Epic and Classical Period

Course: Introduction to Hinduism

Lecture: Epic and Classical Period


We haven't actually taken time to formally look at some of the epic materials.  I wanted to start out with that today.  We finished the discourse on puja – what's involved in puja.  Because of time, I'm actually not going to say a lot about the periods, except just to remind you that we have the formative period, which we looked at very early in the course – where you have the emergence of texts like the Vedic material, which would include not only the Samhitas, but also the Aranyakas, the Brahmanas – in that period.  The speculative material, which is the Upanishads, which attaches to the end of the Vedic material, which we have spent a good deal of time looking at the Mahavakyas of the Upanishads.  And then the third period, which we haven't discussed, is the epic and classical period – the emergence of many of the great epics of India – the two most important of which are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Those texts we have not had a chance to talk a lot about, except in connection a bit with the Rama iconography.  And you may have noticed that in the handout showing the icons of Rama – or the iconography – I mention that one of the difficulties with identifying Rama as opposed to Vishnu, or for that matter any of the incarnation of Vishnu, is Rama is almost always shown with various scenes from the Ramayana, including Hanuman carrying the mountain with Sita, whatever.  So, this epic is very important, widely known, throughout India.  So we need to take a little time looking at that.

The Mahabharata I will just say some brief words about as a whole.  But then we want to particularly focus on the Bhagavad-Gita and look at that chapter by chapter.  I'll make a few comments about that, since you spent time reading that important portion of the Mahabharata.

OK, so let's begin with the Ramayana.  This is one of many, many translations of the Ramayana.  The most famous is actually one by Tulsidas, which I don't have here before me.  But it's an epic poem, epic account, of India that has had a number of translations with some variety to it.  So the story doesn't have just a single – it does have a single plot-line – but there are many variations of the story because it essentially is an oral tradition that's been brought down to the modern period.  The word Ramayana simply means the story or epic of Rama.  So this would be obviously very important to the followers of Rama.  So therefore it's a very highly known and worshipped all over India – the epics within this – but certainly even more so in south India.

It's divided into seven books, though this particular version of it has many more chapters than that because this is for popular reading in the West.  But traditionally has seven books.  24,000 couplets – which makes it much smaller than the Mahabharata, but nevertheless a very, very important account.  Essentially, what is the book about?  The book is about the epics of one of Vishnu's main incarnations of Rama.  And you recall, what are the two major incarnations of Vishnu that we have celebrated and looked at?

Answer: Krishna and Rama.

Krishna and Rama.  So, with the Ramayana you're going to find the real emphasis on Rama.  And with the Mahabharata, especially the Bhagavad-Gita, the emphasis is on Krishna.  So these two epics actually highlight two of the most important incarnations of Vishnu.  Rama is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu.  We looked at ten of those.  And it's essentially about winning the hand of Sita in marriage.  We looked at earlier, if you recall – maybe I should bring this up since it's worth mentioning this at this point.  If you go back, you recall, if I can find – it's been some time ago it looks like – this is one of the icons, one of the many icons of Rama and Sita.  These are all actually pictures taken from the epic of the Ramayana.  The amazing thing is this kind of picture does not actually occur in the Ramayana.  It only happens at the very, very conclusion of the Ramayana.

So essentially, the whole epic is winning her hand.  And there's a number of battles involved.  And she is taken captive by a demon king, known as Ravana.  Ravana is portrayed in this horrible light.  He takes her off.  And he takes her to the island of today we know as Sri Lanka.  In the Ramayana it's just known as Lanka.  So Rama wants to rescue her.  And in the process, this is where he meets Hanuman.  There's Hanuman carrying the mountain.  Hanuman is the famous monkey god.  You can see – this is actually Sanskrit for Ram here.  So you often find the iconography of Hanuman has some designation of Ram on it because his whole purpose is to help and assist Rama.  He decides to go and help.  And so the whole Ramayana is full of a lot of very powerful discussions and conversations, Ramayana or for Rama and Hanuman about his loyalty to Rama, his willingness to do whatever it takes to win Sita back.

In the process, he gathers together both gods that incarnate themselves as monkeys and various other monkey manifestations and they create a monkey bridge that connects India with Sri Lanka.  You've ... surely you've played the game, when you were growing up, Barrel of Monkeys.  This is the Ramayana.  You didn't know you were toying around with Hinduism.  See, it just creeps in everywhere you look.  So, the Barrel of Monkeys is actually from the Ramayana epic because every monkey grabs hold of the arms and the legs of the next monkey and they create this bridge.  It allows the armies to come across.  In the process, he takes some mountains which he also does to, you know, level the low places and all this – part of this whole thing.  And this army of monkeys for a long time has a huge battle with Ravana.  And Ravana is defeated, which happens toward the end of the Ramayana.  And finally Sita is rescued.

Just typical almost in the fashion of a true British movie or a soap opera, right at the point when you think the whole thing is going to be climaxed in this wonderful reunion and Sita's finally rescued, Rama says: Well, wait a minute.  How do I know she's been faithful to me?  So the whole thing is put off.  So, in the process there's several versions of this, but essentially one of the main versions of it is that Rama decides that she has not been faithful.  So Sita is cast into the fire.  But the fire takes Sita and hands her back, saying to Rama: She has been faithful.

That's where the whole practice of sati comes from.  Sati is the name of the woman he's out rescuing, but the expression – sati is the way it's spelt today – is referring to the offering of a woman on the funeral pyre.  It's supposed to be the sign of a faithful woman.  So it was typically done that if you wanted to prove that you've been faithful to your husband, you're entirely devoted to him, that when your husband died, if he preceded you in death, that the wife would join him on the funeral pyre.  This is, of course, another big part of the famous story, Around the World in 80 Days.  This is where he gets his wife from.  He rescues her from sati – if you're a fan of Around the World in 80 Days.  I mentioned last time that sati is still practised in India, but it is illegal, but it's still practised and occurs – like, there were two that happened last summer when I was there and this was widely reported in the papers, but it's technically illegal.

There's also a period where she is swallowed up by the mother goddess of the earth.  We talked about the Ma before.  So all this is part of the Ramayana.  It's a very famous epic.

In fact, I wanted to read you a portion of this – the very end – where she actually comes and he doubts.  So he finds out that she's been rescued.  He asked her to be bathed and bedeck herself and bring her here.  So she gets all the jewels on.  She takes a bath and all of this.  Finally she comes.  And listen to what he says.  Now, this is very interesting.  He says to her.  This is where kind of your heart gets a little, you know, turned when you ... because you're expecting this marvellous, you know, joining.  I have slain the enemy, said Rama.  I have recovered you.  I have done my duty as a Kshatriya.  Remember, Kshatriyas are what?

Answer: Warriors.

Warriors.  My vow is now fulfilled.  So she looks ...  She's incomprehens...  She can't understand why his face looks this way.  His face was darkened for some reason.  Then he spoke even harsher words.  It was not from mere attachment to you that I waged this grim battle, but in the discharge of my duty as a Kshatriya.  It gives me no joy now to get you back for debiety envelops you like a dark cloud of smoke.  What do you wish me to do now?  You must live alone.  We cannot live together.  You cannot stay under the protection of any of our kinsmen or friends.  How can a Kshatriya take back a wife who has lived so long in a stranger's house?  Her eyes flashed with fire.  Unworthy words have you spoken, she said.  My ears have heard and my heart is broken.  She goes on and on.  So she is so upset.  So he turns to Lakshman – remember you saw Lakshman on the icons as well, his brother.  Fetch the faggots – that's ... those are wood.  Fetch the faggots, Lakshman, and kindle the fire.  So he kindles the fire.  All this is the building up to the sati.

This is the kind of drama of the whole thing.  Quite a remarkable story.  Every Indian knows this story very, very well.  It's used today to dramatise great heroism.  Rama is considered the great hero.  It's emphasises, believe it or not, wifely devotion, husband devotion, because eventually they are finally united, but there's a lot of mistrust involved.  To recite the Ramayana is considered to be a religious act.  You can receive tremendous karmic satisfaction by reciting the Ramayana.  So it's recited at every major event.  It's been cartoonised – put into cartoons – and therefore it's very widely known around the country.  OK, any comments about the Ramayana?  I think that's about all we have time to ...  Yes.

Question: ??? irony ??? Hindu literature ???

Irony is definitely a literary feature in Indian material.  They use that as one of their literary devices.  How much it plays in the Ramayana?  I don't think it's a major theme in the Ramayana, but certainly it's something that is ...  They have the full use of literary devices in Hindu literature and the Ramayana would be a part of that to some degree.  Is there a particular ...

Question: ??? just curious that what it's meant ??? in the sense of cultural ???

Right.  I think the thing that is more prevalent – I don't know if you call this irony or not – but they do tend to play a lot on how popular religion intersects with Hindu philosophy.  So you have the irony, if you will, as I've just read to you, that the whole thing is played out on the popular level of a man trying to win his wife back, or his lover back.  So that's a very popular theme that you would find in any soap opera or anything else.  And yet, when it actually comes down to the explanation of why he does it, he does it for these very lofty spiritual reasons that have nothing to do with his ...  So he actually says: I'm detached from you.  I don't have any emotional feelings for you.  I'm doing this because of my duty.

We'll actually see more with the Gita.  You have throughout all this literature, I think, an internal war going on within Hinduism about the whole dharmic system.  What is a true Hindu?  What does it mean to be a true Indian?  Is it to be totally enrolled in life, invested in life, poured out in life – family, children, all of that?  Or is it the ascetic who leaves life and who separates from worldly pleasures?  And that is actually a war that goes on within the Hindu literature.  And so you have that toyed with a lot.  And I think in that sense, irony plays a role.  But I think the ... it's actually played out more ... maybe more overtly in some ways than you might expect because this is very, very plain in the text here.  He says point blank: I don't have any attachments for you – when you get right down to the final battle.  We'll see that even more with the Bhagavad-Gita.

The Mahabharata, which you know, from the word maha means great, bharat is the word for India – the great epic of India.  This is actually a collection of books and books of poetic material.  It's considered to be the longest collection of verses in the world.  18 books – a quarter of a million lines of verse.  Hard to memorise that.  A quarter of a million lines of verse.  18 books.  Probably composed around 300BC, but gone through many, many changes throughout.

If you had to ask what is the central theme of the Mahabharata, it's a contest between two families – the Pandavas and the Kauravas – and they're fighting each other throughout the book for possession of north India.  This is actually written for people ages 8 to 12.  So you have excerpts from the Mahabharata in nice picture format that families would read to their children – though this involves a lot of blood and gore and people getting their heads cut off.  It's nevertheless written kind of in a gentler kinder version of the whole thing.  But nevertheless, I think there's actually pictures here of people like ... here's a god that's been beheaded.  There's no head.  I don't know if this would pass like the Focus on the Family chart or whatever, but you have ??? find other beheaded people.  There's ... here's a god that has multiple arrows stabbed into him.  But it's not shown in a way that's like overly shocking.  This is like probably a typical movie that a lot of kids watch today.  There's sati shown in here – women being burned to death.  You've got – O let's see if ??? we can find someone holding their head.  Anyway, I can't find the holding the head off the hand, but there's definitely a lot of fights and battles in here.

The most important part of this is the Bhagavad-Gita which comes toward the end.  The Bhagavad-Gita is a part of this overall epic.  I wanted to ask: Did anybody bring their Gitas with them today?  Bless your heart.  I meant to tell you to bring your Gitas today because we do want to spend a little time looking at the Bhagavad-Gita – making a few comments about it.  So take careful notes, because I want to make sure that this book is in its context.  How many of you have actually read the Gita in its entirety at this point?  OK, we've got some good ???  OK, great.  Most of you, I'm sure, at the very last chapter, right?  Yeah.  No problem.  It would be really good to finish that part of the assignment up because it won't take long.  I don't know – how long does it take you to read this in its entirety, because a lot of it is Sanskrit.  When you actually read the text, it's not that long, is it?

Comment: No.

You can read through it.

Comment: ??? the pages are so small.  It's a real page-turner.

Yeah, it's a real page ...  Man, you can flip through pages.  I mean, there's only six verses per page.  So, you know, you can probably plough through it pretty quick.  This Annie Besant version I like because it gives individual versification.  At some point we may have some quibbles about her translation, but certainly it's a nice one.  I hope that you found it helpful.

As I told you before, the Bhagavad-Gita is the place where this real battle occurs – not just the battle that this book describes, but the real battle between various dharmic tensions within the Indian context.  And this is why the Gita's so important.  It's actually written in relatively simple Sanskrit.  So this is ... has the added benefit that not only is it the place where all of the margas actually meet – and there's enough ambiguity that you can find in the Gita all kinds of ways to reinforce whatever your previous position was.  So it's a nice kind of way that everybody can agree upon the Gita.  The Brahmins love it.  The Kshatriyas love it.  The popular religion people love it.  Everybody loves the Gita.  They find in the Gita a source for their beliefs.  There are a lot of ambiguities about the Gita.

But essentially it is creating the place where this whole tension can be resolved or at least talked about and lived out between the dharma of caste (which would involve your responsibilities in this world – warfare, kings, family life, schools, all of that) or the dharma of denial and renunciation.  This whole tension we discussed earlier.  There are three ways in which the Gita could be interpreted to resolve this tension.

One theory is that you are first to start out with you're to be a wandering ascetic.  And you're to wander through the forest and you are to renounce the world.  You're to gain spiritual insight.  And because of your insight you are given the authority to reign and to rule.  So at least all these great kings and rajahs of North India in ancient times were believed, according the stories, to have had a previous experience in their lifetime of self-denial.  That's one way.  So you deny first and then you become.  You have the right to reign with sovereignty.

The second idea is what we have looked at in passing on the chart – if you have your chart, you can once again refer to that.  Because it's where you have the idea that actually everybody will go through four stages of life, the last of which is the sanyasin or the world-renouncer.  If you remember the four stages, we have the student stage.  You have the householder stage.  You have the forest-dweller.  And you have the sanyasin or world-renouncer.  Going through this four stages has become idealised because the Mahabharata in general and the Gita in particular highlights this as a possibility.  This is how on one interpretation that essentially you would go through various stages of life.  This would involve active engagement in life as a learner and as a household father/mother, you know, bearing children, raising children.  And then you begin to separate from life at retirement stage, live in a community or ashram of people who have withdrawn from the world, but you're not completely separated.  And finally a world-renouncer.  You renounce everything. That usually involves a pilgrimage to Varanasi where you'll die in Varanasi.  This is like the ideally be cremated on one of the gods there in Varanasi.  And I've seen people who've done that.  I've seen people who, you know, old men who arrive on the sacred thread.  All they have is the ... they have a little pot that carry.  And they have nothing else.  They've renounced everything.  And they go down there.  And what they want to do is they want to die with the Ganges water being poured into their mouth.  Now, I've always said that if you haven't died, one cup of Ganges water will push you over the edge.  So, there is no mistake that there is a nice happy intersection between the Ganges water and death.

I mean, I ... my biggest shock actually with ... and I had been there several times, but my biggest memory was actually with Gordon-Cornwell students.  We were on a boat in Varanasi, right there in front of this famous god.  And Shaun Doyle, one of our students, looked and said: Look, there's a cow floating down the river.  Somebody had thrown a cow in.  This dead cow was floating and there was all these crows and stuff, like picking its flesh off.  All right, so he was absolutely horrified.  Then, to the gasp of one of our female students who was also in the boat and another one of our ... Alan Yea, said: Look at that: a human body.  A human body, bloated with Ganges water, also with crows and stuff picking the flesh off it, floating down the river.  Somebody had thrown someone's body in.  They couldn't afford a cremation.   They'd thrown the body ... or it could have been a Brahmin.  Brahmins don't have to be cremated.  So, it could have been a Brahmin or it could have been somebody who couldn't afford it, but they cast their body. So this is a ... this is not a very sanitised place.  And yet you can buy this Ganga water in big jugs there and people take it all the way home.  Like if ??? say you have someone who's dying who can't make the journey, you buy it in these jugs and they say mantras over it and you bring it home.  And they even have vessels you can buy – special little like copper vessels that you pour it into and then you pour it into your grandfather/father's mouth as they die – even if they're in Haridwar or Bhopal or wherever.  It was quite a remarkable, shocking experience.

So this sanyasin idea – you'll see these sanyasins all over the banks of the Gan... in Varanasi especially – people who claim to have renounced everything and are coming to die.  The Gita is part of the intersection of this because it raises the possibility of one way to resolve this tension – this tension (a) be a renouncer first then you rule and reign or you go through the process and you're renouncer end.

The Gita creates the possibility – what if somebody could be fully engaged in the world as a householder or whatever but be inwardly detached, inwardly detached.  That's a new possibility.  It's the idea of outward fulfilling life's duties but being inwardly detached from those duties.  So the Gita plays with this thing a lot.

Question: ??? the Gita resolves things ???

The Gita resolves it by saying rather than looking at it chronologically like when do you become detached – either early or late – and separating the two as, you know, when are you involved in life, when are you separated from life – what if you are involved with life, but inwardly, in your heart, you are detached from it.  So you could be a householder but be ... have the heart of a sanyasin.  The popular religion uses this to point out and say: You don't have to be a Brahmin.  You can have the heart and devotion of a Brahmin.  You don't have to be, you know, if you're a guru – in fact, modern day India, you don't have to go to an ashram and live with a guru in an ashram.  You can be ... work in the World Trade Towers.  You know, there are ??? Indians working there who claim they follow some guru somewhere.  They had inwardly detached themself, but they're involved in the middle of financial investment and they're bankers and whatever else.  So that kind of thing is now possible in the Gita.

Question: Is that the third resolution?  ??? the first and you detach and then you migrate ??? 

Right

Question: And the second is you detach ??? the process.  And the third is you're the inward/outward?

Right.

Comment: OK.

Those are the three possibilities.  The word Bhagavad-Gita – did we discuss what this means?  What does the word mean – Bhagavad-Gita?

Answer: Song of the lord.

Song of the lord.  Bhagavan is a word for lord.  Gita is the word for song.  It comes in the sixth of the eighteenth book of the Mahabharata.  And it essentially, as we saw actually in the slides, it's a conversation that takes place between Krishna and Arjuna in the chariots prior to a battle.  Arjuna is the human hero of the story.  He's on this field known as Kurukshetra.  They're about to have a battle on this field.  And at the beginning of the battle, Arjuna is extremely grieved about the possibility of killing his kinfolk in this battle.  So, he basically tells Krishna: I'm unwilling to engage in war against friends and relatives.  Krishna responds by saying: You must do your duty.  You're a Kshatriya.  Kshatriyas are warriors. Besides, he says, if you understand the true nature of the soul, the atman, this shouldn't bother you because the atman is indestructible.  So all of the philosophical tat twam asi, the whole Upanishadic vision, is now recapitulated and expressed in popular form through the lips of Krishna.  So everything is coming together in the Gita.

I mentioned that it's relatively simply Sanskrit.  In fact, the traditional way – even the way I learned Sanskrit – was through this process where you ... rather than study Sanskrit grammar and all that which ... maybe we spent maybe six months doing that.  But essentially, once you get a few basics out of the way, then you actually translate the Gita.  You learn it inductively.  So basically inductive form of learning how to understand how Sanskrit works.  So, most of the schools in India that teach Sanskrit, teach it through the Gita.  So everybody's spending their time learning the Gita – understanding it, translating it, working with it.  This is like the standard way it's done.  So the Gita becomes very, very important.

You should have a sheet that has on it the Mahavakyas of the Bhagavad-Gita, the great sayings of the  Bhagavad-Gita.  If you don't have your text with you, this may help you a little bit – because we can look at this sermon or this sayings of Krishna and Arjuna and point out a few things about it.

Chapter 1 of the Gita is Arjuna's dilemma.  It points out the whole dilemma he feels about being stressed out about having to perform his duties as Kshatriya when it involves people in his own family who are claiming the territory.  Krishna essentially tries to point out the limitations of his perspective.  You're a Kshatriya.  Rise and fight.  He explains this by philosophical means, as I mentioned.

And if you look at chapter 2, verse 19 – which is the first verse on the Mahavakya list – you have this statement: He who regardeth this – this is the dweller in the body – as a slayer and he who thinketh he has slain, both of them are ignorant.  He slayeth not, nor is he slain.  So there is nobody that slays, nobody that is slain.  The atman is the only true reality.  Everything else is a matter of the phenomenal world.  So, this is a powerful philosophical statement.  He goes on to say in 2:22, as you see there on the second Mahavakya: As a man casting off worn out garments taketh on new ones, so the dweller in the body casts off worn out bodies and entereth into others that are new.  What is the dweller in the body?  What's he talking about?

Answer: Atman.

Atman.  So again, this is a kind of a gnostic conception that the body is but a shell.  The true atman within is the one who dwells within.  Don't you see also how this connects with that theme of the Upanishads – the antaryamin?  The one who dwells within – remember that?  This is where the antaryamin is connected from the Upanishadic vision to the idea that the atman is not just dwelling within passively, but the atman is actually dwelling within in a way that could be animated by some deity.  And eventually we'll see, later on in the Gita, how Vishnu goes through this transformation and Arjuna sees all gods present in Vishnu – or in Krishna.

So that's chapter 2.  Chapter 3 he tells him that all activity is a sacrifice if done in the right spirit.  This is the whole thing about this inner detachment idea that begins to emerge in chapter 3.  That, even though you are outwardly a warrior, you can be inwardly a sanyasin.  Because what he says is: If you do your duty.  So he's really at this stage in his life, Arjuna's a householder.  His family is fighting another family.  So, he's telling him: If you fight as a Kshatriya, but you do it with the right spirit, the right attitude – you do it with the, you know, with the ... for the right purpose, then you actually are living the life of a sanyasin.  That's chapter 3.  You can be inwardly detached in the midst of life.  You can have activity.  You can have pursuits.  And this is a powerful, popularisation of Hindu ideals – because this now makes it possible for anybody in India anywhere to be a devoted Hindu essentially without accepting the Brahminical ideal.  So this becomes a ... again a powerful anti-Brahminical dissent.  The possibility is open now for anybody.  This is the same ... this is a reaction, a lot of this interpretation at least, to Buddhist ideals that have come in and challenged the Brahminical ideal as well.

Now chapter 4 is what swings things – the fourth discourse – to another possible interpretation.  Because in chapter 4, Krishna begins to outline at least two margas.  He explains the way of works and the way of knowledge – karma marga, jnana marga.  You remember how we showed ... we said last time, what are the three ideals that they can be dealing with?  What are the three margas that they're going to be – they're always in tension, in all of this discussion?

Answer: Knowledge ???

Right.  Knowledge, works and devotion.  OK.  Well, once again, these three ideals become displayed in the fourth discourse – chapter 4.  The problem is, or you could say the beauty of – I mean, depend on how you interpret it – the problem with this is that it's unclear whether Krishna is saying in the discourse: These are all various ideal pathways – there's the way of knowledge, there's the way of works, there's the way of devotion.  Some will follow the way of knowledge.  Some will follow the way of works.  Some will follow the way of devotion.  Or if he's saying: There's the way of knowledge, yes.  There's the way works, yes.  But if you really want to achieve moksha, follow the way of devotion.  Devotion to me encompasses all the other margas.  If that's true, then he is essentially creating this paradigm we looked at yesterday, or last time, where you have knowledge and works leading to devotion.  But not everybody agrees with that.  That's a matter of a lot of dispute among various groups in India.  It's here that he begins to play out the possibility of Vishnaivite worship with devotion.

In fact, if you look at in the third and fourth Mahavakyas there: Whenever there is a decay of righteousness – and that's a really bizarre translation of that because actually the term that's used there is a decay of dharma.  So it's really ... this is a stretch for her to talk about ...  This is a Western interpretation of it.  But what he's actually saying: Whenever there is a decay of people doing their duties, Kshatriyas being Kshatriyas, Brahmins being Brahmins – so that could be used to not just talk about the kali age but talk about the possibility of actually ...  I mean, the Brahmins interpret this as saying he is underscoring the fact that we want to honour all four of the castes – Brahmins should be Brahmins, Kshatriyas should be Kshatriyas, Vaisyas Vaisyas, Sudras Sudras.  And even, by the way, Ghandi accepts this interpretation.  And Ghandi insists there's nothing wrong with the caste system.  It just has to be improved and made more dignified, but the idea of people in separate categories is not a problem for him.

So, whenever there's a decay of dharma, O Bharita, and there is exaltation of adharma – it's the exact same word with the negated "a" in front of it – then I myself come forth.  So what he's saying is: Whenever people don't do their dharma – so he's telling Arjuna: If you don't fulfil your dharma as a Kshatriya and you relent from this battle – then that's part of the decay of the world.  Part of the perfect age is that the people are doing their dharma.  People are fulfilling their life calling.  So this is the idea that avatars come forth in order to restore this  ... the caste system – for the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil doers, for the sake of firmly establishing dharma.  That's what the word there in the Sanskrit.  I am born from age to age.

So this is that passage that many of you quoted in your papers on avatar – and it's a good one to quote – because this is one of the key passages in the Gita at least that underscores the idea of avatars coming regularly to earth to deliver, to save and certainly possibly to restore the caste system to its original purity which is essentially a pro-Brahminical stand.  Because if the caste system is protected, then you actually have a preservation of the system as it currently exists, even if you allow freedom within it.

Comments about that or questions about that? It's important ... the whole ambiguity of the Gita's important.

The next whole section, chapters 5 to 10 – we won't got step by step – but essentially goes through a lot of discussion of the nature of the supreme deity, attributes.  There are people who do argue, and some books are arranged this way, that he introduces yet another marga – the way of yoga.  And also there is a discussion on the power of the whole OM – which we've discussed already as well.  The OM emphasis in the Gita is actually, I think – see if I can find this here – he essentially says that in the OM all of the gods are manifested and known.  I think that it's once again reinforcing the idea that you find in all of Hinduism that we can't introduce new theology without touching base with all of the basic points that everybody already believes.  So in that sense, it's a reinforcement idea.

Question: ???

That's ...  I don't have the reference to that.  That's my problem.  I was trying to look for it.  I don't see it here.  I mean, the passage I'm looking at actually is eleventh chapter, 1 through 9, where he makes that point.  But he didn't actually tie it into the OM at this point and I have to ...  I don't have it properly marked here.  I keep giving my copy of the Gita away and I keep getting new ones.  So this one doesn't have any marks on it.

Then in the eleventh chapter, that's the famous theophany, or whatever you want to call it – the revelation of Krishna, of his universal form.  And it's during this discourse that once again you have all these strands of Hinduism flowing.  You have Arjuna sees in Krishna all of the aspects of Vishnu and eventually he sees all the pantheons of the Vedic gods.  He sees Brahma.  He sees everybody.  This is what later gets really brought to for by the International Society of Krishna consciousness (ISHCON) which tries to argue that actually Krishna is the personal name of Brahman.  Forget about nirguna.  OK, we're now saying that nirguna Brahman has revealed himself – not itself – as Krishna.  So they're trying to trump ... I mean, the ISHCON tries to actually leap over that saguna/nirguna gulf and try to essentially establish Krishna as the supreme personality of godhead.  That's taken from this chapter.  We haven't actually discussed ISHCON yet, but just to give you a little feel for that.

Arjuna sees this.  I mean, 11:15 here.  Chapter 11, verse 15.  The eleventh discourse.  Within thy form – this is Arjuna speaking – within they form, O god, all the gods I see.  All grades of beings with a distinctive marks – that's their iconography – Brahma, the lord upon his lotus throne, the rishis all, the serpents, the divine, with mouths, eyes, arm, breasts, mult..., breasts, multitudinous.  I see there everywhere unbounded form, beginning, middle, end.  On and on and on and on.  He goes on and on describing all of what he sees.

Now I believe I had in here ... Didn't I have that at one point – that picture of that?  Yeah.  This is one example of that where he's ....  This is that point in the Gita where Krishna is showing him his transcendental form.  Arjuna is worshipping it there.  This is of course mudra we looked at – the mudra greeting.  This is a form of he's welcoming all of these gods and goddesses.  And this is one depiction of it.  But there's many, many depictions of this particular scene in the Bhagavad-Gita, but that's a picture of that there.

Finally, and this is perhaps why I think that the Bhakti Movement has a strong case for saying this movement is showing this paradigm – that devotion is supreme – is that the last discourses, 12 to 18, do develop quite profoundly the concept of Bhakti, devotion.  And it really culminates – and this is important in the way Hindu discourse occurs – it culminates with a very controversial how you translate this passage – but a very, very important one because the idea in Hinduism is often that you can give all kinds of teaching, but then at the very end you give your greatest revelation.  And so what happens at the end of a discourse carries more weight than what may be found dead in the middle of the discourse.  So the fact that the whole discourse comes out to this statement in 18:66 – chapter 18 – this is one of the most ...

I must have it on here surely.  Yeah.  On the last Mahavakya.  This is Annie Besant's translation: abandoning all duties, come unto me alone for shelter.  Sorrow not.  I will liberate thee from all sins.  Now what that literally says is abandon all dharmas.  Now what does that mean?  What does it mean to abandon all dharmas?  This has been translated as (as she does) abandon all of your duties – which we've seen earlier the reinforcement of duties.  People say abandon all other religious activities.  Abandon all religions.  There's been … O a huge range of interpretations of what Krishna means by this.

But essentially it has been interpreted to mean that Krishna is saying: If you come to me, I will liberate you from all sins.  So don't worry about all of these dharmas.  Just focus on devotion to me.  And this is why you have the supreme focus on Krishna as the one who can liberate you from all sins.  This also developed the idea which has made this whole discussion in our syllabus on avatars a little more complicated, because in the avatar concept – even with the Vishnaivite ten avatars – they're all considered to be partial avatars.  So god manifests himself in a partial way in Rama or whatever.  But they claim that this text argues for a purnanar – a pure avatar.  Where we get our word – that's where our word pure comes from.  A purnanar avatar would be an avatar that is ... have complete absolute manifestation of the fullness of deity – which is quite a remarkable claim to make.  This is the butter-theif.  You know, this is the same little fellow that was mischievous and stole butter and all that.  That he's now being proclaimed as the ... all deities present in him.  He manifests everything.  And if you just are devoted to Krishna, then all your sins will be forgiven you.  Yeah.

Question: She translates it sin?

She translated it: Abandon all duties.  O, O, no.  Liberate you from all sin.  You can also translate it as the encrustments of karma.  But the word karma is actually not used here.  But it's a word that can be related to that.  So, yeah, it's ... it is often translated as sin.  But it would not be sin the way we view sin.  You're quite right.  Part of the whole Gita is trying to create a functional theism where people can sin against a personal god.  So the whole idea of the impersonalness of karmic law is slightly watered down in this statement.

Question: If you picked up a Gita translated by its own more recently, would they have chosen another word or would they stick the same?

They often will say the word sin.  I have about six or eight translations.  I actually don't recall how consistent that is.  I think it's fairly widespread, but I can look and give you some thoughts on that.  All right, any other comments or questions about the Bhagavad-Gita?

Question: How in conversation would people be compared Krishna and karma

I think depends on the person you're talking to.  I mean, I debated a ISHCON man at Gordon College last year, who I knew, going into it, he wasn't like your popular Krishnaivite follower.  He was a member of ISHCON.  So he believes that Krishna is the supreme consciousness of godhead.  But I also knew that he's a Hindu.  And so that still was there.  So, we went on and on and on about the personal nature of God and all this.  So it sounded very Christian.  But I actually kept pressing the point – because he argues for the distinction between – the eternal distinction between the devotee and the god.  That will make you think that – and it certainly gave the impression to those who were there at Gordon College that night – that you don't have the kind of monistic syrupy ocean that you would find in Advaitism.  But I knew actually that he doesn't believe that.

So I kept pressing him.  I said: Now, OK.  You're saying there's distinctions, but I kept saying: Do you believe in an ontological distinction?  He didn't know what ... how to respond to that.  So I ... so OK, I said: I believe that if you take a glass of water, for example, and you take some water out of that, you've got water here and you have water here.  This water is separate from this water, but they are of the same essence.  Water is water.  Are you telling me that Krishna is of a completely different essence than you are or not?  OK, he kept evading it, evading it, evading ... but I kept pressing it.  Were any of you there?  Were you there?  I'm trying to think ...  The place was packed out with ..  But anyway, he eventually admitted to the whole group there, that he did not believe in the ultimate ontological distinction between Krishna and the devotee.  This is a functional distinction within devotion, but not ultimate distinction.  So I think he'd be ... it's very, very careful.

But the majority of Krishna followers are actually operating at the realm  of ... where is it ... at the realm of the ... of this realm: Krishna and the gopis and all that – the butter thief and all that.  That's the more popular Krishna stuff.  So I often will say ... talk about ... O, you know, would you like it if your husband treated you this way?  18,000 women he had sex with and then after he had children they killed them all.  I tell you, this is like a long way from the Bhagavad-Gita.  So I think it depends on who you're talking to ... how you deal with it.  But Krishna is a powerful force in India.  Rama and Krishna are really ever present.  And you have to deal with it – no doubt about it.

Question: Is that the third way of resolving ...

I would say that there's two great insights.  Do I say one insight?

Interjection: You say insight.

Yeah, insight of the Gita.  I guess the insight of the Gita in relation to number 2 is that one can fulfil your social obligations while being inwardly renounced.  That third choice that resolves kind of a age-long debate in Hinduism about whether you should be involved in the world or renounce the world.  Is the godly king or the sanyasin the real ...?  And I think this actually goes back to the fact that what are the Aryans who invade India?  What would they be?  What would be their orientation – Aryan invaders?  Are they going to be priests?

Answer: Kshatriyas.

No, they're going to be Kshatriyas – because see they're the ones invading, warring.  So how did the priests become greater than the Kshatriyas.  I mean, you can understand it if the Kshatriyas were on top.  That would show a clear victory for the warriors.  But you don't.  You have the priests on top.  So there's a tension.

And by the way, in India, Kshatriyas and Brahmins are both considered high caste.  So you have – as well as Viasyas for that matter – but you have a clear idea that the Kshatriyas and the Brahmins are at the very, very top.  So there's a tension between the two.  So, I think this Gita is the final way that the Kshatriyas kind of have their last say on the Brahmins.  At least, that's one interpretation.  That, you know, we, we yes we're Kshatriyas, but in our hearts we can be a true Brahmin.  We can be detached and all that.

The other insight of the Gita, would be I think be, I guess, the larger point.  That's that the Gita is a battlefield not just about Arjuna.  It's a battlefield for the whole philosophy of India and the whole tension between jnana marga, karma marga and bhakti marga.  The three major karmic movements in India all find their foothold in the Gita.  The Brahmins find it as reinforcing certain philosophies that they have.  The karmic ideas of your dharma, your duties, are found their birth as well as the Bhakti Movement.  So it's all there.  Yes.

Question: So, just like sati ...

Sati is still practised in India, but it is illegal, but they will do it in the name of religion.  I mean, the most obvious example is taken from this, is where we get our word thug from.  The word thug is a Sanskrit word.  You didn't know you knew a Sanskrit word.  Thugi is a god in India.  And what they do ... what they would do is that if you wanted to make an offering to this god, then you would hide on the side of the road till some poor hapless soul walks by.  And you'd jump out of the woods and you would attack them and kill them.  And they were called thugis who did this.  And people in the West, it got translated as thug – someone who would like beat you up as an offering to a god.  So, this is also illegal in India, but it still happens.  And so that ... yes, that impulse is there.  I mean, I would say it's a marginalised movement.  It's like a lot of these things.  The main thrust is to try to spiritualise the whole thing.  But there are people who literally try to go out and kill people for the sake of their devotion to these gods.  It's quite remarkable.


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OK, I want us to move quickly on to the final lecture handout, because I want to give a little time today – and we may have to suspend part of the lecture until next time.  I've asked today for Joy to talk a little bit about her experience in a guru movement.  So, if you'll turn to that.  And I'll maybe spend just a few minutes introducing this.  In fact, maybe what I'll do, for the sake of time, why don't we just forget the lecture ...  I'm looking at this lecture: Modern Day Guruism in India and the West.  I'm going to come back to this and maybe explore this next time.

 

Turn over.  Let me just introduce a few things from the terms to you on the back.  And then that will be helpful just to kind of introduce this.  The word guru literally means one who leads from darkness to light.  Guru – gu means darkness, ru means light – guru.  And essentially, you have in India today and all through history you have the emergence of guruism which is usually a Brahmin who has special knowledge.  He has tapped into it and has developed a bhakti following around himself.  Some of the gurus claim that they are incarnations of one of the ancient gods.  Some of the gurus claim that they are channels through which you can receive the blessings of those gods.  And it's again another way where the jnana marga joins the bhakti marga, because you have essentially devotional practices that are directed toward a human teacher known as a guru.

For the purpose of this class, we're actually going to focus on some of the gurus that have come West and are very well-known.  ??? Ramakrishna – we''ll ??? to him later – very, very famous guru.  Also you have Swami Vivekananda – that's the most famous picture of him.  These are probably two of the most famous portraits of Vivekananda – very, very famous.  This picture of Ramakrishna is also very famous.  You see this everywhere.  Vivekananda is the disciple of Ramakrishna and you may have heard of the  Ramakrishna mission all over the Western world – all over the US, in Boston, everywhere.  This is this guru movement.  We'll talk more about that.  ??? Yogananda – another very famous guru who came to the West.  And I would say these are three of the most important that came to the Western world.  Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna mission and Yogananda.  Like he came to Boston 1920s – established his mission right here in Boston.  Very, very famous guru.  We'll look at that a little bit later.

Sai Baba is the most famous today right now in India.  And this is like current news.  This is the rage in India.  I don't believe he's an Indian.  I believe he's actually born in the Fiji Islands.  But he has become the rage – the worship of Sai Baba.

I even have some of his sayings here.  This is very typical of the gurus.  I have come to light the lamp of love in your hearts to see that it shines day by day with added lustre.  I have come, not to disturb or destroy any faith, but to confirm each in his own faith.  We'll see this is a strong message of Vivekananda.  So that the Christian becomes a better Christian, the Moslem a better Moslem and the Hindu a better Hindu.  There's only one religion: the religion of love.  There's only one language: the language of the heart.  There's only one caste: the caste of humanity.  There's only one law: the law of karma.  Only one god: he's omnipresent – especially in Sai Baba.  Love, love, love.

And, O let me tell you, if you only knew how much he's been accused of all kinds of sexual ... I mean, the papers are constantly full of it.  People charging that, you know, he has involve in this or that affairs and on and on and on because he believes in love, love, love.  And apparently he does start his day with love.

You cannot see me, but I'm the light you see by.  You cannot hear me, but I'm the sound you hear by.  You cannot know me, but I am the truth by which you live.  On and on and on.  Here this goes on.  Listen to this thing here.  He says – this is kind of some of his teaching – let me give you the last one real quick.  Children have mortality.  Now this is Sai Baba talking.  Remember that you were created in my image and likeness.  Perfect.  These guys don't mind making big claims – as Joy will be sure to share with us in a minute in her experience.  Live up to this image in all planes.  Live like masters.  Walk this earth with your hands, heads, held high.  Your spirit soaring, your hearts open to love and believe in yourself and god with you.  Then all will go well.  See me everywhere.  Talk to me and love me who is in each.  Then from each I will respond and bring you into glory.  This is from Sai Baba.

All over north India – I don't know if you noticed when you were there, but everybody's wearing these on their necks and little ... like if you go in the shops and all ... little pictures of Sai Baba.  And I was in the other day talking to one and I said: Tell me, do you worship him?  O yes, I worship him.  I went down to Delhi.  I saw him.  The minute I saw him I knew he was god.  This is a guy ??? you know, just an ordinary shop.  I said: How did you know he was god?  Because he's performing miracles.  People are being healed.  People are shouting out.  He's and I just had this ... the minute I saw him I had this strong feeling I'm in the presence of god.  And he says: I've dedicated myself to follow Sai Baba.  This is like just a bloke in a shop selling cloth.  And this is not some, you know, crazy people.  These are people, ordinary people, who deeply believe in Sai Baba.  Just one example of this.

I want to develop more later, next class period – Vivekananda and Ghandi and RSS movement – some of the way this develops.  But I want to give time to Joy to come and talk to us a little bit.  Joy spent over 20 years of her life following a guru.  And so it's a very rare, really rare, thing for someone who's had her background to come to faith in Christ and to be in this class.  So, we will be really honoured if you'd come and talk to us a little bit about your experience and anything that you want to say to us that might help us understand gurusim.  We would be really grateful.  And I hope there'll be some time to ask some questions.

OK.  Raji said he was the lord of the universe and he had a following worldwide.  It wasn't just North America and India.  He travelled extensively for many years, starting in 1970 or so.  His father had been the satguru which was said to be the true guru – the one that comes in every age.  Buddha was one.  Jesus was one.  Krishna was one.  And he patterned himself on Krishna.  And when he was ...  Well his father had died and then the mantle fell on him when he was 8.

And when he was 12, I want to read you a couple of things he said at a large gathering of over a million people in India.  He said: I have come so powerful – meaning, this incarnation, this age, I have so powerful.  I have come for the world.  Give me your love.  I will give you peace.  Come to me.  I will relieve you of your suffering.  I am the source of peace in this world.  All I ask is your love.  And he asked for devotion.

So a lot of us tried to love him, but this whole bhakti thing – how do you know if you're really loving the guru?  Well, you're supposed to feel it in your heart.  But what if you can't feel it in your heart?  If it's not true – and only loving Christ is true – how can you really perform bhakti?  Well, you go through the motions.  You meditate.  You worship the guru.  You touch his feet.  You kiss his feet.  You strive to be in his presence.  And you hope for some kind of experience.  And when that experience doesn't come or doesn't come to stay, then you get into this works mentality.  I have to achieve.  I have to maintain.  I have to attain this experience because it's all in experience.  It's not based on propositional truth.  It's based on what kind of inner experience can you have.

So guru Maraji taught four techniques of meditation: to see the divine light, to hear the divine sound or music, to taste divine nectar and to know the divine word or the divine name or the vibration that pre-exists everything.  And that vibration is behind your breath and he said: Jesus taught this.  In the beginning was the word.  The word was with God.  The word was God.  That same vibration, that same word, I will reveal to you through meditation.  So that particular technique involved following your breath and trying to find the thing that was behind your breath and to be merged with that thing that was behind your breath which was like the source of all the world which guru Maharaji was merged with and that you too, yes, you can merge with it and then you will know this peace and love that I'm talking about.

He would quote Krishna saying to Arjuna from the Gita: Remember my name and fight.  Remember this word and fight.  Be in this world and do what you've got to do, like you were just teaching.  But you will be detached because you can be attached to this inner vibration that I'm showing you through meditation.  So practise meditation really long, really hard.  Get my dahshan because it's my grace and I will enable you to be more deeply attached to this vibration.  And that was what he said.

And it didn't really work for me.  But I just thought: You really ought to follow it because if someone says: I am the source of peace in this world.  I can show you god.  Then you ought to probably follow it.  But it gets very confusing, because what was the enemy?  The enemy was what he called mind, by which he meant conceptual thinking.  You're living in your concepts.  You're just living in concepts.  You need to live in real reality.  But it kind of also got transposed to mean: Hey, by the way, don't think about what I'm telling you.  Just follow me blindly.  If you're really devoted to me, you won't question anything.  And, if you're not experiencing what I'm talking about, then you're not really devoted to me.  And therefore it's your fault.  So therefore you need to be more devoted to me and not question me.

These are a couple pictures of him.  This is with the Krishna crown.  He often had a lot of flowers and stuff.  Now he just wears Western dress and uses his given name and such.  He is still teaching worldwide, but not what he used to teach in the early days.  This book, by the way, is in the library here also.  Any questions?  Yeah.

Question: ??? want to hear about personal snapshot of your first exposure to him and ...

My first exposure to him.  I'll take a couple of minutes and say this also.  Let me back up and just tell a little bit of a story of Hinduism coming into America.  This is a true story about a woman I know.  Young woman recently, well married for a few years, wanted to have kids.  Couldn't.  Doctor supposedly said: You know, you've got some kind of psychological problem preventing you from conceiving.  Well, she was a Christian.  You also followed Yogananda.  But, you know, it's all the same.

So she went to this minister of a large liberal church in California for some counselling and said: Hey, can you help me kind of let go of this desire to have a kid.  And he said: Listen, maybe you don't really need to let go.  Maybe the cause of it is psychosomatic and the cause is really in your past life.  And I can hypnotise you and you can remember your past lives and maybe you'll find the reason, your karmic reason, for why you can't have kids in this life.  So she said: OK.  She went really deeply in trance.  And he thought: Boy, we have the makings of a very fine medium here.  And neither of them gave any credence to the Bible's injunction against mediums, which is very clear in the Old Testament.  And he actually developed her into a medium and she ended up going into trance and giving life-readings for thousands of people – all from this little occurrence.

Because, the thing was, she got healed and she had a baby.  And here was proof that knowing your past lives can address your current karma and heal you of your current situation.  Now, you, in your ministries will probably come across something similar.  So, you'll see this apparent miracle and you might think: Wow, it's really true, because ...  Like, for instance, a couple of books of hers about her were published and it went nation-wide.  She can read your past lives.

I happen to know the story because I was that baby.  I'm that kid.  But I also know something else from the inside that wasn't in the published accounts.  The reason she couldn't have babies was her husband had a low sperm count and now there was new sperm in the picture and it was the minister's.  So a few years later they divorced their spouses and they married each other, you know.  And they did not live a happily ever after.

But there was no – in their theology, you know, they got a whole organisation grew up around them essentially.  In their theology, there was no sin.  There was no personal sin.  There was only not thinking accurately or something.  Like once I called my mother, like ten years ago or so, and I said: Gali, you know, I feel like part of me is this really shining advance glorified being, you know, because that's what you're encouraged to be.  And this other half of me is just shrivelled and decrepit, because I was trying to deal with my sin nature and I didn't have a name for it and I didn't know what it was or why it was afflicting me.  And she said: O don't say that.  Don't say that.  It's like positive confession.  You only have to think good things and you can't.  So there was ... in other words, there was no way to deal with sin in either of these systems: Maraji or what they taught.

And, maybe I want to share just one more thing.  This is the most recent book that came out of my parents' organisation where they can talk homosexuality as being caused by, for instance, a female soul being in an incarnation in a male body for the very first time and therefore being confused.  And it's perfectly reasonable.  Or let me read the title of one of the chapters: "Abortion: one alternative that can improve the quality of life and benefit individual souls."  The baby that was aborted, its soul learned various wonderful things and so it can be a very good thing to be aborted.  That's the kind of thought you can end up with.

That may not exactly answer your question but it talks about, you know, what Hinduism can do if it's accepted into our brains uncritically.  You know, we have the truth.  Maraji, what he taught me did not do it for me, but I would have clung to him all my life except for Jesus Christ came to get me.  Jesus Christ is a firm rock and He is something you can stand on and He, in my case, He gave me back my mind.  Yeah.  Amen.

Question: How did that happen?

Jesus sent someone to witness to me who had taken the theology courses from here on Semlink.  Praise the Lord.  And thereby could deal with me when I said: There's no such thing as Satan and the Bible's just out-dated and I'm evolved way beyond that.  Because that's essentially what I'd been taught.  Right.  I'd never really thought about it.  All paths lead to god.  Why should I try and follow a dead master?  Maraji said: hey, you need a living master just like you need a living physician.  And using theology, Christian theology, he talked with me and, over some months, I felt something odd happening in my insides and it was my brain coming to life and I'm so grateful.  And I didn't understand sin or repentance when I came to Christ, but I knew that Christ was doing something inside of me.  Yeah.

Question: ??? non-believers ???, is he a follower of Maraji still?

My husband is still a follower of Guru Maharaji.  Yeah.  You are welcome to pray for him.  Yeah.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

I was telling Joy a while back that I remember the ... when Guru Maharaji came to Atlanta Georgia, my home town, and I was a young person, and how everyone was so electrified by this individual.  And in the 70s, it was really the rage to go hear him.  And Joy represents one of hundreds, thousands of young people who became involved in this.

In fact, when I was a pastor … I want to close with this story.  I was a pastor.  We had a ...  I mean, as a pastor in the area, I was shocked because the community where I worked and was a pastor, there was one main road and there was a big crossroad.  And the community was right here, another community here, and this person bought this house right on the juncture of these two main roads and set up a place for people to come and meditate and all this.  And they did palm reading, you know, your past lives, all this stuff.  So it was just a blight in our community – because we were in a tourist area and 3 million people came to our town every year just as tourists.

So it was a big, you know, lot of visual aids when people went by and all that.  So I just told the church.  I didn't know what else to do because, I mean, how do you go down there and tell somebody we don't want you here.  But I did thought: Well, we, you know we should pray about this.  So, because it was on this juncture and everybody in the church had to travel back and forth on this juncture every day, I said: Let's just agree as a church to pray that every time you pass by this, you'll pray against it.  Ask God to remove this from our community – because a lot of our young people were getting involved in it.  And there was ... And they even opened up a little bookstore and they were selling all this literature and all this stuff.

So I prayed against that place myself twice a day at least.  I'd go out there to go to visits or hospital or whatever.  And there are hundreds in our church praying and many of them took it very seriously, because they said, you know, whenever we see it we remember that.  It's a prayer reminder.  By the way, it's a great little thing about prayer I found.  If you can ... if there's something you want to pray about … of course you have your prayer time.  But if you can create like prayer reminders.  There are certain things that I, when I see, it reminds me to pray for something else.  I just say: OK, whenever I see Dr Kaiser I want to pray for Dr Kaiser.  So if you see him coming, you'll pray for Dr Kaiser.  Whatever, you know.  You just think about.  It's a nice thing.  So I have that.

So I saw this place and, even if you'd forgotten to pray for it in your morning prayer time, when you're driving out and you saw the building, immediately you'd be called to pray for it.  So this goes on for some months.  Well, one night, well I got a call, but I found the next morning that the place had been struck by lightning and had burned to the ground.  There was nothing but ashes left.  Now, that could happen any place.  I realise that.  But there's no question that everyone in the community who had heard that we were praying against the place – there was nobody, you know, like an arson job or something like that, you know.  My prayers are turning into action.  And this was clearly, this was clearly an act of God.  The place was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.  Well that created a very powerful message in our community.  So, this same group, this group moved on.  They're gone. OK, we're going somewhere else.

But there was this little New Age group that had started because of this and they went to a guy who belonged to another church in our area amazingly and they wanted to open a bookshop in the thing.  So, he had rented this out to like a little I think it was a dentist or something.  And he, the dentist, left and he put this bookshop in there, selling all New Age material.  So I went to visit him.  And I said: Why did you rent your place to this New Age bookshop?  He said: Because I got more rent.  I said: How much more rent?  He said: Well, I got, you know, $100 a month or whatever.  I says: For $100 a month you're prepared to propagate this stuff in our community?  And he said to me: O you're not going to tell your church to pray about that?  And I said: Yes, we're going to pray against it because we don't want this in our community.  We're not ... I mean, you're free to be here.  You're an American.  This is America.  You can sell anything you want ??? this legal material and we'll not do anything, but I said we will pray that God will ...  No, no, no, he says, we'll bring the dentist back.  He actually, I mean, somebody else, but he got rid of the New Age bookstore.  It was only there for like two months.  I don't know.

That's my personal battle against the propagation of guruism in North Georgia.  But it is definitely spreading.  And one thing about Guru Maharaji that Joy didn't mention, but he wasn't just coming … everybody ... all these gurus come to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, places like that.  He was going to Kansas.  He was going to Florida.  He was going to everywhere.  He was after the heartland of America.  They're much bolder now and the Ramakrishna mission, Yogananda they thought well if we can get all the liberal college students at Columbia we'll be happy.  This is not that anymore.  This is a much more determined attempt to export Hinduism into the American mainstream.  And the fact that you were snatched out of your mother and father I think is an example of that.  Anyway, so it's a matter of great prayer.

We will say a little more about guruism next time.  We have more time to develop some of these major figures, particularly Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and also a little bit about how Ghandi plays into the whole guru thing.  And then we will, at that point I think, be through with our major popular cycle and we're going to go back and look at some Hindu philosophical things again and how they undergirded the popular movement, especially Sankara and Ramanuja.  And then we're going to finally end up with issues of church planting and some of the Christian response to all this in India which I hope will be the most exciting part of the course.

Question: Are we going to touch on New Age at all?

We're not going to touch on New Age in this class because that's all separate.  Because the New Age involved not only Hindu streams but occultic streams and humanistic streams which are not really part of this course.  But it would be touched maybe if any were here … and do you want to give a testimony about New Age?  No.  We can have you come forward – with your colourful past and ...  OK.  Take care and we'll see you next week.