Dharma and Religion
We need to be clear on a few issues. Dharma is not religion. Dharma is about truth 'Satya' and spiritual discipline 'Yoga.' Religions, like Christianity, are about social control, not spirituality. The response against Conversion needs be multi-level. To begin with we need to know what Christianity is all about.
Truth and Christianity.
Tilak B. Shrestha, Ph.D.
Satyam eva jayate - Truth always triumphs.
Socrates - unexamined truth is not really truth.
Dhateko kura, kate pani mildaina. Artha ni bartha, Gobinda gai.
Mero goru ko barhai takka. Khai na pai, chhala topi lai.
[I had the dubious honor of meeting a few Nepalese missionaries claiming to be theology scholars. This article is in response to our conversation on Christianity. Please feel free to make any comments and to forward it to interested friends.]
I respect all the people and all the religions. I also expect respect to be mutual. However, the missionaries come with a simple proposition, “Brother, your God is no God, only my God is God. Sister, all Christians go to heaven, no matter how evil. Brother, everybody else goes to hell, no matter how virtuous. Sister, all your ancestors have gone to hell. Brother, if you want to go to heaven, you better believe and do whatever I tell you.” Should not a person with any intelligence and integrity ask, “How come?” Wayne Johnson, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Florida, 1988, writes, “Hinduism of India, yoga, meditation, psychological therapy and self-help are the lies first told by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.” The Southern Baptist Church published booklets condemning Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Native African religions in 1999. Should not somebody stand up and yell, “He you, Emperor, you have no cloth?” We Nepalese are poor, so what? Is poverty of mind or money? When I was studying in Florida, I was challenged many times over by all kinds of Christian activists - Southern Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, Evangelists, Presbyterians, Seventh day Adventists and Ninth day Ciphers as well. They made me curios enough to read about Christianity. If anybody tries to preach over me now, I do tell them real truth about Christianity. Truth is antidote to these aberrations. I am a student of science, not of theology. I have only passing interest in religion. However, I have not met any bright theologian yet. I wonder why? I think it is because only in theology the ridiculous doctrines are defended. Only in theology, the theories are not created out of facts, but facts are twisted to fit the theories. Only in theology the doctrines, not the truth, are sacrosanct. Please do point out any errors in objective facts and logic used here. I remain grateful.
I do assume that everybody is interested about truth in general; and theologians in the truth about Christianity in particular. I expect theologians to have a general knowledge about all the religions and Dharmas. I also expect scholars to be intellectually honest, to make opinion according to the facts and to have respect for the truth. I also expect theologians coming from Nepal to know something about Buddha Dharma and Hinduism in general. If you have all the time to read Bible, but have no time to read our own. Is it because of some deep seated psychological inferiority complex? You even did not read Bible objectively. Otherwise you would know both the stories that Jesus was born in Bethlehem are demonstrably lies.
What Christianity is all about? Jesus taught to love our neighbors and even enemies. I do appreciate Jesus, and his teachings of universal love. That precisely Christianity is not about. Suppose there was a Jew who heard Jesus ‘a Jewish Rabbi’ preaching and practiced loving neighbors and enemies. Then according to Jesus and all the right thinking people he will go to heaven. However, according to Christianity he will go to hell. True or not? Be honest.
According to Christianity only way to heaven is to ‘believe’ that ‘Jesus is Christ’, or else you stand condemned. Here is the defining doctrine of Christianity:
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. But he who does not believe is condemned already.
This is the crux of the problem. To hold a belief, whether it is true or not, does lead to nowhere. What happens if you believe two plus two is ‘four’ or ‘seven’? Nothing really. You do not go to heaven or hell by believing ‘this’ or ‘that.’ As a scholar, how do you connect the belief ‘Jesus is Christ’ with sins being forgiven and going to heaven? This absurd Christian fundamental doctrine leads to the conclusion that all your good and honorable non-Christian parents and all your ancestors have gone to hell. True or not? I do not think so, nor you should. Believing a fact is relevant only and to the extent the fact is used in making a decision. For example if you buy a ten dollar worth of item believing you have same amount of money, then you will be embarrassed, nonchalant, or happy if you really have nine, ten or eleven dollars. If you are playing tennis then believing in ten dollars is irrelevant. God created and loves all of us regardless of our color, race, gender, nationality and religion. Good guys go to heaven and bad guys go to hell - a simple metaphor. You go to heaven by practicing ‘good heart inside’ and ‘good deed outside.’ The mantra ‘be good, do good’ leads to heaven. Being a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim or an Atheist makes no difference. Anyway, on what basis do you believe the Christian doctrines? What facts and reason do you base upon? Because, ‘believing’ is not a voluntary act. Look at a dog and see if you could believe it a cat, then a camel. By the way, Jesus is evidently not the Christ.
Jesus paid for our sin? Not really, it is a pure wishful thinking. What a delusion and attempt at irresponsibility. A sin cannot be transferred. A crime cannot be paid by somebody else, much less before the event. It leads to the absurd conclusion that you can do any crime you want to. It is already paid for by Jesus. What if we forget to commit crime? See if you can transfer your headache or a bad school grade to Jesus. See if you can talk police into keeping your retired father-in-law in prison now and you doing commensurate crime later. Consider the Biblical doctrine of scapegoats paying for other’s crime. Imagine a prison full of goats and sheep doing time in lieu of other convicts. It is such a mind-boggling absurdity. Christianity offers only a false sense of security and wishful escapism. The natural or divine law is each of us has to face the consequences of our own deeds, both bitter and sweet.
Jesus was sacrificed for our sin? As a theologian perhaps you can explain it properly. Who sacrificed Jesus? To whom? Does God demand sacrifice of a lamb or his own son to forgive us? Or God sacrificed his own son for us? To whom? Cannot God forgive us without the stunt of sacrificing his own son? What happens to all the humanity before Jesus, or the multitudes of non-Christian people? Do you think torture and murder of a lamb or a person a good idea? How does that please God? How does it serve any purpose? How does such sacrifice result in forgiving sin? Is not taking a life another ethical crime? How a crime will pay for another crime? Be honest.
Jesus died and resurrected? Not really. Jesus resurrected proving he is God. He is God therefore he was able to resurrect. What a classical tautology or the circular argument. How can God die? Is not immortality the hallmark of God? God sustains the whole world. God is beyond birth and death. If God dies then the whole world will cease to exist. Will it not? His disciples saw him crucified and later he visited them. If they were of normal intelligence, first question they would have asked Jesus would have been, “How did you survive?” However, they assumed he died and resurrected. It merely means they were not so bright after all. Given their circumstances and educational level that may be understandable. How about us? Are not we primary school graduates? Take the one half of the tautology that Jesus resurrected because he is God. So far it is plausible. However, Christianity states ‘whoever believes so will also resurrect.’ You do not have to be a God to resurrect, but mere believing ‘Jesus’s resurrection’ suffice. Try this: Whoever believes Jimmy Carter was President, is also a President. What about resurrection? According to Christianity, all and only Christians will come back alive with all his or her body restored to original form, and live forever. Suppose there is a fat, bald and old Christian. Perhaps he does not want to live like that for eternity. Perhaps he wants to be a gorgeous and sexy woman. Do you want him to condemn for eternity to be a fat, bald, old and married to a cross-eyed woman? Can you imagine poor Hitler living for eternity with shame and embarrassment hanging on his face for loosing the war, if not for commencing?
What kind of heaven Christianity envisage without Socrates, Pythagoras, Einstein, Gandhi, Buddha, your parents and friends; but with Hitler and Mussolini? Personally I wish to achieve salvation that is beyond birth and death. However, the important issue is ‘births and deaths are natural events’, ordained by God in this world. Resurrection is merely a wishful thinking without any basis.
Another Christian doctrine is so-called the 'Original sin'. I think if a person commits crime then only he or she should be punished, not any other innocent people. However, according to Christianity, Adam committed the crime of eating the apple of knowledge, therefore we all are born in sin and will go to hell. You may rest assured babies are not criminals and we are all born pure. It violates the most fundamental principle of justice. Which, even a dog understands. For example if two of us were walking together and I happen to kick a stray dog. Then the dog will try to bite me, not you. Because the dog understands that I am guilty and you are innocent.
This doctrine is the product of Paul’s manipulation of a sensible Greek mythology ‘Adam and Eve being the parent of all humanity’, that is we are all one family ‘Bashundhaiva Kutumbakam’, to a nonsensical guilt trap. Why is eating ‘Apple’ of knowledge a sin? Rather eating ‘Orange’ of ignorance is. Do not we all go to school? Believe me, God wants us to be educated and wise.
Thus, Christianity fits the swindling ‘the good cop and the bad cop’ model. A strong man comes in with a dumb story but with a big threat. Then another man comes along to help you out of the threat. The weak-minded person is relieved from the threat and is obliged to the second. Here comes the strong man Adam and the Original Sin, that you are guilty and born in sin. Then the other man comes to help which is the Jesus who pays for it. All of sudden you are obliged to Jesus. Truth is a person cannot be punished for another’s crime. Neither we are responsible for Adam’s sin, nor Jesus can pay for our sins. Such swindling technique works only on weak-minded fools. Is it about seeking truth or spirituality? None whatsoever.
The doctrines of the ‘original sin’ and the ‘scapegoat’ get even better. Bigger the crime, larger the sacrifice. From a lamb it goes all the way to an elephant, a whale, a man, and ultimately God. To pay for the ‘original sin’, not only you need Jesus, but he also has to be unblemished or sinless. According to the Bible the original sin is transmitted from father to children. The ancient Jews consider the father as the giver of seed or life, and the mother merely an incubator. Thus, Jewish lineage comes strictly from the father, and the mother is irrelevant. They also thought sex to be inherently bad. Thus, children born normally are impure. Therefore the doctrine of the ‘immaculate conception’ is important to satisfy both conditions of purity. The baby Jesus does not have human father, and Mary is still virgin. Matter of fact, she remains virgin even after having a number of children with Joseph. However, the doctrine is contrary to another Biblical requirement that the Christ has to be the direct descendant of King David. Some theologians even tried to circulate the seven dollars bill that Mary is the descendant of David, not acceptable to Jewish custom. Contradictions and irrationalities are not problems for the Church as long as people believe them. However, the progress in human knowledge brought another problem. In the nineteenth century, even the enemies of Galileo realized that the mother not only provides nutrition but also provides life equal to the father. In that case Jesus is still impure through his mother side. To avoid such predicament, the Roman Catholic Church in 1854 stated as article of faith that Mary had been conceived without the original sin that affects all humanity. To emphasize Mary’s purity and non-affliction from the original sin, Pope Pius XII in 1950 declared that at her death Mary’s body and soul both went to heaven. However, the humble and inconvenient question remains, “How did Pope find out, and why not earlier?” This is a classical case of incoherent doctrine inventing facts. By the way, the ‘article of faith’ means to believe without thinking or questioning.
The myth that God dies and comes back alive is a recurrent theme in many of the old world religions. Egypt has the story of ‘Osiris’, in Greece ‘Dionysis’, in Asia Minor ‘Attis’, in Syria ‘Adonis’, in Italy ‘Bacchus’ and in Persia ‘Mithra’. These myths are centuries older than Christianity. Thus Christian myth is not an original but a poor plagiarism. Once Christianity has the political and military hold of the Europe it wiped out the other religions. The genocide of Pagan Europeans, destruction of old European religions, arts, literatures, philosophies, books are the hideous and yet ignored history of Europe. This is how Christianity paid for the tolerance of pre-Christian Europe. Today’s European descendants can only look at the ‘ruins’ of their glorious past. A Pagan philosopher Celsus, 2nd century AD, criticized Christians for trying to pass Jesus’s story as original when in fact it is a poor copy of Pagan myths, “Why Pagan story is myth and Christian story is true? Nothing is unusual about Christian belief, except that it excludes larger truth of God.” In response to such criticism, Church came with the doctrine of ‘Diabolical mimicry.’ Theologians like Justin Martyr and Tertullian, 2nd century AD, explain, “Devil knew about Jesus’s life before it happened. To confuse people he created all the other myths long before Jesus was born.” Did some body ask how they came to know? Perhaps Devil told them so. Christianity stands on these kinds of arguments.
Yet another Biblical doctrine is about the covenant between God and Jewish tribe. Do you think we human beings are equal to God to have a legal contract? It is as comical as having legal paper signed between a man and a horse. How do you enforce the contract if God renegades? In which court? One of the covenants stipulates that Jewish tribe will obey Mosaic code and the God will make the tribe always victorious in battles. Is it historically true? How about Diasporas? Do you think only concern of God is to look after one tribe and beat on others? Are we Jews? How about we Nepalese? If there is a war between Jews and us, which side you will be and which side God will be? Obviously so called covenant is a ploy to militarize Jewish tribe. It is not about seeking truth or spiritual practices. By the way, anybody can approach God through simple love.
These facts may be interesting to theologians and lay people alike. The relevant references are given below.
1. Jesus’s biological father is a Roman soldier named ‘Panthera.’
2. When Jesus was growing up people used to make joke about his parentage. It led him to develop a mild form of psychological disorder called ‘paraphrenia’, which makes him very sensitive toward poor, exploited and down trodden.
3. When he was about 13 years old he followed the ancient Silk Road and went to India. He studied in many places including Benaras and Leh Monastery, Kashmir. He became a well-known scholar trained mostly in Buddha Dharma and other Hindu traditions. He was important enough to be mentioned in the ‘Rajtarangini’, a royal chronicle of Kashmir Kings. His way of addressing God as ‘Father’ is directly from the ‘Dwaita - duel’ tradition of Hindus. For example - ‘Tomeva Maata, Cha Pita tomeva. Thou art mother, and thou art father.’ Jews address God as ‘Lord.’ His statement ‘Kingdom within’ is directly from ‘Adwaita – non-duel’ tradition of the inner meditation. These concepts are quite foreign to Jews and they took them merely as parables.
4. When he was of late twenties he came back to Israel, a well-educated and charismatic Rabbi. He was also a Jewish nationalist and opposed Roman occupation. He also claimed to be the ‘Christ’, as understood by Jewish people then. He did not claim to have come to establish a new religion, nor biological-son of God, nor to take away other’s sin. They are the wishful thinking added later.
5. He was able to start an armed rebellion against Romans, albeit a minor one. Romans crucified him for that rebellion, a standard Roman punishment.
6. He was on cross, only for a few hours and survived. You may check with your physician friends if nailing in wrists, not palms, for a few hours will result in death or not.
7. He met his disciples and told them that he will escape to India and return for them later.
8. He returned to India, married, had children and died of old age. He was buried in Shrinagar, Kashmir. The temple built on his burial site exists even today. There are people who claim to be his descendant even today.
9. His disciples, all of them practicing Jews, vainly waited for his return. Current Christianity has nothing to do either with Jesus or his disciples.
10. Present Christianity, with all the absurd wishful doctrines, is the brainchild of Paul, who never met Jesus. And matter of fact, Jesus’ disciples including his brother James accused him of telling lies.
11. The Christian theme that Jesus came to take away others sin is neither taught by Judaism, nor by Jesus. It is the doctrine of Mithraism, where Lord Mithra pays for and forgives the sins of his believers. This copy and concoction of Paul is what you call Christianity today.
What is spirituality? It is about search for the truth and practices of improving ones inner values. Believing ‘Jesus is Christ or not’ is irrelevant, for that matter neither believing ‘Fat Buddha’ is. By believing so, what profound truth you came to know? How did it improve your spiritual values? Whether ‘Jesus is Christ or not’ is important only to the Jews. If he was really Christ, then they were obliged to obey and fight for him as a God appointed King towards liberation of Israel. It is a political issue. We are Nepalese. Is it our problem? Do not we have our own problems? ‘Khai na pai, Chhala topi lai.’
So what are Bible and its prophets? Contrary to the claims, Bible is not a scripture, nor the prophets divinely inspired individuals. Actually Bible is a subjective political history of Jewish people and prophets are their community\political leaders. They are interesting historical documents but not spiritual works. A scripture is about universal principles and spiritual practices. History of how Jewish tribe got into bondage, their freedom, in turn how they massacred Caananites and took over their land is interesting but does not qualify as a spiritual treaty. Merely spicing up the text by sprinkling a handful of words ‘God’ does not change the inherent characteristics. A prophet is judged by the content of his message, not by his claims. Please do compare these two statements: a. Newton is a great scientist because his theories are proven correct, and b. I believe Newton is a great scientist therefore I believe whatever he says. First is about the way of ‘Apple’, and second is about ‘Orange.’
A prophet may walk down the hill or come out of a cave and claim that he was told by God to tell you what God wants. Did you wonder why is it a mountain or a cave but not a rest room? Why there are fires, thunders, lightening on the side? They are dramatic effects to avoid simple questions. It is the trick in trade of all magicians, kings, dictators and professional wrestlers. If God really talked to the prophet, good for him, but not good enough for me. He may have heard God directly, but for me it is only hear say. I am sure God is perfectly capable of telling me directly. Prophet hood is nothing more than hood winking gullible people to be controlled by the Prophet. It can be easily recognized by the so called divine statements coming out of the prophet. They are nothing but political assertions given the circumstances. For example, according to Moses God tells, “I am your God, helped you out of Egyptian bondage, gave Canaan land to you, worship only me, do not worship other Gods, else I am jealous.” May we ask how they got into Egyptian bondage in the first place? Is this God only of Jews, not of Egyptian? God forbid, if the God is also of Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites et al. According to Bible, God says,”You shall annihilate them – Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites ….“ According to so-called divine urging Jews went and massacred all the Canaanites and took over their land. Is this how divine gift is given? Can God be in competition against other Gods and be jealous? Moses is a great Jewish leader, no doubt; but not a spiritual Mahatma. Given the circumstance, Moses have done the wonderful job of keeping discipline and leading the desperate Jewish tribe. But spade is a spade. The scenario is perfectly explainable if considered that God did not create Moses, rather Moses created God. Moses led Jews out of Egyptian bondage, engineered massacre and take over of Canaan land. He wants full control of Jews and would not like them to listen to others. Otherwise he is jealous.
There is an anecdote of an amateur singer trying to impress a music teacher. The teacher commented, “You really sing well. All you need to do is improve on the rhythm and the melody.” Christianity is a great religion, with problems of being false and dangerous. Consider the definitions: superstition - believing without facts, and brain washing - believing against facts. Christianity is merely a brain washing system by promoting wishful thinking. The danger of Christianity is that it does not allow people to do critical analysis. To be led by nose-rings looks good only on bullocks. To be led by bridles looks good only on horses. To parrot what was told to you or stated in Bible without any critical examination does not look good on intellectuals like you. Remember Socrates, “Unexamined truth is not truth.” If it is able to delude scholars like you, think of its devastating effect on the superstitious masses. Here are a few issues typically posed by missionaries for your meditation