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Maya of Finding Life’s satisfaction under the sun

Maya comes from the Sanskrit meaning ‘that which is not’ and therefore is ‘illusion’.  Different sages and schools of thought have emphasized the illusion of maya in different ways but commonly express the idea that the material or the physical can mislead our soul and thus entangle and entrap it into bondage.  Our soul aspires to control and enjoy matter. However, in so doing we end up serving lust, greed, and anger. Often we then redouble our efforts and, compounding mistake upon mistake, fall deeper into illusion or maya.  Thus maya can act like a whirlpool which, with growing strength, entraps one more and more, leading to despair.  Maya results in accepting that which is temporary as having lasting value, and looking for enduring happiness in this world, which it cannot provide.

The classic Tamil book of wisdom, The Tirukkural, describes Maya and its effect on us in this way:

“If one clings to his attachments, refus­ing to let go, sorrows will not let go their grip on him.” Tirukkural 35.347–348

The Hebrew Vedas has wisdom literature very similar to Tirukkal.  The author of this wisdom poetry was Solomon.  He recounts how he experienced Maya and its effects as he lived ‘under the sun’ – that is, living as though only the material has value, and looking for enduring happiness only in this physical world under the path of the sun.

Solomon’s experience of Maya ‘under the sun’

Solomon, an ancient king famous for his wisdom, wrote several poems around 950 BC that are part of the Old Testament in the Bible. In Ecclesiastes, he described all that he did to find satisfaction in life.  He wrote:

“I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ …I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone … before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone … before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me….I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-10)

Riches, fame, knowledge, projects, women, pleasure, kingdom, career, wine… Solomon had it all – and more of it than anyone else of his day or ours. The smarts of an Einstein, the riches of a Lakshmi Mittal, the social/sexual life of a Bollywood Star, along with a royal pedigree like that of Prince William in the British Royal family – all rolled into one. Who could beat that combination? You would think he, of all people would have been satisfied.

In another of his poems, Song of Songs, which is also in the Bible, he records an erotic, red-hot love affair that he was having – the very thing that seems most likely to provide life-long satisfaction.  The complete poem is hereBut below is a portion of the poem of the love exchange between him and his lover

Song of Songs extract

He

I liken you, my darling, to a mare
among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.
10 Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings,
your neck with strings of jewels.
11 We will make you earrings of gold,
studded with silver.

She

12 While the king was at his table,
my perfume spread its fragrance.
13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
resting between my breasts.
14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
from the vineyards of En Gedi.

He

15 How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes are doves.

She

16 How handsome you are, my beloved!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant.

He

17 The beams of our house are cedars;
our rafters are firs.

She

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
and let his banner over me be love.
Strengthen me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.
His left arm is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.  (Song of Songs 1:9 – 2:7)

This poem, almost 3000 years old, has the romantic intensity of the best of the Bollywood love films.  The Bible in fact records that with his immense wealth he obtained 700 mistresses!  That is much more than the most prolific lovers of Bollywood or Hollywood will ever have.  So you would think that with all that love he would be satisfied. But even with all that love, all the riches, all the fame and the wisdom – he concluded:

“’Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ … I … devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-14)

“…when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun… So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.… This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?… This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11-23)

The promise of pleasure, wealth, work, progress, romantic love to ultimately satisfy was shown by him to be an illusion.  But today this is the same message that you and I still hear as the sure road to satisfaction.  Solomon’s poetry has already told us that he had not been able to find satisfaction in these ways.

Solomon continued his poetry to reflect on death as well as life:

Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.  All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21)

All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. … they join the dead.  Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!  For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-5)

Why would the Bible, a Holy book, contain poems about the pursuit of wealth and love – the very things we do not associate with Holiness?  Most of us expect Holy Books to discuss ascetism, dharma and moral precepts to live by.  And why does Solomon in the Bible write about death in such a final and pessimistic way?

The path taken by Solomon, so commonly pursued all over the world, was to live for self, creating whatever meaning, pleasure or ideals that he chose to pursue. But that end was not good for Solomon – the satisfaction was temporary and illusion.  His poems are in the Bible like a big warning sign – “Do not Go here – it will disappoint you!”  Since almost all of us will try to go down the same path that Solomon took we are wise if we listen to him.

The Gospel – Answering Solomon’s Poems

Jesus Christ (Yeshu Satsang) is probably the most well-known person written about in the Bible.  He too made statements about life.  In fact he said

“… I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

When Jesus says this he gives an answer to the futility and hopelessness written about by Solomon in his poems.  Maybe, just maybe, here is an answer to the dead-end of Solomon’s path. After all, gospel literally means ‘good news’. Is the Gospel really good news?  To answer that we need an informed understanding of the Gospel. Also we need to examine the claims of the Gospel – to think critically about the Gospel, without just being a mindless critic.

As I share in my story, this was a journey that I took.  The articles in this website are here so you too can begin to explore.  The incarnation of Jesus is a good place to start.

Diwali and the Lord Jesus

Diwali lampsThe first time I experienced Diwali ‘up close’ was when I was working in India. I had come to stay for a month and at the beginning of my stay Diwali was celebrated all around me. What I remember most were all the firecrackers – the air was thick with smoke and it made my eyes sting slightly. So with all that excitement going on around me I wanted to learn about Diwali, what it was and what it meant. And I fell in love with it.

The ‘festival of lights’ inspired me because I am a believer in, and follower of, Yeshu Satsang also known as the Lord Jesus. And the main message of his teaching was that His Light would overcome the darkness within us. So Diwali is a lot like the Lord Jesus.

Most of us realize that we have a problem with darkness in us. This is why so many millions participate in the Kumbh Mela festival – because millions of us know that we have sins and that we need to wash them off and cleanse ourselves. As well, the ancient prayer of the well-known Prartha Snana (or Pratasana) mantram acknowledges this sin or darkness inside us.

I am a sinner. I am the result of sin. I am born in sin. My soul is under sin. I am the worst of sinners. O Lord who has the beautiful eyes, Save me, O Lord of the Sacrifice.

But all of these thoughts of darkness, or sin, inside us is not encouraging. In fact we sometimes think of it as ‘bad news’. This is why the thought of light overcoming the darkness gives us so much hope and celebration. And so, along with the candles, the sweets and the firecrackers, Diwali expresses this hope that light will overcome the darkness.

Lord Jesus – Light in the World

This is exactly what the Lord Jesus has done. The Gospel in the Veda Pusthakan (or Bible) describes Jesus in the following way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)

So you see, this ‘Word’ is the fulfillment of the hope that Diwali expresses. And this hope comes in this ‘Word’ from God, which John later identifies as the Lord Jesus. The Gospel continues by stating that

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13)

This is explaining how the Lord Jesus came to ‘give light to everyone’. Some think that this is only for Christians, but notice that it says that this offer is for ‘everyone’ in the ‘world’ to ‘become children of God’. This offer is one that everyone, at least everyone who is interested in, like Diwali, Light overcoming the darkness inside them.

Lord Jesus’ Life prophesied hundreds of years in advance

What is extraordinary about the Lord Jesus is that his incarnation was predicted and foretold in many different ways and instances from early human history and they are recorded in the Hebrew Vedas. So he was written about even before he was on this earth. And some of the predictions of his incarnation are also remembered in the most ancient hymns in the Rg Veda, which praises the coming of Purusa, and records some of the earliest events of mankind, such as the flood of Manu, the same person whom the Bible – Veda Pusthakan – calls ‘Noah’. These ancient accounts depict the darkness of the sins of people, while offering the hope of the coming Purusa, or the Lord Jesus.

In the foretellings of the Rg Veda, Purusa, the incarnation of God and perfect man, was going to be sacrificed. This sacrifice was going to be sufficient to pay for the karma of our sins and also to cleanse us on the inside. Washings and pujas are good, but they are limited to our outsides. We need a better sacrifice to cleanse us on the inside.

Lord Jesus prophesied in Hebew Vedas

Along with these hymns in the Rg Veda, the Hebrew Vedas prophesied of this Coming One. Prominent in the Hebrew Vedas was the Rsi Isaiah (who lived about 750 BC, in other words 750 years even before the Lord Jesus walked this earth). He had many insights into this Coming One. He anticipates Diwali when he announces about the Lord Jesus that:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)

Why would this be the case? He continues

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

But though he was the Incarnation, he would become a Servant to us, to help us with our darkest needs.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Isaiah is describing the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. He does so 750 years before it happened, and he also describes the crucifixion as the sacrifice that heals us. And this work that the Servant would offer would be such that God would say to him

I will also make you a light to the Gentiles (non-Jews) that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6-7)

So you see! This is for me and it is for you. It is for everyone.

The example of Paul

In fact, one man who definitely did not think that the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice was for him was Paul, a man who opposed the name of Jesus. But he had an encounter with the Lord Jesus that caused him later on to write

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Co 4: 6)

Paul had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus which caused light to ‘shine in his heart’.

Experiencing this Light of Jesus for you

So what must we do to get this ‘salvation’ from darkness and sin becoming light that Isaiah had prophesied, the Lord Jesus has obtained, and which Paul experienced? Paul answers this question in another letter where he writes

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

Notice how he says this is a ‘gift’. A gift, by definition, cannot be earned. Someone simply gives you a gift without you earning it or you meriting it. But the gift will never benefit you, never be in your possession unless you ‘receive’ it. This is explained in more detail here, but is why John, quoted previously, wrote

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

So you simply receive him. You can do so by asking him for this gift which is freely given. The reason you can ask is that he is alive. Yes, he was sacrificed for our sins, but three days later came back to life, just as the Rsi Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years earlier when he wrote about the suffering servant that

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. By his knowledge my righteous Servant will justify many (Isaiah 53:11)

So the Lord Jesus is alive and can hear you when you call out to him. You can pray the Prartha Snana (or Pratasana) mantram to Him and He will hear and save because he sacrificed himself for you and now has all authority. Here again is that prayer that you can cry to him:

I am a sinner. I am the result of sin. I am born in sin. My soul is under sin. I am the worst of sinners. O Lord who has the beautiful eyes, Save me, O Lord of the Sacrifice.

Please browse other articles here. They start at the beginning of human history and show from the Sanskrit and Hebrew Vedas this plan of God to save us from darkness and bring us into light, offered to us as a gift.

This Diwali, as you light candles and exchange gifts, may you experience this gift of inner light from the Lord Jesus like Paul had experienced and had been changed by many years ago and which is also offered to you. Happy Diwali

Is the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) Textually reliable?

The Bible imparts spiritual truth by recording how God has acted in history. It starts at the beginning when God created mankind in His image and then confronted the first humans and spoke of a specific ‘he’ who was to come and be sacrificed. The sacrifice of a ram in place of Rsi Abraham’s son followed and the historical event of Passover. These parallel the ancient Rg Vedas where sacrifice for our sin is required with the promise that the sacrifice of the Purusa would provide this.  These promises were fulfilled in the life, teachings, death & resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshu Satsang).  The promises and their fulfillments are historical.  Therefore, for the Bible to be trusted to impart spiritual truth it must also be historically reliable. This leads us to our question: Is the Bible historically reliable? How can we know?

We start by asking whether the text (the words) of the Bible has changed over time or not.  This question arises because the Bible is so ancient.  There are many books which make up the Bible, and the last books were written down almost two thousand years ago.  For most of the intervening centuries there has been no printing press, photocopy machines or publishing companies. So these books were copied by hand, generation after generation, as languages died out and new ones arose, as empires changed and new powers came to be. Since the original manuscripts have long ago disappeared, how do we know that what we read today in the Bible is what the original authors actually wrote long ago?  Is there any ‘scientific’ way to know whether what we read today is different or the same from the original writings of long ago?

Principles of Textual Criticism

This question is true of any ancient writing. The figure below illustrates the process by which all writings from the ancient past are preserved over time so we can read them today. The figure shows an example of an ancient document written at 500 BC (this date being chosen solely as an example).

Example Timeline illustrate how texts go through time

Example Timeline illustrate how texts go through time

The original does not last indefinitely, so before it decays, is lost, or destroyed, a manuscript (MSS) copy of it is made (1st copy). A professional class of people called scribes did the copying. As the years advance, copies are made of the copy (2nd copy & 3rd copy). At some point a copy is preserved that is still in existence today (3rd copy). In our example diagram this existing copy was copied in 500 AD. This means that the earliest that we can know of the state of the text of the document is only from 500 AD and later since all the earlier manuscripts have disappeared.  The 1000 year period from 500 BC to 500 AD (labeled x in the diagram) is the period where we cannot check copies since all manuscripts from this period are gone. For example, if copying changes were made when the 2nd copy was made from the 1st copy, we would not be able to detect them since neither of these documents are now available to compare against each other. This time period before currently existing copies (the period x) is thus the interval of textual uncertainty. Consequently, a principle that answers our question about textual reliability is that the shorter this interval x is the more confidence we can place in the accurate preservation of the document to our modern day, since the period of uncertainty is reduced.

Usually more than one manuscript copy of a document is in existence today. Suppose we have two such manuscript copies and in the same section of each of them we find the following phrase (I have it in English for the sake of the example, the real manuscript would be in an ancient language like Greek, Latin or Sanskrit):

Textual Variance with few manuscripts

Textual Variance with few manuscripts

The original writing had either been writing about Joan OR about John, and the other of these manuscripts contains a copy error. Which one has the error? From the available evidence it is very difficult to determine.

Now suppose we found two more manuscript copies as shown below:

Textual variance with several manuscripts

Textual variance with several manuscripts

Now it is easier to deduce which manuscript has the error. It is more likely that the error is made once, rather than the same error repeated three times, so it is likely that MSS #2 has the copy error, and the author was writing about Joan, not John.

This simple example illustrates a second principle used to test textual reliability: the more existing manuscripts that are available, the easier it is to detect & correct errors and to determine the words of the original.

Textual Criticism of Great Books of the West

We have two indicators to determine the textual reliability of the Bible:

  1. measuring the time between original composition and earliest existing manuscript copies, and
  2. counting the number of existing manuscript copies.

Since these apply to any ancient writing we can proceed to apply them to both the Bible as well as other ancient writings, as done in the tables below.

Author When Written Earliest Copy Time Span #
Caesar 50 BC 900 AD 950 10
Plato 350 BC 900 AD 1250 7
Aristotle* 300 BC 1100 AD 1400 5
Thucydides 400 BC 900 AD 1300 8
Herodotus 400 BC 900 AD 1300 8
Sophocles 400 BC 1000 AD 1400 100
Tacitus 100 AD 1100 AD 1000 20
Pliny 100 AD 850 AD 750 7

These writers represent the major classical writers of Western history – the writings that have shaped the development of Western civilization. On average, they have been passed down to us by 10-100 manuscripts that are preserved starting only about 1000 years after the original was written.

Textual Criticism of Great Books of the East

Let us now look at ancient Sanskrit epics that provide much of the understanding of philosophy and history in South Asia. Prominent among these works is the Mahabharata, which contains, among other things, the Bhagavad Gita and the account of the Kurukshetra War. Scholars assess that the Mahabharata developed into its current written form around 900 BC, but the oldest manuscript portions that still exist are dated at around 400 BC, giving an interval of about 500 years from original composition and earliest existing manuscripts (wiki reference link).  Osmania University in Hyderabad boasts that it has two manuscript copies in its library collection, but these two date from only 1700 AD and 1850 AD – thousands of years after original composition (reference link). Not only are the manuscript copies rather late, but given that the Mahabharata was a popular work that conformed to changes in language and style, there is a very high degree of textual variance between the existing manuscript copies. Scholars who assess textual variance write of the Mahabharata:

“The national epic of India, the Mahabharata, has suffered even more corruption. It is about … 250 000 lines. Of these, some 26 000 lines are textual corruptions (10 percent)” – (Geisler, NL and WE Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press. 1968. P 367)

The other great epic, the Ramayana, is considered to have been composed around 400 BC but the earliest existing copy, from Nepal, is dated at the 11 century AD (reference link) – giving an interval from original composition to earliest existing manuscripts of about 1500 years. There are several thousand existing copies of the Ramayana. These have extensive textual variations between them, especially between those of North India and those of South India/South East Asia. Scholars have grouped the manuscripts into 300 different families based on textual variations.

Textual Criticism of the New Testament

Let us now examine the manuscript data for the Bible. The table below lists the oldest existing copies of the New Testament. Each of them has been given a name (usually from the name of the discoverer of the manuscript)

MSS When Written Date of MSS Time Span
 John Rylan 90 AD 130 AD 40 yrs
Bodmer Papyrus 90 AD 150-200 AD 110 yrs
Chester  Beatty 60 AD 200 AD 20 yrs
Codex Vaticanus 60-90 AD 325 AD 265 yrs
Codex Sinaiticus 60-90 AD 350 AD 290 yrs

The number of New Testament manuscripts is so vast that it would be impossible to list them all in a table. As one scholar who spent years studying this issue states:

“We have more than 24000 MSS copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today… No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation. In comparison, the ILIAD by Homer is second with 643 MSS that still survive”   (McDowell, J. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. 1979. p. 40)

A leading scholar at the British Museum corroborates this:

“Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principal Greek and Roman writers … yet our knowledge of their writings depends on a mere handful of MSS whereas the MSS of the N.T. are counted by … thousands”  (Kenyon, F.G. -former director of British Museum- Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts. 1941 p.23)

And a significant number of these manuscripts are extremely ancient. I own a book about the earliest New Testament documents. The Introduction starts with:

“This book provides transcriptions of 69 of the earliest New Testament manuscripts…dated from early 2nd century to beginning of the 4th (100-300AD) … containing about 2/3 of the new Testament text” (P. Comfort, “The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts”. Preface p. 17. 2001 )

This is significant since these manuscripts come from the early period when the followers of the gospel were not in power in a government, but were instead subject to intense persecution by the Roman Empire. This is the period when the gospel came to South India, to Kerala, and here too the community of gospel followers were never in a position of power through which a king could manipulate the manuscripts. The figure below illustrates the timeline of manuscripts from which the New Testament of the Bible is based.

Timeline showing that from the existing 24000 manuscript copies of the New Testament, the very earliest ones are used in modern translations (e.g. in English, Nepali or Hindi) of the Bible. These come from before the time of Constantine (325 AD) who was the first Christian Emperor of Rome

Timeline showing that from the existing 24000 manuscript copies of the New Testament, the very earliest ones are used in modern translations (e.g. in English, Nepali or Hindi) of the Bible. These come from before the time of Constantine (325 AD) who was the first Christian Emperor of Rome

The estimated textual variation among all these thousands of manuscripts is only

“400 lines out of 20000.” (Geisler, NL and WE Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press. 1968. P 366)

Thus the text is 99.5% common across these many manuscripts.

Textual Criticism of the Old Testament

It is much the same with the Old Testament – The Hebrew Vedas. The 39 books of the Old Testament were written from between 1500 – 400 BC. This is shown in the figure below when the time period of their writing is shown as a bar on the timeline. We have two families of manuscripts for the Old Testament. The traditional family of manuscripts is the Masoretic texts which were copied about 900 AD. However in 1948 another family of manuscripts of the Old Testament that is much older – from 200 BC and known as the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were discovered. These two families of manuscripts are shown in the figure. What is amazing is that though separated in time by about 1000 years, the differences between them are tiny. As one scholar has said about them:

‘These [DSSs] confirm the accuracy of the Masoretic Text … Except for a few instances where spelling and grammar differ between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic Text, the two are amazingly similar’  (M.R. Norton, Manuscripts of the Old Testament in The Origin of the Bible, 1992)

When we compare this with, for example, the textual variation in the Ramayana, the permanence of the text of the Old Testament is simply remarkable.

Timeline showing how the Old Testament manuscripts of the Bible have not changed from the Masoretic to the Dead Sea Scrolls even though these are separated by about 1000 years.

Timeline showing how the Old Testament manuscripts of the Bible have not changed from the Masoretic to the Dead Sea Scrolls even though these are separated by about 1000 years.

Conclusion: The Bible is Textually Reliable

So what can we conclude from this data? Certainly at least in what we can objectively measure (number of extant MSSs, the time spans between original and earliest existing MSS, and the degree of textual variation between the manuscripts) the Bible is verified to a much higher degree than any other ancient work. The verdict to which the evidence pushes us can be summed up by the following:

“To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no other documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament”  (Montgomery, History and Christianity. 1971. p.29)

What he is saying is that to be consistent, if we decide to doubt the textual reliability of the  Bible we may as well discard all that we know about history in general – and this no informed historian has done. The Bible is a reliable book.

Kali, Death & The Sign of Passover

Kali is usually known as the goddess of death, but more accurately comes from the Sanskrit  word kal meaning time.  Icons of Kali are fearsome because she is usually portrayed wearing a necklace of severed heads and a skirt of severed arms while holding up a blood-dripping, freshly-cut head, with one foot on the prone body of her husband Shiva.  Kali helps us understand another story of death in the Hebrew Veda – The Bible.

Kali adorned with severed heads and limbs upon the prone Shiva

Kali mythology recounts that the demon-king Mahishasura threatened war against the gods.  So they created Kali from their essences. Kali savagely ripped through the ranks of the demon-army in a great bloodbath, destroying all who were in her path .  The climax of the war was her battle with the demon-king Mahishasura whom she destroyed in a violent confrontation.  Kali decimated her opponents into bloody body-parts, but she became intoxicated with all the blood so she could not stop her path of death and destruction.  The gods were not sure how to stop her until Shiva volunteered to lay motionless on the battlefield.  So it was when Kali, adorned with heads and arms of her dead opponents, put one foot on the prone Shiva and looked at him that she came back to her senses and destruction came to an end.

The Passover account in the Hebrew Veda mirrors this story of Kali and Shiva.  The Passover story records an angel that, like Kali, brings about widespread death in opposing an evil king.  This angel of death, like Shiva taking a vulnerable position to stop Kali, is blocked from any house where a helpless lamb has been sacrificed.  Sages tell us that the meaning of this Kali story relates to the conquering of the Ego.  The Passover story also has a meaning by pointing to the coming of Jesus of Nazareth – Yeshu Satsang – and his humility in renouncing his ego and sacrificing himself on our behalf.  The Passover story is worth knowing

The Exodus Passover

We saw how Rsi Abraham’s sacrifice of his son was a sign pointing to the sacrifice of Jesus.  After Abraham, his descendants through this son Isaac, called Israelites, had become a vast number of people but also slaves in Egypt.

So we now come to a very dramatic struggle taken up by the Israelite leader Moses which is recorded in the Hebrew Veda of Exodus in the Bible.  It records how Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery 500 years after Abraham, around 1500 BCE.  Moses had been commanded by The Creator to confront the Pharaoh (ruler) of Egypt and it resulted in a conflict between the two which had brought nine plagues or disasters on Egypt. But Pharaoh had not agreed to let the Israelites go free so God was going to bring about a 10th and final plague.  The complete account of the 10th Plague is here.

God decreed that for the 10th plague an Angel (Spirit) of Death would pass through all houses in Egypt.  Every firstborn son in each house across the entire land would die on a specific night except those who remained in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts of that house.  Pharaoh’s doom, if he did not obey and paint lamb’s blood on his door, would be that his son and heir to the throne would die. And every house in Egypt would lose the firstborn son – if the blood of a sacrificed lamb was not painted on the doorframes.  Egypt faced a national disaster.

But in houses with a lamb sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts the promise was that everyone would be safe. The Angel of Death would pass over that house. So that day was called Passover (since death passed over all houses with lamb’s blood painted on them).

The Passover Sign

Those who have heard this story assume that the blood on the doors was a sign for the Angel of Death.  But notice the curious detail taken from the account written 3500 years ago.

The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)

Though God was looking for the blood on the door, and when He saw it Death would pass over, the blood was not a Sign for God.  It says quite clearly, that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people. It is also a Sign for all of us who read this account. But how is it a sign?  Afterwards the LORD commanded them to:

Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’ (Exodus 12:27)

Jewish man with lamb at Passover

Jewish man with lamb at Passover

The Israelites were commanded to celebrate Passover on the same day every year. The Jewish calendar, is a lunar calendar like the Hindu calendar, so it is a little different from the Western calendar, and the day of the festival changes each year by the Western calendar. But to this day, 3500 years later, Jewish people continue to celebrate Passover as a festival on the same date of their year in memory of this event and in obedience to that command given then.

Passover Sign pointing to the Lord Jesus

In tracking this festival through history we can note something quite extraordinary. You can notice this in the Gospel where it records the details of the arrest and trial of Jesus (1500 years after that First Passover plague):

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. (John 18:28)

But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” (John 18:39)

In other words, Jesus was arrested and sent for crucifixion right on the Passover day in the Jewish calendar. One of the titles given to Jesus was

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

Here we see how the Passover drama is a Sign to us. Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, was crucified (i.e. sacrificed) on the very same day of the year that all the Jews were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that had occurred 1500 years before.  This explains the annual timing of two holidays that re-occurs every year.  The Jewish Passover Festival occurs almost every year at the same time as Easter does – check a calendar.  (Every 19th year there is a divergence of a month due to the cycle of lunar-based leap years in the Jewish calendar). This is why Easter moves every year because it is based on Passover, and Passover is timed by the Jewish calendar which calculates the year differently than the Western Calendar.

Now think for a minute about what ‘signs’ do. You can see some signs below here.

Flag_of_India

A Sign of India

Signs

Commercial Signs to make us think of McDonalds and Nike

The flag is a sign or symbol of India.  We do not ‘see’ just a rectangle with an orange and a green band across it.  No, we think of India when we see the flag.  The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ makes us think about McDonalds. The ‘√’ sign on Nadal’s headband is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this sign on Nadal. Signs are pointers in our minds to direct our thinking to the desired object.

The Passover account in the Hebrew Veda of Exodus explicitly said that the Sign was for the people, not for Creator God (though He would still look for the blood and pass over the house if he saw it).  As with all signs, what did He want us to think of when we look to Passover?  With the remarkable timing of lambs being sacrificed on the same day as Jesus, it is a pointer to the sacrifice of Jesus.

It works in our minds like I show below. The sign points us to the sacrifice of Jesus.

passover-and-jesus

The exact timing of sacrifice of Jesus to Passover is a Sign

In that first Passover the lambs were sacrificed and the blood spread so the people could live.  And thus, this Sign pointing to Jesus is to tell us that he, ‘The Lamb of God’, was also given as a sacrifice to death and his blood spilt so we could receive life.

In the Sign of Abraham the place where Abraham was tested with the sacrifice of his son was Mount Moriah.  A lamb died so Abraham’s son could live.

The Sign of Abraham was pointing to the location

The Sign of Abraham was pointing to the location

Mount Moriah was the very same place where Jesus was sacrificed. That was a Sign to make us ‘see’ the meaning of his death by pointing to the place. In the Passover we find another pointer to Jesus’ sacrifice – by pointing to the same day in the year.  A lamb sacrifice is once again used – showing that it is not just a coincidence of an event – to point to the sacrifice of Jesus.  In two different ways (through location and through timing) two of the most important festivals in the sacred Hebrew Vedas directly point to the sacrifice of Jesus.  I cannot think of any other person in history whose death is so foreshadowed by such parallels in such dramatic fashion.  Can you?

These signs are given so that we can have confidence that the sacrifice of Jesus really was planned and ordained by God.  This was to give an illustration that helps us visualize how the sacrifice of Jesus saves us from death and cleanses us from sin – the gift from God to all who will receive it.

How to receive the gift of cleansing from the sacrifice of Jesus?

Jesus came to give himself as a sacrifice for all peoples.  This message is foreshadowed in the hymns of the ancient Rg Vedas as well as in the promises and Festivals of the ancient Hebrew Vedas.  Jesus is the answer to the question we ask every time we recite the prayer of the Prartha Snana (or Pratasana) mantram.  How is this so?  The Bible (Veda Pusthakan) declares a Karmic Law that affects all of us:

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)

Below I show this karmic law through an illustration.  “Death” means separation.  When our soul separates from our body we are dead physically.  In a similar way we are separated from God spiritually.  This is true because God is Holy (sinless).

Slide1

We are separated from God by our sins like a chasm between two cliffs

We can picture ourselves as being on a cliff and God on another cliff and we are separated by this bottomless chasm of sin.

This separation causes guilt and fear.  So what we naturally try to do is build a bridge that will take us from our side (of death) to God’s side.  We offer sacrifices, perform pujas, practice asceticism, participate in festivals, go to temples, make many prayers and even try to reduce or stop our sins. This list of deeds to gain merit can be very long for some of us.  The problem is that our efforts, merits, sacrifices and ascetic practices etc., though in themselves not bad, are insufficient because the payment required (the ‘wages’) for our sins is ‘death’.  This is illustrated in the next figure.

Slide2

Religious merit – good though that may be – cannot bridge the separation between us and God

Through our religious efforts we try to build a ‘bridge’ to cross the divide separating ourselves from God.  Though this is not bad, it will not solve our problem because it does not succeed in going completely over to the other side.  Our efforts are not sufficient. It is like trying to heal cancer (which results in death) by eating veg only and by wearing bandages.  Wearing bandages and eating veg is not bad – but it will not cure cancer.  For that you need a totally different treatment.  We can illustrate these efforts with a ‘bridge’ of religious merit that goes only part-way across the chasm – leaving us still separated from God.

The Karmic law is Bad News – it is so bad we often do not even want to hear it and we often fill our lives with activities and things hoping this Law will go away – until the gravity of our situation sinks into our souls.  But the Bible does not end with this Karmic Law.

For the wages of sin is death but … (Romans 6:23)

The small word ‘but’ shows that the direction of the Law is now about to go the other way, to Good News – Gospel.  It is the Karmic Law reversed to one of Moksha and Enlightenment.  So what is this Good News of Moksha?.

For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

The good news of the gospel is that the sacrifice of Jesus’ death is sufficient to bridge this separation between us and God.  We know this because three days after his death Jesus rose bodily, coming alive again in a physical resurrection.   Though some people today choose to disbelieve the resurrection of Jesus a very strong case can be made for it shown in this public lecture I did at a university (video link here).  The Lord Jesus entered heaven and offered himself to God.  In a sense, he performed a puja, accepted by God, by offering himself for cleansing of sin, on behalf of all people.

Jesus is the Purusa giving the perfect sacrifice.  Since he was a man he is able to be a bridge that spans the chasm and touches the human side and since he was perfect he also touches God’s side.  He is a Bridge to Life and this can be illustrated as below

Slide3

Jesus is the Bridge that spans the chasm between God and man. His sacrifice pays our sins.

Notice in this Moksha Principle how this sacrifice of Jesus is given to us.  It is given as a … ‘gift’.  Think about gifts.  No matter what the gift is, if it is really a gift it is something that you do not work for and that you do not earn by merit.  If you earned it the gift would no longer be a gift!  In the same way you cannot merit or earn the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is given to you as a gift.

And what is the gift?  It is ‘eternal life’.  This means that the sin which brought you death is now cancelled.  The sacrifice of Jesus is a bridge upon which you can cross to connect with God and receive life – that lasts forever.  This gift is given by Jesus who, by rising from the dead, shows himself to be ‘lord’.

So how do you and I ‘cross’ on this bridge of life that Jesus gives to us as a gift?  Again, think of gifts.  If someone comes and gives you a gift it is something you do not work for.  But to get any benefit from the gift you must ‘receive’ it.  Anytime a gift is offered there are two alternatives.  Either the gift is refused (“No thank you”) or it is received (“Thank you for your gift.  I will take it”).  So this gift that Jesus offers must be received.  It cannot simply be ‘believed’, studied, or understood.  This is illustrated in the next figure where we ‘walk’ on the Bridge by turning to God and receiving his gift he offers to us.

Slide4

Jesus’ sacrifice is a Gift that each of us must choose to receive

So how do we receive this gift?  The Bible says that

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:12)

Notice that this promise is for ‘everyone’.  Since he rose from the dead Jesus is alive even now and he is ‘Lord’.  So if you call on him he will hear and extend his gift of life to you.  You need to call out to him and ask him – by having a conversation with him.  Perhaps you have never done this.  Here is a guide that can help you have this conversation and prayer with him.  It is not a magic incantation.  It is not the specific words that give power.  It is the trust that we have in his ability and willingness to give us this gift.  As we trust him he will hear us and respond.  So feel free to follow this guide as you either speak out loud or in your spirit to Jesus and receive his gift.

Dear Lord Jesus.  I understand that with the sins in my life I am separated from God.  Though I can try hard, no effort and sacrifice on my part will bridge this separation.  But I understand that your death was a sacrifice to wash away all sins – even my sins.  I believe that you rose from the dead after your sacrifice so I can know that your sacrifice was sufficient.  I ask you to please cleanse me from my sins and bridge me to God so I can have eternal life.  I do not want to live a life enslaved to sin so please free me from these sins that hold me in a grip of karma.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for doing all this for me and would you even now continue to guide me in my life so I can follow you as my Lord.

The Sacrifice making the Mountain sacred

Mount Kailash (or Kailasa) is a mountain just across the border from India in the Tibetan region of China.  Hindus, Buddhists and Jains regard Mount Kailash as a sacred mountain.  For Hindus, Mount Kailash is considered the abode of Lord Shiva (or Mahadeva), along with his consort, the goddess Parvati (also known as Uma, Gauri), and their offspring Lord Ganesh (Ganapati or Vinayaka).  Thousands of Hindus and Jains make pilgrimage to Mount Kailash to walk around it in holy ritual and receive the blessing it offers.

Mount Kailash

Kailash is where Lord Shiva killed Ganesh by taking off his head when Ganesh stopped him from seeing Parvati while she was bathing.  Thus continues the well-known story of how Ganesh was returned to Shiva from death when an elephant head was placed on his torso.  The elephant died in giving his head sacrificially to Ganesh so Lord Shiva could receive his son back from death.  This sacrifice happened on Kailash, making it the sacred mountain it is today.  Some even consider that Kailash is the physical manifestation of Mount Meru – the spiritual and metaphysical center of the universe.  Many temples are built with concentric circles as signs representing this spirituality centered from Mount Meru through Mount Kailash.

This manifestation of God through sacrifice on a mountain bringing a son back from death is also the pattern experienced by Sri Abraham on another mountain – Mount Moriah – with his son.  That sacrifice was also a sign pointing to a deeper metaphysical reality in the coming incarnation of Yeshu Satsang – Jesus.  The Hebrew Vedas continue recounting for us the experiences of Sri Abraham 4000 years ago and explain its importance.  It declares that understanding of this sign will result in blessing to ‘all nations’ – not only the Hebrews.  So it is worthwhile to learn the story and understand its significance.

The Mountain Sign of Sri Abraham’s sacrifice

We saw how Abraham was, so long ago, given a promise of nations. Jews and Arabs today come from Abraham, so we know the promise came true and that he is playing an important part in history.  Because Abraham trusted this promise he was given righteousness – he achieved moksha not through rigorous merit but he received it as a free gift.

Sometime after, Abraham did receive that long awaited son, Isaac (from whom the Jews today trace their ancestry).  Isaac grew into a young man.  But then God tested Abraham in a dramatic way.  You can read the complete account here and we will go over the key details to unlock the meaning of this mysterious test – to help us understand how righteousness will be paid for.

Abraham’s Test

This test started with a dire command:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2)

Abraham, in obedience to the command ‘got up early next morning’ and ‘after three days travel’ they reached the mountain.  Then

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Genesis 22:9-10)

Abraham moved to obey the command.  But then something remarkable happened:

11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  (Genesis 22:11-13)

At the last moment Isaac was saved from death and Abraham saw a male sheep and sacrificed it instead.  God had provided a ram and the ram took the place of Isaac.

The Sacrifice: looking to the future

Abraham then names that place.  Notice what he names it.

So Abraham called that place ‘The LORD Will Provide’. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

Abraham named it ‘The LORD will provide’. Here is a question.  Is that name in the past tense, present tense or future tense? It is clearly in the future tense. To remove all doubt the comment which follows repeats “…it will be provided”. This is again in the future tense – thus also looking to the future. But this naming occurred after the sacrifice of the ram (a male sheep) in place of Isaac.  Many think that Abraham, when naming that place, was referring to that ram caught in the thicket and sacrificed in place of his son. But it was already sacrificed and burned at this point. If Abraham was thinking of the ram – already dead, sacrificed and burnt – he would have named the place ‘The LORD has provided’, i.e. in the past tense. And the comment would have stated ‘And to this day it is said “On the mountain of the LORD it was provided”’. But Abraham clearly named it in future tense and therefore was not thinking of that already dead and sacrificed ram. He was enlightened to something different. He had insight into something about the future. But what?

Where the sacrifice happened

Remember that the mountain where Abraham had been directed for this sacrifice was:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah….” (v.2)

This happened in ‘Moriah’. Where is that? Though it was a wilderness area in Abraham’s day (2000 BC), a thousand years later (1000 BC) King David established the city of Jerusalem there, and his son Solomon built the First Temple there. We read later in the Old Testament historical books that:

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David (2 Chronicles 3:1)

In other words, ‘Mount Moriah’ in the early Old Testament time of Abraham (4000 BC) was an isolated mountain top in the wilderness but 1000 years later through David and Solomon it became the central city of the Israelites where they built the Temple to the Creator. To this very day it is a holy place for the Jewish people and the capital of Israel.

Jesus – Yeshu Satsang – and the Sacrifice of Abraham

Think now about the titles of Jesus in the New Testament.  Jesus had many titles associated with him. Perhaps the most well-known title is ‘Christ’. But he had another title given to him that is also important. We see this in the Gospel of John when John the Baptist says of him:

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus (i.e. Yeshu Satsang) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

In other words, Jesus was known as ‘The Lamb of God’. Now consider the end of Jesus’ life. Where was he arrested and crucified? It was in Jerusalem (which as we saw = ‘Mount Moriah’). It is very clearly stated during his arrest that:

When he [Pilate] learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time.’ (Luke 23:7)

The arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus happened in Jerusalem (= Mount Moriah). The timeline shows the events that have happened at Mount Moriah.

mt moriah timeline

Major events of history at Mount Moriah from Old Testament to New Testament

Now think back to Abraham. Why did he name that place in the future tense ‘The LORD will provide’? How could he know that something would be ‘provided’ there in his future that would so precisely mirror what he enacted on Mount Moriah? Think about it – in his test Isaac (his son) was saved from death at the last moment because a lamb was sacrificed in his place. Two thousand years later, Jesus is called ‘Lamb of God’ and is sacrificed on the same spot!  How did Abraham know this would be ‘the spot’? He could only have known and been able to predict something that remarkable if he had received enlightenment from Prajapati, from the Creator God himself.

A Divine Mind is Revealed

It is as though there is a Mind that connected these two events by location even as they are separated by 2000 years of history.

mt moriah thinking india

The sacrifice of Abraham was a Sign – pointing forward 2000 years – to make us think about the sacrifice of Jesus.

The figure illustrates how the earlier event (Abraham’s sacrifice) alludes to the later one (Jesus’ sacrifice) and was configured to remind us of this later event. This is evidence that this Mind (Creator God) is revealing Himself to us by coordinating events though separated by thousands of years. It is a Sign that God spoke through Abraham.

Good News for you and me

This account is also important to us for more personal reasons. To conclude, God declared to Abraham that

“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18)

You belong to one of ‘all nations on earth’ – no matter what your language, religion, education, age, gender, or wealth!  Then this is a promise that is given specifically to you. Notice what the promise is – a ‘blessing’ from God himself! This was not something solely for the Jews, but for people all over the world.

How is this ‘blessing’ given? The word ‘offspring’ here is in the singular. It is not ‘offsprings’ as in many descendants or peoples, but in the singular as in a ‘he’.  It is not through many people or a group of people as in ‘they’. This follows exactly the Promise given at the beginning of history when a ‘he’ would ‘strike the heel’ of the serpent as recorded in the Hebrew Vedas and also parallels the promise of the sacrifice of Purusa (a ‘he’) given in the Purusasukta. With this Sign the very place – Mount Moriah ( = Jerusalem) – is predicted giving further detail to these ancient promises. The details of the drama of Abraham’s sacrifice help us understand how this blessing is given, and how the price for righteousness would be paid.

How is the Blessing of God obtained?

Just like the ram saved Isaac from death by being sacrificed in his place, so the Lamb of God, by his sacrificial death, saves us from the power and penalty of death.  The Bible declares that

… the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

This is another way of saying that the sins we do produce a karma that results in death.  But death was paid by the lamb substituting for Isaac. Abraham and Isaac simply had to accept it. He did not and could not merit it. But he could receive it as a gift.  This is exactly how he achieved moksha.

This shows the pattern we can follow.  Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.  This includes your own sin.  So Jesus, the Lamb, offers to ‘take away’ your sins since he made the payment.  You cannot merit this but you can receive it as a gift.  Call to Jesus, the Purusa, and ask him to take away your sins.  His sacrifice gives him that power.  We know this because it was foreshadowed beyond that of chance coincidences in the remarkable account of the sacrifice of Abraham’s son on Mount Moriah, the same spot where 2000 years later it ‘was provided’ by Jesus.

This is followed by foretelling when this would happen in the Sign of the Passover Festival.

Abraham’s simple Way to achieve Moksha

Today the world’s attention is focused on the FIFA World Cup draw. While this has many fans riveted, much of the rest of the world is focused on the riots and unrest in Thailand and Ukraine. Then there is always the civil war that is raging in Syria. And this just in … Nelson Mandela has passed away.

But probably by the time that you read this article these events will largely be forgotten. What the world takes great interest in now will quickly be forgotten as we move on to other amusements, sporting championships or political crises. The focus one day becomes forgotten history the next.

We saw previously that this was also true in the ancient time of Abraham. The important and spectacular contests, achievements and gossip that was the talk of the people living 4000 years ago are now totally forgotten, but a solemn promise spoken quietly to an individual, though totally overlooked by the world back then, is growing and unfolding before our eyes.  The obvious, but often overlooked, fact is that the promise given to Abraham about 4000 years ago has literally, historically and verifiably come true. This indicates that God is just as revealed in the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) and is working to see that His Promises will be accomplished. This is not simply legend or some abstract metaphor.

Abraham’s story continues with two more key encounters before this Promise-Making God.  Abraham (and we who follow his journey) learn much – even moving from the realm of history to that of achieving Moksha, but in a very different way – a simpler way – than we might expect. The story of Abraham is not quickly forgotten like today’s sports events; it is one of an unnoticed man setting a foundation to understand the gaining of eternity, so we’d be wise to learn from it.

Abraham’s Complaint

Several years have passed in Abraham’s life since the Promise recorded in Genesis 12 was spoken. Abraham had moved to the Promised Land in what is today Israel in obedience to that promise.  Then other events occurred in his life except the very one that he hoped for – the birth of the son through whom this promise would be fulfilled. So we continue the account with Abraham’s complaint:

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield,

your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” (Genesis 15:1-3)

God’s Promise

Abraham had been camping out in the Land awaiting the start of the ‘Great Nation’ that had been promised him. But no son was born and by this time he was around 85 years old, which focused his accusation.

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:4-5)

In their exchange God renewed His Promise by declaring that Abraham would get a son that would become a people as uncountable as the stars in the sky – many for sure, but hard to number.

Abraham’s Response: Like a Puja with Permanent affect

The ball was now back in Abraham’s court. How would he respond to this renewed Promise? What follows is treated by the Bible as one of its most important sentences. It lays the foundation to understand an eternal truth. It says:

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

It is easier to understand this sentence if we replace the pronouns with names, to read:

Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD credited it to Abram as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

It is such a small and inconspicuous sentence. It comes and goes with no news headline and so we might miss it. But it is truly significant.  Why? Because in this little sentence Abraham gets ‘righteousness’. This is like a getting the merits of a puja that will never degrade or be lost. Righteousness is the one – and the only one – quality that we need to get right standing before God.

Reviewing our Problem: Corruption

From God’s point-of-view, though we were made in the image of God something happened that corrupted that image. Now the verdict is that

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)

Instinctively we sense this corruption. This is why festivals, such as the Kumbh Mela festival, are so well attended because we sense our sin and our need for cleansing. The Prartha Snana (or Pratasana) mantram also expresses this view that we have about ourselves:

I am a sinner. I am the result of sin. I am born in sin. My soul is under sin. I am the worst of sinners. O Lord who has the beautiful eyes, Save me, O Lord of the Sacrifice.

The result of our corruption is that we find ourselves separated from a Righteous God because we have no righteousness ourselves. Our corruption has seen our negative karma grow – reaping futility and death in its wake. If you doubt that just scan some news headlines and see what people have been up to the last 24 hours.  We are separated from the Maker of Life and so the words of Rsi Isaiah of the Veda Pusthakan (Bible) come true

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Abraham and Righteousness

But here between Abraham and God we find, slipped in so quietly that we can almost miss it, the declaration that Abraham had gained ‘righteousness’ – the kind that God accepts. So what did Abraham ‘do’ to get this righteousness? Once again, so discreet that we are in danger of missing the point, it simply says of Abraham that he ‘believed’. That’s it?! We have this insurmountable problem of sin and corruption and so our natural tendency down the ages is to look for sophisticated and difficult religions, efforts, pujas, ethics, ascetic disciplines, teachings etc. – to gain righteousness. But this man, Abraham, gained that prized righteousness simply by ‘believing’.  It was so simple we can almost miss it.

Abraham did not ‘earn’ righteousness; it was ‘credited’ to him. So what is the difference? Well, if something is ‘earned’ you worked for it – you deserve it. It is like receiving wages for the work you do. But when something is credited to you, it is given to you. Like any gift freely given it is not earned or merited, but simply received.

This account of Abraham overturns the common understanding that we have about righteousness either by thinking that it comes from a belief in God’s existence, or that righteousness is obtained by doing sufficiently good or religious activities. This is not the way Abraham took. He simply chose to believe the promise extended to him, and then he was credited, or given, righteousness.

The rest of the Bible treats this encounter as a Sign for us.  Abraham’s belief in the promise from God, and the resulting credit of righteousness, is a pattern for us to follow. The whole of the Gospel is founded on promises that God gives to each and every one of us.

But then who pays for or earns righteousness? We take it up next.

The Pilgrimage for all Times & all Peoples: Initiated by Abraham

The pilgrimage (Pada Yatra) leading to the Kataragama Festival goes beyond India.  This pilgrimage commemorates Lord Murugan’s (Lord Kataragama, Kartikeya or Skanda) pilgrimage when he left his parent’s (Shiva & Parvati) Himalayan home, journeying to Sri Lanka out of love for the local girl Valli.  Their love and marriage is remembered in the Kataragama Perahera Festival at the Kataragama Temple in Sri Lanka.

Devotees begin their pilgrimage sometimes 45 days before the festival to journey hundreds of kilometers to reach Kataragama.  In memory of Lord Murugan, God of War, many carry a vel (spear) while they leave the safe place they know and venture into the unknown through this pilgrimage.

Pilgrims complete their pilgrimage by trekking up Kataragama Mountain to begin the Kataragama festival at the new moon.  For 14 evenings a nightly perahera of Murugan’s murti to Valli’s Temple is celebrated.  On the last morning of the full moon the climax is reached in the Water-cutting ceremony where Murugan’s Murti is dipped in Menik Ganga River and its sacred water is poured on devotees.

Another highlight of this festival is the fire-walking ceremony where devotees walk through blazing hot coal fires, defying belief as they demonstrate their faith to overcome the elements.

Peoples of different languages, religions and ethnicities unite in this annual pilgrimage seeking guidance, blessing, healing and to test their faith.  In that regard they follow the pattern set 4000 years ago by Abraham.  He went on a pilgrimage lasting not just several months, but his entire life.  The impact of his pilgrimage affects your life and mine 4000 years later.  His pilgrimage also required him to demonstrate his faith in God, offer sacrifice on a sacred mountain that defied belief.  It gave rise to a nation impacting across South Asia, birthed through cutting through water of the seas and walking with fire. Understanding how his pilgrimage set in motion that which bestows blessing and guidance to us today can be our start for enlightenment.  Before we explore Abraham’s pilgrimage, we get some context from the Veda Pusthakan, which records his pilgrimage.

Man’s Problem – God’s Plan

We saw that mankind had corrupted the worship of the Creator Prajapati into worshiping stars and planets. Because of this Prajapati scattered the descendants of the three sons of Manu/Noah by confusing their languages. This is why there are the many nations separated by language today. Echoes of mankind’s common past can be seen in the 7-day calendars used throughout the world today and in the different memories of that great flood.

Prajapati had promised at the beginning of history that through the sacrifice of a Perfect Man ‘sages would gain immortality’. This sacrifice would function like a puja to clean us on the inside instead of just on our outside. However, with the worship of the Creator being corrupted, the newly scattered nations forgot this early promise. It is only remembered today in a handful of sources including the ancient Rg Veda and the Veda Pusthakan – The Bible.

But Prajapati/God had a plan. This plan was not something that you and I would expect because it would seem (to us) far too small and insignificant. But this was the plan that He chose. This plan involved calling a man and his family around 2000 BC (ie 4000 years ago) and promising to bless him and his descendants if he chose to receive the blessing. Here is how the the Bible recounts it.

The Promise to Abraham

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there….

7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:1-7)

Some today wonder if there is a personal God who cares enough to help us in our troubled lives to give us hope. In this account we can test this question because in it a personal promise is made to a specific person, parts of which we can verify. This account records that The LORD directly promised Abraham that ‘I will make your name great’. We live in the 21st century – 4000 years later – and the name of Abraham/Abram is one of the most globally recognized names in history. This promise has literally, historically, and verifiably come true.

The earliest existing copy of the Bible is from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to 200-100 B.C. This means that this promise has, at the very latest, been in writing since at least that time. But even at 200 BC the person and name of Abraham was still not yet well-known – being familiar only to a small minority of Jews. So we know that the promises’s fulfillment has come about only after it was written down. This is not a case of a promise being ‘fulfilled’ by writing it down after it happened.

… by means of his great nation

What is equally astonishing is that Abraham really did nothing noteworthy in his life – the kind of thing that normally makes one’s name ‘great’. He did not write anything extraordinary (like Vyasa who wrote the Mahabharata), he did not build anything noteworthy (like Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal), he did not lead an army with impressive military skill (like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita), nor did he lead politically (like Mahatma Gandhi did). He did not even rule a kingdom like a raja. He did nothing really except camp and pray in the wilderness and then have a son.

If you were predicting in his day who would be most remembered thousands of years later, you would have bet on the kings, generals, warriors, or court poets living back then to be remembered in history. But their names are all forgotten – while the man who just barely managed to have a family in the wilderness is a household name around the world. His name is great only because the nation(s) that he fathered kept the record of his account – and then individuals and nations that came from him became great. This is exactly how it was promised long ago (“I will make you into a great nation … I will make your name great”). I can think of no one else in all history so well-known who is so only because of descendants coming from him rather than from great accomplishments in his own life.

…Through the Will of the Promise-Maker

And the people today who descended from Abraham – the Jews – were never really a nation which we typically associate with greatness. They did not build great architectural structures like the pyramids of the Egyptians – and certainly nothing like the Taj Mahal, they did not write philosophy like the Greeks, or administer over far-flung regions like the British did. All of these nations did so in the context of world-power empires that stretched their extensive borders through extraordinary military power – something the Jews never had. The Jewish people’s greatness is mostly due to the Law and Book (Veda Pusthakan or Bible) which they birthed; from some remarkable individuals that came from their nation; and that they have survived for these thousands of years as a distinct and somewhat different people group. Their greatness is not really due to anything they did, but rather what was done to and through them.

Now look to the Person that was going to make this promise happen. There, in black-and-white, it says repeatedly that “I will …”. The unique way their greatness has played out in history fits once again in a remarkable way to this declaration that it was going to be the Creator who would make this happen rather than some innate ability, conquest or power of this ‘nation’. The media attention paid around the world today to events in Israel, the modern Jewish nation, is a case in point. Do you regularly hear of news events in Hungary, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, or the Central African Republic – all similarly sized countries around the world? But Israel, a tiny nation of 8 million, is constantly and regularly in the news.

There is nothing in history or human events that would cause the unfolding of this ancient promise exactly as it was declared to this ancient man who, because he trusted this promise chose a special path. Think how likely it was for this promise to have failed in some way. But instead it has unfolded, and is continuing to unfold, as it was declared those thousands of years ago. The case is strong indeed that it is solely on the power and authority of the Promise-Maker that it has been fulfilled.

The Pilgrimage that still shakes the World

This map shows the route of Abraham's Journey

This map shows the route of Abraham’s pilgrimage

The Bible records that “So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4). He set out on a pilgrimage, shown on the map that is still making history.

Blessings to us

But it does not end there since there is something else promised as well. The blessing was not only for Abraham because it also says that

“all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (v. 4).

This should make you and I take note. Whether we are Aryan, Dravidian, Tamil, Nepali, or even something else; no matter what our caste is; no matter what our religion, be it Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh or Christian; no matter whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick; educated or not – the ‘all peoples on earth’ has to include all of us.  This promise for a blessing includes everybody alive from back then until today – which means you. How? When? What kind of blessing? This is not clearly stated just here but this is the birth of something that affects you and me.

We have just verified historically and literally that the first part of the Promise to Abraham has come true. Do we not then have a good reason to trust that the part of the Promise to you and to me will not also come true? Because it is universal and unchanging this Promise is Satya. But we need to unlock it – to understand Satya of this Promise. We need enlightenment so we understand how this Promise can ‘touch’ us. We find this enlightenment in continuing to follow the pilgrimage of Abraham. The key to moksha, which so many around the world are working so hard to obtain, is revealed for all of us as we continue to follow this remarkable man.

The convergence of Sanskrit and Hebrew Vedas: Why?

We looked at the similarities between the account of Manu in the Sanskrit Vedas and the account of Noah in the Hebrew Vedas.  This similarity goes deeper than the flood accounts.  There is also a similarity 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 similarities?  Coincidence?  Does one account borrow or steal from the other?  Here a suggestion is offered.

Tower of Babel – After the Flood

Following the account of Noah, the Veda Pusthakam (the Bible) goes on to record the descendants of his three sons and states “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 Vedas lists the names of the descendants of these three sons of Noah – the complete list here.  The account goes on to describe how these descendants disobeyed the directive of God (Prajapati) – the Creator, who had commanded them to ‘fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1).  Instead these people remained together to build a tower.  You can read that here.  This tower ‘reached to the heavens’ (Genesis 11:4) which meant that these descendants of Noah were building a tower for the purpose of worshiping stars and the sun, moon, planets etc. instead of 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.

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)

Once these people could no longer talk with 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 diverge 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

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

The difference and the similarity of the Hindi calendar with the Western calendar likewise is evidence of this shared memory of the distant past.  Most Hindi calendars are constructed so that the days go down columns (top to bottom) instead of across rows (left to right), which is the universal structure for calendars in the West.  Some calendars in India use Hindi script for numbers (१, २,  ३ …). and some use western numbers (1, 2, 3…) These differences are to be expected since there is no ‘right’ way to denote a calendar.  But all calendars have a central similarity.  The Hindi calendar uses the 7-day week – the same as in the Western world.  Why?  We can 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 common to all people.  But there is no astronomical time basis for the 7-day week.  This comes from custom and tradition that goes far back in 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

Being a Buddhist country, Thais mark their years from the life of the Buddha so that their years are always 543 years greater than in the West (ie the year 2019 CE is 2562 in BE –Buddhist Era – in the Thai calendar).  But again they also use a 7-day week.  Where did they get that from?  Why are calendars that are different in so many ways across various countries based on the 7-day week when there is no real astronomical basis for this time unit?

Testimony of ancient Greeks on the week

The ancient Greeks also used the 7-day week in their calendar.

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 (6 days with a 7th day of rest).  Because of that, the first humans used that 7-day week time unit in their calendar.  When mankind was subsequently scattered by the confusion of languages these major events before this ‘scattering’ were remembered by many 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 most straightforward way to explain the similarity between the Hebrew and Sanskrit Vedas.  Some today dismiss these ancient writings as mere superstitious mythology but their similarities should cause us to take them seriously.

Early mankind had a common history which 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 next.

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

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

Previously we looked at the promise of Moksha given right at the very beginning of human history.  We also observed 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, our 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.

If this corruption grows without any moral restraint things 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 ancestor 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 – where we get the English word ‘man’

The English word ‘man’ comes from early 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 are their 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)

Scholars tell us that this ancient Germanic word ‘Mannus’ comes from the Proto-Indo-European “manuh” (cf. Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-,). So, the English word ‘Man’ is from Manu whom both the Bible (Veda Pusthakan) and the Shatapatha Brahmana say is our ancestor!  Let us look at this person by summarizing from the Shatapatha Brahmana. There are a few renditions that have slightly different aspects to the account, so I will describe the common points.

The account of Manu in the Sanskrit vedas

In the Vedas 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 in Shatapatha Brahmana), an avatar warned Manu of a coming flood. The avatar appeared initially as a Shaphari (a small fish) 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 (25 km) in height above the surface and on land, as much in length, and a yojana (13 km) 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 flood which would come very soon. So Manu built a huge boat which housed his family, various seeds, and animals to repopulate the earth, for after the flood abated the oceans and seas would recede and the world would need to be repopulated with people and animals. During the flood 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.  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 we ask whether God judges corruption (sin), and in particular whether our own sin will be judged or not, the response is often 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”.  This account of Noah (or Manu) should cause us to re-think this. 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. Yet 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 the ark being built it was a clear sign of both coming Judgment and available Mercy.  And in paying attention to the example of Noah (Manu) it speaks to us today in the same way, showing that mercy is attained through the provision that God has established, not by our own good ideas.

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 is unchanging this still 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 also offers Mercy.  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 of 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 worth exploring, is that in the Bible, a Semitic people who descended from Noah/Manu also received two ways in which to obtain 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 explore why there are such similarities between the Bible and Sanskrit Vedas.