In the Image of God

In the last post I looked at how the Purusasukta goes back to even before time began and explains the mind of God (Prajapati) deciding to sacrifice Purusa. From this decision creation of everything followed – including the creation of mankind.

I want to now consider implications of what the Veda Pusthakam (Bible) says about this creation of mankind. So, in this spirit of considering, I want to chart an understanding of what the Bible teaches about us by looking at a key passage from this creation account.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

“In the Image of God”

Now what does it mean that mankind was created ‘in the image of God’? It does not mean that God is a physical being with two arms, a head, etc. Rather at a deeper level it is saying that basic characteristics of people are derived from similar characteristics of God. So for example, both God (in the Bible) and people (from observation) have intellect, emotions and will. In the Bible God is sometimes portrayed as sad, hurt, angry or joyful – the same range of emotions that we humans experience. We make choices and decisions on a daily basis. God similarly in the Bible is described as making choices and coming to decisions. Our ability to reason and think abstractly comes from God. We have the capacities of intellect, emotion and will because God has them and we are made in his image.

At a more fundamental level when we consider these aspects of ourselves we see that we are sentient beings, self-aware and conscious of ‘I’ and ‘you’. We are not impersonal ‘its’. We are like this because God is this way. In this fundamental perspective, the God of the Bible is not portrayed as a pantheistic impersonality as understood in later Hindu traditions, or like the ‘Force’ in the well-known movie Star Wars. The fact that humans are sentient persons rather than ‘its’ makes sense in light of this early teaching about God. We are this way because God is like this, and we are made in His image.

Why we are Aesthetic

We also appreciate art and drama. Consider how we so naturally appreciate and even need beauty. This goes beyond just visual beauty to include music and literature. Think about how important music is to us – even how natural it is for us to dance. Music so enriches our lives. We love good stories, whether in novels or plays, or more commonly today, in movies. Stories have heroes, villains, drama, and the great stories sear these heroes, villains and drama into our imaginations. It is so natural for us to use and appreciate art in its many forms to entertain, reinvigorate and rejuvenate ourselves because God is an Artist and we are in his image.

It is a question worth asking. Why are we so innately aesthetic, whether in art, drama, music, dance, or literature? Whenever I travelled in India I was always amazed at the Indian movies which feature music and dance even more than Western-made movies. Daniel Dennett, an outspoken atheist and an authority on understanding cognitive processes, answers from a materialistic perspective:

“But most of this research still takes music for granted. It seldom asks: Why does music exist? There is a short answer, and it is true, so far as it goes: it exists because we love it and hence we keep bringing more of it into existence. But why do we love it? Because we find that it is beautiful. But why is it beautiful to us? This is a perfectly good biological question, but it does not yet have a good answer.” (Daniel Dennett. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. p. 43)

The materialistic perspective on mankind has no answer to this fundamental question about our human nature. From the Biblical perspective it is because God is artistic and aesthetic. He made things beautiful and enjoys beauty. We, made in His image, are the same.

Why we are Moral

In addition, being ‘made in God’s image’ explains the innate moral capacity that is so common in all cultures, and which we covered in the moral teachings of the guru Sai Baba. Because we are made in God’s image and morality is intrinsic to His nature, like a compass aligned to magnetic North, our alignment to ‘fair’, ‘good’, ‘right’ is this way because this is the way He is. It is not just religious people who are made in this way – everyone is. Not recognizing this can give rise to misunderstandings. Take for example this challenge from the materialist American Sam Harris.

“If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers.” Sam Harris. 2005. Letter to a Christian Nation p.38-39

Harris is dead wrong here. Biblically speaking, our sense of morality comes from being made in God’s image, not from being religious. And that is why atheists, like all the rest of us, have this moral sense and can act morally. The difficulty with atheism is to account for this objective basis of our morality – but being made in God’s moral image is a simple and straightforward explanation.

Why are we so Relational

Thus Biblically, the starting point to understanding ourselves is to recognize that we are made in God’s image. Because of this, as we gain insight into either God (through what is revealed about him in the Bible) or people (through observation and reflection) we can also gain insight into the other. So, for example, it is not hard to notice the prominence people place on relationships. It is OK to see a good movie, but it is a much better experience to see it with a friend. We naturally seek out friends to share experiences with. Meaningful friendships and family relationships are key to our sense of well-being. Conversely, loneliness and/or fractured family relationships and breakdowns in friendships stress us. We are not neutral and unmoved by the state of relationships we have with others. Again, as a frequent visitor to India this comes out so strongly in Indian movies. There always seems to be family and romantic relationships strongly portrayed in these movies.

Now, if we are in God’s image, then we would expect to find this same relational tilt with God, and in fact we do. The Bible says that “God is Love…” (1 John 4:8). Much is written in the Bible about the importance that God places on our love for him and for others – they are in fact called by Jesus (Yeshu Satsang) the two most important commands in the Bible. When you think about it, Love must be relational since to function it requires a person who loves (the lover) and a person who is the object of this love – the beloved.

Thus we should think of God as a lover. If we only think of Him as the ‘Prime Mover’, the ‘First Cause’, the ‘Omniscient Deity’, the ‘Benevolent Being’ or perhaps the ‘Impersonal Atman’ we are not thinking of the Biblical God – rather we have made up a god in our minds. Though He is these, He is also portrayed as almost recklessly passionate in relationship. He does not ‘have’ love. He ‘is’ love. The two most prominent Biblical metaphors of God’s relationship with people are that of a father to his children and a husband to his wife. Those are not dispassionately philosophical ‘first cause’ analogies but those of the deepest and most intimate of human relationships.

So here is the foundation we have laid so far. People are made in God’s image comprised of mind, emotions and will. We are sentient and self-aware. We are moral beings with our ‘Moral grammar’ giving us an innate orientation of ‘right’ and ‘fair’, and what is not. We have instinctive capacity to develop and appreciate beauty, drama, art and story in all its forms. And we will innately and naturally seek out and develop relationships and friendships with others. We are all this because God is all this and we are made in God’s image. All these deductions are at least consistent with what we observe about ourselves as we laid this foundation. We continue in the next post to look at some difficulties.



About me: The wisdom I learned from a filthy-rich playboy … & an ascetic holy man

Hi! This is me in beautiful Canadian summer

Hi! This is me in beautiful Canadian summer

First the basic info stuff… I live in Canada. I am married and we have a son. I studied at University of Toronto, University of New Brunswick and Acadia University.

I grew up in an upper middle-class professional family. Originally from Sweden, we immigrated to Canada when I was young, and then I came of age while living abroad in several countries – Algeria, Germany and Cameroon, and finally returning to Canada for university. My mother had been born in India and grew up there. She speaks Hindi quite fluently. As I grew up, at times she would tell me about the various Hindu gods and goddesses and show me pictures of them that she had collected in her book of mementos. So as I grew up in the West, and then also in a Muslim country, I was also exposed in a familial way to Hinduism. And through it all, like everyone else I wanted (and still want) to experience a full life – one that is characterized by contentment, a sense of peace, and of meaning and purpose – along with a connectedness to other people.

Living in these diverse societies – of various religions as well as very secular ones – and being a voracious reader, I was exposed to different views as to what is ultimately ‘true’ and what it took to get a full life. What I observed was that though I (and most in the West) had unprecedented wealth, technology and opportunity to achieve these goals, the paradox of our time was that they seemed so elusive. I noticed that relationships are more disposable and temporary than that of previous generations. Terms like ‘rat race’ was used to describe our lives. I heard that if we can get just ‘a little bit more’ then we would arrive. But how much more? And more of what? Money? Scientific knowledge? Technology? Pleasure?

As a young person I felt angst probably best described as a vague restlessness. Since my father was an expatriate consulting engineer in Africa, I hung out with other wealthy, privileged and educated western teenagers. But life there was quite simple with few outlets to amuse us. So my friends and I dreamed about the days we could return to our home countries and enjoy TV, good food, opportunities, and the ease of western living – and then we would be ‘satisfied’. Yet when I would visit Canada or Europe, after the first bit of euphoria the restlessness would return. And worse, I also noticed it in the people who lived there all the time. Whatever they had (and they had a lot by any standard) there was always need for more. I thought I would find ‘it’ when I had a popular girlfriend. And for a while this seemed to fill something within me, but after a few months restlessness would return. I thought when I got out of high school then I would ‘arrive’… then it was when I could get a driver’s license and gain mobility – then my search would be over. Now that I am older I hear people speaking of retirement as the ticket to satisfaction. Is that it? Do we spend our whole lives chasing one thing after the other, thinking the next thing around the corner will give it to us, and then … our lives are over? It seems so futile!

The Wisdom of Solomon

During these years, because of this inescapable restlessness that I saw in me and around me, the writings of Solomon made a deep impact on me. Solomon, a king of ancient Israel famous for his wisdom, wrote several books in the Old Testament of the Bible (Veda Pusthakam) around 950 BC. In the book Ecclesiastes, he described this same inexorable sense of restlessness that I was experiencing. He wrote:

“I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ …I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone … before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone … before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me….I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-10)

Riches, fame, knowledge, projects, women, pleasure, kingdom, career, wine… Solomon had it all – and more of it than anyone else of his day or ours. The smarts of an Einstein, the riches of a Bill Gates, the social/sexual life of a Mick Jagger, along with a royal pedigree like that of Prince William in the British Royal family – all rolled into one. Who could beat that combination? You would think he, of all people would have been satisfied. But he concluded:

“’Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ … I … devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-14)

“…when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun… So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.… This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?… This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11-23)

Hardly optimistic! In one of his poems, Song of Songs, he records an erotic, red-hot love affair that he was having – the very thing that seems most likely to provide life-long satisfaction. But in the end, the love affair did not give him sustained satisfaction as we know from Ecclesiastes.  The promise of pleasure, wealth, work, progress, romantic love to ultimately satisfy was shown by him to be an illusion.

Now wherever I looked around me, either among my friends or in society, it seemed like Solomon’s pursuits for a full life were the ones everywhere being offered and tried. But he had already told me that he had not been able to find it on those paths. So I sensed that I would not find it there and would need to look on a road less traveled.

Along with all these issues I was bothered by another aspect of life. It troubled Solomon as well.

Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.  All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21)

All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. … they join the dead.  Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!  For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-5)

The ancient writings of Solomon struck a cord within me and caused me to search for answers. Questions about life, death, immortality, and meaning percolated within me. In my senior year of high school we were given an assignment to collect one hundred pieces of literature (poems, songs, short stories etc.) into an anthology. Most of my anthology dealt with these issues and it allowed me to ‘meet’ and hear many others who also wrestled with these same questions. And meet them I did – from all sorts of eras, educational backgrounds, lifestyle philosophies, religions and genres. There was Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, Time by Pink Floyd, and Ozymandius by Shelley, Samuel Coleridge, W.H. Auden, Shakespeare, Frost, and so on.

The Wisdom of Guru Sai Baba

When I was an engineering student, one of my professors was a devotee of the Bangalore-based guru Sai Baba and lent me several of his books, which I read with great eagerness. As I read his precepts I found that my moral conscience in me could only agree with his moral teaching. Here are some excerpts from his books that I copied down for myself.

“And what is dharma? Practicing what you preach, doing as you say it has to be done, keeping precept and practice in line. Earn virtuously, yearn piously; live in fear of God, live for reaching God: that is dharma”  Sathya Sai Speaks 4, p. 339

“What exactly is your duty?…

  • First tend your parents with love and reverence and gratitude.
  • Second, speak the truth and act virtuously.
  • Third, whenever you have a few moments to spare, repeat the name of the Lord with the form in your mind.
  • Fourth, never indulge in talking ill of others or try to discover faults in others.
  • And finally, do not cause pain to others in any form”  Sathya Sai Speaks 4, pp.348-349

“Whoever subdues his egoism, conquers his selfish desires, destroys his bestial feelings and impulses, and gives up the natural tendency to regard the body as self, he is surely on the path of dharma”  Dharma Vahini, p.4

When I studied Sai Baba’s writings I did so in two ways. In the first way I studied them to see if what this Hindu holy man taught was actually good. Did I agree with him that what he said was good and true, really was in fact good and true?  And I recognized that what he taught in these precepts was good, really good. These were teachings I should live by. I invite you also to study these teachings to see if you should live by precepts as these.

But that is where I came across a big problem. And the problem was not in the precepts, but rather was in me. Because as I tried applying them, no matter how hard I admired these teachings and would strive to live by them, I found I could not consistently do them. I was continually falling short of these good ideals.

It seemed like I had two paths to choose from. The path embodied by Solomon, so commonly pursued all over the world, was to live for self, creating whatever meaning, pleasure or ideals that I would chose to pursue. But I knew the end was not good for Solomon – nor for the many I had watched in life who walked down that path. The satisfaction was temporary and illusion.  But the path embodied by Sai Baba was impossible, perhaps not for a guru like him, but impossible for a ‘normal’ person like me.  Continually striving to keep these ideals that I could not attain was not freedom – it was slavery.

The Gospel – Ready to Consider it

In my reading and searching I had read the discourses and teachings by Jesus as recorded in the Biblical gospels (Veda Pusthakam). Statements from Jesus like the following stuck with me

“… I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

It grew on me that maybe, just maybe, here was an answer that perhaps addressed the dead-ends of the other paths. After all, gospel (which to me had just been a more-or-less meaningless religious word) literally meant ‘good news’. Was the Gospel really good news? Or was it more-or-less hearsay? To answer that I knew I needed to journey down two roads. First, I needed to start to develop an informed understanding of the Gospel. Second, I had lived in different religious cultures, had met people and read authors who had many objections to, and held ideas in opposition to, the Biblical Gospel. These were informed and intelligent people. I needed to develop a sound basis for belief – regarding the Gospel as well as other doctrines – and test these beliefs. I needed to think critically about the Gospel, without just being a mindless critic.

There is a very real sense that when one embarks on this kind of journey one never totally arrives, but I did learn that the Gospel does provide answers to these issues. Its whole point actually is to address them – a full life, death, eternity, and practical concerns like love in our family relationships, guilt, fear and forgiveness. The Gospel’s claim is that it is a foundation that we can build our lives upon. One may not necessarily like the answers provided by the Gospel, one may not agree with them or believe them, but given that it addresses these very human questions it would be foolish to remain uninformed of them.

I also learned that the Gospel at times made me quite uncomfortable. In a time when so much beguiles us to just live Comfortably Numb the Gospel unapologetically challenged my heart, mind, soul and strength that, though it offers Life, it did not offer an easy one. If you do take time to Consider the Gospel you may find the same.

Since I began my journey in following the Gospel, I have had the privilege to work and travel across India and even visit Nepal.  My forest engineering took me to many places, with different co-workers.  In this context I was able to have conversations and gain further insight into how the gospel is relevant, true and meaningful in a vedic context.  I hope you will find the same as you Consider the Gospel.


Welcome to Vedic Consider The Gospel

You, I, and the rest of mankind live lives encased by illusion, sin, and death.  Since the beginnings of human history, thinkers, sages, rsis and prophets have reflected on our human condition and sought the way of escape from this existence.  Much sacred literature has been written by Holy men since the earliest times on these questions.  The Rg Veda is the earliest such sacred text from the Indian subcontinent, having been written down between 2000 – 1000 BCE.  The sacred poems in the Rg Veda reveal a search for God and a deeper quest for salvation from our cycle of illusion, sin and death.

Upanishad Prayer

A well-known prayer from the Upanishads (the sacred literature after the Vedas ca 800 BC) illustrates this search.  The Transliteration as well as the translation from Sanskrit is given below

Sanskrit Transliteration

Translation to English

Asato ma sat gmayaTamaso ma jyotirgamaya

Mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya

From the Unreal (untruth) lead me to the real (truth)From darkness lead me to light

From death lead me to immortality

Cutting across all cultures, languages and religions this prayer expresses the human desire to know the way to immortality.

The Promise: Answers to Prayer are Coming

Around the same time that this prayer was written in Sanskrit into the Upanishads on the Indian subcontinent, a Divine message of knowledge was imparted in Semetic Hebrew in the Middle East to the Israelite rsi or prophet called Isaiah.  As you read it you will notice that these are Promises by God to answer the Upanishad prayer above

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. Isaiah 42:6-7, 16, 9:2

Hundreds of years after these Upanishad prayers and Isaiah’s Divine Messages were written down the world was turned upside down by what was called The Good News. This News so changed the world of that day that our lives today, whether we know it or not, have been radically affected by this News. It led to the invention of books (as opposed to scrolls), words separated by spaces, punctuation, upper and lower case lettering, universities, hospitals and even orphanages were first founded by people as they understood how the Good News should affect society. But even more fundamental, the advent of this News profoundly changed the way people viewed themselves, others, life, death, immortality and God. The Good News was known as The Gospel, and it has obtained the allegiance of the hearts and minds of many since that era, precisely because it answers our fundamental need for truth, freedom and immortality.

The message of the Gospel centers on the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He claims (and we look at this claim in this site) to be the incarnation of God into Man that can meet our need for truth, freedom and immortality.

I put up this website to provide all interested people with an opportunity to consider this Good News, from the perspective of the Rg Veda, as well as from the perspective of the Bible. When the Bible was first translated into Hindi it was called ‘ Veda Pusthakam’ or ‘Book of supreme knowledge’. These two Vedas promise to show the path to immortality. Surely that is worth considering. I invite you to join me in considering the gospel from these two Vedas.