Judaism as a religion does not fit into the Indian worldview. Jews are just thought of as another separate dharma like Parsees or in this case dharma yahud. We are not usually in their thinking about religion but when we are it is usually as a mis- characterization or a discussion of something else. So here are four Hindu leader to help us understand how they see us.
When you read these texts my question is: which of these statements are just like the opinions of Christians who did not know Jews used to have eighty years ago and will be self-correcting, which are linked to a modernist moment, which are self-defense from Christians in which Jews are safe target to defend themselves, and which need correcting. I am starting with this post before any post on Indian religions because I want my Jewish readers to get a sense that their knowledge of Hinduism is as well informed as the Hindu knowledge of Judaism. This is what non-academic Jews who discuss Hinduism sound like. So read these and help me process them. This post is not to criticize Hinduism but to gauge the initial gap between faiths.Bear in mind that Jews in India have never experience any iota of persecution or prejudice.
(1) Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan thought Judaism had been superseded by Christianity, (2) Surendranath Dasgupta- Judaism is primitive compared to Hinduism (3) Swami Vivekanda -Judaism does not see its own idolatry (4) Sai Baba- went from ignoring to synthesizing random thoughts.
The first author we will look at Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 –1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967.He was one of India’s most influential scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, Radhakrishnan built a bridge between the East and the West by showing how the philosophical systems of each tradition are comprehensible within the terms of the other. He wrote authoritative exegeses of India’s religious and philosophical literature for the English-speaking world. His academic appointments included University of Oxford (1936–1952).
Radhakrishnan was influenced by the Protestant thought of his time, painting Judaism as legalistic and primitive compared to Christainity.
The Hindu religion is marked by an eminently rational character…The Bramanical civilization is so called since it is directed by the Brahmin thinkers trained to judge issues without emotion and base their conclusions on the fundamentals of experience.
Jesus tolerated the inferior Mosaic law which was far less than the highest ideals.
Yahweh of the Old Testament was essentially a national deity. Israel remained God’s chosen race and the heathen nations who would submit to his authority and come to worship at Zion would occupy a position of subjection.
Jesus was much hampered by his Jewish heritage. Jesus already understood God’s immanence. Jesus’s message was to overcome the false [Jewish] antithesis between man and God. Man and God are akin “That art Thou”
Why did Hinduism not eradicate the idols? Answer: Because India is a immense country unlike the small area of Dan to Beer Sheva
The Hindu thinkers, while they themselves practiced a very high ideal, understood the un-readiness of the people for it and so took to careful tending instead of wild forcing. They admitted the lower gods, whom the masses ignorantly worshipped and urged that they were all subordinate to the One Supreme”
The extent of the country 2000 miles long and 1500 miles broad is not similar to that from Dan to Beersheva.
The second author Surendranath Dasgupta (1887 –1952) was a scholar of Sanskrit and philosophy who produced the basic first reference works on Indian philosophy still used in 2013. Like Joseph Klausner in Israel, people know Dasguta’s opinions even if many times indirectly. Dasguta is also know as the author who turned Eliade onto Indian religion. Eliade studied in India under Dasgupta at the University of Calcutta, but his relationship with Dasgupta became strained when he fell in love with Dasgupta’s daughter Maitreya.
Dasgupta’s approach is to show the primitive nature of Judaism and that it does not have any alleged superiority over Hinduism.
The Jewish God is always anxious that the sons of Israel do not worship other gods than himself and like a king who wishes to keep their subjects loyal to himself imposes the cruelest punishment on the disloyal and the rebel, and is ready to bestow His favor on those who are loyal to him and observe His laws and commands. He…demonstrates His miracles to stun them with awe and fear. But this only shows that the people at this stage were not capable of realizing the force of anything but fear. The God here is almost a materialistic god, the wind, the fire, the volcano and the sea, which would not for a moment forgive our transgression.
Thus among the Jews we find Abraham and Moses entering into a covenant with God, who acted as their ally, showed them the majesty of his power by His miracles, punished men with fire and brim stone for their misdeeds….
In the Jewish religion we find God entering into a covenant with Moses that He and His people should not worship stones, trees, and images but should worship only God and obey his commands. Most of these commands seen to have evolved from a due regard for man’s place among the members of a society… [meaning that it was social and not based a theology of the Divine.]
Judaism’s revelation was of prohibition and not revelations of God’s nature or any kind of spiritual experience
Dasguta continues the passage below demonstrating that the Upanishads were already superior to this primitive Jewish position. He also shows how Jewish ritual is as primitive as Hindu ritual.
Often in the scripture of older people such as that of the Hindus, the Parsees, and the Jews regulations regarding food and drink and defilement appear to have the same moral force as those regarding social offences of a moral nature. It seems that from an original sense of mischief accruing in consequence… gradually the idea of sin grew… The primitive idea was that it was some sort of material that corrupts a person, produces sickness, makes one amenable to bad fortunes, and may also stick to the person and produce misery even after death in the ghostly conditions of the soul or in Hell.
Durkheim explained that on the feast of Tabernacles the Jews do ritual in which the motion in the air causes the rain to fall based on correct performance.
And to show that Biblical culture is anti-science compared to the rational Indian culture.
The theory of evolution thus strongly repudiates the idea that the old testament is the word of God who is an omniscient being, for, the doctrine of creation as found in the old testament, is definitely false by modern scientific investigations. Now if the Bible is not regarded as a Holy Book revealed by God, the validity of most of the teachings of the bible and the promises contained therein as reward and punishment to the obedience and transgressions of the commands of God, would fail. Modern man of science is not shaken before Jehovah the god
Galileo was put in a cage and Bruno was burnt alive” “people believed in all kinds of superstitions and regarded them as parts of the Christian faith. Many today don’t believe in evolution.
The third thinker is Swami Vivekanda (1863 – 1902), the Indian Hindu monk and chief disciple of the 19th-century saint Ramakrishna, and is responsible for bringing Hinduism to the West. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India. He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
If one pursues history of the religion of the Jew, it becomes quite clear that actually the Jews were idolatries in the beginning.
By degrees, circumcision took place of human sacrifice; and prostitution and image worship etc gradually disappeared.
Among the Jews, Idol worship is condemned but they had a temple in which was kept a chest which they called an ark, in which the Tables of the Law were preserved and above the chest were two figures of angels with wings outstretched between which the Divine presence was supposed to manifest itself as a cloud.
The religion of all the Semitic races, with slight minor variations was almost always the same…Almost every God was called Moloch… [ He relates the concept of kingship and ruler with child sacrifice]
Vivekanda’s main message was that mystics in every religion speak the same tongue and teach the same truth. He asks in several places the question that Indian may have not solved its primitive religion but the Biblical faiths have not produced advanced religion. We may have idols but you don’t produce great spiritual swamis. It is worth tolerating idols if we produce such great mystics
The fourth position we will look at is Śri Sai Baba (1926 –2011) an Indian guru who was also considered by his followers to be an avatar, spiritual saint and miracle worker. Sathya Sai Baba claimed he could materialize small objects such as rings, necklaces, and watches, along with reports of miraculous healings, resurrections, and clairvoyance, which sceptics viewed them as simple conjuring tricks.
Sai Baba attached many Jewish followers including Rabbi Dovid Zeller, and Sai Baba brought Rabbis Shlomo Carlebach and Zalman Schachter for an guru conference. Sai Baba sought to help the individual be aware of the Divinity that is inherent in him and to conduct himself accordingly; To translate this awareness into practice in daily life, divine love and perfection; and to fill one’s life with joy, harmony, beauty, grace, human excellence and lasting happiness.
Sai Baba includes the oneness of all religions as part of his teachings and several of his Temples have a museum display teaching about the world faiths. Originally , Sai Baba could not understand no matter how many times it was explained to him that Judaism and Christianity are not the same religion, and they do not share the worship of Jesus and the symbol of the Cross. Eventually, he understood and wrote a 33 page booklet about Judaism. (feel free to read the whole thing)
He used the following sources
1. Religions of the World – Judaism by Kenneth Atkinson.
2. Judaism, Third Edition, World Religions by Martha A. Morrison, Stephen F. Brown.
3. The Everything Judaism Book – by Richard D. Bank
4. Judaism for Dummies Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D., David Blatner
5. History of the Jews by Paul Johnson
6. The Oxford dictionary of the Jewish religion, Oxford University Press, 1997
But what went wrong in his summary? What needs to be corrected in this thought pattern that can produce these paragraphs that would not be written by Jews? What is he missing that creates these summaries? where is his tonal quality off?
Orthodox Judaism: As a response to the growth of Reform Judaism in Europe, Moses Sofer (1762-1839), a rabbi from Bratislava, in the area now known as Slovakia, called on all traditional Jews to make no compromise with modernity. He summoned them to keep themselves separate from reform-dominated communities if they did not want to lose their Jewish identity. Orthodox Judaism is the traditional form of Judaism. Although Orthodox Judaism has changed over time to adapt to historical events and new circumstances, it has always remained firmly rooted in tradition. It attempts to follow many of the ancient laws that were preserved in written form in the Jewish Scriptures, as well as other laws that were passed down orally through successive generations of Jewish religious leaders called rabbis. Orthodox Jews rest on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, as commanded in the Jewish Scriptures. Hebrew, the language of the Jews, is still used in worship. Women in Orthodox Judaism must cover their heads and sit apart from men during worship. Men are required to keep their heads covered at all times to remind them that God is above everything. Orthodox Jewish men traditionally leave their beards and the hair in front of their ears uncut, in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures (Leviticus 19:27).
Many Orthodox Jewish communities use Yiddish in daily life, and speak Hebrew during worship services. Because Orthodox Jews follow strict dietary laws (Kashrut), they have traditionally lived apart from other people.
One Jewish mystical tradition teaches that Elohim is the One, manifesting as the many. In this sense, YHVH refers to the Totality (the transcendent, which contains everything), and Elohim refers to the Immanent, that Spark of Divinity which awakens within each and every expression of the One Being. It’s another way of reminding people that what they see as lots of individual forms (people, animals, plants, rocks and so on) is, behind the scenes, all part of the One.
In addition to the Ten Commandments, God gave Moses many other rules and regulations. For example the Hebrews were forbidden to eat certain kinds of foods, such as pork, which God declared unclean. The biblical books of Exodus and Leviticus contain extensive commentaries Unity of Faiths – Judaism on each of the Ten Commandments and how to fulfill them in daily life. The extensive code of laws was designated to remind Jews of God and to help them behave properly. Because all religions have beliefs, rules and regulations that set them apart from other religions, many scholars say that the religion of Judaism begins with Moses and the Torah. This is because Moses is the traditional source of Judaism’s unique lifestyle.