How the Essence of Religion Came From Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

(An Excerpt from the book Mysteries of the Ancient Vedic Empire, by Stephen Knapp)

As we look over the various cultures and religions of the world, we may ask if all religious systems are divine. Though they seem to conflict with each other on various points, still there are many areas of truth in which they all agree. Or you could say that some of the same essential truths can be found within each of them. And by a careful comparison, we can trace the essence of that truth back to what was originally explained in the Vedas, the oldest of all written texts, and, more importantly, what was the most developed of all cultures and philosophies.

In this way, we can also trace these essential truths back from one religion to another, and how the Vedic culture influenced Zoroastrianism, which influenced Judaism, which influenced Christianity, which influenced Islam. However, each succeeding religion became more distant from the original spiritual teachings and understanding, until each one thought that, rather than offering truths and processes to be followed, they promoted the idea that they were also the only way, superior to all else. When, actually, they were becoming increasingly narrow in their views, and less able to give people true enlightenment by showing how to uplift their consciousness to perceive the spiritual dimension, but demanding merely blind faith to follow it or go to hell, or some other such thing. This strategy hardly offers any real improvement or social upliftment, other than offering what may be a few moral principles, but little of any genuine spiritual development. And this is the loss, and what becomes a complete misdirection of the actual purpose of a spiritual path.

One of the early religions that others are traced back to is Zoroastrianism. But even this can be traced further back to the Vedic culture and the Rig Veda. To help explain some of this, we will reference Suhotra Swami’s book Dimensions of Good and Evil, where he describes what he calls the “Zoroastrian Nexus.”

It starts with a person named Jarutha described in the Rig Veda in less than complimentary terms, wherein he is against the sage Vasistha. It is also said (RV 7.9.6) that Vasistha had later killed Jarutha, possibly with Agni, fire. In the Rig Veda (7.13.1) Agni is also called the demon (asura) slayer.

In the Vedic texts, Jarutha is also called Jarasabdha. The Bhavishya Purana (Chapters 139-140) describes the history of the Maga Jarasabdha. The word maga refers to a dynasty of priests whom Jarasabdha was a progenitor, born in the family line of vira aditya, the powerful Aditya, meaning the sun god. So worship of the sun was important in their line.

Mandala Seven of the Rig Veda talks about Vasistha’s devotion to Varuna. Varuna was a great god of the rivers and seas, and was also called Asura-maya in the Rig Veda. Asura-maya means lord of the demons, the non-Vedics, because Varuna had power over the demonic undersea creatures. (Asura comes from the Sanskrit asun-rati, meaning he who gives life or rejuvenates, and maya because he measured out the sky. The word asura later became connected with those who were against the Vedic standards.)

Vasistha was fathered by the demigods Varuna and Mitra. It seems that both Jarutha and Vasistha were priests of Varuna, but a rivalry broke out between the two. Because of this rivalry, Jarutha left the Vedic culture and preached something different. He did not accept the Vedic standards and began to promote a different view, which was not accepted by Varuna. Due to this disagreement, Varuna cursed Jarutha and rejected him from Brahminical culture. So Jarutha was expelled from the region of Bharatvarsha, and he went to Persia. There he was able to propagate his own religion and philosophy.

In the region of Persia, Jarutha became known as Zarathustra, and began what became known as Zoroastrianism, called after his other name Zoroaster, which is a Greek derivative from the name Zarathustra. But even historically it is known that his early teachings aroused great hostility towards him.

In ancient Iran, the hereditary priestly caste was called the Magi. So it appears that the lineage of Maga Jarasabdha (Jarutha, Zarathustra) began from Varuna, the chief of the solar deities. In the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta, the name of God is Ahura-mazda, which matches Varuna’s Vedic title of Asura-maya. So, Zarathustra changed what had been the Vedic view into a different philosophy. Ahura Mazda, which means Wise Lord, became the name of the Zoroastrian God.

Furthermore, the Vedic demigods are headed by Brihaspati, whose other name is Angirasa, from where we get the name of Angra Mainyu in Zoroastrianism, who is depicted as the devil or Satan. So the Satan of Zoroastrianism is the Vedic spiritual master of the demigods.

In this way, Jarutha took the side of the demons and, though accepting Varuna as the main god, he promoted the idea that the non-Vedics were superior in their position. Basically, his philosophy was a rejection of the Vedic view, and he refashioned it in his own way. So there were still many Vedic aspects that remained. Even the language in the Zend Avesta is very similar to Sanskrit, and contains much pre-Zoroastrian material that can be related to the Rig Veda.

Nonetheless, Jarutha/Zarathustra called the demons Ahuras, or the pious ones, opposite of the Vedic view of them being called asuras, the demons. He also called them the daivas, similar to the Sanskrit name devas for demigods. In this way, the whole philosophy of Zoroastrianism was to take the Vedic philosophy and turn it upside down. So in Zoroastrianism the power of darkness became the power of light because he agreed with the non-Vedic point of view.

The point is that now we had Angra Mainyu as the name of the devil and Ahura Mazda as the name of God in this new faith. This idea of a God and a counterpart known as the devil, who could threaten the plans of God and divert the good intentions of the pious, now appeared for the first time, and is what filtered down through other religions of that region, including Judaism, Christianity and then Islam. The basis of this whole idea was pure concoction. And this idea and lack of higher spiritual knowledge is what has negatively affected any of the philosophies that followed this premise. This was because Zoroaster had accepted one demigod in contrast to another, rather than accepting the purer form of Lord Vishnu or Krishna as the Supreme, who has no rival. However, even in the Vedic system there may be evil spirits, subtle beings who are misguided and malevolent, and who cause trouble, but they are not beings who can threaten the will of the Supreme Lord.

As Suhotra Swami explains further: “It is curious how Zoroastrianism amplified this dualism [of a devil against God]. In the Vedic version, Asura-maya, Varuna, lord of the waters, dwells in the depths of the cosmic Garbhodaka Ocean, far below the earth. Yama’s [Yamaraja, the lord of death] underworld heaven and hell are very near that ocean; in the matter of chastising the sinful, Yama and Varuna are closely allied. In the Zoroastrian version, Ahura-mazda (Varuna) is the lord of light who gave his servant Yima an underworld kingdom called Vara, a realm that, while dark to human eyes, is mystically illuminated. In the Vedic version, Mitra and Varuna are a pair of demigods who in ancient times served the Supreme Lord as a team by supervising the realms of light and darkness. In the Zoroastrian version, Varuna is the supreme lord. Mitra is his light. The mantle of darkness (evil) is worn by an unceasing enemy of Ahura-mazda named Angra Mainyu or Ahriman. It appears that Angra Mainyu is the Vedic Angirasa (Brihaspati), spiritual master of the devas and a great foe of Shukracharya, the spiritual master of the asuras. From Mahabharata 1.66.54-55 we learn that Varuna took the daughter of Shukracharya, named Varuni, as his first wife.

“In the Vedic version, the powers of light and darkness or good and evil are not ultimate. By taking them to be ultimate, and moreover by reversing them (portraying the asuras as good and the devas as evil), Zarathustra twisted the Supreme Lord’s purpose for the cosmos that is administered on His behalf by such agents as Varuna, Yama and Brihaspati. Zoroastrianism was a revolutionary departure from Vedic philosophy.” (Suhotra Swami, Dimensions of Good and Evil, pp. 120-121)

Professor Norman Cohn, who heads an influential school of thought among religious historians, feels that the teachings of Zarathustra are the source of the philosophy of the apocalypse, the end of times–the belief in a final war between God’s army of angels and the devil’s army of demons. It is this idea that has continued down through various religions today.

In Zoroastrianism, this apocalyptic war was expected to start with the appearance of a messiah or savior, named Saoshyant, who would prevail against the forces of evil, at which time the dead would be resurrected from their graves. Then there would be a great assembly which would be a final judgment of all souls, the wicked ones would be destroyed and the righteous would become immortal, and the kingdom of God would be established on earth, wherein the righteous would enjoy life forever. It was the first time this sort of idea was promoted.

This has paved the way for many believers who are waiting for the end of times, the end of days, and they see signs of its approach in every evil thing that happens around them, expecting that they will be delivered to eternity in a resurrected but purified material body on a new earth. All of this shows a lack of deeper spiritual understanding, which has also paved the way for what can be seen as a sense of religious superiority, the feeling that my religion is better than yours and is the only way to salvation in the eyes of God. And from this has spread humongous quarrels, torture, hatred, and war, from nothing more than what has been traced back to a product of someone’s imagination simply because he rejected the Vedic system.

This borrowing from one religion to another can be recognized in many other ways as well. So let us look at a few more. For example, the idea that Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden that we find in the Bible, and where they are tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit by Satan, is almost entirely taken from the Jewish scriptures. Also the description of angels, such as Gabriel, Michael, Azrael, and Israfil, who have particular positions and purposes as we find in the Jewish tradition, which took these from the Persians, was also borrowed by Mohammed, who was said to have been given what became the Islamic teachings from the angel Gabriel.

Another example is the bridge to heaven. This is called Al Sirat by Mohammed. This is said to go over the abyss of hell, and is said to be finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword. Being led by Mohammed, Muslims are supposed to easily cross over it, whereas the wicked will lose their footing and fall into hell beneath them. However, the Jews had previously spoken of the bridge of hell, which is also no wider than a thread. But going further back, both the Muslims and the Jews are equally indebted to the Zoroastrians who had taught that on the last day, all men will be forced to pass over such a bridge, in their language called Pul Chinavad. 1

Even the concept of heaven and hell can be traced back to Zoroastrianism. Of course, there were also descriptions of both the heavenly and hellish planets in the Puranic texts. This was adopted by Zarathushtra and explained in the Gathas that heaven, or Garo-de-mana (Garotman in Persian), is where the angels sing hymns to God. This is described in the Yas xxxviii, 10; xxxiv, 2, which agrees with a similar description in Isaiah VI and Revelation of St. John.

Another example is the idea of paradise. In the Islamic faith, after crossing the Al Sirat, the faithful will reach paradise, which is situated in the seventh heaven. In this paradise, there are beautiful gardens, furnished with springs, fountains, and rivers, along with milk, honey, and trees with trunks of gold which produce the most delicious fruits. And more attractive than that are the 70 or so ravishingly beautiful girls called hur-ul-ayun on account of their big black eyes. However, most of this description is indebted to the Jews, for which, unfortunately, many of the Muslims have a great dislike. In the Jewish texts, such as Gemar Tanith, f. 25; Biracoth, f.34; Nidrash Sabboth, f. 37, all relate the future mansion of heaven as being a delicious garden in the seventh heaven. And the Midrash, Yalkut Shewini also describes it as having three gates with four rivers flowing with milk, wine, balsam, and honey. Anyone can see the similarities, one religion inheriting or borrowing from the other.

However, the Zoroastrians also described paradise in a similar manner. Paradise was called Bihisht and Minum which indicates crystal, where the righteous will enjoy all manner of delights, especially the company of huran-i-Bihisht or black-eyed nymphs of paradise, the care of whom is under the angel Zamiyad. So this seems to be the roots of the nymphs of paradise that was borrowed by later religions. Also, in one of the later writings of the Parsis (a group of Zoroastrians), the Nama Mihabad (40 & 41) describes that the lowest order of heaven is where the residents will enjoy all the delights of this world; nymphs, male and female slaves, meat and drink, clothing and bedding, articles of furniture, and other things too many to describe. 2 Of course, this sounds like hardly anything spiritual, but merely a continuation of the comforts any materialist would dream of having. Surely an enticing picture for those who think they deserve it.

Even Satan or the principle of evil is often described as a serpent, first in the Zend Avesta in Zoroastrianism, which in turn gave this to Christianity, and then on to Islam. Thus, all these often depict the evil principle as a serpent. 3 The German philosopher Schopenhaur also recognized this, as he stated in his book Religion and Other Essays (p.III): “And this confirms the views which has been established on other grounds that Jehova is a transformation of Ormuzd [Ahura Mazda], and Satan of the Ahriman [Angra Mainyu] who must be taken in connection that Ormuzd himself is a transformation of Indra [the Vedic demigod of heaven].”

We must consider, in this example, that in the Vedic philosophy, heaven is still a part of the temporary material creation and is not a part of the spiritual world. Therefore, Indra is a demigod and not the Supreme Being of the spiritual domain, which is beyond and outside the material worlds.

Another idea was the resurrection of the body, which actually is not found in the Vedic principles, but started with the Zoroastrian doctrine. The whole idea that during the last judgment the body would be resurrected was then accepted by the Jews, who lent it further to the Christians, especially through the teachings of Paul who was previously a Jew anyway, and then it went to Islam. The seed of this idea can be found in the Zend Avesta where it states (Zamyad Yasht XIX, 89-90): “This splendour attaches itself to the hero (who is to rise out of the number) of prophets (called Saoshyant) and to his companions, in order to make life everlasting, undecaying, imperishable, imputriscible, incorruptible, for ever existing, for ever vigorous, full of power, (at the time) when the dead shall rise again, and imperishableness of life shall commence, making life lasting by itself (without further support). All the world will remain for eternity in a state of righteousness; the devil will disappear from all those places whence he used to attack the righteous man in order to kill (him), and all his brood and creatures will be doomed to destruction.”

Herein we can see the Vedic premise of the eternal nature of the soul within the body, which will continue after the death of the body, but it has been misinterpreted to be the idea that the body is what will rise again. That it will live without the influence of the illusory nature, which here is suggested as the freedom from the presence of the devil, the principle of evil or illusion. And once free in this way, the living being can reach his full potential, such as described here as being indestructible, vigorous, everlasting, etc. This is all but a misinterpretation of the Vedic spiritual concepts, but filtered through the idea that the body is still the permanent identity of the eternal soul. We could discuss this for a lengthy time, which I have already done in some of my other books, but here we will leave it at this.

Even the Islamic phrase from the Koran “La-Elah-illiullah” (there is no God but God) is nothing but a repeat of the Zoroastrian formula “Nest ezad Magar Yazdan.”

Also, as every chapter of the Koran (except the ninth) opens with the words “Bismillah uar Rahman er Rahim,” this merely corresponds to the same formula which begins the Zoroastrian books, namely “Banam Yazdan Bakhshish gar dadar,” both basically meaning “in the name of the most merciful God.” So one is not so unique from the other, though they do not realize this.

As the Vedic followers called themselves Aryas or Aryans, the Parsis also called themselves Aryas, as described in the Zend Avesta, in such places as, “To the glory of the Aryas,” (Sirozah I, 9); “We sacrifice unto the glory of the Aryas made by Mazda,” (Sirozah II, 9); “How shall the country of the Aryas grow fertile,” (VIII, Yast, 9); “Ahura Mazda said, If men sacrifice unto Vretreghna made by Ahura… never will a hostile horde enter the Aryan countries, nor any plague, nor leprosy, nor venomous plants, nor the chariot of a foe, nor the uplifted spear of a foe.” (Bahram Yast, 48)

The question should be: Is it not about time for the Muslims to realize how much of their doctrines, ideas and sayings were inherited from previous cultures and religions, like Judaism and also Zoroastrianism? It can hardly be called a new revelation or special message from God. Each religion professes that their God is merciful, kind and loving. Or that their prophet or savior is giving something new. But as we find by studying the Koran and the Old Testament of the Bible, the revengeful nature of the God of the Torah is very much the same as the threatening nature of Allah in the Koran, where there are certain passages that tell the followers to make war upon and slay the infidels. These are both far different than the love for your neighbor that was recommended by Jesus in the New Testament. 4

As explained by Ganga Prasad in his book The Fountain-Head of Religion: “As for Zoroastrianism, its theism is in no way inferior to that of either Judaism or Mohammedanism. ‘Ahurmazda’ says the Rev. L. H. Mills, ‘is one of the purest conceptions which had yet been produced, and–we might add–is undoubtedly the prototype of the God of the Koran as well as the God of the Bible… But however superior to the belief of his contemporaries, the theism of the Koran can hardly be said to be superior to that of Judaism. The claim of the Koran, therefore, to be an independent revelation of God, on the plea of teaching a better theism than Judaism and Zorastrianism, to which it can be traced, is untenable.’” 5 Plus, the conception of Ahura-mazda was but a carry-over from the basics of the Vedic understanding of God.

There are also many similarities between the parables of Buddhism and Christianity, and between the lives of Buddha and Christ. Both are said to have been miraculously born, at which time they were surrounded by great omens, with a star presiding over each, in which case for Buddha was the Pushya Nakshatra. Both were visited by wise men upon their birth, such as when the rishi Asita came to King Suddhodana to see the newborn Buddha, and wise men came to Jerusalem to worship Jesus, as explained in the book of Matthew. And as the evil spirit of Mara came to tempt Gautama before he became the Buddha, Satan also tempted Jesus. Furthermore, many of the teachings of Jesus in the area of compassion, mercy, kindness, and inward development were also the same as or similar to those of Buddha. We could go on with many more of these kinds of similarities, others of which I have described in my book Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence.

Furthermore, just as in the Vedic traditions there was the spiritual river of the Ganges (considered to be descending from the spiritual Karana Ocean) or the Yamuna (considered spiritually purified because Lord Krishna played in it), and wherein devotees would take a dip to be spiritually purified, the Hebrews also accepted the Jordan River whose waters were used for the same purpose, especially for baptizing to be free from one’s past sins.

In regard to the similarities between Sanskrit and the language of the Zend Avesta, even Max Muller recognized this very clearly. He went on to explain in his Chips From a German Workshop (Volume I, pp. 82-3): “It is clear from his (Eugene Burnouf’s) works and from Bopp’s valuable remarks in his ‘Comparative Grammar’ that Zend in its Grammar and Dictionary is nearer to Sanskrit than any other Indo-European language; many Zend words can be retranslated into Sanskrit simply by changing the Zend letters into their corresponding forms in Sanskrit… It differs from Sanskrit principally in its sibilants, nasals and aspirates. The Sanskrit s, for instance, is represented by the Zend h… Where Sanskrit differs in words or grammatical peculiarities from the northern members of the Aryan family, it frequently coincides with Zend. The numerals are the same up to 100. The name thousand, however, sahasra, is peculiar to Sanskrit and does not occur in any of the Indo-European dialects except in Zend, where it becomes hazanra.” 6

Even the biblical rendition of the universal creation, as described in Genesis, was adopted from that given in the Parsi scriptures, which is but a summary of that given in the Vedic literature, which is practically the most elaborate version of the process of the universal creation found anywhere in any religious text.

One last example of similarities that we will look at is the premise for the next appearance of a savior, or a second coming, after which everyone will rise again to live in a world of peace and God consciousness, without evil, or when their tribe will triumph over their enemies. This gives any believer a great deal of faith and hope in the future that they will be saved or delivered, if they continue to follow that particular religion. However, the idea that God or His prophet will appear again is not new, but was first related in regard to the avataras of God in the Vedic tradition.

As Lord Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita (4.7): “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself.”

However, unlike other religions, Lord Krishna descends in regularly scheduled appearances for specific purposes. It is not that He will descend one last time and that is the end. That is incomplete information. But He will continue to appear in the material creation as the need arises, throughout the various time periods known as yugas. These avataras are fully described in the Puranas so we can understand when and how often They will appear. Therein we see that God regularly descends into the material worlds in His different forms at different times to give society the spiritual knowledge they need to know in order to attain the purpose of life.

The Vedic texts also describe the next appearance of God in the future, this time as Lord Kalki when He will appear at the end of Kali-yuga to bring in the next golden age known as Satya-yuga. Therein He will kill all the miscreant kings and rulers and relieve the world of this burden and bring back a time of peace, harmony, cooperation, and God-consciousness. And this schedule of avataras continues through Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga, and again into Kali-yuga, all of which continue to repeat as many as 1000 cycles, called a kalpa or day of Brahma. In any case, this is the basis of any religion’s idea for the next coming of God.

All of these various similarities would show that many of the world’s religions and their legends and traditions, and even their precepts are to a great extent derived from Vedic culture. They may not be directly the same, but it is easy to see upon careful study that Christianity owes much to Vedic Dharma. Or as Max Muller said in his book Chips From a German Workshop (Volume I, Introduction, p.11), “There has been no entirely new religion since the beginning of the world. If we once understand this clearly, the words of St. Augustine, which have seemed startling to many of his admirers, become perfectly clear and intelligible, when he says, ‘what is now called the Christian religion has existed among the ancients and was not absent from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, from which time the true religion, which existed already, began to be called Christian.’” 7

In this way, we can understand that the earliest of spiritual knowledge, which can be accepted as that found in the most elaborate Vedic texts, has but filtered down through generations, and that each successive religion did little but adopt in its own way or interpretation of what was already there, and that the essential spiritual truths found in all religions are but inheritances of the more elaborate teachings found in the Vedic texts and traditions. Thus, Vedic Sanatana-Dharma is like the roots and trunk of the tree of the various religions, which are like the branches of the tree. Just as rivers ultimately meet at the sea with a common goal, in spite of coming from different areas and conditions, as if coming to their ultimate unity, similarly Vedic Dharma is like the parent authority and root of all other religions.

Unfortunately, the Parsi, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions do not discuss in depth such things as the law of karma and reincarnation, even though these are mentioned in places or hinted at, but hardly described or analyzed very deeply. They do not discuss the nature or size of the soul, the soul’s transcendence beyond the body, nor do they mention the idea of a Supersoul. Nor do they describe much about the nature of God, His characteristics, personality, how He looks, or His numerous pastimes, except in only the briefest of ways. It seems, therefore, that the higher spiritual knowledge actually becomes reduced in succeeding religions as the information is passed down over the following generations of religious traditions. In Judaism, Christianity and then Islam, the true depth of spiritual knowledge was increasingly forgotten. Even the detailed descriptions of God and His real loving nature, as found in the Vedic literature, has similarly deteriorated in passing from the Vedas and Puranas into the Zend Avesta, the Old Testament, Bible, and further down the line. Therefore, to get back to the heart of the matter, we must get back to the roots, where it all began, with the Vedic tradition.

The evidence provided in this chapter concludes that at a very remote time, long before the dawn of history, the forefathers of all Aryan nations, such as India, Persia, Afghanistan, and even most if not all of Europe, lived under the banner of one common religion. Their common name was Arya, which they gave to Aryavarta (ancient India, the land of the Aryans), as well as to Iran (Persia), and other countries. In this way, Sanskrit was the mother of all Aryan languages, just as the Vedic religion is the parent of all religions which prevailed in all branches of the Aryan family, and we can recognize the remnants of this in many parts of the world today, if only we are educated in understanding what is the real Vedic Aryan culture.

It is this Vedic culture that gave humanity the deepest level of spirituality that has descended and circulated around the world in the various ways and into the religions that followed. The previous chapters of this book should have clearly illustrated this point.

Furthermore, there are three distinctions between any of the bone fide religions today, and that is: 1) The area in the world in which the religion was taught, 2) the time in history in which it appeared, and 3) the capacity of the people to understand it. In this way, only so much spiritual knowledge could be given if the people of the area were not able to comprehend deep spiritual knowledge. Saint Tukaram also saw these distinctions when he said, “the teaching is as per the capacity of the taught.” Because of this, in some cases the knowledge is given in a straightforward manner, such as we see in the Vedic literature in which so many questions are asked, and so many deep answers are provided, with the means by which the student can actually realize and perceive the spiritual truths that are described. In other religions we see the use of parables and stories, in which the followers can only understand the preliminary principles, which often go no farther than establishing the moral ethics by which to live. They often do not hold much in the way of higher spiritual principles. This means that to understand deeper spiritual truths, the person must go elsewhere.

This is like the difference between an abridged dictionary and an unabridged dictionary. They both hold the same knowledge, but one is more complete than the other. The unabridged dictionary will contain hundreds or thousands more words than the abridged dictionary. This is the same difference between the religions. The Vedic texts will contain much more spiritual knowledge and information on understanding God or the Absolute Truth. So the more complete religion or spiritual path will give you the deeper means of understanding who you are and your relationship with God and all other beings. It will also provide you the process by which you can spiritualize your consciousness to the degree in which you can begin to directly perceive this higher reality. It is much more mature and developed, over and above those that are simplified and elementary. A most developed religion will also facilitate one’s becoming free from attachment, selfishness, violence, malice and hatred, by which a person can more easily focus on the spiritual nature of oneself and God, and the unity we all share with each other in that light. Whereas a religion that is incomplete and allows followers to hold on to these negative characteristics, especially violence, hatred toward others, emphasis on our differences, etc., will keep one bound up to this earthly plane of duality, which is the exact opposite purpose of any genuine spiritual process.

Vedic Dharma, on the other hand, is defined as that which leads to glory, peace, prosperity, and elevates society to liberation from this earthly existence. It is the understanding that this world is not our real home, never was and never will be. But it is also the portal through which, by living the right way, can propel us into the spiritual dimension, far away from this temporary earthly existence. This is why Vedic Dharma is meant to help all of society, and not divide society into those who are “saved” and those who are not. It teaches society to discard hatred toward one another and attain mental peace and internal contentment. This is actually meant to be the fundamental principle of all religions, which then encourages right conduct for attaining realization of the Eternal Truth, the reality of who and what you really are, and your relation to the Supreme Lord.

However, the attainment of moksha or liberation from material existence is unique in Vedic culture because most religions proclaim the ideal of merely reaching heaven, which is still considered part of the material creation. Yes, moksha also means rising above material suffering, ignorance, and the attainment of the Eternal Truth and bliss, right here and right now, in this life. It is not necessarily something that only can be attained after death. Whereas the non-Vedic religions often put emphasis on moral conduct, social behavior, ethics, etc., for reaching heaven in the next life, mainly with the idea of continuing the enjoyment of material facilities, yet give little emphasis on deeper spiritual philosophy. So in such religions there remains many philosophical questions for which there are limited answers. But it is up to the individual to choose which process he or she wants to accept in reaching a natural level of spiritual realization. That is why no Vedic or Hindu sect has tried to propagate or increase their followers through the use of the sword or by force, or through fear of torture, intimidation, or other such means. There is no history that shows the use of brutality for the propagation of Vedic culture. It is spread only through the purity of its teachings and the means by which people can use it for their own enlightenment. It is that means alone which is meant to attract people to investigate and then follow this spiritual way of life. It is meant to be a natural process, not forced.

This is why Dharmists, Hindus or devotees do not interfere in the religion of others and expect the same respect in return. This is also why anyone of any religion can easily live amongst those who follow Vedic Dharma.

Vedic culture contains a philosophy that goes back to a time beyond history, and has developed over millenniums. Even Sanskrit is considered to have descended from the Shabda-brahman, or the spiritual vibration that exists outside of the material creation, beyond time and space. Furthermore, we find that the insights given by the great rishis and sages are coming from a spiritually realized level of consciousness that is beyond mere faith or cultivated knowledge. Such insights and revelations come from a level of direct spiritual perception and experience, with the means and directions given to others so we can follow them to attain our own realizations.

The completeness of the Vedic spiritual philosophy can be seen with but a small analysis. This does not mean there are not great amounts of wisdom in all religions, but where else are you going to go to understand the roots of the knowledge of karma, or reincarnation, or the science of the nature or size and location of the soul, or the understanding of the Paramatma or Supersoul, and the means to unite with the Supreme? Where else are you going to find such detailed descriptions about God, or our relationship with God, or so many instructions given by God, or the means to acquire a direct connection with God? What other religion has such clear descriptions about the spiritual realm and how to reach that level of existence? We need to recognize the unique nature of the Vedic tradition and its philosophy.

Furthermore, the Vedic spiritual path offers the view that every creature is sacred. Spiritually we are all of the same quality. As explained in the Sri Ishopanishad: ishavasyam idam sarvam, yat kincha jagatyam jagat, which means that everything in this creation, both animate and inanimate, is part of the Lord’s energy, and that God’s energy is within all beings. Therefore, every creature has a spiritual significance. Plus, through the Vedic system of spiritual development, everyone can access that spiritual perception. It is not a matter of faith, but a process of realization. The Vedic process begins with faith, as all spiritual paths do, but if the path is practiced properly, it is expected to bring you to the level of having your own spiritual realizations and perception. And to do this there are so many means of assistance, such as the instructions from the Vedic texts, guidance from the realized gurus, and the association of other sadhus or devotees, all meant to help inspire and propel you forward to higher and higher levels of spiritual perception, realization and experience.

However, in Western religions, it is often presented that a follower can only attain such access through the approval of or connection with the church or religious institution. Without that, then you are finished, sometimes to eternal damnation, depending on the religion. In this way, the religion creates an air of exclusiveness, that the only way you can understand anything spiritual or have a connection with God is by accepting that particular church or denomination, or their specific savior or prophet. And, of course, the only people that are privileged to being “saved” are those who follow that same religion. Quite honestly, this is a very shallow level of understanding, like showing your allegiance to your religion by disliking, demeaning or even hating all others.

The Vedic or Dharmic approach to spiritual development is the antithesis of this. There is no restriction to spiritual knowledge, and all questions can be asked. The avenues of spiritual discovery are the guru (spiritual teacher), shastra (spiritual texts) and sadhus (other devotees or sages). This leads to the freedom of choice in the ways of understanding and ultimately experiencing the Divine. This is the real goal of human life. Everyone is coming from different backgrounds, and everyone has different lessons to learn. So personal investigations to find spiritual truth should be allowed and provided for everyone. It should not be controlled or limited by any certain religious persuasion.

This should especially be the case when we realize the premise of this chapter, that the essence and heart of all spiritual knowledge is descending from Vedic culture, Sanatana-Dharma, and that to get to the deepest level of spiritual understanding would be to take a deeper look at what it has to offer all of humanity, socially and individualistically, not only for peace, compassion, cooperation, harmony, etc., but to attain a closer link with the Divine. Nothing else offers a higher level of happiness, completeness or fulfillment, which is ultimately for what everyone is searching. This is the purpose of life.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. Prasad, Ganga, The Fountain-Head of Religion: A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin From the Vedas, The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, U.P., 1927, p.5.

2. Ibid., p.6.

3. Prasad, Ganga, The Fountain-Head of Religion: A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin From the Vedas, The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, U.P., 1927, p.59.

4. Ibid., pp.11-13.

5. Ibid., p.13.

6. Muller, Max, Chips From a German Workshop, Volume I, pp. 82-3.

7. Prasad, Ganga, The Fountain-Head of Religion: A Comparative Study of the Principal Religions of the World and a Manifestation of Their Common Origin From the Vedas, The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, U.P., 1927, p.26.

Were There Two Buddhas, by Stephen Knapp

        I was asked to look into this a few years ago by someone who knew of my research abilities. But I have not been able to until now because of other priorities. But this topic has come up before, that actually there were two different Buddhas that played the part to establish Buddhism and its principles of ahimsa and nonviolence and its monist philosophy.

In the following material, we will look at the evidence that seems to indicate that there was first the Avatara Buddha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu who appeared near 1800 BCE, and then there was another person who became known as Gautama called Buddha, born around 560 BCE.

1. The first Avatara Buddha established the philosophy of Ahimsa, nonviolence, and convinced those followers of Vedic customs who had become bent toward animal sacrifice to give up such rituals and simply follow him, and become kind to animals. Being an avatara of Vishnu, He did not establish any godless or monist philosophy.

2. The Avatara Buddha was also born of his mother Anjana in what became known as Bodhgaya.

3. The second Buddha known as Gautama, Siddhartha, or Shakyamuni – sage of the Shakyas – was born in Lumbini, now in Nepal, with Mayadevi as his mother. He is the one we often hear about, the prince who left home to do austerities to find enlightenment. He went to Bodhgaya to meditate because of its spiritual potency as the birthplace of the avatara Buddha. Then he became enlightened to the reasons for suffering in this world, and developed a godless way of becoming free from suffering. From that point he established the monist and godless philosophy of Buddhism, which became named after him.

Of course, the Theravadin texts refer to six preceding Buddhas (those who have awakened) as Vipasyin, Sikin, Krakuccanda, Konagamara, and Kashyapa, and Maitreya as the Buddha of the future. But we are not talking of any of these.

4. The reason why these two Buddhas became merged into one identity was partly because Adi Sankaracharya, in discussions with others, related them as one person and did not discriminate between the purpose of one or the other. Sankaracharya developed his own sunya philosophy, which was very much like the Buddhist philosophy, replacing the Buddhist nirvana with his Vedic Brahman, to defeat Buddhism and drive it out of India. He succeeded most effectively. At that time many were leaving Vedic culture altogether and converting to Buddhism. But with this new Mayavadha philosophy from Sankaracharya, Buddhism bowed and the conversions stopped, and Buddhism itself started to decline.

However, those important acharyas who followed Sankaracharya defeated his monist or impersonalist Mayavada philosophy and more clearly defined the Vedic view, such as:

Sri Vishnuswami with his Suddha-advaita-vada,

Ramanujacharya with his Vasistadvaita-vada,

Nimbarkacharya with his Dvaita-advaita-vada,

Madhvacharya with the Dvaita-vada,

Sri Chaitanya with his Acintaya-bheda-bheda-vada,

with further commentary and arguments against Sankaracharya’s impersonalist philosophy by Srila Baladevavidyabhushana and others.

Therefore, no matter how much some schools of thought have clung to the Mayavada philosophy of Sankaracharya, it has been defeated and dismissed many times over. Yet, Sankaracharaya played an important part in paving the way for protecting the Vedic culture by using his own imagined philosophy, based on his own interpretation of some of the Vedic stanzas, to defeat Buddhism at the time.

Much of the evidence that follows comes from a book called Beyond Nirvana: The Philosophy of Mayavadism: A Life History. This was written by Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Gosvami Maharaja of the Gaudiya Math, the person who gave sannyasa initiation to His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. The book was later translated and published in English by Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, and published in 2003 in Mathura, India.

The whole book gives a lengthy dissertation on the development, history and present situation of the impersonalist point of view. Chapter Two especially focuses on the evidence for two Buddhas that had existed.

First, however, we should point out that there had always been a conflict in the dates of the Buddha’s birth. One birth is around 560 BCE, but when analyzing the records, there is evidence for a much earlier birth of Lord Buddha, of which I have written before as follows:

Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha

(Excerpt from Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence)

Most of us are taught that Buddha was born around 560 to 550 B.C. However, once we start doing some research, we find evidence that this date may be too late. Buddha may have been born much earlier.

For example, in Some Blunders of Indian Historical Research (p. 189), P. N. Oak explains that the Puranas provide a chronology of the Magadha rulers. During the time of the Mahabharata war, Somadhi (Marjari) was the ruler. He started a dynasty that included 22 kings that spread over 1006 years. They were followed by five rulers of the Pradyota dynasty that lasted over 138 years. Then for the next 360 years was the 10 rulers of the Shishunag family. Kshemajit (who ruled from 1892 to 1852 B.C.) was the fourth in the Shishunag dynasty, and was a contemporary of Lord Buddha’s father, Shuddhodana. It was during this period in which Buddha was born. It was during the reign of Bimbisara, the fifth Shishunag ruler (1852-1814 B.C.), when Prince Siddhartha became the enlightened Buddha. Then it was during the reign of King Ajatashatru (1814-1787 B.C.) when Buddha left this world. Thus, he was born in 1887 B.C., renounced the world in 1858 B.C., and died in 1807 B.C. according to this analysis.

Further evidence that helps corroborate this is provided in The Age of Buddha, Milinda and King Amtiyoka and Yuga Purana, by Pandit Kota Venkatachalam. He also describes that it is from the Puranas, especially the Bhagavata Purana and the Kaliyurajavruttanta, that need to be consulted for the description of the Magadha royal dynasties to determine the date of Lord Buddha. Buddha was the 23rd in the Ikshvaku lineage, and was a contemporary of Kshemajita, Bimbisara, and Ajatashatru, as described above. Buddha was 72 years old in 1814 B.C. when the coronation of Ajatashatru took place. Thus, the date of Buddha’s birth must have been near 1887 B.C., and his death in 1807 B.C. if he lived for 80 years.

Professor K. Srinivasaraghavan also relates in his book, Chronology of Ancient Bharat (Part Four, Chapter Two), that the time of Buddha should be about 1259 years after the Mahabharata war, which should make it around 1880 B.C. if the war was in 3138 B.C. Furthermore, astronomical calculations by astronomer Swami Sakhyananda indicates that the time of the Buddha was in the Kruttika period, between 2621-1661 B.C.

Therefore, the fact that Buddha lived much earlier than what modern history teaches us has a number of ramifications. First, the time of the Buddha’s existence is underestimated by about 1300 years. Secondly, this means that Buddhism was in existence in the second millennium B.C. Thirdly, we also know Buddha preached against the misused Vedic rituals of animal sacrifice. Such misuse or misinterpretation of something in a culture generally only happens after a long period of prominence. So the purer aspect of Vedic culture must have been around for many hundreds if not thousands of years before its tradition began to be misused. Therefore, this pushes the Vedic period to a much earlier time from that of Buddha than originally figured, and much earlier than many people have calculated. And lastly, everything else we have figured according to the time frame of the appearance of Buddha now has to be re-calculated. Again we find that history has to be adjusted away from the speculations of modern researchers, and that many of the advancements in society and philosophy, as outlined in the Vedic texts, had taken place much earlier than many people want to admit.

* * *

However, now with new evidence, we can begin to see that the above information may be quite right for the timing of the Buddha Avatara, but the later birth figure of 560 BCE may also be correct for the second Buddha. The first Buddha avatara established a form of Buddhism by revolting against those rituals that accepted animal sacrifice and emphasized the godly principles of ahimsa, nonviolence based on recognizing the Divine in all beings, and divinity of all souls, arousing compassion for all. The second Buddha styled what became Buddhism that was known for its monist or impersonalistic philosophy (that God, the Absoute Truth, is inert, nonactive, and without any characteristics) and that reaching the same inert and non-active state of nirvana is the goal for attaining freedom from all suffering.

To give further information in this regard, I will now simply include the second chapter of Beyond Nirvana: The Philosophy of Mayavadism: A Life History, as follows, with my own few comments in brackets:

Two Buddhas

Shakya Simha Puddha and the Vishnu Avatara Buddha

It may be observed in different places in the Puranas that Mayavadism had been referred to as Buddhism [or “covered Buddhism”. It is this “covered Buddhism” that is described in the Puranas as being the major religion after 10,000 years of Kali-yuga have passed, and when the world will have forgotten all information about the personal form of God.]. It is therefore necessary in this context to briefly discuss Buddhism. Sri Buddha’s philosophy or views is Buddhism. Hence, it is imperative that readers become acquainted with scriptural facts about Lord Buddha, who is declared by scripture to be one of the ten incarnations (avataras) of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu. This is described in Srila Jayadeva Gosvami’s composition “Gita Govinda“:

vedan uddharate jaganti vahate bhugolam udbibhrate

daityam darayate balim chalayate kshatra kshayam kurvate

paulastyam jayate halam kalayate karunyam atanvate

mlecchan murccayate dasaktikrite krishnaya tubhyam namaha

        “O Krishna, He who accept ten incarnations! I offer my obeisances unto You for saving the Vedic scriptures as Matsya-incarnation; You help up the universe as Kurma-incarnation, and lifted up the world as Varaha, the Boar incarnation; as Nrishimha You vanquished Hiranyakashipu; as Vamana You deceived Bali Maharaja; as Parashurama You exterminated the corrupt warrior class; as Rama You slew Ravana; as Balarama You took up the plough; as Buddha You bestowed compassion, and as Kalki You kill the Mlecchas.” 1

In his Dasa Avatara Stotram, Srila Jayadeva writes in the ninth verse:

nindasi yajna vidherahaha shrutijatam

sadaya hridaya darshita pashughatam

keshava dhrita bhuddha sharira

jaya jagadisha hare jaya jagadisha hare

        “O Lord of the universe, Keshava! You took the form of Lord Buddha Who is full of compassion and stopped the slaughter of animals which is strictly forbidden in the Vedas.”

If this Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, then Sri Sankaracharya’s connection to Him requires further elaboration and analysis. It becomes imperative to research this matter if Sankaracharya’s philosophy is referred to as another presentation of Buddhism. Sri Sankaracharya’s assessment of Buddha seems opaque, for he would have us believe that Shakya Simha Buddha [the human] and the Lord Buddha [the avatara] that the Vaishnavas worship, are one and the same personality. However, this is far from the truth. Our revered gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, revealed that Shakya Simha Buddha was simply a highly intelligent mortal, a vastly learned person who had attained some inner realizations [his enlightement]. So by declaring Shakya Simha to be Lord Buddha or by equating him with Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, Sri Sankaracharya gives sufficient proof of the respect and dedication he quietly nurtured within him for Shakya Simha. The berating and admonishment he directed towards Shakya Simha is indeed only an “eye-wash” intended to hoodwink the public.

One may ask at this point, in which context did Sri Sankaracharya opine Shakya Simha Buddha (also known as Gautama Buddha [the human]) and Avatara Buddha to be the same personality? In response, I kindly request the learned readers to scrutinize Sri Sankaracharya’s commentaries. In his commentary to Brahma Sutra that I referred earlier, the word sugatena refers to Gautama Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana and Mayadevi, and not to the original Vishnu incarnation of Buddha [as the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes as the son of Anjana who appeared in the province of Gaya, or more specifically Bodhgaya]. While discussing Buddha’s philosophy, Sri Sankaracharya mentions his name in his commentary: sarvatha api anadarniya ayam sugata-samayah shreyaskamaih iti abhiprayaha. In this statement sugata again refers to Gautama Buddha, the son of Mayadevi [the person who appeared in the town now known as Lumbini in Nepal]. However, it is true that another name for Vishnu Avatara Buddha is Sugata, and thus Sankaracharya falsely interpolated Shakya Simha Buddha as if he were Vishnu Avatara Buddha. The use of the name Sugata-Buddha for Vishnu Avatara Buddha was already existing in Buddhist scriptures [so combing the two into one was not difficult]. This is substantiated in the book Amarakosha, an extremely ancient treatise written by the famous nihilist and atheist Amara Simha. It is believed that Amara Simha was born approximately 150 years prior to Sankaracharya’s birth. Amara Simha was the son of the brahmana Sabara Svami, who fathered a host of children with different mothers of different castes. The ancient verse about Amara Simha was well known in the learned circles of yore:

brahmanyam abhavad varaha mihiro jyotirvidam agranihi

raja bhartriharish cha vikramanripah kshatratratmajayam abhut

vaishyayam harichandra vaidya tilako jatash cha shankuh kriti

shudrayam amaraha shadeva shabara svami dvija sya atmajaha

        “Varaha Mihira, foremost among the greatest astrologers, was born from the womb of a brahmana lady. King Vikrama and King Bhartrihari were born from a kshatriya mother. From a vaishya mother were born Harichandra, a vaidya tilaka – an excellent Ayurveda physician and Shanku; and from a maidservant (shudra) mother was born Amara Simha. These six were fathered by the brahmana Shabara Svami.”

The Amarakosha Speaks of Two Buddhas

        Amara Simha was the author of many books on Buddhism. By coincidence all these books came into the possession of Sri Sankaracharya, who subsequently preserved only the Amarakosha and burnt all the others. The following verses about Buddha are found in the Amarakosha:

sarvajnah sugato buddho dharmarajas tathagataha

samanta bhadro bhagavan marajil lokajij jinaha

shadabhijno dashabalo dvayavadi vinayakaha

munindra shrighanah shasta munihi

        “All knowing, transcendental Buddha, king of righteousness, He who has come, beneficent, all encompassing Lord, conqueror of the god of love Mara, conqueror of worlds, He who controls his senses, protector of the six enemies, possessor of the ten powers, speaker of monism, foremost leader, lord of the ascetics, embodiment of splendour and teacher of the ascetics.”

The above verse contains eighteen names of Vishnu Avatara Buddha including the name Sugato, and the verse below contains the seven aliases of Shakya Simha Buddha [the human] without any mention of Sugato.

Shakyamunis tu yah sa shakyasimhah sarvarthasiddha shauddhodanish cha

gautamash charkabandhush cha mayadevi sutash cha saha

        “Teacher of the Shakyas, lion of the Shakyas, accomplisher of all goals, son of Shuddhodana, of Gautama’s line, friend of the entrapped ones, the son of Mayadevi.”

In these verses, starting with sarvajnah and finishing with munih are eighteen names addressing the original Vishnu incarnation Lord Buddha. The next seven names beginning with Shakya-munistu to Mayadevi-Sutascha refer to Shakya Simha Buddha. The Buddha referred to in the first eighteen names and the Buddha referred to in the later seven names are clearly not the same person. [This clearly indicates that knowledge of the two Buddhas was well known long ago.] In the commentary on Amarakosha by the learned Sri Raghunatha Cakravarti, he also divided the verses into two sections. To the eighteen names of Vishnu Avatara Buddha he writes the words “astadash buddha“, which clearly refers only to the Vishnu avatara. Next, on his commentary for the seven aliases of Shakya Simha he writes: “ete sapta shakya bangshabatirneh buddha muni bishete“, meaning “the next seven names starting from Shakya-munistu are aliases of Buddha-muni [the human] who was born into the Shakya dynasty.”

Thus from the above verses and their commentaries it is indeed transparent that Sugata Buddha [the avatara] and the atheist sage Gautama Buddha are not one and the same person. I take this opportunity to request the learned readers to refer to the Amarakosha published by the respected Mr. H. T. Colebrooke in 1807. 2 On pages 2 & 3 of this book the name ‘Buddha’ has been explained. The ‘Marginal Note’ on page 2 for the first eighteen names, states they are names of Ajina or Buddha and the ‘Marginal Note’ for the later seven states these are aliases of Shakya Simha Buddha. A further footnote is added to clarify the second Buddha, of the latter seven names – Footnote (b) “the founder of the religion named after him.”

Mr. Colebrooke lists in his preface the names of the many commentaries he used as references. Besides Raghunatha Cakravarti’s commentary, he took reference from twenty-five others. It can be said with certainty that the propagator of Bahyatmavada, Jnanatmavada and Sunyamavada, the three pillars of atheism, was Gautama Buddha or Shakya Simha Buddha. There is no evidence whatsoever that Sugata Buddha, Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, was in any way connected with atheism in any form. Shakya Simha or Siddhartha Buddha, received the name Gautama from his spiritual master Gautama Muni, who belonged to the Kapila dynasty. This is confirmed in the ancient Buddhist treatise Sundarananda Charita: “guru gotrad atah kautsaste bhavanti sma gautamah” – meaning “O Kautsa, because his teacher was Gautama, they became known from his family line.”

Other Buddhist Literatures Recording Two Buddhas

        Besides the Amarakosha, so highly favored by Sankaracharya, there are other famous Buddhist texts like Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Astasahastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Sata-shastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Lalita Vistara, etc. Proper scrutiny of these texts reveals the existence of three categories of Buddha, namely:

Human Buddhas: like Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha after enlightenment.

Bodhisattva Buddhas: Personalities like Samanta Bhadraka who were born enlightened.

Adi (original) Buddha: the omnipresent Vishnu Avatara incarnation of Lord Buddha.

The Amarakosha states that Lord Buddha, Sri Vishnu’s incarnation, is also known as Samanta Bhadra, whereas Gautama Buddha is a human being. Other than the eighteen names of the Vishnu Avatara Buddha mentioned in Amarakosha, many names of Lord Buddha are recorded in the above mentioned Buddhist texts. In Lalita Vistara, Chapter 21, page 178, it is described how Gautama Buddha meditated on the same spot as the predecessor Buddha:

cha dharanimunde purvabuddhasanasthaha

samartha dhanur grihitva shunya nairatmavanaiha

klesharipum nihatva drishtijalancha bhitva

shiva virajamashoham prapsyate bodhim agryam

        “The one seated on the hallowed earth of the previous Buddha’s birthplace is on the path of voidism and renunciation. With his weapon, the powerful bow, he vanquishes the enemies of distress and illusion. Thus with wisdom he will attain the auspicious state of grieflessness and worldly detachment.”

It is transparent from this verse that Gautama Buddha, realizing the spiritual potency of the previous Buddha’s birthplace, chose to perform meditation and austerities in that vicinity, under a pipal tree. The ancient and original name of this place was Kikata, but after Gautama attained enlightenment there, it came to be known as Buddha Gaya (Bodhi Gaya) [now Bodhgaya]. Even to the present day, the rituals of worship to the deity of Buddha at Bodhi Gaya are conducted by a sannyasi (renounced monk) of the Giri order, belonging to the Sri Sankaracharya sect. It is commonly accepted amongst those monks that Buddha-Gaya (Vishnu Avatara Buddha) was a predecessor of Gautama Buddha, who came later to the original Buddha’s birthplace to practice meditation. Shakya Simha Buddha chose this place to attain liberation, knowing it to be saturated with immense spiritual power.

        Lankavatara Sutra is a famous and authoritative Buddhist scripture. From the description of the Buddha, which is found in this book, it may be firmly concluded that he is not the more recent Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha. In the beginning of this book we find Ravana, King of Lanka, praying first to the original Vishnu incarnation Buddha and then to the successive [and in this case the] future Buddha. A part of this prayer is reproduced here:

lankavatara sutram vai purva buddha anuvarnitam

smarami purvakaih buddhair jina-putra puraskritaihi

sutram etan nigadyante bhagavan api bhashatam

bhavishyatyanagate kale buddha buddha-sutas cha ye

        “Ravana, the king of Lanka, at first recited in the Totaka metre, then sang the following – ‘I invoke in my memory the aphorisms known as Lankavatara-sutra, compiled and propagated by the previous Buddha (Vishnu’s incarnation). The son of Jina (Lord Buddha) presented this book. Lord Buddha and his sons, who will appear in the future, as well as Bhagavan, the Vishnu incarnation, will continue to instruct all from this book.’”

Anjana’s Son, Named Buddha, is Different from Shuddhodana’s Son

        Some people may consider that it is not Sankaracharya but the Vaishnavas who demonstrate a greater degree of respect and sincere reverence towards Buddha, therefore, it is they who should also be known as Buddhists. In this regard my personal view is, according to the Linga Purana, Bhavishya Purana, and the ninth of the ten Vishnu incarnations mentioned in the Varaha Purana, the Buddha described therein is not the same personality as Gautama Buddha, [the person] who was the son of Shuddhodana. Vaishnavas never worship the nihilist and atheist (sunyavada) Buddha or Gautama Buddha, They only worship Lord Vishnu’s ninth incarnation, Lord Buddha, with this prayer from the Srimad-Bhagavatam 10/40/22:

namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya-danava-mohine

        “O Supreme Lord Buddha! I offer my obeisance unto You, Who is faultless and have appeared to delude the demoniac and atheistic class of men.”

Earlier in the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1/3/24, Lord Buddha’s advent is described in the following manner:

tatah kalau sampravritte

sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutaha

kikateshu bhavishyati

        “Then in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Buddha, son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist.”

The Buddha mentioned in this verse is Lord Buddha, son of Anjana; also known by some as Ajina’s son. Sri Sridhara Svami writes in his authoritative commentary to this verse:

buddha avartaramaha tata iti anjanasya sutaha

ajina suta it pathe ajino’ pi sa eva kikateshu madhye gaya-pradeshe

        “The words tatah kalau etc., describe Vishnu’s incarnation Buddha as the son of Anjana. Ajina in the word ajina sutaha actually means Anjana. Kikata is the name of the district of Gaya.”

The monists, either by mistake or some other reason, regard Sri Sridhara Svami as belonging to their sect and persuasion. Be as it may, his comments however on this matter can easily be accepted by the Mayavadis as true without hesitation. The following quote is from the Nrisimha Purana 36/29:

kalau prapte yatha buddho bhavannarayana – prabhuh

        “In Kali-yuga the Supreme Lord Narayana appears as Buddha.”

A fair estimate of Lord Buddha’s appearance can be made from this verse; that He lived approximately 3500 years ago, or by accurate astronomical and astrological calculation around 4000 years ago. Regarding the astrological facts at the time of His birth, the treatise Nirnaya-sindhu states in the second chapter:

jyaishtha shuka dvitiyayam buddha-janma bhavisyati

        “Lord Buddha will appear on the second day of the waxing moon, in the month of Jyaishtha.”

Elsewhere in this book is described the procedure for Lord Buddha’s worship:

pausha shuklasya saptamyam kuryat buddhasya pujaanam

        “Lord Buddha is especially worshipped in the seventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Pausha.”

The rituals, prayers and procedures for worship mentioned in these scriptures all clearly indicate that they are meant for Lord Vishnu’s ninth avatara incarnation. Lord Buddha also finds repeated mention in many authentic Vedic scriptures like the Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, Vayu Purana, and Skanda Purana. The Buddha mentioned in the Devi Bhagavat, a more recent text, and in Shakti Pramoda, refers to Shakya Simha Buddha – not the Vishnu Avatara Buddha.

The truth remains that there are many different demigods and demigoddesses who are worshipped by their respective devotees, in the same way that Shakya Simha Buddha (who was an atheist) is worshipped or glorified by his followers. However, this is all completely separate and unrelated to the path of Sanatana-dharma, which is the eternal religion of man enunciated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

According to the German scholar Max Mueller, Shakya Simha Buddha was born in 477 BC in the Lumbini gardens, within the city of Kapilavastu. This ancient and at that time well-populated city in the Terai region of Nepal was well known. Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha’s father was known as Shuddhodana, while his mother was called Mayadevi, this is all accepted as historical fact. Although Anjana’s son and Shuddhodana’s son both share the name of Buddha, they are nevertheless two different personalities. One of them was born in Kikata – which is now famous as Bodhi-Gaya, while the second Buddha was born in Kapilavastu, Nepal. Thus, the birthplace, parents, and era of Vishnu Avatara Buddha and the birthplace, parents, era, etc., of Gautama Buddha are totally at variance.

We can therefore now observe that the famous personality generally referred to as Buddha is not the Vishnu incarnation, the original Lord Buddha and, hence, Sankaracharya’s views on this are completely unacceptable. It is not uncommon to find disagreements in matters of tradition and history, but in regards to important and significant issues an unbiased and objective discussion is imperative. Attracted by Buddha’s personality and fame, it is one thing to honor and respect him, but being impressed by his philosophy and teachings and reverentially surrendering to him is wholly another matter. Whatever the case may be, I am sure that the respected readers have grasped the crucial point that Buddha is not a single person, but at least two separate identities – Shakya Simha is not the same as Lord Buddha, Vishnu’s ninth incarnation. It is certainly undeniable that there are some similarities between these two Buddhas, yet it is incontestable that they are two different persons [with two different purposes].

Footnotes

1. Mleccha – derived from the Sanskrit root mlech meaning to utter indistinctly (Sanskrit) – a foreigner; non-Aryan; a man of an outcaste race; any non-Sanskrit speaking person who does not conform to the Vedic social and religious customs.

2. This book was published under the auspices of the Asiatic Society and can be referenced at it library. See www.indev.nic.in/asiatic/

END OF CHAPTER TWO – BEYOND NIRVANA

CONCLUSION

        Actually, there is much I like about Buddhism. I like its peaceful and gentle ways, the basis of its connection with all of life, but also its principle of detachment and renunciation as a means to enter higher forms of existence. I like some of the forms of meditation that it uses to gain more understanding and control of the mind. I like its mild form of determination to the principles and its goals.

However, from the above descriptions we can understand that the worship of the first Buddha, which at this point in time has practically been forgotten, is a means of definite spiritual progress through nonviolence, compassion for all and renunciation from the world for one’s self-interest. However, these days most of what is known of Buddhism is based on the monistic path as established by Shakya Simha Buddha, the second Buddha who was but a mortal who, with great intellectual ability, propounded a path that promised the end of suffering, and the eventual entrance into what is called nirvana. This goal of entering nirvana actually requires such a discipline that, in this day and age, it is practically impossible to achieve. This would also mean that, no matter how much one progresses along this path, the most one can attain, besides a more peaceful life which may be good enough for some people, are still future rounds of birth in this world. Praying to Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha, or any of the other forms of which he may be depicted, still cannot offer any Divine assistance, since he is not really Divine. Nor does Buddhism really acknowledge God, either outside us or within. The soul is also not recognized. So, it is perfect for those who wish to follow a path that is basically atheistic in nature.

In this way, it is very similar to the philosophy that was established by Sankaracharya who proposed, through his own imaginative interpretation of some basic Sanskrit verses, that the Absolute Truth was impotent, inert, and without any characteristics. Like the Buddhist sunya or void, nirvana, or Great White Light, Sankaracharya also propounded a monistic Brahman that is the eternal and timeless void, nondual, an impersonal oneness, and great white light, the Brahman effulgence. You could say that it is merely an adaptation of the core concepts of Buddhism but with a Vedic slant. As Shakya Simha Buddha tried to nullify the sufferings of the world through voidism, Sankaracharya tried to do the same thing with his conception of impersonal Brahman. Sankaracharya says that Brahman is all that is eternal, while Shakya Simha proposed that the void is all that remains.

Students of Sankaracharya will accept him as a scholar of Vedanta and a great theist and will follow what appears to be his apparently theistic teachings, but in this way they actually become atheists by giving up the concept of God and any chance of establishing a relationship with the Supreme Being.

Sri Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, who compiled the major Vedic texts, has declared in his writings in the Puranas that the monistic, impersonal Mayavada philosophy is false and non-Vedic. The same would apply to what we presently know as Buddhism. You can find this in the Padma Purana 25/7:

mayavadam asacchastram pracchannam bauddham uchyate

        “The theory of Mayavadism is a concocted scripture and is known as a disguised Buddhism.”

Therefore, if we accept the traditional and major Vedic view, as found in all Vedic samhitas and original texts, it ultimately leads to the premise that God is personal, with personality and characteristics, active and eternal, though beyond our mental ability to comprehend, but with whom everyone has a relationship that only needs to be reawakened. The real Vedic tradition points to the ways in which we can grow beyond our limitations and realize by direct perception our natural spiritual identity and reawaken our eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Spirit. This is the direction and ultimate goal of all truly Vedic processes of spiritual development.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

This additional information is from the book, “Dasavatar: Ten Manifestations of Godhead,” By Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj, published by Mandala Publishing and Sree Caitanya Gaudiya Math, downloaded from http://www.sreecgmath.org.

Among the Dashavataras, Sri Buddha is the ninth avatara. Additionally, Sri Buddha is the twenty fourth lila-avatara.

In order to condemn the practice of animal sacrifice, Supreme Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Buddha. Srila Jayadeva Gosvami prays to the Lord of the universe in his Dashavatara-stotra:

nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam

sadaya-hridaya-darshita-pashu-ghatam

keshava dhrita-buddha-sharira jaya jagadisha hari

(Sri Jayadeva’s Dashvatara-stotra, 9th Verse)

“O Keshava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories unto You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, You decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.”

The name of Buddha also appears in the verse that describes the ten avataras in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

matsya kurmo varahashca nrisimha vamanastatha

ramo ramashca ramashca buddha kalki ca te dashah

In the dashavatara verse of Sahitya-darpana,1 we find the names of Buddha and Kalki. The Agni, Vayu and Skanda Puranas also mention the name of Buddha, as does the following verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam:

tatah kalau sampravritte sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutaha kikateshu bhavishyati

(Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.3.24)

“Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya2 (Bihar) just for the purpose of infatuating those who are envious of the faithful demigods.”

In Chapters 17-18 of the 3rd Section of Vishnu Purana, Buddha has been designated as Mayamoha’. Once, while bathing in the waters of the Yamuna, Akrura was astonished to see Krishna-Balarama within the river. Coming out, he saw Them seated in a chariot as They had been before appearing in the water. Again he immersed himself in the water, and saw the yellow-clad four-handed Vasudeva Sri Krishna along with His associates, graciously seated on the lap of the thousand-hooded Sri Anantadeva while being worshiped by Brahma and other demigods. At that time, he prayed to the Lord in the following manner:

namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya-danava-mohine

mleccha-praya-kshatra-hantre namas te kalki-rupine

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.40.22)

“O Lord! I offer my obeisances unto Your form of Buddha, who, possessing a faultless nature, deluded the miscreants by composing anti-Vedic scriptures. I also offer obeisances unto Your Kalki form, the annihilator of the wicked kshatriyas who are no better than barbarians.”

The Vedas encode instructions according to the eligibility or qualification of various living beings, especially human beings. But in the course of time, ignorant men took the tamasika3 orders to be the only instruction of the Vedas4 and engaged in the extensive killing of animals, sometimes even sacrificing human beings during worship of the demigods. At that time, the Supreme Lord descended in the form of Buddha and outwardly rejected the teachings of the Vedas for the welfare of human beings incapable of comprehending the true teachings of the Vedas. This implies that He disputed and cancelled His own prior teachings, propounded the futility of belief in God and preached to human beings four noble truths, to free them from their violent practices. This act of Buddha provided instantaneous benediction to mankind of that period. As Lord Buddha was the Supreme Lord Himself, many people resolved to follow ahimsa-dharma the path of non-violence, due to His influence. As a result of non-violence, the hearts of human beings became pious and their qualifications gradually increased, so Lord Shiva appeared as Shankaracarya. He re-established the supreme authenticity and decorum of the Vedas, and founded the philosophy of brahmakarana-vada’ (Brahman as the ultimate cause). In later ages, the Vaishnava stalwarts built the philosophy of bhakti upon this same foundation stone. From the personal and aggregate point of view, these are the steps of progress.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the Lord Himself, removed the incompleteness of the previously propagated philosophies through His acintya-bhedabheda-tattva’ philosophy (the principle of inconceivable simultaneous distinction and non-distinction).

It is said that Sakyasimha Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana and Maya, and Buddha-avatara, the Vaishnavas’ object of adoration, are not one and the same person. Our Most Revered Nityalilapravishta Om Vishnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada has clearly said, “Shakyasimha Buddha was merely a vastly learned person, so we cannot call him the original Buddha or Lord Buddha.”

Acarya Sri Shankara has by mistake referred to Maya’s son, Buddha, as Sugata Buddha’ in the following commentary: sarvatha api anadaraniya ayam sugata-samayaha shreyaskamaih iti abhiprayaha.

The Amarakosha-grantha (Sanskrit dictionary) states:

sarvajna api sugato buddho dharmarajastathagataha

samastabhadro bhagavan marajillokajijjinaha

sarvabhijno dashabalo ‘dvayavad‚ vinayakaha

munindraha srighanaha shasta muniha shakyamunistu yaha

“All-Knowing, Transcendental, Buddha, King of Righteousness, He Who Has Come, Beneficent, All-Encompassing, Lord, Conqueror of the God of Love Mara, Victorious of Three Worlds, He Who Controls His Senses, Protector from the Six Enemies, Possessor of the Ten Powers, Speaker of Monism (One Absolute), Teacher, Lord of the Sages, Embodiment of Splendor and Eminent Saint.”

In his commentary on the above verse, Srila Ragunatha Cakravarti has written: “All eighteen names of Buddha from sarvajna’ ( omniscient) to shakyamuni,’ refer to Vishnu-avatara Buddha. Therefore, Sugata’ clearly refers only to Vishnu-avatara Buddha.

sa shakyasimhah sarvarthasiddhah shauddhodanishcha sah

gautamashcarkabandhushca mayadevisutashca sah

“Teacher of the Shakyas, lion of the Shakyas, accomplisher of all goals, son of Shuddhodana, of Gautama’s line, friend of scholars, son of Mayadevi.”

Here, Shrila Ragunatha Cakravarti has written: ete sapta shakyabangshabatirneh buddhamuni bisheshe

“The seven aliases from shakyasimha Buddha’ down to mayadevisuta’ (the son of Mayadevi) refer to monks belonging to the Shakya Dynasty.”

Thus, Sugata Buddha and Shunyavadi (Shakyasimha) Buddha are not the same person.

Further evidence is found in Mr. H. T. Colebrooke’s Amarakosha, published at Ramapura in 1807. It is written in Chapter 21, Page 178 of Lalitavistaragrantha that Gautama Buddha performed penances at the same place as the previous Buddha (Vishnu avatara Buddha). Maybe it is for this reason that in later ages he and Lord Buddha are considered as being one:

esha dharanimunde purvabuddhasanasthaha

samartha dhanurgrihitva shunya

nairatmavanaih klesaripum nihatva dristijalanca bhitva-shiva

virajamshokam prapsyate bodhimagryam

Currently this place is known as Buddha Gaya, but Srimad-Bhagavatam refers to it as Kikata Pradesha:

tatah kalau sampravritte sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutah kikateshu bhavishyati

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24)

“Thereafter, in the twenty-first manvantara at the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, in Kikata Pradesha (the province of Gaya Bihar), just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful demigods.”

According to Sri Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary: anjana suto ‘jina sutashceti pathadvayam kikateshu madhye gayapradeshe

“The names Anjanasuta5 and Ajinasuta can both be found in the above verse. The province of Gaya has been called Kikateshu.”

Srila Sridhara Svamipada has written in his commentary:

buddhavataramaha tata iti

anjanasya sutah

ajinasuta iti pathe ajino ‘pi sa eva

kikateshu madhye gayapradeshe

“Buddha-avatara refers to Buddha who is the son of Anjana, and also in another reading, the son of Ajina. In the above verse, the name is written as Ajina or Anjana, and Kikata refers to Gaya Pradesha.”

It is written in the 29th Verse, 36th Chapter of Sri Nrisimha Purana: kalau prapte yath„ buddho bhavennarayana prabhuh

“Lord Narayana appeared as Buddha when the age of Kali Started.”

This clearly implies that Lord Buddha appeared five thousand years ago.

The following verse can be found in the second paragraph of Nirnaya-sindhu: jyaishtha shukladitiyayam buddhajanma bhavishyati

“Buddha will take birth on the 2nd day of the shuklapaksha6 of the month of Jyaishtha7.”

Another part of this book describes the mode of worshipping Buddha: pausha shuklasya saptamyam kuryyat bhuddhasya pujanam

“Worship Lord Buddha on the 7th day of the shuklapaksha of the month of Pausha.8

This is the prescription for the worship of Buddha, the avatara of the Supreme Lord. The full moon day of the month of Vaishakha9, known as Buddha-purnima, is to be celebrated for both Buddhas, subject to consideration of both Buddhas together.

In Sri Madhvacarya’s commentary on Verse 1.3.24 of Srimad-Bhagavatam, from his book Bhagavata-tatparya, the following quotation from Brahmanda Purana has been referred to:

mohanartham danavanam balarupi pathisthitaha

putram tam kalpayamasa madhabudhirjinah svayam

tatah sammohayamasa jinadyana suramshakan

bhagavan vagbhirugrabhirahimsa vacibhirharihi

(Brahmanda Purana)

“In order to delude the demons, He (Lord Buddha) was present in the form of a child on the way while the fool, Jina (a demon), imagined Him to be his son. Later on, Lord Sri Hari (as avatara-Buddha) expertly deluded Jina and other demons by His strong words of non-violence.”

There is an authentic Buddhist book, Lankavatarasutra’ 10, in which Ravana, the king of Lanka, prays to Jina’s son, the ancient Lord Buddha, and to all the Buddhas and Buddhas’ sons who would appear in the future, via this eulogy (stava):

atha ravano lankadhipatih gathagiten anugayati sma

lankavatarasutram vaih purvabuddhanuvarnitam

smarami purvakaih buddhairjinaputra-puraskritaih

putrametannigadyate bhagavanapi bhashatam

bhavishyantyanapate kale buddha buddhasutashca ye

Therefore, this source leaves no doubt that the ancient avatara-Buddha and the modern Gautama Buddha are not the same person.

Buddha-avatara has been discussed in various Puranas such as Linga, Bhavishya, Varaha, Agni, Vayu, Skanda, Vishnu, and many others. In the 17th and 18th Chapters of the 3rd Section of Vishnu Purana, Buddha is referred to as Mayamoha. It should be remembered that the Buddha-avatara whose narrations are found in various Puranas and other scriptures, is not the nihilistic Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana. namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya danava mohine

The preceding eulogy to Lord Buddha, taken from Akrura’s prayer in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10-40-22), is the essence of all the Vedas, Vedanta, Puranas, Itihasas and other scriptures. The meaning of this prayer is:

“O Lord, I offer my obeisances unto Your faultless beguiling form of Lord Buddha who enchanted the demons and devils by composing anti-Vedic mantras.”

Commenting on this, Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has written: shuddhaya vedaviruddha shastra pravarttakatve ‘pi nirddoshaya

“The meaning of the word ‘shuddhaya’ is that although He is the founding element of anti-Vedic literature, yet He remains inculpable.”

Therefore, by establishing shastras opposed to the Vedas, He (avatara- Buddha) hypnotized devils and demons. This is the reason why some writers of Buddha’s biography consider avatara-Buddha and human Buddha to be the same.

In Canto 6,Chapter 8,19th verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam, King Indra prays to Lord Buddha with the mantra, buddhas tu pashanda-gana-pramadat. This mantra is from the Narayana kavacha of Vishvarupa, the son of Sage Tvashta. By reciting this mantra Indra prayed, “O Lord Buddha! Save me from the defect of indifference born out of atheistic hypocrisy.”

This means that Lord Buddha, in His asura-vimohanalila’ (the pastime of hypnotizing the demons), deluded the wicked natured people by establishing scriptures opposed to the Vedas. “Save me Lord Buddha from the terrible offence of disobeying the Vedas due to ignorance of their secret meanings.”

Factually, Lord Buddha is not a condemner of the Vedas for any reason whatsoever. This pastime is meant only to mesmerize the demons. It is written in the 40th chapter of the Maheshvara section of Skanda Purana that: “After the passing of 3600 years of Kali-yuga, Lord Buddha, the avatara of Vishnu, the saviour of dharma, will appear in the Magadha territory from the womb of Anjani, fathered by Hemasadana. He will perform many glorious tasks and rule over the earth containing seven islands, for sixty-four years. Then, safeguarding His glories with His devotees, He will retreat to His abode.”

Thus, we can see by the authentic words of genuine scriptures, that Lord Buddha and Shakyasimha/Gautama Buddha are not the same. The Lord has established many anti-Vedic scriptures for deluding the demons. Other Buddhas also followed Him and propagated anti-Vedic nihilism. That is why many doubts arise, as all of them have been mentioned together in several places11. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has written: veda na maniya baudha haya ta nastika.

“With no regard for the Vedas, Buddha has become atheistic.”

This means, in India, those who have no faith in the Vedas are considered to be atheistic.

According to the German scholar Max Muller, Shakyasimha Buddha was born in the Lumbini Forest of Kapilavastu in 477 B.C. Ancient Kapilavastu is a famous district situated near Nepal. Gautama’s father’s name was Shuddhodana and His mother’s name was Mayadevi. Anjana’s son and Maya’s son both share the same name but one appeared at Gaya and the other at Kapilavastu. Thus, the appearance places and parents of Vishnu Buddha and Gautama Buddha are totally different. Because the human Buddha was unable to understand the asura-vimohana-lila of Lord Vishnu Buddha, he propagated anti-Vedic nihilism [voidism].

    NOTES:

1 A Bengali reference encyclopedia

2 Gaya Region: This is famous as Bodha Gaya or Buddha Gaya. This is the most important pilgrimage place of Buddhists. This place was famous even before the time of Christ. The remains of the Mahabodhi Temple and the Stupa (monument), built by King Ashoka, are evidence of its fame and antiquity. The Pippala tree (ficus religiosa), under which Buddha attained enlightenment, is still there today. In the journey diary of the Chinese traveler, Fahiyan, a description of the Mahabodhi Temple of Uruvilva has been provided.

3 The mode of ignorance.

4 In the scriptures animal sacrifice is specified to enable society to gradually rise above violent tendencies.

5 Suta’ means son’.

6 Shukla-paksha: The moonlit half of a lunar month the bright fortnight.

7 Jyaishtha month: the 2nd month of the Hindu (Lunar) calendar (Summer).

8 Pausha month: the 9th month of the Hindu (Lunar) Calendar (Winter).

9 Vaishakha month: the 1st month of the Hindu (Lunar) Calendar.

10 Lankavatara-sutra’ was published with the help of the Indian Buddhist Text Society and Bengal Government in January 1900 A.D.

11 In the 21st issue of the 18th volume of Gaudiya (Magazine), in the articles of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura entitled, Pracchanna Bauddha and Nastikyavada’ (Disguised Bauddha and Atheism) and Gautama’ as well as in the book Sri Gaudiya Darshana: History and Elements’ by Sri Sundarananda Vidyavinoda (a disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura), the name of Shakyasimha Gautama Buddha has rarely appeared while writing about the Buddhist philosophy.

Pujyapada Tridandi Svami Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaja, the beloved disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura and founder of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, in his writing, Mayavadera Jivani’ (The Life History of Impersonalism), has written: “The lila of the Supreme Lord, the expansion of the Lord, Buddha, appeared around 3500 B.C.” (Page 74)

“Nihilistic Siddhartha was the disciple of Sage Gautama of Kapila’s lineage. Therefore, his other name is Gautama.” (Page 14)

Shakyasimha Buddha appeared around five hundred years before.” (Page 18)

12 Buddha married Yashodhara at the age of sixteen years. Buddha renounced the world at the age of twenty-nine years. He attained emancipation at the age of eighty years (New Bengali Dictionary of Asutosh Dev)

The Prison of Religion And the Freedom in Vedic Culture, By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)

        The reason why I call it “The Prison of Religion is that religion, when used improperly or without the real essence of spiritual truth, can also be a way of confining and restricting people of their understanding of the universe and themselves, and higher spirituality through the use of fear, guilt, violence, and the oppression of anything that shows a different view than what is being indoctrinated into society through a particular religion. It has been the most militant of religions that has suppressed the ancient avenues of reaching higher levels of understanding our multidimensional nature. Thus, by mere blind faith in whatever the church or priests are giving us, or allowing us to know, we are kept in a lower consciousness than what is really possible. In this way, higher realms of thought, wisdom, love, and knowledge are kept away from the masses. After all, knowledge is power, which means your ignorance is my strength. To keep power over others, the church and other religious institutions have systematically abolished a wide range of spiritual and esoteric knowledge that would, otherwise, give mankind the ultimate freedom. And because people who understand their true spiritual nature and the power that lies within them become impossible to manipulate, it is necessary to keep this knowledge hidden. So the idea would be to keep the truly spiritual knowledge concealed while creating and perpetuating a religion, or a standard of “science,” that keeps people bound by the above mentioned factors: fear, guilt, violence, and intimidation.

        To tread outside the accepted jurisdiction of knowledge or understanding, or outside the rules of the institution, will bring fear. Questioning the present system, or doubting its effectiveness, or desiring to know more about God or whatever else you would like to understand than what the church provides, will bring guilt, at least for those who consider themselves dedicated followers. In this way, some churches or religions have tried to make such ancient sciences as astrology, yoga, meditation, or the deepest understandings of the soul, and much more, to look evil or even absurd, and, thus, be dismissed, or preferably even outlawed. We need to understand and recognize this pattern, which is used in numerous places in the world.

        In this regard, reports have been given about how huge libraries and collections of ancient and esoteric books have been destroyed or were kept out of circulation from the public. This indicates the methodical removal of various levels of spiritual and metaphysical knowledge from society, while claiming that anything other than the established doctrine of the church is satanic, evil, and hell-bound. The Christian Inquisition, for example, was a wonderful method of producing this effect. Even today we can see how some people are so influenced by this tyrannical tendency that they still are afraid of looking at anything other than what the Church condones. However, most of these people are totally unaware of the “pagan” heritage found in Christianity or Judaism, which makes it very similar to pre-Christian ways, but with a different name. It is practically the same medicine yet in a different bottle. To remove this understanding from public knowledge, it became necessary that whenever Christianity or other militant religions conquered a country or culture, the first thing that was done was to capture or destroy all of the ancient sacred texts, or the ways of its worship, such as the temples and deities. However, any organization that destroys the ancient knowledge and historical records of a civilization is never going to present the true history of the world, or the spiritual wisdom of any previous culture. In this way, the view of history is controlled and the population is kept in ignorance and under subtle restraint. And the people who are allowed to understand any of the truth are those of the elite or who are already in power.

        By taking a look at the history of the conventional or western religions, for example, a person can see to what extent such an institution will go to maintain power and control, especially when it feels threatened by what it does not understand. Furthermore, the dark history of some of the religions, for example, represents the fanatically narrow-minded side of it that has continued to the present day in the form of fundamentalists thinking that if a religion or culture is not Christian, or is not Islam, then it must be of the devil or against God. Or at least its followers will not go to heaven. Such fundamentalistic people are often ready to dismiss or criticize other spiritual paths and cultures without understanding them. They may see a ceremony or ritual of another religion and immediately say it is heathen or devil worship or Satanic, without realizing that it is the worship of the same Supreme Being that they worship.

        The point is that all people have to have the freedom to find themselves to the fullest extent on whatever path it takes, providing it is a bona fide or genuine path. So how do we make sure we can continue to have this freedom? By understanding each other and the different cultures of the world and the various paths of self-discovery. And by recognizing the value that they have to offer, as we find in the Eastern traditions, such as Sanatana-dharma. We must also bury our preconceived prejudices that are based on our immature feelings of superiority because, spiritually speaking, we are all the same. We just have to attain that spiritual vision to see the reality of it. And the path we take to do that is the only difference among us.

        One problem with the religions that primarily are based on belief and faith is that they can become an effective means of manipulating the masses who follow it. If you can convince people to believe that by doing something they can go to heaven, then you can get them to do almost anything. For example, Pope Urban II implied to the soldiers who were going out on the first crusade that if they died in the name of Christ, they would ascend to heaven and live in the association of God. Thus, they rode out to fearlessly and mercilessly conquer the “heathens” or non-believers, and were willing to die to reach heaven.

        This is the same effect we see with the Palestinian youth, that if they die in the name of Islam they will immediately go to the seventh level of heaven and take pleasure in wondrous gardens in the company of beautiful virgins. The more fantastic the heaven, the more hope and conviction will be seen in the followers. It is a pattern that anyone can begin to recognize once you are aware of it.

        Another problem with this is that the beliefs that are given to you to accept often change with time, or according to the needs of the church or mosque to keep a congregation. As explained in an issue of Newsweek magazine (August 12, 2002), the concept of heaven has changed with the ages. “Dante saw heaven as the universe, and Thomas Aquinas thought of it as a brilliant place, full of light and knowledge. In the 18th century, Emanuel Swedenborg imagined heaven as a tangible world, with public gardens and parks.” Nowadays you can imagine heaven to be whatever you need it to be. This gives impetus for you to do whatever you feel you should do for your beliefs, and have it justified by your religion. However, in actuality, in the Bible, the Koran, or Torah, there is little in the way of specific information of where or what is heaven. And this leaves much for the imagination, and allows the priest or Imam to say almost anything about it, which is then gobbled up by the gullible followers.

        Another problem with religious processes that rely mostly on faith and belief is that peer pressure and the need for conformity and acceptance or approval stifles and restricts one’s ability to develop or inquire to one’s fullest. We often see children tolerated for their deep and thoughtful questions on spiritual themes, while the adults fear to reveal their ignorance of the topics, or will even stifle a child’s inquisitiveness, or anybody else’s if they seem to ask too many questions. So such religions act like self-policing institutions wherein individuals are not encouraged to develop their own spiritual realizations or ask too many questions, or show any doubts or uncertainties regarding the teachings. They are encouraged to leave it up to faith and the dictates of the institution. They are told that we are not meant to know certain things, and that faith alone in a particular savior or the power of the church is enough to take you to heaven. But if you lack faith or question it, or do not follow the dictates of the church or scripture, you will not go to heaven. You will not receive God’s grace. Thus, you must look good in the eyes of the church authorities and your fellow members or there will be no room for you, and, thus, you will be sent to hell.

        The second kind of fear is the fear that you may be wrong, or the church and its doctrines may be wrong, or there may be weaknesses in its philosophy. So people become defensive of their beliefs, defending it like life itself. Thus, they condemn and criticize those who are of other religions without trying to understand them. Sometimes you can observe this amongst the sects in the same religion. We already see so many divisions within Christianity, as well as Islam and Judaism. And each one often feels they are the only ones that are true followers of Jesus or Mohammed, and all others are going to hell. So it can become extremely divisive even within the same faith, which then leads not only to quarrels but also to war, terrorism, and so many needless killings.

        In fact, some people of particular religions may feel it is their God-given mandate that when someone is a so-called non-believer, he should be converted and “saved” at whatever cost, and then deprived of any freedom to follow an alternative view. A person in another religion may brand “nonbelievers” as infidels, and thus feel it is his duty to convert, destroy, or even kill such a person. In either case, they may use coercion, manipulation, or simply take advantage of poor and vulnerable people to bring them over to their faith. And in both cases, the people of these religions feel they are doing God’s work, and that they are justified in what they do.

        The premise that all spiritual knowledge must be connected with one distinct or localized savior is itself a stifling factor in allowing individuals to progress in spiritual understanding. There is so much more that could be learned if they did not feel that if something is not connected with their particular savior or scripture, then it must be evil, Satanic or wrong. In this way, if it is not in the Bible or Koran, for example, they refuse to acknowledge the value of any additional spiritual knowledge if it comes from a different culture or source. Thus, they act with fear or contempt toward anything outside their own sphere of familiarity or acceptability, or like people who are proud of their own ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

        The straightjacket of Western theological dogma keeps a person from looking at additional resources that could supply answers for questions not considered in western thought, or at possibilities that are elementary in Eastern traditions. What is wrong with learning newer ways of connecting with our higher selves, and with each other and with God? What is wrong with allowing our hearts and minds to expand with new vibrancy, new insights and confidence? Why not allow ourselves new hope and understanding in regard to the purpose of the universe and the nature of God, even if we look to different sources of knowledge? Why not allow ourselves to take up the path that provides the means for direct perception of spiritual reality? Who knows what additional information we can add to what we already know, or newer ways to incorporate and develop ourselves into people who are better and more aware and spiritually developed. This is natural for those who participate in the Vedic system.

        In light of this it is interesting to point out that in 1991 a letter was released from the Vatican to the Bishops which criticized zen and such spiritual practices as yoga and meditation. The letter was written by Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now the Pope at the time of this writing, but the document was also approved by Pope John Paul II. The letter warned against the sensations of spiritual well-being that one gets from practicing yoga or meditation, and said that this could lead to schizophrenia, moral deviations, or even psychic disorders, and degenerate to a cult of the body. Now on what basis do they make these claims? Are they simply using fear tactics to dissuade people from investigating such paths? Of course, if one improperly practices a complicated form of yoga, such as kundalini-yoga, there may be some adverse affects. But for the most part, yoga and real transcendental meditation means to fix the mind and become absorbed, at least for certain lengths of time, on that which is transcendent, which is God. This is real spirituality. So what is wrong with this when this is the goal of any spiritual path? Why would they issue such a letter, unless they are once again simply trying to condemn every other form of religion? If this is the case, this signifies that they are not really interested in true spirituality or in helping people with spiritual advancement. They are more interested in control over their flock. Yoga and meditation have existed for thousands of years before Christianity ever came along. Why should people not look at other cultures to get answers and experiences that are not found in conventional Western religions? The reluctance to do so is merely a reflection of the fear and misunderstanding that people have. Nonetheless, many Christians have risen to new levels of understanding biblical teachings by studying and practicing various aspects of the Vedic path.

        We have to remember that a true religion paves the way for everyone to become spiritually aware, and to establish his or her own relationship with the Supreme. And the Vedic system is an ideal means for supplying that. If a religion is not based on the higher principles of self-realization, but is merely based on dogmatic rules and regulations that it forces on others, then it becomes a trap based on fear, guilt, oppression, and intimidation. One must not be afraid to break free from such a trap. It is greater to see God’s love manifested in many sages belonging to different traditions at different times and places, among different people. Thus, the Vedic spiritual knowledge is for everyone and can assist anyone in their spiritual development. After all, if I, a Westerner can do it, then anyone can do it.

THE FREEDOM IN VEDIC CULTURE

        It is refreshing to see that you usually do not have the kind of divisiveness or criticism that is described above in the Vedic system. It is much more open and provides the individual the freedom to pursue the level of experience that he or she needs for his or her own development and still be a part of the Vedic process. You can especially see this at such huge gatherings as the Kumbha Mela festival where millions of people come together from all aspects and schools of thought within the Vedic fold. It shows that anyone can pursue their own level of spiritual development and inquiry without being restricted from within an institution or church. One can become a part of whatever line of spiritual thought or practice one needs to be in and still be considered on the Vedic path, though there are various systems that bring a person to different levels of development, consciousness, and higher perception.

        For these reasons, India must remain the homeland of a living and dynamic Vedic culture. This will allow the world to retain some of the deepest knowledge and methods of attaining the most profound spiritual insights that have been known to mankind. Thus, India should defend itself from the risk of further partition or divisions of its land. If India is divided up any more, and portions of the country are taken by others, Vedic culture could dwindle or even be lost over the long-term, except for small colonies of Vedic practitioners here and there. This may indeed be what many people would like to see. Yet, if Vedic culture is lost, the world will not even realize the treasure of human development that will disappear. Then such deep spiritual knowledge and insights will begin to permanently fade away from society.

        Once India and Vedic culture is diluted or stamped out, along with other decreasing numbers of indigenous traditions within it, then in time the whole world will be fitted with the straightjacket of Western thought and strict monotheistic religion. Thus, it will be more easily controlled by the establishment, whether that be government or religious, etc. Then individual freedom for the pursuit of higher understanding and spiritual happiness will be limited to the constraints as dictated by whatever regional monotheistic views reign in that area.

        The Vedic culture and philosophy offers deep insights into spiritual knowledge that can be found no where else. It provides for levels of thought and knowledge of the soul and the Supreme and the spiritual reality that are hardly matched elsewhere. I can safely say this because I, having been raised a practicing Christian, also seriously studied in depth all the major religions, and continue to do so, before having studied and then taking up the Vedic path. The Vedic philosophy clearly outlines the processes by which a person can uplift or purify one’s own consciousness to perceive for themselves the spiritual strata and recognize one’s true spiritual identity, which is the essence of all spiritual progress, and from which all further development grows. Many are those noteworthy sages and saints of the past who have followed this path successfully, and left profound teachings for the rest of us. For this reason, Vedic culture is the last bastion of deep and genuine spiritual truth and freedom. It is a culture that allows full liberty of investigation for the individual to practice and reach the highest levels of spiritual perception known to humanity. This is also why it should be clearly understood and preserved for the benefit of all.

Visiting the Grave of Jesus in Srinagar, Kashmir, by Stephen Knapp

            I had visited the place that is called the grave of Jesus in Srinagar, Kashmir in June of 2007. And, actually, unless you know the history and controversy about this little building, there is not much that will give any indications of this being the grave of Jesus. But it is good that I went when I did, because now it is locked and off-limits to foreigners, especially westerners.

            This place is also called the Roza bal, or Rauza bol, which means “tomb of the prophet.” This is the burial place of Yuz Asaph (or Asaf), in the center of Srinagar’s old part of town. The name  Yuz Asaph is said to relate to Jesus. Some people believe it is the grave of Jesus and others think it is all based on faulty premises, meaning it is merely a rumor or urban legend. However, there is a complete line of logic behind this, so I will only give you the evidence and what people say and you can decide for yourself. That way, if you are ever in Srinagar, you can have some understanding of the significance of this place and check it out yourself.

        To visit this grave of Jesus, you will find it in Anzimar next to a small Muslim cemetery in the Khanjar (Khanyar) quarter of Srinagar’s old town. You find Rauza bal Khanyar down a narrow alley in an old, wooden mausoleum. The grave itself is inside the building. The sign in front says that it is the tomb of Ziarati Hazrati Youza Asouph and Syed Nasir-u-Din. Thus, this is a grave of two people, with Nasir-u-Din being a Muslim saint. Some say that Youza Asouph (or Yuz Asaph) means the gatherer, which could be in relation to the idea that Jesus was a gatherer of the lost tribes of Israel, some of whom were known to have come to Kashmir. Others say the name means the leader of the healed, since Jesus was a healer. While still others say the name Youza Asouph means Joseph’s son.

You enter the rectangular building through a small doorway on the side of the structure. This leads into a small hall that allows to you to look through a few windows at the small central room inside with the sarcophagus. If the inner doorway is unlocked, you can go in for a closer view. On your way in you will see an inscription on a board that explains that Yuz Asaph (or Asaf) came to Kashmir many centuries ago and dedicated himself to the search for truth. The single inner chamber has a cheap looking, raised wooden frame in the shape of a sarcophagus for two graves, each covered with heavy, embroidered cloth. The first and smaller grave is for an Islamic saint Syed Nasir-ud-Din, buried here in 1451, a descendent of Imam Moosa Ali Raza, said to be a great devotee of Jesus. The larger grave behind it is for Yuz Asaph. A document signed by five Muslim judges (Muftis) of that time certifies that the tomb contains the remains of the prophet Yuz Asaph. Near this along the side of the inner chamber is a stone with the imprint of two feet showing what seem to be nail wounds (a round wound on the left foot and an arc-shaped wound on the right foot), the scars Jesus would have suffered from his crucifixion. Some people feel this is the sign for the identity of who is buried here. It is the custom for pilgrims to place candles around the gravestones, and when years of wax was removed by Professor Hassnain, not only did he discover the footprints, but he also found a cross and rosary. As typical with Muslim mausoleums, these graves are replicas and the actual graves are in a crypt under the floor in the basement. However, some also say that due to age, the ground gave way years ago and the original grave simply sank into the ground, with the present sarcophagus built over it. A look into the real burial chamber is provided by a small opening. But that window is now covered by a cloth to block the view. The grave which contains the remains of Yuz Asaph also points east to west, according to Jewish tradition.

            Previously, several decades ago, the central shrine in the house was surrounded by beautifully carved wooden panels. But these have now been removed and replaced with glass windows. These windows, of course, let you see the fake sarcophagus inside, which is covered with the cloth, as well as the two feet carved into the stone block at one end. You can also see this from outside through the windows of the house, but the stone with the feet can be seen only as long as the doorway is unlocked and you can get in. It is also now painted green, the color for Islam. Whatever else was once inside, including various relics, scrolls, and information regarding the place, have now been removed.

            Suzanne Olsson, while appearing in the video “Jesus in India” by Paul David (2008), mentions that in her research she was told by local authorities that below the main floor, the real graves do not contain any bodies. But behind the wall was a ledge where the body of Yuz Asaph was actually placed, and then the ledge was sealed. That is the actual grave behind the false wall. She at one time had the permission to take DNA samples from the body through a small opening in that wall. This way she could verify the age and possible identity of the person buried there. But Islamic militancy arose before she could accomplish that and kept her from doing it. Thus, possible verification of this may now never be possible.

            However, when talking with the local Muslims who live nearby, they will tell you adamantly that it is not the grave of Jesus, but is the tomb of a Muslim prophet, Youza. If you ask too much, or insist on an alternative view, they will tell you that you are committing an offense to Islam and the Koran. Nonetheless, the tomb is built in an east-west direction, the same as the Jewish tradition, in line as a follower of Moses, and is not in the direction facing Mecca. But this is inconsequential to the locals. Therefore, without background information, you would never know the significance of this place.

            The locals will also tell you that the grave is that of a messenger of God who liked the Muslim people and settled there. They admit that the grave is ancient, but they forget that the person buried there arrived hundreds of years before Islam was ever an established religion. But they do not think it was Jesus. So even among the local people different versions of the story about the grave circulate. Also, some Muslims feel that in the end, after the crucifixion, Jesus was lifted up to heaven because if he had actually died on the cross, it would be a sign that he had failed in his mission.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

             The grave has been maintained by attendants since its construction, which is established by ancient records to be as far back as 112 CE. The premise is that Jesus’ Hebrew name was Yuza, similar to Yuz. In Arabic and in the Koran his name was Hazrat Isa or just Isa, and Issa in Tibetan, both of which are similar to the name Isha in Sanskrit. This tradition has been carried down through the Farhang-Asafia, Volume One, which explains how Jesus healed some leper who then became asaf, meaning purified or healed. The word yuz means leader. Thus, Yuz Asaph became a common reference to Jesus as “leader of the healed.”

            There are other accounts of how Yuz Asaph preached throughout Persia, present-day Iran, converting many people. Some of these details can be found in Agha Mustafai’s Ahivali Ahaliau-i-Paras which confirms that Jesus and Yuz Asaph are the same person. Even the well-known Emperor Akbar had a court poet who referred to Jesus as Ai Ki Nam-i to: Yuz o Kristo, which means, “Thou whose name is Yuz or Christ.” Also, at Akbar’s city, Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, as you enter the main gate toward the mosque, there is an inscription which states: “Jesus (Peace be with him) has said: ‘The world is a bridge. Pass over it, but do not settle down on it!’” 

            Other records and place names that relate to Jesus point to his presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Acts of Thomas describe the journey of Jesus and Thomas in Pakistan (then Taxila) at the court of King Gundafor in the 26th year of his rule, which would be about 47 CE.

            Also, when Jesus came to Kashmir he came with a group of followers which included his mother, Mary, who must have been over 70 years old, and was no doubt weakened by the journey. Seventy kilometers east of Taxila, and 170 kilometers west of Srinagar on the border of Kashmir, is a small town called Mari, or Murree in English, near Rawalpindi. In that town is a very old grave called Mai Mari da Asthan, meaning “the final resting place of Mother Mary.” This is a tomb in Jewish style, aligned on the east-west line, while the Muslim tombs are always aligned on the north-south axis. Here is where she must have died before Jesus reached Kashmir, which was considered paradise, or heaven on earth. Even to this day this grave is maintained by Muslims as the resting place of Jesus’ mother because he (Isa) is considered one of the main prophets of Islam. However, the British knocked down the original shrine to Mother Mary to build a fort at that place because of the view over the surrounding area, and because they did not believe in Mary being buried there. Out of respect, the local people gathered the rocks of the grave and put them back near the original site. So, it is not in the same place as where the body was located.

Also near the villages of Naugam and Nilmag, about 40 kilometers south of Srinagar is a large plain called the Yuz Marg, the meadow of Jesus. It is said that from Murree, Jesus proceeded to Srinagar entering Kashmir from the pass now called Yuz Marg, and he rested at Aish Muqam, about 50 miles south of Srinagar, where a sanctuary was erected containing the horns of ‘God’s ram’ and a walking stick that is considered Moses’ stick, later used by Jesus. It is also here that some of the tribes of Israel are supposed to have settled after 722 BCE to live as shepherds, which is still a major occupation in the area today.

            More evidence of Jesus in Kashmir is found in an inscription that was carved on the sides of the steps at the threshold on the Throne of Solomon in Srinagar. Behind the Boulevard near Dal Lake is Shankaracharya Hill which rises 1100 feet above the city. At the summit is a Hindu temple for Shiva, but an earlier temple was built here around 200 BCE by Ashoka’s son. One temple that had been built was by King Laltaditya in the 6th century CE known as Gopadri. The road at the base of the hill where the State Government officials are located is still known as Gupkar road in connection with that temple. This is the oldest known site in Srinagar, believed to date back to 2500 BCE when the original sandstone structure had been built by King Sandiman. It is also said that the philosopher Shankaracharya visited Kashmir many centuries ago and had stayed on the hilltop to meditate. The top of the hill also provides a great view over the lake. But due to security reasons cameras are not allowed through the final checkpoint when going to the hilltop Shiva temple. The temple as we find it today is built on a high octagonal plinth, reached by a flight of 270 steps, the side walls of which used to have inscriptions on them. The main interior shrine is a small circular room with a lingam about three feet tall. A new ceiling has inscriptions in Persian which connects its origin to the reign of Shah Jahan. 

            The hill used to be called Takht-i-Sulaiman, the Throne of Solomon, which definitely represents some of the history of this region, and why some people think that King Solomon had been here. Other factors to consider is that there was an inscription on the remnants of the old building which states that the new temple was restored in 78 CE by King Gopadatta (or Gopananda), who ruled Kashmir from 49-109 CE. According to tradition, Solomon had visited the land of Kashmir. In fact, the local Muslims know Kashmir as “Bagh Suleiman,” the Garden of Solomon. This would go in accord with the theory that some scholars believe that Kashmir was the “Promised Land,” or the “Land of the Fathers” that the “ten lost tribes of Israel” wandered to in northern India where they found peace and tranquility. This was after they had moved eastwards when they had been driven out of Israel by the Assyrians, never to be heard from again. Therefore, it may have indeed been Solomon, as tradition declares, who divided the Barehmooleh Mountain and created an outlet for the water that later formed Dal Lake. He also may have constructed the original building of the Takht-i-Suleiman on top of what is now Shankaracharya Hill.

            The meaning of the inscriptions on the Throne of Solomon is described in detail by Mullah Nadiri, a historian during the rule of Sultan Zainul Aabidin, in 1413 in his book on the history of Kashmir, Tarikh-i-Kashmir. He relates that Gopananda, or Gopadatta, ruled Kashmir and had the Temple of Solomon refurbished by a Persian architect. During the renovation four sayings in ancient Persian were set in stone that said, in essence, that Bihishti Zagar is the constructor of these columns in the year of 54. Khwaja Rukun, son of Murjan, had these columns built. In the year 54, Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophetic calling. He is Jesus, prophet of the sons of Israel.

            Unfortunately, these inscriptions are another artifact that has been removed from the premises, so you can no longer find these carvings in the building if you try to look for them. Nonetheless, Mullah Nadiri goes on to relate that during the rule of Gopadatta, Yuz Asaf came from the Holy Land to the Kashmir valley and proclaimed to be a prophet and preached to the people. Gopadatta ruled sixty years and two months before he died. It is calculated that Jesus came to Kashmir nearly 16 years after the crucifixion and lived to be around 80 years old. Even the Koran (23.50 or 52) intimates that Jesus did not die on the cross, but survived the crucifixion and ascended to live in a peaceful hill-side watered by a fresh spring.

            All this seems to indicate that not only did Jesus come to India to learn the spiritual knowledge of the Vedic Brahmanas and Buddhists as other records have described, but after returning to his land of Israel to preach and was later crucified, he did not die on the cross but suffered and recovered. After that he ascended to heaven, known as Kashmir, where, after some years, he died and was buried in Srinagar.

            According to various records, during his missing years Jesus was supposed to have studied for four years at the temple of Jagannatha Puri. In this regard, the 145th Shankaracharya at Jagannatha Puri was asked if Jesus had come there, and he agreed that Jesus came to Puri. He explained that the truth of Jesus’ visit to India was hidden in order to propagate lies, rather than let it be known that he came to India to study amongst the Brahmanas to acquire his deeper spiritual knowledge. The Shankaracharya mentions that Jesus studied the Vedic code of conduct on being compassionate, merciful, forgiving, etc. But most Christians deny this.

            However, the book “The Life of Saint Issa” from the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh explains that he later criticized the Brahmanas and the caste system and later was forced to leave. Then he traveled north to Kapilavastu (present-day Lumbini), the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal, and studied with the Buddhists. This is said to be where he got more of his wisdom. Then he went to Lhasa in Tibet for five years. After that he went homeward and then to Greece for sometime before going on to Egypt. Then at the age of 25 he went to Heliopolis and studied for five more years before returning to his homeland at the age of 30.

            The Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, near Leh, is another place that I have been fortunate enough to visit. They have a big festival every year with masked dancers, and people from all over attend. It was here that one of the books that stirred great interest in the idea of Jesus going to India was discovered.

            “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ” by Nicolas Notovitch describes his finding a document on Issa at the Hemis Buddhist Monastery, which took place in 1886. He describes how he was there for several weeks after breaking his leg from a fall from his horse. After becoming acquainted with the monks, one showed him the document on the life of Issa, the name used in India for Jesus. He had the text translated, first into Russian, and then published it his book in France in 1894. Though critics such as Max Muller and others attacked Notovitch to debunk his claims, Notovitch in turn said he talked in private to a Catholic priest at the Vatican who told him that the Vatican library had 63 documents of various oriental languages that referred to Jesus traveling in India. These had been brought to the Vatican by missionaries from India, China and Arabia.

            Later, there were others who also claimed to have seen that same document or scroll at the Hemis Monastery on “The Life of Saint Issa.” This then helped confirm that Jesus studied amongst the Hindus and Buddhists and valued their teachings and learned from them, setting the example that his followers should also exhibit such respect and value for other religions.

            This document at Hemis was later seen by Swami Abhedananda who was able to read and translate it, which he discussed in his book, “Journey into Kashmir and Tibet.” He visited Hemis in 1922 and relates in his book how a monk showed him the manuscript while he was there. The monk told him it was an exact translation of the original that could be found in the Marbour Monastery near Lhasa, which was in the Pali language, while the Hemis one was in Tibetan. Swami Abhedananda lived at an ashrama called the RamaKrishna Vedanta Society in Kolkata, which you can still visit today. His book is also still available today and provides for very interesting reading.

            Nicolas Roerich, a Russian born Jew who converted to Christianity, claims to have also seen the Hemis Monastery document in 1926. 

            Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the document at the Hemis Monastery seems to have since disappeared with present day monks knowing nothing about it. Some feel that certain Christian missionaries or agents had gone there to deliberately confiscate it to prevent any such evidence from being available any longer.

            The story of Jesus’ crucifixion is also interesting because, generally, most people die on the cross by starvation or suffocation when the ribs press down on the lungs so that the person can no longer breathe. This often takes several days. According to tradition, Jesus was nailed on the cross in the early afternoon of a Friday and taken down as dusk was approaching, after being nailed on the cross for only four or five hours. So it is most unusual that a young and healthy person like Jesus died after only four hours on the cross. Thus, it is more likely that as a yogi he was able to enter an altered state and appear as if dead, only to be revived later. This is not uncommon with some yogis in India. Furthermore, there are modern commemorations of Jesus’ crucifixion wherein people are crucified every year in the Philippines and Mexico and survive quite easily. A person does not die of crucifixion after only four hours. Thus, it is quite likely that he survived the crucifixion and died elsewhere. 

            Nonetheless, there were no witnesses to any resurrection, and it certainly cannot be investigated historically. So there is plenty of room for speculation about this from all sides, and that is mostly what we have. However, if he had survived the crucifixion, it would make sense that he would want to leave Jerusalem and the area to be free from any threat from the Roman soldiers. Thus, there is the idea he went to Kashmir where some of the lost tribes of Israel are said to have relocated. Thus, even today, one can recognize similarities with the Jewish culture in Kashmir, such as with some of the foods, clothes, butcher knives, heart-shaped boat paddles, etc.

            Of course, when talking to most Christians, they are often convinced that Jesus never went to India. They feel that there would be no need for him to learn from any Hindus or Buddhists. Plus, the Bible gives no information about the 18 missing years of his life (between the ages of 12 and 30). But that is the question, what happened during those 18 years?

Except within certain esoteric circles the shrine itself had not been discussed for some time after Notovitch, Swami Abhedananda, and Nicolas Roerich had brought attention to it. Then it again came into the limelight when a local journalist, Aziz Kashmiri, argued in his 1973 book, Christ in Kashmir, that Jesus survived the crucifixion some 2,000 years ago, migrated to Kashmir and was buried in Srinagar. The modest stone building with traditional multi-tiered roof again slipped into oblivion but came into focus again in 2002 when Suzanne Olsson arrived in Srinagar, claiming to be Christ’s ‘59th descendant’ and seeking DNA testing of the shrine’s remains. 

Olsson, though, doesn’t seem to be alone in her conviction. There are some who support her view. Renowned Kashmiri academic Fida Hassnain’s 1994 book, A Search for the Historical Jesus, was about this legend. Later, he co-authored a book on the subject with Olsson, Roza Bal the Tomb of Jesus. The stories of Jesus in India date back to the 19th century and now find mention in a plethora of texts by scholars of varied persuasions — Islamic, Buddhist and Christian.

CONCLUSION

             In the end, even after visiting the Roza Bal, what you think of it or believe about it all depends on your research, what books you read, or who you talk to about it. The conclusion is yours, but if you do look into it, at least you have taken the privilege to ask and to investigate the issue rather than remain in the confines of some dogmatic dictates hammered into you by others. In the end, truth prevails, but sometimes it may take some time for the truth to become clear.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

James Deardorff has also done some serious research on this topic, which you can see at his website www.tjresearch.info/legends.htm.

Suzanne Olsson, author of “Roza Bal: The Tomb of Jesus” with Dr. Fida Hassnain, has also done much research, as described in her books and her website at: www.jesus-kashmir-tomb.com.

Arif Khan, editor of the www.tombofjesus.com website, has made an attempt to gather all such knowledge and evidence concerning the issue of Jesus in India. A variety of photos and a few videos of the tomb of the tomb of Jesus in Srinagar can be found on his website, which is especially helpful for those who have not or cannot go there.

Interfaith Marriages: What Young Dharmists Should Know

Interfaith Marriages:

What Young Dharmists Should Know

By Dr. Dilip Amin, Ph. D.

            

            Introduction by Stephen Knapp. I want to thank Dr. Dilip Amin for putting this thoughtful information together. Interfaith marriages are becoming an increasingly important topic among Dharmic parents. Personally, when it comes to interfaith marriages, I have seen only a few of them really work out. When a Hindu marries someone of another religion, often the spouse who is Muslim or Christian expects the Hindu to immediately or eventually convert. This may be due to a number of factors that are not always obvious at the beginning of the marriage, such a family pressure, or the birth of children, etc. This is especially the case when a Hindu girl marries an Abrahamic spouse. Even if the spouse does not expect conversion, then at least the children are expected to be raised to become Christians or Muslims. Rarely is this otherwise. Even if the children are exposed to both religions and left to make their own decisions about which religion to follow, it is generally found that within one, two, or at most three generations, that family is no longer connected to the Vedic tradition.

However, I have seen marriages work out nicely when, for example, a converted western Hindu male or Dharmist marries an Indian Hindu female, or vice versa, and plan to raise their children in the Vedic tradition. Or even when two converted Hindus marry each other. But when a Dharmic follower marries a person of the Abrahamic faith, the future can be turbulent with unexpected consequences and problems, especially when children are born. Therefore, I do not advise anyone who wants to make sure their family continues in the Dharmic tradition to enter into an interfaith marriage. You simply cannot be sure of what is going to happen, and much heartbreak and turmoil can result. The following two articles below by Dr. Dilip Amin will make this clearer. 

 

Part I

Summary: Now more and more young people are making friends and engaging in interfaith relationships leading to marriage, many times without realizing the complexities associated with their decision. This message will help Dharmic (Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist) young adults to help them make more informed decisions before committing to marry a person of the Abrahamic faiths (Christian, Jew, and Muslim).
                                                           
As the former president of a Balvihar, I only regret one point of our collective inaction: though we had taught our kids about our religion, we failed to teach them the practical aspects of interacting with young people from other faiths. In the Western world, it is quite common that young adults date those from other faiths during their college years, therefore it should come as no surprise that about a third of our young generation of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists (Dharmic) marry a person from outside of these Dharmic faith traditions (http://www.prlog.org/10139529).

 In almost all cases where a non-Dharmic life partner is selected, the decision is made by our young adults without pre-emptive advice, guidance, or consultation with their parents. As cited in this article, religious differences could bring complexities in their married life, starting with an unintended religious conversion of Dharmic and their progeny to the faith of their intended spouse. Further, divorce rates in interfaith marriages are double compared to within the same faith marriages (http://www.religioustolerance.org/ifm_divo.htm). For these reasons, it is increasingly important for our young adults to understand potential complications before entering into a serious relationship, ideally during the years in which they still reside under their parents’ roofs.

While interfaith relationships should develop based on a mutual respect for religious diversity, sometimes major differences in fundamental beliefs (http://www.religioustolerance.org/ifm_bibl.htm ;  http://www.zawaj.com/articles/interfaith_marriage_iv.html) pose difficulties in finding a common ground.

Dharmics carry this tolerant attitude that all faiths help you attain God, and everyone should respect not only their own religion, but other religions as well. But this tolerant attitude is not universal. Many families belonging to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (Abrahamic) believe in the supremacy of their ‘monotheistic’ dogma. Their holy books reject what they consider ‘polytheistic’ beliefs of Dharma. For example, Hindus believe that although the Ultimate Reality can be worshiped in many forms (Saguna Brahman), but this recognition and practice is forbidden in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and poses a serious issue when it comes to puja or worship (which is considered very bad -‘idol’ worship by Abrahamics).

 According to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”
Another example, Islam forbids marriage with a non-believer (in Allah). Non-believers are expected to convert to Islam by taking the Sahadah oath, the declaration that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad as his apostle. A similar practice also exists in some Christian sects where there is often intense pressure from family members and the clergy to perform a religious conversion of a Dharmist by Baptism before the church wedding. An uninformed Dharmist will only discover the often times unmentioned expectation of religious conversion after years of being in a romantic relationship. At this point, reluctantly accepting the religious conversion may be the only way of averting a marital grid-lock.

Religious conversion may be a matter of just a brief ceremony, but do not underestimate this ritual as a trivial matter. Taking this oath will set a tone for your life and your children’s lives. You will soon find out that the conversion was not just a matter of satisfying the sentimental obsession of the parents-in-law, but a binding commitment guarded by every member of the new community. As per the Sahadah oath, you will be forbidden to display an image of Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, or Lord Ganesh, or any other deity in your own home since associating partners with Allah is the greatest of all sins. Offering prayers or supplications to anyone, living or dead, is an unpardonable sin. Furthermore, attempting to later reclaim yourself as a Dharmist, even after talaak (divorce), could be seriously punishable by death or life imprisonment by some Middle Eastern countries’ laws.  Therefore, one should be prepared to accept conversion to a new religion as a serious and irreversible process.

 Most conflicts in inter-religious marriages will surface after you have children. For Abrahamics, it is vital that children from their marriage follow only the rules of their individual holy book. A Muslim spouse and the community may demand your kids have sunat (religious circumcision) and bear only an Arabic name. A Jewish person may not ask for a religious conversion for the spouse but may want Bris circumcision to declare the Jewish faith for the child. A Christian spouse may require Baptism of children and require them (and you too) to attend Church every Sunday, while you may wish to take your child to the Mandir or Balvihar.

 Another major consideration is about the expectation for family planning. I know of a case where an Ahmedabadi young Patel already has five kids because her Catholic husband did not believe in birth control.  Did she know and realize the consequences of her interfaith relationship while dating in college?

In the truest sense, marriage is a secular act and not a religious one. Unfortunately, some religious leaders and communities would like to use the wedding as a tool for their ambition of religious expansion. I learned of a case in Boston where without the Sahadah and Islamic wedding (nikaah), the wedding was denounced by a local Imam and most Muslim relatives did not attend the wedding reception party. In almost all cases of a Hindu-Muslim marriage in which both Muslim and Hindu ceremonies are performed, the religious conversion to Islam (Sahadah) is performed first. Then it is followed by the Muslim wedding ceremony (nikaah) and after that by the Hindu ceremony (Vivah). Similarly, in many church weddings declaration of faith to Christianity is a mandatory requirement. Therefore, technically speaking, after conversion to Islam or Christian faith has been performed, the Hindu ceremony is a totally superfluous oxymoron – because it is a ‘Muslim to Muslim’ or ‘Christian to Christian’ wedding performed by a Hindu priest! In such a wedding, do celebrating Hindus really know what why they are celebrating?

While investigating the possibility of a relationship with those from other religions, be sure to find out if there is going to be any pressure to convert for you and your future kids from not just your future life partner, but also from his or her family members and religious community. Not all Abrahamics impose their religious beliefs and practices on their spouse, but it is very important to find out the facts sooner than later. It is also important to note that despite all the potential marital pitfalls, a successful and fulfilling inter-religious marriage is possible, ideally, by not imposing one’s respective religious beliefs on the other partner. A similar message has been given in Jodhaa Akbar, Gadar, and Namastey London movies. Bollywood star Rhitik Roshan and Suzanne Khan kept the religions out and got married by a civil wedding, and it is an admirable act. If someone you are dating cannot show you this same respect and expects you to forsake your own religion for marriage, even just in name sake, you must ask yourself if you are prepared to tolerate the intolerance being practiced against you.

 Should one consider a religious conversion for marriage and for their kids? Read answers to frequently asked questions in   http://artilib.org/20000918-faq-on-interfaith-marriages-my-pride.html, which also follows this article.
Before entering into a relationship, one should have an open dialog about religious expectations (especially the conversion business) and recognize the far reaching consequences. Though dealing with this issue early on will obviously be important for the well being of the couple, it is also a significant issue for their children, not to mention the couple’s extended families who take pride in preserving their religious and cultural traditions that have been passed down for generations and generations.

 Well-informed and well-thought out decisions for selecting a life mate will certainly bring long lasting happiness in a married life, even if it is an interfaith marriage. But most importantly is that we want to make sure we will have the freedom to follow our traditions and raise our children to do the same without threats to this liberty created by our spouse and his or her relatives.
 

PART II

 Questions About Interfaith Marriages 

 Summary: As the world is getting smaller, people with diverse backgrounds are coming closer. Consequently, more and more young people are making friends and engaging in interfaith relationships leading to marriage, many times without realizing the complexities associated with their decision.  

 These questions and answers are prepared with the objective of educating young people of ALL faiths to help them make more informed decisions before committing to marriage.

 What is the main message here?

 Interfaith relationships should be based on mutual respect for both faiths, and marriage should be solemnized without imposing religious conversion on a spouse. After marriage, both spouse’s faiths should get equal respect and consideration in home life and raising children.

 

Is religious conversion for marriage wrong?

 Not if it is discussed early on in the relationship and agreed to by both parties, without coercion. Some conservative Islamic and Christian families still believe in the superiority of their faiths, thus forcing the spouse of any other faith to convert to their faith before an Islamic Nikaah or a church wedding can take place. Such expectations should be discussed upfront before getting deep into a relationship. To ask an intended spouse to give up his or her religion just before the wedding IS UNETHICAL. In such cases, the coerced spouse feels cheated at a time when they expected to experience some of the sweetest memories of their life. It harbors a doubt in their heart if a spouse deceptively practiced proselytism under the guise of love.

 

What is wrong if one converts to a new faith just for marriage, as far as allowed to practice his/her own faith after the marriage?

 Be careful– Religious conversion is not a hollow ritual devoid of any meaning or consequences. Let’s take a Christian-Muslim marriage as an example. As per the Sahadah oath to convert to Islam for Nikaah, you accept and declare that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his apostle. Further, you acknowledge that associating others (like Jesus) with Allah is the greatest of all sins. Similarly, baptism before a church wedding means conversion to Christianity and a commitment to repudiate former practices (of Islam) and to live with Christ forever. You must ask yourself what is your intention?

 

Do my children have to convert too?

 This should be the MOST CRITICAL question in interfaith relationships, even if there was no conversion required for the marriage ceremony. Ask if your intended spouse expects your sons and daughters to have baptism, bris (for Jews) or sunat to declare their faith for life.

 

How a decision to select a faith is usually made?

 In most cases, the decision for selection of the faith for the spouse and children is made to please the more rigid and intolerant spouse, or the more stubborn parents / community. 

 

Are the above questions relevant to Hindus?

 The ‘Dharmic’ religions (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists) are not normally accepted or tolerated by the Abrahamic “People of the Book” in a marriage. Hindus believe in one Supreme God, but they are free to worship the same God in many forms. However, this practice is forbidden in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and poses a serious issue when it comes to ‘Puja’ or the worship of various Dharmic/Hindu forms of God. According to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods (e.g. Ganesh) before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God … punishing children for the inequity of parents, to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.”

 

Can we teach our children both religions?

 It is difficult. Young kids get confused with mixed and often conflicting messages. For example, when you take them to a Hindu or Jain temple, you ask them to believe in, respect, and bow to several forms of God. But when you take them to a mosque or church, they hear just the opposite, exclusive, and intolerant messages. When confronted with such duplicity, children lose faith in any God or religion.

 

My spouse is open-minded and we could get around these religious expectations.

 Remember, a marriage is not just the union of two individuals but, believe it not, a union of two families and two communities. It is ethical to be upfront and honest about your intentions with your new family rather than building life-long relationships on deception and lies.

 

I’m not so religious; I don’t mind religious conversion for marriage to please my spouse.

 Life is full of changes. In general, people tend to return to their roots as they age, especially when they have children. How will you feel if you find yourself irreversibly locked into unintended practices?

 

Conversion is only a formality, why not do it just to please my spouse and his/her family?

 The religious conversion is not a one time deal; you are setting a new tone for your life. If you feed a shark, it will come back again for more food. Similarly, religious conversion for marriage will be followed by the expectation of a declaration of faith for your children via baptism, bris or sunat. Later, you may be forbidden to practice your own religion so children would not learn and follow it. Also, your spouse or his/her family may not like to be part of a religious activity while at your parent’s home. When your fantasy love period ends and it transforms into a routine married life, then these issues may become sore points in your life.

 

My spouse didn’t know before but is asking now for conversion to please his/her parents.

 Do not be convinced by the old trick of playing innocent. Every one uses that. If after living with the same parents and community for most of their life, he or she should have known of their parents and community’s expectations. If he/she had not, then you have the right to question his or her intelligence.

 

What is the true test that my intended spouse is not a religious fanatic?

 Simple! Just ask for two promises, the second one being the more important:        

1)  No religious conversion for marriage; and

2)  No baptism, bris or sunat for your children.

 

But what if he or she does not agree?

 If someone you are dating lacks tolerance for what you believe in and expects you to forsake your own religion for marriage, even just in name sake, you must ask yourself if you are prepared to tolerate the intolerance that is being practiced against you.

 

Why do so many marriages end in divorce?

 Some of the major reasons are miscalculated expectations and the resulting complaints that my “spouse changed” after the marriage. Before entering into an interfaith relationship, find out sooner than later, if he or she has true tolerance for what you are.

 

Is a fulfilling relationship possible in an interfaith marriage?

 Yes, if the interfaith relationship is based on true mutual tolerance for religious diversity. But to find that is more difficult and challenging than most people think.

 

Additional References:

 What Hindu youths go through while dating: http://community.beliefnet.com/forums/showthread.php?t=21316

What Bible says about inter-faith marriages http://www.religioustolerance.org/ifm_bibl.htm

Islamic views on Marriage to Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians   http://www.zawaj.com/articles/interfaith_marriage_iv.html

Interfaith divorce rates: http://www.religioustolerance.org/ifm_divo.htm

Rutgers University research on marriage: http://marriage.rutgers.edu/Publications/pubtenthingsyoungadults.htm 
Author:  Dilip Amin, Ph. D.

A past President of Plymouth Balvihar and a medical research scientist.

Contact: DilipAmin@yahoo.com

Why Be Vegetarian

Why Be Vegetarian

By Stephen Knapp

 

      On the spiritual path, there are several reasons why a person is recommended to be vegetarian. One primary reason is that we need to see the spiritual nature within all living beings, and that includes the animals and other creatures as well. Universal brotherhood means nonviolence to both humans and animals. It consists of understanding that animals also have souls. They are alive, conscious, and feel pain. And these are the indications of the presence of consciousness, which is the symptom of the soul. Even the Bible (Genesis 1.21; 1.24; 1.30; 2.7; and in many other places) refers to both animals and people as nefesh chayah, living souls. Those who eat meat, however, because of their desires to eat animals or see them as a source of food for one’s stomach, are not so easily able to understand the spiritual nature of all beings. After all, if you know that all living entities are spiritual in essence, and that all living beings that are conscious show the symptoms of the soul within, then how can you kill them unnecessarily? Any living creature is also the same as we are in the respect that it is also a child of the same father, a part of the same Supreme Being. Thus, the killing of animals shows a great lack in spiritual awareness.

      Many portions of the Vedic literature describe how the Supreme Being is the maintainer of innumerable living entities, humans as well as the animals, and is alive in the heart of every living being. Only those with spiritual consciousness can see the same Supreme Being in His expansion as Supersoul within every creature. To be kind and spiritual toward humans and be a killer or enemy toward animals is not a balanced philosophy, and exhibits one’s spiritual ignorance.

      The next reason for being vegetarian is to consider the amount of fear and suffering that animals experience in the slaughter industry. There are countless stories of how in fear cows cry, scream, and sometimes fall down dead while inside or even before they are taken into the slaughter house. Or how the veins of dead pigs are so big that it shows they have practically exploded from the fear the pig felt and the adrenalin that was produced while it was being led to slaughter. This certainly causes an immense amount of violence to permeate the atmosphere, which goes out and falls back on us in some form. Furthermore, the adrenalin and fear in the animal also produces toxins which then permeate the body of these animals, which meat-eaters ingest. People who consume such things cannot help but be effected by it. It causes tensions within them individually, which then spreads in their relations with others.

      The ancient Vedic text of the Manu-samhita (5.45-8) says, “He who injures innoxious beings from a wish to give himself pleasure never finds happiness, neither living nor dead. He who does not seek to cause the suffering of bonds and death to living creatures, but desires the good of all beings, obtains endless bliss. . . Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat.”

      The Bible (Romans 14.21) also says, “It is neither good to eat flesh, nor to drink wine.” Another biblical commandment (Exodus 23.5) instructs us to help animals in pain, even if they belong to an enemy.

      The Buddhist scripture (Sutta-Nipata 393) also advises: “Let him not destroy or cause to be destroyed any life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world.” It is also said in the Buddhist scripture, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.”

      For Jews, the Talmud (Avodah Zorah 18B) forbids the association with hunters, not to mention engaging in hunting.

      In the New Testament Jesus preferred mercy over sacrifice (Matthew 9.13; 12.7) and was opposed to the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21.12-14; Mark 11.15; John 2.14-15). One of the missions of Jesus was to do away with animal sacrifice and cruelty to animals (Hebrews 10.5-10).

      We especially find in Isaiah where Jesus scorns the slaughter and bloodshed of humans and animals. He declares (1.15) that God does not hear the prayers of animal killers: “But your iniquities have separated you and your God. And your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear. For your hands are stained with blood. . . Their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed innocent blood. . . they know not the ways of peace.” Isaiah also laments that he saw, “Joy and merrymaking, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine, as you thought, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (22.13)

      It is also established in the Bible (Isaiah 66.3), “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” In this regard St. Basil (320-379 A.D.) taught, “The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts.”

      Thus, we should find alternatives to killing animals to satisfy our appetites, especially when there are plenty of other healthy foods available. Otherwise, there must be reactions to such violence. We cannot expect peace in the world if we go on unnecessarily killing so many millions of animals for meat consumption or through abuse.

      The third factor for being vegetarian is karma. As Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. On the universal scale this is called the law of karma, meaning what goes around comes around. This affects every individual, as well as communities and countries. As the nation sows, so shall it reap. This is something we should take very seriously, especially in our attempt to bring peace, harmony, and unity into the world. If so much violence is produced by the killing of animals, where do you think the reactions to this violence goes? It comes back to us in so many ways, such as the form of neighborhood and   community  crime,   and  on  up  to  world wars. Violence breeds violence. Therefore, this will continue unless we know how to change.

      Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, asked, “How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?” He went on to say, “I personally believe that as long as human beings will go shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”

      In conclusion, we can mention the March 10, 1966 issue of L’Osservatore della Domenica, the Vatican weekly newspaper, in which Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini wrote: “Man’s conduct with regard to animals should be regulated by right reason, which prohibits the infliction of purposeless pain and suffering on them. To ill treat them, and make them suffer without reason, is an act of deplorable cruelty to be condemned from a Christian point of view. To make them suffer for one’s own pleasure is an exhibition of sadism which every moralist must denounce.” Eating animals for the pleasure of one’s tongue when there are plenty of other foods available certainly fits into this form of sadism. It stands to reason that this is counterproductive to any peace and unity or spiritual progress we wish to make. It is one of the things we need to consider seriously if we want to improve ourselves or the world. So here are a few reasons why a genuinely spiritual person will choose to be vegetarian.

  

BEYOND VEGETARIANISM

      In the process of bhakti-yoga, devotion goes beyond simple vegetarianism, and food becomes a means of spiritual progress. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” So offering what we eat to the Lord is an integral part of bhakti-yoga and makes the food blessed with spiritual potencies. Then such food is called prasadam, or the mercy of the Lord.

      The Lord also describes what He accepts as offerings: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” Thus, we can see that the Lord accepts fruits, grains, and vegetarian foods. The Lord does not accept foods like meat, fish or eggs, but only those that are pure and naturally available without harming others.

      So on the spiritual path eating food that is first offered to God is the ultimate perfection of a vegetarian diet. The Vedic literature explains that the purpose of human life is reawakening the soul’s original relationship with God, and accepting prasadam is the way to help us reach that goal.

When Religions Create Divisions and How to Avoid it

When Religions Create

 Divisions

And How to Avoid It

By Stephen Knapp

Religion is supposed to bring us closer to God, which should certainly uplift us and show us that we are all spiritual beings. In that way we are united. This understanding could give us a central focus for general intentions of goodwill and cooperation. However, this is not how it has gone. This is mostly because each religion implies, or comes right out and says, that it is the best or the only way to God. All others are inferior and should be ignored, dominated, pushed away, or even destroyed by force. In this way, one of the most difficult of all things to break down are the barriers between us that have been caused by our religions.

A first-class religion is not the one that claims it is the highest religion. The first-class religion is that which teaches or trains one perfectly how to love God. That is first-class. And in such a first-class religion, no one will claim to be better than any other. That is because he or she will naturally see that we all have the same Supreme Father. The only difference between any of us is in the level of spiritual understanding we have, and how united we are to the Supreme Being. Otherwise, spiritually we are all the same, and whatever our bodily situation may be is temporary.

If you feel that your religion is the best of all others, it is natural to be loyal or appreciate what it has done for you. However, if you feel superior to others because of being a Muslim, or Christian, or something, then that is where your religion has failed. For you to feel that way means that it has provided you with incomplete knowledge. You have not made much spiritual advancement. If your religion has failed to bring you to the spiritual platform in which you can see the spiritual similarities between you and all other creatures, regardless of caste, creed, culture, or species, then your religion has failed. Or you have failed to follow it properly, or to its ultimate goal. It may have brought you to the path of being pious, but it has not brought you to the point of true love of God and spiritual vision. Real love of God includes the spiritual love for all others, without prejudice, bias, or condescending attitudes. If you have not attained this level, then you still have much progress to make either in your own religion or by adding the help of another more complete source of spiritual knowledge. Those who are not understanding in this way and criticize different systems of religion due to jealousy, envy, malice, or a sense of superiority, are simply revealing themselves to be very immature. They do not cherish love toward their own God, but show more regard for vain quarrels and contentions.

In Ashoka’s Edicts it is rightfully stated, “Never think or say your religion is the best. Never denounce the religion of others. But honor in them whatever is worthy of honor.” After all, what good is a religion which condemns everybody else’s philosophy or symbols for God except its own? Some religions say that if God is represented in a form, beautiful or symbolic, or is established in a Deity, then it is heathen or superstition, so it is bad. But if God comes in the form of a dove, burning bush, or a pillar of fire, it is holy. This is completely contradictory to the understanding of the omnipotent ability of the Supreme.

In all religions throughout the world, the external differences are easily noticed. These may be in regard to rituals, posture, clothing, food, behavior, or sanctity. There will be differences in conceptions of God and the objects of worship, or in the name of God because of differences in language or traditions. So it is natural that religions of the world may become disunited because of these differences. But it is very improper that there should be quarrel among them on the grounds of this disunion. We should, as mature servants of God, think that the religion of others still holds the same worship of the same Highest Entity as my religion, my God. Their practice may be different and I may not understand it, so I appreciate my own religion. However, there is only one God, therefore I also respect this form of worship and offer my prayers to God who is being worshiped in a different way.

For example, the Jewish tradition has always implied that a Jewish soul has an advantage over non-Jews to realize or love God, but Judaism itself provides evidence to indicate otherwise. One quote that affirms that anyone has the ability to realize God, regardless of his race, religion, or sex, is: “Elijah said, ‘I bring heaven and earth to bear witness that any human being, Jew or Gentile, man or woman, freeman or slave, according to his deeds, can become worthy of Rauch HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, the transcendental experience.” (Tana DeBei Eliahu Rabba 9, Bahir II. 94)

God does not favor one sect or religion over another, but monitor’s one’s sincerity, devotion, surrender, and willingness to help and love others. And God reciprocates with one to the same degree of his or her devotion and sincerity. God is not the kind of being who favors only one sect and allows all others to be damned. Everyone is a part of God, otherwise they would not be here, and He cares for all.

In order to show His concern, God sends not just one but as many messengers and representatives as it takes to help guide and deliver all beings from material existence. The essence of that message, and all genuine religion, is the same. They all teach that we should not get stuck in material life, but to keep moving toward pure spiritual existence. The essential method in all religions by which this is accomplished is simple: Love God, love all others as parts of God, and act in that way at all times. The Supreme Being has made it simple. It is only humanity that has created the confusion found in the divisions of religions.

From this it is clear that God is the Lord of all beings, and in many ways. God is a multi-faceted being, unlimited in knowledge, ability, character, and personality. If a person is so narrow that he or she can hold allegiance to one faith while condemning all others, he or she will understand God only through that way. They will not know, nor will they be able to understand, that they can realize different aspects of God through other religions or spiritual paths. It is often seen that the most fundamental religions are the most limited in their understanding of God, and also carry with it the extra luggage of prejudice and condemnation of all other religions and cultures. It goes back to the principle that people who know the least about something are also the most fearful about what they do not understand.

Only religionists who are inexperienced and not conversant with spiritual Truth consider their ways as good and superior while hating the ways of others. They may even destroy the temples and images of God of other religions. Thus, they actually show their hatred of God. All good men will refrain from such actions, and all those who engage in such deeds show their improper and animalistic mentality.

However, those religions with real faults–such as being atheistic, materialistic, rejecting the soul or the existence of the Supreme, or using evil methods in its worship–should not be regarded as genuine religions. Their doctrines are antagonistic to true spiritual love and can never please the Supreme Being.

We also need to understand that there is no such thing as two Supreme Beings, or a God of one religion and a God of another. Such distinctions are made through ignorance. God is one. The Absolute Truth is one. So how can there be two religions? When followers of different religions quarrel about Truth, it is a sign that they have yet to experience Truth. Rather than seeking an experience of the Truth, they spend their time in quarrels, nurturing their prejudices against others. They are still far away from God. The word religion comes from the Latin religio, which means to bind to God. If a religion does not teach how to directly link with God, to love, respect, and have regard for all others as His parts and parcels, then it can hardly be called religion.

Once again, God is one. There cannot be two. If there is another, then there is competition. And the one God is neither Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or anything else. Such classifications relate only in the way God is worshiped. Real religion does not mean that we stamp this person a Christian, someone else a Muslim, or Hindu, or a Jain. Such designations are names that have nothing to do with the reality of the soul. Unity between us will never be established by emphasizing such designations on the material platform. So if God is one, why should there be quarrels between those who worship the one God in different ways? There should be no such quarrels, unless they think they are worshiping a different God and feel their God is superior to the God of others. Such a mentality is childish.

Religion means to understand God and to abide by His laws. It means to understand the nature of the soul, which is to love and be loved, and to serve the ultimate lovable object, the Supreme Lover–God. In this way, every living being is a servant of the Supreme Being. Religion means to understand that God is great. We are subordinate. It means to understand that God is the greatest friend and proprietor. He takes care of us. Furthermore, the ultimate purpose of religion is to regain your love for God and to return to God. This means you rise above earthly desires and designations and transcend material life. This is the real unity and purpose of life that we all share. Based on this essential principle, we should all serve, understand and love God. There is no difference. We may pursue different religions, but that is diversity in unity because we all worship the same God. When we realize that, then there can be peace and harmony.

Another way of looking at our unity is in the concept described in the Vedas that explain that one form of the Lord is the universe. We all exist within this universal form of God. None of us are disconnected from Him. Furthermore, none of us are disconnected from each other. Each and every one of us has a particular function in relation to the universal form of God. Although each one of us may have different responsibilities, nonetheless, carrying out our functions within this world in relation to the universal form of God gives unity and harmony between all living beings throughout the world. However, the disruption of discharging our spiritual nature is the cause of disharmony between the living beings. So in order to achieve real peace and unity, we should recognize the fact that everything in this world and everyone is a part of this universal form of the Lord. Everything is an expansion of the Supreme’s energy. No one is independent. Everyone and everything is connected. There are many diverse manifestations of God’s energy. And although our bodies may not all look and act the same, we are all one in the Supreme’s universal form. This is unity in diversity. When life is based on living in this truth by understanding the universal nature of the Supreme and His creation, then embracing universal love and compassion is a normal state of being.

This unity in diversity can be seen in observing the essence of any culture or religion. What we first notice are the superficialities, such as the dress, the outward formalities, the customs, rituals, and festivals. But deeper than this we find the basis of the culture’s origin, the history of its development, the explanation of its philosophy, and the meaning and purpose of its rituals and customs. Still deeper is the essence and goal of the religion. As already pointed out, that essence is based on the principle that the follower should learn and engage in the process of serving, glorifying, and loving the Supreme Being. So, on the essential platform, there is really not much that differentiates the ultimate goals of the world’s major religions. The only difference in the authentic religions is the time in history in which they appeared, the place where they existed, and the people who were taught. But due to these factors there may be lesser or greater differences in doctrines, beliefs, and rituals. And depending on the intellectual ability of the people who were taught, there may be more or less spiritual knowledge that was provided. Thus, there are different levels of scripture. Some are more direct and complete than others in the same way an unabridged dictionary is more complete than one that is abridged; though they both contain the same type of information. So once again we find the basis of unity in diversity.

The most important difference, however, is the depth of philosophical understanding and spiritual knowledge each particular religious process has to offer, and the level of spiritual realization the aspirant can attain by following the process. It is a fact that all true religious paths can lead to God, but such deep experience is beyond the grasp of fundamental and materially motivated religions that are based on national or cultural traditions and feelings of superiority because of race or geographical region. Such religions fail in their attempts to promote universal or spiritual brotherhood because they lack the spiritual knowledge and potency necessary to do so. Furthermore, because of this deficiency, they cannot give their followers the process that will enable them to become fully spiritually realized. So they remain biased against others because they cannot rise above the materialistic vision that causes them to focus on superficial differences, such as race, creed, cultural background, sex, or dress.

So how do we solve this problem that keeps people of different religions or cultures from accepting each other and working together? It is both easy and difficult. The easy part is to understand that the people merely have to be willing to share their spiritual knowledge with each other. They can all keep their own traditions, holidays, festivals, and rituals, but the essential knowledge and science of the individual souls, the Supreme Soul, and the relationship between them is what is important and what can be easily shared. This spiritual science is not explained more thoroughly than in the Vedic literature (as has been summarized in one of my previous books, The Secret Teachings of the Vedas). In fact, comprehending this knowledge of the Absolute Truth is necessary for everyone’s spiritual advancement, regardless of which spiritual process one is inclined to accept. There must be this kind of open and respectful exchange across global and cultural boundaries in order for peace and unity between all societies to exist. The hard part is to get people to agree to do this. But in some cases you have to look at other cultures and their philosophical systems to get answers that are not provided elsewhere.

In fact, the Bible agrees with the idea of researching other scripture for answers. In II Timothy (3.16-17) we find the following quote: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished in all good works.” Therefore, it is without a doubt that all scripture everywhere is meant to uplift our consciousness. Such being the case, it is not contradictory to see similarities in various scriptures and spiritual cultures, and it actually adds to and proves the glory of God amongst all nations. The following quote elaborates on this point:

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth My word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? . . . Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all My words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, 29.7, 10-11)

The above quote is not unlike the Bible verse in Romans (10.12-13): “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

We herewith have the reasoning why all our petty quarrels, whether between Catholics and Protestants, Hindus and Muslims, nation and nation, are nothing more than a sign of our ignorance and animalistic tendencies which actually disqualify us from making any spiritual advancement. We may think we are a chosen people, but if we have no spiritual vision to see the unity between all people, then the “promised land” is a lot farther away than we think. For God remembers all of us and, indeed, supplies all nations the knowledge by which they can spiritually advance and live peacefully, depending on their ability to understand and use it. After all, those who are sincerely trying to advance are all sons of God, as verified in Romans (8.14): “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” A similar statement is in John (1.12): “But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Thus, we are all God’s children, as also confirmed by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-gita (9.17-18) in which He says that He is the father of the universe, the mother, the grandfather, the object of knowledge, the purifier, the sacred om, and the Rig, Sama, and Yajur Vedas. He is the goal, the support, the master, the witness, the abode, and the most dear friend. Krishna also says (Bg.7.6) that He is the origin and dissolution of the entire universe, and (Bg.4.35) by knowing the Truth you will see that all beings are a part of Him and belong to Him. Thus, by understanding how we are all spiritually related, all sincere souls will find no difficulty in harmoniously working together and helping one another to understand the laws of the Supreme and advance accordingly, whether we are brother and brother, or nation and nation.

So if we are all spiritually related and can find similarities in the basic law of all religions, then what is the difficulty in cooperating with each other within the essential principles of all religions? And what is the essential principle we are all meant to follow? The essence of the law, as found in the Vedic, the Judaic, the Christian, the Islamic, and other cultures, instructs us to surrender to God and work together to please Him according to His instructions. For example, when the Pharisees asked Jesus which was the great commandment in the law, he told them: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22.37-38) Lord Krishna taught the same thing in Bhagavad-gita: “Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall protect you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Bg.18.65-66)

In the Koran (9.112) we find it said that those who turn to God in repentance and serve and praise Him, and engage in devotion to God, who bow down and pray, who do good and avoid evil, will rejoice. So proclaim these glad tidings to the believers. We also find it said (19.65) that everyone should worship the Lord of the heavens and the earth and be patient in constant worship. For who is worthy of the same name as God?

In Zoroastrianism it is believed that a person must live according to the religious tenets if one hopes to joyfully go before the Creator in the next world. The best of all practices is the worship of God, for all are servants of God. So one must lead a righteous life since it is one’s thoughts, words, and deeds that determine one’s next life after death. Similarly, in Sikhism we find the precept that a true follower serves the Supreme Soul alone.

All of this information makes it clear that regardless of which religious system you choose, they all have the same purpose, and they all give the same principles. In this way, they are all united in their essential goals, the most important of which is to bring the living beings to the stage of cooperation in love of God. Obviously, our love for God will be shown by how much we cooperate with one another.

Unfortunately, before we reach this advanced stage we are in the lower levels of understanding. This immature level of love can take on the characteristics of a blind and fanatical allegiance to a particular process of religious expression rather than attachment to real love for God. In this situation, one may proudly and unnecessarily feel that he is on the highest path, and then will denounce every other process and culture without the proper spiritual understanding of himself or others. This is nothing more than sentimentality and fanaticism. Real love of God, which also displays love for all other living beings, will not develop within a person if he or she harbors such a divisive mentality. People who show their love for their own religion by hating all others will spiritually stagnate and cause disharmony and quarrels between those of their religion and those of others. Someone may be a kind, generous, and devout person amongst those of his own culture, while ready to howl, insult, hate, and do injury to those of another. This is love of the lowest level, similar to the way a dog may love its master and will show it by snarling at anyone else. Only those individuals and dry forms of religion that are bereft of real spiritual knowledge look at all others with hate and suspicion.

Only when one’s consciousness becomes mature does this form of fanaticism or immature enthusiasm subside. Then real love and respect for all will naturally emanate from that person. As one becomes closer to the all-loving Supreme Being by the development of his own love for God, no longer can he be an instrument of hatred or prejudice because he sees everyone equally with spiritual vision. Thus, he walks away from the animalistic quarrels and wars that others take so seriously due to their ignorance of spiritual reality.

We have to remember that we are in this world but not of it. We are all spiritual beings who are temporarily residing in the material creation. It is futile to try and make a permanent home here, or attempt to be fully content and happy by being absorbed in material pleasures. This world does not and never will offer that kind of accommodation. A spiritual being in the material world, which is what we all are, is like a fish out of water: It is an incompatible situation. So we must understand the reality of our circumstance, that we are all transients evolving in a temporary situation on our way from one point of existence to another. So what is this life? It is nothing more than a moment on our great path towards full enlightenment. The world primarily is a field for activity which we can use to evolve to a higher state of being, and the body is the tool or vehicle in which we engage in those acts. But if we forget that, then we get caught in the illusion that this world is the cause and basis of our happiness, and our temporary body is the basis of our identity. Nothing can be further from the truth, and anyone with some proper understanding will see this.

By uplifting our consciousness, one will realize his or her spiritual identity and know that the immaterial realm pervades everything within as well as outside this material creation. Therefore, one who has become evolved and detached from the material focus of life knows that he is a spiritual being and a part of the divine strata. In this sense, wherever he goes, he is already home. A person who lives in this consciousness knows that there are only three things that are eternal: (1) the Supreme Being, (2) all the individual spiritual entities, and (3) the relationship between them, which is based on divine love. This spiritual love is all that has to be reawakened. This is the real goal of life. The spiritual strata, or fully enlightened consciousness, is where that love can manifest to the fullest degree.

If somehow or other the people of the world could give up their superficial differences and join together in genuine spiritual activity, the consciousness of society in general could change to such a degree that this very planet could become spiritually surcharged. It is not that we have to work for a specific change to bring about solutions to the world’s problems, but when the consciousness of the people becomes purified, the solutions to the problems will become obvious and the necessary changes will automatically begin to manifest. The process starts from within, as the Bible states: “And when he (Jesus) was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17.20-21) Therefore, entering the spiritual realm, or changing the world in which we presently live, is simply a matter of reawakening our dormant divine consciousness. It is not a matter of outward observation, but it is an inward process of transformation and development.

If the people of the world would be more inclined to recognize that spiritual advancement is a process of inner transformation and participate in this process, and share with each other the different levels of higher knowledge from other cultures rather than merely accepting one particular religious dogma and rejecting all other forms of spiritual growth, then it becomes possible for all of humanity to be a united people. After all, a true religion respects whatever level of universal truth is found in any other culture and religion. Everyone could band together with a common cause of helping each other become enlightened: A universal religion based on hearing about and glorifying the Supreme. Every religion does this, so why not do it together? The only difference then would be whether people were theists or atheists, and atheists are simply those who have no spiritual experience or cannot fathom the depths of divine knowledge.

Otherwise, a world full of isolated religious cultures and doctrines is a world full of scattered and incomplete portions of the universal path to the Absolute Truth. Thus, we must seek to unite these paths by finding the common source from which these portions have sprung, as I have tried to point out in my books, The Secret Teachings of the Vedas, and The Universal Path to Enlightenment. When you find that source, you will find the doorway that leads to full realization of the Absolute Truth and the clear consciousness through which we can see that all living beings share the same immaterial identity. Spiritually we are all one family. And on this level of consciousness it becomes obvious that all temporary material differences are superficialities. It is only people’s own immature prejudice, caused by their spiritual ignorance, that stop people of the world from being united and cooperating together. Remembering that God is in everyone, and everyone is here by the will of God, and that God cares for all beings, you can respect anyone.