VEDIC AND JEWISH CALENDARS AND THE END OF THIS AGE
DEVOTEE: What year is this according to the present Hebrew
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 Kurukñetra and the end of the regime of
King Parékñit. 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,
Tretä-yuga, Dväpara-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
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 Yaçä. 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
Väsudeva, and their minds will thereby become transcendentally pure."
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,
çravaëaà kértanaà viñëoù
arcanaà vandanaà däsyaà
"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, arcanaà, 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
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.
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 Kälé. 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 Kälé, 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