Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Interfaith Discussion

Dan Brook professor, writer, speaker, poet, photog, activist, wanderer ([email protected]) writes: 
"There are many connections that can be made between the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and vegetarianism..."

I responded:
Wonderful! My friend Anantarupa dasa, who took his present birth in Ireland, and came to Krishna Consciousness from an Irish Catholic background, said that Yom Kippur occasionally falls on Janmastami, the holiest day of the year in the Hindu calendar. 
Janmastami, Lord Krishna's birthday (actually, we say "Appearance Day," because it is an offense to think the Lord takes on a material or physical body when He descends, and an offense to think He is subject to the laws of karma, reincarnation, and repeated birth and death, like the rest of us prisoners in the material world) falls around August-September in the Hindu calendar, a lunar calendar. 
We observe Janmastami by fasting, followed by feasting at midnight. 
And isn't Yom Kippur observed by fasting? 
Anantarupa said that Yom Kippur occasionally falls on Janmastami, so observant Jews are blessed by their fasting on Yom Kippur, because they are indirectly observing Janmastami as well. Haribol (praise Hari in Sanskrit, or Hallelujah)!
Dan Brook responded: "I like that cosmic coincidence between Judaism and Hinduism, and there are so-called HinJews, but it is disrespectful to say that "Jews are blessed by their fasting on Yom Kippur, *because* [emphasis added] they are indirectly observing Janmastami as well. 
"We are blessed as Jews because we are observing our own holiest day of Yom Kippur and we are immersed in our own Jewish community. Observing another holy day, whether directly or indirectly, may be seen as a bonus by some, but it is most certainly NOT where we derive our blessings. 
"There is no monopoly when it comes to religion, spirituality, or holiness."

I responded:
Dan Brook, you write, "There is no monopoly when it comes to religion, spirituality, or holiness." 
Yes, I agree with you. A Hindu spiritual master said we can't talk about "spiritual life" unless we first admit we are spirit. We are not these physical bodies. 
In a 1979 essay, contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler) distinguishes between the conscious self and the temporary physical body: 
"The idea that life is the property of souls is derisively referred to by mechanistic thinkers as 'vitalism or 'animism.' It has been a singular failure of materialistic science to demonstrate how out of a world composed of nothing but matter something arises that *experiences* matter." 
In a 1980 essay, "Immortal Longings," Ravindra-svarupa dasa writes: 
"Selves are beings that experience, centers of consciousness, subjects. Matter does not experience; it is without subjectivity; it is completely an object. Selves live; matter is lifeless. When the selves enter the alien, material energy, they acquire and animate bodies made out of lifeless matter. 
(The word "inanimate" literally means "without spirit" in Latin!) 
"Now the self thinks of itself as a product of nature, as an object created and destroyed in time. As the body is damaged by disease and injury, as it disintegrates with age, and as it dies, the self thinks, 'This is happening to *me.*' 
"Thus, the self enters the interminable horror of material existence, a nightmare of carnage from which it cannot awake. As one body is destroyed, nature transfers him to another, to undergo a similar destruction. 
"The self moves blindly through these bodies, driven by an overwhelming appetite for enjoyment... through interminable bodily incarcerations, hurtling us over and over into forms that fill us with fear, suffer the onslaught of injury and disease, disintegrate while we still occupy them, and are destroyed. 
"In reality, none of this happens to us, but we have erroneously identified ourselves with the body and have thereby taken these torments upon us. Death is an illusion we have imposed upon ourselves by our desire to enjoy this world." 
My friend John Antypas, half-Jewish and half-Christian, said in the spring of 1985, that I was merely repeating familiar Christian theology, the apostle Paul writing: 
"...if you live in a fleshly way, you will die. But if through the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, then you will live... death, where is thy sting?" 
I mentioned my conversation with John Antypas a year later to my friend and godbrother in the San Diego FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna") program, Raul Pedraza (Bhuta-brit dasa), a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (initiated or ordained in 1971) who stepped down and later came back into the association of devotees, to serve as a congregational member. 
And just like you, Raul said no religion has a monopoly on the absolute truth! 
Rather than appreciate the points of similarity between all the world's great religions, and the implication that we're all worshipping the same God, but merely under different names, conservative Christians go beserk! 
On USENET in early 1987, for example, in the discussion group on religion, Dave Hatcher, a follower of East Indian philosophy and/or New Age spirituality merely suggested Christianity is a form of bhakti-yoga or devotion to a personal God. A conservative Christian responded angrily that Jesus said, "I am the way... and no one comes to the Father except through me..." and not, "through me and Buddha..." 
In the late '80s, the Krishnautix band out of Los Angeles, played at the Ratha Yatra festival. One of their songs, "It's Up To You" describes the living entity having free will, to serve the Lord or to disobey:
"Pontius Pilate stood before the crowd outside
"To end the celebration, let the people decide
"Between the killer Barabbas, or the King of the Jews
"Set one man free, but you gotta choose
"He leaves it up to you, what you want to do...
"Krishna spoke to Arjuna on the battlefield
"Where the purport of the Vedas was revealed
"He told him that his duty was to stand and fight
"Explaining confidential knowledge, and what was right
"He leaves it up to you, what you want to do..."
And L.A. musician Nirantara dasa, who came to Krishna Consciousness from a Jewish background, appeared on stage with the band, and added a couple of extra lyrics of his own, about God speaking to Abraham!
At a FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna") congregational program in San Diego in 1989 or 1990, at the home of Bill and Samita Spencer, Chakravarti dasa asked lightheartedly, along the lines of the word "amoral" meaning the opposite of "moral":
"Does the name Abraham mean you're not a brahmana (priest)?"
Referring to the Bhagavad-gita being spoken on a battlefield, and Lord Krishna's disciple Arjuna, reluctant to kill his own kinsmen, including his own parents and grandparents, Mukunda Goswami quipped:
"Different tradition. We kill fathers. They kill sons (e.g., the story of Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac)."
One of Nirantara's songs, "Bird in a Cage," describes the predicament of the soul incarcerated in a physical body, bound by physical desires in the material world, with a familiar analogy taught by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: a bird kept inside a cage. 
Srila Prabhupada said if you have a bird in a cage, but you neglect to feed and care for the bird, but only polish the cage, the bird will suffer. Similarly, merely taking care of the body while neglecting the soul will not satisfy one. This is a common theme throughout religious literature: if a man obtained the whole world and its riches, he still would not be satisfied, nor would this save him.
In Judaism, too we find "maysehs," or moralistic folktales about sages who freed caged birds.
Lead singer/songwriter of the Krishnautix band, Titikshva-Karunika dasa said at one point, "This song is dedicated to the Christians who understand that God is one," and the band broke into Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody." 
Yes we can all learn from each other, if the Christians are willing. Haribol! 

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