Category Archives: Journey through the Veda Pusthakan (Bible)

The convergence of Sanskrit and Hebrew Vedas: Why?

In my last post I looked at the similarities between the account of Manu in the Sanskrit Vedas and the account of Noah in the Hebrew Vedas.  And this convergence goes beyond these flood accounts.  As we have seen, there is a similar convergence between the Promise of the sacrifice of Purusa at the dawn of time with that of the Promised offspring given in the Hebrew book of Genesis .  So why do we see these convergences?  Is it due to coincidence?  Does one account borrow or steal from the other?  Here I offer a suggestion.

Tower of Babel – The Account After the Flood

Following the account of Noah, the Veda Pusthakam (the Bible) goes on to record the descendants of his three sons and to state that “From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32).  The Sanskrit Vedas also declare that Manu had three sons from whom all mankind descend.  But how did this ‘spreading out’ occur?

The ancient Hebrew account goes into detail to list and name the descendants of these three sons of Noah.  You can read this complete list here.  The account then goes on to describe how these descendants disobeyed the directive of Elohim or Prajapati – the Creator, who had commanded them to ‘fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1).  But instead these people remained together to build a tower.  You can read that account here.  This account states this was a tower ‘that reaches to the heavens’ (Genesis 11:4).  This means that these first descendants of Noah were building a tower for the purpose of worshiping stars and the sun, moon, planets etc. instead of worshiping the Creator.  It is well-known that star worship originated in Mesopotamia (where these descendants were living) and that it then spread all over the world.  A Religion Dictionary reference states that star worship:

This was certainly so in Mesopotamia in the last two millennia bce [10: i–iii ] and in Central America among the Maya [9: v ]. Star-worship probably underlies the prehistoric megalithic astronomical sites of northern Europe [9: ii–iii ; e.g. Stonehenge] and similar sites in North America [9: iv ; e.g. the Big Horn medicine wheel]. From Mesopotamia star-worship passed into Graeco-Roman culture…

So instead of worshiping the Creator, our ancestors worshiped stars.  The account then says that to frustrate this, so that the corruption of worship would not become irreversible, the Creator decided to

…confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (Genesis 11:7)

As a result of this, these first descendants of Noah could not understand each other and so in this way the Creator

scattered them from there over all the earth  (Genesis 11:8)

In other words, once these people could no longer talk to each other, they migrated away from each other, within their newly formed linguistic groups, and thus they ‘scattered’.  This explains why the different people groups of the world today speak in very different languages, as each group spread out from their original center in Mesopotamia (sometimes over many generations) to the places where they are found today.  Thus, their respective histories diverged from this point onwards.  But each language group (which formed these first nations) had a common history up to this point.   This common history included the Promise of Moksha through the sacrifice of Purusa and the flood account of Manu (Noah).  The Sanskrit rsis remembered these events through their Vedas and the Hebrews remembered these same events through their Veda (the Torah of Rsi Moses).

The Testimony of diverse Flood accounts – from around the world

This explanation does explain the convergence and similarity between these early Vedas.  But is there further evidence to support this explanation?  Interestingly, the flood account is not just remembered in the ancient Hebrew and Sanskrit Vedas.  Diverse people groups around the globe remember a great flood in their respective histories.  The following chart illustrates this.

Flood accounts from cultures around the world compared to the flood account in the Bible

Flood accounts from cultures around the world compared to the flood account in the Bible

Across the top this shows various language groups living around the world – on every continent.   The cells in the chart denote whether the particular detail of the Hebrew flood account (listed down the left of the chart) is also contained their own flood account.  Black cells indicate that this detail is in their flood account, while blank cells indicate that this detail is not in their local flood account.  You can see that almost all these groups had at least in common the ‘memory’ that the flood was a Judgment by the Creator but that some humans were saved in a huge boat.  In other words, the memory of this flood is not only found in the Sanskrit and Hebrew Vedas, but in other cultural histories around the world and continents apart.  It points to this event having happened in our distant past.

The Testimony of the Hindi Calendar

hindu-calendar-panchang

Hindi Calendar – the days of the month go top to bottom, but there is the 7-day week

It was when I worked and traveled in India that I became aware of another supporting testimony which I found to be rather remarkable – but only when you become aware of it.  It is peculiar enough to demand an explanation.  When working in India I saw the many Hindi calendars.  I noticed that they were different than western calendars.  The obvious difference to me was that the calendars were constructed so that the days would go down columns (top to bottom) instead of across rows (left to right), which is the universal way of demarking calendars in the West.  Some calendars had different numbers than the western ‘1, 2, 3…’ since they used the Hindi script (१, २,  ३ …).  I could understand, and even expect, such differences since there is no ‘right’ way to denote a calendar.  But it was the central convergence – in the midst of these differences – that struck me.  The Hindi calendar used the 7-day week – the same as in the Western world.  Why?  I could understand why the calendar was divided into years and months like the western one since these are based on the revolutions of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth – thus giving astronomical foundations universal to all people.  But there is no astronomical time basis for the ‘week’.  When I asked people they said it was custom and tradition that went far back in their history (how far back no one seemed to know).

… and the Buddhist Thai Calendar

thai_lunar_calendar

Thai Calendar goes left to right, but has a different year than in West – but still that 7-day week

I also had the opportunity to live and work in Thailand.  While there I would view their calendars.  Being a Buddhist country, Thais mark their years from the life of the Buddha so that their years were always 543 years greater than in the West (ie the year 2013 AD is 2556 in BE –Buddhist Era – in the Thai calendar).  But again they also used a 7-day week.  Where did they get that from?  Why are calendars that diverge in so many ways across different countries based on the 7-day week when there is no real astronomical basis for this calendar time unit?

Testimony of ancient Greeks on the week

These observations on Hindi and Thai calendars pushed me to see if the 7-day week was evident in other ancient cultures.  And it is.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived around 400 BC is considered the father of modern medicine and he wrote books, preserved to this day, recording his medical observations.  In doing so he used ‘week’ as a time unit.  Writing about the growing symptoms of a certain disease he stated:

The fourth day is indicative of the seventh; the eighth is the commencement of the second week; and hence, the eleventh being the fourth of the second week, is also indicative; and again, the seventeenth is indicative, as being the fourth from the fourteenth, and the seventh from the eleventh  (Hippocrates, Aphorisms. #24)

Aristotle, writing in the 350’s BC uses the ‘week’ regularly to demark time.  To cite one example he writes:

The majority of deaths in infancy occur before the child is a week old, hence it is customary to name the child at that age, from a belief that it has now a better chance of survival. (Aristotle, The History of Animals, Part 12, ca 350 BC)

So where did these ancient Greek writers, far removed from India and Thailand, get the idea of a ‘week’ such that they used it expecting their Greek readers to know what a ‘week’ was?  Perhaps there was an historical event which all these cultures had in their past (though they may have forgotten the event) which established the 7-day week?

The Hebrew Vedas describe just such an event – the initial creation of the world.  In that detailed and ancient account the Creator creates the world and fashions the first people in 7 days (actually 6 days with a 7th day of rest).  Because of that, the descendants of the first human pair then used that 7-day week time unit in their calendar.  When mankind was subsequently scattered by the confusion of languages these major events that preceded this ‘scattering’ were remembered in different ways by some of these different language groups, including the promise of a coming sacrifice, the account of the cataclysmic flood, as well as the 7-day week.  These memories are living artefacts of early mankind and a testament to the history of these events as recorded in these Vedas.  This explanation certainly is the cleanest and simplest way to explain the convergence of the Hebrew and Sanskrit Vedas.  Many people today dismiss these ancient writings as mere superstitious mythology but these convergences should cause us to reconsider.

So early mankind had a common history, and this history included the Promise of Moksha from the Creator.  But how would the promise be fulfilled?  We continue with the account of a holy man who lived just after the scattering caused by the confusion of languages.  We pick this up in our next article.

[For a further look at ancient memories that show similar kinds of convergences – but this time through the calligraphy in the Chinese language see my article here]

How Mankind continued on – Lessons from the account of Manu (or Noah)

In our previous post we looked at the promise of Moksha given right at the very beginning of human history. We also noted that there is something about us that tends to corruption, that shows up in our actions missing the target of intended moral behaviour, and even deeper into the very nature of our being. Our original image which was made by God (Prajapati) has been marred. Though we try hard with many rituals, washings and prayers, the reality of the corruption causes us to instinctively feel a need for cleansing that we cannot properly achieve. We often tire of continually having to fight this ‘uphill’ struggle of trying to live with perfect integrity.

But if we let this pull to corruption grow without any moral restraint we can quickly degenerate. This happened very early in human history. The early chapters of the Bible (Veda Pusthakam) tell us how this happened. This account is paralleled in the Shatapatha Brahmana which details how the progenitor of mankind today – known as Manu – survived a great judgment of a flood that came because of human corruption, and did so by seeking refuge in a great boat. Both the Bible (Veda Pusthakam) and the Sanskrit Vedas tell us that all mankind alive today descended from him.

Ancient Manu – from whom we get the English word ‘man’

If we look into the derivation of the English word ‘man’, it comes from proto-Germanic. Tacitus, a Roman Historian who lived around the time of Jesus Christ (Yeshu Satsang) wrote a book of the history of the German people called Germania. In it he says

In their old ballads (which amongst them are the only sort of registers and history) they celebrate Tuisto, a God sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of the nation. To Mannus they assign three sons, after whose names so many people are called (Tacitus. Germania Ch 2, written ca 100 AD)

Etymologists tell us that this ancient Germanic word ‘Mannus’ is a derivation of the Proto-Indo-European “manuh” (cf. Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-,). In other words, the English word ‘Man’ probably derives from Manu whom both the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) and the Shatapatha Brahmana say that we all come from! So let us look at this person and see what we can learn. We start by summarizing from the Shatapatha Brahmana. There are a few renditions that have slightly different aspects to the account, so I will stick to the main points.

The account of Manu in the Sanskrit vedas

In the Vedic accounts Manu was a righteous man, who sought truth. Because Manu was absolutely honest, he was initially known as Satyavrata (“One with the oath of truth”).

According to the Shatapatha Brahmana (click here to read the account in Shatapatha Brahmana), an avatar warned Manu of a coming flood. The avatar appeared initially as a Shaphari (a small carp) while he washed his hands in a river. The little Fish asked Manu to save Him, and out of compassion, he put it in a water jar. It kept growing bigger and bigger, until Manu put Him in a bigger pitcher, and then deposited Him in a well. When the well also proved insufficient for the ever-growing Fish, Manu placed Him in a tank (reservoir), that was two yojanas (16 miles) in height above the surface and on land, as much in length, and a yojana (8 miles) in breadth. As the Fish grew further Manu had to put it in a river, and when even the river proved insufficient he placed it in the ocean, after which it nearly filled the vast expanse of the great ocean.

It was then that the avatar informed Manu of an all-destructive deluge which would come very soon. So Manu built a huge boat which housed his family, 9 types of seeds, and animals to repopulate the earth, for after the deluge abated the oceans and seas would recede and the world would need to be repopulated with people and animals. At the time of the deluge, Manu fastened the boat to the horn of a fish which was also an avatar. His boat ended up after the flood perched on the top of a mountain. He then descended from the mountain and offered sacrifices and oblations for his deliverance. All peoples on earth today descend from him.

The Account of Noah in the Bible (Veda Pusthakam)

The account in the Bible (Veda Pusthakam) describes the same event, but in this account Manu is called ‘Noah’. Click here to read the account of Noah and the global flood in detail from the Bible. Many people find the story of Noah and the flood unbelievable. But, along with the sanskrit Vedas and the Bible, memories of this event are preserved in many histories from different cultures, religions and histories.  The world is covered with sedimentary rock, which is formed during a flood so we have physical evidence of this flood as well as anthropological evidence. But what is the lesson for us today that we should pay attention to in this account?

Missing vs. Receiving Mercy

When I talk to people about whether God judges corruption (sin), and in particular whether their sin or my sin will be judged or not, the reply I often get is something like, “I am not too worried about Judgment because God is so merciful and kind I do not think He will really judge me”. It is this account of Noah (or Manu) that should cause us to question such thinking. The entire world (apart from Noah and his family) was destroyed in that judgment. So where was His mercy then? It was provided in the ark.

God in His Mercy, provided an ark that was available for anybody. Anyone could have entered that ark and received mercy and safety from the coming flood. The problem was almost all people responded to the coming flood with disbelief. They mocked Noah and did not believe the coming Judgment would really happen. So they perished in the flood. And all they needed was to have entered the ark and they would have escaped the Judgment.

Those alive back then probably thought that they could avoid the flood by climbing to a higher hill, or by building a big raft. But they totally underestimated the size and power of the judgment. These ‘good ideas’ would not be sufficient for that judgment; they needed something that could cover them much better – the ark. While they all watched it being built it was a clear sign of both coming Judgment and available Mercy.  And in paying attention to the example of Noah (or Manu) it speaks to us today in the same way, showing that mercy is attained through the provision that God has established, not by one that we think is good.

So why did Noah find the Mercy of God? You will notice that the Bible repeats several times the phrase

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him

I find that I tend to do what I understand, or what I like, or what I agree with. I am sure that Noah must have had many questions in his mind about the warning of a coming flood and the command to build such a big ark on land. I am sure he could have reasoned that since he was a good and truth-seeking man he perhaps did not need to pay attention to building this ark. But he did ‘all‘ that was commanded – not just what he understood, not what he was comfortable with, and not even what made sense to him. This is a great example for us to follow.

The Door for salvation

The Bible also tells us that after Noah, his family, and the animals entered the ark that

Then the Lord shut him in. (Genesis 7:16)

It was God that controlled and managed the One Door into the ark – not Noah. When Judgment came and the waters rose, no amount of banging on the ark from the people outside could move Noah to open the door. God controlled that one door. But at the same time those on the inside could rest in confidence that since God controlled the door that no wind or wave could force it open. They were safe in the door of God’s care and Mercy.

Since God does not change this principle applies to us today. The Bible warns that there is another coming Judgment – and this one by fire – but the sign of Noah assures us that along with His Judgment He will also offer Mercy. But we should look for the ‘ark’ with one door that will cover our need and grant us Mercy.

Sacrifices again

The Bible also tells us that Noah:

built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Genesis 8:20)

This fits the pattern of sacrifice that we noted in the Purusasukta. It is as if Noah (or Manu) knew that the sacrifice of Purusa would be given so he offered an animal sacrifice as a picture of this coming sacrifice demonstrating his trust that God would do it. In fact the Bible says that just after this sacrifice God ‘blessed Noah and his sons’ (Genesis 9:1) and ‘made a covenant with Noah’ (Genesis 9:8) to never again judge all people with a flood. So it seems that the sacrifice of an animal by Noah was crucial in his worship.

Re-birth – through Law or…

In the Vedic tradition, Manu is the source for the Manusmriti which advises or prescribes one’s varna/caste in life. The Yajurveda says that at birth, all humans are born shudras or servants, but that we need a second or new birth to escape this bondage. The Manusmriti is controversial and different points-of-view are expressed in it about smriti. It is beyond our scope to analyze all these details.  However, what is interesting, and what we will explore, is that in the Bible, a Semitic people who descended from Noah also received two ways in which to receive purity and cleansing. One way was through a law which included cleansings, ritual washings and sacrifices – very similar to the Manusmriti. The other way was much more mysterious, and it involved a death before achieving re-birth.  Jesus also taught about this.  He told a learned scholar in his day that

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3)

We will look further at this in later articles.  But next we will explore why there is such similarities in the Bible and Sanskrit Vedas – in our next article.

The Promise of Moksha – Right from the Beginning

In my last few posts I have looked at how mankind fell from their initial created state. But the Bible (Veda Pusthakam) continues with a plan that God had right from the beginning. This plan centered on a Promise that was issued back then and is the same plan that echoes in the Purusasukta.

The Bible – Really a Library

To appreciate the significance of this Promise we must know some basic facts about the Bible. Though it is a book, and we think of it as such, it is actually more accurate to think of it as a mobile library. This is because it is a collection of books, written by a diverse set of authors, over a time span that exceeds 1500 years.  Today these books are bound in into one volume – the Bible. This fact alone makes the Bible uniquely like the Rg Vedas among the Great Books of the world. In addition to the diverse authorship, the different books of the Bible make statements, declarations and predictions that later writers pick up on.  If the Bible was written by just one author, or a group of authors that knew each other, that would not be noteworthy. But the authors of the Bible are separated by hundreds and even thousands of years, writing in different civilizations, languages, social strata, and literary genres – yet their messages and predictions are picked up seamlessly by later authors or are fulfilled through facts of history verifified outside the Bible. This makes the Bible unique on a whole different level – and knowing this should motivate us to understand its message. Existing manuscript copies of the Old Testament books (the books that precede Jesus) are dated to about 200 BC so the textual base of the Bible is better, by far, than all other ancient books of the world.

The Promise of Moksha in the Garden

We see this foreshadowing aspect clearly in the Creation and Fall account right at the beginning of the book of Genesis in the Bible. In other words, though it is recounting the Beginning, it was written with the End in view. Here we see a Promise when God confronts His adversary Satan, the personification of evil who was in form of a serpent, and speaks to him in a riddle just after Satan has brought about the human fall:

“… and I (God) will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Reading carefully you will see that there are five different characters mentioned and that this is prophetic in that it is looking forward-in-time (seen by the repeated use of ‘will’ as in future tense). The characters are:

  1. God
  2. Satan/serpent
  3. The woman
  4. The offspring of the woman
  5. The offspring of Satan

And the riddle predicts how these characters will relate to each other in the future. This is shown below

Relationships between the characters depicted in the Promise of Genesis

Relationships between the characters depicted in the Promise of Genesis

God will arrange that both Satan and the woman will have an ‘offspring’. There will be ‘enmity’ or hatred between these offspring and between the woman and Satan. Satan will ‘strike the heel’ of the offspring of the woman while the offspring of the woman will ‘crush the head’ of Satan.

Deductions on the Offspring – a ‘he’

So far we have just made observations directly from the text. Now for some reasoned deductions. Because the ‘offspring’ of the woman is referred to as a ‘he’ and a ‘his’ we know that it is a single male human – a man.  With that we can discard some possible interpretations. As a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘she’ and thus cannot be a woman.  As a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘they’, which it could have plausibly been, perhaps a group of people, or a race, or a team, or a nation. At various times and in various ways people have thought that a ‘they’ would be the answer. But the offspring, being a ‘he’ is NOT a group of people whether that refers to a nation or those of a certain religion as in Hindus, Buddhists, Christians or Muslims etc. As a ‘he’ the offspring is not an ‘it’ (the offspring is a person). This eliminates the possibility that the offspring is a particular philosophy, teaching, technology, political system, or religion. An ‘it’ of these kinds would probably have been, and still is, our preferred choice to fix the world. We think that what will fix our situation is some kind of ‘it’, so the best of human thinkers through the centuries have argued for different political systems, educational systems, technologies, religions etc. But in this Promise the compass is pointed in a totally different direction. God had something else in mind – a ‘he’. And this ‘he’ would crush the head of the serpent.

Another interesting observation comes from what is not said. God does not promise the man an offspring like he promises the woman. This is quite extraordinary especially given the emphasis of sons coming through fathers throughout the Bible, and throughout the ancient world. In fact, one criticism of the genealogies in the Bible by modern Westerners is that they ignore the blood lines that go through women. It is ‘sexist’ in Western eyes because it just considers sons of men. But in this case there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man. It says only that there will be an offspring coming from the woman, without mentioning a man.

Out of all the humans that have ever existed that I can think of, historically or mythically, only one claimed to have had a mother but at the same time never had a physical father. This was Jesus (Yeshu Satsang) who the New Testament (written thousands of years after this Promise was given) claims was born of a virgin – thus a mother but no human father. Is Jesus being foreshadowed here in this riddle right at the beginning of time? This fits with the observation that the offspring is a ‘he’, not a ‘she’, ‘they’ or ‘it’. With that perspective, if you read the riddle some pieces fall into place.

‘Strike his Heel’??

What does it mean that Satan/serpent would strike ‘his heel’? I did not understand until I worked in the jungles of Africa. We had to wear thick rubber boots even in the humid heat – because the serpents there lay in the long grass and would strike your foot – i.e. your heel – and that would kill you. My first day there I almost stepped on a serpent, and possibly could have died from it. The riddle made sense to me after that. The ‘he’ would destroy the serpent (‘crush your head’), but the price he would have to pay, would be that he would be killed (‘strike his heel’). That does foreshadow the victory achieved through the sacrifice of Jesus.

The offspring of the Serpent?

But who is his other enemy, this offspring of Satan? Though we do not have space here to trace it out exhaustively, the later books speak of a coming person. Note this description:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him … Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; written by Paul in Greece ca 50 AD)

These later books explicitly speak of a countdown to a clash between the offspring of the woman and Satan’s offspring. But it is first mentioned in embryo-like form in this Promise of Genesis, at the very beginning of human history, with details waiting to be filled in. So the climax of history, the countdown to a final contest between Satan and God, started long ago in the Garden is foreseen at that same beginning – the earliest Book.

In previous posts we have journeyed through the ancient hymn Purusasukta. We saw that this hymn also predicted the coming of a Perfect Man – Purusa – a man who would also come ‘not by human power’. This man would be also given in sacrifice. In fact we saw that this was decided and determined in the mind and heart of God at the beginning of time. Are these two books speaking of the same person? I believe that they are. The Purusasukta and the Genesis Promise remember the same event – when God decided that He would one day incarnate as a man so that this man could be given in sacrifice – the universal need for all humans no matter what their religion. But this Promise is not the only parallel between the Rg Veda and the Bible. Since they record the earliest in human history they also record other parallels which we look at in the next post.

Corrupted (Part 2) … missing our target

In my last post I looked at how the Veda Pusthakam (Bible) describes us as corrupted from the original image of God that we were made in.  A picture that has helped me to ‘see’ this better was the orcs of Middle Earth, corrupted from the elves.  So this is how the Bible describes us.   But how did this happen?

The Origin of Sin

It is recorded in the book of Genesis of the Bible.  Shortly after being created In the Image of God the first humans were tested.  The account records an exchange with a ‘serpent’.  The serpent has always been universally understood to be Satan – a Spirit adversary to God.  Through the Bible, Satan usually tempts to evil by speaking through another person.  In this case he spoke through a serpent.  It is recorded in this way.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-6)

The root of their choice, and thus the temptation, was that they could ‘be like God’. Up to this point they had trusted God for everything and simply taken Him at His word for all things. But now they had the choice to leave that behind, become ‘like God’, trusting themselves and taking their own word for things. They could become ‘gods’ themselves, captains of their own ship, masters of their destiny, autonomous and answerable only to themselves.

In their rebellion from God something in them changed. As the passage recounts, they felt shame and tried to cover up. In fact, just afterwards, when God confronted Adam about his disobedience, Adam blamed Eve (and God who made her). She in turn blames the serpent. No one would accept responsibility.

The Consequences of Adam’s Rebellion

And what started that day has continued because we have inherited that same innate disposition. That is why we behave like Adam – because we have inherited his nature. Some misunderstand the Bible to mean we are blamed for the rebellion of Adam. In fact, the only one blamed is Adam but we live in the consequences of that rebellion. We can think of it genetically. Children acquire the traits of their parents – good and bad – by inheriting their genes.  We have inherited this mutinous nature of Adam and thus innately, almost unconsciously, but willfully we continue the uprising that he started. We may not want to be God of the universe, but we want to be gods in our settings; autonomous from God.

The effects of Sin so Visible Today

And this explains so much of human life that we take for granted. This is the reason that everywhere people need locks for their doors, they need police, lawyers, encryption passwords for banking – because in our current state we steal from each other. This is why empires and societies all eventually decay and collapse – because the citizens in all these empires have a tendency to decay. This is why after trying all forms of government and economic systems, and though some work better than others, every political or economic system seems eventually to collapse on itself – because the people living these ideologies have tendencies which eventually drag the whole system down.  This is why though our generation is the most educated that has ever existed we still have these problems, because it goes much deeper than our level of education.  This is why we identify so well with the prayer of the Pratasana mantram – because it describes us so well.

Sin – To ‘miss’ the Target

This is also why no religion has fully brought about their vision for society – but neither have the atheistic ones (think of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia) – because something about the way we are tends to make us miss our vision.  In fact, that word ‘miss’ sums up our situation. A verse from the Bible gives a picture that has helped me understand this better. It says

Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16)

This verse describes soldiers who were experts at using slingshots and would never miss. The original Hebrew word translated ‘miss’ above is יַחֲטִֽא׃.  This same Hebrew word is also translated as sin across most of the Bible.  For example, this same Hebrew word is ‘sin’ when Joseph, sold as a slave to Egypt, would not commit adultery with his master’s wife, even though she begged him. He said to her:

No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? (Genesis 39:9)

And just after the giving of the Ten Commandments it says:

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 20:20)

In both these places it is the same Hebrew word יַחֲטִֽא׃ that is translated ‘sin’. It is exactly the same word for ‘miss’ with soldiers that sling stones at targets as in these verses which means ‘sin’ when dealing with people’s treatments of each other. This provides a picture to help us understand what ‘sin’ is. The soldier takes a stone and slings it to hit the target. If it misses it has failed his purpose. In the same way, we were made in God’s image to hit the target about how we relate to Him and treat others. To ‘sin’ is to miss this purpose, or target, that was intended for us, and which we in our various systems, religions and ideologies also intend for ourselves.

Bad News of ‘Sin’ – An issue of Truth not Preference

This corrupted and missed-the-target picture of humankind is not pretty, it is not feel-good, nor is it optimistic.  Over the years I have had people react strongly against this particular teaching.  I remember one student at a university here in Canada looking at me with great anger saying, “I don’t believe you because I do not like what you are saying”.  Now we may not like it, but to focus on that is to miss the point. What does ‘liking’ something have anything to do with whether it is true or not?  I do not like taxes, wars, AIDS and earthquakes – no one does – but that does not make them go away, and neither can we ignore any of them.

All the systems of law, police, locks, keys, security etc. that we have built in all societies to protect ourselves from each other does suggest that something is wrong.  The fact that festivals such as the Kumbh Mela draws tens of millions to ‘wash our sins away’ indicates that we ourselves instinctively know that in some way we have ‘missed’ the target.  The fact that the concept of sacrifice as a requirement for heaven is found in all religions is a clue that something about us is not right.  At the very least, this doctrine deserves to be considered in an even-handed way.

But this doctrine of sin existing across all religions, languages and nations – causing all of us to ‘miss’ the target raises an important question.  What was God going to do about it?  We look at God’s response in our next post – where we see the first Promise of the coming Redeemer – The Purusa who would be sent for us.

But Corrupted … like orcs of middle-earth

In my last post I looked at the biblical foundation for how we should see ourselves and others – that we are made in the image of God. But the Veda Pusthakam (The Bible) develops further on this foundation. The Psalms are a collection of sacred songs and hymns used by the Old Testament Hebrews in their worship of God. Psalm 14 was written by King David (who was also a Rsi) about 1000 B.C., and this hymn records the state-of-affairs from God’s point of view.

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

The phrase ‘become corrupt’ is used to describe the entire human race. Since it is something we have ‘become’ the corruption is in reference to that initial state of being in the ‘image of God’. This passage says that the corruption demonstrates itself in a determined independence from God (‘all’ have ‘turned aside’ from ‘seeking God’) and also in not doing ‘good’.

Thinking Elves and Orcs

Orcs were hideous in so many ways. But they were simply corrupt descendants of elves

Orcs were hideous in so many ways. But they were simply corrupt descendants of elves

To better understand this think of the orcs of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings as an illustration. Orcs are hideous creatures in appearance, conduct, and in their treatment of the earth. Yet orcs are descended from elves that had become corrupted

The elves were noble and majestic

The elves were noble and majestic

by Sauron. When you see the stately majesty, harmony and relationship with nature that elves had (think of Legalos) and realize that the depraved orcs were once elves who have ‘become corrupt’ you will get a sense of what is said here about people. God created elves but they have become orcs.

This fits exactly with what we noted as a universal tendency among people, to be aware of our sin and need for cleansing – as illustrated in the Kumbh Mela festival. So here we arrive at a perspective that is very instructive: The biblical starting point of people as sentient, personal, and moral, but then also corrupt, fits with what we observe about ourselves. It is shrewdly spot-on in its assessment of people, recognizing an intrinsic moral nature within us that can easily be overlooked since our actions never actually match what this nature demands of us – because of this corruption. The biblical shoe fits the human foot. However, it raises an obvious question: why did God make us this way – with a moral compass and yet corrupted from it? As well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens complains:

“… If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts [i.e., corrupt ones], he should have taken more care to invent a different species.” Christopher Hitchens. 2007. God is not great: How religion spoils everything. p. 100

But this is where in his haste to dismiss the wisdom of the Bible that he misses something very important. The Bible does not say that God made us this way, but that something terrible has happened since the initial creation to bring about this difficult state-of-affairs. An important event happened in human history after our creation. The first humans defied God, as recorded in Genesis – the first and earliest book in the Bible (Veda Pusthakam), and in their defiance they changed and were corrupted.  This is why we now live in Tamas, or darkness.

The Fall of Mankind

This event in human history is often called The Fall.  Adam, the first man, was created by God. There was an agreement between God and Adam, like a marriage contract of faithfulness, and Adam broke it. The Bible records that Adam ate from the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ even though they had agreed that he would not eat from that tree. The agreement and the tree itself, gave Adam a free choice to remain faithful to God or not. Adam had been created in the image of God, and placed into friendship with Him.  But Adam had no choice regarding his creation, so God allowed him to choose about his friendship with God.  Just like the choice to stand is not real if sitting is impossible, the friendship and trust of Adam to God had to be a choice.  This choice centered on the command not to eat from that one tree.  And Adam chose to rebel.  What Adam started with his rebellion has gone non-stop through all generations and continues with us today. We look next at what this means.

In the Image of God

We have seen how the Purusasukta goes back to even before time began and explains the mind of God (Prajapati) deciding to sacrifice Purusa. From this decision creation of everything followed – including the creation of mankind.

Let us now consider what the Veda Pusthakam (Bible) says about the creation of mankind so we cab get an understanding of what the Bible teaches about us by looking at a key passage from this creation account.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

“In the Image of God”

What does it mean that man was created ‘in the image of God’?  It does not mean that God is a physical being with two arms, a head, etc. Rather at a deeper level it is saying that basic characteristics of people are derived from similar characteristics of God. So for example, both God (in the Bible) and people (from observation) have intellect, emotions and will. In the Bible God is sometimes portrayed as sad, hurt, angry or joyful – the same range of emotions that we humans experience. We make choices and decisions on a daily basis. God similarly in the Bible makes choices and comes to decisions. Our ability to reason and think abstractly comes from God. We have the capacities of intellect, emotion and will because God has them and we are made in his image.

At a deeperl level we see that we are sentient beings, self-aware and conscious of ‘I’ and ‘you’. We are not impersonal ‘its’. We are like this because God is this way.  In this fundamental perspective, the God of the Bible is not portrayed as a pantheistic impersonality like the ‘Force’ in the well-known movie Star Wars. The fact that humans are sentient persons rather than ‘its’ makes sense in light of this early teaching about God. We are this way because God is like this, and we are made in His image.

Why we are Aesthetic

We also love art and drama. We naturally appreciate and even need beauty. This goes beyond just visual beauty to include music and literature. Think about how important music is to us – even how we love to dance. Music so enriches our lives. We love good stories, whether in novels or plays, or more commonly today, in movies. Stories have heroes, villains, drama, and the great stories burn these heroes, villains and drama into our imaginations. It is so natural for us to use and appreciate art in its many forms to entertain, reinvigorate and refresh ourselves because God is an Artist and we are in his image.

It is a question worth asking. Why are we naturally aesthetic, whether in art, drama, music, dance, or literature? Whenever I travelled in India I was always amazed at the Indian movies which feature music and dance even more than Western-made movies. Daniel Dennett, an outspoken atheist and an authority on understanding cognitive processes, answers from a materialistic perspective:

“But most of this research still takes music for granted. It seldom asks: Why does music exist? There is a short answer, and it is true, so far as it goes: it exists because we love it and hence we keep bringing more of it into existence. But why do we love it? Because we find that it is beautiful. But why is it beautiful to us? This is a perfectly good biological question, but it does not yet have a good answer.” (Daniel Dennett. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. p. 43)

The materialistic perspective on mankind has no answer to this fundamental question about our human nature. From the Biblical perspective it is because God is artistic and aesthetic. He made things beautiful and enjoys beauty. We, made in His image, are the same.

Why we are Moral

In addition, being ‘made in God’s image’ explains the natural moral capacity that is so common in all cultures, and which we covered in the moral teachings of the guru Sai Baba. Because we are made in God’s image and morality is intrinsic to Him, like a compass aligned to magnetic North, our alignment to ‘fair’, ‘good’, ‘right’ is this way because this is the way He is. It is not just religious people who are made in this way – everyone is. Not recognizing this can give rise to misunderstandings. Take for example this challenge from the materialist American Sam Harris.

“If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers.” Sam Harris. 2005. Letter to a Christian Nation p.38-39

Harris is simply wrong here. Biblically speaking, our sense of morality comes from being made in God’s image, not from being religious. And that is why atheists, like all the rest of us, have this moral sense and can act morally. The difficulty with atheism is to account for why we have our morality – but being made in God’s moral image is a simple and straightforward explanation.

Why are we so Relational

Biblically, the starting point to understanding ourselves is to recognize that we are made in God’s image. Because of this, as we gain insight into either God (through what is revealed about him in the Bible) or people (through observation and reflection) we can also gain insight into the other. So, for example, it is easy to notice the importance people place on relationships. It is OK to see a good movie, but it is a much better experience to see it with a friend. We naturally seek out friends to share experiences with. Meaningful friendships and family relationships are key to our sense of well-being. Conversely, loneliness and/or fractured family relationships and breakdowns in friendships stress us. We are not neutral and unmoved by the state of relationships we have with others. Again, as a frequent visitor to India this comes out so strongly in Indian movies. There always seems to be family and romantic relationships strongly portrayed in these movies.

Now, if we are in God’s image, then we would expect to find this same relational emphasis with God, and in fact we do. The Bible says that “God is Love…” (1 John 4:8).  Much is written in the Bible about the importance that God places on our love for him and for others – they are in fact called by Jesus (Yeshu Satsang) the two most important commands in the Bible. When you think about it, Love must be relational since to function it requires a person who loves (the lover) and a person who is the object of this love – the beloved.

Thus we should think of God as a lover. If we only think of Him as the ‘Prime Mover’, the ‘First Cause’, the ‘Omniscient Deity’, the ‘Benevolent Being’ or perhaps the ‘Impersonal Atman’ we are not thinking of the Biblical God – rather we have made up a god in our minds. Though He is these, He is also portrayed as almost recklessly passionate in relationship. He does not ‘have’ love. He ‘is’ love. The two most prominent Biblical metaphors of God’s relationship with people are that of a father to his children and a husband to his wife. Those are not dispassionately philosophical ‘first cause’ analogies but those of the deepest and most intimate of human relationships.

So here is the foundation we have laid so far. People are made in God’s image comprised of mind, emotions and will. We are sentient and self-aware. We are moral beings with our ‘Moral grammar’ giving us an innate orientation of ‘right’ and ‘fair’, and what is not. We have instinctive capacity to develop and appreciate beauty, drama, art and story in all its forms. And we will innately and naturally seek out and develop relationships and friendships with others. We are all this because God is all this and we are made in God’s image. All these deductions are at least consistent with what we observe about ourselves as we laid this foundation. We continue in the next post to look at some difficulties.