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Chapter Twenty-five

VEDIC AND JEWISH CALENDARS AND THE END OF THIS AGE

DEVOTEE: What year is this according to the present Hebrew calendar?

RABBI: "The current Hebrew year is 5,757. In this calendar, the year in which Adam was created is counted as year one. If we then count the Biblical genealogies from the time of Adam, we find that over 5,000 years have elapsed since the time he was formed. However, the Kabbalists clearly say that other human beings existed before Adam, and this is even supported in scripture [Drush Or HaChaim] The fifth cycle was the one that brought life, and this took place around two and a half billion years ago. Around 974 generations before Adam, or some 25,000 years ago, man developed all of the physical and mental capabilities that we possess today...but he still lacked the divine soul that would make him a spiritual being. God then created Adam, the first true human being with a soul, 'and He blew in his nostrils a soul of life'. [Genesis 2.7] [Sefer Yetzirah 4.15]

DEVOTEE: The Vedic calendar starts dating from the beginning of this Kali-yuga. Kali-yuga lasts 432,000 years, out of which we have passed about 5,000 years since the Battle of Kuruketra and the end of the regime of King Parkit. So there are 427,000 years remaining of this age. At the end of the age of Kali begins another cycle of four ages, namely Satya-yuga, Tret-yuga, Dvpara-yuga, and Kali-yuga. The universal tendency is that as each age passes from the beginning of Satya-yuga, the world's vices increase and virtue decrease until we again reach another Satya-yuga.

RABBI: In the Torah, Moses spoke to the people, instructing them in various commandments given by God. He told them that if they carefully kept the commandments of the Lord, the Lord would bless them in many ways, but if they failed to do so, the Lord would condemn them in many terrible ways. Everything would be taken away from them and they would be so much in want of food, that even the kindest and most gentle of people would eat their own children. It is stated, "You will then eat the fruit of your womb. When your enemies are besieging you will become so desperate that you will actually eat the flesh of your sons and daughters...." [Torah, Duet, Ki Thavo, 28.53-54] Do the Vedas describe any thing similar to this?

DEVOTEE: The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that at the end of this age, people will become so degraded, that the Supreme Lord will punish them by taking away many of the necessities of life. At that time, also, out of desperation and in degraded consciousness, they will eat their own children. It seems that although the Torah does not describe a period of destruction and hardship specifically in reference to end of an age, both the calamities described in the Torah and in the Vedas would result from people's unwillingness to follow the laws of God. Whenever mankind does not accept the laws of God, there will be great havoc in human society regardless of which religious faith one may follow. The Vedas describe that at the end of this degraded age of Kali, the Lord will personally come to destroy the miscreant people. Are there any similar descriptions of the coming of God given in the Torah?

RABBI: Yes, and the most famous are: "When the Holy One comes to visit the "Hind" (Israel), He will examine who it is that remains loyal to her at the time, and woe to him who shall not be found worthy..." [Isa.LXII, 23]

It is also stated, "Then the Messiah will arise from the Garden of Eden, from that place which is called 'the Bird's Nest'. He will arise in the land of Galilee, and on that day the whole world shall be shaken and all the children of men shall seek refuge in caves and rocky places. Concerning that time, it is written: 'And they shall go into the holes of the rocks and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth.' [Isa. II.19]" [Zohar 7a-7b] Can you explain further about the Vedic version of this period of destruction?

DEVOTEE: Yes. There is a verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam describing the Kalki incarnation who will come at the end of the Kali-yuga. "Thereafter, at the conjunction of the two yugas (Kali and Satya), the Lord of the creation will take His birth as the Kalki incarnation and become the son of Vishnu Ya. At that time the rulers of the earth will have degenerated into plunderers." [Bhag. 1:3:25] Later in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, it is stated, "Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences and eight special qualities of Godhead. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill by the millions those thieves who have dared dress as kings. After all the impostor kings have been killed, the residents of the cities and towns will feel the breezes carrying the most sacred fragrance of the sandalwood paste and other decorations of Lord Vsudeva, and their minds will thereby become transcendentally pure." [Bhag. 12.2.19-21]

Chapter Twenty-six

IDOL WORSHIP VS. DEITY WORSHIP

RABBI: Here are two verses from the Holy Torah that mention idol worship: "Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol-a thing detestable to the Lord, the work of the craftsman's hands--and sets it up in secret." [Torah, Duet, Ki Thavo, 27:15] "When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw our fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved." [Hosea IX: 10] Although God so thoroughly condemned the worship of man-made Gods (idols), I have seen that in Hindu temples such images are worshiped. Our conversations have revealed many similarities between Judaism and Hinduism, yet it appears that on this point we strongly differ.

DEVOTEE: The Vedas also are thoroughly opposed to idol worship, but what you have seen in Hindu temples is not idol worship but rather Deity worship. It is very easy to understand how Deity worship may at first appear as idol worship to a person who is unfamiliar with the principle behind this important devotional process. After all, the form of the Deity is crafted by a man out of some kind of material elements, and that form is later worshiped in the temple with devotion.

In the Vedas, Deity worship is an extremely important devotional process to help us develop love of God. In fact, it is one of the nine general classifications of devotional service mentioned in Sanskrit in the Vedas. It is said,

ravaa krtana vio

smaraa pda-sevanam

arcana vandana dsya

sakhyam tma-nivedanam

[Bhag. 7.5.23]

v "Devotional service consists of (1) hearing about the Lord, (2) chanting His glories, (3) remembering Him, (4) serving and meditating upon His lotus feet, (5) worshiping Him, (6) praying to Him, (7) thinking oneself His eternal servant, (8) becoming His friend, and (9) surrendering everything to Him." The fifth process mentioned here, arcana, worshipping the Lord, refers to Deity worship.

RABBI: I still do not see the difference. The Torah also says that one should worship the Lord, but the act of worshipping idols as God is condemned. What makes the Hindu's Deity worship any different from the worship of idols so condemned in the Jewish tradition? How can man worship a form that he himself has crafted?

DEVOTEE: The difference is that God authorizes the worship of Deities. For example, if you put mail into an authorized mailbox it will be delivered to the address written on the envelope. But if you drop that mail into some box other than an authorized mailbox, it will not be delivered. Similarly, if you create some form, call it God, and worship it, all according to your own mental concoction, there will be no benefit and your act will be condemned by God. If however, you create a form according to the actual description of God's form given in the revealed scriptures, and if you worship that form according to the rules and regulations given by God in the scriptures, you will achieve excellent results. The result of that worship is love for God.

RABBI: In principle I understand that if God actually authorizes some activity, it must be correct. Still, I have difficulty understanding how a person can learn to love God by worshipping a form that He himself has created. Perhaps my difficulty is that in the Jewish scriptures, I know of no description of God's form that is detailed enough to allow someone to craft a form like it. Also, I am not familiar with any descriptions in the Jewish scriptures about how to worship such a form like a Deity. Such worship is repeatedly condemned as idolatry.

DEVOTEE: The Torah may not give a clear and detailed description of the form of God, but the Vedas do. The Vedas also give a very detailed description of the method of Deity worship. The principle is that if you want to love God, you must be able to develop some personal relationship with Him. As we have discussed several times, the purpose of religion is to develop love of God. Service to God is the symptom and means to that love. In our impure state, we are not qualified to see the original spiritual form of God and to worship Him. By His mercy He has agreed to appear in the form of His Deity. Therefore, the whole process of Deity worship gives us an opportunity to practice serving God. As the devotee renders continuous and regulated service to the Deity according to the methods authorized in the scriptures, the impurities of our heart gradually become cleansed and our natural loving relationship with the Lord is manifest. Without being able to relate to God in some personal way there is no question of learning to love Him, even though He is all pervading and can accept our offering any time or place.

RABBI: Your explanation helps me have a clearer understanding of Hindu Deity worship. As I was listening to your explanation, I remembered one verse I read, along with the commentary of Rabbi Jose. The verse said, "If they be peaceful and likewise many, and they likewise be shorn, then he shall pass away; and though I have affected thee, I will affect thee no more." [Nahum1, 12] [Zohar II, 200b] Rabbi Jose explains this verse thus, "When a people live in peace, and harbor no quarrelsome persons in there midst, God has compassion on them, and rigorous justice is not invoked against them, even though they worship idols. This is in harmony with the verse, "Ephraim is serving idols, let him alone" [Hosea. IV, 17] [Zohar II, 200b] It appears from this verse that the term idol can be used in different ways. Persons who had no faith in God and who were envious of Him preformed the idol worship that was condemned by the Lord. They were people who gave up the authorized worship of God for the worship of an unauthorized, manmade idol. It is said, "They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." [Hosea IV, 12][Zohar II, 200b] That kind of worship would never lead to love of God. In fact, it could only lead one away from Him, and thus it was condemned.

DEVOTEE: Yes, Rabbi, I agree with you. The Lord is ultimately interested in the spiritual welfare of everyone. He instructs us to do that which is for our ultimate spiritual benefit and He condemns those activities that are unfavorable for us to develop our love for Him. If we serve the Deity according to the authorized process, then we will be spiritually benefited. Otherwise, we will not.

Chapter Twenty-seven

FOOD

DEVOTEE: Rabbi, what is the proper food to be eaten by a person who is on the spiritual path?

RABBI: God describes the best food for everyone, not only for those on the spiritual path: "Behold, I have given you every seed bearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seed bearing fruit. It shall be to you for food. For every beast of the field, every bird of the sky, and everything that walks the land, that has in it a living soul, all plant vegetation shall be food." [Torah, Genesis, Bereshith 1:29]

DEVOTEE: The Vedas also prescribe a vegetarian diet for every human being on the basis that it is pleasing to God. In two important verses in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna describes what we can eat and why. "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." [Bg: 9.26] "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform- do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me." [Bg: 9.27]

The principle is that a devotee of the Lord should not eat anything without first offering it as sacrifice for the pleasure of the Lord. But we cannot whimsically offer just anything to the Lord and expect that He will accept it. He clearly states in an abbreviated form what He will accept, and clearly it does not include any non-vegetarian food.

RABBI: If one studies the Jewish tradition carefully, it becomes clear that it was never the desire of God that His followers eat meat. He only allowed them to do so, with great restrictions, when He saw that they were unwilling to follow a strict vegetarian diet. This was an act of His mercy because if someone directly disobeys the laws of God, he will incur great sin. But, if the Lord, seeing the unwillingness of his followers to accept His orders, makes His demands easier so the people will follow, then they will not be so thoroughly condemned.

DEVOTEE: We find the same principle in the Vedas. Although the Vedas recommend and teach the highest standards for human society, which will in turn give the greatest positive result, realizing God, they also give ample means for people of all kinds to satisfy their material desires within the religious principles of the Vedas. For example, the Vedas in general condemned animal slaughter and meat eating. Still, for those who are so addicted to eating meat that they cannot control themselves, the Vedas offer a means to eat meat according to religious principles. Such people are recommended to offer a less important animal such as a goat, in sacrifice to the goddess Kl. They must make this sacrifice only on the dark moon night of the month and they must kill the animal themselves, and hear its pitiable scream as they cut its throat. Just before killing the animal, they must say to the animal a verse saying in effect that "I am killing you in front of the goddess Kl, but in my next life I will be killed in the same way." Clearly, the purpose of this sacrifice was not to encourage animal slaughter but to persuade people to give it up.

RABBI: This is similar to the purposes of the Kosher laws. Especially regarding meat, there are many strict procedures directly aimed at removing every drop of blood before it can be eaten. It is impossible to completely remove all the blood from meat, so the final outcome is that meat cannot be eaten without sin. Ultimately, this whole troublesome procedure for eating meat is meant to persuade religious people to adopt a vegetarian diet.

In Jewish law, a person was not only supposed to be vegetarian, but he was supposed to show great compassion and care toward his animals. This rule was so much emphasized that he was permitted to break all rules of the Sabbath if necessary to save the life of an animal or to free him from pain.

Chapters 22 to 24 Chapters 28 to 30



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