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. 

 

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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 Vedas are the authoritative texts of Sanatana Dharma (1)

What is the authoritative book on which your religion is based? If this question was posed to a Christian, he/she would say “The Bible”, a muslim “The Koran”; a parsi “The Zend Avesta”; a Buddhist “The Dhammapada”; a Jew probably “The Torah” or “The Tanakh” or “The Hebrew Bible”; a Sikh “The Granth Sahib”

If we were to pose this question to a practitioner of Sanatana Dharma (erroneously referred to as the Hindus) what would his/her answer be? In all probability we would not receive one standard answer – some would say Bhagavad Gita, someone else the Ramayana, someone the Upanishads and so on.

The reason for this is very simple – Sanatana Dharma is the only religion in the world where parents of children do not provide even a basic foundation or grounding in the tenets and principles of their own “Dharma”. I choose not to use the word religion because the word does not capture the true essence of Sanatana Dharma – This “Dharma” was, is, and never will be a religion

Religion means rituals whereas “Dharma” refers to those principles one must follow in life to be CONTENTED and HAPPY. This is probably the reason why even the Supreme Court of India observed that Hinduism is a way of life. This is one major difference between Sanatana Dharma and all other religions.

Besides this, there is one other major difference between Sanatana Dharma and all other religions – All other religions are “Pourusheyam” i.e. “Revealed Texts” – there is one founder or Prophet, or Saint whose commandments form the core of that religion’s beliefs, principles, and practices. Sanatana Dharma however is “Apourusheyam” i.e. not revealed by any one “purusha” or human being – they are timeless, limitless “Truths” that have existed before the time of creation itself and will do so forever.

Therefore, if one were to look for a book or rather a single source of authority in the ocean of Sanatana Dharma then one must look for a book that is truly “Dharma-Pramana” (that which establishes the TRUTH). If this be the criterion, then the Vedas alone pass muster – the Bhagavad Gita is but a small speck in the ocean of Sanatana Dharma – it derives from the Vedantas (Upanishads) and is not even a commentary on the vedas in their entirety.

The Kanchi Paramacharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi in the second volume of his “Deivathin Kural” (The voice of God) uses the two quotes below (in Tamizh) to establish what constitutes “The Vedas” (Translation appears below the image)

20170415_052449

The Vedas are four (4) in number (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), then the six (6) Vedangas – angas or limbs or divisions of the vedas (more about each of these in subsequent posts), followed by Mimamsa (vedic interpretations), Nyaya (logic), Puranas (Mythology), and Dharmashastras (Codes of Conduct) making it Fourteen (14) in total. To these 14 may be added the 4 Upa-angas (ancillary limbs) namely Ayurveda (Science of Life), Artha-Shastra (Science of Wealth and Economics), Dhanur-Veda (Science of weapon-making and warfare) and Gandharva-Veda (Writings and treatises on the fine arts including music, dance, drama) bringing it to a grand total of 18 – these form the “Vidya-Sthanas” – “…that in which knowledge and wisdom are enshrined”

I will conclude this post with a beautiful conversation between Hanuman (representing the embodied Atman) and Rama (representing the Supreme Divinity – Paramatman) that appears in the beginning of the Muktiko-Upanishad of Sukla Yajurveda which epitomizes the great vastness of the Vedas…

Hanuman asks Rama: “Tell me Raghava, how many are the vedas, and how many their branches and how many the Upanishads?”

Rama replies: “The Vedas are four (4), their branches many and so also the Upanishads – The Rig Veda has 21 branches, the Yajur Veda 109, the Sama Veda a 1,000 and the Atharvana Veda 50 – each of these branches has its own Upanishad (Vedanta)…

Subsequent posts will look at other aspects of the Vedas.

References:

  1. Deivathin Kural Volume-2; Vanathi Publications; 2016 edition/Reprint
  2. Thirty Minor Upanishads – Translated by K. Narayanaswmi Aiyar; 1914 edition. Printed by Annie Besant, Vasanta Press; Adayar; Madras.