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Discussions on the doctrines of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Please place practical questions under the Miscellaneous forum and set this aside for the more theoretical side of it.

Vyasa, The Dating of Scripture, Academia, etc. -

braja - Sun, 21 Dec 2003 00:49:47 +0530
On another thread Ramdasji began by recounting a conversation he'd had with Nitai regarding dating of the Bhagavatam. Madhavananda had another thread on Gopa Kumar and "inventing scripture." Topics such as the Bhagavatam's planetary descriptions and interpolated verses in the Padma Purana have also come up recently. I'd like to hear different viewpoints on the issue of Vyasa as a single person, the dating of scriptures, etc., and the ramifications for the modern Gaudiya.

There seem to be several common ideas from the academic point of view. For instance, Visnu, Vasudeva, Narayana and Krishna were all separate persons who were eventually merged into a cult of singular identity and worship, thus leading to later scriptures needing to create pastimes and explanations to include and explain divergent ideas. A recent example I came across was of the Rg Veda's mention of a three-striding god leading to the later invention of the Vamana story, as seen in the Bhagavatam. Thus the Vaisnava canon becomes not revelation, but, at least partially, justification, a means to identify with or prove membership of an older tradition. (Baladeva's linking the Gaudiyas to the Madhvas being a more recent example of the tendency.)

If we accept that the Bhagavatam is ~1000 years old and written in South India--I don't know how current these are but van Buitenen, for example, gives several reasons for this approximation: the language, was not cited by Ramanuja, many descriptions of Sth India, etc--what does this do for a modern practitioner's faith in the amala-purana? Are they to believe it is still spotless? Do they need to be attentive to interpolations--was that chapter or verse inserted by a power hungry brahman? And what are they to make of their preceptors who accepted it as if it were the work of Mahamuni Vyasa, some 5000 years ago? Who, apart from Bhaktivinode Thakura, amongst recent, non-Western Gaudiyas even accept the viewpoint of the scholars?

To reconcile the need for holding the Bhagavatam in total esteem--for the rupanuga it is as an element of panca-anga-bhakti afterall--with the possibility of it being something composed in far different circumstances and time-frame than that accepted by our tradition, seems to require a sense of agnosticism for the modern Gaudiya. But agnosticism seems to be totally at odds with a religion that claims to teach direct personal service to God.

(Or perhaps it is genius and not agnosticism? I think it was F Scott Fitzgerald who said that the genius is the person who can keep two opposite ideas in his mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function)
nabadip - Sun, 21 Dec 2003 12:39:41 +0530
Jai Nitai. First of all I'd like to honor the viewpoints mentioned in this posting in an overall way. I understand such approach and think well of it.

However, I for my part would not engage in it. I have an existentialist attitude toward this: I am a bhakta, my life is short, I experience death at every moment and I appreciate my situation at the lotusfeet of sri guru. I think the agnosticism mentioned by you is indeed a matter of decision to have faith into one whole rather than to study all the details. Study tends to be endless, and by its mental nature it fragmentizes the wholeness that is mystically experienced and seen.

This approach does not mean to deny the result of studies of others. It can include them if faith is strong enough. To read more on the lila of Vamana-dev for instance, like a monograph on the subject by a contemporary scholar, gives another opportunity to hear hari-katha. But, really, I would just overlook the scholarly conclusions as they do not pertain to my world of faith. In other words, it is always the wonder of it that the bhakta sees, rather than just the subject matter of it.

If one accepts the fragmentizing attitude as a principle of inquiry, then everything becomes questionable. Sri Vigraha is out of this or that matter, made by such and such artist at such and such date, endless questions and answers. Sri Dham is of such and such origin. We are just into some sectarian belief-system made up to make us feel well and saved...

Again, if the development of your faith requires you to ask all these questions and to find an answer to them, do it by all means. All I want to say here is, that it is a categorically different approach. I prefer the beauty of the whole picture to the knowledge of the individual dots that make up the whole.

The basis of my understanding is not taken from Descartes (I think therefore I am), like Ramadasji's, which is the expression of ultimate doubt into everything leading to nothing, just to science and destruction of metaphysics, as the development of raionality since Descartes has shown.

I for my part am more on the side of Socrates: Scio nescire, I know that I know not. Even here I overlook Socrates' intellectualist consequences of his sytyle of inquiry. Plato, who quoted that (in Greek though), was an initiate to Eastern wisdom while his disciple Aristotle was not. Aristotle realized only at the end of his life that he was on the wrong track. My kind of faith knows itself carried by that impenetrable, endless cloud of wisdom. With the existentialist sense of urgency felt at at every moment of life, I think the luxury of asking endless questions becomes evident, no matter how valid the questions themselves may be. There is much more depth to be inquired into by keeping one's sense of the noumenous alive and well. The phenomenal comes and goes, the Great One behind it all remains.

You are on an Aristotelian track,seeking to explain the phenomena, I prefer the Platonian, well actually the Neoplatonist one. And so do most bhaktas, I guess. Jai Nitai.
braja - Sun, 21 Dec 2003 22:24:29 +0530
Thank you, Nabadip, for a wonderful response.

To be honest, I am probably not the agnostic I describe. I'd make a very lame scientist as I am not a fact-driven person as far as existence goes. I don't doubt the Bhagavatam and for all it matters to me, the moon could be made of cheese and the universe shaped like a bicycle. So my motivation in asking these questions is really thus:

1. I like to challenge my own beliefs. Subjectively, I have never seen that doing so has weakened me. (But I say this with the proviso that I don't tend to open myself up for examination from others so my own analysis is often all I have.)

2. I am interested in how others who are of a different mentality deal with these issues, how those who, due to their intellectual disposition or role in society/academia, must try to reconcile the two views.

3. Gaudiya Vaisnavism is a small blip on the radar of world religions, and while the attitude you describe (and I also probably follow) is enough to sustain individual belief, I'm curious whether another approach can be developed. Must the followers of Caitanya necessarily have little recourse to empiric evidence? And not just have few "facts" to back up their position, but also be subject to the definitions of others without taking an active role in responding in the same language and with the same methodology as those who seek to explain the tradition in terms alien to that tradition?

We can see how those outside a tradition can play a prominent role in defining that tradition in the eyes of the world, as evidenced in the links I posted regarding Hindu responses to Freudian analysis of Ganesh in this thread. I recently obtained a copy of Dimock's The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal
wherein it is suggested that Sri Nityananda and Ramananda Raya are sahajiyas, based on some scriptural evidence and much extrapolation. But it seems the Gaudiya Vaisnava community has limited representation and few capable of responding academically to any issue.

The historical effect of responding to the outside view of the tradition can probably be seen in the emergence of the Gaudiya Math, which seems, at least partially, to have been an apparent attempt to "legitimize" Gaudiyism based on views of those outside the tradition. Outside influence clearly has an effect beyond the beliefs of any individual.

I also find it interesting that you chose to respond using a kind of candra-sakha-nyaya: the Greek philosophers are known, established, "proven," and respected; Gaudiya Vaisnavism is distant, but moonlike.

4. And I guess ultimately I'm merely hankering for more scholarship within Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the West (and in my life!), with a focus on a thorough knowledge of the tradition itself and a subsequent representation of that tradition in a manner that will attract, or at least gain the respect of, intelligent people. Concomittant with this desire, I am also offering respect to those who have already taken steps to do this.
vamsidas - Mon, 22 Dec 2003 01:53:51 +0530
I am not sure that I have fully sorted out my views on this point, so I would be interested in the reactions of the devotees on this forum.

Ultimately, I hold the view that Caitanya Vaishnavism is ultimately an orthopraxis as much as an orthodoxy. Through his associates, Mahaprabhu instituted a "process that works" such that many of the potential questions we might have become "interesting, but ultimately irrelevant." There is more to our faith and practice than mere historical truth. After all, in divine Vrindavana, the gopis worship Katyayani and have no concept of Radha, Krishna or Mahaprabhu as Divinity. They are "historically incorrect" -- and even "theologically incorrect" -- yet they are the MOST correct of all, from the standpoint of rasa.

So whether or not the current Western scholarly opinion is correct (and it's good to remember how often it has turned out to be incorrect, especially regarding "modern, Western" society evaluating "primitive, non-Western" societies), the "truth" of the matter may have little or no bearing on the validity and usefulness of what Mahaprabhu gave us.

I have also considered another possibility, which may be a bit more outlandish, and about which I would love to hear some reactions. By way of analogy, think of the sun at sunrise. Even before the sun has appeared over the horizon, some of its rays have begun to illuminate the landscape. Perhaps the Alvars, the Muslim Sufis, the Christian "bridal mystics" and also the ca. 900AD compiler of the present Bhagavata Purana were all in some unfathomable way touched by the appearance of the Golden Avatar, even chronologically BEFORE his appearance?

Just as Mahaprabhu chose his parents, perhaps he also chose to "prepare the soil" for his appearance by planting seeds of bhakti not only in India but also in cultures that would come to influence India, and be influenced in return. Perhaps even the apparent "loss" of many of the earliest Vedic scriptures was also part of his plan, so that it would be that much more difficult for people in this Kali yuga to cling to vaidhi notions that might restrict the flow of divine love.

But however he did it, he created the optimal environment in which he could taste the most intimate mellows of divine love, and distribute divine love to others. Perhaps if we keep that point in mind, it's easier to look seriously at the scholarly side of things without drifting into "faithlessness" as a result.
nabadip - Mon, 22 Dec 2003 11:36:16 +0530
Jai Nitai

QUOTE(braja @ Dec 21 2003, 04:54 PM)
I recently obtained a copy of Dimock's The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal
wherein it is suggested that Sri Nityananda and Ramananda Raya are sahajiyas, based on some scriptural evidence and much extrapolation.

I read that book with some delight, too, to tell you the truth, and the thought of my Nitai being a sahajiya actually endears him even more to me. Personally, I like scholarly stuff on our traditon. I remember the joy when I read the first western translation of Bhagavatam, in French by a French indologist (named something like Bernoullie... do not remember exactly). Reading that really increased my faith a lot. Same with the Gita Press edition of Bhagavatam, which is so much more content-full than the blurred "translation" (I keep doubting it is an actual translation, the feeling I get is that it is translated from the Bengali, and partly taken from another existing English translation) of Sri ACBS.

Supposed it is proven that Bhagavatam is compiled in 10th Century. So what? It does not diminish its beauty and truth. Even if it was compiled, the verses were older, predating the compilation. The teachings it contains are too vast for me to study anyhow, I just read it like I watch a movie: I do not analyze each picture that my eyes see but the brain does not de-synthesize.

I think to demand scholarship from a bhakta is to ask him or her to invest most of his life-energy in details rather than the big picture. Occasionally this may coincide in a person. I do not know about Radha-Govinda-Nath, whether he was that kind of person.

Ultimately the word of Sri Gauranga is more important than anything to me as is to all of us. I can accept it even if my mind may come up with some doubt occasionally. That is the nature of the mind, to accept/reject. Since my faith is not on the mind-level, mind-games do not matter. Jai Nitai
adiyen - Mon, 22 Dec 2003 13:38:24 +0530
I did not write the following which has a serious point to contribute to this issue. I have no problems at all with what it says, which is mostly well-known stuff, though it may shock some. It was buried on another discussion forum, which few may have access to. I'm hoping the writer will not mind my pulling this piece out of a different context so that its argument can be appreciated. I feel the references to the Gosvami's thinking at the end are particularly valuable, and should form the basis of our Gaudiya Theology Project:

"Everyone who has studied the Vedic texts (the Vedas, Brahamanas, Aranyakas, and Upanisads along with the supporting sutra literature) knows that it was a sacrificial tradition. Animals, including cows, were regularly sacrificed and then eaten by the priests and patrons as a kind of "prasada." There may have even been human sacrifices at one time. What do you think the Purusa-sukta (Rg 10.90) is all about? Besides that there are references in other places to the Purusa-medha or human sacrifice. Others and I like to think of the horse sacrifice (asva-medha) as a later transformation of a periodic ritual sacrifice of the king. The king's horse takes the place of the king, even to the degree that the king's major queen copulates with it as it is being throttled. All these are some of the facts of ancient Indic religion. It is a flawed line of reasoning, however, that tries to interpret an historical account of Vedic religion as a prescriptive account. That is to say, as apparently the Swamji in question has claimed, that this book on Vedic religious and dietary practice "encourages meat eating." That is absurd. I, too, haven't read the book, but I seriously doubt that Dr. Jha has said anywhere that "therefore, since our ancient ancestors did it, it is alright for us modern Hindus to do it, too." The religious tradition has changed and vegetarianism has become the norm. Think of it, perhaps, as a gradual and progressive self-revelation of Krsna. Krsna is not mentioned in the Vedas. If the word krsna appears, as it does occasionally, it means "dark." Visnu is certainly there, but compared to the three Vedic gods Agni, Soma, and Indra, he is small potatoes. In the later tradition Visnu grows to supreme status in some Hindu traditions and is eventually replaced, again only for some, by Krsna. Does this historical development falsify our Vaisnava tradition? I think not. Rupa and Sanatana hint at the idea of a progressive self-revelation of Krsna in various verses like anarpita-cirim cirat ... and so forth. They knew Vedic sacrificers ate meat, but that was for them another age, another dispensation. In this age the sacrifice is nama-yajna, nama-sankirtan."
nabadip - Mon, 22 Dec 2003 23:38:22 +0530
I am not sure what the point here is, adiyen. To me it is not shocking. What I doubt though is whether all the texts mentioned are purely sacrificial in terms of its practice applied by hand. I have seen some texts to Soma, Agni and Indra which describe a more mystical content of the meaning of fire. That may depend on the translation though. As non-scholars it is hard to know what is what.
I agree that the beauty of the idea of gradation in revelation is convincing. It is one of these jokes of man-made theology that we assume we can prescribe to God what are the limits of his revelations and manifestations.
nabadip - Tue, 23 Dec 2003 01:03:23 +0530
QUOTE(adiyen @ Dec 22 2003, 08:08 AM)
Others and I like to think of the horse sacrifice
(asva-medha) as a later transformation of a periodic ritual sacrifice of
the king. The king's horse takes the place of the king, even to the
degree that the king's major queen copulates with it as it is being
throttled. All these are some of the facts of ancient Indic religion.

Here is some counter-view to the above one :

A Text by Subhash Kak, a scholar on the Veda, who deciphered a Vedic code. The original article is about the fact that the Veda knew images.

Quote begins:

One such text is the “Ashtadhyayi” of Panini, the great grammarian of the 5th or 4th century BC. Its terse sutras are written in a technical language in which changes would alter meaning, and its commentaries are attested back to the 4th century. In this text there is clear mention of images. The ordinary images were called pratikriti and the images for worship were called archa (see As. 5.3.96-100). Patanjali, the 2nd century BC author of the “Mahabhashya” commentary on the “Ashtadhyayi”, tells us more about the pratikriti and archa.

Amongst other things we are told that a toy horse is called ashvaka. (This means that the queen who lay down with the ashvaka in the Ashvamedha did not sleep with the dead horse.) Deity images for sale were called Shivaka etc., but an archa of Shiva (Rudra of the earlier times) was just called Shiva. Patanjali mentions Shiva and Skanda deities. There is also mention of the worship of Vasudeva (Krishna). We are also told that some images could be moved and some were immoveable. Panini also says that an archa was not to be sold and that there were people (priests) who obtained their livelihood by taking care of it.

So much to the queens and their symbolical activity.

Kak wrote a whole book on the Ashvamedha. He also wrote interesting articles on dates of Veda and Purana.
Kalkidas - Tue, 23 Dec 2003 03:59:44 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Dec 22 2003, 07:33 PM)
A Text  by Subhash Kak, a scholar on the Veda, who deciphered a Vedic code. The original article is about the fact that the Veda knew images.

Ah! This one Subhash Kak?

Very interesting scholar... I was impressed by his PrajJa
adiyen - Tue, 23 Dec 2003 13:52:02 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Dec 22 2003, 07:33 PM)
Here is  some counter-view to the above one :

As we all know, the Brahmana's profession involves among other things twisting the scriptures to mean just about anything, as Prabhupad even used to say.

So it is not surprising that there may be counter views and counter-counter views add infinitum.

And codes discovered everywhere and anywhere. One can find secret messages in any text, why use the Vedas in this way? The phone book will do just as well.

If you want to form a view, why not read and study the Vedas yourself? Why the need of an interpretor?

As it happens, the method of preserving the ancient Vedas, Rg, Sama... is the most transparent and perfect in all comparative anthropology. The texts are like 3000 year old tape recordings. Unlike other later texts there has been little interpolation and no alteration. The method of preservation has guaranteed that. Therefore, the Vedas, uniquely, are not related to or viewed through any modern culture. Therefore they are best understood on their own terms without mediation, and the less preconceptions and assumptions you bring to the reading the more you will see!

What's more, the language of the ancient Vedas is closer to European languages than it is to any modern Indian language. So Europeans should actually have more direct understanding of the language than Indians!

The sentence structure is closer to English than to Panini's Sanskrit. Panini will just lead you astray in Vedic interpretation.
nabadip - Tue, 23 Dec 2003 22:22:22 +0530
QUOTE(adiyen @ Dec 23 2003, 08:22 AM)

If you want to form a view, why not read and study the Vedas yourself? Why the need of an interpretor?

Sure, why not - only, I do not read Sanskrit. I have seen a number of translations of identical texts. They sometimes vary as much as two different telephone numbers do.
adiyen - Wed, 24 Dec 2003 06:57:10 +0530
The thing I'm getting at is that it is easier for a European to read the Vedas than later (post-Panini) sanskrit works. Many times the words are actually the same as their European cognates. I find that amazing.

For example,

tad vishnu paramam padam sadah pasyante surayoh diviva-caksur atatam

"That Vast (all-pervasive) God, (whose) paramount podium is/am (the) divine solar chariot disc/(eye)." ('chariot' is from 'chakra' = wheel, just as 'ratha' and Euro 'rad' are the same word. Is the original meaning of 'chaksur' then also 'round'? This would establish a semantic link to the 'sk' sound in 'disc', which might once have been linked to the meaning 'sight', as still preserved in 'discover' and 'discern'...).

tad -that
vishnu (all-pervading) -vast (cognate?)
paramam -premium (cognate)
padam -podium (cognate)
div/deva -divine (cognate)
caksur -chariot disc/eye (?)
atatam -am (english cognate of 'aham', verb to be)...

Who needs sanskrit? It's in English! cool.gif

And I bet there are more direct cognates in other Euro languages you know of.
nabadip - Wed, 24 Dec 2003 12:24:49 +0530
discover and discern do not work. they are composed of two different words in latin
dis- and cover, dis- cernere, so the sc connection is accidental.

well here you are giving one of the main verses quoted by vaishnavas. But for the rest, about the endless oblations being done or how Agni as the Dawn is being invoked, who would want to read that in "English" sanskrit just for fun, understanding faintly perhaps every 7th word?
adiyen - Fri, 26 Dec 2003 03:47:16 +0530
What is the point of reading interpretations of the Vedas based on Panini's Sanskrit - mistranslating, misunderstanding, and covering all with unfounded assumptions (except obviously for what it tells us about Panini's 3rd Century bc era and the Indian culture which came after)? Panini and the Indian culture which followed him can tell us little about the Vedas as ancient texts and their ancient cultural milieu. The way this obvious point (that Panini changed everything) has previously been ignored ought to amaze people. Of course some Indian nationalists are very disturbed by this and even write voluminous 'rebuttals'. I've read them, their arguments are both unconvincing and unnecessary: Why is it so bad that India's roots are diverse and enigmatic? Such complexity is not weakness, it is greatness.

Here's a parallel example: the Hebrew Psalms in the bible. It could be argued that these ancient Psalms, whose authorship is unknown and which happen to be very similar to the Rg Vedic Hymns, are the substantial origins of later Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The first two faiths even still use the Psalms in their liturgy, and all interpret them according to later ideas, Xtianity in particular. Yet however they are translated, however later followers appropriate them, the Psalms stand on their own as unique statements from an ancient era, and even contradict what later believers understand.

I just dashed off those linguistic comparisons from the top of my head. There is of course a whole scholarly literature examining links between European languages and Vedic Sanskrit. Those who claim to be knowledgeable of ancient Indic historical anthropology while ignoring or avoiding such scholarship deserve our extreme skepticism.

Your dismissal of the bulk of the Veda shows that you are not familiar with it. It is not just some dry ritual, as Hindus have been told for millenia. Rather it is a magnificent literature. Well worth reading in its entirety in any language.

Also from what I've seen, the study should appeal to your interests, nabadipji.

Here's a book which you'll like which provides a good introduction:

Antonio T. de Nicolas, Meditations through the Rg Veda: Four Dimensional Man, Shambhala, 1976.

Unfortunately it appears to be out of print, but here is a whole page of Prof de Nicolas' writings which I think you will like:

Here's a quote to wet your appetite:

"All dialogue, all language carries with it the possibility of sharing in the embodied vision of a paradigm that has been with us from the beginning, since through it we had to break through the "experience of separating earth and sky."
nabadip - Fri, 26 Dec 2003 17:05:55 +0530
I think we agree here, and are just apart on some ephemeral issue.

What i thought that happened was that you are reading the Vedas in one particular way that is appealing to you. It seems that people read into the Veda what they like to find. Your naturalist-realist quote with the queens copulating with a sacrificed horse (imagine the impracticality, not to say impossibility of that…), to a more symbolical enactment, and to who knows which other reading, so many ways seem possible. That big spectrum of views possible may just make the beauty of it all, though. and that seems to be what you are pointing out now, isn't it?

I am not dismissing the bulk of the Veda, but just that one unilateral dogmatic reading that says that is what it means and nothing else. In my quote it just so happened that Panini was mentioned, as far as I am concerned it could also have been Paganini or Bugati. I think we are all little dogmatists, thinking that divine revelation has to fit into our narrow or wider pictures of who God is supposed to be. Who he can be and who not. A similar thing that always makes me smile is when I hear people say, upset and all, that Nitai could not possibly be Radha in Gaur-lila when Gauranga's bhava requires it, don’t some of your people say that too? It is this human assumption to know it all and to say it out loud without the slightest inhibition or even blushing, in contrast to the mystic complex reality of God.

This thread is about scholarly approaches to older scriptures and faith. To take up the word mentioned by brajaji, “agnosticism”, I like to apply a measure of that when dealing with the numenous, the mystic side of Divinity. The different readings of a text create a more complex hermeneutic context, and to hear several of them creates a fading understanding, where one meaning merges into another or contrasts another creating a landscape, a texture of meaning rather than just one simple stamp-print of what it is supposed to be. In that way I appreciate your suggestions as another widening of my habitually narrowing horizon.

These things depend a lot on one’s personal predilections, defined among others by one’s astrologico-psychological set up, one’s education, language-knowledge. I like Etymology a lot, the stuff you, adiyenji did with caksur and the disc, understanding the depth of words from their roots and connotations in other languages.

By the way, Subhash Kak wrote something on Yahvah being an expression for energetic processes, personified in Agni, in the Rigveda, hinting at a connection to Yahveh, Jehovah, (remember that Hebrew is written without vocals, it would be written as “Yhvh”) of the Bible.

With Christianity we should never forget that what we think we know of it is mostly an invention by Paul. Jesus did not exist in the way it is thought he did. And for that there is plenty of positive evidence.

Jai Nitai.
adiyen - Sun, 28 Dec 2003 06:49:25 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Dec 26 2003, 11:35 AM)
With Christianity we should never forget that what we think we know of it is mostly an invention by Paul. Jesus did not exist in the way it is thought he did. And for that there is plenty of positive evidence.

Jai Nitai.

Yes, very good, I agree. Just to add to your last point, the belief in Messiah seems to have arisen approximately about the same time as that of Avatar, as well as that of Maitreya (Buddha to come) and Mithra (Saviour, human Son of the Gods, Celestial Warrior [constellation Orion]). And all these grow into a kind of global fad, after Alexander the Macedonian, culminating in the rise to eventual hegemony of the Christ cult, first propagated most widely by Paul (who had to face many of the same cross-cultural issues we do).

Alexander, whose achievements surpassed any known historical human being up to his time, and perhaps ever. Who was declared 'Son of God', an incarnated god, restorer of righteousness, a descent of divinity (or perhaps The Devil, but this view grew later during Xtian times), otherwise how could an ordinary mortal have achieved so much? Even now his name and legend resonate in traditional societies, more often as 'Iskander' or 'Sikander', by which name he was remembered even in India before British history was introduced to the Subcontinent.

(An example of Alexandrian influence in India: the Heliodorus pillar inscription -earliest known inscription in India in Sanskrit [Mittani inscriptions in Turkey much earlier], earliest datable reference to Hindu Gods. By a Greek self-proclaimed Vaishnava who would not have been living in India if not for Alexander.)

Is all religious history then a footnote to the life of Alexander the Great?
nabadip - Sun, 28 Dec 2003 16:19:11 +0530
Where do you get this from, Alexander being so special? He was special as a conqueror, and lucky too mostly. I do not know about the history of the idea of the Messiah, whether that is inherent in Judaism or due to the different historical subjugations. Judaism does not seem to be much of a religion anyhow. It seems to be more of socio-cultural ritual, with some similiarity to Islam, but I have only a hazy view of that.

What is interesting about Jesus, is that the historical being who got that Latin name projected on, has practically zero connection with the stories told about him...

The Mithras cult, the idea of crucifiction, has to do with the solar return over the astro-cross, and there were sects that made fun of Paul and his crowd who took it literally.

That kings, or emperors are divinized, is kind of common practice, not surprising. I think of the Pharaos, but even some of the French kings. Did you read about the Merowingian kings being descendents of Jesus?

Are you saying the idea of avatar is a late introduction - when does it show up in scriptures?
Radhapada - Mon, 29 Dec 2003 01:15:38 +0530
I saw a Discovery Channel presentation on Jesus wherein they said that the name 'Messiah' means the 'anointed one'. According to this presentation it was common belief during Christ's times that the world was coming to an end. The Roman occupation of Judea was believed to be at the root of all suffering and that a Messaih would come to free the Jews of the occupation and usher forth a new kingdom. That was the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus took up that role for the Jews. However, with his death in the cruxification, it ended that hope for his Jewish followers. Which was why the appositles in general did not follow Paul's interpretation of the symbol of Christ's death.
adiyen - Mon, 29 Dec 2003 07:25:36 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Dec 28 2003, 10:49 AM)
Where do you get this from, Alexander being so special?

History. From History 101 to PhD level, no-one disputes this. You have some alternative source of information? huh.gif

But in fact you are falling into the trap of seeing past ages through more modern eyes. A common fallacy. 'just lucky' to the ancients meant 'favoured by the Gods'. And this inspired awe and terror. We live in a cynical age, but we should not imagine that the ancients shared our cynicism (though they had their own). The point is that no historical person had been as lucky as Alexander before. Combine this with his personality -dashing, bravery, youthfulness,.. a legend was born. Alexander and the rule he established brought prosperity unprecedented. Just look at Alexandria in Egypt - one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. Even a cruel king sometimes (often?) brought peace and prosperity. China's first Emperor, Shi Huang Di, was one of the cruelest leaders who ever lived, yet his subjects saw him as divine, and his legend had the power to inspire a mass movement even a century and a half ago, when he was believed to have been incarnated again, hence the horrific 'Taiping rebellion'.

There are suggestions that the South Indian Skanda cult may be substantially based on the Iskander myth, which would have been all the talk of foreign sailors landing on the Malabar coast for centuries, just as we now talk of Columbus, or perhaps H*tler (trying to avoid mentioning him).

I saw myself that houses in Kerala 15 years ago had pictures of JFKennedy beside pictures of other Gods. That legendary god 'Sri Kennedy' has worked miracles for his devotees perhaps.

What if Alexander was in his time something like what Che Guevara is to us?

One of the reasons we don't realise how important Alexander was to the ancients is that Xtianity and Islam have washed away what was before.

That Alexander was the prototype for Christ is accepted nowadays even by high-school students:

'Son of God, Lord of Asia'

Radhapad - yes, the Messiah was supposed to be a liberator like Alexander. Thanks for the corroboration. 'The Anointed One' (kings were installed by bathing them in holy oil), perhaps 'The Chosen One', or in post-Matrix terms, 'The One'.

As to the belief in Avatar, the scriptures in which Avatars are described are all in Paninian Sanskrit, therefore post-3bc, which also happens to be the century of Alexander. (Dating of Scripture: the theme of this thread).
nabadip - Mon, 29 Dec 2003 11:23:37 +0530
With "just lucky" I meant incidents like Alexander's being lost somewhere in Northern India, then deciding to split up his army returning homeward, one part going by boat, the other on foot, and then by sheer luck, the two parties met again, after a thousand miles or so. To this Alexander said that it was the happiest moment of his life - the leader of the boat group was his best friend who he had given up after parting.

I think with Alexander there is the "coincidence" of character, courage and power. He was a great individual, at a time when individualism did not exist. Aristotle was his teacher. His father, Philip, must have been a great father too, to have such a son. I do not know what is known about his mother.

According to interpretations of the Qum Ram findings, the scenario with Jeshua (Jesus) was that he provoqued the coming of the Messiah by re-enacting the predictions of the Old Testament, like entering Jerusalem on a donkey on Passah day, that he planned the events ahead, then hoped that he could become the messiah by what he did for the people.
nabadip - Tue, 30 Dec 2003 11:34:32 +0530
Jai Nitai.
I do not know where this thread is going with this Alexander perspective, esp with the comparison of Messiah and Alexander being rather inaccurate. The messiah was meant to liberate his own people. The figure of being the anointed one just meant "to be a king", because the kings were traditionally anointed with some oil at the time of inthronization.

Christos means the same thing in Greek, the anointed one.

Paul and his followers started to see everything symbolically rather than realistically, or projecting reality into symbols. Do you suppose that's happening in our sampradayas too?

How did Alexander liberate his own people? The Macedonians perhaps by giving them dominion over others. He certainly was not liberating others...

As a vaishnava with faith into reality and symbol of Sri Gauranga i do not see a problem with the avatar theory being stated in Paninian sanskrit. what would be the difference if it was mentioned in the vedic sanskrit or brahmi? What difference would a few thousand years more or less make? Personally I assume it is in the Vedas too, mentioning the example of the "three-striding one", the presence of Vishnu etc. It may not be there as a theory, but implicite in modes of speaking.

A question that arises for me as a western educated intellectual is how Sri Gauranga is mostly quoted as having said and instituted this or that by a secondary source who has not really been there, Krsnadas Kaviraj. That is a parallell to the Paulinian invention and the New Testament, which is a proven projection. I wonder how much what Krsnadas represents is colored by his own practice as a babaji in Radhakund, and in addition, his age when he wrote it.

I am interested in the differences of Vrindavan das Thakur's more sweeter writing. I wonder how old Vrindavan das was when he wrote his Caitanya Bhagavata. My question is here, how perspective changes through life-experience and aging. Someone close to his death/departure from the world is likely to take a different view and feel the necessity of giving different advice or set a different example than someone at the beginning or middle of life.

History is mostly a question of bias, in my view. We choose to see Sri Gauranga in the center of our view. And we see him with love. Someone else may choose Vallabha or Jesus or Muhammed. With love too. We can never reconstruct reality as it was. (This "as it is" view, as in Bhagavad-gita as it is, can only be taken by someone completely naive or oblivious of perspectivity, someone who does not understand what it means to be philosophically "critical".)

Jai Nitai.
Mina - Mon, 12 Jan 2004 01:45:37 +0530
Why should Indo-European linguistic links be any surprise, Braj Mohan? After all, all of the archeological and other historical evidence points to the Aryans invading India from Russia. Genetic evidence, which is forthcoming if it is not already compiled, will be the clincher that will close that theory from any further challenges by the zealot factions. They have already done it for the tribes of Israel and established the heredity of all modern Jewish populations around the world. DNA evidence does not lie. It has freed many a wrongly convicted felon from prison over the past few years, as well as putting some heinous villains away.

There was a very wayout and far fetched book published back in the '70s entitled "The Language of Space". Very creative and entertaining, even if it is kooky to the core. Maybe Pagal Baba actually wrote it under one of his many pen names.
Pagal Baba - Mon, 12 Jan 2004 01:54:22 +0530
Don't take my name in vain, Earthlings!

The Martians are perturbed with your little robot carts messing up the sand traps on their golf courses. Retaliation will be swift and ruthless! Better hide in your cellars for the next few days, if you know what's good for you. Oh, and don't forget to chant the propitiation mantras for Mangal, after you finish your three lakhs of nama japa. Please take all of your potted plants underground with you. You never know. They could be descendants of some of my disciples.