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Theological Parallels

Scholars *have* noted many similarities between the stories of Krishna and Jesus, and the early Indologists, British missionaries, etc. concluded that Christian missionaries must have visited India centuries earlier, and the gospel stories were mixed in with the "legends" of Krishna, whom they regarded as a mythical figure, like Hercules or Apollo. Their theory was discarded when they realized the worship of Krishna predates Christianity by centuries, if not millennia!
At any rate, my appreciation of Christianity, like that of other Krishna devotees, is *theological*, rather than cultural or historical. In 1994, bhaktin Sue Love of Media, PA, suggested I read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, saying some of his words are "stunningly Vaishnava" and she said she was beginning to wonder if C.S. Lewis and Srila Prabhupada "did lunch" !
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
--C.S. Lewis
Intelligent Design is often dismissed as a slick, pseudoscientific form of creationism.
The philosophical or theological Argument By Design at the heart of Intelligent Design does not directly prove the existence of God... it merely infers that it's a logical possibility.
A Christian, Gene Carman, commented on, a liberal website:
"God is a matter of faith, as in contrast to fact. So, what is faith? Faith is 'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...'"
A leap of faith is required because the existence of God can neither be proven nor disproven. We've come to this material world to forget God.
Madhavendra Puri dasa (Steve Bernath) of the Bhaktivedanta Institute said the Vaishnava Hindu objection to natural selection is that Darwin posited a mechanism to explain the origin and varieties of different species through blind natural processes, without any kind of intelligent direction or design.
A Hindu sannyassi (monk) said we can't talk about "spiritual life" unless we first admit we are spirit. We are not these physical bodies.
We are spirits in the material world.
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 his 1977 book, Readings in Vedic Literature: the Tradition Speaks for Itself, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami explains:
"The verbal root jiv means 'to live, be, or remain alive,' and the noun jiva refers to the individual living being, or soul. According to the Vedic (Hindu) analysis, the living being (jiva) is separate from the body, yet, within each and every body (including those of men, beasts, birds and plants) an individual soul (jiva) resides. Individual consciousness is the symptom of the jiva's presence. Although the body is perishable, the jiva is eternal."
Each of us has no way of knowing if the phenomenal world around us is real or illusory. The existence of the conscious self is the only thing each of us can know with any absolute certainty, through direct perception: self-awareness. (cogito ergo sum), or "I think (or I am cognizant), therefore I am."
This is the supreme realization of Western philosophy, as posited by Rene Descartes, and Descartes erred (or deliberately misled!) in ascribing consciousness only to human beings.
According to the ancient Sanskrit literatures, Brahma, the first created being, awakens and finds himself in darkness. The only thing he can know with any absolute certainty is his own existence. Taking a leap of faith, he prays to a higher power (the Supreme Lord) and all is revealed.
Madhavendra Puri dasa (Steve Bernath) of the Bhaktivedanta Institute said in 1986 that if it could be proven scientifically that the conscious self is separate and distinct from the physical body and arguably is forced by the law of karma to transmigrate from body to body, in 8,400,000 species of life, then it would mean we've slipped up (fallen from grace)...
...into a condition of life where we do not know God or other living entities by direct perception, but only ourselves. We've come to this material world not only to forget God, but to think that we can become God, that our individual consciousness is the center of the universe, and everyone and everything around us exists for our own gratification.
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."
In college in the spring of 1985, during the course of a casual armchair theological discussion, John Antypas (half-Jewish and half-Protestant) said Krishna devotees are 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?"
Like Christians, Vaishnavas also believe that souls in this world have fallen from grace, that this world is transitory, and that there is an inner conflict between one’s carnal and spiritual natures.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada drew an analogy between the biblical and Vaishnava teaching on the Fall from grace:
"When a living entity disobeys the orders of God, he is put into this material world, and that is his punishment... The real fact is that the living entity is eternal, and the material world is created to satisfy his false existence... The individual is thinking that he is independent and can act independent of God. That is the beginning of paradise lost, of Adam's fall.
"When Adam and Eve thought that they could do something independently, they were condemned. Every living entity is the eternal servant of God, and he must act according to the desire or will of the Supreme Lord. When he deviates from this principle, he is lost. Losing paradise, he comes into the material world...
"That is the process of transmigration, the rotation of the cycle of birth and death. This is all due to disobeying God...Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we are cut off from our original position. We have fallen."
Following biblical tradition, St. Augustine made a distinction between the earthly and the heavenly, the temporary flesh and its bodily appetites versus the spirit and peace of the soul. Describing the predicament of the soul in a physical body in the material world, Augustine similarly wrote:
"And so long as he is in this mortal body, he is a pilgrim in a foreign land, away from God; therefore he walks by faith, not by sight."
Augustine said the soul "needs divine direction, which he may obey with resolution, and divine assistance that he may obey it freely..."
These doctrines are all consistent with Vaishnava theology.
The Vaishnava practice of offering one’s food in devotion to God has favorably been compared to the Eucharist. Episcopal priest Reverend Alvin Hart says, "It’s like the Mass, where the Host is considered nondifferent from the body of Christ..."
The peaceable kingdom doesn't exist here in the material world, which is a temporary and inferior reflection of a higher reality, and which is filled with miseries like repeated birth, death, old age, and disease.
The peaceable kingdom exists in the spiritual world, where life is eternal and full of bliss.
In 1985, during the course of a casual armchair theological discussion, John Antypas (half-Jewish and half-Protestant) said Krishna devotees are merely repeating familiar Christian theology. John merely saw belief in reincarnation, rather than vegetarianism, as a point of contention.
The biblical verses about "eternal life" in New Testament Christianity don't make any sense unless the only alternative is temporary or transitory life, or repeated birth and death... eternal damnation is also an "eternal life," too!
John asked, why couldn't the soul just be transferred permanently to either heaven or hell at the end of one lifetime, and then he caught himself and realized what he was describing is very similar to reincarnation.
Right. For one brief lifetime, you're gonna get a whole eternity of reward or punishment?!
(In an essay on Christianity and reincarnation entitled Christian Metempsychosis, the 19th century American philosopher Francis Bowen of Harvard, admitted, "An eternity of either reward or punishment would seem to be inadequately earned by one brief period of probation on earth.")
John later explained his reasoning behind his saying the soul being transferred permanently to either heaven or hell at the end of one brief lifetime is very similar to reincarnation:
If you accept the premise that the conscious self is different from the physical body, that the conscious self is the observer within the body, then, at the time of death, the conscious self has merely shifted vantage points.
He later said, "I'm so glad to hear there's no eternal damnation..."
Anantarupa dasa, who took his present birth in Ireland and came to Krishna Consciousness from an Irish Catholic background, likes to tell Christians, "We're not that different from you."

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