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Chapter Thirteen


DEVOTEE: The Vedic scriptures give voluminous information about various incarnations of the Lord, describing their names, activities, color, appearance and so on. For example, Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu's future appearance was so described: "When Gargamuni was performing the name-giving ceremony for Krsna and knowing of the future appearance of Lord Caitanya, he predicted, "This boy Krsna has three other colors-white, red, and yellow as He appears in the different ages. Now He has appeared in a transcendental blackish color." [Cc. Adi 3.35,36] Lord Krsna had previously appeared in the colors of red and white, and He would later appear in the color yellow as Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Are there any similar descriptions in the Jewish scriptures?

RABBI: Yes, although I do not know of any descriptions of the activities of God given in as much detail as you describe from the Vedas, there are some references to His colors. In the Zohar, R. Eleazar says, "It is written, 'And he brought me thither, and behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; [Ezek. XL, 3] "Ezekiel saw in this prophetical vision a 'man' but not 'a man clothed in linen' [Dan. X, 5]. for it is only when the angel is on an errand of severity that he is called 'a man clothed in linen'. Otherwise, he assumes various guises, appears in various attire conforming to the message he bears at that time. Now, in the present vision 'his appearance was like the appearance of brass.'

God appeared to Moses and his followers on Mount Sinai in the form a burning bush. According to R. Abba, "When the smoke came out of Mount Sinai a fire ascended enveloped therein, so that its flames were of a blue color. They flared high and dwindled again, and the smoke emitted all the aromas of Paradise, displaying itself in the colors of white, red, and black, as it says..." Perhaps these colors can be related to the same colors of God as mentioned in the Vedas.

DEVOTEE: The Jewish scriptures are very difficult for me to understand with so much written allegorically. The Vedas are very direct and to the point. It is described in the Vedas that although there are many different incarnations of the Lord appearing throughout the ages of universal time, the appearance of Lord Krsna includes within it all the other incarnations.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says, " All the incarnations of the Lord, including the Lord Himself, descend on the different planets of the material world as also in different species of life to fulfill particular missions. Sometimes He comes Himself and sometimes His different plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions or His differentiated portions directly or indirectly empowered by Him, descend on this material world to execute certain specific functions. Originally the Lord is full of all opulences, all prowess, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation. When they are partly manifested through the plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions, it should be noted that certain manifestations of His different powers are required for those particular functions. When in the room small electric bulbs are displayed, it does not mean that the electric powerhouse is limited by the small bulbs. The same powerhouse can supply power to operate large-scale industrial dynamos with greater volts. Similarly, the incarnations of the Lord display limited powers because so much power is needed at that particular time. [Bhag. 1:3:28, Purport]

Chapter Fourteen


RABBI: The Torah describes a devastating flood brought by God to destroy the sinful persons of the world who had refused to follow His laws. It is said by God to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me. The world is filled with (man's) crime. I will therefore destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood. Divide the ark into compartments. Caulk the inside and outside with pitch and for I Myself am bringing the flood. Water shall be on the earth to destroy from under the heavens all flesh having in it a breath of life. All that is on land will die. But I will keep My pledge that you will come into the ark. You will be together with your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives." [Torah, Genesis, Noah 25.13-18] In the Vedic philosophy are there any descriptions of a devastating flood like this?

DEVOTEE: Yes. According to the Vedas, there was not only one great flood, but there are thousands of them throughout the existence of the universe, they normally start at the beginning of Lord Brahma's night.

RABBI: Do the Vedas describe any personality like Noah being saved from the devastation?

DEVOTEE: The Bhagavat Purana or Srimad-Bhagavatam gives a description of an inundation that occurred many millions of years ago in connection with the Matsya avatar, the Lord's fish incarnation. Briefly, there was a king who was a great devotee of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord chose to show him some special favor. Like Noah, King Satyavrata was forewarned about a universal devastation. In this history, there was also a large boat, which was sent by the Supreme Lord to King Satyavrata. The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: "O King who can subdue your enemies, on the seventh day from today the three worlds-Bhuh, Bhuvaù and Svaù-will all merge into the water of inundation. When all the three worlds merge into the water, a large boat sent by Me will appear before you. Thereafter, O King, you shall collect all types of herbs and seeds and load them on that great boat. Then, accompanied by the seven sages and surrounded by all kinds of living entities, you shall get aboard that boat, and without moroseness you shall easily travel with your companions on the ocean of inundation, the only illumination being the effulgence of the great sages." [Bhag 8.24.32-35]

RABBI: We have been discussing many similarities between the Jewish and Hindu theologies. Considering that the passage of time and the development of various cultures can lead to variations in historical accounts, perhaps both of these descriptions refer to the same event. In both accounts, a God conscious personality, accompanied by other spiritually elevated persons, and plants and animals of various species, all take shelter of a large boat or ark to be saved from a great inundation. But I am concerned that these two descriptions appear to have taken place at times in history at least tens of millions of years apart. Do you have any thoughts in that regard?

DEVOTEE: It is quite possible that the Vedic description described in the Srimad Bhagavatam is a different incident than the history of Noah's ark described in the Torah. As I mentioned earlier, the Vedas give information of innumerable inundations during the existence of the universe. I think that the most important consideration is not whether these two particular histories are exactly the same, but to understand their similar purposes and the way the Lord reciprocates with His devotees. The Lord promised Noah that He would protect Him and the others who boarded the ark. Noah was obviously a very godly person so the Lord was protecting His devotee servant Noah and his family while annihilating the sinful people of the world. Similarly, while the Lord arranged for a gigantic inundation during the time of King Satyavrata, He gave protection to the king and other saintly persons with him. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says, "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion, at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium." [Bg. 4.7-8]

RABBI: A few minutes ago, you mentioned something that seemed very unusual. You mentioned a fish incarnation of God called Matsya avatar. Are you suggesting that God appeared as a fish? We discussed earlier that man may take his birth in a lower species of life, but why would God come like that?

DEVOTEE: The Vedas explain that part of the greatness of the Lord is that He is always transcendental. When a soul who has a human body misuses that valuable human form he may take his next birth as an animal. When he has that animal form, he is forced to remain in very low consciousness. On the other hand, when God appears in an animal form, He retains all the unlimited power and abilities of God. He is not reduced in any way. He sometimes appears in an animal form by His Own will to perform a particular activity. In the case of the fish incarnation, He appeared to protect King Satyavrata during the great universal inundation since a fish is a naturally expert swimmer. If He so desired, He could have appeared in any form to accomplish the same feat.

RABBI: Although the form of God is not described in the Torah in connection with the great flood, I can understand that He was actually present. It is significant that He chose to give protection to His pure servant, Noah and his family while killing everyone else on earth. God did not need to use a flood to kill all the sinful people. He could have accomplished that within a moment by any means.

DEVOTEE: That is also confirmed by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita: "All of them as they surrender unto Me I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prithä." [Bg. 4.11]

Chapter Fifteen


RABBI: It is said that a personality named Metatron cooperates with God to teach the young. While God devotes the last three hours of the day to this work, Metatron is in charge during the remainder of the day. (A.Z. 3b) [Everyman's Talmud, II, III] Do the Vedas give any information about such a personality?

DEVOTEE: The Vedas inform us of one plenary expansion of Lord Krsna named Mahä-Vishnu. In the creative process, it is from Mahä-Vishnu that all of the universes emanate, and within those universes that the living entities, like us, are struggling for existence. The purpose of this world is ultimately to help the envious living entities to become detached from the desire for material enjoyment and to revive their love for God. Through His creative functions, Mahä-Vishnu actually teaches the "young" detachment from material life and attachment towards the Lord's loving devotional service.

RABBI: I do not understand. According to the Vedas, can you explain further how exactly is it that Mahä-Vishnu is cooperating with God to teach the young?

DEVOTEE: As we had discussed before, the Vedas clearly teach that we are not the material body but the soul within. Young and old in this connection have nothing to do with the age of the body, because the soul is eternal and unchanging. "The young" refers to almost all living entities in the material world in any species of life. We are considered young in realization of God until we have developed love for God. Mahä-Vishnu helps to teach the "young" to become detached from the desire to enjoy this world separately from the Lord's service, and to simultaneously help them to revive their love for Lord Krsna. He does this by creating all the material universes, within which the living entities are struggling hard for material existence. As we struggle in ignorance to find some enjoyment, we gradually become frustrated. In our frustration we naturally become a little detached from material existence, and the Lord in the heart, an expansion of Mahä-Vishnu known as Ksirodakasayi Vishnu, directs us from within to search out a bona fide guru. The guru then teaches his submissive disciples the spiritual process to revive their natural love for God. In this way, Mahä-Vishnu cooperates with the God (Lord Krsna) to teach the young.

Actually, Mahä-Vishnu is another form of God, but whereas the original personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, spends His time enjoying with His pure devotees in the spiritual world, so His expansions like Mahä-Vishnu, work directly to help the living entities to develop detachment from material enjoyment and attachment to Lord Krsna. Those forms of Vishnu known as the Puruña incarnations, namely Mahä-Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, and Ksirodakasayi Vishnu, all function within this world to teach the young and spiritually immature to mature in their realization of God. There is really no difference between these three forms of Vishnu except the functions they perform and the way that they may change Their forms to perform those functions.

RABBI: Your explanation of Mahä-Vishnu and His expansions is interesting. This seems to corroborate a statement found about Metatron in Origins of the Kabbalah where it is said, "Metatron is therefore not a proper name at all but a designation for the whole category of celestial powers performing a mission."[Origins of the Kabbalah, III, 6]

Chapters 10 to 12 Chapters 16 to 18