Continued from “The Zero People”
Elsewhere in the world, in the land of Israel too, the priestly class of Levites, armed with the Mosaic Laws, oppressed the Jewish masses. At length, the Jews found their Buddha in the persona of Jesus, only to be rubbished by their Rabbis, and crucified by the Romans. However, there is so much in common in the mental makeup of these two great preachers, the chief ones being their concern for the weak and tolerance as a strength. It is the ironical destiny of Buddhism and the Christianity, founded five-hundred years apart based on their teachings, were eventually rejected in the lands of their birth, only to be nourished by the nations of their neighbourhoods.
While Buddha’s fight was against the Brahmanism, symbolized by ritualism and orthodoxy on one hand and casteism and untouchability on the other, Jesus’ aim, as the Sermon on the Mount clearly shows, was to give a healing touch to the divine, though harsh, Laws of Moses.
“One day as the crowds were gathering, he went up the hillside with his disciples and sat down and taught them there.
Humble men are very fortunate!’ he told them, ‘for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. Those who mourn are fortunate! for they shall be comforted. The meek and lowly are fortunate! for the whole wide world belongs to them.
Happy are those who long to be just and good, for they shall be completely satisfied. Happy are the kind and merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. Happy are those whose hearts are pure, for they shall see God. Happy are those who strive for peace - they shall be called the sons of God. Happy are those who are persecuted because they are good, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
When you are reviled and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers - wonderful! Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a tremendous reward awaits you up in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too.
You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavour, what will happen to the world? And you yourselves will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the world’s light - a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.
Don’t misunderstand why I have come - it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No I came to fulfill them, and to make them all come true. With all the earnestness I have I say: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved. And so if anyone breaks the least commandment, and teaches others to, he shall be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who teach God’s laws and obey them shall be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
But I warn you - unless your goodness is greater than that of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, you can’t get into the Kingdom of Heaven at all!’
‘Under the laws of Moses the rule was, “if you murder, you must die.” But I have added to that rule, and tell you that if you are only angry, even in your own home, you are in danger of judgment! If you call your friend an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse him, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Come to terms quickly with your enemy before it is too late and he drags you into court and you are thrown into a debtor’s cell, for you will stay there until you have paid the last penny.
The laws of Moses said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say: Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye - even if it is your best eye! - causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. Better for part of you to be destroyed than for all of you to be cast into hell. And if your hand - even your right hand - causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Better that than find yourself in hell.
The law of Moses says, “If anyone wants to be rid of his wife, he can divorce her merely by giving her a letter of dismissal.” But I say that a man who divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery if she marries again. And he who marries her commits adultery.
Again, the law of Moses says, “you shall not break your vows to God, but must fulfill them all.” But I say: Don’t make any vows! And even to say, ‘By heavens!’ is a sacred vow to God, for the heavens are God’s throne. And if you say ‘By the earth!’ it is a sacred vow, for the earth is his footstool. And don’t swear ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the capital of the great King. Don’t even swear ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Say just a simple ‘Yes I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong.
The law of Moses says, “If a man gouges out another’s eye, he must pay with his own eye. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the one who did it.’ But I say: Don’t resist violence! If you are slapped on one cheek, turn the other too. If you are ordered to court, and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too. If the military demand that you carry their gear for a mile, carry it two. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
There is a saying, “Love your friends and hate your enemies.” But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
It is interesting to note that while commissioning the Twelve, Jesus sent them out with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel – God’s lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure the lepers, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!”
But as it happened, it was the Gentiles who were enamoured by what Jesus preached, and helped spread his word around the world as wished by him towards the end: “And the good news about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally, the end will come!”
In a way, indeed, some two thousand years after the Gospel came into being; the end did come, in more ways then one. After all, the Christian faith hinges upon the belief in the miracles of Jesus and his apostles, and the rational mind of the developed West in the end found it hard to stomach these supernatural powers attributed to the Messiah and his apostles. Maybe, it’s the disbelief in miracles that occasioned the inevitable dilution in the faith in the Christian West and that helped buttress its belief in materialism, which, any way, was anathema to Jesus.
Be that as it may, it is a paradox of the Christianity in that while it seeks to inculcate the nobility of humility in its believers, it tends to burden their psyche with a sense of guilt buttressed by the feeling of sin. Interestingly, the baggage of sin that the Christianity carries like a cross on its conscience might be a psychic relic of the not so human-friendly diktats of Jehovah as enshrined in the Mosaic Laws. After centuries of Papal oppression exemplified by the dogma of sexual sin, the Christian West broke loose from its puritanical shackles, as though with a vengeance. And the result was the penchant for taboo-less sex, which eventually transformed into free sex in the hippy movement of the sixties of the 20th century.
On the other hand, the Christian dogma that salvation is impossible for those who won’t keep faith in the Son of God, and his Gospel, might have insensibly sowed the seeds of racism in the Gentile hearts. Thus, if untouchability is the ‘speck’ in the Hindu eye, the proselytizers might realize that anti-Semitism, nay, racism is a ‘board’ that obstructs the Christian spiritual vision. Well, when six million Jews get exterminated in the Holocaust, attribute that to the Fuehrer’s Final Solution, but if an odd Hindu dalit is abused, blame it upon the Hinduism per se. Oh, what a double standard! Of course, in all this, it is not difficult to see the proselytizing hand with the Christian axe out to grind on the dalit discontent.
It may be the moot point to ponder over whether the deep- rooted anti-Semitism in the West is a manifestation of the Christian hurt of Jesus’ crucifixion, believed to be brought about by Judas the Jew. Be that as it may, while rightly castigating the obnoxious Hindu untouchability, the Christian ethos seems to have no qualms about its own atrocities against the native races in the Americas and elsewhere. Well, though the Christian West went scot-free on this account, its crime of enslaving the blacks of yore came to haunt them in the form of street violence in these changed times. And what could be more galling to the Whites than to see the despised niggers in numbers becoming the masters of their own women. And what better poetic justice from the slave angle!
Nevertheless, the commendable Christian credo of service to humanity reflects the innate nobility of its religious character. In a way, what Hinduism conceptualized as vasudhaika kutumbam, world is but one family, that later day Brahmanism negated with its prejudice, the Christianity symbolizes with its service by reaching out to the non-Christian peoples as well. Is not the world better off owing to the penchant of the Christian missionaries in setting up schools to impart secular education and build hospitals to provide health care in every nook and corner of the globe?
However, the misplaced zeal of some of its proselytizers to rope in the hapless or gullible, and/or both, of alien faiths into the Christian fold, by means not always fair, places them in the company of the dubious. It’s by no means wise to push under the carpet the resentment of a Dara Singh against the unwarranted and provocative proselytizing that led to the senseless slaying of the Stains. Soft-pedaling the issue might serve some to buttress their secular image but it fails, say, the Indian social harmony in the long run.
Thus, it’s for the Christians themselves to ponder over what Max Mueller and others have said about the Hinduism, and read an Upanishad or two for widening their narrow-minded outlook of salvation. Beside, on the mundane plane, it might serve the Papacy better if it watches out its own backyard from which its Blacks are slipping into the Islamic fold. And this at a time when Islam is branded as a religion of terrorism and publicized besides! That Islam, in spite of its bad brand image, should be the fastest growing religion on the globe is something that should alarm the world, and indeed this book, in the main, is about exploring the dichotomy of Islam.
Reverting to the Christian ethos that is the proselytizing forerunner of dogmatic uprightness and religious intolerance, we would have the seeds of strife that Islam sows nowadays. After all, when Islam forced its way into its Holy backyard, crusades against the Musalmans became the medieval Christian calling. And now, the mere footmarks of the American GIs on the Islamic Holy land of Saudi Arabia was cause enough for an Osama bin Laden to call for a jihad against the Christian West. If ever the Musalmans came to dominate the Western world again, the predictable Christian response would be a crusade all over, maybe a guerilla war, if not with the fidayeen force. But then, who knows? After all, it is the paranoia of both these proselytizing faiths to ever expand their religious spheres of influence that came to be the curse of the world.
Maybe, Jesus had seen it all coming when he said about his mission on earth: “Do you think I have come to give peace to the earth? No! Rather, strife and division! From now on families will be split apart, three in favour of me, and two against – or perhaps the other way round. A father will decide one way about me; his son, the other; mother and daughter will disagree; and the decision of an honoured mother-in-law will be spurned by her daughter-in-law.”
The call of the Christ to spread the faith and the prophetic warning about the coming strife in the world was the harbinger of the destabilization of the religious harmony of the ancient world, achieved, as Gibbon had observed, by ‘the facility with which the most different and even hostile nations embraced, or at least respected, each other’s superstitions.’
Continued to "Legacy of Prophecy"
Image (c) Gettyimages.com