Jesus goes to Hollywood

News Item: “Hollywood is to fill in the Bible’s “missing years” with a story about Jesus as a wandering mystic who travelled across India, living in Buddhist monasteries and speaking out against the iniquities of the country’s caste system.”

Like Mr. Joseph Smith of upstate New York who received the Book of Mormons in a vision, Mr. Levi Dowling of Ohio claimed to have received (also in the 19th century)  the “Aquarian Age Gospel” which was alleged to have been imprinted on  tiny plates “smaller than atoms.” If you can believe this, you should be able to believe the rest of this fantasy which, like the Bhavishya Purana, is taken to be the gospel truth by countless credulous souls, both Hindu and Christian,  down to this day.If we think God speaks only Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Arabic, that too would be off the mark. To Smith and Dowling, for example, He spoke in good American English.

I first heard about this gospel in a lecture I attended some fifteen years ago at a Divinity School. I became interested and read through this inspired fable. I looked for internal discrepancies in it. Sure enough, there are several loop-holes in this hoax or delusion, the most staggering of which is that Jesus was a pupil at the temple of Jagannath where he took a course on the Vedas. This is like saying that Shankara of the 7th century  had been a graduate of Harvard. Anyone with even extended historical imagination knows that this temple wasn’t there before the 10th century CE.

One of  the people Jesus met in Puri  was Professor Lamaas Brama who asked the  would-be prophet for his definition of Truth. Young Jesus’ profound answer began with the statement: “Truth is the only thing that never changes.”  [This would imply that human stupidity is Truth.] But he also said a few things that should make any advaitin happy, such as: “In all the world there are two things; the one is truth; the other is falsehood; and truth is that which is, and falsehood that which seems to be.” Jesus also gave Lamaas the Upanishadic wisdom that “God and man are one.”

And here is the version in which, as per this gospel,  Jesus is reported to have heard a graphically colored version of the Purusha Suktam:

Now, from the mouth of Parabrahm the first man came; and he was white, was like the Brahm himself; a brahman he was called. And he was high and lifted up; above all want he stood; he had no need of toil. And he was called the priest of Brahm, the holy one to act for Brahm in all affairs of earth.  The second man was red, and from the hand of Parabrahm he came; and he was called shatriya.  And he was made to be the king, the ruler and the warrior, whose highest ordained duty was protection of the priest. And from the inner parts of Parabrahm the third man came; and he was called a visya.  He was a yellow man, and his it was to till the soil, and keep the flocks and herds.  And from the feet of Parabrahm the fourth man came; and he was black; and he was called the sudras, one of low estate.  The sudras is the servant of the race of men; he has no rights that others need respect; he may not hear the Vedas read, and it means death to him to look into the face of priest, or king, and naught but death can free him from his state of servitude.”

This abomination of the PS is not even funny! 

Yes, the book says that Jesus (like many of us, though not all, in the 21st century) said that it was not fair for God to have created men in this way. He was chased out of the Jagannath temple for saying this (as some Non-Hindus are even in our own times). Jesus now went to the Shudras to whom he preached saying, for example, “The sudras shall be free as priest; the farmer shall walk hand in hand with king; for all the world will own the brotherhood of man.”

What a dramatic impact this would have when shown on the big screen in Technicolor!

Jesus and (by now his friend) Lamaas went on to Varanasi where Jesus studied medicine (art of healing) under Professor Udraka. Well, of course, like any spiritual tourist of the day, he went to Varanasi and Tibet, and perhaps foreseeing the emergence of Pakistan, he also made a stop in Lahore before heading back home to give his scheduled lecture on the mount. He seems to have missed Madurai and Kanchipuram, though, which is too bad.

In case you are wondering what brought the would-be Savior to India, well, we are told in dead seriousness that Jesus took the trip  at the invitation of King Ravanna of Orissa who visited the prophet in his home town in Israel with “a band of Brahmic priests.” Competing with Hindu creativity in making up etymologies,  Dowling tells us that Abraham is just an anagram of Brahma, more or less. [I have seen Hindus elated by this observation.]

If some of us feel that it is spiritually absurd, religiously offensive, and historically outrageous to come up with a pseudo-document like this (the only excuse could be an extreme case of hallucinatory raving),  we must realize that most prophets and spiritual visionaries are basically honest people. First order prophets found religions, and second order prophets extend established religions to newer heights or generate new sects. Dowling was (a not too successful) second order prophet, But now, thanks to Hollywood, this now ignored gospel-composer may be in for a fame-boost. It is recorded that he was a child-preacher who had visions before he could think clearly, which he perhaps never did anyway.

The man surely deserves a place in the archives of religious curios, but I think it is irresponsible for Hollywood entertainers to turn this travesty into a film. It is likely to delude millions of naïve movie-goers (both Christian and Hindu) into believing that this canard is in fact part of the already dubious Jesus history.

But then, we have entered an age in which history and pseudo-history have merged with politics and religion and become one unrecognizable mess of a hot-mix in which one cannot separate  peanuts from  splitp-peas and  rice crispy from salt and pepper. 

We can only exclaim helplessly, amen! or aameen! or tataastu! or so be it! depending on our linguistic preference. 

On Jokes and Laughter

Why do jokes make us laugh? The human mind rejoices when it perceives a great truth. Religious ecstasy and the eureka of scientists are instances of this. For true religious experience is the recognition of a profound truth about the essence of our being, and a scientific discovery is the unveiling of a profound truth about the world around us. The human mind is amused when it recognizes a small truth.

The laughter at a joke is an expression of that amusement, for ultimately every (good) joke exposes some little truth or other about  humanity, inanimate nature, ideas, words, or whatever.   Laughter is an expression of mild ecstasy.

If great truths are like the nutritional essence of what we eat, small truths are like the sweeteners and spices that enhance the taste of the food.

Likewise, if religion and science raise us to lofty heights, jokes and humor add spice to living.

sad reflection on the Enlightenment

Report: “The government (of Malaysia) maintained that views held by “deviant” groups endangered national security. According to the Jakim Web site, 56 deviant teachings were identified and prohibited to Muslims as of year’s end.” 

Of the many ironies that sprinkle humanity’s history one is that the spirit of religious Enlightenment carries within it seeds of its own destruction. That spirit allows one to criticize religious doctrines,  welcomes religious tolerance and grants freedom to worship the way one chooses.

In modern nations which adopt this as a guiding principle, the time-honored religion of the land subjects itself to reasoned analysis and exposure of all that is irrational, absurd, and intolerable in its religious system which is thus made vulnerable, in addition to missionary intrusions from the outside.

Sooner or later, with the spread of knowledge, information, and education, belief in the traditional religion of the people will gradually diminish and eventually disappear while powerful missionary activities will swallow the more disgruntled members of the local religion.On the other hand, nations which firmly close their doors to other religions, and ruthlessly persecute those who try to impose an alien faith (convert) or question the framework of the national religion shield the state religion from transformation, corruption and disappearance. From this perspective, a hundred years from now Christianity would have disappeared from Europe, but Islam would be strong and sturdy in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, and other theocracies. Even Hinduism, because India is an enlightened democracy, is exposed to external lethal religious viruses.

What one could expect from globalized information spread is that Islam would become less harsh in its treatment of women and persecution of Muslim dissenters, but would still be safe and sturdy, even become more open and civilized within its walls, while propagating itself freely in nations where the light of freedom shines.

We think of martyrs as individuals who die for the principles they strongly believe in and will never give up. But cultures and civilizations can also become martyrs. Enlightened societies have exposed themselves to external onslaughts with the potential for destroying the very framework that allowed them in to begin with.

So what can we do? Nothing, or very little, really, except to sadly reflect on this irony in history, and to hope that the guardians of enlightenment will be vigilant and will succeed in not allowing the agents of darkness to infect  all societies.