Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective – deeper aspects of what he said (1)

Sermon on the MountCopenhagen Church Alter Painting

This post comes after a relatively long hiatus and it also goes against the grain when it comes to the type of posts I have written to date. I have for long been fascinated by St. Matthew’s account of “The sermon on the mount” having first read it when I was still in school.  In talking about the teachings of Jesus and more specifically the “Sermon on the Mount” one wonders how he arrived at a set of teachings that run completely contrary to the prevalent teachings of the time in that part of the world – The Ten Commandments. It is quite clear that he could not have arrived at these in the synagogues he prayed in during his first 12 years of life.

What Jesus taught were the exact opposites of the “negative” commandments which were essentially  a set of “don’ts” – “Thou shall not…” Therefore the question – Was he influenced by the teachings of Hinduism and/or Buddhism the dominant religions of the time? is a valid and relevant question

There is also the question of the “missing years” of what Jesus did and where he went or lived during the 18 years between age 12 and 30. After a reference to Jesus being baptized by the wandering, eccentric minstrel “John the Baptist” whose food was “Locusts and wild honey” there is a long and unexplained gap before Jesus appears again when he fasts for 40 days and nights, is tempted by “evil”, prevails, attains enlightenment, and leads the multitudes up the mount of olives to preach – this was when he was 30, just three years before his gruesome death. Where was he and what did he do in the interim remains a mystery.

There has been much speculation that Jesus spent his “missing” years in India. This speculation is now congealing into fact – You can read about it here and watch a BBC video here.

Another documentary by the Government of India hints at Jesus in Kashmir “The story of the life of Isah

Anecdotal, circumstantial, and even recorded information clearly point to Jesus having been in India and or at least having been influenced either by Buddhist or Hindu philosophical thought or more likely both. These speculations add to the mystery of the person called Jesus and his definitive teachings summarized in “The Sermon on the Mount”

There are several other reasons for my fascination with this “Sermon on the Mount”:

  1. This sermon stands out from the rest of what appears in the Bible both in the old and new testaments in terms of its directness, brevity, and pithiness
  2. It embodies in a sense the entire essence of all that Jesus wanted to say and share coming as it did soon after his 40-day/night “fast” that led to his “realization”
  3. It is also a defining moment in the life of Jesus – it was in all probability an event that occurred in 30 CE just three years before his gruesome death
  4. While a lot of western authors have read and written about Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, the reverse of Hindus writing or commenting about other religions is a rarity. There are exceptions – Eknath Easwaran’s commentaries or Swami Prabhavananda’s (Ramakrishna Math) brilliant book “The Sermon on the Mount, according to Vedanta” – These however remain exceptions and in today’s times the need to study other religions and make comparative commentaries is an urgent need.
  5. For too long the Christian church has interpreted these lines literally when a deeper reading and analysis of the sermon show that Jesus was speaking from a high philosophical plane much removed from the one we live on.
  6. This (point-5 above) is perhaps why he resorted to parables and such in his subsequent teachings – he was perhaps bringing it down a few notches to serve the needs of those who had not reached the exalted plane he had.
  7. Finally, I am also of the opinion that a “grounding” in the tenets of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism provides one with the flexibility to view all religions objectively – It is the only religion that considers and accepts all other religions to be true

This is going to be a series of posts on the sermon interpreted from a Sanatana Dharma/vedantic perspective or more simply an attempt to delve deeper into what he could have actually meant when he said what he said.

Right at the beginning of this sermon Jesus lists what are popularly called the “Beatitudes” which are the condensed essence of his teachings or in other words the goals that one can attain when he/she sets out on the path to enlightenment. These are 9 in number but can be reduced to 7 because the first two (1 & 2) and then the last two (8 & 9) are so closely related in terms of the message they convey that they can be treated as one.

Just before this momentous event when Jesus leads the multitudes up the mount, he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was sorely “tempted of the “devil” who offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” and the “glory (associated) of them”

Who is this devil? Is he the satan of the Bible? Or is it someone or something else? As Paul Brunton says “The devil then as now is that adverse element in nature that seeks to keep man’s consciousness imprisoned in the lower form of nature… as our experiences increase we gain more understanding of the forces which are at work… and as we understand them we can consciously take our stand and work out our… full liberation”

In an earlier post in discussing the story of “The Churning of the Ocean” I had referred to the constant fight within each human being between the forces of evil/dark forces – the Asuras, and the forces of Light – the Devas. This is the satan of the bible and this is what Jesus strived against too in his Quest for enlightenment.

The 9 beatitudes are listed below and as mentioned earlier and as is evident 1 & 2 as well as 8 & 9 can be clubbed together which would make it 7 beatitudes in all and each one would be taken up in the subsequent posts to delve into their deeper meaning and also examine them in the light of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

  8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


 

References:

  1. Picture credit: http://www.theology21.com/2011/06/30/sermon-on-the-mount-why-the-law-according-to-jesus-is-impossible-to-follow/
  2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Chapter) in “The Inner Reality” by Paul Brunton. July 1952. Anchor Press. Great Britain.
  3. The Holy Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society
  4. The King James Version of the Bible. Published January 2004. 

 

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Hindu/Sanatana Dharma perspective – deeper aspects of what he said (1)

Sermon on the MountCopenhagen Church Alter Painting
Photo Courtesy: Theology 21*

This post comes after a relatively long hiatus and it also goes against the grain when it comes to the type of posts I have written to date. I have for long been fascinated by St. Matthew’s account of “The sermon on the mount” having first read it when I was still in school.  In talking about the teachings of Jesus and more specifically the “Sermon on the Mount” one wonders how he arrived at a set of teachings that run completely contrary to the prevalent teachings of the time in that part of the world – The Ten Commandments. It is quite clear that he could not have arrived at these in the synagogues he prayed in during his first 12 years of life.

What Jesus taught were the exact opposites of the “negative” commandments which were essentially  a set of “don’ts” – “Thou shall not…” Therefore the question – Was he influenced by the teachings of Hinduism and/or Buddhism the dominant religions of the time? is a valid and relevant question

There is also the question of the “missing years” of what Jesus did and where he went or lived during the 18 years between age 12 and 30. After a reference to Jesus being baptized by the wandering, eccentric minstrel “John the Baptist” whose food was “Locusts and wild honey” there is a long and unexplained gap before Jesus appears again when he fasts for 40 days and nights, is tempted by “evil”, prevails, attains enlightenment, and leads the multitudes up the mount of olives to preach – this was when he was 30, just three years before his gruesome death. Where was he and what did he do in the interim remains a mystery.

There has been much speculation that Jesus spent his “missing” years in India. This speculation is now congealing into fact – You can read about it here and watch a BBC video here.

Another documentary by the Government of India hints at Jesus in Kashmir “The story of the life of Isah

Anecdotal, circumstantial, and even recorded information clearly point to Jesus having been in India and or at least having been influenced either by Buddhist or Hindu philosophical thought or more likely both. These speculations add to the mystery of the person called Jesus and his definitive teachings summarized in “The Sermon on the Mount”

There are several other reasons for my fascination with this “Sermon on the Mount”:

  1. This sermon stands out from the rest of what appears in the Bible both in the old and new testaments in terms of its directness, brevity, and pithiness
  2. It embodies in a sense the entire essence of all that Jesus wanted to say and share coming as it did soon after his 40-day/night “fast” that led to his “realization”
  3. It is also a defining moment in the life of Jesus – it was in all probability an event that occurred in 30 CE just three years before his gruesome death
  4. While a lot of western authors have read and written about Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, the reverse of Hindus writing or commenting about other religions is a rarity. There are exceptions – Eknath Easwaran’s commentaries or Swami Prabhavananda’s (Ramakrishna Math) brilliant book “The Sermon on the Mount, according to Vedanta” – These however remain exceptions and in today’s times the need to study other religions and make comparative commentaries is an urgent need.
  5. For too long the Christian church has interpreted these lines literally when a deeper reading and analysis of the sermon show that Jesus was speaking from a high philosophical plane much removed from the one we live on.
  6. This (point-5 above) is perhaps why he resorted to parables and such in his subsequent teachings – he was perhaps bringing it down a few notches to serve the needs of those who had not reached the exalted plane he had.
  7. Finally, I am also of the opinion that a “grounding” in the tenets of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism provides one with the flexibility to view all religions objectively – It is the only religion that considers and accepts all other religions to be true

This is going to be a series of posts on the sermon interpreted from a Sanatana Dharma/vedantic perspective or more simply an attempt to delve deeper into what he could have actually meant when he said what he said.

Right at the beginning of this sermon Jesus lists what are popularly called the “Beatitudes” which are the condensed essence of his teachings or in other words the goals that one can attain when he/she sets out on the path to enlightenment. These are 9 in number but can be reduced to 7 because the first two (1 & 2) and then the last two (8 & 9) are so closely related in terms of the message they convey that they can be treated as one.

Just before this momentous event when Jesus leads the multitudes up the mount, he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was sorely “tempted of the “devil” who offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” and the “glory (associated) of them”

Who is this devil? Is he the satan of the Bible? Or is it someone or something else? As Paul Brunton says “The devil then as now is that adverse element in nature that seeks to keep man’s consciousness imprisoned in the lower form of nature… as our experiences increase we gain more understanding of the forces which are at work… and as we understand them we can consciously take our stand and work out our… full liberation”

In an earlier post in discussing the story of “The Churning of the Ocean” I had referred to the constant fight within each human being between the forces of evil/dark forces – the Asuras, and the forces of Light – the Devas. This is the satan of the bible and this is what Jesus strived against too in his Quest for enlightenment.

The 9 beatitudes are listed below and as mentioned earlier and as is evident 1 & 2 as well as 8 & 9 can be clubbed together which would make it 7 beatitudes in all and each one would be taken up in the subsequent posts to delve into their deeper meaning and also examine them in the light of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

  3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

  4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

  8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.


 

References:

  1. Picture credit: http://www.theology21.com/2011/06/30/sermon-on-the-mount-why-the-law-according-to-jesus-is-impossible-to-follow/
  2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Chapter) in “The Inner Reality” by Paul Brunton. July 1952. Anchor Press. Great Britain.
  3. The Holy Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society
  4. The King James Version of the Bible. Published January 2004. 

 

The four Vedas – Saama Veda

The word “Saama” is derived from the Sanskrit root “साम” which means to “appease”, “soothe”, “calm”, comfort”, “conciliate”. The word

Saama-veda-murthy
Saama Veda Murthy

Saama” therefore means “that which soothes and relaxes the mind and promises peace.

The Saama Veda contains “Riks” i.e. verses/shlokas from the Rig Veda set to music. In chanting the Rig Veda one would chant the mantras with the udaatta (upward swara) and the anudhaatta (downward swara). In chanting the Saama Veda the same “Rik” would be “sung” with an elongated swara.

The Saama Veda / Saama Gaana is considered to be the source of the Sapta (seven) Swaras (notes) of Indian Classical Music. In Yajnas, one designated priest called the “Udgaata” who chants the Saama Veda to propitiate the Gods and ensure their grace.

The musical rendition and the elongated notes when chanted in sequence and with the proper diction has a calming influence on the mind and is extremely conducive to the spiritual evolution of the self – It is because of this virtue of the Saama Veda, that Shri Krishna declared in the Bhagavad Gita “Amongst the Vedas, I am Saama Veda“.

In the Lalitha Sahasranaama Stotra, which literally means the “1,000 names of the divine mother” one of the names given to her is “Saama-Gaana-Priya” – “She who is pleased/propitiated by the recitation of Saama Veda

Watch the YouTube video below showing the brain activity of a 26 year old man, while listening to Saama Veda chanting with his eyes closed [Red indicates brain activation and Blue indicates deactivation] – it is interesting to note how, even with eyes closed, the Visual Cortex lights up


References:

  1. Brain activity video: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbDdmTlTwoCUx2p7nScbUCw (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX11bBpuKlU)
  2. Deivathin Kural Volume-2; Vanathi Publications; 2016 edition/Reprint
  3. The Vedas – Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; 2014.
  4. Sama Veda Murthy: http://www.reocities.com/venkatharihara/Vedas.html

Disclaimer: Copyright with regard to images / videos rests with the owner/creator and are not being used for any commercial purpose.

The four Vedas – Yajurveda

yajurveda

The word “Yajus” is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yaj” which means “prayer” or “worship”. The word “Yajna” is also derived from this very root. We saw in the earlier post (click here) on the Rig Veda that the word “Rig” is derived from “Rik” which means a hymn or shloka.

The Yajur Veda systematizes the hymns of the Rig Veda (Riks) into a practical and practicable form – yajnas and procedures of worship and prayer. In summary, that which is chanted in Rig Veda is performed via Yajur Veda.

The two main branches of the Yajur Veda (there are many, as we have seen in an earlier post Click to read) are Shukla Yajur Veda and Krishna Yajur Veda (Shukla = White and Krishna = Black). The Shukla Yajur Veda Samhita is also known as the Vajasaneyi Samhita.

“Vaajasani” is one of the names of the “Sun-god”. There is an interesting story connected to this name and how it came about. When Veda Vyasa finished compiling and collating the Vedas into four, Yajur Veda had only one branch/version – he taught this Yajur Veda to Sage Vaisampayana who in turn taught it to Sage Yajnavalkya. There was a falling out between Teacher and pupil and Sage Vaisampayana ordered that Yajnavalkya must return all the knowledge (of the Yajurveda) back to him, essentially robbing Yajnavalkya of the right to propagate the knowledge of the Yajur Veda to others.

Sage Yajnavalkya not one to take things lying down meditated on the Supreme deity embodied as the Sun (Surya) god and came up with his own version of the Yajur Veda which came to be know as the Shukla Yajur Veda or the Vajasaneyi Samhita. Since Yajnavalkya’s Yajur Veda came to be known as Shukla Yajur Veda, Vaisampayana’s came to be known as Krishna Yajur Veda.

The Yajur Veda provides procedural and explanatory details of the Vedic Karmas and rituals including Somayaga, Darsha Poornamasas, Vaajapeya, Rajasuya, and Ashwamedha.

Most importantly the Sri Rudram in vogue today is the one present in the Yajur Veda. Although a few suktas from the Rudram are present in the Rig and Saama Veda as well, the Sri Rudram in vogue today and that which is chanted, only refers to the one in the Yajur Veda.

It is because of this that the great Saivite saint Appayya Dikshitar lamented that he should have been born in the Yajur Veda instead of the Saama Veda.

Similarly the Purusha Sukta present in the Rig Veda is also present in the Yajur Veda with minor differences between the two versions. However, when the Purusha Sukta is mentioned, it refers only to the version in the Yajur Veda.

Yajur Veda also holds a special significance for the followers of the Advaita philosophy (non-dualism). As per Sanatana Dharma, any Siddhanta (philosophy), should contain:

  1. A Sutra (Aphorism, definition)
  2. A Bhaashya (Commentary)
  3. A Vaartika (Explanatory notes, clearer and expanded elucidation of the sutra and the Bhaashya)

Sureshwaraacharya, a direct disciple of Adi Sankaracharya wrote the Vaartika  i.e. explanatory notes on the Bhaashya i.e. commentary written by Sankara on two of the Upanishads pertaining to the Krishna Yajurveda – The Taitrriya Upanishad and the Brihadaranyaaka Upanishad.

This is the reason the Yajur Veda holds a special place in the minds of Advaitins