Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

What God Wants

While humans are starving, half the world's grain is fed to livestock! Aren't feeding the hungry; treating the body as a temple of God which should not be defiled nor dishonored through antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, poisons and other unhealthy toxins and unhealthy food in general; the institutionalized killing of billions of animals being directly responsible for global hunger, global warming, the energy, environmental, population and water crises; treating animals humanely, and compassionate stewardship over the environment, over all of God's creation, all biblical issues? The editors of the Green Bible, which highlights environmentally-friendly biblical passages might think so.
 
Even some conservative Christians concede meat, like alcohol and cigarettes, is "disrespectful to the body." 
 
Around 1987, there was some discussion on animal rights in Vegetarian Times. One woman wrote in saying she finally understood animal issues, but asked how can animal rights activists remain silent about abortion? So pro-lifers DO understand that vegetarianism is not about "dietary laws" but about the animals' right to life.
 
On the other hand, a Christian man wrote in saying that he's vegetarian because the body is a temple of God and is meant to be honored and not defiled, but didn't understand talk about animal rights, saying, "An animal is just an animal." 
 
Our material desires keep us bound to the cycle of repeated birth and death. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that the way out of this existential dilemma is that we do nothing for our own personal sense gratification, but rather in God's service, for the pleasure of God. 
 
Commentators on some translations of the Bhagavad-gita (e.g., the Penguin edition) have tried to compare Lord Krishna's words in the Gita ("all that you do... should be done as an offering unto Me") with the apostle Paul's words in Corinthians, "...whether you eat or drink, do all for the glory of God..." 
 
However, you need a living tradition of checks and balances: of sadhu (saints, holy men), sastra (scripture) and guru (spiritual master), otherwise you might not know if your activities are pleasing to God. (According to Vaishnava tradition, for example, even some vegetarian foods, like onions, garlic and mushrooms, caffeine, alcohol, ganja, etc. cannot be offered to the Lord.) 
 
Satyaraja dasa (Steven Rosen) made this point during the course of interfaith discussion with Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest, telling him the pitfalls of sola scriptura, or relying solely on scripture, as taught in Protestant Christianity:
 
"You use Scripture to prove Jesus was the messiah. The Jews use it just as effectively to prove Jesus could not possibly have been the messiah."
 
I quoted scholars and theologians saying Paul deviated from Jesus' teachings:
 
The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, an informal mystical Christian order, believing in reincarnation and abstaining from meat and wine, wrote in 1903: 
 
"But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees... He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no one could be all things to all men without running the great risks of most disastrous results...
 
"But here as a further thought in connection with the teaching of the great Apostle an important question is forced upon our attention, which one of these days must receive the due consideration from biblical scholars that it deserves. It is this:
 
"How is it that the gospel of Paul is more to many people than the gospel of those privileged souls who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His secrets in the Upper Room?" 
 
Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing writes: “With all due respect for the integrity of Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles… Paul never knew Jesus in life.  He never walked and prayed with Him as He went from place to place, teaching the word of God.”
 
The great theologian Soren Kirkegaard, writing in the Journals, echoes the above sentiment: “In the teachings of Christ, religion is completely present tense:  Jesus is the prototype and our task is to imitate him, become a disciple.  But then through Paul came a basic alteration.  Paul draws attention away from imitating Christ and fixes attention on the death of Christ, The Atoner.  What Martin Luther, in his reformation, failed to realize is that even before Catholicism, Christianity had become degenerate at the hands of Paul.  Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ.  Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely, turning it upside down, making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ.”
 
The eminent theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur, in his Church History of the First Three Centuries, wrote: “What kind of authority can there be for an ‘apostle’ who, unlike the other apostles, had never been prepared for the apostolic office in Jesus’ own school but had only later dared to claim the apostolic office on the basis on his own authority?  The only question comes to be how the apostle Paul appears in his Epistles to be so indifferent to the historical facts of the life of Jesus… He bears himself but little like a disciple who has received the doctrines and the principles which he preaches from the Master whose name he bears.”
 
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in his Quest for the Historical Jesus and his Mysticism of Paul: “Paul… did not desire to know Christ… Paul shows us with what complete indifference the earthly life of Jesus was regarded… What is the significance for our faith and for our religious life, the fact that the Gospel of Paul is different from the Gospel of Jesus?… The attitude which Paul himself takes up towards the Gospel of Jesus is that he does not repeat it in the words of Jesus, and does not appeal to its authority… The fateful thing is that the Greek, the Catholic, and the Protestant theologies all contain the Gospel of Paul in a form which does not continue the Gospel of Jesus, but displaces it.” 
 
William Wrede, in his excellent book Paul, informs us: “The obvious contradictions in the three accounts (given by Paul in regard to his conversion) are enough to arouse distrust… The moral majesty of Jesus, his purity and piety, his ministry among his people, his manner as a prophet, the whole concrete ethical-religious content of his earthly life, signifies for Paul’s Christology nothing whatever… The name ‘disciple of Jesus’ has little applicability to Paul… Jesus or Paul:  this alternative characterizes, at least in part, the religious and theological warfare of the present day.” 
 
Rudolf Bultman, one of the most respected theologians of the 20th century, wrote in his Significance of the Historical Jesus for the Theology of Paul
 
“It is most obvious that Paul does not appeal to the words of the Lord in support of his… views.  When the essential Pauline conceptions are considered, it is clear that Paul is not dependent on Jesus.  Jesus’ teaching is—to all intents and purposes—irrelevant for Paul.”
 
This prompted Brother David Sherman (Bhakti Ananda Goswami) a Catholic hermit and Hindu sannyassi (monk) living in Coquille, Oregon, to wonder:
 
...you'll take the opinions of scholars and theologians nearly 2,000 years after Jesus' ministry rather than follow a living tradition of sadhu (saints, or holy men), sastra (scripture) and guru (spiritual master) which began with Jesus' ministry?
 
But that's the point! Paul contradicted the Old Testament tradition of sadhu, sastra and guru: the Law and the prophets; the Jesus of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 5:17-19, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 16:17), a rabbi who repeatedly upheld the Law; as did the other apostles (see chapters 10, 15, and 21 of Acts), who were direct disciples of Jesus.
 
Was Paul part of an earlier existing tradition (Judaism), or was he an apostate, deviating from it, and founding his own religion?
 
Even theologically conservative Christian scholars rely on the Jewish tradition to determine if a theological doctrine or gospel is false:
 
There are all kinds of fictitious "gospels" floating around, for example, like the Aquarian Gospel, the Gospel of the Holy Twelve, the Essene Gospel of Peace, etc. Some of these "gospels" depict Jesus as a vegetarian, others say he traveled to India, or that he taught reincarnation (I believe reincarnation IS compatible with Christianity--on an abstract, theological level).  
 
Mainline churches aren't about to take these "gospels" seriously. And with good reason.
 
Swedish New Testament scholar, Per Beskow wrote an entire book on the subject, entitled Strange Tales About Jesus, where he effectively debunks these "gospels."
 
The Gospel of the Holy Twelve, for example, describes Jesus and his apostles en route to Jerusalem,encountering a man with a pack of hunting dogs. Along the lines of a belief in karma and reincarnation, Jesus exclaims, "Woe unto the hunters, for they shall be hunted!"
 
Per Beskow comments that this incident sounds like 19th century England, rather than first century Palestine, and that the Gospel of the Holy Twelve was, in fact, received through seances and mediums in 19th century England!
 
Similarly, the Essene Gospel of Peace has Jesus advocating a raw food diet and speaking to his disciples about their Heavenly Father and their Earthly Mother, which Per Beskow says contradicts first century Judaic monotheism. 
 
(So does the traditional Christian belief in a Trinity, which did not arise until centuries after Jesus, and is, therefore, arguably pagan in origin.)
 
Contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler), writes about speaking before Christian students:
 
"I knew (these Christians) would view me as espousing the error of Pelagius, the heresy that man can save himself by his own efforts. Enough evangelicals had approached me in the streets to announce, 'I don't have to work for my salvation,' to let me know that the party line on us was out. 
 
"This charge had two sources. First of all, they saw any sort of regimen as smacking of works. Second of all, they believed that every religion but Christianity, no matter what its particular practices was Pelagian.
 
"To be more precise, all religions were Pelagian, but Christianity, strictly speaking, was not a religion. Religion they defined as the vain attempts of man to reach God on his own; all such attempts are tainted by man's inherent sinfulness and so inevitably fail. Christianity, on the other hand, is God's own reaching out to man. It is not, of course, tainted by sinfulness."
 
In Vaishnavaite Hinduism it is taught that souls in this material world have fallen from grace. We've come to this world to forget God. A leap of faith, therefore, is required as the first step in our relationship with God. Man cannot know God by his own efforts. God must make Himself known to man. God is known not by speculation, but by revelation. Both the Vaishnavaite Hindu tradition and Christianity are in agreement on the point that God must first reach out to man.
 
The ancient Sanskrit literatures state further that in this Age of Kali (our current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, which began 5,100 years ago), the sacred books are no longer revered, and civilization lacks any kind of divine guidance.
 
When I told Lalita dasi (Leona Oster), a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, for example, that Dixie Mahy, president of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society (SFVS) was involved with the neo-Essene Church (followers of Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, founder of the International Biogenic Society), and that Dixie thought about becoming ordained in their church, but it would require strictly following a raw food diet, Lalita immediately exclaimed:
 
"Man-made religion!" (a symptom of the Age of Kali.)
 
Dixie says she was raised a Mormon before eventually joining the neo-Essene Church, but Per Beskow debunks the Book of Mormon, too!
 
Without a living tradition of sadhu (saints, or holy men), sastra (scripture), and guru (spiritual master), it's uncertain, relying sola scriptura, or on scripture alone, to know what God wants.
 
("What God Wants" sings Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame in his 1993 song, claiming at one point, "God wants chain stores!") 
 
Hence, we see thousands of differing Protestant denominations, at odds with one another, and each claiming to have a monopoly on the Absolute Truth.
 
Remember, too, some of the worst crimes in history were committed in the name of religion! I would refer you to Rage Against the Machine's 1992 song, "Killing in the Name" in this regard. 
 
My friend John Antypas saw my point, during a friendly discussion on religion in 1985. He said there was a woman calling herself a "stripper for Jesus." 
 
Gopisvara dasa (Tom Dudek) told me in 1997 that when he met with a couple of Mormon missionaries, he similarly told them they haven't got a living tradition to follow: their spiritual master has been gone for nearly 2,000 years! 
 
And, he said, you need a living tradition to know what is pleasing to God. 
 
Gopisvara gave an example to the Mormon missionaries, telling them: without proper understanding, I might offer you a beer! 
 
Gopisvara later told me one of the missionaries, an older woman, could appreciate that we were representing an ancient religious tradition, whereas Mormonism is fairly recent (19th century America). 
 
I told John Antypas the Christians have the right idea in wanting to do all for the pleasure of God rather than one's own personal sense gratification: e.g., listening to Christian music instead of secular music, t-shirts advertising "Corinthians" rather than Corona Beer, etc. 
 
One of our spiritual masters in disciplic succession, Tamal Krishna Goswami, studied theology at Southern Methodist University. When interviewed on a Sunday morning Christian television broadcast, he said, "You'll have a hard time convincing me that when someone's lighting up a cigarette, he's doing that for God."

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