Tattva Janana Class 2
March 29, 2013
Q: Since this is Good Friday, can you explain a little bit about the significance of Good Friday?
Yes, I can. Just a very little. On Good Friday, it was the end of the Passover, and Jesus went to Jerusalem. And Jesus said, “Let’s purify the temple. The Lord does not want anyone conducting business in the temple. It does not belong in the temple. We should put the businessmen out of the temple. They should not be sitting here changing money, selling animals for sacrifice, and doing all the other crazy things they are doing.
And the pandits were sitting in front of the murtis, saying, “If you want to do puja, give me money. I can do your worship.” Then Jesus went into the temple and said, “I’m purifying the temple. You have made my Father’s house into a den of thieves. Get out! You’re only here for the money! It’s your occupation. This temple is not about business, this is about spiritual communion!”
And the priests—and all the business people—and everyone else said, “This is totally against the tradition. We’ve been sitting here in these seats right around the murtis, selling our pujas, and running our stores, changing money, and selling prasad, and selling you flowers, and selling you incense, and everything is for sale in the temple. Who are you to come into the temple and tell us how we should behave? Our forefathers built this temple. You’re not even from this area. You’re not a local. This is our temple. We’re the pandits of this temple. Go!”
And Jesus said, “No.” He said, “Spirituality is for everyone! This is a house of God, and the house of God is open to everyone. And I am a son of God, I am a child of God, and no one has the authority to tell me that they have a claim to do their business right in front of the altars.” Well, Jesus got into an altercation, they all began to fight. They called the police. The police called the army. The army came and arrested Jesus. And they took him to the judge, Pontius Pilate. And the judge didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. He said, “You guys accused him. You guys try him in your court. Let him be tried by the Hebrew priests. You have your own court. This is a local matter, it’s a religious matter. Something took place in your temple. I have no authority to do anything.”
And the Pharisees, the priests, the pandits of the temple said, “This is a judicial matter which concerns Rome.” And they held up a coin, and they said to Jesus, “To whom should the people of Israel pay taxes?”
And Jesus answered, “Look at the picture on the coin.” It was Julius Caesar. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give the rest to God.”
And they said, “See! He said you don’t have to pay taxes! You don’t have to give everything to Caesar. You don’t have to give everything to Rome. He has committed a heinous crime against all of Rome! So now, it’s your jurisdiction.”
So then the judge, Pontius Pilate, said, “Ok. I have Barabbas, who is a murderer and a thief and a revolutionary, and he is sentenced to be killed. And I have Jesus who is accused of telling people not to pay taxes. Which one do you want me to set free?” So of course the Barabas followers all shouted for the release of Barabbas. Jesus was convicted. And he was crucified. On Good Friday. And that’s why it was the Good Friday.
The following day was Saturday, the Sabbath. They couldn’t take the body down during the Sabbath. So after the sunset, they took the body down, and put it into a cave. On Sunday morning, they went and looked in the cave, and the body wasn’t there. [Shree Maa laughs, says, “He was gone!” And Swamiji smiles, “Gone!”]
And then Jesus appeared in Heaven to his disciples on Easter Sunday morning. And everyone said, “He has risen!”
And on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the Mass. We could celebrate the Mass Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But this is how the tradition began. That was the story of Good Friday.
Q: What is the significance for devotees of Jesus being on the cross and rising back again?
Well, it depends what kind of devotee you are. It absolutely depends if you are Catholic, if you are Protestant, what denomination you are, because accordingly you will subscribe into different history and a different interpretation. For those of us who have an universal outlook and a universal faith, we would define the cross thusly: the horizontal member stands for the relationship between man to man. How does man relate to society? The vertical member stands for the relationship between man and God.
In every society the relationship between man and man is different, according to local culture. If you go to the desert communities of the Mohammadens, you’ll see that vegetables are very scarce. You had better eat meat if you want to survive. If you go to the lush, tropical areas of India, you’ll see there are so much vegetables, why would you take a life in order to save your own life? You could eat a vegetarian diet. The relationship between man and man is different in every society.
In ancient Hindu society, if you killed a cow, you had to eat it, everything, right then and there. Whatever was no immediately consummed, spoiled, and had to be thrown away. But in modern society, if you kill a cow, you put it into a refrigerator. You can eat it for a month! [Shree Maa laughs.] In India, in ancient India, if the cow lived, you got milk and ghee and yogurt and all the products that will nourish your body for the life of the cow. Why would you think to kill the goose that lays the golden egg?! Be a vegetarian!
So the relationship between man and society is different in every society. We of the universal outlook understand that at the crossroads between man and society and between man and God, the embodiment of universal love was put on display to kill that love—because of the selfishness of humanity. But they couldn’t kill him. He rose to be eternal and to be more powerful and to be more strong than they could have ever imagined were he to have lived his life and preached. He would have been a voice crying in the wilderness. But ultimately, he attained eternal life. Because that’s the allegory of the story. He rose—to eternal life, and he gives blessings. And now, two thousand years later, the largest landholder in the world is the Catholic Church. They’re the biggest real estate enterprise in the world. All in the name of the embodiment of universal love. It was a pretty silly mistake.
Q: Are the stories surrounding Jesus to be taken literally or to be interpreted in the interest of morality?
It depends on your outlook. It depends on who you are and what you want. If you join a church from your youth, you’ll be told the stories of Jesus are literal, and he actually turned the water into wine. And he actually walked on the ocean. In the same way, if you study Hinduism, you will find every level of interpretation on the seven levels of consciousness. How do you interpret the story, and what does it mean to you? It depends on what you’re looking for, and in that way you can understand the stories of scriptures of every religion.
It happened to me when I was studying Sanskrit. And I looked at the translations that were prepared in the nineteenth century, the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were all translated literally. Here are all these rishis praying for more cows. And praying to the rivers and the mountains, and that they should be blessed by the sun. That is not the meaning that I came up with. I saw that the same root for “cow” was “go” and the same root for “light” was “go.” And maybe if they were really rishis, that they were really praying for light. Govinda is the bindu of the go. Does that mean that he is the one-pointed cow? Now Gopal I can understand. He’s the protector of cows. But Govinda I couldn’t get. How could he be the one-pointed cow? Holy cow.
So then I understood the protector of light was really the meaning that they wanted to convey. And the one-pointed light was Govinda. And Gauri was she who embodies rays of light. She didn’t embody rays of cows. But some of the interpreters and translators wanted to say that she was the rays of cows. And I didn’t understand it! What are they talking about? What does this mean to me? It’s not going to change my life. I want something that could change my life, and I’ll call that a religious experience. I don’t want something that just doesn’t make any sense at all, and I’m reading it for what reason? I didn’t want to become a professor, I wanted to become a practitioner. I didn’t want to become someone who could expound and pontificate and give discourses on cows or the history of the Vedic Aryans. That wasn’t my purpose. I already had a job. I was looking for something that would change my life. If I could bring more light into my life, if I could bring more love into my life, if I could bring more generosity into my life, I would think I lived a good life. This is a good lesson for me. And that’s how I interpreted the story of Jesus. And that’s how I interpreted the stories of the Vedas. And that’s how I translated the various scriptures that we translated.
Shree Maa: Thank you.
Swamiji: Om sam Saraswati namaha. Namaste.
Shree Maa: Namaste, stay, stay!
Swamiji: Thank you all for coming and for sharing with us tonight. And please be blessed with the Good, Good, Good, and Better Still, Good Friday. Namaste.