Friday, January 30, 2009
Here is my 2 cents.
I personally agree and disagree. First of all, we have to be clear in what we say. Science simply put is a body of knowledge. It can range from solving my health problem to the problem of birth and death. Therefore depending on the knowledge, it can be mundane or transcendental. For anyone to solve a problem, it needs a systematic analysis of the problem per se. This way as we study we will gather knowledge. Knowledge, therefore in my opinion, is not a patented property or an exclusive right of modern scientists. It is true for all. In this sense, Krishna Consciousness is scientific because it is a comprehensive body of knowledge intended to solve a problem – problem of birth, death, old age and disease. No other religion or metaphysics can clearly define the problem and give a solution as Krishna Consciousness gives; therefore, Krishna Consciousness is pure science.
There is, however, a difference. The difference is in methods of enquiry. In other words, scientific research methods differ for Krishna Consciousness and modern science. This is where from a modern scientist purview, Krishna Consciousness becomes a pseudo-science. The research methods employed by Krishna Conscious people are not the same as that employed by modern scientists. Depending on the scientific method, we obtain different evidence and results. Above this, we have the interpretation of the results (evidence/data). Even within the scientific field, a same problem can be approached differently (meaning using different and valid research methods) and obtain completely contradicting evidences and results. Are they any less scientific….No! It is just the methods of research and analysis differs. Similarly, Krishna Consciousness is no less scientific (methodical) just the research method (enquiry) is different…but that does not mean the knowledge obtained is less valid or that this knowledge is an exclusive property of a group of people. It is there for everyone to test and employ.
Krishna Consciousness is, thus, science from the standpoint of obtaining knowledge (and problem solving) but psuedoscience from modern scientists perspective as it does not conform to their commonly accepted practices of scientific research and research methods. Both follow a clear method that can be tested and verified by one and all. If scientists are so proud of their methods of research and fail to accept other methods as less scientific, then in my opinion, they are no more religiously and blindly attached to their methods than any mundane religion.
Today, scientific culture is very exclusive to a group of elite thinkers at least this is what the scientists have successfully created - a fortified invisible wall where only the elite can pass through thus making the inhabitants within the wall proud of their intellectual status. Because of this, any other type of knowledge obtained from other verifiable methods is just not good enough for these people!
Therefore the difference between science and pseudo-science is not one of widely accepted practices (research methods) but one of true knowledge. Scientists who reject knowledge just because it does not conform to their common practice I think are pseudo-scientists as they are rejecting knowledge which may be far superior to their own!
Science and methods of science are intricately woven together yet mutually exclusive.
Friday, January 23, 2009
The book most likely will touch on preserving Vedic culture (sanatan dharma). The biggest pet peeve I have is how our culture is waning not because of foreign invasion but utter rejection and ignorance of culture by its own people – the Indians!
As an Indian, growing up in a small town, I can safely say that the India I knew 20 years before is completely different from what it is today. Indians have purposefully neglected their true calling to know their roots. While the whole world is taking pride of their roots, Indians are actively and forcefully accepting a culture inherently foreign to them – the western mind!
All my friends (at least once upon a time…and I had many) have no clue about the difference between body and soul and this is 101 in spiritual life. Every one of them at best is “religious” in a mundane sense if not impersonal/atheistic and the buck stops there. Actually, the ground reality is no one cares or wants to spend time knowing their Vedic roots! Now, I am talking about a generation who got raised in a culture without cable tv and internet. Imagine the next generation raised with cable tv and internet?
The reason Vedic culture is dying…I attribute this mainly to the lack of desire Indians have to learn their own roots. Of course…there are other external factors influencing the environment but if Indians born in Vedic culture can care less about their own culture, why should the Muslim, British and western media care?
Today…the things an average Indian from North to South is proud about and may even think it is their culture are the following,
- A.R.Rahman (not that one should not be…he is a good composer...especially now he may get an oscar...keep your fingers crossed!),
- Rajnikanth (ok…I like him!),
- the movie industry,
- Mahatma Gandhi (not that I know him more than anyone outside India)
- his non-violence movement,
- Indian food,
- Temples (I mean only the architecture of it),
- Taj Mahal (I have never seen it)
- of course Sachin Tendulkar or I mean cricket
...for now this is all I can think of.
Bottom line – if I don’t care about my own backyard…no one else will be! I am not even talking about the highest principles of Vaishnavism but about fundamental issues of body, mind, soul, and God?
The only way Vedic culture can be preserved is if the people of India take to their roots in a mood to understand the real essence of the Vedas and not fight in the name of mundane religion and caste!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
In that stage, we will not care for our own survival for we know we are insignificant and we will just be happy in whatever condition we are in and take it as the order and mercy of Krishna. This inner devotional sentiment of insignificance is a sign that we are advancing in Krishna Consciousness. Everyone of us know for our own self how much we are truly conscious of our insignificance and Krishna. We do not need external validity!
He (37 yrs), along with his wife and 2 children are full time resident devotees of the Govardhan Farm community in Wada, Thane. (Mumbai)
In the recent past, the miraculous recovery of H.H. Jayapataka Swami was only possible by the intense prayers of devotees all over the world.
Devotees from Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir have most humbly requested all of us to sincerely pray that Janardhan lila pr. and his family can pass through this most difficult and testing phase of their lifes, and continue their selfless services at the Lotus feet of Guru and Gauranga. -
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Cultivating material distaste has been made easy in this age of Kali. All we have to do is be honest to ourselves and just open a newspaper, TV and or associate with a gross materialist. All we will encounter is stories of death, violence, sex and hypocrisy. If these qualities do not invoke distaste and misery, I am not sure what will…!!??
Below is such an instruction from Lord Krishna to Uddhava. Very nice…please read.
"Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities." (SB 11.20.27-28)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Similarly,after the destruction of Ravana, Hanumantha approaching Sita asks her,'oh mother! Shall I destroy all these raksashis who troubled you.'
In reply Mother Sita Says,Oh Hanuman! Na Kashchinaparaadyate' - who does not commit mistakes?'
We are ever ready to forgive ourselves but never others.Why Can't we learn to forgive others?
Monday, January 19, 2009
Based on these generalizations, we assume a tested pill is suitable to almost everyone, we assume that all objects obey laws of physics (hence arose quantum physics), we assume that children from broken homes most likely will drop out, we assume that stimulus package will boost the failing economy etc etc. Our assumptions in many instances have gone wrong and have caused fatal results albeit in unique cases nevertheless fatal. In other words, when we assume the sample represents the population we are missing out on the details that make up the variety in the population and just deal with certain key generic variables that can be measured (practically!). This assumption can sometimes prove costly and ineffective. Hence when the scientists are satisfied about a medicine being approved, all they care about is, it should test positive in 95 or 99 out of 100 patients…now imagine if the same drug is administered to 100s of 100s of people. Then there will be more than 100 people whose body will not accept the drug due to unique conditions and may cause severe repercussions. This illusory ubiquitous-ness can be attributed to the generalization of a sample and the downplaying of the limitations. From the scientist’s perspective, they can care less about the freaks of nature. It is a statistic, an anomaly in the curve chart; it is not a human who’s dying!!
Why then science is dubbed as the panacea of all problems and the abode of rational thinkers in spite of their limitations? In my opinion, science has become its own mundane religion with blind irrational followers occupying different priestly orders. In this religion – their false ego is God! Indeed, knowledge is power, they think they have the knowledge and the power…this is the biggest illusion of all!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
When Srila Prabhupada first came to New Mayapura farm community in France and stayed in a chateau he said, "This place is full of ghosts." Actually, devotees living there have already experienced some troubles by these creatures.
The previous owner was very attached to his wife so when she died he was heart-broken. He was so attached to her that he refused to burry her. He placed her body in an air-tight glass coffin and kept her in a chateau's praying chapel. Then he used to come to the chapel and mourn and cry over her dead body every single day. He was so obsessed with her that he neglected the maintenance of his finances so he was forced to sell the property.
When 250 acres of land (mostly forest) with a castle were purchased by ISKCON in 1975 this man was already insane. He left the property along with his wife's body in the chapel and went away. Devotees were shocked to find a dead body in the chateau so they gave her a decent burial somewhere on the farm. That dead body had spent 15 years in the castle! No wonder the "place was full of ghosts".
So Srila Prabhupada gathered a group of devotees and they had a loud kirtana party going to every single room in a castle. SP walked in front of it leading it to every room, banging his cane on the walls. After that there were no more problems with ghosts. :)
As far as the previous owner's story goes... He lived for another 25 years after moving out, well into his old age. He never visited New Mayapur.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Regarding your questions. I have already answered the most important question. "How to please Krishna?"
- by following all the regulative principle that I have given you,
- chanting 16 rounds and
- reading my books scrutinizingly.
Everyone must do these things, otherwise they cannot understand Krishna Consciousness.
- Srila Prabhupada letter to Adi Kesava Das (Jan 16 1975)
There was a disciple of SP in Caracass temple, Venezuela, who was called Pitavas Prabhu (I may have remembered the name wrongly) and who regularly got on everyone's nerve. He joked on other devotees and played pranks on them, and no amount of neither correction nor chastisement from neither devotees not authorities helped. He was impossible.
Then Srila Prabhupada visited Venezuela in 1975 and stayed in temple for a short while. Devotees were in ecstasy. At that time both Caitanya Simha Prabhu and Pitavas Prabhu served in the kitchen. One nice day as they were cooking the meal Srila Prabhupada entered the kitchen. That was it -the perfection of their devotional lives - Srila Prabhupada came to bless their service! They all fell on the ground like sticks paying their heartfull obeisances to their beloved spiritual master and then got up staring at Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada had no particular expression on his face. His righthand was in his japa bag. Then he pulled his hand out of his japa bag and took a short walk around the kitchen pulling his forefinger over everysingle surface he could reach - tables, shelves, window shelves, above the door... and by the time he finished it the upper part of his forefinger was black from the dirt accumulated on those surfaces. It all lasted no more that several seconds.
Srila Prabhupada turned around, walked up to Pitavas Prabhu, wiped his transcendental forefinger on Pitavasa's cheek leaving a thick black line,and walked out of the kitchen. From that day on Pitavas became so grave, sober, deep, andintrospective, so full of respect to the devotees, and so attentive in his execution of devotional service that he never again neither made another joke nor played another prank on any devotee.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Prithaputra Swami was the 1st French sannyasi. He did a lot ofservice for the preaching mission. But after Srila Prabhupada's physical demise he left KC and reassumed a lifestyle he led before he joined - sex,drugs & rock'n'roll. He never came back. Nevertheless, he never criticised neither ISKCON nor KC.
Some years later he contracted an AIDS. As the disease progressed he ended up in hospital, and as it progressed further he was hooked on the machines which kept him alive. During his last days he was in coma. As he was about to die any day now doctors gathered around his bed and tried to estimate how many days - if not hours - he had left. As they discussed his condition all of a sudden Prithaputra Prabhu opened his eyes, sat up in his bed and looked towards the door. -
"Prabhupada, you came...", he said. Then he layed back on his bed,closed his eyes and died. Doctors later told this story to the devotees.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Ever since I saw the Frontline documentary “From Jesus to Christ”, I was fascinated by the gospels and how it tells the Jesus story. The different characters that shaped the religion we know today as Christianity.
I always wondered from an early age, how can there be so much conflict happening in the world in the name of religion. As I started to accept a Krishna Conscious world view, I understood that God is inconceivable and that we have seriously come a long way from Him. There was always a desire to know more about how things really came about. Unfortunately, as of today, we can only speculate (best informed guess if you will) at what possibly could have taken place in history paving way for current religious practices of the world. So seeing the gospels from an academic viewpoint gives a distinct advantage in that apparently (at least theoretically) we do not present our personal views when presenting evidence and allow the evidence speak for itself. However, unbiased opinions is like spotting a unicorn, in my opinion, I don’t think it exists. Opinions are invariably biased as we come from and speak in a socio-cultural-political environment. To simply put, our inherent values and qualities will determine how we see data. So interpretation and speculation is part of scientific research, in fact it creates new branches of knowledge. From a Vedic perspective, however, the inductive approach of hypothesizing and informed speculation is not considered a path that will lead one to Absolute Knowledge/Truth.
Anyways, coming back to the discussion at hand, I was sheepishly happy to read an interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas although I admit that I am not sure how the Professor actually came to such a conclusion. When I read part of the gospel I could not arrive to the same conclusions. The reason from my sheepish happiness will be revealed when you read the interpretation given by the professor. Perhaps there is only one God, one religion and a similar religious world view. Well…you can be a judge of that. Please read the interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas as I think there is so much in common with Krishna Consciousness philosophy. It talks about the science of self realization although it does not explicitly talk about body, soul and its relatioship. Another fascinating point is – for most part the Gospel of Thomas is independent of the canonical gospels in style, literary rendition and principal content.
Elaine H. Pagels: The Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion Princeton University
This book opens with the lines, "These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and the twin, Didymos Judas Thomas wrote them down." Then there follows a list of the sayings of Jesus. Now this raises all kinds of questions. Did Jesus have a twin brother? Actually the name Thomas Didymos -- well, Thomas is Hebrew for twin. Didymos is Greek for twin.... The implication here is that he is Jesus' twin. But this character, of course, also appears in the Gospel of John, he's one of the disciples, the twin. Here he appears as if he's Jesus' twin, and he is one who knows secret teaching, which Jesus hasn't given to all other people. Some of these sayings are familiar. We know them from Matthew and Luke - Jesus said, "I have come to cast fire on the earth." Or "Behold, a sower went out to sow," and so forth.... Others are as strange and compelling as Zen koans. My favorite of these is saying number 70, which says, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." The gospel opens as Jesus invites people to see....
The Gospel of Thomas also suggests that Jesus is aware of, and criticizing the views of the Kingdom of God as a time or a place that appear in the other gospels. Here Jesus says, "If those who lead you say to you, 'look, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds will get there first. If they say 'it's in the ocean,' then the fish will get there first. But the Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you. Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known. And you will know that it is you who are the children of the living father."
In this gospel, and this is also the case in the Gospel of Luke, the Kingdom of God is not an event that's going to be catastrophically shattering the world as we know it and ushering in a new millennium. Here, as in Luke 17:20, the Kingdom of God is said to be an interior state; "It's within you," Luke says. And here it says, "It's inside you but it's also outside of you." It's like a state of consciousness. It's hard to describe. But the Kingdom of God here is something that you can enter when you attain gnosis, which means knowledge. But itdoesn't mean intellectual knowledge. The Greeks had two words for knowledge. One is intellectual knowledge, like the knowledge of physics or something like that. But this gnosis is personal, like "I know that person, or do you know so and so." So this gnosis is self-knowledge; you could call it insight. It's a question of knowing who you really are, not at the ordinary level of your name and your social class or your position. But knowing yourself at a deep level. The secret of gnosis is that when you know yourself at that level you will also come to know God, because you will discover that the divine is within you.
JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS
The Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas does appear rather different from the Jesus we encounter in the others. Because the Gospel of Mark, for example, depicts Jesus as an utterly unique being. This is the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. The Gospel of John says that Jesus isn't even a human being at all, but he's a divine presence who comes down to heaven in human shape.... The Gospel of John says, "God sent his son into the world to save the world." If you believe in him, you're saved, if you don't believe in him you're already damned, because you haven't believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Now, [in the Gospel of Thomas], this Jesus comes to reveal that you and he are, if you like, twins.... And what you discover as you read the Gospel of Thomas, which you're meant to discover, is that you and Jesus at a deep level are identical twins. And that you discover that you are the child of God just as he is. And so that at the end of the gospel Jesus speaks to Thomas and says, "Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am, and I will become that person, and the mysteries will be revealed to him." Here, Jesus does not take the role of authority and teacher. In the Gospel of Thomas, the disciples say to Jesus, "Tell us, what do you want us to do? How shall we pray? What shall we eat? How shall we fast?" Now if you look at Matthew and Luke, Jesus answers the questions. He says, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed be...' When you fast, wash your face, don't make a show of it. When you give alms do it privately and without being showy." In this gospel, this Jesus does not answer. He says, "Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for everything is known before heaven." Now this answer throws you and me upon ourselves.... Here Jesus, in effect, turns one toward oneself, and that is really one of the themes of the Gospel of Thomas, that you must go in a sort of a spiritual quest of your own to discover who you are, and to discover really that you are the child of God just like Jesus.
Helmut Koester: John H. Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Harvard Divinity School
One of these documents [found at Nag Hammadi] begins with the scribal note in the margin, "The Gospel According to Thomas." And the first sentence of that document says, "These are the secret words which the living Jesus taught and which Judas Thomas Didymos wrote down." And then they start a total of over 110 sayings, each introduced by "Jesus said...." Some of those sayings have parallels in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Some of these have not. Some of these sayings may go back to a very early period of Christianity, some of them may have been added later. The document itself comes from the fourth century.... As with all gospel text, with this one in particular, we have to remember that these texts were fluid, that scribes could add, that scribes could leave out things, that scribes could add comments, or add an interpretation. So we cannot with certainty reconstruct what did the Gospel of Thomas look like around the year 100 or earlier. But it is very likely that it existed at that time, and that a good deal of the material that's now in that manuscript was already in a Greek manuscript that dates back to the first century. Which of course, is very exciting because here we have a collection of sayings of Jesus, additional sayings of Jesus, that were not known before, and the whole beginning of a new field of studies has opened up....
Now what is typical about these sayings is that in each instance, these sayings want to say that if you want to understand what Jesus said, you have to recognize yourself. You have to know yourself, know who you are. It begins with a saying about the Kingdom of God, "if you seek the Kingdom of God in the sky then the birds will precede you. And if you seek it in the sea, then the fish will precede you, but the Kingdom is in you. And if you know yourself then you know the Kingdom of God." (The Kingdom of the Father, in fact, it always says in the gospel of Thomas. Normally the Kingdom of the Father, not the Kingdom of God.) "But if you don't know yourself, you live in poverty." And poverty is understood as the ignorance of a life in its physical existence. Knowledge is understood to be the knowledge of one's divine origin, of the fact that one has come from the Kingdom. That we are on this earth only in a sojourn....
What does it mean really to know oneself? To know oneself is to have insight into one's own ultimate divine identity. You can go back to understand this to Greek models, which certainly exist. "Know yourself" is a very old Greek maxim... that is, you have to know that your own soul is divine, and then you know that you are immortal, whereas the body is the mortal part of human existence. Now this is radicalized in the Gospel of Thomas into saying that everything that is experienced physically and through sense perception, everything in this world that you can perceive in this way is nothing. It is, at best, chaos and, at worst, it doesn't even exist in reality. The only thing that really exists is your divine spirit or your divine soul, which is identical in its quality with God himself. And Jesus is the one who teaches that....
[When one truly knows oneself], one understands that one is divine, but also one understands that one is mortal. In such a way, you recognize that this mortality is really meaningless, as physical existence is meaningless. And therefore, death is no longer a problem, but death is a solution, because in death finally all this mortality will fall away, and the true self will be liberated to an independent existence that's no longer dependent on physical existence. And on everything that goes with physical existence, sickness and poverty and so on. And so physical existence is often described as poverty. But when you know yourself you are no longer in poverty.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Q. Will you also publish an academic account of the origin of Vedic texts such as Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavat Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam)? Or will you insist that they be understood from "within the tradition"?Because Western academics will be equally unkind to your story of the origin of your scriptures.Be careful to throw stones if you live in a glass house.
A. Dear Prabhuji
Thanks for your comments. Please allow me to respond.
My intention is not to throw a stone or for that matter support a western academic viewpoint. I am talking about the gospels not becuase it does not conform with a Vedic view or a popular academic view but questioning the gospels based on how it speaks for itself as a scripture or "word of God".
I do not take an evaluation stand on the Gospels or for that matter the Vedas simply because I lack the in depth knowledge enough to evaluate both. I also can care less on how scholars interpret data. I know this because I have seen how they work up-close. Vedas, according to them for most part is mythology or mysticism. Therefore my post was not solely based on their interpretation of the data but rather on the scholarly presentation of the archeological finds and literature review of the old and New Testament. I framed my opinion based on that presentation.
My fundamental view point is this, if the people themselves who support the early Jesus Movement cannot ascertain the whereabouts of the authors of the gospels and thus establish their credibility, how then am I to understand (as a third person) after 2000 years that the canonical gospels indeed is the true representation of Lord Jesus. After all, Lord Jesus is the central figure in the entire New Testament.
One does not have to take any political position or any type of position (for or against) to pose some fundamental questions-
- who wrote the canonical gospels and why should I read or adhere to their interpretation of Jesus story and not the others (like the other Gospel of Thomas, or the Gospel of Phillip or Mary Magdalene or anybody else!)?
- Why did the early Church leaders only concentrate their story telling to the death and resurrection of Jesus (the Passion of Christ) and not giving equal importance to all of Jesus’s life teachings? If we look at the prominent gospels written at that time including the Canonical gospels, there is not only contradiction about when the incidents took place but also the entire image, persona and teaching of Jesus has been presented differently depending on the gospel.
If I am studying the Gita, it is one thing to interpret Krishna's words differently but it is another thing if I attribute a whole set of new slokas in the name of “Bhagavan uvaca”. I think this is a serious deviation and hence begs the question who wrote the Gita in the first place and the author’s original motivations.
This is the issue with the Canonical gospels. They all show Jesus and his teachings differently. The Gospel of Thomas completely shows the teachings of Jesus Christ differently from the other canonical gospels and better yet Thomas is characterized as a twin brother (Didymos) of Jesus and one of the 12 apostles who closely associated with the Jesus. The plot thickens, Thomas is called "doubting Thomas" because he questions the importance of resurrection of Jesus. If a close associate is questioning the canonical gospel central theme, then I am confused as an outside person intersted to know about Jesus Christ as to what he stood for and how he actually lived?
Therefore I would like to know the significance of the canonical gospels and its central themes but I am not able to find anything beyond human intervention. If the gospels are indeed just a story or just one version among the many, i rather be told as is and read it as such rather than the "absolute word of God".
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The gospels form the major part of the New Testament and tells stories about Jesus but here is a story about the gospels, told by scholars, and academicians and documented by Frontline. Following is a short excerpt.
A period of forty years separates the death of Jesus from the writing of the first gospel. History offers us little direct evidence about the events of this period, but it does suggest that the early Christians were engaged in one of the most basic of human activities: story-telling. In the words of Mike White, "It appears that between the death of Jesus and the writing of the first gospel, Mark, that they clearly are telling stories. They're passing on the tradition of what happened to Jesus, what he stood for and what he did, orally, by telling it and retelling it. And in the process they are defining Jesus for themselves."
These shared memories, passed along by word of mouth, are known as "oral tradition." They included stories of Jesus' miracles and healings, his parables and teachings, and his death. Eventually some stories were written down. The first written documents probably included an account of the death of Jesus and a collection of sayings attributed to him.
Then, in about the year 70, the evangelist known as Mark wrote the first "gospel" -- the words mean "good news" about Jesus. We will never know the writer's real identity, or even if his name was Mark, since it was common practice in the ancient world to attribute written works to famous people. But we do know that it was Mark's genius to first to commit the story of Jesus to writing, and thereby inaugurated the gospel tradition.
"The gospels are very peculiar types of literature. They're not biographies," says Prof. Paula Fredriksen, "they are a kind of religious advertisement. What they do is proclaim their individual author's interpretation of the Christian message through the device of using Jesus of Nazareth as a spokesperson for the evangelists' position."
About 15 years after Mark, in about the year 85 CE, the author known as Matthew composed his work, drawing on a variety of sources, including Mark and from a collection of sayings that scholars later called "Q", for Quelle, meaning source. The Gospel of Luke was written about fifteen years later, between 85 and 95. Scholars refer to these three gospels as the "synoptic gospels", because they "see" things in the same way. The Gospel of John, sometimes called "the spiritual gospel," was probably composed between 90 and 100 CE. Its style and presentation clearly set it apart from the other three.
Each of the four gospels depicts Jesus in a different way. These characterizations reflect the past experiences and the particular circumstances of their authors' communities. The historical evidence suggests that Mark wrote for a community deeply affected by the failure of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. Matthew wrote for a Jewish community in conflict with the Pharisaic Judaism that dominated Jewish life in the postwar period. Luke wrote for a predominately Gentile audience eager to demonstrate that Christian beliefs in no way conflicted with their ability to serve as a good citizen of the Empire.
Despite these differences, all four gospels contain the "passion narrative," the central story of Jesus' suffering and death. That story is directly connected to the Christian ritual of the Eucharist. As Helmut Koester has observed, the ritual cannot "live" without the story.
While the gospels tell a story about Jesus, they also reflect the growing tensions between Christians and Jews. By the time Luke composed his work, tension was breaking into open hostility. By the time John was written, the conflict had become an open rift, reflected in the vituperative invective of the evangelist's language. In the words of Prof. Eric Meyers, "Most of the gospels reflect a period of disagreement, of theological disagreement. And the New Testament tells a story of a broken relationship, and that's part of the sad story that evolves between Jews and Christians, because it is a story that has such awful repercussions in later times."
The Emergence of the Canon
The New Testament, published in Christian Bibles used around the world, contains 27 manuscripts or texts. The most prominent of these are the four gospels known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These texts are so familiar, that it is easy to assume that four -- and only four -- gospels ever existed.
This is not the case, and the story of how the four gospels became chosen as part of the canon, or accepted literature of the church, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the early Christians.
Early Christian communities produced many gospels. One was the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, in which Mary is regarded as a disciple, a leader of a Christian group. Another early Christian text known as the Gospel of Truth, reflects on the teachings of Jesus, but does not talk about his death and resurrection; and the Gospel of Thomas contains only sayings attributed to Jesus.
As the number of Christian communities grew, so did the number and types of gospels. During the 2nd century, writing gospels became practically a "cottage industry," for the audience and the appetite for the literature seemed unlimited...
But Callahan suggests that the choice of these four gospels reflects the preferences and practices of a growing majority of early Christian communities. There was a rough consensus about "literature that they want to read, that they want to hear over and over again. And other kinds of literature that they don't want to hear."
The canon imposed limits, but it also preserved a measure of diversity. As Helmut Koester has observed: "There is no claim that this canon represents four gospels that are all saying the same thing. It is rather an attempt to bring together as many Christian communities as possible into one major church."
The four gospels reflect diversity, yet they all share one key element: each tells the story of passion of Jesus, his suffering and his death. That story is intimately connected to the ritual that is the centerpiece of Christian worship, the celebration of the Eucharist, the Last Supper. Story and ritual are deeply connected. As Koester has observed, the ritual cannot live without the story. And, in the worship of the emerging church, the story was sustained and deepened by the ritual. – Frontline - From Jesus to Christ
Srila Prabhupada writes “Vedic knowledge is infallible because it comes down through the perfect disciplic succession of spiritual masters, beginning with the Lord Himself. Since He spoke the first word of Vedic knowledge, the source of this knowledge is transcendental. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, which indicates that they are not delivered by any mundane person. A living being who lives in the mundane world has four defects: (1) he is certain to commit mistakes; (2) he is subject to illusion; (3) he has a propensity to cheat others; and (4) his senses are imperfect. No one with these four imperfections can deliver perfect knowledge. The Vedas are not produced by such an imperfect creature” (Sri Isopanishad Mantra One Purport).
If we have to compare the New Testament gospels to the Vedic standards above, the gospels desperately fall short of any thing perfect let alone transcendental. The Christian religion and rituals, as we know today, is based on stories told years after Jesus. The stories are based on memory and second hand information on the life and passion of Jesus years after he was crucified. There is little to no evidence about the actual life of Jesus as of today. Fundamental Christians believe that the Gospels are the truth and word of God. How they come to this conclusion is open for question. The four gospels were picked so it can tell a common story - the story of the death and resurrection of Christ. There was premtpive thought by the early church leaders to limit the gospels to four that had a common thread. The other gospels were rejected as heresy as it did not conform with the passion story.
Based on the scholarly presentation, one cannot but help to think that the method of choosing the four gospels, little knowledge about the gospel authors and the environment in how the gospels were written force the reader to speculate that the religion as we know today for most part was based on forced human intervention far from any divine intervention or precedence. How then are we to accept the word of the gospel as the true representation of the life and teachings of Jesus or word of God?
The Jesus, the church portrays, may actually not be the actual Jesus who lived some 2000 years ago! What then to speak of his actual teachings!
The whole story (by Frontline) can be seen and read here.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Four defects of Man
- Limited senses
- Commit mistakes
- as a result of 1 & 2, always assuming one for the other (aka illusion)
- with 1,2 & 3, we pretend like we know - hence cheating.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode’s Sri Caitanya-Siksamrta
When a person takes shelter of bhakti, mercy towards all living entities is a natural quality. Compassion does not have a separate existence from bhakti. The quality which when offered to the Lord is called bhakti or prema, becomes friendship, compassion and indifference when directed towards other living beings. It is a feeling which is inherent in the eternal nature of the soul. In the spiritual realm this quality manifests only as friendship, but in the material world it manifests as friendship towards devotees, mercy towards the innocent, and indifference towards the offenders. These are but different aspects of the same compassion.
In the conditioned state this compassion is extremely stunted. It starts with one’s own body, then widens to include one’s household, then one’s varna, then one’s countrymen. Expanding, it includes the human beings of the whole world. Compassion becomes complete when it is directed towards all living entities.
Patriotism is but an aspect of this sentiment in relation to one's country. Philanthropy is compassion directed towards all humanity. The vaisnava should not be limited by these sentiments. He has compassion for all living entities, not wanting to cause harm to any of them.
* Bhaktivinode Thakur’s footnote:
tasmat sarvesu bhutesu dayam kuruta sauhrdam
bhavam asuram unmucya yaya tusyaty adhoksajah
"Therefore, my dear young friends born of demons, please act in such a way that the Supreme Lord, who is beyond the conception of material knowledge, will be satisfied. Give up your demoniac nature and act without enmity or duality. Show mercy to all living entities by enlightening them in devotional service, thus becoming their well-wishers." (Bhag. 7.6.24)
Teachings of Queen Kunti devi :Chapter 6: The Master of the Senses
The word khala means "jealous." This material world is a world of jealousyand envy. I am envious of you, and you are envious of me. The Krsna consciousness movement, however, is meant for one who is no longer jealous or envious. By becoming free from jealousy and envy, one becomes a perfect person. Dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra paramo nirmatsaranam satam (SB1.1.2). Those who are jealous and envious are within this material world, and those who are not are in the spiritual world. Therefore, we can test ourselves.