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Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS* 

All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.
The book demystified the eighteen missing years of Jesus when he nurtured his religio-spiritual personality. In the current times when the bulk of people indulge in mad and insane “conditioned response” by acting in tune with the myths and diktats indoctrinated by motivated priestocracy of religions, it is a purposeful effort to equip effectively all champions of peace, amity and sanity.
The book has 30 chapters, commencing with Jesus’ interaction with Buddhist scholars in Taxasila University and other places in India, his talks with inarticulate, deprived and exploited people, elucidating the path to the Kingdom of God and the final inexorable confrontation with well-entrenched Jewish ecclesiastical hierarchy leading to his crucifixion. Compatibility of Jesus parables with Buddha narrated stories and anecdotes are amazingly presented by stressing on the identical values in these.
Aversion to violence shown by Jesus in his tender age is similar to young Siddarth saving and nursing a bird arrowed down by his cousin Devadata. In chapter 3 “Fuming lamb”, the author writes, “Jesus could not compromise with the doctrine (of Jews) that God was a famished mortal soul yearning for blood and flesh and take pleasure in the odour of the sacrificial offerings mediated by the greedy clergy” (page 27).
The companions of Jesus from Israel, John, later the John the Baptist was also impressed by the Saint Gautama Buddha, who wiped out the archaic relics of the sacrificial cult. By the 6th century before Christ (BC) animal sacrifices in the form of Ashwamedha (horse sacrifice) and Naramedha (human sacrifice) were practiced widely (Vedas testified these). Temples resembled a battlefield, resounding war cry.
Moses, before the Jewish exodus from Egyptian captivity, exhorted to his people in unequivocal terms, “You shall not hold back the first of your harvest, whether corn or wine. You shall give our lord your first born sons. You shall do the same with your oxen and sheep” (page 22). John and Jesus felt that violence and other jubilating enjoyments as part of ceremonies are against stipulations in scriptures.
Taxasila is presented as a liberal university encouraging free exchange of diverse ideas, ideologies, cults and opinions. Students from China to Alexandria and Middle East used to stay in the University for gaining academic excellence – nearly 10000 girls and boys. Poor students were aided from royal treasury. Students mostly combined service and studies.
Panini-grammarian, Patanjali, the exponent of Yoga, Charaka, the champion of Ayurveda, Prince Ajathasathru of Magadha, Vishnusarman, the author of Panchathantra, Jeevaka, the chief physician of Magadha king were a few of Taxasila students. What is beneficial, utilitarian and enlightening, for material, physical, mental and spiritual life is accepted true to the Rigvedic sukta of “Let noble thoughts come to us from every side.” (Rigveda I-89-I) Buddhism accepted all ideas which are not averse to Trisarana, Panchseela and Ashtangamarga.
John and Jesus were impressed by the concepts of equality, fraternity, openness to knowledge, the freedom for critical assessment and lack of dogmatism in the University curriculum. Both of them and another Pharisee, Paul were moved by the insight and depth of Nagarjuna, drawn from Pathan, the capital city of Satavahanas (Andhra).
Nagarjuna learned Hatayoga from Guru Kumaragangan and became expert in sorcery, necromancy, alchemies and occultation. But he seldom practiced these as Buddha had rigorously forbidden the display of miracles and parapsychological revelations.
The Israelite students learned that life-style, administrative system and adulatory methods codified by the Vedic proponents in India had no distinctive difference but, in contrast, an astounding likeness between the canons codified and commanded by Moses enlisted in the Torah and Talmund. 
Indian kings, both mythological and contemporary were nurturing harems with thousands of concubines, along with hierarchy of approved wives. Even widely worshipped idolized incarnation Sri Krishna, was not exceptional to this goatish promiscuity. Myriad patricians believed debauchery and lewdness was a mark of grandiose and praiseworthy quality in both Hindu and Jewish faiths.
In short, social vices and abominable practices in Jewish homeland and India were similar. “It was a cruel custom of certain Indians, Jesus noted, to confer the unwelcome daughters to deities to attain the parents’ solemn salvation by surrendering their mortal yoked body to the lascivious priest under the nickname Devadasi, or “divine call girls or nautch girls” (page 52). The widows were burned in their husband’s funeral pyre and later divinized by making temples in their names – a devise for not spending money on unproductive women.
The Purushasukta of Rigveda divinizes varnavyvastha (caste system-graded inequality) (Rigveda X 90-12) by declaring that Brahmins are born from the face, Kshathriya from hands, Vaisyas from thighs and Sudra from the feet of God. A most unscientific, feudal and retrogressive classification of human beings.
The system guaranteed the privileges of free food and sex to higher caste and priests in particular. The Brahmins perpetuated their status and power through display of loyalty to the ruling contraption irrespective of whether it was native, alien, theistic or atheistic (page 54) . In both faiths of Jews and Hindus “the bloodletting sacrifices flung the poor peasants and sincere believers to immeasurable miseries” (page 56).
The Vedic belief that the universe was founded and preserved by the Yaga and animal sacrifice shifted to asceticism of Buddhism. The blood-sucking avaricious tentacles of Chathurvarna deeply permeated into the marrow of the masses. Kapila, Mahavira and Sri Buddha and their reformatory exhortations echoed throughout the subcontinent. Buddha was the most prominent among them, who could attract common populace without any distinction of caste, creed, sex, language and nationality.
Chapter 7 delineates the events from Buddha’s life, the childhood, the great renunciation, spiritual evolution through austerity, enlightenment, spread of Buddhism, counter Brahminical action with the decline of the Mauryan empire etc. Chapter 8 deals with the gist of Buddhist philosophy, Trisarana Mantras, Four Noble Truths, Five Code of Conducts and Eightfold Paths, so on.
After 18 years, Jesus left India, the wonderful land of exquisite races abound with confluence of contradictions. John returned to his native place. But Jesus moved with Nagarjuna and visited places like Saranath. The creative idealism in Buddhism, undreamt of either in Judaism or the Vedas, where virtuousness is a birthright, stirred the intellect of Jesus.
Chapter 10, “Test”, deals with 40 days fast by Jesus and his encounter with Satan. The author observed, “Gautama Buddha, who put into motion his formidable wheel of dharma in search of the truth of birth, disease, ageing, misery, death and other maladies reinforced Jesus in his severe fast for 40 days and nights without victuals and water (page 99).
Temptations of Buddha by Mara demon god are akin to trials of Jesus by Satan. He adroitly remained committed to his adherence to Dharma. To the challenge of Satan to convert stones into bread, Jesus retorted: ”Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word of god”. It is like Buddha’s middle path of material requirements to the minimum necessity only – “Sarve Madhymam Uttamam”.
In both faiths of Jews and Hindus the bloodletting sacrifices flung the poor peasants and sincere believers to immeasurable miseries
Jesus comment of every word of God denotes enlightenment viz, eight fold paths and panchaseela. Jesus’ word to Satan that one should not put god to test is indicative of Buddha’s disciplinary code of not performing any miracles and accept the law of Karma. Jesus’s refusal to Satan’s offer of mastery over the world was for not deviating from righteousness by succumbing to material aspirations and mundane comforts.
Exclusivism in knowledge acquisition, dissemination, and inviolability of Varnavyvastha and all Brahminical socio-religious angularities are repudiated by Buddha. Jesus also rejected similar sectarian pervasions of Jewish clergy. Simulating the concept of right mindfulness in Ashtangamarga, Jesus as per St. Johns’ gospel confirmed that kingdom of God is within the person. This is echoed in Jesus sermon on the Mount as “Blessed are pure at heart for they shall see god”.
Jesus learned abstruse esoterism from Nagarjuna and practiced it by performing miracles which alone make him eligible for the grade of prophethood and the savior in the ambiance of Jewish world. Buddha did not claim any divinity for performing miracles, as was proved in house of Brahmin priest – Kasyapa (chapter 11). Buddha warned his disciple Sariputta that anyone who attempts to display miracles of any sort will no longer be a disciple of Tadagatha.
Author opines in page 121, “Jesus toppled between the devil and deep blue sea. The stringent ban of miracles by the enlightened proponent of Karma Sasthra on one side; the Jewish folk who relied on supernatural power and mastery in magic as a conditional precedent for approbation of priesthood. It placed him on the horns of dilemma in his conscience”.
Jesus created wine from water at the marriage at Cana, cured many sick and blind persons, fed thousands with a few pieces of bread. Nagarjuna once observed casually (page 131) “It is often not the medications that get rid of malaises and ailments, but the soothing words and ministrations of physicians.”
Chapter 13, “Fasting”, explains Buddha’s experiment in self-mortification by fasting and found futility in denying the basic body needs by stressing the dictum, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat” –page-133. In Buddha’s sermon at Rajagrah, in presence of Magadhan Emperor Bimbisara he said, “the world is full of suffering.
The ultimate goal of Dharma is the elimination of sufferings from the world. To observe Dharma one must follow three elementary paths. They are the path of purity, righteousness and virtue”. (page- 136). The second commandment of Jesus is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Obviously the neighbor is not the only the one who is physically staying near.
Both Buddha and Jesus go into deep meditation in free time. But Buddha did not stress on faith, unlike Jesus. Both did not accept convention of not being accessible to sinners. Jesus blessed tax collectors, women of loose character and Buddha too befriended courtesan Amrapali, criminal Angulimala, the patricidal prince Ajatasathru. These are illustrations. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but sick”. In Buddha’s words, “sea never refuses any river, however much polluted”.
Worth, not birth, is the measure of humanity. The logic in the Thrisarans, five praxis and eight fold path is accepted by all followers of Buddha, without any magic or miracle. Buddha reminded royal physician Jivaka (page 158), “Every human being has an obligation to their fellow being, ranging from an emperor to slave on par with eking out his sustenance from the engagement and rendering to the Sangha.
Fearlessly and faithfully discharging one’s preordained assignment is a short-cut to Nirvana. Those who minister and fed parents, wife and children as well as every needy and hapless being are preferred for Nirvana”. The foundation of Dharma is not the worship of any God, but mankind. Unlike in the case of Jesus, the kings contemporary to Buddha accepted the strength and curative value of Panchaseela and Ashtangamarga.
In chapter 17, “Mountain Sermon”, the author brilliantly projects similarities of beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, by Jesus’ and Buddha’s teachings – as
  • Samma Samadhi (continuous meditation)
  • Samma vyayama (Yoga)
  • Samma vacca (Right speech)
  • Samma Drishti (Right View)
  • Samma Smruthi (Right mindfulness)
  • Samma Ajeevaka (Right livelihood)
  • Samma Kamanto (Good deed)
  • Samma Sankalpa (good objective)
In the author’s words the focus of advice from Buddha and Jesus goes thus, “those who inculcate salutary contemplation and benevolent hope and endeavor to purify the heart shall see the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Dharma” (page 193). The enlightened Buddha endeavored to fine methods and routes to establish the kingdom of Dharma. Jesus strove to make the earth equivalent to the Kingdom of God, in contrast with the envisioned cosmic prosperity, plenitude and jubilation to all beings on earth by Buddha” (page-194).
Chapter 19 to 30 narrate the parables of Jesus and anecdotes in the life of Buddha in furtherance of the way of life preached by them. The conspiracy by the Jewish chief priest Caraphas and its fruition is graphically presented. But the last message of Buddha at the time of his Mahaparinirvana to his cousin and disciple Ananda is not covered by the author. 
These words are, “Be to yourself the one and only light; Be to yourself the one and only Refuge; seek not for help from other- than-your-Self; all composites, all made-up things are transient; Remembering this, find watchfully the Immortal”. The gist of it can be condensed into “Aham Saranam Gachami” (depend only on yourself for enlightenment).
The methodology and code of conduct of Jesus and Buddha are identical, to reach the final spiritual objective. In Christianity an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God overviews the individual. According to Buddha, the person can reach the final point through his own exclusive efforts.
Unfortunately, in India, the Hindu counter-revolution, by assimilating and absorbing the heart and soul of Buddhism, annihilated distinctive identity of it. The fatal hit was in the projection of Gautama Buddha as one of the incarnations of Mahavishnu. The tactic of deification and effacement of the personality of Buddha and his logical, religious and spiritual ideals.
Great interpreters of Hindu scriptures – Adi Shankarachaya, Ramanujarya, Madhavacharya – preached brands of Advaita, but meticulously practiced Varnavyavastha in their institutions, practical application of concepts, rituals and ceremonies. This posture is unambiguously explained in sloka two of the Shankara’s book “Vivekachoodamani” (Volume One), prescribing the imperativeness of hierarchical social order.
Sloka affirms that birth and progress in the social order as human being, male, Brahmin caste preference for Vedic culture, discriminative comprehension of the real and unreal culminating in one’s liberation can be earned through merits of a hundred crores of lives lived intelligibly (Book Talks on Shankara’s "Vivekachoodamani") by Swami Chinmayananda, by Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai). In short, Buddhist ideals are only in tune with tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human rights by United Nations in 1948.
Buddha classified human beings exclusively on conduct and merit in behavior. “Judgement not by color of skin, but content of character”, as voiced by the assassinated American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King (Junior). The six fold hierarchical grading of human is proportionate to values like Mythri (Universal Friendship), Karuna (universal pity) Mudita (Happiness in the prosperity and well-being of others), Metta (Benevolence towards all beings) and Upeksha (Indifference to any kind of preferential treatment of oneself and family) in the conduct and dealings of a human being. From the lowest level comes:
  • Narakasattwa (Enjoying hell-like agonies of others)
  • Pretasattwa (Being non-helpful to others)
  • Mrugasattwa (Not harming others once their biological and physical needs are satisfied)
  • Manushyasattwa (Remaining fraternal with all humans)
  • Buddhisattwa (Being compassionate and empathetic with humanity and outside world)
  • Bodhisattwa (Being in the pinnacle of awareness and Nirvana)
Buddhists term Gautama Buddha as the only person who is elevated to Bodhisattwa status.
All Indologists and scholars like DD Kosambi, Nirad C Chaudhary and Amartya Sen confirm that counter-meritocratic caste system resulted in the defeat of Indian in all foreign invasions from the times of Alexander the Great to colonial western invaders. Besides, no epoch-making new knowledge in social and physical sciences are produced by Indians.
Contributions to science and new inventions since the medieval times remains near nil. This is due to dictum in “Bhagavat” Gita (chapter 3-35) direction, “Better death in one’s own dharma (caste ordained work). The Dharma of another is full of fear”. Imagination, innovation and initiative are strictly constrained by caste rigidity.
Experts on world religions like Karan Armstrong, who authored biographies of Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ and Muhammed, the Prophet (PBUH) and seminal books like, “The Battle for God” and “A History of God", and Bharat Ratna Dr Bhagavan Das (who authored “Essential Unity of Religions”) had categorically established the total agreement of all religions in the common spiritual values.
PK Vijayan’s novel is a courageous and in-depth attempt to confirm the conclusions of the above authors and would check pseudo-fundamentalists of all major religions generating anti-thesis of religious values for harvesting political and socio-economic gains for their careerist interests.
---
*Former DGP Gujarat

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