I would like to share with you a story that I read many years ago when I was in elementary school. It is part of an Indian epic story from the ancient Vedas (Scriptures). I will brutally shorten some of the long Sanskrit names and exhaustive writings to fit into my blog word count.
Hiranyakasipu (call him Hiran) was an enigmatic king. On one hand he was a powerful devotee given to prayer. However, on the other hand, he was autocratic, disgustingly ambitious, and had uncontrolled selfish motives. He prayed for years for the following special requests:
- let me not face death by anything created by God
- let me not be killed within any space created by God
- bless me that I have no rivals and grant me all powers (I have cut short his list). In short, his main objective was to be powerful like God
Hiran’s son, Prahalad (let’s call him Praha), heard the king’s supplications, while still in his mother’s womb. He grew up a true humble devotee of God. He knew of his father’s schemes, which created arguments between them. This was bound to blow up eventually. That day came when his father dragged the boy to the palace courtyard pillar and asked: “Praha my son, you have always described a supreme being, who is above everything, who is the controller of everyone and who is all pervading. But where is he, and why is he not before me in this pillar?”
Praha kept his cool and replied: “He was, He is, and He will be” (Reminds me of Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever). Hiran, in a fit of anger, took his heavy mace (weapon), swung and smashed that pillar. Lo and behold, out of that pillar came a lion with the face of man. This lion, named Narasimha, a kind of incarnation of the Second Person of Hindu Trinity, (I will write a blog on this another day) leaped on Hiran and with his strong nails killed Hiran; a gruesome scene indeed; but Narasimha saved Praha and the poor oppressed citizens.
The story does prompt few immediate questions:
- What was Hiran’s ultimate objective? Great power to be like God?
- Does it remind you of Lucifer who wished to be like God? (Isaiah 14:12)
- Didn’t Satan tempt Adam and Eve how to be like God? (Genesis 3:4)
- Could Spiritual leaders be tempted for more power to themselves?
By the way, the name Narasimha is a Sanskrit word. In fact, it is a combination of two words. Nara means Man and Simha means Lion, hence Man-Lion. As an aside, the Indian Prime Minister (1991-1996) was named Narasimha. I had classmates with that name. Many Hindu names are like Hebrew names, often variations of God’s name or God’s properties.
While writing, I thought about the famous figurine the Lion-Man, discovered in 1939, (carbon dated to 40,000 years old?) now in the museum at Ulm, Germany. I mused on those Pyramids with faces like man and with bodies like lion. Where did the builders of Sphinx get their inspiration from, back in 2504 BC? Of course, Biblical Scholars connect it with Virgo and Leo and the Alpha and the Omega to the Messiah.
I admit my knowledge of archeology is limited, but we do know one of the oldest prophecies of the Messiah is in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 49:8-9, in the blessing of Patriarch Jacob to his son Judah, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah”. We also know that this Man-Lion is the type of the risen Christ, who lived, loved, died and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Mentioned again in the last book of the Bible, Revelations 5:4: “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory” (over sin and death).
I thought of two Christian authors while writing this post. First, Pastor Don Richardson and his popular books “Eternity in Their Hearts” and its sequel “Peace Child”. He wrote about the possibility of ancient belief in the one true God. Second, the dialogue between Mahathma Gandhi and the veteran missionary to India, E.Stanley Jones.* Jones asked Gandhi how to make Christianity genuinely Indian, not a foreign thing by foreign missionaries. One of Gandhi’s responses was: “Study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is written in them in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people”.
Long before the above-mentioned authors St. Paul, a Greek Scholar himself, practiced this principle of respect when he addressed the Athenians and proclaimed: “Men of Athens, I note that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines, and one of your altars had this inscription on it: to an unknown God. This God whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling about“ (Acts 17:22-31). Wasn’t that a great approach to engage others before witnessing or mission? Yes, some Athenians laughed at Paul and some believed. Some Christian authors wrote that it was Paul’s failed attempt.
If only these critics had a second chance to walk the streets of Athens now, for that matter the whole of Greece with their roads and towns named after “Paulos”!
God bless, Danny Paul
*way back in Calcutta, when my pastor was in furlough in USA, I had invited Jones to speak at our church in Calcutta. Gandhi and Jones were friends.