Christianity and the Vedic Teachings Within It

By Stephen Knapp (Srinandanandan dasa ACBSP)

When we consider the story of how baby Jesus appeared in the heart of his mother Mary by immaculate conception, as well as the bright star appearing in the night sky, we can discern a direct parallel to Lord Krishna’s birth three thousand years earlier in Vrindavana, India, as recorded in the Vedic literature. It is described in the ancient Vedic texts how Krishna appeared in the mind of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, and was then transferred into the heart of His mother, Devaki. During Krishna’s birth, the bright star Rohini was high in the sky, and the king at the time, Kamsa, actually ordered the killing of all the infants in an attempt to kill Krishna, similar to the way Herod was supposed to have done as described in the gospel of Matthew. And just as a multitude appeared among the shepherds in the hills praising God at the time of Jesus’ birth, there were also many demigods who came and danced and sang about the glories of Krishna when He was ready to appear in this world. Krishna was born in a cave-like dungeon, while Jesus was also born in a cave, although some say a manger in a barn. Rays of light illuminated the area after they had taken birth. While newly born, they both spoke of why they had come to this world. And as wise men were supposed to have presented Jesus with frankincense and myrrh, baby Krishna was also presented with gifts that included sandalwood and perfumes.

At the time when Krishna left this planet, His foot was pierced with an arrow, while Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear. There was a darkness that descended when Jesus is said to have been crucified, just as there was a darkness and many calamities taking place when Krishna left this world. And as there is a description of many ominous signs that are to signify the second coming of Christ, there are even more symptoms of the terrible age of Kali that we are going through that indicates the time before the coming of Krishna’s next incarnation as Kalki. Many of these I have included in my book, The Vedic Prophecies. There are many other parallels that we could refer to that are disclosed in the Vedas, which were written many hundreds of years before the Bible.

Jesus preached in a way that can also be compared to the sayings of Krishna. For example, in Bhagavad-gita (7.6-7) Krishna said, “I am the cause of the whole universe, through Me it is created and dissolved, all things are dependant on Me as pearls are strung on a thread.” Jesus said, “Of Him and through Him, and unto Him, are all things. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1.3) Krishna had said (Bg.4.7), “For the establishment of righteousness I am born from time to time.” This compares to Jesus in John 18:37, wherein he says, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” These and many other comparisons can be made. Nonetheless, the fact is that the history of Krishna is thousands of years older than that of Jesus.

In this way, practically speaking, what we find in the Bible regarding Jesus’ birth is a description of the appearance of Lord Krishna, but only the names have been changed. Of course, there are different theories about how this happened. One theory is that when the Christians went to India, they found out that this story was there in the Bhagavat-Purana; so, they immediately had to change the date of when the Bhagavat-Purana was supposed to have been written. So now the historians generally say that it was written about 1400 years ago. Otherwise, how could they explain the story of Krishna’s birth being so similar to the story of Christ’s birth? They thought that the Vedic pundits must have heard about the story of Jesus and adapted the story to their own incarnation, as if the Vedic scholars would demean themselves by putting a story into their scripture that was heard from people who were considered low-born foreigners. Actually, what happened was just the opposite.

Since both the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam contain many similar sentiments and descriptions to Christianity, numerous Christian scholars have tried to prove that the stories therein had been borrowed from the Bible. However, this has been proved to be quite the reverse. This is has been accepted by Reverend J. B. S. Carwithen, known as one of the “Brampton Lecturers,” who says, as quoted in Reverend J. P. Lundy’s Monumental Christianity (pp. 151-2), “Both the name Crishna and the general outline of his story are long anterior to the birth of our Savior [Jesus Christ]; and this we know, not on the presumed antiquity of the Hindoo records alone. Both Arrian and Strabo assert that the God Crishna was anciently worshiped at Mathura, on the river Jumna, where he is worshiped at this day. But the emblems and attributes essential to this deity are also transplanted into the mythology of the West.”

Monier Williams, one of the accepted early Western authorities on Hinduism, Professor at Oxford in London and a devout Christian, also focused on this issue when writing for the “Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge” in his book, Indian Wisdom. Therein he states: “To any one who has followed me in tracing the outline of this remarkable philosophical dialogue, and has noted the numerous parallels it offers to passages in our Sacred Scriptures, it may seem strange that I hesitate to concur to any theory which explains these coincidences by supposing the author [of such Vedic books as the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam] had access to the New Testament, or that he derived some of his ideas from the first propagators of Christianity. Surely it will be conceded that the probability of contact and interaction between Gentile systems and the Christian religion of the first two centuries of our era must have been greater in Italy than in India. Yet, if we take the writings and sayings of those great Roman philosophers, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, we shall find them full of resemblances to passages in our Scriptures, while there appears to be no ground whatever for supposing that these eminent Pagan writers and thinkers derived any of their ideas from either Jewish or Christian sources. In fact, the Reverend F. W. Farrar, in his interesting and valuable work, Seekers After God, has clearly shown that ‘to say that Pagan morality kindled its faded taper at the Gospel light, whether furtively or unconsciously, that it dissembled the obligation and made a boast of the splendor, as if it were originally her own, is to make an assertion wholly untenable.’ He points out that the attempts of the Christian Fathers to make out Pythagoras a debtor to Hebraic wisdom, Plato an ‘Atticizing Moses,’ Aristotle a picker-up of ethics from a Jew, Seneca a correspondent of St. Paul, were due in some cases to ignorance, in some to a want of perfect honesty in controversial dealing. . . It must indeed be admitted that the flames of true light which emerge from the mists of pantheism in the writings of the Indian philosophers, must spring from the same source of light as the Gospel itself; but it may reasonably be questioned whether there could have been any actual contact of the Hindoo systems with Christianity without a more satisfying result in the modification of pantheistic and anti-Christian ideas.”

Again, Monier points out the antiquity of the Vedic culture, practically over and beyond all others, when he explains on page iv of his book: “It should not be forgotten that although the nations of Europe have changed their religions during the past eighteen centuries, the Hindu has not done so, except very partially. Islam converted a certain number by force of arms in the eighth and following centuries, and Christian truth is at last slowly creeping onwards and winning its way by its own inherent energy in the nineteenth; but the religious creeds, rites, customs, and habits of thought of the Hindus generally have altered little since the days of Manu. . .”
In light of all this research, by myself and others, we can conclude with the words of T. W. Doane in his book, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions. Therein he goes so far as to say at the beginning of Chapter Twenty-Eight, “. . . the mythological portion of the history of Jesus of Nazareth, contained in the books forming the Canon of the New Testament, is nothing more or less than a copy of the mythological histories of the Hindoo Savior Crishna, and the Buddhist Savior Buddha, with a mixture of mythology borrowed from the Persians and other nations. . .”

One archeological find that proved that knowledge of Krishna antedated Christianity by at least 200 years was the Heliodorus column, built in 113 B.C. in central India by the Greek ambassador to India, Heliodorus. On it is an inscription commenting on the ambassador’s devotion to Lord Vishnu (Krishna) and mentioning when the column had been erected. The column still stands near the town of Vidisha.

We must remember that when the Christians first came to India to preach, they were not very well received by the local people. There was very little penetration because the Christian priests and missionaries were seen for what they were: mlecchas and yavanas, more or less unclean cow-killers or untouchables in local terminology. So it is doubtful that the Vedic pandits spent much time even listening to them, what to speak of writing scripture or changing the story of Krishna’s birth on account of hearing these missionaries. Of course, now as Indian society has deteriorated and become more attracted to Western values (partly due to being indoctrinated by the British rule years ago), Christianity is more easily accepted.

So, the conclusion we must arrive at is that the story of Lord Krishna’s birth, along with numerous other parts of the Vedic philosophy, must have come to the mid-eastern part of the world because of the many trade caravans going back and forth at that time from India to the region of Palestine. Since there were no real witnesses of Christ’s birth and hardly any history in the gospels of the life of Christ up to the age of thirty, it is likely they applied the story of Krishna to Jesus’ life. Otherwise, there is little historical evidence that any of it is factual.

There is evidence, however, as more facts are being uncovered, that contends that Jesus may have been nailed to the cross but did not die on it. After having been taken from the cross, he later recovered from the ordeal rather than rose from the dead. The Shroud of Turin, if it is authentic (which has been a great debate by itself), seems to provide some evidence that Christ was not dead when taken from the cross since his body was still bleeding while wrapped in the cloth. Even if Christ did appear to die on the cross, being a yogic master, he could have put himself into trance to be revived later. This goes on even today with yogis in India or fakirs in Egypt who can appear to die, be buried for hours, days, months, or sometimes years, and then be uncovered and resurrected from their apparent death. Even the Koran (4.157) claims that Jesus did not die on the cross.

There is also evidence that after the crucifixion Jesus traveled through Turkey, Persia, and then India. The Russian scholar Nicolas Notovitch discovered in 1887 Buddhist documents at the Hemis monastery in Ladakh that describe the life of Issa. Issa is the Tibetan spelling while Isa is the Arabic spelling of the name Jesus, and the name commonly used in Islam. The manuscript was originally from Lhasa, translated into Tibetan from the Pali language. Jesus’ ascension into heaven may have referred to his entrance into Kashmir, an area considered by many to have been like heaven or the promised land.

Furthermore, the Bhavishya Purana, dating back to 3000 B.C. and compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, also described the future coming of Jesus and his activities. Dr. Vedavyas, a research scholar who holds a doctorate in Sanskrit, said that the Purana tells of how Jesus would visit the Himalayas and do penance to acquire spiritual maturity under the guidance of the sages and siddha-yogis of India. Dr. Vedavyas says that besides describing the future events of Kali-yuga, the Purana predicted that Jesus would be born of an unmarried woman, Kumari (Mari or Mary) Garbha Sambhava, and would first go to India when he was 13 years old and visit many Hindu and Buddhist holy places. This was his spiritual training in a time of his life of which the gospels are totally ignorant. Furthermore, the actual burial place of Jesus is believed to be in Anzimar or Khanyar, Srinagar’s old town in Kashmir, where thousands of pious pay homage to the tomb of Issa each year. There is where he settled and died sometime after the crucifixion.

In any case, the Christian Church began with what Paul said about the resurrection of Jesus. Whether the resurrection actually happened or not cannot be proved. Nonetheless, a new faith was born. But through the years there has been much controversy about the nature of Jesus and whether he was actually God as some Christians seem to believe. None of his direct disciples believed that he was, and, indeed, there are many Bible verses which state directly that he was the son of God, such as Luke 1.35, Matthew 17.5, John 4.15, 8.28, 14.28, and others. Only Paul put forward the idea that Jesus was God. But historically it is said that Paul never met Jesus personally, and was converted to Christianity several years after Jesus’ disappearance. Other than that, most of Jesus’ followers thought that perhaps he was the Jewish Messiah. But the Jewish Messiah, according to their prophecies, was not God but rather a Jew who was empowered by God. This actually fits into the Vedic view because there are many empowered living beings who appear from time to time who are sent by God to represent and disseminate His law. Furthermore, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, one of the great Vaishnava spiritual masters in the Madhava-Gaudiya line of disciplic succession, has stated that Jesus was a shaktyavesha avatar, or an empowered living entity meant to preach the glories of God.

People may say that Jesus walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, so he must have been God. But even today in India there have been yogis who have walked on water or who can do other amazing things, like walking over hot coals. This is not like the Hollywood fad of fire walking, but the yogis let the coals burn for days and get so hot that you cannot even get near them without burning your clothes. Then, after spending one month in penance, praying to Durga, they walk across the fire and do not even burn their feet. But some people will say this is the work of the devil. However, is this not peculiar logic to say that walking across fire is of the devil, but if one walks across water he is God? This kind of thinking that is usually found amongst fundamentalists simply shows a great ignorance of yogic powers, which is all walking across fire or water is. Therefore, the miracles of Jesus are a sign of his knowledge of the mystical powers that come from practicing yoga. But it is not a proof that someone is God.

One important part of Eastern knowledge that was present in early Christianity was the understanding of karma and reincarnation. I have already discussed this and pointed out some of the verses that showed the acceptance of reincarnation in the Bible in The Secret Teachings of the Vedas; so, I will not go into it so deeply here. But it is known that the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. threw out all references to reincarnation and stated that the idea of it was a myth, and anyone who believed in it would be excommunicated. Of course, this action would not be unexpected in light of the other things the Church has done throughout history in order to place itself as the only way to reach heaven and attain the mercy of God. By eliminating the possibility of reincarnation and the soul’s existence prior to this life, there could be no chance for the soul to reach the state of spiritual perfection over a period of several lifetimes. There would only be this one lifetime in which the soul came into existence, and one chance for a person to reach either heaven or eternal hell, which would be determined by the intervention of the Church. In other words, the Church felt threatened by the fact that the soul has an eternal and personal relationship with God that must be rekindled either in one, two, or however many lifetimes it takes, and this relationship does not necessarily depend on one’s good standing in any religious organization. Thus, people could try to re-establish their relationship with God by other means than the dictates of the Church, which is what the Church could not tolerate.

Unfortunately, by taking out the knowledge of reincarnation and karma, the Church has created huge gaps in its philosophy which leave questions it cannot answer. For example, the Christians cannot explain why one person may be born blind, poor, deformed, or sickly, while another may be born healthy and rich. They do not understand why reversals in life may happen to some, and others seem to have a life of ease. They cannot explain why these differences take place and, in fact, they sometimes blame God for such things, which only shows their ignorance of spiritual knowledge. Furthermore, they do not understand the science of the soul and our spiritual identity, the nature of the spiritual realm, the characteristics of the personality of God, nor the pastimes and incarnations of God, and so on. Thus, the spiritual knowledge that the Christians utilize in their philosophy is very elementary and incomplete. And as we have already established in our previous writings, reaching complete spiritual perfection is not possible in such an incomplete spiritual process. At best, it promotes good moral values, detachment toward worldly life, attachment and devotion to God, and the possibility of reaching the heavenly planets. However, the heavenly planets are still within the material cosmic manifestation and not in the spiritual realm. A real religionist or transcendentalist is interested only in reaching the level of spiritual realization that enables him to directly perceive his spiritual identity and enter the spiritual strata far beyond this material creation.

Actually, Christians still must accept the understanding of karma and reincarnation to some extent in order to explain logically how one can have a life after death in heaven or hell. According to the Christian doctrine, qualifying for heaven or hell depends on one’s actions in this life. That is called karma in Vedic literature. And as one enters heaven or hell in his next life, he takes on or incarnates in a different form. This is reincarnation. So Christians must, at least to this degree, accept karma and reincarnation whether they fully understand it or not. But to understand it more completely, as explained in the philosophy of the Vedic literature, allows us to realize that our good or unpleasant situations in this life depends on our activities from past lives. And by our activities in this life we can cause our future existence to be good or bad, or we can reach the heavenly or hellish planetary systems to work out our karma. This understanding is accepted by many cultures throughout the world. In fact, the scholar Max Muller remarked that the greatest minds humanity has produced have accepted reincarnation.

More connections between Christianity and the Vedic culture can be recognized as follows:

The ancient Vedic custom of applying ash or sandalwood paste to the body is still retained by Christianity in the observance of Ash Wednesday. The so-called “All Soul’s Day” is an exact translation of the Vedic observance of Sarva Pitri Amavasya, the day fixed by tradition for the worship of all deceased ancestors.

Another Christian tradition derived from Vedic origins is that of having and ringing bells in the churches, especially before or during worship. In Vedic temples it is often seen where bells are rung during worship and when pilgrims enter the temple, announcing their entrance. Christian churches also ring bells to announce the beginning of worship. The word “bell” comes from the Sanskrit bal which means strength. This is in reference to the idea that ringing a bell adds force to the voice of prayer in invoking divinity.

When the Christians say “Amen” at the end of their hymns or to emphasize something, what they are saying is a corrupted form of “Aum” or “Om,” which is a standard form of Vedic meditation and name of the Supreme Being.

While we are on the topic of words used in Christianity that are derived from Sanskrit, the Catholic term “Madonna,” another name for Mother Mary, comes from the Sanskrit Mata Nah, meaning “Our Mother.” This is also derived from the great Vedic Mother Goddess. Thus, Mother Mary was a reference not only to the mother of Jesus alone, but a reference to the Goddess, mother of all humanity. Furthermore, the European term of “Madam” is a soft pronunciation of the Hindu term mata or mataji, which also means “Mother.”

The term “vestry” in referring to the room in churches in which holy clothes are kept comes from the Sanskrit word vestra, meaning clothes. Even the word “psalm” with a silent “P” comes from the Sanskrit word sam or sama which means holy and serious sacred songs, hymns or chants, as found in the Sama-veda.

Other Christian links with Sanskrit words can be found in the name Bethlehem, which is the English mispronunciation of the Sanskrit Vatsaldham, which means “the home (town) of the darling child.” The Sanskrit term Nandarath is linguistically connected with Nazareth. Nandarath means Nanda’s chariot, and King Nanda was the guardian at whose village he nurtured Lord Krishna (sometimes pronounced as Chrisn, and later Christ in some regions).

The Christian term “Satan” and the Islamic term “Shaitan” both are derived from the Sanskrit term Sat-na, which means non-truth, falsehood, or fraudulence. The Christians who explain the term “Devil” as a fallen angel should realize that the word is derived from the Sanskrit terminology which signifies a fallen Deva.

At the beginning of the book of John in the New Testament, it states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is actually a verbatim translation of the Vedic Sanskrit mantra: “Prajapatirvai idamagraasit, tasya vag dvitiyaa asit, vag vai paramam Brahma.”

The Holy Spirit in Christianity is called Paramatma in Sanskrit, or Parakalate. In Greek the word is Paraclete. This is the God of that spiritual knowledge which is revealed or descended, or the Veda, which is spoken through the prophets (Sanskrit purohitas) . Veda is Yeda in Hebrew, the word God uses for His Self-revelation in Exodus of the Old Testament. Veda in Greek is Oida, and Aidos, from which the English word idea is derived. The term oida is used for God’s/Christ’s Sel-revelation in the New Testament. Thus, the Vedas, the Old and New Testament, and the related scriptures are but part of one continuous revelation of God.

Dr. Venu Gopalacharya also points out in his book, World-Wide Hindu Culture (pp. 158-9), that in the book of Genesis, Chapter 22, God told Abraham that he and his wife, Sarah, would be blessed and God would, “make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. . . and through thy seed, shall all nations be blessed because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Dr. Venu Gopalacharya explains, “Abraham and Sarah [Sarai] refer to [or was derived from] the Indian version of Brahma and Sarasvati. This indicates that this is an abridgement of some of the versions in the Indian Puranas referring to ‘Brahma and his consort as the first aspects of the Supreme Lord or His agents of creation and offering sacrifices [or performing austerities].’ In the commencement of the book of Genesis, the sentence, ‘In the Beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the waters.’ This is similar to the Vedic Puranas stating that MahaVishnu or Narayana was lying on Adisesha in the ocean, [who is] the original source from which Brahma comes into being. The killing of Abel by his brother for the sacrifice of animals refers to the slaying of Asuras by the Devas, their own brothers, due to the difference of opinion about the mode of offering sacrifices or worshiping God.

“Just as Indian Puranas were compiled to glorify a particular aspect of the Supreme Lord as Vishnu, or of Shiva, Durga, Ganesha, etc., the Old Testament deals with ‘Yahwe,’ an aspect of the angry god Rudra. As the word ‘Rudra’ means a weeping god, the Jews for worship use weeping before the wailing wall of the ‘Dome of the Rock’ within the temple of Harmahesh Sri (called by Judaic religionists as Haram Esh Sheriff) in the old city of Jerusalem, i.e., Yadusailam. The Jews spell the name of the city as ‘Yerushalayim,’ of which the Sanskrit synonym is Yadu Ishalayam, which means the temple of the Lord of the Yadus [the descendants of Lord Krishna’s clan].

“Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has informed in his book, Pracya Mattu Paschatya Sanskriti, that the Greeks asserted that the Jews were Indians whom the Syrians called Judea, the Sanskrit synonym of which is Yadava or Yaudheya, and the Indians called them Kalanis, meaning orthodox followers of the scripture.”

This information certainly provides serious insights into the relationship between the early Jews, Christians, the Bible, and the Vedic culture. I could go on pointing out more Eastern traditions that influenced or were adopted and preserved in various levels of Christianity, but this should be enough for now.

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