All people in the world belong to their own specific cultures speaking their own specific languages. However, this diversity of culture and language need not raise walls that divide us. We can accept diversity as an opportunity to learn from one another. We should be willing to see all people in the world as our family regardless of the cultural diversity.

This is the context of this book. Here the author presents an imaginary meeting of two people representing two civilizations. We get into our time machine and fly back to first-century to Patmos, an island in the Mediterranean ocean. There we remain invisible, and listen to the conversation between John, the apostle, and Ananda, a Vedic scholar from india. With a willingness to understand each other, they see how a huge wall that separates their two civilizations collapses. This imaginary inter-religious dialog is set in the first century between a Christian and a Hindu. This exemplifies that such a dialog is possible between the people of any two traditions.

The Christian in the dialog is a historical person-John, the Apostle. However, the John one sees in these pages is a reflection of the author's picture of John. Also, what John, the Apostle, expounds in the dialog is an expression of the author's understanding of the basics of Christianity when this was written.

The Hindu in the dialog is an imaginary person. Although he is imaginary, he is a faithful representation of a possible person. He is given the name Ananda, and he is presented as a Vedic scholar. What Andanda says about Hinduism represents the author's understanding of Hinduism at the time of writing this.

This book is primarily an example of an interreligious dialog. The two people here from their diverse backgrounds speak openly to each other about what they understand and believe. They do not make any attempt to convert the other person to their belief. However, they eagerly attempt to learn from each other. They try to find out how they are similar and different. At the end of a long conversation we find them with a strong bond of love and understanding toward each other. That is the goal of any interreligious dialog.

What we need is a multicultural and pluralistic world. We don't want the people of any one religion to dominate others. We want the people of diverse religions living together learning from each other. Let the Hindus remain Hindus, Muslims remain Muslims, and Christians remain Christians. But let them all be willing to learn from each other.

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How to use this book

1. You can read this for yourself

2. You can use this as a study material in a group study. The participants may read a chapter from here first, and then have a discussion based on it.

Contents

Introduction
The Setting of the Stage
1. Introducing Each Other
2. The Context
3. John, the Baptizer, Paving the Way
4. Jesus Enters the Scene
5. The Good News of Jesus
6. Human Nature
7. Heaven and Salvation!
8. Christ Crucified
9. Historical & Symbolical
10. The Gospels
11. Paul's Influence
12. The Good News of Moksha

 

A Sample Chapter from the Book

The Good News of Jesus

John:  I told you this story in such detail because it explains in very clear language the heart of the good news Jesus preached.  We often think that the world is a bad place to live, and wish to escape to a wonder world of joy and peace.  We find fault with everything around us, and judge everybody around us with our petty standards of right and wrong.  We even blame God for keeping the world in such a bad condition. 

Ananda: That is why the people of Jesus’ world were seeking the rule of God. They assumed that God was no more in power.

John: True. The good news of Jesus about the world is this:  The world is really the good creation of the good God, and there is nothing wrong with it.  We find fault with it because we don’t know how it works.  The younger son left his home because he couldn't live there peacefully.  He thought that there was something basically wrong with his home, and being its manager, his father was to blame for it.  He might have tried his best to change his father and his home.  When he found that he couldn’t do it, his solution was to escape from there.  Later, he realized that there was nothing wrong with his home, and that it was the best place he could think of.  The same home, which was a hell for him, became a heaven for him.  His home didn’t change, nor did his father, but he changed.  Isn’t it good news?  We can transform this hell-like world into a heaven-like one by a very simple method.  We need not try to change the world, nor do we need to change God.  It is our understanding that needs a change. 

This is what Jesus meant by Kingdom of God.  Anyone can attain the kingdom of God here and now just by realizing the truth.

I have recorded an interesting incident in my book.  Once a Jewish religious leader called Nicodemus visited Jesus and asked him what he should do to enter the kingdom of God.  He expected Jesus to say that one should follow all the religious rules and do good deeds.  So the reply of Jesus was surprising to him.  Jesus said:  No one can see the kingdom of God unless s/he is born again.  The same hell-like world becomes the kingdom of God, full of joy and peace, when our understanding changes.  It will be a radical change, a new birth. 

In our religious tradition, the word heaven often substituted the word God. Hence the terms "Kingdom of God," and "Kingdom of Heaven," were used interchangeably by Jesus with almost the same idea. The kingdom of God was an ever-present reality for Jesus.  It was not a different political system which was going to be established in the future, nor was it a world up in the sky.

We all enter the world as children, utterly ignorant of everything.  As we grow older and older, we slowly become aware of the nature and mechanism of the world.  Until we are able to see the world from God’s perspective, it will appear a hell to any of us.  Therefore, I would say that there is nothing unusual about people thinking that the world is a bad place.  But the world is a good place in the eyes of God in spite of all the mistakes we do due to our ignorance. 

We all love children, don’t we?  We watch them run around and do whatever their little brains can conceive.  They live in a tiny little world of their own, with their little problems, worries and fears.  They have a sense of morality, much different from that of the adults.  We watch with amusement how they apply their little morality in their day-to-day life.  Have you observed children fighting with one another on some silly matters?  The very next minute they forget everything and become friends again.  We, adults, do not interfere or pass judgments on their actions unless it is essential, because we live in a different world with a different sense of morality.  We, human beings, are like little children in the sight of God.  We live in our little world with our own little problems, worries and hopes.  God watches us with amusement to see how we manage to live in our little world with our little sense of morality.  In spite of whatever we are and whatever we do, God loves us unconditionally.  We are all lovable little kids for God, and the world is a lovable place.  We are placed here to learn from our experiences and grow.

Our life is a journey that begins in total ignorance.  We stumble whenever we take a new step.  We learn through our mistakes.  Sins are mistakes.  All humans are sinners in the sense that all humans do mistakes.  Only God is sinless, for God, who is all-knowing, doesn’t do any mistakes.  Sin in this sense is natural for all humans.

Suppose I have a one-year old child who learns to walk.  She makes her first attempt to walk, and stumbles.  What will be my reaction?  I will be exuberant to see that she made an attempt to walk.  I do not expect her to walk perfectly at the first attempt.  If she does, I would consider it abnormal.  After falling down, she would look at my face to see how I react.  She herself is upset about her failure, and my job is to console her and to encourage her to make another attempt.  If she finds me upset about her failure, she would not want to make another attempt. 
We are all little children before God making an effort to live meaningfully and successfully.  God and all the angels in heaven would be excited to see us making each new step.  When we fall, or do a sin, God would never become upset about it.  This is the kind of God Jesus taught about.  It is a God who wants all people to grow and be successful in life.  He does not count our mistakes, or punish us for them. 

If we equate God to a foolish parent who gets upset about our sins, we would never attempt to grow.  Fear of falling keeps us from making any new attempt.  This is the way the Jewish teachers believed about God.  They kept themselves "righteous" by making no effort to grow.  Jesus called them blind, for they did not know the truth about God. 

I remember, once when someone addressed Jesus as good lord, he replied, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God."  It implies that all humans do sins.  He also used to say, "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect," by which he meant that we need to grow until we attain the goodness of God. 

An interesting incident comes to my mind now, and I have given a summary of that in my book.  One day some religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus.  They claimed that she was caught in adultery, and so, she should be stoned to death according to the traditional rules.  "Let the one among you who hasn't committed any sin cast the first stone," Jesus said.  There was no one to do that.  Jesus made it clear that only God has the right to judge because only God is good, and only God knows everything.  Though God has the right to judge, he doesn't judge; he only loves without any condition.

Thus, in Jesus’ view, all are naturally sinners, and only God is good.  God expects us to gain wisdom, and grow day after day.  Each of our attempts to take a new step makes God happy.  Like a loving, wise parent, God does not get upset about our mistakes, but consoles us and encourages us to make further attempts.  God is really upset about the people who misunderstand God to be a foolish parent, and refuse to make any effort to grow for fear of making mistakes.  However, God loves them, too, and wants them to know the truth about God and about themselves.
In the story of the father and the two sons, which I said earlier, the elder son kept himself righteous by making no effort to grow, and his father was upset about him.  The younger one made an attempt to grow.  Though he did mistakes, he grew to be a mature person, which made his father very happy.  Once Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and it will make you free."  We need to realize the truth that we are all basically good people living in the good world of the good God, and God’s love for us is unconditional.  It will radically alter our perspective, and we will experience heaven on earth.

Ananda:  This is really a wonderful idea.  Now, let me briefly explain how I understand it.  The good news of Jesus consists of three parts:  The good news about God, world, and humankind.  The good news about God is this:  God is a being who understands us perfectly well, and who loves us without any condition at all.  The good news about the world is this:  It is the good creation of the good God, and there is nothing wrong or bad about it.  The good news about the humankind is this:  As a part of the world, we are good, and there is nothing wrong or bad with us either.  Also, we are the children of God, growing to maturity.