Mysticism Chapter 6 Origins of the Indian Religious Systems (No. B7_6)
(Edition 1.0 19900830-20001214)
This chapter takes the Indian system from its commencement on the Indus basin with the movements east from the Assyro-Babylonian system to the subsequent Aryan conquests and religious developments.
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Origins of the Indian Religious Systems
Excavations north of Quetta in the Zhob River basin have revealed evidence that the early civilisations of India were based on the Mother Goddess figure akin to the Babylonian.
Mother Goddess figurines from these excavations though undated, suggest that India’s most popular form of contemporary worship was possibly its oldest religious cult as well. Humped Bulls made of terracotta have also been unearthed in the Valley of the Zhob (Stanley Wolpert - A New History of India, 2nd Edition, Oxford, 1982, p.10).
The Bull cult was a feature of the Babylonian system. In India the Bull became identified with Shiva and deified as Nandi bearer of the God. The stone phallus was also found. This was to be later associated with Shiva and is present in more later carvings, even of Buddhist derivation.
The great Indus civilisation appears to have developed contemporaneously with that of the Tigris Euphrates (and the Nile). The Eastern Yumuna-Ganga plain of Sal forest was not able to be cultivated until iron ploughs drawn by oxen were developed, well after 1000 BCE (ibid., p.12).
The Doab region between these great rivers has revealed only traces of the wanderings of the tribal peoples. The excavations at Hastinapura near Delhi do not appear to be dateable earlier than 1000 BCE.
This may have been the first great city of Aryan occupation in India (ibid.).
Indus civilisation appears to precede the Aryans by at least 1000 years at the cities of Harappa (derived from Hara, one of Shiva’s names) and Mohenjo-daro (Mound of the Dead). The pre Aryan dasas (a name given them by the Aryans meaning slaves) were dark skinned and, contrary to popular history, have been revealed as more advanced than the fairer Aryans, who conquered them through some superior weaponry and the use of harnessed horses. The city of Harappa dates from between 2300-1750 BCE and was contemporaneous with Sumer, with evidence of trade with Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE) (ibid., p.19). Evidence exists of the mighty hunter deity particularly at Mohenjo-daro. The three horned deity emerging from a tree has been found. It is well known that the Babylonian Triune God, whose symbol is a trident, was also found in the trident bearing, multi-faced Shiva, who appears to be a derivative of Nimrod or associated with him, as the three horned cap was also a sacred symbol in Assyria. According to Hislop, this became also the symbol of Vishnu in his avatar of the fish. This has also been applied by Sir William Jones to Agni (Asiatic Researches, vol., Plate 80) (A. Hislop, The Two Babylons, pp. 36-37). (Although Hislop's work is not popular, it is valuable if used with care.)
The Bull and the Unicorn were symbolic figures associated with this system, as were the spring cults (Wolpert, p. 18).
This superior civilisation was destroyed by a flood sometime after 1750 BCE, caused by tectonic earth movements (ibid., p. 22). The Aryans invaded India after the cataclysm and superimposed the nomadic tribal Shamanism over the sedentary Harappan system, adopting a syncretic form with variations of the Babylonian sedentary system. The Harappan Pipal leaf was to survive into the iconography of Buddhism.
These barbaric Aryan hordes superimposed themselves on the more civilised pre Aryan slaves and fused a religious system. This system enshrined the civil and ecclesiastical power in a class (Varna) system, with religious power in the hands of the Brahmans and civil power in the hands of the Kshatriyas, who headed a feudal system over the other two groups of Vaishyas and Shudras, who are farmers and servants respectively.
With iron-age Western Indo-Aryan technology, they cleared earlier forests by slash and burn techniques (Agni).
Early Aryan Religion
According to Stanley Wolpert:
the religion of the early Aryans centered around the worship of a pantheon of nature Gods to whom sacrificial offerings were periodically made for the good things of life and for repose thereafter. No one deity ruled over the pantheon, which included some thirty three divinities named in the Rig Veda (A New History of India, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1986 p. 32).
The few major Gods were Indra, Varuna, Agni and Soma. Wolpert considers that Indra may have been the first great leader of the Aryan conquest. Indra was the God who defeated "the demon Vritra, whose limbless body enclosed all creation" (ibid., p33). Indra with his "mighty and fatal" weapon the thunderbolt pierced the dark demon’s covering and released the dawn. He is thus equated with Mithras (or Apollo), the Chaldean deity being introduced from the steppes into India by these Aryans. It cannot be dismissed that the Aryans brought with them the Genesis account as it involved their tribes and deified the personalities in a form of ancestor worship. We have seen that Wolpert’s view regarding Indra compares in India with the similarities between the deities and the Genesis accounts of their ancestors. For example, Seri Nu is the god of wealth and money, whereas Nu is the Chaldean and eastern Aramaic or Arabic name for Noah. Shiva is a form of Sheba brother with Dedan and son of Raamah, brother of Nimrod, Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, and Sabtecha, who were all sons of Cush from the sons of Ham (Gen. 10:6-8). The Raksasas are the giants of the Hindu myths that are equivalent to the Nephilim of the Genesis account. The Aryans invaded from Scythia. We know that this was the area inhabited by the Scottish Celts at the same time as the invasion took place (cf. Elizabeth Wayland Barber, The Mummies of Ürümchi, Norton, NY & London 1999). We also know that David had expeditions into Scythia from the Psalms. Brahma might be identified with Abraham and certainly linguistically.
Virtra was also the symbol of pre-Aryan power, the "warder" of the "dasa lord". So there may be historic as well as cosmogonic significance conveying the essence of the Aryan victory (ibid.).
Once Indra's victory was achieved, however, Varuna, the King of Universal Order (initially rita and later dharma) stepped forward to take the central position of Aryan religious authority (ibid.).
As divine judge, he was closely connected with the Sun God Surya and with one of his lesser manifestations in the Rig Veda, Vishnu who with Mitra, incarnated the Sun system. Vishnu and Shiva were to share "virtual" monotheistic dominance over Hinduism (ibid.). Agni, the Fire God, was the mirror of the sun, being another aspect of its manifestation. Soma was the God of Immortality, the spirit which granted 'freedom' and invigorated the 'spirit' prolonging life, symbolically, as a beverage. "Among the lesser personified powers of nature worshipped by the Vedic Aryans, the loveliest was Ushas, the dawn, "rosy-fingered" daughter of the sky" (ibid., p. 34).
Wolpert concludes that "the seeming simplicity of the Aryan nature worshipping religion was soon obscured by the Vedic quest for an understanding of Cosmic origins and control over cosmic forces" (ibid.).
Correct functioning of the universe depended on both Gods and men performing their individual duties in accord with rita, the true order. "Demons of falsehood were always trying to destroy that perfect balance, starting floods, bringing drought or famine" (ibid.). They appeared as mad or dangerous animals, insects and pestilence. Locked in a struggle, a tenuous balance was maintained by ritual sacrifice, exhorting the good deities to overcome the demons.
Truth (rita) could always be subverted by falsehood (an-rita), just as the "real" (sat) or existent world might always be disguised by imagined or "unreal" (asat) illusions, fantasies, and nonexistent fears and terrors. The word sat, which originally meant "existent" came thus to be equated with cosmic reality and its underlying ethical principle, truth. To Vedic man the universe was divided between earth's fair surface and the heavenly dome above it, the realm in which sat prevailed, and the demon darkness beneath this world, where unreality and falsehood dominated all (ibid., pp. 34-35).
This cosmology is obviously Chaldean in origin and (like the early Chaldean animistic system) was to develop further, during the creation of the Rig Veda, to the creation of a number of superdeities, "whose all embracing qualities and impersonal characteristics more nearly resembled monotheistic than pantheistic gods" (ibid.). Prajapati (Lord of Creatures) emerged more comprehensive than Indra, as did Visvarkamon, "the Maker of All", and Bahmanaspati, "Lord of the Sacred Utterance", which was to reflect the growing power of the Brahman priests. They deified speech itself as the Goddess Vac, a female form, perhaps derived from the female aspect of wisdom, but not to be confused with the concept of the Word of God as Messiah in biblical tradition.
"The evolution of a monistic principle of creation, however, came only at the very end of the Rig Veda (Book X, hymn 129), when we find a neuter pronoun and numeral, Tad Ekam, "That One," cited as the source of all creation anticipating differentiation of any sort and all deities, self existent, self generating, unique. "There was not then either the nonexistent (asat) or the existent (sat). There was no sky nor heavenly vault beyond it. What covered all? Where? What was its protection? Was there a fathomless depth of the waters?"* begins this most remarkable and precocious of all Vedic hymns. It continues:
"There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was the sheen neither of day nor of night.
That one (Tad Ekam) breathed (came to life), though uninspired by breath, by its own potentiality. Besides it nothing existed. There was darkness hidden by darkness at the beginning. This all was an unillumined flood. The first (with power of evolution) which was hidden by a shell, That One, was born through the power of its own (creative incubating) heat."
(* Quote from W. Norman Brown, Man in the Universe (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966, pp. 29-30.))
From this concept of heat or tapas, came the concept of tapas used in yogic contemplation. The desire or karma, source of "That One’s" stirrings, the source behind the creation, came to mean love. The pre-Aryan Yogis from Mohenjo-daro had refused the early mother Goddess system, back onto the simplified nomadic animistic shamanism of the Aryans. Early Chaldean theology had re-emerged within a monistic system, somewhat different to the western Mithras Anahita or Easter (Astarte) Mother Goddess system.
Aryan expansion eastward gave rise to the epics of the Mahabharata, which reflects the endless warfare and the bloodlusts of inter-necine warfare. It records the transition from pastoral nomadism to territorial kingdoms and the developing concepts of kingship, which reflected in the struggles, the incoherent polytheistic concepts of good and evil, which contain the elements of rigid racism. The later Vedic periods saw the combinations of the Varna class system and the endogamous "birth" related jati system. The classic threefold Indo-European division of priests, warriors and commons, had quickly become inadequate within the Indian conquests and the Aryans were forced to adapt (see Wolpert, p. 41 for comment).
The conflicts were ritualised in the Vedas and assumed the form of battles between gods and demons. These histories became enshrined in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
The entire Ramayana may be read as an allegory of Aryan and pre Aryan conflict culminating in the Aryan "conquest" of the south (ibid., p.40).
As Aryan conquest added more peoples, a fifth class, the outcasts (panchamas) were added.
The jati system is pre Aryan and more complex to unravel.
The traditions of India were stabilised into the Aryan "Great" or Sanskritic traditions and the "little" pre-Aryan tradition. The Aryan traditions and law were superimposed on the more extensive native traditions, which absorbed and syncretised them with their customs. The peasant mass developed their native Animistic religion with further Shamamistic adaption with Mysticism, regardless of the Sanskrit and other tradition.
The upanishadic revolt against Brahmanism, which emerged in the Eastern Gangetic plain in the eighth century BCE, was led by Gurus predominantly of the Kshatrya class with cela or student disciples in forest seminars. This revolt against orthodoxy became a Kshatriya-Brahmin struggle for Varna primacy. This struggle developed a different method of obtaining release or liberation (Moksha), which hereafter became the ultimate goal of Vedic meditation.
The concept of Atman had developed in this period, from that of the original meaning in the Rig Veda of "Breath" (similar to the Hebrew Nephesh). The Epic of Gilgamesh relates the original concept of breath and that man was dust, but introduces the concept of the spirit of Enkidu coming out of the ground (see Wallis Budge, pp. 86-97).
Atman progressed from "breath" to the concept of self, then to that of the soul and then to the animating universal element (Wolpert, p. 45).
It was from the Rig Veda that the concept of immortality is as a natural attribute of primordial being (The waters or chaos) i.e., "`in these was immortality, was healing balm (1:23.19)' The waters are qualified as celestial (V.2:11 Svarvatih)" (Jeanine Miller - The Vedas - Rider - 1974 p. 34). Between the Vedic creation of the sun by Indra on slaying the serpent Vrta, and the late Arthaveda IV.10:5, the sun becomes divakara "born from the ocean, born from vrta" so that Vrta originally (IV:19:3) was not conceived as a malignant serpent but personified elemental chaotic forces. For A.B. Keith this is ... a late and absurd legend of the Athervaveda, (which) makes the sun, as divakara born from the demon Vrta a perfect example of misunderstanding of the complexities of these ancient myths" (ibid., p.36). The creation of the sun became light, and light becomes the goal of enlightenment. Men can become gods because of the innate nature of the immortal, primordial substance. Immortality is held to be immanent in the creation.
It is in this transition period of the Vedas that the philosophical position was established, that could enable the Buddhist Faith to emerge.
For Christianity, no such transition was biblically possible. It was specifically denied to the Christian save by election, obedience and Grace. For this reason, the syncretic adaption of the Indo-Aryan system was philosophically attractive to it, and it was from an amalgam of the Mystery cults in the Mithras system, that modern Christianity was created with its soul doctrine, which was of Socratic origin (see John Burnet, The Socratic Doctrine of the Soul in Proceedings of the British Academy 1915-1916, p. 235 and Early Greek Philosophy, 4th ed. Adam and Charles Black, 1958 print, p. 84).
This is the intent of the expression of the serpent at Genesis 3:4-5 "But the serpent said to the women "you will not die". For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
The Ramayana was allegedly written sometime before 500 BCE. However, "its epic kernal actually seems to predate that of the Mahabharata, since no mention is made of any of the martial heroes of the latter in the Ramayana, though the story of Rama and Sita is recounted several times in the longer work" (Wolpert, p. 39).
The references to Rama and Sita, or to Ramah and Shiva generally are not surprising, as the Indians were known by these ancestral names. Biblically, as we have noted above, the names are recorded as sons of Cush, where Ramah's sons were Shiva and Dedan (Gen. 10:12 and 1Chron. 1:9). There, these Cushites were probably the dark skinned tribals of the Indus at Mahenjo-daro and Harrapa. Ezekiel refers to these nations at 27:22, which showed that the merchants then controlling the spice trade were operating as merchants with Tyre. Now the control of spice and gold from the Indies was affected by the Indians, firstly, under the early animist structures, which became difficult under the caste systems, but later trade was again assisted by the increased maritime capacity of the less class-conscious Buddhist seamen. The time frame of Ezekiel is pre-Buddhist, however. The main point of this reference is to establish, absolutely, that regular contact between the Middle East and India was taken for granted and that the cosmology and the attendant concepts of good and evil, as understood by the western Asiatics, were readily understood by these people. The later attempts at localising these Raamah and Shiva entities, as of Aryan origin from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, is too rigid in its application and ignores the syncretic effects of the societies concerned over the centuries.
YOGA, PANTHEISM AND MONOTHEISM
Indian Syncretic Pantheism
The earliest Upanishads proclaimed a faith of Pantheistic Brahmanism of the type, before it was developed into the systemised Vedanta of Sankara.
In the 4th century BCE, the form of devotion called Bhakti, as adoration in the sense of love directed to God, emerged first in Buddhist works. (George A Grierson, Article "Bhakti-Marga" - E.R.E. vol. 2, p. 539).
Devotional faith implies not only a personal God, but One God. It was thus inevitable that the Buddhist concepts should give rise to it in India. Essentially a monotheistic attitude of the religious sense, it found expression in early sages, but found no progress amongst the polytheistic multitude. The Brahman of Northern India themselves, experimented only with Pantheism. It fell to the Ksatriyas of the Outland areas, who were not denied religious participation, to develop the monotheist system. This religious prerogative was monopolised by the Brahmans in the Midlands where the Aryan developed into Sanskrit and where the Vedic hymns were collected and compiled.
It was the Outland thinkers which gave rise to the old atheistic philosophy - the Sankhya which categorically denies the existence of a supreme God and does not concern itself with ethics (ibid. p. 541). Here Sakya - Simha or the Buddha and Mahavira founded the Buddhist and Jain religions. (E.R.E. ibid., p. 540).
In addition to these, Janaka, the famous King of Mithila, was intimately connected with the origins of the Bhagavata religion, dealt with here under the section on "Indian Monotheism"
The development of monotheism appears to originate from a form of sunworship
which was the common heritage of both branches of the Aryan people - the Iranian and the Indian.
George Grierson goes on to quote sources which demonstrate that:
All legends dealing with the origins of the Bhagavata religion are connected with the sun,
in the later stages of the Bhagavata religion, the Adorable is identified with Visnu, a deity who, in the oldest Indian literature, was worshipped as a Sun God (ibid.).
Whether developed from sun worship or not, the founder was Krsna Vasudeva of the Outland Yadava tribe, who was given divine honour in the 4th century BCE. In its original form the religion was strongly monotheistic with an infinite eternal supreme being, full of grace. Salvation consisted of a life of perpetual bliss near him. In the above Grierson follows Professors Bhandarkar and Garbe.
India has always tended to combine religions and philosophy. Over time, the Bhagavata religion was given a philosophic base, and the Outland systems were the Sanhkya and its offshoot, the Yoga. These two systems influenced not only Bhagavata but also Buddhism and Jainism, (contrary to Deussen's contention that Sankya is a development of Vedantism).
Grierson holds that the bridge between the Atheist non-ethical Sankhya and the strongly ethical monotheist Bhagavata religion was afforded by the Yoga philosophy. He holds that:
The belief in the power acquired by the practice of Yoga; or concentration, a kind of Shamanism, had existed in India for centuries, and this became a branch of philosophy when the acquired power was intended to be utilized for the obtaining of the knowledge demanded by Sankhya. The Yoga teaching includes morality, and the ethical tendency of Bhagavatism led it to allay itself with the development of Sankhya rather than with the parent system. (Grierson, E.R.E. ibid., p. 541).
Grierson makes a very valid point here when he states that:
A system of philosophy, as distinct from a religion, is a matter for the learned alone, and the doctors of the Yoga system readily accepted an alliance with a religion such as that of the Bhagavatas, which brought the popular beliefs to their side. They paid a price for it. They added a god to the Sankhya system and Yoga became Theistic.
The God they accepted was added without originally affecting the system. However, their philosophy supplied the Bhagavatas with a number of technical terms, not the least of which being the term yoga, itself. With them Yoga gradually changed its meaning from "concentration of thought" to devotion to god, thus approaching the meaning of Bhakti, but did not include the idea of love, which is an essential part of the significance of that word.
During this development the Adorable of the Bhagavatas adopted also the Sankhya - Yoga title for God; Purusa, or the 'Male', which was a Sankhya title for the human soul. The Yoga system held this form, as a particular soul possessed of supreme knowledge and power. The additions of the titles of Narayana from Nara, the Principal Male and as above, Vasudeva, then developed into the second stage of the religion after the 4th century BCE with its absorption into Brahmanism (ibid., p. 541).
The immediate cause of this fusion was the rise of Buddhism in the Outlands, as Prof. Garbe suggests. This resultant life and death struggle with Buddhism forced changes by the adoption of commonalities between both the Brahmans and the Bhagavatas, as the latter had nothing in common with Buddhism. Grierson points out that the Brahmans had at least a shadowy Pantheos. Although able to win the Bhagavatas over to their side, they, like the Yogas, had to pay a price for the alliance. The price was, firstly, "the identification of the Adorable with an ancient Vedic Sun God, Visnu (Vishnu), still a popular object of worship among the polytheistic lower classes of the midland; and, secondly, the confession of the religious orthodoxy of the Ksatriya monotheism" (ibid). Legends of the interchangeable nature of Ksatriya and Brahman roles developed, even such as that of Janaka, the Bhagavata, becoming a Brahman. Grierson points out that one major development of this alliance was that the Midland incarnation of Vishnu as Parasu-Rama, a Brahman by birth who had become incarnate merely for the destruction of the Ksatriyas, had to be confessed by the Brahmans, in consequence of the alliance, to have been defeated by the first Ksatriya incarnation of Rama-Chandra. This unpleasant fact is slurred over, but nevertheless fully admitted in the official Brahman account of the Ramayana 1 lxxv, ff. (ibid.).
This syncretic amalgam is accomplished on an ongoing basis wherever Brahmanism comes into contact with another religion. It occurred throughout Asia and Southeast Asia, and is a highly adaptive form of syncretism. Local or aboriginal deities are discovered to be identical with Siva, or some other member of the Bramanical Pantheism and the distinction of caste is conferred upon converts.
Usually they are declared to be Rajputs, or in other words, of the Ksatriya Class. The aboriginal customs and beliefs are at first left untouched and in a couple of generations no more ardent supporters on the claims of the Brahmanical priesthood are to be found than those who are still fetish ridden savages. In much the same way the Bhagavatas became a sect of Brahmanized anti Brahmanists (Grierson ibid).
The early parts of the Bhagavad Gita record the accommodation and early adaptions and, as reported many times, Bhagavata later fell under the sway of the Brahmans. The early records of this are found in the later parts of the Bhagavad Gita and belong to the first two centuries of the current era. In northern India where Midland Brahmanism was strongest, the Bhagavatas even admitted the truths of Brahmanism and identified the Adorable with the Pantheos, although Grierson holds that they never made Pantheism a vital part of their religion.
Within Bhagavatism, the Adorable became more remote on this affiliation with Brahmanism. The removal from his adorers was to precipitate the sect of Alakhnamis in an attempt to 'see ye the unseeable'.
This failure to supply the personal object of adoration on the part of late syncretic Bhagavatism, led to the theory of incarnations, which, occurring in various forms and occasions for differing purposes, became the object of the bhakti instead of the Adorable himself.
The idea of the Incarnation of a god is very old in India, stemming from legends in early Vedic literature. Various gods, Brahma, Visnu or Indra, had originally become incarnate to save gods or conquer the world. However, by the fusion of Bhagavatism with Brahmanism, the incarnates were all centered on the Sun God, Visnu.
This system then adopted the concepts of the heroes, firstly as semi-divine and then human, as incarnations or descents (avatara) were developed, thus including Rama-Chandra, Krsna and even the Buddha. Brahman orthodoxy drew up ten instances of incarnations. Two of these, the Ksatriya Rama-Chandra and the Ksatriya Krsna were late additions:
almost certainly added to the list in obedience to Bhagavata susceptibilities, just as the name of the Buddha may have been added to draw weak-kneed Buddhists into the Brahmanical field.
Examples are Krsnu, Vasudeva, already mentioned, and also the son-in-law of Janaka, Rama Chandra, 'the Glory of the Solar Race' (Grierson, ibid. p. 542). These incarnations became the direct objects of worship.
This developed into the concept of the energy power of the sakti, the life force as a divinity of a separate personality. This concept accords with the Western Indo-Aryan triune or trinitarian system and both concepts probably derive from the same source.
The worship of the Sakti as an energetic force, became a prominent feature of the cult of Shiva, but is also found amongst the Bhagavatas. As Visnu was identified with the Adorable, his spouse, Laksmi, became identified as the Adorable's energetic power. She is one with him and yet distinct from him, "neither confounding the person nor dividing the substance". The texts are deliberately silent about her. "She has done all that he has done", yet she also appears "as the active agent in spreading abroad the true faith which she learnt from him." Grierson ably points out that "The Bhagavata monotheistic deity has therefore become a Trinity in Unity, consisting of the supreme, his incarnations and his energetic power. The resemblance to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is marked, more especially when we remember that among the Syrian Christians, the Holy ghost was declared to be a woman and was identified with the Virgin Mary." (ibid). Grierson holds that it is quite possible, that the Bhagavata trinitarian doctrine developed under early Christian influence.
Mother Goddess Theology in Asia
Wolpert, as noted, advances the point that India's most popular form of contemporary worship of the Mother Goddess figure, was also the oldest (Stanley Wolpert - A New History of India, 2nd ed. Oxford, 1982, p. 10). It is probable that this cult system removed any necessity to formally reconcile the Pantheos.
The Mother Goddess system was syncretically adopted. Tara the Sakti of Avalokitesvara, was known in the sixth century. Nalanda, and her cult soon spread from Eastern to Western India and the deccan (M Gosh, Development of Buddhist Iconography in Eastern India - A Study of Tara, Prajnes of 5 Tathagates and Bhrikut - New Delhi Munshiram Manharhal, 1980, p. 31). Tara may be seen as the East Indian Bhuddist version of the Chinese Guanyin (Kuan-yin) or the Hindu Goddess Durga, both of whom preceded her in time. (B J Terweil, The Goddess Tara and Early Ahom Religion, a paper to the Seminar on Minorities in Buddhist Polities at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok on 24 - 28 June 1985). She became a development of the Mother Goddess figure, as Saviouress within Buddhism. The development is more fully discussed in another chapter.
It is more correct however, to view the syncretic Mother Goddess system which became associated with the cult of Mary and which penetrated the Christian Church from Syria as a manifestation of the Chaldean Triune system of the Mother goddess, Easter or Astarte, and her Spring cult offspring, Dumuzi or Tammuz. This cult system of baking cakes to Dumuzi at the Festival of Astarte or Easter is reflected even today.
The earliest reference to an actual worship of Mary was by Epiphanius (Hoer LXXIX) coming from women in Thrace, Scythia and Arabia. She was adored as a Goddess and offered a cake... from which he called them collyridians (E.R.E. Article 'Mary', vol. 8, p. 476).
Developments of the Indo-Aryan System in the First Millennium CE
The sequence of this Indo-Aryan religious process is important in understanding the cosmology of their systems and dealing with the fundamental incoherences arising from these systems.
During the first millennium CE, the Bhagavata were still nominally professors of Sankhya-Yoga, whilst unable to accept Brahmanist Pantheism. As a result, attempts at uniting these opposing thoughts produced an unsystemised pantheism, founded on the idea that everything is part of the One.
The other schema is a systemised dualism, based on the essential difference between matter and spirit. The first endeavours are found in the latest parts of the Bhagavad Gita, also in the twelfth book of the Mahabharata and finally in the current form in the third book (section XXIV ff) of the Bhagavata Purana. Garbe (Sankhya-Philosphie 52 ff.) allocates them to the 13th century CE.
These attempts at reconciliation have an importance to the reconciliations of the Neo-platonist concepts in western and particularly Athanasian Christian Thought. We will deal with these concepts later with the development of Christianity and the western Mystery cults.
The result was religion, not philosophy, and the so called Puauranik Sankhya produced unrelated and mutually contradictory conceptions. Nevertheless, it is of the utmost importance to the religious history of India and the concepts of yoga developed earlier from concentration of thought to devotion, which became subdivided into three kinds. Karma Yoga became attendance to religious ceremonial oblation. Through the purification obtained by this, one is led to Ynana-yoga; now the concentration of the mind on the Adorable, and then "finally to Bhakti-yoga, in which the devotee is full of nothing but faith and sees nothing but the Deity" (cf. Narayana Parivraj in the Artha-panchaka, quoted by Bhandarkar, Search for Sanskrit Manuscripts ... during the year 1883-84, p. 68 ibid.).
From the beginning of the ninth century CE, the Bhramanist concepts of the Midland were systemised by the pantheist philosopher, Sankara, who created the Vedanta philosophy. This system being far more rigid than the Brahmanism on which it was founded, compelled him to attack the Bhagavata monotheism "hitherto grudgingly recognised as orthodox."
This attack precipitated two reactions culminating in the 12th century. One, under Ramaniya, remained faithful to the alliance with Brahmanism and combatted Sankara's teachings (only where they were incompatible with Brahmanist teaching). With the other, under Madhva, the alliance with Brahmanism was broken, and a return was made to the old Sankhya-yoga doctrines previously abandoned. Both sages were from Southern India.
The final stage of this form of monotheism was of a God of Grace. There is one and only one, God named the Bhagavat, the Adorable; Narayana, the Son of the Male; Purusa, the Male; or Vasudeva. He exists from eternity to eternity. Therefore he is defined as the Endless (ananta); the Imperishable (achyuta) and the Indestructible (avinasin).
He is the creator of all things out of matter, to which is given the Sankhya-yoga name of Prakiti, pradhana, or the indiscrete (ayyakta).
Grierson states that:
The original belief about matter seems to have been that he created it out of nothing, but in the mixed philosophy of the sect we sometimes came across statements agreeing with the dualistic Sankhya-yoga theory that prakrti has existed independently from all eternity (ibid., p. 543).
This division is precisely the dispute between the Augustinian Platonists and those of the later Arab schools such as Al Kindi (d.866), concerning the creation ex nihilo, and the later Neo-platonist doctrines developed from the monist entity stated by Parmenides; and is the third alternative.
This eternally existent entity of the spirit, or the unseen, which, contrary to Platonist immanent monism, is a logical alternative to the creation ex nihilo and is examined within the Christian doctrine in opposition to Augustine.
These concepts are similar to those developed by the Athanasian Christians, particularly from Augustine and inclusive of the Protestant variations, and are quite separate to the biblical concepts. (This analysis is contained in Cox Creation: From Anthropomorphic Theology to Theomorphic Anthropology (No. B5), 1990).
This Indian system develops the Chaldean concepts of the soul, where all souls or jiva issue from God and, henceforth, exist forever as distinct individuals and are indestructible.
The countless subordinate deities, such as Brahma, Siva, etc., carry out his orders in creating and ruling the world and promulgating the true religion. From time to time in his infinite grace, he himself becomes incarnate; there being twenty-three in all, the most perfect being those of Rama-Chandra and Krsna, and there is one yet to come.
The idea of the Fatherhood of God as a God of Grace in India thus derives from the Bhagavatas.
Within the Hindu system this last incarnation is of Vishnu as Kalki the rider on a white horse, sometimes referred to as the white horse itself. Wendy O'Flaherty holds that: he coming at the end of the age when the world is destroyed is a Christian influence. ("Hinduism" R Cavendish, Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, p. 25).
The destruction and reconstruction of the world have no coherent schema within the Indian system, and no explanation follows this doctrine. Hence, the system does not address the necessary limitations of God arising from an imperfect world system.
The philosophic problems of connecting the immaterial Vasudeva with the material world, resemble those of the Sankhya-Yoga, but are more complicated.
The system is that the Adorable, called here Vasudeva, passes through three phases of conditioned spirit, called vyuhas. Vasudeva first produces from himself prakrti, the indiscrete primal matter of the Sankhyas, and at the same time passes into the phase of conditioned spirit, known as samkarsana. The association of samkarsana and prakrti gives rise to manas (corresponding to the Sankhya Buddhi, or the intellectual faculty). Simultaneously, samkarsana passes into the phase of spirit called pradyumna.
These secondary conditions of manas and pradyumnas in association, give rise to the Sankhya ahamkara, with pradyumna passing into the tertiary phase known as aniruddha. This aniruddha coupled with ahamkara produce the Sankhya mahabhutas or grosser elements and their qualities. The deity Brahma also arises from this stage and from the elements he fashions the earth and all it contains. Grierson outlines this sequence from Colebrooke's Essays p. 437 ff., and Barnett's translation of the Bhagavad Gita p. 48 ff.
It is of great significance in this monotheistic structure, that the concepts of Bhakti or adoration toward the Adorable, or to one of his incarnations, is the only means of salvation.
The word, deva, is translated as god in the English and this gives rise to the same misconceptions as arose within the Athanasian system, from the translation of the Hebrew words Eloah, El, Elohim, as God. The word for God in the singular is Eloah or Allah’. The Elohim were the ultimate ministering spirits of the God family, the Council of the Gods and the Sons of God. This term was given to the Angel of Redemption of the Bible, the Anointed God of the Planet (Ps. 45:17) (see also the paper Cox, The Pre-Existence of Jesus Christ (No. 243), CCG, 1999, 2000). The term Elohim, therefore, like Deva can represent the Supreme God or his anointed spirits.
These lesser devas are held to be the objects of worship, but only in the same fashion as the Elohim, using the word, veneration, not adoration.
So the Bhagavad Gita insists that the true believer must be a Unitarian Monotheist - an ekantin, based on a Triune system, which appears to derive from Chaldean theology originally.
The development of Indian theological suppositions has progressed from pre-Aryan Mother Goddess Theology, along the lines of the early Babylonians, which became fused with the Aryan forms of Neo-Babylonian Shamanism as developed above. Mother Goddess Theology is endemic to India and Asia, generally, and has penetrated both Hinduism and Buddhism and to a lesser extent, Islam in Asia and Christianity in the West from its Animist base. The Triune Sun system developed within the Pantheistic structure of animism, with the soul substance, or jiva, established as the mechanism. The later monotheist developments of the Bhagavatas are apparently post Christian adaptations of a Monotheist structure on an Indo-Aryan Cosmological framework.
These Indian forms have provided no coherent solutions to the problem of evil and offer no definitive mechanisms for the creation. The Pantheistic concepts suffer from the logical incoherence of all Pantheistic concepts, as does dualism, ultimately. The monotheist structure of the Bhagavatas is reducible to the basic Athanasian and Neo-Platonist arguments of the creation ex nihilo and the creation from the spirit. The soul doctrine renders this system incoherent and Pantheist, as does its application to the biblical schema.
Bhagavata Monotheism is the logical extension of the imposition of Christian theological propositions on an Indo-Aryan developed Chaldean theological structure, within an Indian philosophic mechanism.
It offers no coherent explanation for the purpose and system of the creation within a credible structure of an omnipotent and omniscient God.
Likewise, the third development of the Indian system, reflected also a Neo-Platonism development, was Monism, and affects not only Buddhism, but also has penetrated the Bhagavata church of Sri-Sampradaya, which rejects Vedantism, but accepts Brahmanism. In this church, matter and soul alike proceed from the Personal Pantheos, in which is endowed every auspicious quality. He pervades all things as the Inward Restorer, the antaryamin. Sankara's system of the Vedanta is also Monist. It rests ultimately on the concept of Maya as illusion, where Sankara's Brahma is an impersonal, qualityless being, who can obtain an unreal existence only by association with Maya. Madhra's Brahma-sampradaya system of Bhagavata dualist monotheism, rejects Sankara's Vedanta as disguised Buddhism. The monism of Sankara's system places the soul as being really only a part of Brahma, individualised by association with Maya. When released from Maya, the soul again merges with Brahma and loses identity. Thus Brahma or the Neutral Brahman, the impersonal Pantheos of the Upanishads and Sankara, is to be differentiated from the masculine Brahma or Brahman as the personal member of the Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, although the development is, in its original, from the triune sun system as seen above.
The 15th century Bhagavata system of the Rudra-sampradaya holds a doctrine of 'pure non-duality' where the Adorable has three attributes; sat or existence, cit or consciousness and ananda or bliss. The soul is the Adorable with the attitude of bliss suppressed (antarhita), and inanimate matter is the Adorable with the attributes of consciousness and bliss suppressed. On gaining release, or moksa, the soul regains bliss and thus becomes identical with the Adorable. (Grierson, ibid., p. 545). The mechanics and logic of this system, of what appears to be qualified monism, are unclear and the problems of such assertions emerge in the discussion of the biblical system.
The oldest section of the Nimavats, or the Sanakadi-sampradaya of the Bhagavata, is certainly sun oriented and of classical Indo-Aryan cosmology. The incarnation of the Adorable as a swan, is found from the Indus into Europe. The doctrine of 'dualistic non- duality' admits that the soul and matter are distinct from the Adorable. For this system, the facts of the incarnations, their truth and falsehood are irrelevant. Only the understanding of the Divine love behind the creation is important. This system thus, like some modern Protestant theology, dismisses as unimportant its fundamental incoherence.
The earliest Bhagavata teachings are thus pre Christian Pantheist. The concept of Bhakti is thus held to be independent of Christian concepts. Grierson holds that it first appeared in the sense of love directed towards God in the Buddhist works of the 4th century BCE (ibid. p. 539). It is thus that the reformation systems, of the 15th century Ramananda, spread concepts, which are readily identifiable with Christianity in a form which, unlike the early expansive Vaisnavism, was necessarily a religion of the elite Ksatriyas, as Saivism became a religion of the masses and from Southern India in half a century, overthrew Sankaras Vedantism as the premier system. The Bhakti of the Bhagavad Gita, falling into disrepute because of its incoherence and dismissed contemptuously by Sankara, was quite different to this new system of Ramananda, which thereafter became the 'Gospel of the Poor'. As Grierson points out:
Religion is no longer a question of knowledge. It is one of custom. We visit a land of mysticism and rapture, and meet spirits akin, not to the giant schoolmen of Benares, but to the poets and mystics of medieval Europe, in sympathy with Thomas a Kempis, with Eckhart, and with St Teresa (ibid. p.548).
Bhakti is not only the doctrine of Vishnuite Hinduism, but also of Vaisinavas and Saiva sects (ibid., p.539).
Hopkins' analysis of Christian influence in India, is useful in viewing the changes and reactions, which occur in the later passages of the Mahabharata, written at least three hundred years after Christ. It tells of the visit of three saints to the "White Continent" where people of a fairer complexion possessed a perfect bhakti, which did not exist in India. (ibid., p. 549). Hopkins has a collection of the passages from the Mahabharata, which suggest collection from the gospels, particularly of St. John (see "Christ of India" India-Old and New New York and London, 1902. pp. 145 ff).
These reactions are syncretic movements, originating from the incoherence of Pantheistic Animism, where the intellectual elite developed an ever more elaborate schema to establish a coherent logic. The people, maintaining the Animistic Shamanism and early Mother Goddess theology, became ever more remote from the clergy and thus the revolution of emotional religion of the reformations in India, removed rationality and explanation as to the basis of the systems; introducing elements similar to the Antinomianism of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Thus, late Bhakti or Adoration movements were quite divergent from traditional movements commencing from the 4th century BCE, becoming most significant in the Bhagavata Sri Sampradaya sect, the most 'Christianised' sect. (Their text, the Bhaktamola contains numerous parallels to the sayings of Christ.)
It is here, in the Sri Sampadaya, that the concept that sin is sin occurs because it is incompatible with the nature of the incarnate god of love. It is directly related to the philosophical concepts of experiential Mysticism and its opposing concept of relative revelation, dependent upon Divine Will within the concept of election.