An imaginary conversation between Jesus, Krishna and an Indian in search of the truth, Subra, and a westerner Richard; statements are drawn often directly from statements made by Jesus and Krishna. Notes/summary from Ravi Zacharias 2008 book, Multnomah Press.
Richard and Subra travel to Mathura, the holy city considered to be Krishna’s birthplace. Buddhists had many monasteries there, then as they declined the Hindus claimed it as a holy site. In 1018 A.D. The Muslims tore them all down and erected mosques on the site, though today there is a now a small area protruding from the corner of the mosque that is considered Krishna’s birthplace, and is a holy site for Hindus.
They see the worship center for widows, 2000 of of such, who chant “Hare Ram, Hare Krishna” for four hours each morning and four hours each evening, for which they receive a up of rice and lentils at lunch and for dinner, and 2 rupees, or 5 cents. They are paying off karma from a previous life.
“Religious life seems to be everywhere” Richard observes, even in the language. Subra mentions avatars which are incarnations or divine manifestations. Primarily used for Vishnu, the preserver god, it can also be used for teachers from other religions such as Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha.
The main scriptures are the Vedas – the oldest books, four of them, each containing three parts:
mantras – hymns of praise
Brahamanas – guide for practicing rituals, including sacrifices to the gods
Upanishads – the most important part, with teaching on religious truth and doctrine
There are also the Epics, containing two major tales of India.
The main one is the Mahabharata with the famous Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita
Subra describes his conversion, having spent weeks living with a Swami in a cave, aftter which the swami tells him to go, and he will find the answers he was seeking elsewhere. When Subra returns to the cave, he finds instead of the Swami the voice of Jesus, who tells him for the first time tht his sin was an act of rebellion against a perfect and holy God; ‘sins’ had otherwise been described as simply acts of wrongdoing due mainly to ignorance, and these evils could be overcome by following the guidelines of one’s caste and way of salvation.
Since his conversion, Subra has experienced alienation from his family and community.
They then see Jesus and Krishna in conversation and join them.
Jesus mentions how he was born in a specific place and time, as foretold in great detail by the prophets. Is. 9:6 “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given” speak of his earthly (child) and eternal (Son) nature.
Krishna responds tat he is an idea, and whether or not he was actually born is not so important (reflecting statements by such Hindu figures as the teacher Vivekananda and Ghandi, among others, though not reflective of all).
Krishna builds on the mythical nature of Hinduism, stating how all of life is a leela or play, drama. ‘The universe is simply a cosmic puppet theater for the gods. We are actors on the stage Roles and duties are all divinely assigned beyond human control.’ Jesus replies with the reality of life consisting of our own choice, will and decisions. “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” Jesus continues. Rev. 22:17
Krishna is identified as the 9th incarnation of Vishnu,the preserver god from the Hindu triad of gods. There are in fact many Krishnas in Hindu scriptures. Buddha was the 8th incarnation, Hindus await one final incarnation at the end of time.
Krishna explains his arrival, showing up to mediate a battle between the 100 sons of blind king Dhritarashatra Kaurava and his wife Gandhari, and their cousins, the sons of Pandu Dhrit.’s brother. Pandu dies, and gives the kingdom to Dhr., who has it stolen by his eldest son Duruyodhana. Pandu’s oldest son should have gotten the kingship, and he and his brothers are good, honest people living in the forest. Dhir.’s sons, raised in the court, are corrupt, thugs and bullies.
The battle between the 5 sons of Pandu and the 100 Kaurava brothers is the scene for Krishna’s arrival.
Dhir.and Gandhari had actually only had one son, who died; a yogi arrives who boils the fetus along with some herbs and nutrients, and separates the result into 100 baby boys.
(“Separating myth from fact is what to do when you want to believe and trust in God” Ravi has Jesus say, continuing “Stories, like stones, roll in the dust until the covering of dust and dirt is seen as the substance and the truth is swallowed up by tradition.” <ouch!> “Telling the truth can be dangerous business, honest and popular don’t go hand in hand. When they find you can play the accordion, Who’s gonna let you in their rock and roll band?” as the catchy tune from Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty’s colossal flop Ishtar goes. 🙂 we’re at p. 30 here, ok, Ishtar is not really mentioned… ‘transcriber’s license’ one might say
Origins of Hindu Deities and the World
Krishna expounds on his ‘birth’ – no one is really born, we all pre-exist. Manifestations of gods and demons had been occurring, though a pleasant wind was blowing. Vishnu appeared before Devaki to intervene on behalf of earth; during a full moon on the 8th day, Krishna appeared on the horizon (partly why he is colored blue like the sky). Krishna represented, or was, Absolute Truth, the Supreme Brahma. The actual Brahma had fallen into disfavor as he was in love with his own daughter; incest is strongly rejected in India and by Shiva, who then cut off one of his 5 heads and demoted Brahma.
(The Hindu trinity of sorts has Brahma as the supreme deity and creator, Vishnu as one who maintains law and order in the universe, and Shiva who oversees destruction and re-creation of the cycles of life. Vishnu is the most loved and popular of the gods, and his incarnation Krishna is typically the one most loved and revered, and stories of his love and playfulness abound).
Vishnu maintains order and is ‘not afraid to get his hands dirty.’ He is blue since he is as infinite as the sky. In his 4 arms, he holds 1) a discus to throw to slice up the enemies of goodness, 2) a golden baton to smash the egos of men when they get too boastful, 3) a conch shell that sounds the note of chanting and 4) a lotus, the symbol of purity. Vishnu is married to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, always wrapped in a red sari, who is loved for her kindness, and masses go to her as an intercessor for Vishnu, sort of like Mary in the Catholic tradition.
Shiva, on the other hand, “is the powerhouse, always taking care of bad ones. He is portrayed naked because that’s who he is – sheer, stark, naked reality. He is covered with ashes because after the entire universe is reduced to cosmic dust, he alone will remain. He will annihilate the universe and absorb all reality into his being.” Shiva’s story is that in an eternal past, the gods and demons decided to work together to suck the nectar of immortality out of an ocean of milk. They dumped a great mountain into the ocean, wrapped the serpent Vasuki around it, and churned for thousands of years, with gods and demons pulling on opposite ends to get the nectar of immortality to ooze out. A virulent poison also came out that started to destroy the world, but Vishnu helped the pure-hearted gods to drink up the nectar and the poison. Vishnu was the only one powerful enough to hold the poison, so he held it in his throat without letting it get into the rest of his system, ‘smoking without inhaling’ (this is Ravi’s line, I am otherwise unsure whether or not he ever watched Ishtar …) and is why Shiva’s throat is always pictured as stained dark.
Interesting aside: One day Shiva’s first wife, Parvati, was bathing when Shiva returned home. Shiva had been gone meditating and was gone for so long that he didn’t realize that it was his son, Ganesh, who Parvati had eft guarding the bathroom door. Shiva was upset at not being let in, he cut off Ganesh’s head with a sickle. When Parvati screamed and related the truth, Shiva could not find Ganesh’s head, but vowed to give him the head of the very next being he saw, which happened to be an elephant. Shiva is also associated with the linga, a phallic symbol, as the male and female sexual organs are symbolic of God’s creative power; hence prayers for sexual prowess and fertility worship, etc.
Chanting as a salvation of sorts
The group then wanders through the city, observing the poverty and human lives, created in the image of God, are so uncared for while cows are revered.
Krishna’s reply is to mention the sounds of chanting in the streets, Om or Aum, the 6th vowel of the 48 letters of Sanskrit.
Brahma chanted this to learn the secret of all knowledge.
In fact, the Mahabharata, from which came the Gita, the story of Krishna, came about from the magic of chanting: the well-known thief Valkimi was tricked by a holy man, who wore only a loin cloth, that he was trying to rob. The holy man told Valkimi to just chant the name of an evil god, “Mara Mara Mara” over and over again, and he would get all the riches he ever wanted. Upon doing this, it turned out he was actually chanting “Rama Rama Rama” over and over, the name of the 7th avatar of Vishnu (and so good). The thief this attained enlightenment, then went on to pen all 74,000 verses of the Mahabharata!
Krishna continues ‘every human is created with Krishna-consciousness, but it gets polluted over time and by matter. SO, by repeating “Hare Krishna” and “Hare Rama” this consciousness is reawakened; one experiences ‘a transcendental vibration which cleanses’ the sins of his heart, and ‘higher energy is released and man can dance with it.’
History; Sacred nature of life
A commonly made claim that the Vedas (written between 1200 B.C. And 400 B.C.) preceded Christ is defused by noting in fact Abraham (2100 B.C.) preceded the writing of the Vedas by over a thousand years in the case of some of the Vedas.
Hinduism teaches that all life is sacred (man and animals), though life continuously cycles
Christ teaches that life is indeed precious, but no one has a pre-existent life; we die once, and after that, face the judgment.
Jesus points out the inherent irony of his Hindu position: Krishna’s first act, upon showing up at the battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas was to advise Arjuna, the archer of the vastly undermanned Pandavas, that it was the warrior’s duty to fight and to kill; it is his part in the great play, and he should not be afraid to play it.
Jesus contrasts Krishna’s response that the body is not as important as the soul with the case of “the lowly hamburger.”
The irony is this: animals may not be killed because they have souls, but humans maybe killed since they are just bodies.
Reverence for the cow is ironic and inconsistent in the same way.
While raising cows fulfills four aims of life: earn wealth (arna), righteousness (dharma), desire (kama) and salvation (moksha). In fact, the air touching a cow becomes pure according to Hindu writers. But, Jesus points out, it is not the cow that sustains life – the farmer, He who causes grain to grow, those who milk the cow, and Whoever made them all – is in fact the source and sustainer of life. Does the cow make a conscious decision to sustain life, or is it the creator God who is worthy of worship, Jesus asks.
While Krishna acknowledges god deserves to be thanked,’ Jesus points out how he has made the means the object of worship.
The Romance of the Play
Jesus notes how Prabhuprada, the founder of Krishna Consciousness, lampooned the Christian views of romance. And sexuality. By contrast, Krisha is said (in the Srimad Bhagvatam) to have had 16,108 while on earth, each with their own palaces, and visited them while incarnating himself in 16,108 forms. Krishna replies that the Bhagvatam was more of a play,reflecting Krishna’s romantic side. Vyasadeva, the author of the Srimad Bhag. may these are just reflections on the Vedanta Sutras,but Hare Krishna followers state that this is historical fact.
Gita: The Rest of Krishna and Arjuna’s Battle Story, and the Teachings of the Gita on Life and the Soul
Arjuna had asked Krishna for wisdom in his battle against the Kauravas. The Kauravas had also asked for Krishna’s wisdom, and as an act of impartiality, Duryodhana received Krishna’s army. Arjuna, by contrast, got Krishna’s presence, so Krishna served as Krishna’s chariot driver in the battle.
Arjuna had already been taught the three paths for release from the cycle of births:
jnana: the way of wisdom, which is appropriate for only a few
karma: the path of works
bhakti: the path of devotion and love, typically to a particular deity.
There are also four stages of life (asrama):
youth, or discipline and education
raising a family and active worker
loosening of family bonds and attachments
asceticism and hermitage
Arjuna was instructed to follow the path to salvation of karma, works and obedience to the dictates of one’s caste, but the highest path is that of devotion, to ‘live in the beauty of Krishna’s love.’
This ‘relationship’ invokes the question of who exactly are Arjuna and Krishna, man and god?
Arjuna possesses a soul (atman) which survives the cycles of life, though not bound to the same body from cycle to cycle.
As a soul (atman) progresses through the stages of life, they increasingly learn to practice denial of self and to free their mind from matter. The soul is like the seed of a tree, the tree representing the impersonal absolute reality which is Brahman. When you split the seed apart, inside it is nothing. “Just as the essence of that big tree is reduced to the impersonal nothing, so is the self reduced to nothing.” (p.55)
‘The goal in life is to unify the self with the Brahman, the impersonal absolute,’ Krishna admits.
Jesus notes the personal, loving God that He offers instead.
Krishna admits the impersonal nature of god from the Vedas, but claims to transcend that by representing himself as indeed a very personal being. All that was seen in Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu is in Krishna; all devotion ultimately is to him, and the sacrifices mandated in the Vedas are directed to Krishna.
Krishna also advocates the practice of yoga for the path of liberation. There are 8 stages, but the final stage is annihilation of the mind and union with the absolute. Some pantheist versions of Hinduism advocate the cancellation of the mind, just as Buddha taught the cancellation of the self. The practice of karma yoga helps in this, as the goal is self-denial and achieving a state of desirelessness in utter devotion to god. Bhakti (love) and Sharanagati (surrender) are key concepts for this.
Jesus contrasts how He is approached with the story of the man who called him ‘Good Master,’ to which Jesus replied ‘Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.’ (Mark 10:18). The realization that there is no goodness apart from god is “the heart of the meaning of salvation and how we come to it.”
The Problem of Pain
Jesus then contrasts His approach to suffering in this world and Krishna’s. When the blind man asked Jesus whose sin caused his condition, Jesus said there was no connection between sin and his blindness. It is not particular sins that course suffering, but the state of sin in general, the broken relationship with God.
By contrast, a Hindu may suffer from sins he does not even remember from a previous life.
The Simplicity and Plainness of the Gospel
Vedic sages often declared that only they could interpret some truths, simply asking the people to ‘trust them.’
Islam requires a similar act of blind faith, claiming that the miracle of Mohammed’s revelation can only be understood within the original, particular language – if you don’t understand the language, you will not understand the miracle.
Christ claims that even a small child can understand and come to Him, regardless of country or language.
Birth and Rebirth
Buddha provided an extreme example of this perspective: he taught that there was no such thing as even the self – instead, rebirth is a karmic rebirth, and not an individual rebirth. One’s good and evil deeds needed to be atoned for by someone else, but not that any individual person was reborn. Buddha also rejected the Hindu devotion to the Supreme. This is why Buddha turned his back on Hinduism.
Krishna instead believes that every birth is a rebirth, and that karma is carried over from lifetime to lifetime, though a person will have little to no actual recollection of why they are where they are in this lifetime.
When Subra asks about how “an infinity of lifetimes” works, Krishna can only respond that “some things will always be hidden from view because the mind cannot understand them.”
Jesus responds to all this by taking his companions on an imaginary walk through the streets of Calcutta. He says to notice “the masses who hunger both physically and spiritually” and “don’t blame their condition on karma(!)” Earlier, Subra had noted how half of the world’s blind and 2/3 of the world’s lepers lived in India, so they must, rhetorically speaking, have been comparatively great sinners. At any rate, Jesus mentions the social evils that missionary William Carey fought against while in India in the late 1700s: child marriages (9-10 year old girls often being promised to men 20 to 30 years older), and the subsequent practice of sati, or forced suicide of young widows, when their husbands died, on burning funeral pyres.
But this is just the backdrop to Jesus’s more philosophical or theological observation: in the Kali temple, a goat is sacrificed and the head is cut off. The goat, quite similar to the cow, gives milk and helps nourish life. But it is what follows that is interesting: the penitent family members dip their fingers in the goat’s blood, and mark their foreheads and white clothes with it. When asked what the ritual meant, Subra receives a scowl and no answer from the priests, despite the importance of this centuries old ceremony in their journey to reach God.
By contrast, Jesus notes how God had so many markers put in Jerusalem as well as in ceremonial observations that spoke of exactly what God had done for His people. Priests that assume power without accountability corrupt religion and are not helpful to the followers.
Jesus then tells Krishna that, of all teachers, his teachings came closest to those of Jesus, especially in proposing a solution to the problem of the human heart. But he fell short, even though the advice he gave to Arjuna in the Gita was profound.
Jesus and Krishna could agree, in their own ways,on the following:
God (but not one’s caste) gives a sacred sense and purpose to a life, as God determined even from the beginning where one would be born. The race of each and every person is sacred, no race is superior to another.
Secondly, Jesus states that He is indeed not far from any one of them. Great followers like Sadhu Sunder Singh, Bakht Singh and Pandita Ramabai from India called on God and He answered them.
But they learned that they could not be righteous until they were redeemed; that came not from a rebirth, but from a new birth, made possible by the Holy Spirit.
Many Ways ?
Jesus notes how many religions provide paths to follow, ceremonies and places of worship, etc. Krishna claims that he has said many things to many people in many ways, so that they can interpret and determine for themselves. Everyone just has an absolute destiny, not an absolute single path to get there. These ways include the many paths of Hinduism and yoga, controlled breathing, extinguishing desire and the ego, etc. – and result in controlling the mind and achieving the state of actionlessness.
Jesus counters by noting that no one is justified by keeping the law, no ritual will take a person to God. Even priests and teachers abdicate their responsibilities when they fail to teach no one needs a priest to approach God, though they may need a spiritual shepherd to help lead in the right direction.
Sacrifices and the Way to God
Krishna had claimed that he was both the recipient of sacrifices and the sacrifice himself(!) Jesus calls him into question on this, showing how this notion, like the others, simply falls short of what Christ offers, does not go quite far enough.
Krishna clarifies by stating that he was the goal of the Vedic sacrifices, as they were done so one cold come into the presence of the divine.
Jesus counters by stating that “the heart is not separated from God because it is unethical or immoral. No amount of moral rectitude can bridge the separation between God and humanity, between God and each human heart. I aid the price to reconcile God to man and change the human heart by the power of God.” (p.74) By contrast, no one comes closer to God by doing good works, and the pride that results from such efforts often becomes the biggest obstacle. Only in humility can a person accept the gift.
Krishna states that all who seek will find, as it were, and find by virtue of their own intuition, not the type of divine revelation Jesus offers. It is the following of one’s own part in the great drama that is life that provides the answers.
Jesus offers Himself as the way to God instead.
Krishna asks Jesus how to explain how, if life is not a drama, he stands by and watches the suffering and death in this world, even for those who followed Him.
Jesus responds that He had revealed Himself in dramatic fashion throughout history, to Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and showed Himself through many miracles. When Israel subsequently forgot God, judgment was equally dramatic; to whom much is given much shall be required, responsibility is always proportionate to revelation.
Krishna continues that the reality of death still exists, despite Jesus’s sacrifice. Jesus responds by distinguishing being run over by a truck or by its shadow: Jesus let himself be run over by the truck of death, we are stung only by its shadow.
Krishna remarks that this illustration of light and shadows is similar to the shadows in Plato’s cave. Jesus responds that human religion is like such shadows, just hinting at the existence of good and evil, but not seeing the living God who is behind it all.
Shadows and reality relate to the Hindu’s equating in worth humans and animals; Jesus notes how only humans are given the supreme privilege of worship and relationship with the God who made them. A person’s decision as to that is one that makes an eternal difference.
Subra also notices how ‘Krishna’ and ‘Christ,’ as well as ‘Abraham’ and ‘Brahman’ sound suspiciously alliteratively alike … Jesus responds tat even Jupiter, who was worshipped by the Romans, is transliterated (nice vocab, by the way!) as Zeus Pater by the Greeks and Dyaus Pitar by the Babylonians; even diya and pita in Hindi mean mercy and father. Jesus remarks that He has not left Himself without witness among any people group.
Subra once again asks if Krishna ever really lived. Scholars such as Vivekananda among others, even Gandhi, either downplay or openly doubt Krishna’s existence. Jesus points to the specific facts of history documenting his life, death and resurrection, as well as the reality of the new birth(s) He gives every day. Subra recounts how he found Jesus to be real, but Krishna just a shadow. Krishna vanishes for the remainder of the conversation, ‘the play is over’ as Jesus says, ‘when you deny reality completely, there can be no actors left.’
‘The shadow seeks to block the sun, but I am the Light’ Jesus continues. In me there is no darkness at all, the shadow has been dispelled. And in their efforts to please a shadow god or the gods of their own imagination, men will continue to sacrifice their sons and daughters until they receive the Son whom my Father has already provided. I came to give life; therefore choose it.”
Subra states that this is the day he is waiting for, when all shadows are removed and the light stands supreme. As the 1847 hymn “Abide with Me” of Henry F.Lyte states,
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies,
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord abide with me.”
Time for everyone to get back on the Indian highway -with no divider between the lanes- and risk death(!) “I guess there’s a metaphor here, too?When you don’t make a distinction between truth and fiction” Richard observes.
Subra observes: the Hebrews expressed the ultimate with the metaphor of light; the metaphor the Greeks used was knowledge, and for the Romans, it was glory.
That is why the apostle Paul, a Hebrew who studied in a Greek city and was a citizen of Rome, expressed it to the Corinthian church this way:
“God who caused light to shine out of darkness in our hearts has caused his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus our Lord.” (II Cor. 4:6)
I wonder how he might have said it had there been an Indian in the audience:
“He would have added one line: ‘That is the story to tell the nations'”