Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DID BHARATIYAS HELP THE GROWTH AND PROSPERITY OF CHRISTIANITY?

 Did   Bharatiyas   Help the Growth and  Prosperity of Christianity ?
(Compilation for a D discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville TN, USA, January2014)

I call Indian population as Bharatiyas then, because at that time they were not called by the     name of any religion (Hindu Religion) as India hardly understood what religion means.  The term Hindu and India were progressively introduced meaning those inhabitants who lived in   Sindhu (modern Indus) River Valley who moved to Gangetic valley.  Sindhu became Indu for Arabs, Magi means Kings in Persian who visited the baby Jesus Christ as displayed in Nativity and Walk Through Bethlehem  Nativity Scenes as mentioned in my  earlier discourse.  Mathew the only Gospel reference uses the Greek word Magoi, meaning wise man in general, and says they announced that they had seen a star at its  rising and followed it to Bethlehem.

The New Testament does not give the names of the Magi, however, traditions and legends identify a variety of different names for them. In the Western Christian Churches they have been all regarded as saints and are commonly known as:
1) Melchior   a Persian scholar;
2) Caspar   also Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa,  and other variations),  Indian scholar       
3) Balthazar   also Balthasar, Balthassar, and Bithisarea, an Arabian scholar.

"According to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India." These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in  Alexandria around 500, and which has been translated into Latin with the title Excerpta Latina Barbari.  Another Greek document from the 8th century, of presumed Irish origin and translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores, continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details. One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas  as  Gondophores (21 – c. AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which "Caspar" might derive as corruption of "Gaspar").   This Gondophares declared independence from the  Aersacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king, and he was allegedly visited by  Thomas the Apostle. According to at least one scholar, his name is perpetuated in the name of the Afghan city Kandahar (then Gandhara), which he is said to have founded under the name Gundopharron.  Christian legend may have chosen Gondofarr simply because he was an eastern king living in the same period.”  says encyclopaedia Britannica.You may kindly recall my reference to history St. Thomas Mount in Chennai in my last discourse on Festival of Lights. It is the town ship named after him with the church on the top of the hill.  

The Economist December 20th  states the Magi came from, most probably the border between Iran and Afghanistan, probably India, via the Silk Road and they were scholars and it was   difficult to say what sort of scholars they were. It also says heavenly phenomenon the wise men were meant to have seen is probably a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces in 7 BC; and possibly a comet, since the star's beams were often said to stream and wave like a bird flying.

On May 28 of this year, the two “heavyweights” of our planetary system— Jupiter  and  Saturn—will meet in the sky, forming what astrologers call a “ Conjunction” (two planets more or less in the same degree of the same sign. Right now if we look toward the western horizon shortly after dusk, we should be able to make out these two planets together in the sky, accompanied for the moment by Mars. Jupiter and Saturn are the largest planets in the solar system, and are also the farthest planets visible to the naked eye. Ancient astrologers accorded them special importance.   It is believed that the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn was the “star of Bethlehem” from which the three wise men predicted the dissension of Jesus Christ. Whether or not the Star of Bethlehem was a Jupiter Saturn conjunction, there is little doubt that it was an astrological event of some kind that three men had read as an omen of Christ’s birth. This is easier to believe as there was a king from India in the team who comes from a country which was very strong in astronomical predictions in those days which gave astronomy and astrology to the world. Ancient Chaldea in the West by then had learnt astrology from India which might have also guided the other two.

Wikipedia says “Greatest conjunction is a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn   or near their opposition to the  Sun. In this scenario, Jupiter and Saturn will occupy the same position in  right ascension on three separate occasions over a period of a few months. Such tripled occurrences are actually known as triple conjunctions. The so-called "Star of Bethlehem”  – thought to have appeared  about  7 BC – was theorized to be a greatest conjunction; and some went so far as to assert that it was an  occultation of Saturn by Jupiter, with the two planets appearing to merge into a single object as seen from  Earth.  However such an event did not take place at historic times. At the greatest conjunction in 7 BC, which is said to be the "Star of Bethlehem",  the minimum distance between Jupiter and Saturn was around 1 degree; this is twice the Moon diameter. The next occultation of Saturn by Jupiter will take place in 7541”.

The kings also set out singly, since they ruled over lands that were far apart, and came together only when they reached Jerusalem. Was the Indian king an astronomer, nobody knows? This supports well that one was from India. That, men should venture from such far off places as India to find the Christ-child is much more interesting than a short hop from Middle East.  It is more interesting if the wise men were not too wise but, like kings, often floundering and beset. It is said a lamp-like star guided each of them; but had it not hung before their nose as close as a fish on a line (for kings, not being astronomers, could not read the sky and needed leading), they would have never made to the manger where the child was born. Economist has forgotten that Hindu kings were sages and wise too, for example, Janaka. The Indian king among them was perhaps the wisest, or the only one. The kings were also of all ages of man, respectively 20, 40, 60. The oldest had snowy hair and beard, struggling to kneel to give his present first, was usually taken to be Melchior. “Gaspar was the young blade, rosy cheeked and beardless, and just occasionally oriental” says Economist referring to the Indian King.  The eldest was given the opportunity to give the present as in the Hindu tradition to respect the elder. 

Together, then, the 3 kings added   up to everyman; and as such they became a triune symbol of human   Srishthi, Sthiti and Laya (Birth, existence, and decay) and not  striving, hope and folly as the Economist says.

These wise men were taken in, too, by King Herod who co-opted them to spy on the child and report back, and they were happy to oblige. Luckily, an angel intervened and warned them not to.  Hindu mythology talks about Asareeravani or heaven’s announcement—(Voice of the heavenly body-less beings). They were then told to return “by another way”; starless this time, with no God-assisted steering. They took two laborious years over it, seeking direction from everyone on the route. Their onward journey was a divine blessed operation while the return journey was not.

Magi might have had only a small portable gift each, and the gold must have been by the Hindu king. It is customary to give a new born child a gold coin or jewelry,  an ancient Hindu tradition unlike sweets or candies as  they feel the three  presents brought by wise men are hardly suitable to baby or the mother. In the 13th century “Book of Marco Polo” said that the Christ-child gave them a present in return; a box which they eagerly opened on the way home, was found to contain a stone. Disgusted, the kings threw it down a well, where upon it burst into flames: they somehow fished it out, took it home and worshiped it. The stone flames might have appeared as Jyotirlinga to the wisest Indian king among them and therefore they decided to worship it as a Linga, a visible-invisible form of Hindu worship of Siva (Vyakta-avyakta form).

Having journeyed back together, influenced by their Guru St. Thomas from India they preached Christ together. They were baptized together by St. Thomas the Apostle, somewhere  in India where he found them all in virtuous decrepitude were  buried together and were gathered up afterwards by St. Helena, Mother  Constantine, to end as a cozy fraternity of bones in a magnificent high altar in the great cathedral of Cologne. Before they died they had built a wood chapel on the mountain of Vauls, the summit topped with a golden star that turned in the wind. It is interesting to note almost in every fairy tale the third, who wins love, finds the treasure or save the day, while the siblings trail home disappointed. “For those who feel deprived of mystical significance of the kings, however, there is a more profound dimension to the rule of three to ponder. For three encompasses everywhere; past, present and future; here, there, everywhere; earth, sea and air; positive, negative and neutral, this that and the other. Through these trinities the kings, who might be any Tom, Dick or Harry, wander in search of answers (yes, no or may be) to mysteries even older than that of Father, Son and the Holy Ghost; the birth of light, the dawn of life and the primacy of life” says The Economist.

Hemis Gompa, one of the most important and largest Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh is    twenty five miles from Leah. The Russian Traveler Nicholas Notovitch met here a monk to show him the two books that according to Buddhist account described the Jesus Christ’s visit to India to return the visit of the “Three wise men from the East” which included an Indian king who came to Bethlehem to honor His arrival. The document in the monastery covers life of Jesus from 13 to 26 years about which the Holy Bible is silent. The chronicle confirms that Jesus visited the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri, Varanasi and other such sacred cities in India. Notovitch never doubted the authenticity of the documents. Coming from a Westerner, who are always critics of Hinduism, this information seems to have been thoroughly scrutinized.  A book titled Unknown Life of Jesus Christ translated from the French by V.R. Gandhi published in 1894 is available which has these details.

Sanatana dharma with its liberal mindedness of Maanava Dharma and through its spokesman Lord Krishna promoted the concept of leading all to tranquility, happiness and equanimity. The Gita said by then that the world needs different religions, cults and deities to meet the vastly different needs of individuals provided they followed the Universal Laws of Dharma taught by the wisdom of Vedas. It therefore gave birth to, many religions among which Christianity was one. It is no wonder then, in 70 AD when the Romans under Emperor Nero were feeding Christians to angry lions, in Kerala, in India, Christians were already worshiping in churches.

St Thomas was the chosen Apostle of Jesus Christ by the assembly of Apostles after the ascension of Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel in India according to   a very ancient Syrian work, The Acts of Judas Thomas. Thomas did not want to go to India.  He had a dream in which Jesus asked him to go to India. Poor Thomas was just then purchased as a slave by a merchant from the Northwest India and forcefully taken there. May be this was a divine will! On arrival he converted his master also to Christianity, sailed close to Cochin and established churches all over Kerala.  

His teachings had a very close resemblance to Sanatana Dharma. World   knows very little of his teachings today especially after the house cleaning of the Holy - Bible in 6th century.  Some parts of the lost original text of the Gospel of Thomas were found in 1945. Early Christian missionaries worked along with liberal Hindu theologians to eradicate the evils that crept into Hindu society and brought mass education. But after 15th century they became aggressive and dominating and started forceful conversion.

Gnosticism   describes a collection of ancient religions whose adherents shunned the   material world and embraced spirituality.  Gnosticism is interpreted as knowledge,  enlightenment, salvation    emancipation and oneness with God.  Practices varied among those who were Gnostic but basically consisted of philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and   seeking enlightenment for wisdom and to help others. In Gnosticism, the world of the  demiurge is represented by the lower world. which is associated with matter, flesh, time and, more particularly, an imperfect, ephemeral world. The world of God is represented by the upper world and is associated with the  soul  and perfection. The world of God is eternal and not part of the physical. It is impalpable and timeless. Gnosticism is primarily defined in a  Christian context but surprisingly no authentic information is available by way of   Christian literature.  Gnosticism as a unique and recognizable belief system is typically considered to be early Christian thought.    May be they might have successfully eliminated all reference and sources!    May be they did not want to acknowledge help from  Sanatana Dharma from which they seem to have drawn lot of help to establish their new found religion.  The book, The Gnostic Gospels written by Elaine Pagels in French translated by an Indian author   and published by Vintage Books is now available.  It contains those archeological findings on the visit of Jesus to India and references to the gospel of St. Thomas.

But for the Vedic wisdom of “Eko viprah Bahuda vadanti” “Aatmavat sarvabhooteshu”  “sarve janah sukhino bhavany” “Krinvantoi viswamaaryam” further elaborated by Gita, Christianity would not have thrived and occupied its prestigious number one position among all   religions. By 189 AD most part of South India had very large population of Christians.      Consider the present day trends of religious practices   of even   highly educated religious Hindus who raise even liberated souls like Saibaba and Swami Narayan to Divinity.  It this context it is  reasonable to believe that people in India after the return of the King should have thought Jesus as another avatar like Krishna remembering his birth in the manger and the conjunction of stars Jupiter and Saturn and flocked to new faith successfully promoted by St. Thomas like what happened in Buddhism and Jainism.  

Thomas with his Gnosticism was also influenced by Sanatana Dharma and included its wisdom of Maanava Dharma in his promotional activity which the later Christians deleted as Pagan and blind belief.  Christianity further spread by leaps and bounds after the arrival of   Portuguese   under the stewardship Vasco de Gama who arrived in Calicut in 1948. Saint Francis Xavier was  another great preacher who touched the heart of Indians in spite of the unpopular rule of Portuguese. Their soldiers were ruthless. St xavier established around 50 churches in 15th century  along coastal  India, He even visited the tomb of St. Thomas in Chennai.   By 1599 Catholic Church was well established in India. Up to this period Christianity thrived out of free will of the people like the followings of Swami Narayan and Saibaba today. 

Early Christian theologians such as Saint Augustine of Hippo were very much influenced by the Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.  Until 553 AD The Christian church had unshakable fascination with reincarnation. Justin Martyr (100 to 165 AD) founder of the first Christian School in Rome wrote in his Dialogue with Trypho that the soul inhabits a succession of bodies but it cannot remember its previous lives. St Thomas belonged to this school of Christian thought which found favor with the majority population and he had no difficulty in getting a large following. Those ideas became so controversial that in the sixth century they were officially condemned in the second council of Constantinople as anathema. The teachings of Origen on reincarnation were thus expunged from Church doctrine, never to return. Why did they take such drastic steps?  Seeing the progress   of Christianity they were afraid of Roman, Greek and Hindu ideas taking over Christian doctrines.  That is why world knows very little of teachings of St. Thomas   today which during his time attracted large followers.

The aggressive Muslim rule in India resulted in many forcible mass conversions to Islam and many converted by sexual abuses. What could not be prevented had to be endured. The converts who could not adjust to the new religion only waited patiently till the British arrived. Also Hindu orthodoxy Puritans became too rigid and threw many in large numbers out of Hinduism as untouchables which process had  started in small numbers even in Sankara’s days. Under British patronage disgusted Muslim converts and many untouchables walked into Christianity hoping for better life in society and cringing    favor by the ruling power: they could not also get back to Hinduism.  Hinduism with its conservative religious outlook went by the strict religious codes which had no conversion provision to reconvert those who wanted to come back to main Hindu fold. So Christianity prospered. British Government also encouraged Missionaries to freely operate in India and convert large numbers by coaxing and hanging a carrot before them.  Majority of convert Muslims in India were so brain washed they could   hold on to their large population and also multiply because they were allowed to have as many as four wives while Hindus were restricting focusing on Ekapatni Vrata (one wife) and no widow marriage or divorce. Many walked out of Hinduism being forced to acts like forceful Sati. Muslims concentrated on regularly multiplying their tribe.

Some philanthropic and sympathetic Christian Missionaries who cared for human values worked along with liberal Hindu theologians to eradicate the evils in Hindu society bringing mass education which task still remains uncompleted in the hands of Sovereign Democratic Secular Indian Republic after 67 years of Independence.  The situation is otherwise today. Hindus have started a war against forceful conversion by Christian missionaries operating in India.  American Christian   Missionaries cannot do this in their own land but can do this in India. One self-assumed Guru and reformer has threatened to reconvert those Christians, who were Hindus before, on Christmas Day this year in India. The Government seems to be helpless.   

Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim to arise from the patriarch  Abraham. and are therefore considered  Abrahamic Religions. Those who walked out of Judaism established Christianity and Islam.    Islam originated and spread in the  Arabian   Peninsula, and many aspects of Islam's core values, structure, jurisprudence and practice are based on Judaism. In the late 20th century, Jews were expelled from nearly all the Arab countries.  Most have chosen to live in Israel or USA. Today, anti-Semitic themes have become commonplace in the propaganda of Arab Islamic movements such as Hezbollah and  Hamas. Of course their philosophy is ANTI anything and everything. While Sanatana Dharma propagates Universal Oneness these Abrahamic religions preached brotherhood and loving neighborhood but they have not stopped fighting as brothers and neighbors.  In practical life brothers and neighbors do fight and so the fight goes on. Unfortunately this fight is extended on others more. You may say practically all religions today in practice are either emerged out of Judaism or Sanatana Dharma. The religions that emerged out of Sanatana dharma, including modern Hinduism seem to live more at peace than later Abrahamic religions or Modern practicing Hinduism.

If we analyze dispassionately both Judaism and Sanatana Dharma or not on attack; it is Hinduism as practiced today, Christianity and Islam are at war all the time sometimes dragging Buddhism. Hinduism is a more recent nomenclature given to a conglomeration of heterogeneous traditions and plurality of beliefs and worship with a long history of development from the Vedic sacrificial religion through the worship of epic and puranic heroes and personal deities, cults and sects, as well as philosophical systems rather than a monolithic tradition or structure based on single system of beliefs and worship or a single text or scripture. Puranas say that after Buddha the next Avatar is Kalki. But we find today so many deities like Andal, Saibaba, Swami   Narayan and others who are elevated to Avatars. It is this diversity that is causing problem. Similar is the problem plaguing Christianity and Islam.
Various factors described in this discourse   beginning with the visit of a wise king of Bharat as a team member of Magi to Bethlehem to see the Christ-child, a friendly Sanatana Dharma populace favorably disposed to   Gnostic philosophy oriented  St. Thomas, absence of   the rebellious who later walked out of Judaism and hated Christianity   who were yet to form  a new religion of their own (later formed Mohammedanism) at that time and many other factors  have contributed to make Christianity the Religion of most followers  in  the world. Christians claim it is easy to follow Christianity with less restraints, with one   scripture and only their powerful God, no castes but only the rich, the middle class and the poor, with the philosophy that men need some religion and Christianity is convenient in contrast to spirituality which is  vague or Sanatana Dharma which is too complicated,   practiced by the prosperous and powerful  society in the world, not the poor and Pagan, and not necessarily aimed at permanent Liberation and Eternal Bliss to merge  with the Supreme.    In that bargain they don’t mind one time hell or heaven and no hassle   of   repeated births and deaths  which anyhow makes the world overcrowded  as too many return back with the hope everyone can be saved.  Why should anybody be saved if they do not believe in Jesus?  They say loving neighborhood is better than Universal Oneness, while Islam believes in Universal brotherhood as it is convenient to fight. Christians are also free to divorce and marry as many times as possible leaving many children to Good Lord to take care of. It also allows widow marriage. Everyone has to repent for his sins and God will save them how serious their sin may be if he is a true Christian! Do what you want including capital crimes but repent once, for Good Lord atoned already for your sins on certain conditions! Amen is sweet and Om is too much of an exercise and too long!
REFERENCES
1) The Rule of Three, The meaning of the Magi, The Economist, December 20th—January 2nd.
2)  Ed Viswanathan,  Am I A Hindu,   Rupa & Co., New Delhi, India.
3) Robert Arnett, India Unveiled, www. Atmanpress.com     
4) Harrry Bhalla, Beyond Religion—The Gita Doctrine, International Gita Society, USA   
5) Wikipedia, Greatest Conjunction.
6) Pierz Newton John, Psychotherapist cum Astrologer on  Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.           

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done.]