Sages of the New Covenant
Kurvanneveha karmani jijivisecchatam samah
Evam tvayi nanyatheto'sti na karma lipyate nare.
This Sloka (verse) is one of the simple verses of Isha Upanishad that aims at those who have more attachment to family life. To understand this simple verse, we need to understand various other factors that is related to the main message; and my commentary is going to longer. I caution the readers that at times they may feel lost from the main message; hence I urge them not to have a causal reading.
Before going into the main message of the verse, I would like to draw the attention of the readers to know more about the advent of Death into this World and the process by which the life-span of human-beings got shrunk.
In my commentary to the previous verse, I have briefed that God created all the perishable Creations (which are destined to have an End / Death) with His Verbal Commands. I once again, I reaffirm that God created Adam and Eve with ‘deathlessness’; hence God handcrafted Adam and blow His breath into Adam’s nostrils, the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). He also warned Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, which would bring him under the sovereignty of Death by saying: “… for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). If Eve and Adam have believed that they are already God-like or in the likeness of God (Gen. 5:1), they would not have earned the Death (Gen. 3:3) to the Humanity, by eating the forbidden fruit. Eve and Adam succumbed themselves to an illusion (maya) – “… the day you eat of it (forbidden fruit) your eyes will be open and you will be like God …” [Gen. 3:7] - that they are not like God. This maya that they are not God-like earned Death; because by eating the forbidden fruit, Eve and Adam affirmed that they NOT God-like, and in the process HUMAN BEING BECAME MORTAL.
The traces of immortality, with which Adam was created can be identified in Adam, (910) and the godly descendants (Seth) of Adam Methuselah , Jared , Noah (950], Adam , Seth , Cainan , Enosh , Mahalaleel , Lamech ), as they lived a life closer to a millennium. Here we need to understand the important phenomena, by which the life was shortened. In Genesis 3, God only cursed the Earth, on which God had given human beings the dominion. As a result of the curse on the Earth, the mankind has to toil a lot to meet their physical needs. Here the important thing to know is: GOD DID NOT CURSE ADAM.
In Genesis 4, we read that when Cain killed his younger brother Abel, due to jealousy. Immediately, GOD CURSED CAIN. The details of how long they lived are not to be found in the Bible. I am sure they would not have lived long. This is the first time we read of God cursing man and an UNGODLY LINEAGE OF HUMAN BEINGS CAME INTO EXIXTENCE.
Lamech, the great-great-great-grandson of Cain, cursed his descendants and himself (Gen. 4:24), after killing a young man who had hurt him. In the process Lamech increased the curse of God on his dependences and himself by 70 to the power of seven (8,235,430,000,000 times). This is Self-inflicted curse.
God must have expected a natural extinct of this ungodly descendant of Adam with a short-lifespan and a longer life-span of the godly descendants of Adam. But once again God was disappointed, when men of godly descendants of Adam were enticed by the beauty of the women of ungodly descendants of Adam and took wives from the ungodly descendants of Adam. The children born through these unions were mighty men (giants) and men who were poised to establish their name with their fame, which is an ungodly behavior. Hence, God decided to limit the age of human being to 120 years, by saying: “… My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh, yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”
Though God made all the ungodly to perish through the Great deluge, the second curse on human-beings didn’t get reversed on the descendants of Manu (Noah). Some people of God, who had special encounters with God like: Isaac (180), Abraham (175), Jacob (147), Ishmael (137), Jehoiada (130), Sarah (127), Aaron (123) had a marginal increase in their span of life. Otherwise, we see the life-span was limited to 120years even for Moses and slightly lesser in others like: Joseph (110) and Joshua (110). From this one can be sure, according to the Bible, GOD PROMISES EVERY HUMAN BEING 120 YEARS OF LIFE.
Ham, one of the sons of Noah saw the nakedness of his father and got the curse for his descendants. The other sons of Noah covered his nakedness. The act of Ham is a SIN that falls under the category of Karma Pavam (sin we commit through our deeds). Here I would like to draw your attention to one of the commandments, which God has given to the Israelites, which goes like this: “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land, which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12) From this we could understand the logic to deem Ham’s behavior a deviant one. Parents are can be called the visible creators of children. If we insult / degrade our visible creators, we indirectly insult the invisible Creator. To understand better, let me give you the analogy of dance and dancer.
In a dance program, you can see the Dancer while the Dancer entering the stage. Here we can see the Dancer separately. Once she/he performs the dance, we could see the Dance. Once he / she stop dancing we cannot see the Dance. From this it is very clear that in a dance, we cannot see the dance, by isolating the Dancer, where as a Dancer can be seen in isolation. The same logic is applicable to the creation and the Creator and in the similar fashion, it is applicable in the case of parents, who themselves are a creation of the Creator (God).
In our parents, we can see God. Hence, God was very emphatic in saying, if you want your life to be long, honor your parents. We can hardly come across a son, who could be most-obedient than the biblical Isaac. When his father was about to offer him as a sacrifice to God, without any slightest resistance, he submitted to the will of the father (creation). By doing so, he indirectly submitted to the Will of the Father (Creator). I am sure, as Isaac honored his parents years were added-up to the earmarked 120 years of God and Isaac lived longer for 180 years. The same way Ishmael too was obedient to his parents and he lived for 137 years. Here I am tempted to think had Joseph visited his father, Jacob, instead of sending cart to Cannon from Egypt, would he lived for 120 years, instead of 110 years!
The officially verified oldest person ever lived in modern times was Jeanne Calment (F - 122 years, 164 days - 4 August 1997) of France. The officially verified oldest men ever lived in modern times was Jiroemon Kimura (12 June 2013 - 116 years, 54 days) of Japan. The officially verified oldest woman living currently is Misao Okawa (5 March 1898 - 115 years, 128 days) of Japan. The officially verified oldest man living currently is Jokichi Igarashi (26 January 1902 - 111 years, 166 days) of Japan. It is very strange that longevity is evidenced mostly among the women in the past and present as well. Now there are lots of super-centenarians in US. Though they live long, hardly they are active, except very few; that is why we come across the following lines in the Prayer by Moses, the man of God (in Psalm 90): “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away”. (Ps. 90:10). In addition he sought God help to teach us to number our day in verse 11.
From whatever we have discusses so far, we can draw the following conclusions:
This sloka is expecting us to target at a life-span of 100 years - an average of God’s earmarked life-span and Moses’ observation on other human beings. Isn’t this Sloka very practical?
While one expects to live for 100 years, the sloka also stipulates that we need to do everything according to the scriptures. When a Rich Young Ruler met Jesus (I have dealt this incident in my commentary to the 1st Sloka.) to know the means to inherit eternal life (Kingdom of God). In his answer Jesus gave him three steps:
This sloka is preparatory one for the earlier sloka. The ultimate target is renouncement, which is the Step -3 & 4. But those who are caught up with the attachment to wealth, like the young ruler who met Jesus, this sloka says at least stay in the 2nd Step, which would later prepare people to move to Steps -3 & 4.
At this point of time, I would like you to expose to some of the stages of life, as portrayed in Indian Spirituality:
1. Brahmacharya (Celibate): Brahmacarya means Student, usually between 12 and 24 years of age and starts with the Dvija (a twice born) experience. This is the first step in our Spiritual Growth. When a Pharisees named Nicodemus, ruler of the Jews, approached Jesus at night secretly and acknowledged the divinity of Jesus, he could not understand what Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”; which is clear from the question Nicodemus asked: “How can a man be born, when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus clarified to him: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and in Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:6). The men in Indian society after attaining physical maturity (which is believed to be taking place at 12 and this is age he is charged full tickets in public transport systems) are expected go through a process called Guru Diksha through Jal Sanskar (Water baptism by the Mentor who would teach him scriptures). This initiation into Brahmacharya is done by means of the Upanayana rites, which culminated in the following:
For the Brahmachari, celibacy is his forte, discipline is his norm, devotion to his Guru is his duty and concentration in studies is his vocation. Thus, it is a period of probation, a period of training, which changes our mental attitude, through Guru Upadesa (teachings by the Guru) during Gurukula Vasam (staying with the Mentor). The first lesson of the student is the performance of Sandhya Vandanam.
2. Grihasta Ashrama: (Family Life) Grihasta means House-holder usually between 24 and 48 years of age, which starts after moving out from Gurukula Vasa., and enter into the mundane world, taking a wife to assist him in his performance of Dharmic duties. The Grihasta earns his livelihood by whatever a vocation befitting his being a member of his group, raising children, and supporting his own family, kith and kin. The life of a Grihasta is therefore, considered a Jivayagna- a lifelong saga of self sacrifice for the benefit of others in society.
Marriage is not meant as a means to satisfy carnal craving. It is regarded as a means to spiritual glory, a sin qua non for the development of lineage. The first three nights after marriage, the couple are expected to remain committed to impress that marriage is not a license for sexual pleasures but a holy and irrevocable contract not only between the man and wife but also casts the burden of ensuring it to be so, till the very last, on the community comprising of the families of both sides. Marriage is an integral part of a Grihasta for it is said that no ritual is efficacious without the presence of the wife, the Sahadharmini. The wife always accompanies the husband in discharging his duties. Marriage is no doubt, primarily for begetting children but it was also required for the proper performance of worship. The husband is expected to first satisfy the wife's soul and the wife satisfies the husband with her body and gets his soul.
3. Vanaprasta Ashrama (The Anchorite): Vanaprasta is the third stage of Elder Advisor usually between 48 and 72 years of age. A stage comes when business, family, secular life like the beauties and hopes of youth have exhausted themselves and need to be left behind. The person retires usually from worldly attachments to lead a life of contemplation and meditation alone or with his wife. This is the period that one probe 'the secret of 'I' with which he has been on such intimate terms all these years yet which remains a stranger, full of inexplicable quirks, baffling surds and irrational impulses.
4. Sannyasa Ashrama (The Renounced): Sannyasi is the fourth stage of an Ascetic - Solitaire - usually beyond 72 years of age. This means Samyak Nyasa - Total detachment' from worldly pleasures including the bare necessities to subsist. This is the last 'Ashrama'. The wish of the Sannyasi is just to be a persona non grata - one who exists almost without giving any thought to his being - with no desire for name or fame or recognition. Business, family, secular life, the beauties and hopes of youth and the success of maturity have now been left behind, Eternity alone remains. And, so it is to that - and, not to the tasks and worries of their life, already gone which came and passed like a dream - that the mind is turned. The Sannyasi has his spiritual eye (called the Third Eye) on goods that men can't give and cares little for anything that men can take away. Therefore, he is beyond the possibility of either seduction or threat.
No one is encouraged to become a Sannyasi unless one has gone through one's natural impulses through the three previous Ashramas (Nature of spiritual maturity). He who runs away from the middle of a marriage is no better than a coward deserting the battle field. Having contributed to society and having received from society what he needed, he prepares himself for the final release. Sannyasa may be deemed a second phase of Brahmacharya. The first was a preparation for life; the second a preparation for physical death.
While Brahmacharya and Grihasta show the Pravritti Marga (towards the world), Vanaprasta and Sannyasa indicate the Nivritti Marga (away from the world) through introspection and renunciation. The student's attention is directed inward, preparing for life ahead. In Grihasta and Vanaprasta attention is directed outward - Grihasta supporting the entire society, Vanasprasta sharing his experiences for the good of others. The Sannyasi is inwardly directed.
In all four stages of life a particular age is indicated. But this age is just an indication; what is more important is the Ashrama. Let me give you some more insights on factor with some reference.
While explaining about Brahmacarya, I have made reference to Nicodemus, ruler of the Jews. Jesus asked him to go for the FIRST Stage of spiritual initiation - BORN AGAIN of water and in Spirit; whereas Jesus Christ did not talk of First Stage to the Young Ruler and expect him to follow the Second Step. What was the reason? Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Who are this Pharisees?
Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt. They were eclectic, popular, and more democratic. Pharisaic believed in tenet of an oral Torah, and created new interpretations based on a literal understanding of verses. In their personal lives this often meant an excessively stringent lifestyle from a Jewish perspective, like washing before taking food and the like. Pharisee is derived from Latin pharisæus, from Hebrew פְּרוּשִׁים pĕrûshîm, pl. of פָּרוּשׁ pārûsh, meaning “set apart”, Qal passive participle of the verb פָּרָשׁ pārāsh, through Greek φαρισαῖος, -ου pharisaios. Today’s parlance, they are closer to the Pentecostals, who consider themselves to be spiritually superior to other Christians.
Pharisees were often in conflict with John the Baptist and with Jesus and claimed themselves to be puritans, following all the Jewish tenets both written and oral (which the Sadducees had rejected) Torah. This Self-righteousness placed Pharisees as sinners in the eyes of Jesus and they had not even accepted the baptism of repentance of John. Hence, Jesus wanted Nicodemus to have change of Heart and wanted him to do the following:
There is difference between the expectation of Jesus with the Young Ruler and that of the Zacchaeus, the wealthy Chief Tax Collector. When Zacchaeus voluntarily declared: “Look Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four-fold”, Jesus said: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). In the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus did not insist that he has to give-away his entire property. Before giving the reason to why Jesus did so, let us ponder over the difference between the Karma (act / deed) of Nicodemus and Zacchaeus, which are as follows:
1. The Jews, over whom he was Potentate
2. Other Pharisees, with whom he was socially, spiritually and politically affiliated.
From the above one can make the difference between the deed (Karma) of Nicodemus and that of Zacchaeus. Hence, Jesus was looking for a BORN AGIN experience and insisted to Nicodemus the baptisms of Water (outward declaration of Faith) and Spirit (inward declaration of Faith) and expected him to enter the 1st Stage of Spiritual Growth – Brahmacarya (Student), as Nicodemus has to be de-cleansed from the puritanical teachings of the Pharisees. In the case of Zacchaeus, he had exhibited both – Inward and Outward Declaration of FAITH - in the following manners:
1. Indicated his willingness to renounced his wealth by half
2. Seek remedy for his past Karma (collecting taxes with false accusations or misusing his executive powers to exploit the people) by paying back to those victims of his exploitations in four-folds, which he must have done at the risk of losing his job.
Hence, Jesus told: “… salvation has come …, because he also is son of Abraham". Should we understand that salvation is possible only to Jews, Christians and Muslims? No. Here the name Abraham is indicated only to drive home the message that people could come under the Covenant of Abraham (Gal. 3: 6-9), merely by having Faith in the process by which Abraham was justified. In simple terms, Zacchaeus could skip the ritual of baptism of Water and Spirit by just having Faith in God, as Zaccheaus has already in the threshold of Third Stage of Spiritual growth - Vanaprasta Ashrama (The Anchorite). When Zacchaeus voluntarily gave half of wealth, he had indicated that he was already detached from the material wealth; and sooner or later, he would graduate himself to full renouncement and move to the Fourth Stage - Sannyasa Ashrama (The Renounced) – by following Jesus to Eternity with the full awareness of the Self.
In the case of the Young Ruler, Jesus saw him to be seeker of Eternal Life, and when Jesus came to know that the Young Ruler was already in the Second Stage of Spiritual Growth, by putting all the Commandments of God into practice in his life, Jesus expected him to move to the Third and Fourth Stage of Life and said the following: “ … sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” (Luke 18:22). In the case of Nicodemus, who came secretly to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus, He Jesus recommended only the First step, as Jesus did not see Nicodemus to be a seeker of Eternity; but could see only the Pharisee in him. But the Young Ruler was unwilling to move to the Third Stage of life; but we have evidences in the Gnostic Gospels that later Nicodemus was in the threshold of the Third Stage of Spiritual growth.
The purpose of taking you to a long sojourn of Spiritual Discovery is only to make you understand that the God expects us to move to the Final Stage of Spiritual Growth - Sannyasa Ashrama (The Renounced), before the Soul leaves the body, which was clearly indicated in the 1st Sloka. The 2nd Sloka is for those who are not yet prepared to move to the Third Stage of Spiritual Growth and want to be in the Second Stage of Spiritual Growth - Grihasta Ashrama: (Family Life). Moving to the Third Stage does not mean renouncing the Family Life. The perfection of the Third Stage of Spiritual Growth is JOINTLY done by the husband and wife.
This 2nd Sloka is aimed at making the Second Stage of Spiritual Growth perfect, which can be done only by performing ones Karmas (duties) as prescribed in the scriptures, which the Young Ruler declared to Jesus that he had been practicing. Hence, we need to understand what theses scriptures prescribe to us !
According to The Jewish Encyclopedia: "The Lord offered the Law to all nations; but all refused to accept it except Israel." – Vol. 4:45 Because of this reason, the Israelites hail themselves to be the children of God. Of course, the Jews preserved the Law and tried to be with the God, and as a result got the blessings as well. The Israelites (Jews) are expected to adhere to Ten Commandments of Moses; and Christians, Muslims and Bahá'ís have adopted it part of their tenets. In simple terms, we can say all children of Abraham are under the Mosaic Law. But what happens to others who profess non-Abrahamic religions like Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Taoism, Confucianism, Muism, Shamanism, Shintoism and Animism? Don’t they have any Law?
We get the answer from Tosefta of Avodah Zarah 9.4, (dated circa 300, quoted in Talmud Sanhedrin 56a).
The Tosefta (Aramaic: תוספתא. Additions, Supplements) is a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the period of the Mishnah or Mishna (Hebrew: משנה, "repetition", from the verb shanah שנה, or "to study and review", also "secondary" (derived from the adj. shani שני) is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism.
From the Tosefta, one can understand that the children of Manu (Noah) after the Great deluge (which gets reference in all ancient major religions of the World, particularly in India it is believed that God took an Avatar in the form of a fish (Matsya avatar) for the safe berthing of the boat [ ark]), where given seven commandments which are listed by the Tosefta and the Talmud:
All human beings other than the Jews are expected to follow the Seven Noahites Commandments. Though God gave only Ten Commandments to the Israelites, subsequently Israelites added 613 (those who need the full list may CONTCT US) minor commandments / rules on the following subjects:
With the Ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross Natural sin (disobedience as an outcome of the belief, Maya [illusion] that Adam and Eve are not God-like and are not eternal) inherited by humanity through Eve and Adam, God has freed us from the bondage of Death and once again given us the opportunity to attain the Eternity, through mere faith in Him.
From Matthew 5:17, we understand that Jesus Christ came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. This Jagathratchagar (redeemer of the World) – Jesus Christ has given us only two commandments, which would make all the earlier commandments given to Manu (Noah) and Moses inclusive into this two commandments, which is as follows:
“You shall love your God with all your heart with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Mtt. 22: 37-40
Hence, in the 'post-Ultimate-Scarifies of Jesus Christ era' everyone, who is not prepared to go into the Third Stage of Spiritual Growth, should live a live in the Second Stage of Spiritual Growth by following the above Two commandments. Once you strictly follow the two commandments, over a period of time these things are bound to happen:
Once the above three starts emerging in our life slowly, we will automatically be urged to enter into the Vanaprasta Ashrama (The Anchorite), which is the Third Stage of Spiritual Growth. To sum-up my commentary, I would say the following:
God has given an assured Earthly life of 120 years; but human beings need to be conscious of the Four stages of Spiritual Growth. After first Eight years of Playful life and another eight years (16 years of age) of basic education, they should enter into higher quest of knowledge with includes the First Step of Spiritual Quest - Born Again experience of the Water and Spirit, which begins with Guru Diksha through Jal Sanskar (Water baptism by the Mentor who would teach him scriptures); which will prepare them to enter the second stage of life - Grihasta Ashrama: (Family Life). Though the ultimate quest is renunciation, many may not be prepared for this. They might wish to live a life of 100 years in the second stage of life. This Sloka addresses only to such people to tell them that there is no harm if they want to live long and they need not feel spiritually lost if you cannot immediately renounce. They can take time. But sooner or later they have enter into Vanaprasta Ashrama and finally to Sannyasa Ashrama (The Renounced). Till then you must live a life in adherence to the two commandments given by Jesus Christ, who has liberated the humanity from the bondage of Death.
“…. You shall keep every commandments which I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess, and that you may prolong your days in the land …” – Deu. 11: 8 & 9
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Sages of the New Covenant