India And The Far East
What do we know?
Good News Travels
Silkworms are responsible for a unique industry which spread across the ancient world from China to Rome. At first the Chinese Emperors kept the knowledge of silk production to themselves and did so for 3000 years. Silk was displayed and used only in the Imperial Court.
By the 1st century BCE silk was being traded in the Roman empire and the knowledge of silk production was understood in India, Japan and the whole of Persia.
So Does Bad News
Unfortunately for mankind the Chinese also learnt to manufacture and use gunpowder but they compensated for that by discovering herbal remedies for healing.
India was to give us buttons 2000 years BCE and, amazingly, cataract surgery by 600 BCE. Mathematics resulted in the invention of the ruler, the discovery of binary numbers, Fibonacci formulas, astronomy and cotton clothes.
Beliefs Also Travel
These nations were trading nations and not only did these developments and inventions reach the Middle East - especially Egypt and Persia - but so, too, did their understanding of the spiritual world and their religions.
A COMMON SPIRITUALITY
Just as there was an exchange of goods from China to Mediterranean and back, so too the ideas, philosophies, religious beliefs and practices were shared.
The Mystery cults, prevalent throughout the known world in the thousand years before the Common Era, contained identical elements in Asian religion which also expressed a belief in Awakening. In India, the story of Krishna possibly predates the Egyptian Horus story by hundreds of years. It was written down around 2800 BCE and had become a fully developed one by the time of Herakles in Greece.
Krishna and Christ
Even the name Krishna in Hindi is similar to Christ in Christianity and the two stories contain similar elements which will be explained in a future Blog.
Both contain the story of a dying and rising god and both were, originally, stories to help people understand that they could shake off the Materialistic view of our life on earth for one which understood the spiritual nature of Man. Dying and rising is symbolic of the Awakening to this reality.
They tell us that we must open our eyes to the fact that we are spiritual beings residing on the Earth as part of our Journey.
The Buddhism contains the same motif: that we are on a journey to oneness with Om and that journey is about learning, understanding and spiritual growth. Reincarnation is part of it: part of our Great Adventure!
The Lord Krishna and his consort
The Ancient Egyptians appear to have been obsessed with religion and their belief in an afterlife bore heavily upon the way they lived their lives, their sense of morality and of fair play. The apparent obsession is a distortion because they believed in Life and that it should be lived to the full. Their delight in life is reflected in the fact that they wanted heaven to be an improved version of their lives on earth and we see that in the Mortuary art.
Imitation is Flattery
Egypt had a profound influence on the other nations that were their neighbours and it is known that Greek philosophers visited Egypt on a regular basis. Plato wrote that our lives on earth were merely a reflection, a shadow, of the reality which awaits us in the next world - an idea that was Egyptian in origin.
Was India the Source of Religion?
It is possible that some of Egyptian beliefs emanated from India: particularly the cult of the dying and rising god which has its roots in the story of Krishna. This belief later spread throughout the known world in the form of the Mysteries of which the Jewish version was one.This was then hijacked by Rome to become a literalist story (i.e there was an actual Christ/Krishna) enabling the Emperors to exert even more control over people and which led to mass murder and genocide, the obliteration of learning and the destruction of pagan temples and artifacts for the next 1000 years. (More in the Blog)
From India came Buddhism - a non religion if we define religion as having a God or gods. In the view of Buddha it wasn't worth talking about God as he could neither be proved or not proved to exist. Buddhism's belief that there is a way to end suffering, once the causes of suffering are accepted and a way out of suffering is taken. With its emphasis on dying to self and the seeking of enlightenment where all paths lead to Nirvana, its ability to fuse with local cultures and its lack of dogmatism , it has become popular in the West.
Religion and Science
It has been seen also to create a synergy with modern science - particularly in the field of quantum physics and its methodology of meditation and mindfulness have been adopted in the psychological treatment of many mental conditions such as stress, addiction and dependency.
Christianity has given the hope of life after death but this is not unique: the Egyptians led with this belief and in "The Republic", Plato recalls the story of a soldier who woke from a coma on the funeral pyre and related his experience of the afterlife in a Near Death Experience.
Many of the subjects covered here will re-occur in the Blog and also be offered as subjects for talks at a later date.