existence to be good or bad, or we can reach the heavenly or hellish planetary systems to work out our karma. This understanding is accepted by many cultures throughout the world. In fact, the scholar Max Muller remarked that the greatest minds humanity has produced have accepted reincarnation.
The ancient Vedic custom of applying ash or sandalwood paste to the body is still retained by Christianity in the observance of Ash Wednesday. The so-called “All Soul’s Day” is an exact translation of the Vedic observance of Sarva Pitri Amavasya, the day fixed by tradition for the worship of all deceased ancestors.
Another Christian tradition derived from Vedic origins is that of having and ringing bells in the churches, especially before or during worship. In Vedic temples it is often seen where bells are rung during worship and when pilgrims enter the temple, announcing their entrance. Christian churches also ring bells to announce the beginning of worship. The word “bell” comes from the Sanskrit bal which means strength. This is in reference to the idea that ringing a bell adds force to the voice of prayer in invoking divinity.
When the Christians say “Amen” at the end of their hymns or to emphasize something, what they are saying is a corrupted form of “Aum” or “Om,” which is a standard form of Vedic meditation and name of the Supreme Being.
While we are on the topic of words used in Christianity that are derived from Sanskrit, the Catholic term “Madonna,” another name for Mother Mary, comes from the Sanskrit Mata Nah, meaning “Our Mother.” This is also derived from the great Vedic Mother Goddess. Thus, Mother Mary was a reference not only to the mother of Jesus alone, but a reference to the Goddess, mother of all humanity. Furthermore, the European term of “Madam” is a soft pronunciation of the Hindu term mata or mataji, which also means “Mother.”
The term “vestry” in referring to the room in churches in which holy clothes are kept comes from the Sanskrit word vestra, meaning clothes. Even the word “psalm” with a silent “P” comes from the Sanskrit word sam or sama which means holy and serious sacred songs, hymns or chants, as found in the Sama-veda.
Other Christian links with Sanskrit words can be found in the name Bethlehem, which is the English mispronunciation of the Sanskrit Vatsaldham, which means “the home (town) of the darling child.” The Sanskrit term Nandarath is linguistically connected with Nazareth. Nandarath means Nanda’s chariot, and King Nanda was the guardian at whose village he nurtured Lord Krishna (sometimes pronounced as Chrisn, and later Christ in some regions).
The Christian term “Satan” and the Islamic term “Shaitan” both are derived from the Sanskrit term Sat-na, which means non-truth, falsehood, or fraudulence. The Christians who explain the term “Devil” as a fallen angel should realize that the word is derived from the Sanskrit terminology which signifies a fallen Deva.
At the beginning of the book of John in the New Testament, it states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is actually a verbatim translation of the Vedic Sanskrit mantra: “Prajapatirvai idamagraasit, tasya vag dvitiyaa asit, vag vai paramam Brahma.”
The Holy Spirit in Christianity is called Paramatma in Sanskrit, or Parakalate. In Greek the word is Paraclete. This is the God of that spiritual knowledge which is revealed or descended, or the Veda, which is spoken through the prophets (Sanskrit purohitas) . Veda is Yeda in Hebrew, the word God uses for His Self-revelation in Exodus of the Old Testament. Veda in Greek is Oida, and Aidos, from which the English word idea is derived. The term oida is used for God’s/Christ’s Sel-revelation in the New Testament. Thus, the Vedas, the Old and New Testament, and the related scriptures are but part of one continuous revelation of God.
Dr. Venu Gopalacharya also points out in his book, World-Wide Hindu Culture (pp. 158-9), that in the book of Genesis, Chapter 22, God told Abraham that he and his wife, Sarah, would be blessed and God would, “make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. . . and through thy seed, shall all nations be blessed because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Dr. Venu Gopalacharya explains, “Abraham and Sarah [Sarai] refer to [or was derived from] the Indian version of Brahma and Sarasvati. This indicates that this is an abridgement of some of the versions in the Indian Puranas referring to ‘Brahma and his consort as the first aspects of the Supreme Lord or His agents of creation and offering sacrifices [or performing austerities].’ In the commencement of the book of Genesis, the sentence, ‘In the Beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the waters.’ This is similar to the Vedic Puranas stating that MahaVishnu or Narayana was lying on Adisesha in the ocean, [who is] the original source from which Brahma comes into being. The killing of Abel by his brother for the sacrifice of animals refers to the slaying of Asuras by the Devas, their own brothers, due to the difference of opinion about the mode of offering sacrifices or worshiping God.
“Just as Indian Puranas were compiled to glorify a particular aspect of the Supreme Lord as Vishnu, or of Shiva, Durga, Ganesha, etc., the Old Testament deals with ‘Yahwe,’ an aspect of the angry god Rudra. As the word ‘Rudra’ means a weeping god, the Jews for worship use weeping before the wailing wall of the ‘Dome of the Rock’ within the temple of Harmahesh Sri (called by Judaic religionists as Haram Esh Sheriff) in the old city of Jerusalem, i.e., Yadusailam. The Jews spell the name of the city as ‘Yerushalayim,’ of which the Sanskrit synonym is Yadu Ishalayam, which means the temple of the Lord of the Yadus [the descendants of Lord Krishna’s clan].
“Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has informed in his book, Pracya Mattu Paschatya Sanskriti, that the Greeks asserted that the Jews were Indians whom the Syrians called Judea, the Sanskrit synonym of which is Yadava or Yaudheya, and the Indians called them Kalanis, meaning orthodox followers of the scripture.”
This information certainly provides serious insights into the relationship between the early Jews, Christians, the Bible, and the Vedic culture. I could go on pointing out more Eastern traditions that influenced or were adopted and preserved in various levels of Christianity, but this should be enough for now.
FURTHER SOURCES OF OUTSIDE INFLUENCE IN CHRISTIANITY
At the time of Jesus’ appearance there were many cults in Judaism. There were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and another was the Essenes who were very pure in their habits. They were frugal and were strict vegetarians, eating no meat of any kind and drinking fresh fruit juices or water. They believed in working in harmony with nature and the forces that surround the world and all within it.
The name Essene is supposed to derive from a Syrian word meaning physician, and they would practice the healing of the sick in mind, body, and soul. They had two main communities, one in Egypt, the other in Palestine near the Dead Sea. Another was in Syria. Their origins can be traced to the Far East, and their methods of prayer, meditation, and fasting were quite similar to Eastern or Vedic practices.
Their membership was open to all and they were a well respected order with many hundreds waiting to join. But their teachings were given only to members. To be a member of the Essene order, one had to pass a probationary period of one year and be able to fast for 40 days. Their school had three degrees, and few passed successfully through all. They divided themselves into two levels, consisting of those who were celibate and those who were married. The Essenes were a peaceful order of pious men and women who lived in asceticism, spending their days in simple labor and their evenings in prayer. They never became involved with political or military affairs. They never became merchants or entered into commercial life in the cities, but maintained themselves by agriculture and raising sheep for wool, as well as by crafts like pottery and carpentry. (And tradition holds that Jesus was a carpenter.) Any profits or harvests were not kept individually, but were given to the community and then divided.
More information is provided by H. Spencer Lewis who writes on page 28 of his book, The Mystical Life of Jesus: “Every member of the Essenes in Egypt or Palestine had to be a pure-blooded descendant of the Aryan race.” This would indicate that the Essenes were a clan of Aryans and, as we know, the Aryans were followers of the Vedic principles. On page 29, Lewis explains further: “Immediately upon initiation, each member adopted a robe of white composed of one piece of material, and he wore sandals.” This one-piece robe sounds very much like the Vedic practice of wearing a dhoti.
In a footnote (p. 31) of another book, The Secret Doctrine of Jesus, H. Spencer Lewis describes that, “Findings of such archeologists as G. Lankester Harding, Director of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities (viz. The) most startling disclosure of the Essene documents so far published is that the sect possessed, years before Christ, a terminology and practice that has always been considered uniquely Christian. The Essenes practiced baptism and shared a liturgical repast of bread and wine, presided over by a priest. They believed in redemption and immortality of the soul. Their most important teacher was a mysterious figure called the Teacher of Righteousness.”
This makes it quite obvious that many of the so-called Christian practices and terminology, aside from those that Paul established, are a mere continuation of the pre-Christian Essene tradition. The Essenes were also followers or worshipers of Essan (Issan), which comes from the Sanskrit term Isha, which means God.
Jesus was a member of the Essenes and was apparently the head of one of the Essene temples. In all the Essene temples there was one leader and twelve assistants. When they had their ritual, which they had been doing many years before Jesus appeared, they would break bread and take wine. The leader would stand over the wine and bread and say, “This is my body, this is my blood,” acting as a representative of God. Then he would distribute it. This is information from the Dead Sea Scrolls which were written long before Christ appeared. So we can see that this is a tradition previous to Christ that is still being carried on in the Christian churches today.
The philosophy of the Essenes was very exalted for that period of time. Traditionally, the Jewish doctrine for justice was an eye for an eye. But the Essenes, even before Christ, taught that one should simply turn the other cheek. So in many cases when Jesus taught, he was simply repeating the doctrine of the Essenes. It was not original. But considering the advanced level of the Essene philosophy in general, it would not be surprising if they had been influenced by the Vedic writings in some way. In fact, evidence of this can be seen when we consider that the school of the Essenes was originally conducted chiefly for the purpose of interpreting the Pythagorean symbols and teachings.
According to legend, Pythagoras was one of the many sages of antiquity for whom an immaculate conception is asserted. He was born between 600 and 590 B.C. and the birth was predicted by the oracle of Delphi. Pythagoras had traveled and learned the mysteries of the Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, and even went through Media and Persia to Hindustan to study for several years under the learned Brahmin priests. This is accepted by some to be the same areas where Jesus later traveled and learned the Eastern spiritual philosophy.
One of the things Pythagoras had declared was that meat-eating clouded the reasoning faculties, and that judges should refrain from eating meat before a trial to assure that the most honest decisions would be made for those who went before them. He also taught that mortals who, during their earthly existence, had become like animals in their activities would return to earth again in the form of the beasts they had grown to resemble or act like. Pythagoras also taught the medicinal properties of plants and how to heal by the use of color, vibrations, music, herbs, etc. He also taught how there was a Supreme World, spiritual in nature, which pervaded all things. The material worlds existed within the nature of this supreme sphere, and people should try to recognize the spiritual nature in their surroundings. The Essenes taught many of these same points. They also believed in the eternality of the soul and the philosophy of reincarnation, as did the Pythagoreans and other groups of that time, and taught that rewards of righteousness must be earnestly striven for.
Jesus’ brother James was one of the leaders of the Essenes in Jerusalem and was a strict vegetarian. It is said that never in his life did he eat meat, nor did he drink liquor. He was an ascetic. So if these two brothers were stalwart preachers of the Essenes and one was a staunch vegetarian, it is hard to imagine that the other one would not also be. Of course, if a person wants to establish Jesus as a meat-eater, they can repeat the biblical story in which he distributed many fish. But that was an emergency situation, and whether Jesus actually ate any fish is still in question. But, from an objective point of view, there is evidence that Jesus did not eat meat. In Isaiah (7.14-15) it is stated: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” This shows that Christ was a vegetarian.
The founding fathers of the early Christian church, such as Tertullian, Pliny, Origen, St. John Chrysostom, etc., were also strict vegetarians. In fact, St. John Chrysostom advised that saints are loving not only toward people, but also to the beasts because they come from the same God who created mankind. Other saints who were either vegetarian or who at least made friends with animals or protected them from hunters include St. Francis, and Georgian saints like St. David of Garesja, St. John Zedazneli, and early Celtic saints like St. Wales, St. Cornwall, and St. Brittany. Therefore, a real “Christian” who follows Christ’s doctrines should also extend their love to all of God’s creatures as Christ had done. Otherwise, how can they be considered real followers of Christ?
The fact of the matter is that the Bible, in Genesis (1.26), states: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Herein, dominion does not mean to do whatever one wants to with other creatures, but to have dominion as a ruler of a country has leadership over the people he rules. It is not expected that a leader will torture and eat the people who inhabit his country. That is no leader at all, but is merely one who exploits others for his own interests. Furthermore, only a few verses after the one above we find that God expects us to be vegetarian: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat.” (Genesis 1.29) Therefore, meat-eating should be avoided in Christianity.
Only after the Ecumenical councils at the time of Emperor Constantine, who was a meat-eater, did vegetarian Christians have to practice underground. It was either this or live in fear of having molten lead poured down their throat, which Constantine would do if he caught any vegetarian Christians. Of course, now this is no longer an issue in Christianity. Almost everyone considers that meat-eating is normal and that animals have no soul or feelings.
The idea that animals have no soul was started by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) also supported this view because he favored meat-eating. Aristotle based his opinions on his speculations, but later Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) unfortunately adopted Aristotle’s philosophy, and the Church took Aquinas’ teachings as dogma. And now most everyone in Christianity has followed suit. In fact, due to the expansion of Christianity in Ceylon and other parts of the East, meat-eating has spread, although the slaying of animals is forbidden in Buddhism and amongst those lamas, yogis, and Brahmins who are working to attain the highest spiritual development. Therefore, we can see how this destructive opinion that animals have no soul, which is based on a gross ignorance of spiritual knowledge, has spread.
The understanding that meat-eating is incompatible with spiritual progress can be seen more clearly in early Christianity and Eastern religious systems. In fact, such similarities between the Eastern and Western philosophies were more evident before the Ecumenical councils, which did away with many of the early Christian teachings that dealt with such things as reincarnation, karma, rebirth, and so on. Such Eastern influence was no doubt partly due to Jesus’ travels through the Eastern countries, such as India, Ceylon, and a few of the Himalayan countries. But the modern Church often declines to discuss the fact that early Christianity shows every evidence of being influenced by the East. And the East, specifically India, has always been viewed as the land of spiritual knowledge since time immemorial. So it should not be considered too unusual that many philosophical ideas of Christianity are rooted in the Vedic literature. However, if it is ever established beyond a doubt that Jesus was an initiate of the so-called “pagan” Asiatic teachings, it could certainly have a considerable effect on the members of the Christian faith. However, more and more people are gradually becoming aware of this Eastern influence.
PAGANISM IN CHRISTIANITY
The name pagan means a country man. The name heathen comes from the word heath, which is a common name for a variety of evergreen shrubs that live in swamps or along mountain slopes. Thus, the name heathen simply referred to those who lived in the country near such plants. Therefore, the use of the name heathen or pagan originally was not meant in a condescending way. To be a heathen or pagan simply meant that one followed those religions that existed prior to Christianity, or that he or she participated in the nature religions, which primarily meant demigod worship. So paganism is simply a reference to following the old remnants of the Vedic Aryan culture. And people throughout pre-Christian Europe worshiped a variety of spirits and demigods, known by different names according to culture and region. The Romans and Greeks of that time also worshiped demigods. The sun-god, Mithra, was apparently considered the most exalted of the demigods. Even King Constantine (280-337 A.D.) was originally a devotee of the sun-god. His famous vision of the cross that he had while marching on Rome came to him from the sun. In fact, even after he was converted to Christianity, he remained a devotee of the sun-god, and because of that he continued to hold the Sabbath on Sunday, which traditionally was on Saturday.
According to Jewish tradition, the Sabbath was Saturday when God finished the creation and rested. So Saturday is the seventh day and Sunday is the first. Therefore, the Seventh Day Adventists, in a kind of protest, changed the Sabbath back to the original day. So even today the Sabbath is celebrated as a kind of pagan carry-over on the sun’s day. In this way, each day was set aside for different demigods, who are the presiding deities of different planets. Thus, Sunday is for the sun, Monday is for the moon, Tues is the Greek name for Mars, Wednesday is for Mercury, Thursday for Jupiter, Friday for Venus, and Saturday for Saturn.
We can trace many more similarities between Christianity, Judaism, and other cultures. The origin of one of the first stories in the Bible can be traced to Zoroastrianism. In Zoroastrianism we find where the Lord, Ahura Mazda, creates the world in six stages, and then creates the first man and woman and brings them to consciousness with the breath of life. Shortly afterward, Ahriman, the devil, convinces the man and woman to eat of the forbidden fruit, thus bringing sin and death into the world.
In other cases, the Jews, having such little information about their founders, borrowed ideas from the legends of neighboring cultures to make their own heroes look special. For example, the stories of Moses’ activities are borrowed from the god Bacchus, who as a baby was found floating in a small boat in the water the way Moses was. Bacchus also emitted rays of light from his forehead, wrote laws on stone, crossed the Red Sea without getting his feet wet, and had armies that were led by pillars of fire. Other similarities can be found in the story of Lord Rama and in the activities of Zoroaster who is said to have lived many years before Moses.
Other customs, such as circumcision, that now most Christians practice, is not exclusively Jewish, but actually came from Egypt. It had been practiced by the Egyptian priests as far back as 4,000 BC, long before there ever was a Jewish tribe.
Baptism is another ceremony that is often considered exclusively Christian. However, this is far from true, as some authorities admit. Reverend J. P. Lundy, who made ancient religions a special study, relates on page 385 of his book, Monumental Christianity, that, “John the Baptist simply adopted and practiced the universal custom of sacred bathing for the remission of sins. Christ sanctioned it; the church inherited it from his example.”
So from where did Baptism come? The fact is that it has been practiced in the form of immersion or by sprinkling for the purification of sins as a common rite in various countries far and wide, for many centuries, in religions that are the least connected. One of the oldest forms of baptism comes from and is found in India. It is here where people, for aeons, have bathed with the intent of spiritual purification in rivers that are considered sacred. Rivers like the Ganges and Yamuna, or sacred lakes and ponds, have long been accepted as sources of spiritual cleansing if one bathes in them with reverence, especially at important times or events. Even today you can visit holy towns along the Ganges where people, young and old, make special endeavors to take a holy bath in the river, in which they plunge three times into the water, or at least sprinkle drops on their heads. This ancient practice spread all over the world in various forms.
Ancient Persians also practiced baptizing their infants soon after birth, dipping the baby in a vase of water. The old Mithraic initiation ceremonies also included baptism. The Egyptians used baptism as a symbol and rite of spiritual regeneration. Baptism by immersion was also performed by the pagan Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Incas, and, of course, the Essenes and Jews, long before it became a Christian custom.
There are also events and miracles in the life of Jesus that were known to have happened to other special beings, such as Buddha several hundred years earlier. For example, Jesus was supposed to have radiated light after his birth. However, other personalities who also had light shining from them when they were born include Bacchus, Apollo, the first Zoroaster, Moses, and the oldest of which is Krishna. Furthermore, just as Jesus fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil, Buddha also fasted and was tempted by the demon Mara in a more severe manner than Jesus. And just as Jesus told the devil, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” the Buddha also told Mara, “Get thou away from me.” However, other personalities from various cultures were also tempted in a similar way, such as Zoroaster of the Persians, and Quetzalcoatl of ancient Mexico.
Actually, Paul was the fanatic who took whatever was known of Jesus and, while misinterpreting Jesus’ teachings, made Jesus out to be the incarnation of God, the Messiah, that Jesus never wanted to be. As described in Mark (8.29-30), when Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter said that he was the Christ. And Jesus charged them that they should tell no man of him. In fact, the term Christ was first used in relation to Jesus by Paul when Paul first started preaching in the city of Antioch. The name Christ was simply the Greek word for Messiah. It was not a person’s name.
Paul was the person who developed Christian theology and ritual and simply wrote in the Epistles his own ideas of Jesus while never referring to what Jesus actually said. Paul also put many threats into the philosophy of Christianity and created an image of a fearsome and jealous God rather than one that was merciful and loving. But, according to Paul’s version of Christianity, salvation was granted by God alone who would save you if you simply became a Christian because Christ had already died on the cross as a sacrifice for your sins. In this way, faith was all that was needed, and faith outweighed the need for good works. This may be a simple and comfortable concept for Christians but is not a true one and was never presented in the real teachings of Jesus. Jesus actually did emphasize the need for good works. So what we really find in Christianity are the teachings of Paul, which in some areas have little to do with what Jesus actually taught.
Paul also accepted Sunday as the day of rest from Mithraism rather than Saturday, the seventh day as found in the Hebraic tradition. Paul also took Easter from Mithraism as the day Jesus rose from the grave. Mithra is said to have died in battle on a Friday and was buried in a rock tomb from which, after three days, he rose on the festive occasion of the spring equinox, called Eastra, the Latin word for Astarte, the earth mother goddess. Interestingly, the 40 days before the spring equinox corresponding to Lent was the period for searching for the renewal of life in that tradition. Furthermore, the celebration for the resurrection of the Greek god Adonis is said to have taken place as late as 386 A.D. in Judea at the same time as the Easter observance of Jesus’ resurrection. And the use of dyed Easter eggs was widely known by such people as the Egyptians and Persians who made presents of them, and by the Jews who used them in the Passover feast. These are some of the non-Christian traditions that became incorporated into the Christian Easter holiday and are still practiced today.
In regard to Jesus’ crucifixion, he is supposed to have died and descended into hell, and on the third day rose again. However, if we look at other cultures, many of which are far older than Christianity, this is hardly an isolated event. The Persian Zoroaster, the Egyptian Osiris, Horus, Adonis, Bacchus, Hercules, and the Scandinavian Baldur, and the Mexican Quetzalcoatl all are supposed to have spent three days in hell after their death and then rose again. All these persons also performed many miracles that can be compared to the ones Jesus performed.
The Eucharist of Christianity was also a practice of the ancient Egyptians in commemoration of the death of Osiris. They would eat the sacred cake or wafer after it had been consecrated by a priest, after which it became the veritable flesh of his flesh. The Persian Magi also administered bread and wine in their worship of Mithra. The ancient Pagan Greeks celebrated the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in honor of Bacchus, the god of wine.
A more ancient form of this practice is found in the Vedic culture in which the people and priests would offer opulent foodstuffs to the Deities, and then partake of the remnants as prasadam, which means the Lord’s mercy. The food would be accepted as practically equal to God and extremely purifying and sacred. This custom is still widespread around the world among Vedic followers. From these ceremonies and observances came the practices now seen in the Christian sacrament.
We can easily recognize many more outside influences in Christianity if we take a closer look. For example, one of the basic doctrines of Christianity is the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But the holy trinity existed many years prior to Christianity as an Eastern tradition. The Trinity, as in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is another concept which is far from being of Christian origin. It comes from outside Christianity and from a much earlier source. We find the trinity in many cultures, including the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists (in the form of Fo), the Egyptians (in God’s form represented as the wing, globe and serpent, and in which the second aspect is called the Logos or Word of God), the Greeks (Pythagorus, Heraclitus, and Plato all taught the Trinity in their theological philosophy), Assyrians, Phoenicians, the ancient inhabitants of Siberia, as well as the Maya ( Tezcatlipoca, Huitzlipochtli, and Tlaloc) and Incas. The Scandinavians worshiped Odin, Thor, and Frey. The Druids worshiped Taulac, Fan, and Mollac. The Romans’ trinity was God, the Word, and the Spirit. The Persians had a trinity consisting of Ahura Mazda as the creator, Mithras as the son or savior, and Ahriman as the evil one, or destroyer.
The oldest and one of the most prominent forms of the Trinity is the tri-murti (meaning three forms in Sanskrit), which is the Vedic triad consisting of Brahma (the secondary creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer), often worshiped in a three-in-one Deity form or separated on individual altars in many temples of India. Even the Vedic form of the one Supreme Being has three forms or expansions as Bhagavan (the Lord’s Supreme Personality, Krishna), Paramatma (the Supersoul that accompanies each individual soul), and Brahman (the spiritual energy or force that emanates from the body of God and pervades everywhere). A variation of that is Lord Vishnu as the universal father, His incarnations as the sons, and His form of the omnipresent Supersoul as the Holy Ghost.
Therefore, long before Christianity, God was worshiped in a Trinity form around the world. The idea of a Trinity is not Christian at all, but a “pagan” concept. So Christians, namely Paul, may have adopted the Trinity not out of a philosophical choice, but out of necessity to accommodate the majority view. Thus, the trinity was nothing new in the world when Christianity adopted it.
After the Trinity was accepted by the Christians, it was still not until the 2nd century when the Christians claimed Jesus to be the son in their Trinity. This idea is traced back to Justin Martyr who simply stated that he realized this understanding by God’s special favor rather than by using biblical references to verify it. In fact, though it had been proclaimed by Paul, the very idea that Jesus was God in human form, and, therefore, a part of the Trinity, was not settled until 325 A.D. during the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. Controversy had developed in regard to whether there was a time when the Trinity did not exist and whether the Trinity was formed only after the birth of the son, Jesus. Emperor Constantine was forced to summon the Council of Nicaea in hopes of solving this problem. During the council it was resolved that never was there a time when the Son of God did not exist, and those who thought there may have been were anathematized by the Church. They denounced the teachings of Arius, who had taught that the Son of God was a created human being who appeared once only and was secondary to the Father. Thus, by a majority vote, the Church pushed the resolution through and those who did not agree or believe it were expected not to oppose it and to keep their thoughts to themselves.
In fact, it was at this Nicaean Council that all the bishops gathered to discuss what interpretations of Christian theology the Church would teach. This was an attempt to calm the many disputes that had been going on within the Church about its varied teachings. Once this was settled, all other teachings were thrown out and considered heretical, and to teach or follow them was punishable by excommunication or death. To solidify these essential teachings, the Church compiled and edited the New Testament, omitting what was not acceptable and adding new material to justify its viewpoints and fill in what it did not know. Thus, the Church presented itself as the only source of truth and salvation.
Another interesting point regarding pagan influence is that the crucifix or cross and its many variations was not exclusively a Christian symbol. Bishop Colenso explains in his book, The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined (Vol. 6, p. 113), “Of the several varieties of the cross still in vogue, as national and ecclesiastical emblems, and distinguished by the familiar appellations of St. George, St. Andrew, the Maltese, the Greek, the Latin, etc., etc., there is not amongst them the existence of which may not be traced to the remotest antiquity. They were the common property of the Eastern nations.”
Prior to Christianity, history shows that the cross was an auspicious and mystical symbol amongst ancient Babylonians, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Druids, and even Laplanders and Scandinavians. For centuries, Indians used the cross in a variety of shapes, most notably as the swastika. For many years the Romans carried a cross with a dark skinned man on it as a standard. The crucifix was also known in ancient Mexico, as discovered by the Spanish monks who first went there. They were told that the Son of God, Quetzalcoatl, died on the cross for the sins of mankind. Even Tertullian, as late as 211 A.D., wrote that the Christians neither adored nor desired crosses, and criticized pagans for doing so and for putting a man on the cross, too. For pagans, a cross was a sign of eternity.
In the first several centuries of Christianity, Jesus was represented as a lamb, or as a shepherd with a lamb over his shoulders. It was not until the 6th synod of Constantinople that it was decided that the symbol of Christianity, which was confirmed by Pope Adrian I, would be represented from that time on as a man crucified on the cross. In fact, the earliest instances of any artwork that illustrates Jesus on the cross can be traced back only to the eighth or ninth century. Thus, the Christians adopted the crucifixion as a symbol from the pagans.
Another interesting point regarding pagan influence is within one of the first principles of Christianity: the virgin birth of Jesus from Mary. Chapter 19 of the Koran explains Mary’s pregnancy, which some interpret to mean she was impregnated by an angel of the Lord, said to be Gabriel. But the idea of a virgin birth for a highly revered personality is not exclusive to Christianity. Those who are said to have had a miraculous birth, or were born from a virgin, include Buddha, the Siamese Codom, the Chinese Fo-hi (said to be born 3468 B.C.), Lao-tzu (604 B.C.), the Chinese sages Yu and Hau-ki, as well as Confucius. In India everyone knows of Krishna who was born of a virgin without the need of any sexual exchange. In Egypt, there is the god Ra, and Horus born of the virgin Isis. Also Zoroaster of Persia. The Greek Hercules, Bacchus, Amphion, Prometheus, and Perseus are all said to have been fathered by the gods and born of mortal mothers. There are also Romans, such as Romulus, Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, King Cyrus of Persia, Plato, Pythagorus, and others who have the reputation of being born of virgin mothers. So this was nothing new.
The celebration of Christmas is, of course, supposed to commemorate the birth of Jesus. However, historical evidence shows that Jesus was born in the springtime. Some of the early churches observed the birth in April or May, and some in January. Even today the Eastern Church celebrates Christmas on the seventh of January, while the Western Church celebrates it on December 25. Generally, no one is really sure of what day it was. But the birth of Jesus being held on the 25th of December can be traced back to the time of Emperor Commodus (180-192 A.D.), but it is earlier attributed to Telesphorus who had influence during the time of Antonins Pius (138-161 A.D.).
Other cultures also celebrated the 25th of December. The Persians celebrated it as the birthday of Mithras. The Greeks celebrated it as the birth of Bacchus. Egyptians recognized it as the appearance day of Osiris. The Romans also celebrated the Saturnalia festival by feasting, stopping all business, holding public games, and exchanging gifts. The Scandinavians celebrated it as the birthday of Freyr, son of their god Odin and goddess Frigga. Here, too, there was much merry-making and exchanging of presents. The early Germans observed it as part of the Winter solstice, called the Yule feast. They spent time in jovial hospitality, made sacrifices, and worshiped their gods and burned the yule-log on the eve of the 24th. Yule was the old name for the 25th, which came from the word Jul used by the Scandinavians, while Noel in French came from the Hebrew word Nule.
Actually, the whole affair with the Christmas tree, the use of the mistletoe, hanging wreaths of flowers or evergreens on the doors, giving presents and so on, were all a part of the pagan celebration. The gift-giving we now observe on Christmas is a carry-over from the early pagan celebrations, and is not something that was started by Christianity. In fact, Tertullian, one of the early Fathers of Christianity, called such practices rank idolatry since it was associated with the “customs of the heathen.” After all, the use of evergreens, Christmas trees, wreaths, etc., have nothing to do with Christianity, but they were used in the old traditions to signify the return of the sun, the longer days, and the regenerative power that was sure to follow the winter solstice. Thus, the 25th of December was a day of celebration and for showing respect to the gods long before the Christians adopted it for their purposes.
Historically, it is known that Jesus was not even born in the winter. So why is the celebration placed on December 25th? The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge explains that, “the date of the festival depended upon the Pagan Brumalia (December 25) following the Saturnalia (December 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘New Sun’. . . The Pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence.”
The same Encyclopedia also reveals that emperor Constantine incorporated Sunday as a day of Christian rest and holiday because Sunday was the pre-Christian Pagan day of worship.
December is also the time of year when the celebration takes place of Lord Krishna speaking the Bhagavad-gita at Kuruksetra. This could mean that Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount” is none other than a reference or similarity to Krishna’s sermon delivered to Arjuna while Krishna was mounted on His chariot. The Bhagavad-gita is a sermon, given 5,000 years ago, that provides indispensable spiritual guidance to all people, which is also said about Christ’s sermon, said to have taken place on the Mount of Olives.
Ultimately, there is nothing Christian about the Christmas celebrations. Even Christians admit this pagan influence, as pointed out in numerous Christian publications. One such publication is The Plain Truth About Christmas, by the staunch Christian Worldwide Church of God (P. O. Box 6727, Mumbai, 400 052, India). The booklet seems to plead to rid Christianity of its non-Christian content. It says that Christians tend to “follow the crowd” and assume things about Christmas that are not true. Christmas came not from the New Testament or the Bible, nor from the original apostles. “It gravitated in the fourth century into the Roman church from Paganism.”
The conclusion is that if we took everything non-Christian out of Christmas, you would have almost nothing left. In fact, some of the most orthodox Christian countries went so far as to place a statute to ban Christmas. In World Vedic Heritage (p. 975-6) we find that: “A statute passed in 1660 A.D. by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England, USA, prohibiting the observance of Christmas, declared: ‘Public Notice–the observation of Christmas having been deemed a sacrilege, the exchanging of gifts and greetings, dressing in fine clothing, feasting and similar Satanical practices are hereby forbidden with the offender liable to a fine of five shillings.’
“Similarly in 17th century England, Christmas celebrations were banned as ‘Pagan and Papish, Saturnalian and Satanic, idolatrous and leading to idleness.’ That term Pagan and Papish is again a clear admission that the Papacy is a pre-Christian Pagan i.e. Vedic institution.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses has declared in the article ‘Is Christmas Really Pagan?’ in its journal titled Awake (December 22, 1981) that ‘All the standard Encyclopedias and reference-works agree that the date of Jesus’s birth is unknown and that the church borrowed the date of December 25 from the Romans, along with their customs and festivals.’
“Encyclopedia Americana records: ‘It is usually held that the day (December 25) was chosen to correspond to Pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter Solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.’
“The New Catholic Encyclopaedia notes that ‘On this day (December 25) as the Sun began its return to northern skies the Pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the birthday of the invincible Sun.’”
From the above references it is obvious that Christmas is being celebrated all over the world on December 25th not because of Christians but in spite of Christians. It would, therefore, be more truthful on their part to admit their participation in pre-Christian customs.
One of the purposes of the Christians in using the 25th of December was to change the pagan festivals into Christian holidays, and, hopefully, to attract the heathens to Christianity. For example, everyone knows that December twenty-first is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. For the next three days the length remains the same. But then on December twenty-fifth the day begins to get longer. So on this day the people celebrated in a very raucous manner. They took it that the sun-god was the redeemer and that on account of his birth there was the hope that everyone would be saved. Therefore, when the Christians wanted to establish their Christendom everywhere, they found some opposition to eliminate the birthday of the sun. People had become accustomed to enjoying themselves on that day. Of course, the Christians could not go on celebrating the birthday of the sun-god; so they simply replaced it with the celebration of the birth of Jesus. In this way, the Christians calculated that the pagans could go on with their celebrations but would simply change the meaning of it. So, Christianity incorporated and helped preserve many of the pagan traditions that were observed on the 25th.
Nowadays, the Christians are supposed to be religious people observing the day of Christ’s birth, but they still celebrate in a very paganish way. They have kept many of the aspects of the pagan celebration that earmarks Christmas day; namely, drunkenness, revelry, spectator events like football, and feasting on slain animals. Each year so many advertisements go up claiming that amongst the best gifts on Christmas include a fifth of liquor or other useless items. So gradually, Christmas has deteriorated from what was meant to be an observance of a holy day to a mere display of devotion to commercialism.
After all is said and done, anyone can practically see that what is present-day Christianity is a modern adaptation of pre-existing, pagan beliefs and philosophy. Centuries before the time of Jesus, among the “heathen” are beliefs in an incarnate God born of a virgin; his descent from heaven or the spiritual domain; astronomical signs indicating his birth; the rejoicing of the angels or devas; the adoration of the magi, shepherds, or local devotees; offerings of precious gifts to the divine child; the slaughter or terrorization of the innocents; temptation by the devil or tests by demons; the performance of miracles; and the death and resurrection or ascension into heaven. These elements can all be found in cultures prior to Christianity.
So what does this mean? From Robert Taylor’s Diegesis (p. 329), Ammonius Saccus, the Greek philosopher and founder of the Neoplatonic school, expressed, “Christianity and Paganism, when rightly understood, differ in no essential points, but had a common origin, and are really one and the same thing.” This is concurred by the historian Mosheim, who speaks of the Christian church during the second century in the book, Ecclesiastical History (volume One, p. 199), as follows: “The profound respect that was paid to the Greek and Roman mysteries, and the extraordinary sanctity that was attributed to them, induced the Christians to give their religion a mystic air, in order to put it upon an equal footing, in point of dignity, with that of the Pagans. For this purpose they gave the name of mysteries to the institutions of the gospel, and decorated, particularly the holy sacrament, with that solemn title. They used, in that sacred institution, as also in that of baptism, several of the terms employed in the heathen mysteries, and proceeded so far at length, as even to adopt some of the rites and ceremonies of which those renowned mysteries consisted.” Herein we can understand that various terms used in Christian rituals are merely adaptations of those rites from earlier religions.
So, in summary, let me say that it has been recognized by many men of the past, such as Bishop Faustas when writing to St. Augustine, Ammonius Saccus the Greek philosopher, the Epicurean philosopher Celsus, Eusebius the historian, and the early Christian writer Justin Martyr, that Christianity does not differ from the old traditions and customs that were called paganism, nor does Christianity hold anything that was not previously known to the ancients. If anything, through its attitude of exclusivity and general feelings of proud superiority, Christianity has lost the elaborate explanations of the once well known truths and now merely holds hazy reflections of the ancient wisdom. So many Bible stories are interwoven with tales borrowed from neighboring cultures, and numerous Christian rituals and symbols have been taken from previous ancient customs and traditions. So, Christians should look beyond the superficialities of modern Christianity to try and see the real religions and cultures from which it came. As Saint Augustine said hundreds of years ago: “The same thing which is now called Christian Religion existed among the ancients. They have begun to call Christian the true religion which existed before.” And to quote T. W. Doane from his book, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, (page 413), he sums it up as follows:
We have seen, then, that the only difference between Christianity and Paganism is that Brahma, Ormuzd (Ahura Mazda), Zeus, Jupiter, etc., are called by another name; Krishna, Buddha, Bacchus, Adonis, Mithras, etc., have been turned into Christ Jesus: Venus’ pigeon into the Holy Ghost; Diana, Isis, Devaki, etc., into the Virgin Mary; and the demigods and heroes into saints. The exploits of the one were represented as the miracles of the other. Pagan festivals became Christian holidays, and Pagan temples became Christian Churches.
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Mahabharata, Kamala Subramaniam, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1982
Mahabharata: Myth and RealityBDiffering Views, edited by S. P. Gupta and K. S. Ramachandran, Agam Prakashan, Delhi, 1976
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Millennia of Discoveries, Alexander Adams, Vantage Press, New York, 1994
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Monumental Christianity, or the Art and Symbolism of the Primitive Church as Witness and Teachers of the One Catholic faith and Practice, by John P. Lundy, Presbyter, New York: J. W. Bouton, 1876.
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The Diegesis: Being a Discovery of the Origin, Evidences, and Early History of Christianity, by Reverend Robert Taylor, J. P. Mendum, London edition, 1873
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The Sumerians, C. Leonard Woolley, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1965
The Teachings of the Vedas, Reverend Morris Philip
The Theogony of the Hindus, Count Biornsttierna
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The Wonder That Was India, A. L. Basham, Fontana, London, 1971
Travels in Arabia, by John Lewis, published by Henry Calhoun, London, 1829
Tibetan Buddhism, L. A. Waddell, Dover, New York, 1972
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What the Great Religions Teach, Health Research, Mokelumne Hill, California, 1958
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World-Wide Hindu Culture and Vaisnava Bhakti, Dr. S. Venu Gopalacharya, 1471-D, Jains’ Colony, Ashoka Nagar, Mandya, 571 401, India, 1997
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Filed under: Vedic Culture's Connections with Other Religions |