|Reply to S. Gardiarachchi
Invoking a blessing?
People have this moral intuition that if they dont live a virtuous life they should suffer. Looking around the world they find that there seems to be no evidence that the evil fare badly in this world. In fact there are many instances of the virtuous suffering and even faring worse than the evil. In fact those who want to uphold the right will often have to pay for their stand by suffering. It is hard to stand for the right in society. Nor can we ignore the wrongs & sufferings of others who stand up for righteous actions. We are our brothers keepers. This is why Jesus Christ had to suffer because He rebuked the Pharisees, the Scribes and the Roman authorities for their evil deeds and the authorities then put Him to a cruel death. This was the fate of Mahatma Gandhi and anyone else that will preach against the hypocrisy; the injustices and evil in society could face the same fate. They will suffer for their views at the hands of the authorities. Its no wonder that so many good men in our society are silent in spite of the injustices perpetrated by the government.
Man cannot get over this moral intuition that justice must happen if not in this world at least in a future plane of existence. So he posits another life or lives after death and so arose the theory of re-birth and an after-life where man can liberate himself from his evil nature. Since it is very hard to overcome our tendency to evil deeds the Hindu tradition postulated repeated births and deaths over Samsara.
The theory of rebirth has been around in the world long before the Lord Buddha. It was held by the ancient Greeks and was held even by the Christian theologian Origen. But Christianity states that man cannot liberate himself from sin by his own efforts and that salvation comes through Gods blessings and that God is willing to forgive mans sin if he believes in Jesus Christ. So for the Christians there was no need for a Samsara to cleanse himself of sin since in any case his salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ. So the concept of Purgatory was perhaps adopted instead of a cycle of births and deaths to cleanse man of sin.
One undeniable fact is that mans ideas about God and his relations with Him are changing. In the Old Testament the concept of God was a jealous God who had made a covenant with his chosen people and if the people worshipped the one true God, He would in return bless them and protect them from their enemies-the neighboring tribes and peoples like the Amorites, the Philistines, the Babylonians etc. When the people of God broke the covenant and turned to idolatry God would punish them.
They believed that God was just and that punishment for evil was acceptable. Jesus Christ changed this concept of God. He said God is a loving Father and that although He is also a just God, He does not insist on strict punishment if the sinner repents for his sins and turns away from evil. He must make a sincere effort to do so. God, Jesus said, does not deal with us in this world according to our just deserts. He allows the sun to shine on the good as well as the wicked without distinction. Suffering is the result of collective sin not the particular sins of the individual in this life or in past lives, nor due to the sins of the parents.
This is of course quite different to the Old Testament view of God and his relations with man which were preached by the prophets. Any human being is conditioned in his thinking by the social and cultural ideas prevailing in his society. He may change or modify them but he cannot transcend them completely. Jesus claimed to be both man as well as the Son of God.
Jesus being man reflected the social thought of the times. He had to speak in concepts intelligible to the people of the times who had a perception of what constituted hell. A careful reading of the New Testament shows that He was always talking about the alienation of man from God, which is the cause of sin or bad karma. " I have come to give you new life and to give it abundantly". But a man has to be born again to enjoy such new life He also pointed out that idolatry is anything that a man is inordinately attached to.
Our record of what Jesus said is from the Gospels written by the Evangelists. Being human they interpreted the actions of Jesus, his miracles for example in terms of their social & cultural ideas. It was believed then as now in our villages, that most diseases are due to possession by the devil and instead of giving medicine they do bali" or"thovil". Similarly the Gospel writers could have interpreted some of the miraculous cures as exorcisms. Toda y we know there are psychosomatic illnesses. But the Pope has not denied the existence of the Devil. Similarly the concept of "hell which prevailed during the time of Jesus was a place of fire. So they interpreted Jesus sayings about hell as a fire. But Jesus also spoke about the alienation of man from God. Even after the Gospels were written there have been appearances of Jesus and Mary to various people where they have been told of the merciful God who forgives sin and of the need for man to repent. He will not damn him if he repents of his sin. This is unlike the inflexible law of karma.
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