Posts Tagged ‘God’

Divorce

Posted: 08/07/2013 in Routine part 2
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Dwell in this home; never be parted! Enjoy the full duration of your days, with sons and grandsons playing to the end, rejoicing in your home to your heart’s content.


Marriage Is Forever

There is a breakdown that has been under way among all of us some time all over the world. Complaints as well as suggestions come in daily to my publisher’s desk. These are some of the typical problems: mothers are no longer teaching righteousness, Vedic Dharma, worship and puja to their children, for fear their little ones won’t fit into the alien cultures in which they are living. That’s one. Fathers are no longer taking their sons into the family business or profession, but giving them choices of their own, for fear of being regarded as the “dominant” parent figure and not fitting in with the society in which they are living. That’s another. There are more.

Children are orphaned in their own homes because the minds of both mother and father are in the work-a-day world in which the children play no part. Kids content themselves within the asuric realms of video arcades and TV. Families have given up dharma and even the hope of moksha, liberation from rebirth. Instead, they are immersed in the insatiable search for artha (wealth) and kama (enjoyment) and the many other magnetic pulls, so that they, too, are able to blend into modern society.

Hindu people, we are told in many e-mails, have almost all become passive followers, with few active leaders among them. No one wants to stand out over another, lest he be harshly criticized and put down. Many moderners fear openly affirming the dharma if it conflicts with modern society. Society as we know it today is the doctrine of materialism governed by anarchy. Lay down a rule, and someone will break it, no matter what it is. Are we in the Kali Yuga?

There is one institution that there is still hope in saving. It has been cherished in scripture, in living cultures, in all the major religions for thousands of years. It is the precious institution of marriage. It is the binding, contractual agreement between a man and woman who have come together to take on the responsibility of birthing, raising and educating a new generation. How are we going to have a brave new world, a new world order, a new age, based on anarchy within the family itself?

Yet, here, too, Hindus are taking their examples from those who do not understand or observe dharma; they are seeing divorce as a solution instead of a problem.

When the institution of marriage breaks down, everyone suffers. We see this happening all around us. A husband and wife bound by holy sacraments are psychically attached to each other. To separate for a month, a week or even for a day can be painful on the part of one or both. They reach out to one another during the time of physical absence in dreams and longing. How painful then is their permanent separation? How much anguish does it bring to their beloved children, whose wounds never really heal? And how is it that only the priest, a person who invokes God and the Gods, can sanctify a marriage, and that a court judge, a man of the world, can cancel that divine contractual agreement? Impossible. Only in the Kali Yuga.

A long and joyous life is theirs who remain firmly on the faultless path of the control of the five senses. There are still a few elders left today who speak out, whether listened to or not. Their fire of righteous indignation, their love for dharma, is making an impression upon the younger generation and their parents alike. We appeal to these elders to take courage and proclaim the ancient values, whether their children and grandchildren listen to them or not. Some part of them will be hearing. Preach the dharma. There is little to lose and much to gain. We appeal to elders to speak against divorce, to patiently work to harmonize matrimonial tensions and diffuse difficult family situations.


Drawbacks Of Divorce

Divorce only begins new problems. Is a divorce similar to going out of business? Or bankruptcy? Yes, because in both cases everyone is the loser. The employees are losers, the children are losers, the suppliers are losers; everyone is a loser, and everyone takes sides. In the case of the failing business, the employees take sides, the partnership breaks up, the partners take sides, and their friends take sides. In case of a marriage, the friends of a husband take his side, the friends of a wife take her side, and there is a permanent division. Sometimes the courts take the side of the children, and the children are divided. It is the breakdown of the community, it is the breakdown of society, and it is the creation of a lot of kukarma that has to be worked out in this or probably in a future life. There’s another great loss in the case of a marriage that breaks up or a business that breaks up, and the loss is trust in the individuals concerned. They lose their ability to trust each other, to trust themselves; and, of course, no one trusts them.

Couples have been taught to look to psychiatrists, psychologists, family counselors and attorneys for solutions to marital problems. But who can give better solutions than our qualified elders who know the karmas, who know the adharma involved in divorce? Their experience has great value. Find a swami, sadhu, guru, a jyotisha shastri, someone who can help tighten the bonds of family love and trust and make this person an integral part of your family. Every family needs its spiritual preceptor to strengthen the support group, who in turn hold the family together when hard times come. The plea is to hang on to one thing: the family life. Marriage is forever.

Indian culture has within it all the solutions to maintain proper relationships of a man being manly and a woman being womanly. Today men are confronted by women who have, often out of necessity, nurtured their masculine qualities. Naturally, such couples will fight, compete and suffer. In my life-long ministry, those who are not getting along well in marriage come occasionally for advice. We work it out according to ancient shastric principles that transcend the immediate problems. Marriage is like a voyage by ship. Sometimes the going is easy and sunny, and sometimes there is bad weather to endure. But at all times it’s advisable to stay with the ship and not jump overboard. My experience is that the bad karmas, or kukarmas, as well as harsh astrology and difficult attitudes, are always finally overcome, so long as no one gives up the hope and the effort. The marriage continues. The word divorce is never uttered or seen as a solution in the hundreds of extended families who look to me as preceptor.

Those who don’t take such advice are overwhelmed by the tugs and pulls of pranic forces between them stimulated by hatred and confusion, tears, remorse, unresolvable misunderstandings which have gone on unattended for fifteen or twenty years. Couples who did not listen to my advice to not end their marriage ten years ago still speak to me today of their separation as though it all happened a week ago. They admit that divorce was no solution, only a postponement of problems that still linger, which could have been solved and still have to be. Those who have gone through the experience know that divorce and remarriage is just trading one set of problems for another. We have seen that divorcees remarry others with the same traits, temperament, faults, failings and even looks as their previous spouse. No one, however clever they may be, can run away from their birth karmas. No, divorce is no solution. Separation, though better, is still not the solution. Both are only the beginning of new problems.


Unofficial Divorce

In Hinduism marriage is still highly respected, and so divorce is a sign of failure, because life is a spiritual journey and failing to fulfill that journey is a weakness. In a sense, it is a crime against one’s own karma and dharma in this life. It is like saying, “I can’t do what I came here to do.” Divorce brings loss of social position and respect in the community. By getting divorced, one betrays a sacred covenant, a betrayal that weakens the whole of society.

There is divorce, and there is divorce. I have observed through the years that a modern form of Hindu divorce has become a part of Indian culture. It is a clever way to not hurt the feelings of elders, parents and relatives, or to avoid incurring the community stigma of divorce. A modern form of Hindu divorce, it seems, has cleverly been conceived in the following way. The husband is under great stress, a stress that is not natural for a human being, a stress based on living up to materialistic expectations. He comes home psychically wounded, tired, worried. If things do not go well at home, he may verbally or even physically abuse his wife and family, blaming her for everything bad that happens to him. Sensing his failure to cope with all of this, he secretly wishes he did not have to face his weakness.

He learns from compatriots that the Big Solution to the marriage problem is to get away from the wife and the kids. He is advised to accept a job in another part of the world, knowing that his association with his family will become distant and tenuous, and he will no longer have to confront his wife, who has become his conscience. He knows he will hardly have to speak with her, rarely visit her and will be able to avoid, most of the time, the challenges the marriage has brought to him which he is unwittingly unable or unwilling to resolve. He knows, too, that he won’t have to face the community’s disdain that a formal divorce would bring, and that he can avoid the financial pains of alimony.

After reorganizing his professional life, the husband takes a job in a far-off land. He returns home for brief periods and only occasionally, thus effecting a separation without the expensive inconvenience and social stigma of formal divorce proceedings. He assures everyone, mostly himself, that this is the right thing to do, since he is making more money. Of course, money will never make up for his absence, never buy the children their childhood back. Lacking in fatherly guidance, the children, are running wild, turning promiscuous, later to repeat the example of neglect that dad is teaching them. No one wins.

Husband and wife should always be together. If there is an unavoidable separation, he should call her daily, ask how her day was, inquire about the children. After all, it is the harmonizing of their pranas that will create through their children a brave new world, a new world order and a new age.


Whom to Hold Responsible?

HINDUISM TODAY ran a quiz about divorce on the women’s page. The subject struck a nerve among readers. Here’s a question that a young Hindu asked about coping with divorce.

Question: My mother and father got a divorce, and I really resent it. It happened seven years ago when I was sixteen, and almost every day I regret what I missed by not having my mom and dad together in a loving home. How can I deal with the resentment, Gurudeva?

Answer: It’s not easy experiencing the separation and divorce of one’s mom and dad, at any age — six, sixteen or thirty-one. There is a feeling of emptiness; something is lost, never to be regained. The feelings and thoughts of blame grow, they do not diminish, as the years go by. But look at it this way. Any marriage, yours maybe, needs a loving, strong support group that wants to help the young couple, or the older couple, work out their problems rather than avoid them through separation and finally divorce. Basically, when there are children involved as a result of a marriage, there really is no divorce — only separation. Every marriage is truly irrevocable, carved in the akashic records when the first child’s umbilical cord is cut. Thereafter, there can be no separation without a great deal of pain and unforeseen karmic repercussions.

Upon whom should the children put the blame? Put it where it truly belongs. Put it on the support groups — the mothers, the grandmothers, the grandfathers, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, the next-door neighbors, the business partners and friends of the family. Everyone in the community shares the tragedy of the home’s breaking up — the members of the temple society, the marriage counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, the hairdresser, the gym instructor and the attorney were all responsible to become part of the solution rather than part of the dissolution of the marriage. Put the blame on them, not on your mom and dad.

An extended family that loves one another and looks out for the good of all, a religious group of loving souls who pride themselves on low percentage of divorce in their community or congregation — these and more are all the people who can or should see the tension growing between husband and wife and who have the ability to diffuse it at the early stages. Don’t blame your mother and father. If blame is to be cast, blame all those people that surrounded your family who were not alert enough, good souls that they may be, to help diffuse the tension between your parents.

Obviously, the support group has failed their marriage. You must admit that failure, lest it drag you down to its own depth. Be part of the solution. Don’t perpetuate the problem. Don’t make them feel guilty. For your own peace of mind, transfer the blame, the hurt feelings, the pain and resentment over to the relatives, the community and national value system. Become an agent of goodwill. Have kind words to say about dad to mom and kind words to say about mom to dad. Resist the impulse to criticize one to the other and cause an even greater separation within the family. They are not to blame. Society is.

If you take sides, you are creating bad karma, kukarma, for yourself, to be faced later. So treat each one the same. Don’t make deals, don’t deceive them or keep secrets from them, lest you psychically alienate yourself from the home. Maybe, just maybe, you can help them to understand and reconcile their differences if you follow this advice. Maybe, just maybe, time and the forces of nature will all come to your aid, and your parents will remarry and you will all become a family again. Don’t perpetuate the problem. Be part of the solution. Work with it. You, their child, may be their very best hope.


Support at Crucial Times

When the tensions of the burdens of life begin to build, if friends, relatives and community begin to pull away rather than come forward to help, mom and dad are rendered helpless, absolutely helpless. Certain crises are predictable in the course of a marriage. When the first child is born, everything changes. This is the first crisis in their life. He lost his sweetheart and lover when she gave birth to her first child and became a mother. She lost her lover, too, when he became a father. Their roles first began to change during the time of her pregnancy. He had to watch very closely his thoughts toward other women, while feeling neglect because she was thinking about their baby soon to be born more than she was thinking about him. She used to think only of him.

Moving into another home is another crisis time. It’s easy for dad because he is involved in new employment and new friends, but hard for mom because she has to adjust to the change of her entire environment. Is this a time for her to be emotionally upset? Yes it is.

At middle age, around forty, mom goes through menopause — another big crisis. Dad doesn’t admit it — no man ever does — but he goes through a corresponding change at that time, too. At that time they both begin to think how it would have been if they had married somebody else. Dad, maybe, especially is ready for one last fling. They both have a desire to return to the surroundings of their youth. This is another intense crisis time. If dad reaches fortyish first and mom later, then they experience two crisis times instead of one. When their daughter entered puberty, another crisis time occurred for the family. They didn’t know what she was going to do next, and they often blamed themselves and each other for her erratic and sometimes erotic behavior. Another crisis time.

Grandma, Grandpa, great aunts and uncles, the neighbor next door, even the deliveryman, can help in times of crisis. The temple community, the church congregation, the priest, the minister, friends, Rotary Club members, executive at the office, if they don’t help, are all negligent. We can blame them for the failure. Don’t blame mom and dad. They are helpless. Do we blame somebody who is sick for being ill? Of course not. Do we blame a person who is emotionally distraught for being emotional distraught? Of course not. We try to understand. We try to help. If the help is offered or is not offered, we blame those who do not help.

Therefore, I tell troubled youth, for your own peace of mind, dear child, love your mother and your father. Keep them as one in your mind. Don’t separate them in your mind. You yourself are the greatest marriage counselor. It is only you who at this juncture can become a binding force for the family. Rise above the accepted standards of the nonculture of today, which advise divorce to solve the problem. Remember, don’t take sides.


The Dreadful First Slap

Though divorce is not an acceptable solution to family problems according to Hindu Dharma, there is one regrettable exception to maintaining a divine union, and that is in the case of domestic violence. We’ve encountered much talk lately in Time, Newsweek, Hinduism Today and on TV about the taboo subjects of wife beating, date rape and even sexual abuse of children. Things once not even whispered about behind closed doors are now out in the open. No more secrets.

Of course, domestic violence never was much of a secret, for all those involved knew: husbands and wives, their friends, the kids, close relatives and neighbors. Knew but said nothing. If the neighbors are making too much noise at a party, no one hesitates to complain. But if that same neighbor is beating his wife and she is screaming and crying, nothing is done. No knock on the door. No call to authorities. We never allow a fist fight in a public place, but we do permit, by our silence, such heinous violence in the home.

In the spirit of standing for ahimsa and not permitting violence, when you see a man slapping his wife or a parent hitting his child, call the police! Don’t protect the wrongdoer. Don’t be a party to the crime by remaining passive. Don’t think that no karma is attached to inaction. It is no longer acceptable to turn up the TV to drown out the screams and sobs of a wife being beaten.

Recently, the California case of O.J. Simpson released an immense outpouring of sympathy for abused women. It took a world-famous athlete to bring forward an infamous worldly behavior. It is an admirable trait that an uncensored press can come forward to awaken a nation’s conscience. In a way, the images and stories that are appearing are not unlike Indian epics or Greek stage plays that seek to establish morals by depicting tragic happenings, or Italian operas which conceal morals in melodrama. All in all, the world has not changed that much.

As hard as it is to discuss wife abuse and why it happens, people are discussing it openly and without shame. We see graphic, real-life pictures of this violence and battered wives speaking out in magazines and on television. The big question is, will it ever end? Maybe not, but we can end the cultural sanction of the sport where father and mother watch their son slap down his wife and then drag her across the room by her hair.

A man who strikes his wife in an effort to make her cower, to control her, actually karmically does the opposite. His brutality turns against him, becomes his disadvantage. Her love and dependence weaken, and her psychic bonds to him unravel. After that, she has the spiritual upper hand, is more free from him than ever, less under his control than before that first slap. Yes, it all begins with the first slap.

It does not matter as much when they fight with words — the name-calling, insinuations, insults and arguments. That’s all part of the play of married life and may be fairly intense when their astrological compatibility is not as perfect as it might be. But that first slap changes everything! It is that first slap that brings dire kukarma, that degrades and demeans, that makes her his enemy and not his friend. This is not acceptable. Kids cannot accept it. Wives will never forgive it. Families should not endure it, even to defend beloved sons. It is not less violent just because it happens behind closed doors, just because we know the people so well. All who know of this crime and who do not speak up for dharma, for ahimsa, are accomplices. Like a thief or rapist, they are enemies of a stable society.
What Can Be Done?

“What can I do about domestic violence?” you may ask. You can refuse to remain silent. You can object, as I did recently upon finding in my own community three cases of wife abuse. Imagine, if devotees performing sadhana can succumb, how easy it must be for others. There is help available. Peer pressure, elders, police, counselors and shelters are there, and much more. It’s like the olden days when people first started objecting to slavery. Everyone knew in their heart it was wrong, but no one dared go against the conventional wisdom that it was “necessary.” Finally, mankind came to its senses and stopped it. It was no longer acceptable. In that same way, we are now coming to our senses about spouse abuse and child abuse.

What is the difference between beating a woman and raping her? Not much, really. Violent harm is done. Her body has been violated, moved by his body against her will. A sin has been committed, equally as psychologically serious. Kukarma for the man, bad consequences, results from that first slap. Prayashchitta, penance, must be performed to mitigate the backlash of his actions, lest they seriously affect his next birth.

The first push, bruised wrist, pinch without mercy, slap or bleeding lip tells her nerve system that “this is no place for me to be.” Her fear takes over, and the process of breaking up the family nest begins. His future is jeopardized as she instinctively withdraws her shakti. Perhaps he struck her to show that he’s the boss and that she cannot control him. But, in fact, he thereby appointed her as another boss that may well torment his consciousness the rest of his life and bring to him sorrows to equal her own, now or in his next birth.

Of course, it is the birth dharma of Hindu elders to rule society with a firm hand and demand of their younger male generation that they never defile themselves by giving that first slap. When a domestic situation is brought before me that involves violence, my immediate response is to advise the wife to run for safety. Unless counseling, if ever accepted, brings about an actual change in the offender, and there are actual apologies, remorse and genuine efforts to mend ways and transform that are acceptable to relatives and the congregation at large, I know it is my responsibility to step in and advise separation. Yes, this may lead to divorce, unless, of course, a deeply sincere correction has taken place and a new marriage covenant has been written by the couple. Continued physical violence is the singular justification for divorce in modern Hindu culture — a regrettable exception to the life-long covenant of marriage. This is comparable to an abortion performed to save the life of the mother, which is dharmically permissible because it is an even worse kukarma for a child to kill his mother. All concerned will accept the wisdom of these exceptions, both of which save the life of the mother.

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The Ideals Of Marriage

Marriage is an institution, a business, a spiritual partnership, a furtherance of humanity and a contract — a three-level contract involving body, mind and emotion. Marriage is a necessary commitment not only for the continuation of the human race but also for the furtherance of each individual soul’s spiritual unfoldment. The interaction on all levels between the couple, and later their children, molds the good, bad and confused karmas into new dimensions. Saivite marriages involve not only the bride and groom but also their parents, their priest, guru, astrologer, relatives on both sides and the entire community. The feeling of responsibility to the community is ever present. The community’s feeling of responsibility to make each of its marriages work out well is also always present.

Why are Saivite marriages different from other kinds of marriages? It is because of the ever-abiding belief in the ever-present oneness of God Siva within each one. God Siva is within you, and you are within God Siva. God Siva is the Life of our lives. This and more the Saivite saints sang. To forget that Siva is within the wife, to forget that Siva is within the husband is to forget Saivism itself. This basic Saivite belief lays the psychological foundation for the husband to see the wife as a Goddess and the wife to see the husband as a God. All other behavior comes out of this belief. Belief creates attitudes, and attitudes create actions.

The knowing that each one has come into life to work out certain karmas they brought with them in this birth, and that karmas are generally worked out through other people, gives a challenge and a goal — to resolve these karmas and receive the reward of mukti, freedom from rebirth. Because of this belief, this understanding, the husband and wife blend their energies more constructively. Their attitudes are naturally more generous, forgiving and understanding, their actions and interactions more harmonious and mutually supportive. A woman gives her prana, spiritual energy, to her husband, making him strong. Children give their prana to their parents, because to them the parents are Siva-Shakti, the first guru. The wife, always attending to her husband’s needs, sets the pattern for the children. By focusing her energies within her family, she builds up a great spiritual vibration in the home. In fulfilling his purusha dharma, the husband gives his prana, love and loyalty to his family, and he benefits the community through his service. He never, ever raises his voice in the home; nor does he show anger in any way. He is the model for the entire family. When his sons come of age, they join their pranas with his, and as a result, the family, the community and the country flourish.

Believing in reincarnation, the parents know that their relatives — and they themselves — will be born back into their family again and again to work out their unfinished karmas. A Saivite home is a karmic factory, a recycling of souls, a mill that grinds exceedingly fine the seed karmas of this and past lives.

Mysticism In the Home

The Saivite Hindu lifestyle is very special, very binding, strengthened by: the pancha nitya karmas; the Monday family home evening and the daily family meetings; the knowing that each child is and has been totally a part of the family, maybe for hundreds of years; the knowing that there is karma to be worked out within the family — feelings of happiness, unhappiness and misunderstandings, all to be resolved; and the knowing that there is a purpose for them all being together and that they may all be together until mukti, liberation from the cycle of rebirth. All this and more distinguishes the Saivite family from all other families on the planet.

It is on the astral plane, the inner world of this world, that twenty-four-hour life takes place. Beings there do not have to sleep. The positive activity of the astral world within the house or the apartment transforms it into a home, or if negative into a hotel room. To stabilize this astral activity and make sure it is positive, the home puja is performed by every Saivite family daily. Scriptures are read, the yamas and niyamas are fulfilled and all difficulties, large and small, are resolved before sleep. Divine ancestral devas are coaxed to live in the home, as well as devas from nearby temples where the family frequently worships. This magic makes the home into a spiritual abode, not unlike a temple itself.

Children are always treated with great respect and awe in a true Saivite home, for one does not always know who these young ones were in past lives. They may be incarnations of a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, dearly beloved mother, sister, brother, respected father, distant related yogi or rishi. Who are they? What is their destiny to fulfill in this life?

The answers lie in the voice of the universe, the mystical Saivite astrological system laid down by the rishis of yore. The family’s astrologer carefully explains the nature of each child, and how it will develop, flourish and unfold year after year. This gives the parents knowledge and hope, courage and understanding, tolerance and forgiveness, and all the other fine qualities that all Saivites want to cultivate within themselves. In raising the children and simultaneously realizing that each is a part of Siva’s well-ordered universe and has entered the family with his or her own prarabdha karmas to be lived out, the parents are neither excited nor dismayed when the predicted characteristics begin to manifest within the child. Yes, the Saivite home is a factory, an intricate mechanism manufacturing spiritual unfoldment for every member of the family.

Bringing Up Children

Many families look at their children as intruders, as strangers. Saivites don’t. There is great power and wisdom in the knowledge of astrology in bringing the necessary information to the parents to know the nature of their new arrival. Non-Hindu families generally do not have this kind of insight into the nature and future of their offspring and are generally at a loss to understand or know how to deal with patterns and developments as they arise.

Hindu parents view each child as an adult in a very young body, growing up into the fulfillment of its potential. Using the knowledge gained through astrology, they work to strengthen the strong character traits and never aggravate the weaker or antagonistic ones. This is to say that should the child have a propensity toward anger, jealousy and argumentativeness, and another propensity toward generosity, creativity and acquisition of knowledge, the wise parents will, of course, never argue with the child, because they do not want to awaken and strengthen this quality; they would carefully refrain from angering the child and quickly quell the anger when it flares up. In order to avoid strengthening the tendency toward jealousy, they would seek to secure the child’s relationship with friends and things so that he never felt unloved or disadvantaged. They would praise his creativity, generosity and acquisition of knowledge. For all this he would be rewarded with kind words and gifts, because once these tendencies are strengthened, the negative ones will fall aside.

This example is given to explain the way in which mother and father must work together to formulate patterns of positive discipline that they will understand and implement in the same way, so as to bring out the best qualities within the child. When these best qualities are brought up and become a part of the child’s daily life, the worse qualities will naturally be subdued by the best qualities. It is an interactive mechanism within the child himself that brings him closer to perfection. Non-Saivite families often bring up the worst within their child, and the child has to, for his own salvation, leave home to be with people of a higher nature, a more expanded consciousness, who will strengthen his finer qualities, or be drawn to those of a lower nature, who will strengthen his lesser qualities. Everyone is on the path to perfection, and they are instinctively and superconsciously seeking out those who are capable and able to help them progress. Saivites want this to happen within the home itself, and hence welcome the involvement of the guru, the swamis and the entire community.

Because people are human, differences arise. If everyone were the same, humanity would be called a herd, with the instinctive nature the predominant functioning intelligence. But humans are not a herd; they are individuals, each and every one of them. Each has a destiny and on the path to fulfill that destiny must go through an intricate series of unique experiences. Saivites appreciate the differences. If any sameness exists, it is because of the shared understanding of the Saiva Dharma and each one’s ability to live up to it in his own way, helped or restricted by his prarabdha karmas. In our own Saivite organization — a worldwide family it has been called — a pilgrim can visit a mission in Canada, California, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius or India, and experience his brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles. This worldwide extended family exists because of their shared, basic Saiva beliefs and attitudes, and their striving to live up to the culture and sadhanas in their own way, only being helped or inhibited by their prarabdha karmas.

The Roles of Man and Wife

Is there anything unique in the Saivite marriage that helps in dealing with the roles that men and women traditionally play? Are women always to be meek and dependent and men aggressive and in charge? Sometimes an aggressive woman marries a passive man. How does Saivism deal with this?” This totally depends on the education of both the husband and the wife. This has been my experience. When the modernization of education occurred, which taught people how to live in the world, run a business or work for someone else, family life began to evolve out of the village consciousness and into the technological age. In this change, traditional roles also changed.

Today there are five basic patterns of marriage. In an agricultural community, women take care of the house, and men take care of the farm, the business and industry; or in some other societies where women are stronger, they work side-by-side with the men. There, for a man to have his wife work side-by-side with him in the field is a sign of status, better meals for the family and more attention to himself. Also we must understand that in these marriages both husband and wife share a similar educational level, a similar understanding of how the world works. This is the first and oldest pattern.

However, as society changes because of technology and industrialization, people change and their relationships change. I have found that a Western-educated man who marries an Eastern village-educated girl will always be head of the house, and she will allow this. Basically, she does not understand the ways of urban life. This is the second type of marriage. The educated man marrying an uneducated girl will not expect her to understand what he is thinking about or feeling. And she would probably not understand even if he explained it all to her. She would naturally be submissive; he would be aggressive.

It has been my experience that it works exactly the same the other way around in cases where the woman is more highly educated than the man. The intellectually educated lady marrying an uneducated man would most likely be the principal wage-earner, and he would be submissive. She will naturally make the major decisions about how to spend her money. He will naturally concur. Or, they will fight. This third, more difficult, relationship will demand a leader and a follower, especially if she earns more money than he and has more job security and greater benefits, such as medical insurance and retirement.

The second and third types of marriage share a common factor. A village girl has no way of earning her own living, should her husband die or leave her, and would have no recourse but to return to her family, unless he left her a substantial bequest or alimony. A nonprofessional village man would have no other recourse than to seek his own level of income should his educated wife die or leave him without providing a generous support or inheritance.

Special Types Of Marriage

The fourth type of marriage, like the first, is between those of similar educational backgrounds. Here, though, each is sophisticated, has professional skills and could be a wage-earner in his or her own right. Within these marriages, even though the skills may not be used, they are a potential source of income and security. This fourth rule book, which has been written more recently by the actions and experiences of various couples and the societies in which they live, is most important to elaborate on. Two fairly equally educated people should work in unanimous agreement, in partnership, in all things regarding raising of the children and management of the home.

The first three rule books are fairly well set, and society understands them. They have been functioning for hundreds and thousands of years. In the fourth type of marriage, men and women meet in equality through intelligence developed and cultivated through Western education, Western experience and the equal ability to be wage earners. The intellect, intelligence, has no sex; it is equal. To apply agricultural village traditions to these marriages would be to foster contention, misunderstanding and feelings of rejection, leading to possible separation. Two potential wage earners living together must themselves reach consensus on every issue.

The fifth type of marriage is more religious, more spiritual. Here the couple has blended together for the purpose of fulfilling religious aspirations, for ministry, producing sons for the monastery or future priests and pandits. These lofty marriages have definite guru involvement and swami involvement. The couple is intent on practicing yoga and serving their religion selflessly as missionaries, exemplars and teachers. My Saiva Siddhanta Church encourages each couple to write a two-part marriage contract. Part one is the mutual agreement, laying out the overall purpose of the marriage and the aspirations and goals that the union hopes to fulfill. The other part is a statement of the duties and responsibilities of each of the partners. This semi-corporate approach has proven successful in stabilizing many marriages, as each partner clearly understands his or her role.

Any couple following any of the other four types of marriage could move to the fifth at the right time. They would ultimately take the brahmacharya vrata, later in life, after a decision was made to have no more children, and then live together as brother and sister. This is traditional within Saivite culture and consistent with community expectations.

Marital Harmony

One might ask about the traditional role of the husband as guru of the wife, whether he should give in equally to her views when difficulties arise or expect most of the compromise to come from her. In the ideal of the husband’s being the guru in the family, the word guru simply means teacher. So, to be a guru in the household means that he is a very religious, knowledgeable, understanding, humble husband who is kind, honest and respected in the community as an exemplar. Otherwise, the ideal of family guru does not apply, and more of a partnership arrangement between spouses is the default in today’s world.

People are held in bondage in many ways — physical bondage, emotional bondage, intellectual bondage. In India’s Hinduism, unfortunately, as in many other societies on the Earth, disproportionate numbers of women are still not educated, while the men more often are. Therefore, the woman is held in intellectual bondage, sometimes not even being able to count to a hundred and only being able to, and expected to, gossip in the marketplace and bargain for food. Naturally she would follow the religion of her husband. Naturally she would also depend on him fully for guidance in all other matters, financial and otherwise.

But times have now changed, and many Hindu women have been educated and can formulate their own opinions through the reasoning processes of their own minds, talk intelligently among themselves and arrive at pragmatic conclusions. The guru-disciple relationship does not exist in marriages of this kind. She does not need to learn anything from her husband. In most cases she has sufficient skills to be financially independent. Therefore, the relationship is not that of a guru and student, but is more like a business partnership, the fourth type of marriage.

Their business is birthing children and raising them to be good citizens, maintaining a harmonious home by reconciling differences before sleep, even if they are reconciled a few hours after dawn, maintaining the family budget, paying all of the bills on time, saving for their children’s higher level of education, seeing to the children’s being settled in a life of their own, paying off the mortgage on the house, preparing for retirement, seeing to the spiritual upliftment of the community by contributing to the local temple society, maintaining a shrine room in their home, and hiring a local priest to perform house ceremonies and certain samskaras within the home. To fulfill all of this, a fair, professional attitude toward one another must be maintained.

Professional people in large corporations do not argue endlessly before reconciliation, nor do they undermine each other, lest they soon find themselves looking for another place of employment. Divorce in this modern time is like being dismissed, fired, and then the search is on for another partner with whom the same unresolved karma will finally mature. This is because we are born with certain prarabdha karmas to be lived through, if not with one person, then with a surrogate. The way to avoid creating new kriyamana karmas is to face up to the karmas with the first spouse rather than with a second, third or fourth, which would create a kukarma, or bad karma, mess along the way to be later cleaned up, if not in this life, then hopefully in the next life.

It is said that the wife should see the husband as Siva and he should see her as Shakti, which is often misconstrued as putting him in a superior position. The only up-down situation is the educated husband married to an illiterate wife, yet even here the relationship should be one of love and mutual respect. Siva and Shakti are totally and equally interrelated as far as Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is concerned, and cannot exist without one another. Therefore, is the husband Siva, and is she Shakti? It’s a yes and no answer. In Saiva Siddhanta, Siva and Shakti are two aspects of a one Being, Siva being the unmanifest Absolute and Shakti being the manifest Divinity.

If the wife is as capable as the husband in the external world and the intellectual world, emotional world and physical world, there is no up-down relationship between them, and they are Siva and Shakti, absolutely equal. The old system of male dominance originated in early human societies when physical strength — for war, hunting and heavy muscular effort — was a prime survival factor. It was perpetuated as the way of life in villages of preindustrial India, Europe and early America, where the man received the education and the woman, as a rule, did not. To apply this system in today’s sophisticated technological societies would be to plant the seedlings of the destruction of the marriage.

Commitment To Harmony

Traditionally, every Hindu family should have a family kulaguru, a preceptor who knows the flow of karma within all the family connections and the birth dharma of the family itself. To be without a kulaguru is likened to a child being without its parents.

One of the greatest disruptive forces in a marriage is the amateur psychiatrist or psychologist practicing on his or her spouse. This tactic for solving problems is totally unacceptable. Such efforts, however well-intended, to straighten out a spouse through subconscious analysis are antagonizing, disruptive and hurtful emotionally and mentally. All these psychiatric games are based on the principle, “Something is wrong with you, and I’m going to straighten it out. Come to me. I have all the solutions.” Saivism is different. It is based on the principle that you are perfect. The only problem is that you don’t know it. Let’s talk ourselves into our own perfection through reading scripture, praying, doing Sivathondu together, doing japa together, to lift our consciousness into the perfection that is always there.

If your spouse is trying to hurt you, protect yourself in the Sanatana Dharma as your first line of defense. Recognizing that this is your karma, fulfill your dharma fully, be it stri dharma or purusha dharma, the best you understand it. The Vedas assure us that truth always wins over evil (Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.6). It is the wife’s duty to uplift the husband, the husband’s duty to uplift the wife. A husband bent on hurting his wife could not outlast — his hurtfulness could not survive — the wife’s chanting “Aum, Aum, Aum” all day long and placing spiritual vibrations into his food. In this way, good overcomes evil, ahimsa overcomes himsa, dharma overcomes adharma. This is why we are born on this planet, to evolve through such challenges. We are here for no other reason. But should the husband ever become physically violent, the wife should take the children and run to safety. She should stay in a safe place until he has undergone counseling, made amends to her and to the congregation, asked the family guru to prescribe a penance and fully performed that penance.

When families who are trying to meditate and unfold spiritually go through times of internal or external violence they should not practice raja yoga or other forms of meditation. This will only aggravate and worsen the situation. Yoga practices are not for them. What they should do is Sivathondu, or karma yoga, bhakti yoga and simple japa yoga. That is all. If a disharmonious situation comes up between husband and wife, they must resolve it before they go to bed, even if they must stay up all night into the light of day.

Sleep puts the problem to rest over a period of two or three nights, and it will eventually fade into the memory patterns of forgetfulness over a longer period of time. Having sex does not solve the problem. It puts the problem into seed, into the memory patterns of current forgetfulness, and these will definitely materialize at another time. Sex and sleep are not solutions to marital disputes. One is immediate postponement and the other is a slower postponement. To resolve a conflict between husband and wife, lest it affect the lives of the children by being postponed into forgetfulness, it must be done before sleep. There is no other way. This is the way husbands and wives catalyze their spiritual unfoldment on the path and develop themselves. Another reason sex is not a solution to disharmony is that babies that are conceived in a union that is supposed to settle a squabble are more often than not invoked from the Narakaloka. Such children might harass the family for the rest of their lives.

Ahimsa is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one’s mind, speech or body.

How to Live With God

Religion teaches us how to become better people, how to live as spiritual beings on this Earth. This happens through living virtuously, following the natural and essential guidelines of dharma. For Hindus, these guidelines are recorded in the yamas and niyamas, ancient scriptural injunctions for all aspects of human thought, attitude and behavior. In Indian spiritual life, these Vedic restraints and observances are built into the character of children from a very early age. For adults who have been subjected to opposite behavioral patterns, these guidelines may seem to be like commandments. However, even they can, with great dedication and effort, remold their character and create the foundation necessary for a sustained spiritual life. Through following the yamas and niyamas, we cultivate our refined, spiritual being while keeping the instinctive nature in check. We lift ourself into the consciousness of the higher chakras — of love, compassion, intelligence and bliss — and naturally invoke the blessings of the divine devas and Mahadevas.

Yama means “reining in” or “control.” The yamas include such injunctions as noninjury (ahimsa), nonstealing (asteya) and moderation in eating (mitahara), which harness the base, instinctive nature. Niyama, literally “unleashing,” indicates the expression of refined, soul qualities through such disciplines as charity (dana), contentment (santosha) and incantation (japa).

It is true that bliss comes from meditation, and it is true that higher consciousness is the heritage of all mankind. However, the ten restraints and their corresponding practices are necessary to maintain bliss consciousness, as well as all of the good feelings toward oneself and others attainable in any incarnation. These restraints and practices build character. Character is the foundation for spiritual unfoldment.

The fact is, the higher we go, the lower we can fall. The top chakras spin fast; the lowest one available to us spins even faster. The platform of character must be built within our lifestyle to maintain the total contentment needed to persevere on the path. These great rishis saw the frailty of human nature and gave these guidelines, or disciplines, to make it strong. They said, “Strive!” Let’s strive to not hurt others, to be truthful and honor all the rest of the virtues they outlined.

The ten yamas are: 1) ahimsa, “noninjury,” not harming others by thought, word or deed; 2) satya, “truthfulness,” refraining from lying and betraying promises; 3) asteya, “nonstealing,” neither stealing nor coveting nor entering into debt; 4) brahmacharya, “divine conduct,” controlling lust by remaining celibate when single, leading to faithfulness in marriage; 5) kshama, “patience,” restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances; 6) dhriti, “steadfastness,” overcoming nonperseverance, fear, indecision, inconstancy and changeableness; 7) daya, “compassion,” conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings; 8) arjava, “honesty, straightforwardness,” renouncing deception and wrongdoing; 9) mitahara, “moderate appetite,” neither eating too much nor consuming meat, fish, fowl or eggs; 10) shaucha, “purity,” avoiding impurity in body, mind and speech.

Twenty Disciplines

The niyamas are: 1) hri, “remorse,” being modest and showing shame for misdeeds; 2) santosha, “contentment,” seeking joy and serenity in life; 3) dana, “giving,” tithing and giving generously without thought of reward; 4) astikya, “faith,” believing firmly in God, Gods, guru and the path to enlightenment; 5) Ishvarapujana, “worship of the Lord,” the cultivation of devotion through daily worship and meditation; 6) siddhanta shravana, “scriptural listening,” studying the teachings and listening to the wise of one’s lineage; 7) mati, “cognition,” developing a spiritual will and intellect with the guru’s guidance; 8) vrata, “sacred vows,” fulfilling religious vows, rules and observances faithfully; 9) japa, “recitation,” chanting mantras daily; 10) tapas, “austerity,” performing sadhana, penance, tapas and sacrifice.

In comparing the yamas to the niyamas, we find the restraint of noninjury, ahimsa, makes it possible to practice hri, remorse. Truthfulness brings on the state of santosha, contentment. And the third yama, asteya, nonstealing, must be perfected before the third niyama, giving without any thought of reward, is even possible. Sexual purity brings faith in God, Gods and guru. Kshama, patience, is the foundation for Ishvarapujana, worship, as is dhriti, steadfastness, the foundation for siddhanta shravana. The yama of daya, compassion, definitely brings mati, cognition. Arjava, honesty — renouncing deception and all wrongdoing — is the foundation for vrata, taking sacred vows and faithfully fulfilling them. Mitahara, moderate appetite, is where yoga begins, and vegetarianism is essential before the practice of japa, recitation of holy mantras, can reap its true benefit in one’s life. Shaucha, purity in body, mind and speech, is the foundation and the protection for all austerities.

The twenty restraints and observances are the first two of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga, constituting Hinduism’s fundamental ethical code. Because it is brief, the entire code can be easily memorized and reviewed daily at the family meetings in each home. The yamas and niyamas are the essential foundation for all spiritual progress. They are cited in numerous scriptures, including the Shandilya and Varaha Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Gorakshanatha, the Tirumantiram of Rishi Tirumular and the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali. All of these ancient texts list ten yamas and ten niyamas, with the exception of Patanjali’s classic work, which lists just five of each. Patanjali lists the yamas as: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha (noncovetousness); and the niyamas as: shaucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya (self-reflection, scriptural study) and Ishvarapranidhana (worship).

In the Hindu tradition, it is primarily the mother’s job to build character within the children, and thereby to continually improve society. Mothers can study and teach these guidelines to uplift their children as well as themselves. Each discipline focuses on a different aspect of human nature, its strengths and weaknesses. Taken as a sum total, they encompass the whole of human experience and spirituality. You may do well in upholding some of these but not so well in others. That is to be expected. That defines the sadhana, therefore, to be perfected.

Your Divine Chariot

The yamas and niyamas and their function in our life can be likened to a chariot pulled by ten horses. The passenger inside the chariot is your soul. The chariot itself represents your physical, astral and mental bodies. The driver of the chariot is your external ego, your personal will. The wheels are your divine energies. The niyamas, or spiritual practices, represent the spirited horses, named Hri, Santosha, Dana, Astikya, Ishvarapujana, Siddhanta Shravana, Mati, Vrata, Japa, and Tapas. The yamas, or restraints, are the reins, called Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Kshama, Dhriti, Daya, Arjava, Mitahara and Shaucha. By holding tight to the reins, the charioteer, your will, guides the strong horses so they can run forward swiftly and gallantly as a dynamic unit. So, as we restrain the lower, instinctive qualities through upholding the yamas, the soul moves forward to its destination in the state of santosha. Santosha, peace, is the eternal satisfaction of the soul. At the deepest level, the soul is always in the state of santosha. But outwardly, the propensity of the soul is to be clouded by lack of restraint of the instinctive nature, lack of restraint of the intellectual nature, lack of restraint of the emotional nature, lack of restraint of the physical body itself. Therefore, hold tight the reins.

It is important to realize that the yamas, restraints, are not out of the reach of the lowliest among us. No matter where we are in the scale of life, we all started from the beginning, at the bottom, didn’t we? This is our philosophy. This is our religion. This is the evolution of the soul. We improve, life after life, and these guidelines, yamas and niyamas, restraints and practices, are gifts from our rishis, from God Siva Himself through them, to allow us to judge ourself against these pillars of virtue as to how far we have progressed or strayed. In the early births, we are like children. We do not stray from anything. We run here and there and everywhere, disobey every rule, which when told of we cannot remember. We ignore any admonishment. As adolescents, we force our will on society, want to change it, because we don’t like the hold it has on us. Wanting to express themselves in most creative ways, rebellious youths separate themselves from other people, children and the adults. They do make changes, but not always for the best. As an adult, we see both — the past and the impending future of old age — and, heads down, we are concerned with accumulating enough to see life through to its uncertain end. When the accumulations have become adequate, we will look back at the undisciplined children, the headstrong, unruly adolescents and the self-possessed, concentrated adults and try to motivate all three groups. In our great religion, the Sanatana Dharma, known today as Hinduism, twenty precepts, the yamas and niyamas, restraints and observances, are the guidelines we use to motivate these three groups. These are the guidelines they use to motivate themselves, for each group is mystically independent of the others; so it seems.

Non injury

The first yama is ahimsa, noninjury. To practice ahimsa, one has to practice santosha, contentment. The sadhana is to seek joy and serenity in life, remaining content with what one has, knows, is doing and those with whom he associates. Bear your karma cheerfully. Live within your situation contentedly. Himsa, or injury, and the desire to harm, comes from discontent.

The rishis who revealed the principles of dharma or divine law in Hindu scripture knew full well the potential for human suffering and the path which could avert it. To them a one spiritual power flowed in and through all things in this universe, animate and inanimate, conferring existence by its presence. To them life was a coherent process leading all souls without exception to enlightenment, and no violence could be carried to the higher reaches of that ascent. These rishis were mystics whose revelation disclosed a cosmos in which all beings exist in interlaced dependence. The whole is contained in the part, and the part in the whole. Based on this cognition, they taught a philosophy of nondifference of self and other, asserting that in the final analysis we are not separate from the world and its manifest forms, nor from the Divine which shines forth in all things, all beings, all peoples. From this understanding of oneness arose the philosophical basis for the practice of noninjury and Hinduism’s ancient commitment to it.

We all know that Hindus, who are one-sixth of the human race today, believe in the existence of God everywhere, as an all-pervasive, self-effulgent energy and consciousness. This basic belief creates the attitude of sublime tolerance and acceptance toward others. Even tolerance is insufficient to describe the compassion and reverence the Hindu holds for the intrinsic sacredness within all things. Therefore, the actions of all Hindus are rendered benign, or ahimsa. One would not want to hurt something which one revered.

On the other hand, when the fundamentalists of any religion teach an unrelenting duality based on good and evil, man and nature or God and Devil, this creates friends and enemies. This belief is a sacrilege to Hindus, because they know that the attitudes which are the by-product are totally dualistic, and for good to triumph over that which is alien or evil, it must kill out that which is considered to be evil.

The Hindu looks at nothing as intrinsically evil. To him the ground is sacred. The sky is sacred. The sun is sacred. His wife is a Goddess. Her husband is a God. Their children are devas. Their home is a shrine. Life is a pilgrimage to mukti, or liberation from rebirth, which once attained is the end to reincarnation in a physical body. When on a holy pilgrimage, one would not want to hurt anyone along the way, knowing full well the experiences on this path are of one’s own creation, though maybe acted out through others.

Non injury for Renunciate’s

Ahimsa is the first and foremost virtue, presiding over truthfulness, nonstealing, sexual purity, patience, steadfastness, compassion, honesty and moderate appetite. The brahmachari and sannyasin must take ahimsa, noninjury, one step further. He has mutated himself, escalated himself, by stopping the abilities of being able to harm another by thought, word or deed, physically, mentally or emotionally. The one step further is that he must not harm his own self with his own thoughts, his own feelings, his own actions toward his own body, toward his own emotions, toward his own mind. This is very important to remember. And here, at this juncture, ahimsa has a tie with satya, truthfulness. The sannyasin must be totally truthful to himself, to his guru, to the Gods and to Lord Siva, who resides within him every minute of every hour of every day. But for him to truly know this and express it through his life and be a living religious example of the Sanatana Dharma, all tendencies toward himsa, injuriousness, must always be definitely harnessed in chains of steel. The mystical reason is this. Because of the brahmachari’s or sannyasin’s spiritual power, he really has more ability to hurt someone than he or that person may know, and therefore his observance of noninjury is even more vital. Yes, this is true. A brahmachari or sannyasin who does not live the highest level of ahimsa is not a brahmachari.

Words are expressions of thoughts, thoughts created from prana. Words coupled with thoughts backed up by the transmuted pranas, or the accumulated bank account of energies held back within the brahmachari and the sannyasin, become powerful thoughts, and when expressed through words go deep into the mind, creating impressions, samskaras, that last a long time, maybe forever. It is truly unfortunate if a brahmachari or sannyasin loses control of himself and betrays ahimsa by becoming himsa, an injurious person — unfortunate for those involved, but more unfortunate for himself. When we hurt another, we scar the inside of ourself; we clone the image. The scar would never leave the sannyasin until it left the person that he hurt. This is because the pranas, the transmuted energies, give so much force to the thought. Thus the words penetrate to the very core of the being. Therefore, angry people should get married and should not practice brahmacharya.

Truthfulness

The second yama is satya, truthfulness. It seems that little children are naturally truthful, open and honest. Their lives are uncomplicated, and they have no secrets. National studies show that children, even at an early age, learn to lie from their parents. They are taught to keep family secrets, whom to like, whom to dislike, whom to hate and whom to love, right within the home itself. Their minds become complicated and their judgments of what to say and what not to say are often influenced by the possibility of a punishment, perhaps a beating. Therefore, to fully encompass satya and incorporate it in one’s life as a teenager or an adult, it is quite necessary to dredge the subconscious mind and in some cases reject much of what mother or father, relatives and elders had placed into it at an early age. Only by rejecting the apparent opposites, likes and dislikes, hates and loves, can true truthfulness, which is a quality of the soul, burst forth again and be there in full force as it is within an innocent child. A child practices truthfulness without wisdom. Wisdom, which is the timely application of knowledge, guides truthfulness for the adult. To attain wisdom, the adult must be conversant with the soul nature.

What is it that keeps us from practicing truthfulness? Fear, mainly. Fear of discovery, fear of punishment or loss of status. This is the most honest untruthfulness. The next layer of untruthfulness would be the mischievous person willing to take a chance of not being caught and deliberately inventing stories about another, deliberately lying when the truth would do just as well. The third and worst layer is calculated deception and breaking of promises.

Satya is a restraint, and as one of the ten restraints it ranks in importance as number two. When we restrain our tendencies to deceive, to lie and break promises, our external life is uncomplicated, as is our subconscious mind. Honesty is the foundation of truth. It is ecologically, psychologically purifying. However, many people are not truthful with themselves, to themselves, let alone to others. And the calculated, subconscious built-in program of these clever, cunning, two-faced individuals keeps them in the inner worlds of darkness. To emerge from those worlds, the practice of truthfulness, satya, is in itself a healing and purifying sadhana.

What is breaking a promise? Breaking a promise is, for example, when someone confides in you, asks you to keep it to yourself and not to tell anyone, and then you tell. You have betrayed your promise. Confidences must be kept at all costs in the practice of satya.

There are certainly times when withholding the truth is permitted. The Tirukural, Weaver’s Wisdom, explains that “Even falsehood is of the nature of truth if it renders good results, free from fault” (292). An astrologer, for instance, while reviewing a chart would refrain from telling of a heartbreak that might come to a person at a certain time in his life. This is wisdom. In fact, astrologers are admonished by their gurus to hold back information that might be harmful or deeply discouraging. A doctor might not tell his patient that he will die in three days when he sees the vital signs weakening. Instead, he may encourage positive thinking, give hope, knowing that life is eternal and that to invoke fear might create depression and hopelessness in the mind of the ill person.

When pure truthfulness would injure or cause harm, then the first yama, ahimsa, would come into effect. You would not want to harm that person, even with the truth. But we must not look at this verse from the Tirukural as giving permission for deception. The spirit of the verse is wisdom, good judgment, not the subterfuge of telling someone you are going to Mumbai when your actual destination is Kalikot. That is not truthful. It would be much better to avoid answering the question at all in some way if one wanted to conceal the destination of his journey. This would be wisdom. You would not complicate your own subconscious mind by telling an untruth, nor be labeled deceptive in the mind of the informed person when he eventually discovers the actual truth.

Honesty with Your Guru

Some people use the excuse of truthfulness to nag their spouse about what they don’t like about him or her, or to gossip about other people’s flaws. This is not the spirit of satya. We do not want to expose others’ faults. Such confrontations could become argumentative and combative. No one knows one’s faults better than oneself. But fear and weakness often prevail, while motivation and a clear plan to correct the situation are absent. Therefore, to give a clear plan, a positive outlook, a new way of thinking, diverts the attention of the individual and allows internal healing to take place. This is wisdom. This is ahimsa, noninjury. This is satya, truthfulness. The wise devotee is careful to never insult or humiliate others, even under the pretext of telling the truth, which is an excuse that people sometimes use to tell others what they don’t like about them. Wise devotees realize that there is good and bad in everyone. There are emotional ups and downs, mental elations and depressions, encouragements and discouragements. Let’s focus on the positive. This is ahimsa and satya working together.

The brahmachari and the sannyasin must be absolutely truthful with their satguru. They must be absolutely diplomatic, wise and always accentuate the good qualities within the sannyasin and brahmachari communities. The guru has the right to discuss, rebuke or discipline the uncomely qualities in raising up the brahmachari and sannyasin. Only he has this right, because it was given to him by the brahmacharis and sannyasins when they took him as their satguru. This means that brahmacharis and sannyasins cannot discipline one another, psychoanalyze and correct in the name of truthfulness, without violation of the number one yama — ahimsa, noninjury.

Mothers and fathers have rights with their own children, as do gurus with their shishyas. These rights are limited according to wisdom. They are not all-inclusive and should not inhibit free will and well-rounded growth within an individual. This is why a guru is looked upon as the mother and father by the mother and father and by the disciple who is sent to the guru’s ashrama to study and learn. It is the guru’s responsibility to mold the aspirant into a solid member of the monastic community, just as it is the mother’s and father’s duty to mold the youth to be a responsible, looked-up-to member of the family community. This is how society progresses.

The practice, niyama, to strengthen one’s satya qualities is tapas, austerity — performing sadhana, penance, tapas and sacrifice. If you find you have not been truthful, if you have betrayed promises, then put yourself under the tapas sadhana. Perform a lengthy penance. Atone, repent, perform austerities. You will soon find that being truthful is much easier than what tapas and austerities will make you go through if you fail to restrain yourself.

Truthfulness is the fullness of truth. Truth itself is fullness. May fullness prevail, truth prevail, and the spirit of satya and ahimsa permeate humanity.

According to biblical scholars, the Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible.What can we learn from the Book of Job?Is there application for the believer’s life today?  Was sin involved in Job’s suffering?Is there sin in all suffering? Why does God allow suffering?

The Accuser

All was going well with Job. He had it all: A large family, wealth, and blessings of every kind imaginable.At that time, Job may have been the richest man on the face of the earth. “He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”  Clearly, Job had it all.  This must have bothered Satan because he came to God. What did God say to Satan about Job? God bragged on Job saying, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Can you imagine the God of the Universe bragging on Job from heaven?Might He also brag about you and your righteousness found in Jesus Christ? It is entirely possible however Satan was not convinced and said to God, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face”

Satan’s name means “adversary” and he has been called the “accuser of the brethren”. God sets out to prove to Satan that Job is not righteous just because he is being blessed. God challenges the Devil telling him, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger”. Job lost just about everything; his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and all of his sons and daughters – but remarkably he did not lose his faith in God. What was Job’s response? “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong”.
Here we can plainly see Job’s reaction: he worshiped God, he said that he came into this world with nothing and will return with nothing, the Lord has taken away all he had except his wife – and his wife told him to “curse God and die” – and Job also blessed the name of the Lord. In all of this, “Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong!” He blessed God’s name, he worshiped God, and he did not sin. Satan must have been angry at Job’s response. Job suffered unjustly and yet he did not blame God or say, “why me?”

Fair Weather Friends

Job’s friends tried to console him but they soon started to blame him for his own troubles inferring that he must have sinned in order for all these trials to come upon him.  That is something that is far too easy for believers to do.  When they see a Christian suffer, they unfairly assume that there must be sin in that believer’s life.  But suffering is not always a result of sin as we see with Job.  In many cases, those who are sinners suffer little while those who are saints suffer much.  Many people see this as a stumbling block for Christianity and ask why God allows suffering.  Instead of asking “why” they might be better off asking “what”.  What is God up to?  What is He trying to produce in us?  Like the refiners fire, God often uses suffering to produce righteous character in believers.  Sometimes He wants those who suffer to be more dependent upon Him.  It may be that He is trying to get our attention.  We might even be sinning; however we can not always equate suffering with sin in a believer’s life as we see with Job’s experience.

At first Job’s friends try to help Job but they quickly turn to accusing him of some sort of hidden or known sin.  Job knows that this is not the reason and tries to justify himself against their accusations.  But his justification quickly turns to self-righteousness and that is sin before God.  Job’s friends say, “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? You demanded security from your brothers for no reason; you stripped men of their clothing, leaving them naked.  You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry, though you were a powerful man, owning land– an honored man, living on it. And you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless. That is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you”. This brings God’s righteous indignation upon Job’s friends.

God Answers Job

Job is not guiltless as no man is without sin. Job becomes discouraged, partly because of the blame game played by his friends. Job begins to question God Himself and this is when God answers Job out of the whirlwind (tornado?), He says, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.“ Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding”. God puts Job in his place and in effect tells Job, who are you to question the God of the Universe? God never does answer Job’s question on why He allows suffering. God, in His sovereignty, chooses not to tell us everything. That is God’s prerogative. Also notice that God spoke to Job out of the “whirlwind” which is the terminology for a tornado or great and destructive windstorm. This could indicate that God is in all things going on this world. He is sovereign and nothing happens that is not within His perfect will. This things include natural disasters and calamities. God is never caught off guard or by surprise.
Someday in eternity, God will likely make it clear why Christians suffer – why something terrible was allowed to happen or why their child was allowed to die. It is as God once said in Isaiah 45:9, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?” We can not question God’s motives. His ways are beyond human comprehension but clearly He does have a purpose in suffering. As God tells Isaiah, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” . He sometimes chooses not to reveal this to believers – at least in this life.

God Restores Job

If Job had known that God would have restored to him more than he had in the first place, would he have questioned Him at all? God rewards Job for his faithfulness and his endurance through such suffering. This story has an incredible ending.
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his [previous] possessions. All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They offered him sympathy and comfort concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. So the LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the earlier. He owned 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named his first [daughter] Jemimah, his second Keziah, and his third Keren-happuch. No women as beautiful as Job’s daughters could be found in all the land, and their father granted them an inheritance with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after this and saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. Then Job died, old and full of days.”
So Job ended up much better off than he was in the beginning. He had considerably more than when he began his suffering and even though God did not answer Job why he was allowed to suffer so terribly, in the end Job had more blessings than any man or the face of the earth at that time. The application for Christians today is that God will bless those who endure to the end and that someday, God will reward us with unbelievable blessings that can not compare with what we have today. We will all suffer in this life. It is appointed to mankind to suffer. It is a fallen world. We may not know the “why” today but some day we probably will. Instead of asking “why”, we should ask “what”. What is God up to? What is God trying to do in me? The “why” will have to wait for someday in eternity. Until then, we can not fully grasp the purpose of God but we know that He will not allow us to suffer into eternity. One thing that is important is that Satan could not lay a finger on Job, nor can he us. God will not allow this.
For those who reject God today, they may have suffering in this life and in the after-life. For those who believe in Him today and trust in the Son of God, their suffering will be over someday. They will have eternal joy and fellowship with God. My prayer for you is that you can inherit this eternal joy where there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more suffering, and no more death. Let the Word of God tell us what is in store for the children of God someday, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.“

God created a perfect world. Everything that God made was perfect. God examined his own work. And he saw that it was good.

God made things that are both beautiful and complex. The body of an animal or man has a very complex structure. Even today, people cannot make machines that are so complex as an animal’s body.

But God did not merely make these things from nothing. He caused them to live. This is very wonderful.

God did not work by accident or chance. He had complete control over everything. We can see this because of his control over time. God created the sun so that it would appear at the right time each day. He created the seasons of the year. He arranged the movements of the moon and stars in the sky at night. These things do not happen by chance. They all happen at the right time because this is God’s plan.

God still has a perfect time for things to happen. Jesus was born at the right time . And Jesus will return at the right time . God, our Father, has decided these things. And he still has a perfect plan.

God is perfect. God did not create the world so that there would be wars, cruelty or evil behaviour. He wanted men and women to be his friends. So, he gave them a perfect world. And he provided plants as their food. God was generous and kind. And God’s attitudes have never changed . But, as we shall see in chapter 3, men and women were not loyal to God. This is the reason for the troubles in this world. God never wanted people to suffer.

Everything that God created was perfect. And everything was wonderful. But men and women had a special place in God’s plan. Firstly, God created a perfect world for the first man to live in. Then God prepared a special home for the man. This home was in a beautiful garden (or farm) that God had planted. God made the man (called Adam) from dust that was on the earth. Then God breathed his Spirit into the man, so that the man was alive . Afterwards, God provided a wife (called Eve) for the man.

The world was perfect. People had not *sinned. They obeyed God. And they were friends of God.

Satan (the devil) used a snake to test the first people (called Adam and Eve). Satan told them that they should not trust God’s words. And Satan encouraged them not to obey God.

The results of their action were terrible. They were afraid and they tried to hide from God. They could not continue their friendship with God.

But, even afterwards, God was kind to them. He killed an animal so that they could cover their bodies. And he made a promise to Eve that seems to refer to Jesus. *Sin has been a real problem for every person who has ever lived. Because of *sin, our world is not perfect. Because of *sin, we have many troubles. But Jesus came to free us from our *sins. When he died, he suffered the punishment for our *sins. We need to confess our *sins to God. And we need to invite God into our lives. Then we shall be friends of God.

Adam and Eve had two sons, called Cain and Abel. God had promised in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s *descendant would free people from the power of *sin. So perhaps Eve hoped that these *descendants would achieve this. If so, their lives would disappoint her. Cain, who was the first child ever to be born, became a murderer. And Abel, who tried to serve God, died at a very young age. Their lives show the effects of *sin.

The most important event in Cain’s and Abel’s lives happened when they decided to give a gift to God. After Adam and Eve *sinned, God killed an animal. Then, God used its skin as clothes, in order to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). *Sin required a *sacrifice. Abel seemed to understand this principle. He realised that his own efforts could not please God. Something had to die. That is also why Jesus had to die for our *sins. Jesus is like the perfect *lamb of God . Nobody can please God by his or her own efforts. Instead, we must humbly confess our *sin to God. God forgives us because of Jesus.

But Cain did not realise that he needed to bring a *sacrifice. He chose some fruit as a gift to God. And Cain’s attitude was not humble. When God refused Cain’s gift, Cain was very angry. Cain did not try to find out his error. And he did not offer a *sacrifice. Instead, he felt very jealous. And that is why he killed Abel.

Cain’s *descendants were wicked people. They had many skills, but they refused to serve God. But Eve had another son. And his *descendants began to think about God again. Especially Enoch had a special relationship or friendship with God. In fact, his friendship was so special that God did not allow Enoch to die.

God allowed the people who lived before the flood to have long lives. He wanted them to have sufficient time to change their attitudes. He wanted them to pray to him and to trust him again. But most people did not use their long lives to turn to God. And they did not become better people as they became older. In fact, people were becoming even more evil.

So God decided that he would not allow people to live so long. And he decided to punish wicked people wherever they lived. God’s plan was to destroy everything that he had made. But God saw that there were a few good people among the vast numbers of evil people

Especially, God saw Noah. Noah was unlike other people. Noah ‘walked with God’ , like Enoch and like Adam before he *sinned. So God could not destroy the entire world. He always does the right things . And he will always save the people who trust him.

So God made a plan. He would still punish and kill the wicked people. But he would save the earth and he would allow some animals to live. God would separate the people who obeyed him from evil people. And God would save the people who trusted him. Noah would build a large boat, called the *ark. And Noah would protect his family, and each type of animal, in the boat.

God saved Noah and his family because Noah was *righteous. But the flood killed all the wicked people. This reminds us that God will be the judge of everyone. But God is not like a human judge. We cannot impress God by our efforts. And it does not matter whether we are rich or poor. But he will save us if, like Noah, we please him. We shall please him if we are *righteous. We do not become *righteous by our own efforts. We can only become *righteous because of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died to save us from the punishment for our *sins. So we must confess our *sins to God. And we must invite him into our lives.

God also rescued animals of all types. He arranged that they would come to Noah. The flood did not begin until they were all safely in the *ark.

One day, they were eating and drinking. And they were merry. But then the flood came and God punished them. Jesus added that people will act in the same way before his return. They will continue their evil lives. But then Jesus will return. When he returns, he will be their judge. Jesus’ return gives hope to everyone who trusts him. But it will be a terrible event for everyone who opposes him.

The terrible flood had destroyed the world that Noah knew. And Noah’s *ark (boat) was floating on the water. Noah might have been afraid. But this is not a story of despair. It is a story of hope. God had not forgotten the *ark and its inhabitants. God remembered Noah. And Noah trusted God.

At last, the rain stopped. And slowly, the level of the water went down. First, Noah felt that the *ark’s movement stopped. After some time, Noah could see the tops of the mountains. The mountains seemed bare, without any plants. But then plants started to grow again. It was as if God was creating a new world.

Each week, Noah carefully recorded the progress of the waters. He sent out birds so that he would know the situation. At last, God told Noah to leave the *ark. God would be kind to Noah and his family. And God would be kind to the animals and birds that left the *ark. They were few in number. But their numbers would increase.

Noah was grateful to God. Although there were only a few animals, Noah gave some animals as *sacrifices to God.

And God was pleased with Noah. God knew that people were still *sinful. God’s plan was that Jesus would die in order to forgive their *sins. But God made a promise to Noah. God promised to protect the earth. He will make sure that seasons and days continue. And this promise lasts until the end of the world.

God is perfect. But people often do wrong things.

God’s *covenant (agreement) with Noah reminds us about the wrong things that we do. It is not like God’s words to the first people in Genesis 1:28-30. God spoke those words before people *sinned. And he only promised good things then.

But God made the *covenant with Noah after people had *sinned. This *covenant promised many good things to people. But God also warned people in the *covenant. He spoke about murder. He warned people that they would be responsible for their evil behaviour. And he warned them that God would punish them for their evil deeds.

People would be evil. But God is kind. He promised never again to flood the whole world. And he used the rainbow to remind people about this promise.

Noah was a great servant of God. And Noah was a *righteous man. But Noah was not perfect. He did something that was very wrong. He drank too much wine. His son, called Ham, saw him. And Ham gossiped. This was terrible behaviour. He did not respect his father, although his father was a great servant of God. When Noah awoke, he spoke words about the future of his three sons. Noah spoke these words by the Holy Spirit, because Noah was a servant of God. Ham’s family would suffer because of Ham’s *sin. But Noah *blessed his other sons

People’s life on the earth was starting again after the flood.

The actual names are not very important to us. But they do show that this account is true. These people were real. They actually lived. The account shows how quickly new families were born. And it shows how quickly they grew up. Some names here are probably places’ names rather than people’s names. People did not stay close together. They moved to new places and they became many nations.

Japheth had 7 sons and 7 grandsons. Cush’s sons and grandsons together were 7 in total. People often used the number 70 to mean a large number. And 7 was a ‘special’ number too.

All the people spoke the same language because they were all Noah’s *descendants. And they wanted to live together. They were proud. They wanted to be more powerful. So they built a great city.

But God had not told people to live together. He told them to move across the world so that the whole world would have inhabitants. So the people were not obeying God’s commands. In fact, they were trying to oppose God.

God did not allow them to continue the construction of that city. He confused their languages and he ended their unity. They could not talk with each other. So they had to move to different places.

The chapter continues with the story of Shem’s family. People’s lives began to be shorter now. At last, the writer mentions Abram. Abram was different from other people because Abram believed God. This fact may not seem important when we have discussed the history of the whole world.  And Abram would join the list of men who pleased God. Their lives had a vast effect on the relationship between people and God. God said that all the people in the world would receive a *blessing by means of Abram

God had a wonderful plan for Abram and his *descendants. So, God told Abram to leave his home and his father’s family. Abram did not know where he was going. But he trusted God. So, Abram set out on his journey.

God promised that Abram’s *descendants would become a great nation. Abram did not know how this could happen. His wife, Sarai, had no children. But Abram trusted that God could make this happen.

God also promised that Abram, by his *descendant, would *bless everyone in the world. This was a great promise. Again, Abram did not realise how this would happen. But perhaps he knew about God’s promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15. Today, of course, we know about Jesus. He died so that God would forgive our *sin. Because of Jesus, everyone who trusts him becomes a friend of God. But Abram did not know about such things. He just heard God’s promise. He trusted God. So he obeyed God.

But Abram was not a perfect man. He did not always trust God completely. Soon, there would not be enough food. Abram did not stay in the place where God had taken him. Instead, he went elsewhere. And there was trouble for Abram in that other place, because Abram was not completely honest. It seems that he preferred to trust his own clever ideas. Instead, he should have continued to trust God.

Abram had travelled with his nephew, called Lot. Like Abram, Lot was a *righteous man . So, Lot wanted to do the right things. But there was a problem with Lot’s character. Wealth tempted Lot. In time, it became too difficult for Abram and Lot to live together. Lot wanted to live in a place where he could become more wealthy. He did not seem to care that he would be living near wicked men. Their deeds would upset Lot greatly. But Lot still chose to live with them.

Lot’s attitudes were like the attitudes of many Christians today. They are glad to be Christians. And the wicked behaviour of other people upsets them. But those Christians allow wealth to tempt them. They may even do things that they should not do, because of money. They themselves are not evil people. But their wrong attitudes cause them many troubles. And they cannot trust God completely because of their wrong ambitions.

Abram was different. He did not care about wealth. He knew that God had led him to Canaan. And he knew that God had given his (Abram’s) wealth to him. So, Abram allowed Lot to choose whatever land he (Lot) wanted. And Abram was confident, because he trusted God. God would give to Abram whatever land Abram needed.

Afterwards, God repeated his promise to Abram. God promised Abram the country in which Abram was now living. Abram was in the right place. This was the country that God had chosen for Abram and his *descendants

Many *tribes lived in the area. Each *tribe had its own chief man or king. Those kings sometimes came together to help each other. They came together because they wanted to fight against a more powerful *tribe. Or they wanted to defeat a smaller *tribe and then they would have power over that *tribe. Then the smaller *tribe that they had defeated had to pay regular taxes to them. Or that *tribe had to serve them.

At first, Abram did not join in with these battles. But then one side attacked Sodom, where Lot lived. That side overcame the men from Sodom. So, the people from Sodom, including Lot, became prisoners. Lot was Abram’s nephew. So, Abram decided that he would rescue Lot. Abram was not a king and he did not have an army. Abram was a farmer. But he was wealthy. He had many employees and many slaves. These men were strong men and they would fight for Abram. Abram also had three important friends, called Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. They too were willing to fight for Abram.

Abram attacked by night, and he was very successful. He managed to rescue all the people from Sodom, including Lot. And he also took back all their possessions. Abram could have kept these possessions. But he did not want to. These possessions belonged to wicked men. Abram trusted God. So, Abram did not want wicked men to make him rich.

As Abram returned, he met a king called Melchizedek. Like Abram, Melchizedek *worshipped the real God. In fact, Melchizedek was a priest of God. Hebrews chapter 7 explains the importance of this. Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Unlike other priests, Melchizedek did not become a priest because of his family. And Hebrews 7:7 even says that Melchizedek was a greater person than Abram. The Bible only mentions Melchizedek briefly. But we can learn many things about Jesus from the story of Melchizedek

Abram trusted God. And this attitude guided the decisions that Abram made.

Abram left his father’s family because Abram trusted God. Abram did not even know where God was sending him. Later, Abram refused any reward from the king of Sodom . Abram did not want an evil man to make him rich.

And so, God spoke to Abram again. God himself would be Abram’s reward. Or, the same words may mean that God would give a great reward to Abram. And so, Abram prayed for a son. This prayer was not a selfish prayer. God had already promised that Abram’s family would become a great nation. And God would *bless people from all nations by means of Abram’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). So, Abram’s prayer in verses 2-3 was that God’s promise would happen. God repeated his promises in verses 4-5. But Abram still had to trust God. Abram was already old, but he had no children yet.

Then God also promised the country called Canaan (later called Israel) to Abram’s *descendants. Abram was already living there. But Abram’s *descendants would not rule the country soon. They would have to wait for 400 years until the time that God had chosen. And those 400 years would end with an awful time. Abram’s *descendants would become slaves. And the inhabitants of Canaan would become very wicked. But God had a plan. And he would do everything that he promised.

God had promised a son to Abram. But Sarai, Abram’s wife, thought that she was too old to have a baby. So, she suggested that Abram should have a baby with Hagar. Hagar was a slave who worked as Sarai’s maid.

Sarai’s idea was a natural solution to Abram’s problem. But it was not God’s solution. God wanted Abram to continue to trust him. God’s plan was that Sarai would be the mother of Abram’s son. And God wanted that son to be born as the result of God’s promise .

There was an important reason for God’s plan. God’s promise was not merely to any son of Abram. It was to Abram’s special *descendant, who is Christ . And, by means of Christ, Christians become the sons of God . But nobody can please God by his or her own natural efforts. So, nobody can become a real Christian by natural methods. We have to trust God to become Christians. Then we shall receive the things that God has promised.

Abram too needed to learn to trust God. Abram made many mistakes. But, when Abram trusted God, Abram pleased God. And then God gave to Abram the things that he (God) had promised.

God still cared about Abram’s first son, although that son was born in the natural way. That son was called Ishmael, and his mother was Hagar. God even made promises about Ishmael. And Abram also cared about Ishmael. But Ishmael’s behaviour would cause trouble for Abram. Abram had to send Ishmael away in order to protect Abram’s second son, called Isaac. Isaac was the son whom God had promised to Abram .

This chapter is very important. In it, Abram’s name becomes Abraham. (See 17:4, 5.) God also changes his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah. God told Abraham more about his (God’s) promises. God told Abraham that he (Abraham) would be the father (*ancestor) of many nations. So Abraham would not only be the father of just one nation! Abraham was already living in the country that God promised to him. God added that he had promised ‘the whole country’ to Abraham. God told Abraham that there would be kings in his family. And God told him that Sarah, his old wife, would be the mother of his child. God said that this *covenant will last always.

In two ways, God showed clearly that he had made the *covenant. He gave new names to Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah). And he ordered the male members of their family to receive *circumcision. That would show that they were joining into the *covenant with God.

Soon after Abraham received *circumcision, three visitors came to see him. Abraham did not know who the visitors were. But he gave them great honour. By means of the visitors, God gave a message to Abraham. Sarah would have her baby, called Isaac, during the next year. But Sarah did not believe God’s message. She laughed at the idea. She thought that she was much too old to have a baby.

Abraham’s visitors were travelling to the city called Sodom. The people in Sodom were very wicked. God had decided to punish them severely. But God did not want to do anything until he had discussed the matter with Abraham. So, God had a conversation with Abraham about Sodom. We can learn many things about Abraham’s relationship with God from that conversation.

Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Lot wanted to live near Sodom because the land there was better for his animals . But in chapter 19, Lot had moved his home into Sodom itself. Lot was a *righteous man, but the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked. It seems that they made a bad impression on Lot’s family.

God had decided to kill the people in Sodom because of their wicked behaviour. But God does not punish *righteous people. God even promised Abraham that he (God) would first count the *righteous people in Sodom. If there were 10 *righteous people, God would save the whole city because of them. But there were not 10 *righteous people in Sodom. So when the *angels arrived in Sodom, their task was to save Lot and his family.

But even that task was difficult. The men in Sodom were so wicked that they tried to have sex with the *angels. And even Lot’s own family did not want to leave. The men who wanted to marry his daughters refused to leave. Lot’s wife looked behind her as she left. It seems that she still wanted to be in Sodom. So, she died with the people in Sodom.

Lot himself did not want to escape to the mountains. God saved a little town called Zoar so that Lot could go there. And when Lot was safe in Zoar, God destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. This event warns us that, in the end, God will punish evil people. God will only save us from this punishment if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.

We do not know why Abraham went to live somewhere else. Maybe he felt too close to the place where the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah had been. God had destroyed those cities. The ash and other substances that came from there probably affected a large area. Maybe those substances spoilt the land where Abraham’s animals ate grass. He went south to live just outside Canaan.

Abraham was again afraid. So he said that Sarah was his sister. Abraham had done that in Egypt too . He did not think about the trouble that it might cause to other people. The punishment for *adultery was death. Abimelech did not belong to the nation that God had specially chosen. But God showed his *mercy to Abimelech. God spoke to him in a dream. God warned him in that way. Abimelech did not *sin, because God prevented him. Therefore God did not make him die.

Abimelech acted very well. He said that he was innocent. He said that his people were innocent. He did not get angry and he did not blame Abraham too severely. Abimelech respected Abraham because Abraham was a *prophet

At last, the son that God had promised was born to Sarah and Abraham. Both parents were very joyful at the birth of their child. Everybody had thought that Sarah was too old to have a baby. So they were especially happy when her son was born. Abraham named his son Isaac. Isaac means ‘laughter’. But Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, was not glad. Until Isaac was born, Ishmael was Abraham’s only son. Ishmael had become a young man. And Ishmael thought that, after Abraham’s death, he (Ishmael) would lead Abraham’s family.

The birth of Isaac changed everything for Ishmael. Ishmael was merely the son of a slave. He knew that he would never be as important as Isaac. So, Ishmael was cruel to Isaac. Abraham had to send Ishmael away. God told Abraham that he (God) would make Ishmael successful. But Abraham must look after Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s special son. Isaac was the son that God promised to Abraham.

Abraham made another *covenant (agreement) at this time. This was a peace agreement with the leaders of the people called *Philistines. Abraham lived in their country for a long time. He made his home there. And in that place, he prayed to God.

During his whole life, Abraham was learning to trust God more and more. In this chapter, it is clear that Abraham trusted God completely.

Abraham did not know why God was testing him. But Abraham could recognise God’s voice. Christians too should be able to recognise when God is guiding them to do something. But God has also provided other methods to guide Christians today. We can read the Bible. God never wants us to do anything that is against his instructions in the Bible. And God has also provided church leaders to help us. They are not always right. But we should listen carefully to their advice.

We might ask why God wanted Abraham to offer Isaac as a *sacrifice. The Bible clearly teaches that murder is wicked. The answer is that God never wanted Abraham to kill Isaac. God stopped Abraham before Abraham could hurt Isaac. So God had a different plan. God was not really asking Abraham to kill Isaac. In fact, God was asking Abraham to prove that he (Abraham) would always trust God.

Abraham did not know about God’s plan to save Isaac. But Abraham realised that God had such a plan. He told his servants that he would bring Isaac back to them. He told Isaac that God would provide the *lamb for the *sacrifice . Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He knew that God could even make dead people live again. And Abraham knew the promises that God made about Isaac. So, Abraham was confident that he could trust God. And Abraham was right. Abraham soon discovered that God’s plan was to save Isaac.

We can only really understand this event if we think about Jesus. If God had not stopped Abraham, Isaac would have died. But God had a plan to save Isaac. God provided that a sheep would die instead of Isaac. In the same way, we all deserve God’s punishment because of our evil deeds. But God sent his son, Jesus, to die in our place. And God will forgive us if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.

When Sarah died, it was Abraham’s duty to bury her body. It was the custom to bury bodies soon after death. So, these events may have happened on the day when Sarah died, or the day after.

Abraham was living in the country that belonged to the family of Heth. He did not own any land there to use as Sarah’s grave. So he asked to buy some land. He wanted to bury Sarah near Mamre, where Abraham used to live.

The members of Heth’s family respected Abraham and Sarah greatly. They offered to give the land to Abraham. But Abraham insisted that he would buy it. So, for the first time, Abraham bought land in the country called Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to Abraham’s *descendants. Abraham knew that his *descendants would live away from Canaan for 400 years . But Abraham trusted God’s promises. So, Abraham bought the land. He was confident that his *descendants would return there

Abraham believed that he would soon die. So he made sure that there would be a good wife for Isaac. The *Hebrews always told their sons not to marry *Canaanite women. Abraham cared very much about that. But he did not want Isaac to leave the country that God had promised. So, Abraham sent his chief servant to arrange Isaac’s marriage. Abraham wanted Isaac to marry one of Abraham’s own relatives. This was the custom, but Abraham also had a more important reason. He wanted Isaac’s wife to be a woman who would help Isaac to serve God.

The account in this chapter is very long. The writer gives many details in it. We learn a lot about Abraham from it. We learn how Abraham’s servants trusted him and his God. And the servants respected Abraham and his God.

When Abraham was old, he married again. He did not want his new children to oppose Isaac. Abraham provided for them. But he sent them to live far away from Isaac.

Abraham was very old when he died. Isaac and Ishmael met again then. They buried his body together. This action showed that they both loved Abraham.

Ishmael had many *descendants, and they were successful. They lived across a large area. But the writer’s account continues with Isaac’s sons, called Esau and Jacob.

Esau was the oldest son. So, he had the right to benefit from God’s promises to Abraham . It seems that Esau did not care about this right. But Jacob recognised the importance of this right. And, even as a youth, Jacob was plotting how he could get this right, instead of Esau.

Every person needs to invite God into that person’s own life. It is not enough if that person’s parents were Christians. Each person needs his or her own experience of a relationship with God.

It was the same for Isaac. His father, Abraham, was a real friend of God. And Abraham had learnt to trust God completely. So, Isaac had always known about God. But Isaac still needed to know God for himself. And Isaac needed to learn many of the lessons that Abraham learnt.

But it seems that Isaac learned easily. He had a good character. He wanted to serve God. And Isaac tried not to argue with people. God was kind to Isaac.

Isaac became an old man. He thought that he might die soon. (But in fact, he would live for many more years.) Isaac wanted to give a special *blessing to Esau, who was Isaac’s first son. Esau was also Isaac’s favourite son.

The whole family realised that this *blessing was an important matter. Isaac was a holy man. God would be present when Isaac gave his *blessing. And Isaac’s words would not just come from his own imagination. Isaac’s words would be a *prophecy that came from God’s Holy Spirit.

Rebekah wanted Jacob to receive the *blessing instead of Esau. And Jacob himself was desperate for the *blessing. Previously, he bought the *birthright (the rights of the oldest son) from Esau .

Jacob obtained Isaac’s *blessing by methods that were not honest. But the *blessing that Jacob received really came from God. And it seems that Jacob received nothing from Isaac except the *blessing. Esau received great wealth in Canaan. But Jacob left Canaan with very few possessions.  Jacob left home quickly, because he had to escape from Esau.

But the *blessing was all that Jacob really needed. And, as Jacob escaped, he received an even better *blessing. God himself spoke to Jacob. The God of Abraham and Isaac became Jacob’s God too

Jacob had to leave home in order to escape from Esau. Isaac *blessed Jacob before Jacob left. This time, Isaac knew whom he was *blessing. He gave a wonderful *blessing to Jacob. Isaac said that Jacob would receive Abraham’s *blessing. And he said that Jacob’s *descendants would receive the country called Canaan.

Jacob really wanted to receive this *blessing. Now he received it. This was wonderful.

Jacob travelled alone on his journey. He had to sleep outside. He took few possessions. He even had to pray for his food and clothes. But something very special happened as he travelled. He had a special dream. And in the dream, God spoke to Jacob. God gave to Jacob the same promises that he (God) had given to Abraham and Isaac. And Jacob promised that he, too, would serve God. And so, we call God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’

It was God’s plan that Jacob would have a large family. God had already promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would have many *descendants. But perhaps Jacob did not realise that God wanted him (Jacob) to have many children. It was the custom at that time for an important man to have many wives. But Jacob’s father, Isaac, married only one wife.

Jacob’s intention was to marry Rachel. He loved her as soon as he saw her. And he tried to impress her. He moved a large stone so that he could give water to her sheep. Soon afterwards, Jacob offered to work for 7 years so that he could marry Rachel.

At the end of the 7 years, Laban (Rachel’s father) cheated Jacob. It was the custom that the bride would cover her face at the wedding. The morning afterwards, Jacob discovered that he had married Leah (Rachel’s sister). Jacob never really loved Leah. But he did not refuse to accept her as his wife.

Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel too. But Laban insisted that Jacob must work for another 7 years for Rachel.

All this time, Jacob was learning to be humble. At home, Jacob used schemes to get whatever he wanted. But on the journey, Jacob had decided to serve God . And now Jacob was learning to accept whatever God wanted to give him. In the end, God would give Jacob 12 sons. And their families would become the great nation that God had promised.

Jacob’s wives persuaded Jacob to accept their maids as *concubines. So, Jacob had children by 4 different women. Rachel, whom Jacob really loved, was the last of these women have babies.

Afterwards, Jacob wanted to leave Laban. God had promised Jacob that Jacob would return home . Perhaps Jacob wanted to bring up his sons in the country that God had promised to their *descendants. But Laban persuaded Jacob to wait. Laban offered to pay Jacob for his work. They agreed which animals would belong to Jacob in the future. And so, Jacob became wealthy.

Jacob had worked very hard for Laban. But Laban and his sons did not respect Jacob. Laban continued to cheat and he did not pay fair wages to Jacob. And Laban’s sons were starting to accuse Jacob. They said that Jacob stole his wealth from Laban. This was not true. In fact, Jacob had become wealthy. But it was God who made Jacob wealthy.

In the end, God told Jacob to leave Laban. Jacob did not delay. He took his family and his animals.

Jacob did not tell anyone else that his family were leaving. They did not even say goodbye to Laban.

After three days, Laban heard that Jacob had left. Laban gathered his relatives to chase Jacob. We do not know what Laban intended to do to Jacob. Probably Laban wanted to take back his daughters and the animals. But, that night, God warned Laban in a dream. So, God was protecting Jacob.

On the next day, Laban and Jacob met. They argued with each other. But Laban was careful about his words, because God had warned him.

Laban and Jacob decided to make a *covenant. But this *covenant was not an agreement of friendship. Instead, they promised to stay apart. Then, their sons would not fight each other.

When Jacob left Canaan, Esau was plotting to kill him. Now Jacob was returning to Canaan. And Jacob realised that he would have to meet Esau.

Jacob was afraid. He thought that Esau might still be very angry. And he heard that Esau had 400 men with him. Jacob knew that his family and servants could not defeat Esau’s men.

Jacob made plans in case Esau’s men attacked. Jacob separated his family into groups. He hoped that some would escape. And he sent his servants with gifts for Esau. Jacob hoped that the gifts would please Esau. And Jacob wanted to show that he respected Esau as his older brother.

Jacob had to depend on God. If Esau was angry, only God could save Jacob. Jacob prayed for help. Jacob had a special experience in prayer. He seemed to be fighting a man. That man was probably an *angel. The man was stronger than Jacob. But the man could not overcome Jacob. So, Jacob struggled with God in prayer. And Jacob continued until God *blessed him. Now, Jacob was trusting God.

At last, it was time to meet Esau. Jacob had been very afraid about this meeting. Jacob’s body was weaker because of his experience when he struggled with the *angel. But Jacob probably felt stronger, because he now had God’s *blessing. Jacob led his family as they approached Esau.

But Esau was not angry. In fact, he was kind to Jacob. Esau did not even want to accept Jacob’s gifts. But Jacob insisted that Esau should accept them.

Jacob stayed in Canaan. He bought some land near a city called Shechem. He prayed there. And nobody opposed him. But there would soon be more troubles.

Jacob served the real God . But Jacob’s family did not. They used *idols, which were images of false gods . And they were not behaving in the same manner as people who serve the real God.

This became a very serious matter when a man called Shechem *raped Dinah. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah. Simeon and Levi were brothers of Dinah. They became very angry when they heard about Shechem.

They made a cruel plot. They pretended that Shechem could marry Dinah. But first, Shechem would have to accept *circumcision. And they wanted every male in Shechem’s town to accept *circumcision. Shechem’s town was called Shechem too. The men agreed. But while the men were still hurting, Simeon and Levi attacked them. Simeon and Levi killed every man in the town, including Shechem.

Jacob was very unhappy about the behaviour of Simeon and Levi. They had acted in the same manner as very wicked people behave. Shechem deserved punishment. But the actions of Simeon and Levi were much too cruel. And now, Jacob’s whole family was in danger.

Before he died, Jacob *blessed his sons. But he did not *bless Simeon or Levi. Instead, he said that their anger was terrible. So, God would scatter their *descendants across the country called Israel

Jacob did not feel safe now near the town called Shechem. His sons, Simeon and Levi, had been angry, so they killed many men there. And Jacob was afraid that the relatives of those men might attack his family. God told Jacob to take his family to Bethel.

It seems that Jacob was pleased to take his family to Bethel. God first spoke to Jacob at Bethel. Jacob could teach his family about God during the journey. He explained to them how he met the real God. He told them that they should not keep their *idols (images of false gods). And he told his family that they were going to a holy place. So, they had to prepare themselves.

At Bethel, God repeated his promises to Jacob. And Jacob rebuilt the *altar that he made there.

Soon afterwards, Jacob’s last son, called Benjamin, was born. But Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, died at the birth.

A terrible event happened afterwards. It was the custom in Canaan that the oldest son should have sex with his father’s wives. Then, that son would become the leader of the family. Jacob knew that this action was very wicked. And he hoped that his own sons had learned about God. But Jacob could not control his sons. They were adults now. So, they were responsible for their own behaviour.

Reuben, who was Jacob’s first son, had sex with Bilhah. Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine. She had been Rachel’s maid. Jacob heard about Reuben’s behaviour. So, Jacob decided that Reuben must not receive the *birthright. And Reuben did not receive a *blessing from Jacob .

Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But Jacob would not give them the *birthright because of their cruelty. So instead, Jacob chose Joseph

People try to discover what the names of Esau’s *descendants meant. People try to link the names with nations that people knew in that area later. But that is not very helpful. God always does the things that he promises to do. In this chapter, the writer reminds us about this principle. Esau was not the son that God had chosen. But God had made a promise about Esau . So, God gave many *descendants to Esau. Later, King David defeated the *Edomites and he ruled over them. So they did serve Jacob’s *descendants

Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. So, Reuben had the *birthright. But Reuben had carried out a wicked deed against Jacob. So, Jacob decided that Reuben should not receive the *birthright. Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But they too had upset Jacob . So, Jacob chose Joseph to receive the *birthright. Jacob’s other sons were angry. Except for Benjamin, who was still very young, they were all older than Joseph.

Jacob made a special coat for Joseph. This probably showed that Joseph had the *birthright. And Joseph had special dreams. These dreams were *prophecies. They showed that Joseph would become the leader of the family. But Joseph’s brothers hated the dreams. In fact, they hated Joseph.

Joseph’s brothers were working away from home. They were looking after Jacob’s animals. Jacob sent Joseph to them. Jacob wanted to know what was happening. This was an opportunity for the brothers to attack Joseph. Their first plan was to kill Joseph. But Reuben had a secret plan to save Joseph. Perhaps Reuben wanted to please Jacob. Then perhaps Jacob might change his mind about Reuben’s *birthright. But when Reuben was away, Judah made another plan. Judah and the other brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Then they pretended to Jacob that Joseph was dead.

Jacob was very sad. Nobody could comfort him. He felt as if his only *righteous son was dead. But Joseph was not dead. In fact, Joseph became a slave in Egypt. God allowed these things to happen because God had a plan to save the lives of many people

Reuben, Simeon and Levi had all upset Jacob. They were his three oldest sons. Jacob did not want them to have the *birthright. So, Jacob decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright. But now, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. So, Judah became Jacob’s most important son. Judah was Jacob’s 4th son, after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. But much of Judah’s life would also disappoint Jacob.

Judah had three sons. The first son, called Er, married Tamar. But Er was so evil that God killed him.

The people then had a custom that they considered important. If a widow did not yet have a child, the unmarried brother of the dead husband would marry the widow. Then, they would have children together. So, Er’s brother, called Onan, married Tamar. But he too was evil, and God killed him.

Judah promised that Tamar could marry Judah’s last son, called Shelah. But when Shelah became old enough to marry, Judah did not arrange the marriage.

So, Tamar made a plan. She covered her face so that nobody would recognise her. She pretended to be a *prostitute. And she tempted Judah.

Afterwards, Judah discovered that Tamar was expecting a baby. He was very angry that she had acted as a *prostitute. He wanted to kill her. But she was able to show that Judah himself was responsible for her situation.

Judah felt very guilty. He confessed that he had been unfair to her. And he allowed her to live. In fact, she had *twins (two babies born together). The oldest, called Perez, received the *birthright among Judah’s *descendants.

Judah’s character and attitudes changed after this event. Before it, he was responsible for the sale of Joseph as a slave . Afterwards, Judah himself offered to become a slave in order to save Benjamin .

Among Jacob’s sons, Judah was the oldest son who received Jacob’s *blessing . And that *blessing was very special. Jacob said that Judah’s *descendants would include the kings of the *Israelites. And the special *descendant of Eve and of Abraham would be a *descendant of Judah too. This special *descendant means Jesus . God sent Jesus to free people from their *sins

Joseph was just a slave when he arrived in Egypt. But soon, he began to have a successful career. Joseph worked for an important man called Potiphar. Soon, Potiphar realised that Joseph had many skills. Joseph was responsible and capable. Everything that Joseph did was successful. So, Potiphar gave Joseph authority over everything in his (Potiphar’s) *household.

The promise that God gave to Abraham  was starting to happen. God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph.

Joseph even impressed Potiphar’s wife. She wanted to have sex with Joseph, who was an attractive young man. But Joseph knew that God does not permit such behaviour. So, Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife was angry with Joseph. She lied that he tried to *rape her. So, Joseph became a prisoner.

Even in prison, Joseph impressed people. The guard realised that Joseph was responsible and capable. So, the guard gave Joseph authority over the other prisoners. Soon, Joseph was managing the prison. Joseph was still a prisoner. But even in the prison, God made Joseph successful.

Joseph was responsible for all the prisoners. So, Joseph was a skilled manager. But Joseph was also a holy man. And he knew that his relationship with God was very important. Even in prison, Joseph was still a *righteous man.

Two prisoners had strange dreams on the same night. They thought that their dreams had an important meaning. But they did not know the meaning. So, they were worried about the dreams.

Joseph told the prisoners that God knew the meaning of their dreams. Then God showed Joseph the meaning:

·     The *butler’s dream meant that *Pharaoh would free the *butler. And *Pharaoh would reappoint the *butler to his old job. Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about his (Joseph’s) situation.

·     The baker’s dream meant that the baker would soon die.

Three days later, these things happened as Joseph had said. But the *butler did not tell *Pharaoh about Joseph. It was not yet the right time for *Pharaoh to free Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph. But Joseph did not yet know about this plan.

Joseph was still a prisoner when *Pharaoh had two strange dreams. In the first dream, 7 thin cows ate 7 fat cows. In the second dream, 7 weak stems of grain ate 7 good ones. *Pharaoh tried to use magic to understand the dreams. But the magic failed.

In chapter 40, God had shown Joseph the meaning of the *butler’s dream. As Joseph had said, the *butler was now working for *Pharaoh again. So, the *butler suggested that *Pharaoh should speak to Joseph. The officials took Joseph from the prison into *Pharaoh’s palace.

Of course, Joseph himself did not know the meaning of *Pharaoh’s dreams. But Joseph was confident that God knew the answer. God showed Joseph that both dreams had the same meaning. For 7 years, the harvests in Egypt would be good. But afterwards, for another period of 7 years, there would not be enough food. So, Joseph advised *Pharaoh to store food from the good harvests. Then, this food would be available for the next 7 years.

Joseph’s wisdom impressed *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh was confident that Joseph’s advice came from God. So, *Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be a ruler of Egypt. Only *Pharaoh himself was more important than Joseph was.

Like everybody else, Joseph’s brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food. They did not know that Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. They had sold him as a slave. And now, they did not even know that Joseph was alive.

When Joseph saw his brothers, his emotions felt very strong. He loved his brothers. He did not want them to suffer while the harvests were poor. He wanted to share with them the good things that he had received in Egypt. But Joseph realised that this might not be a good idea.

Joseph knew that, in the past, his brothers’ behaviour had been terrible. They had been selfish. They had been cruel. They had killed other men because of their anger. In fact, Joseph’s brothers had even wanted to kill Joseph himself.

Joseph was a very responsible man. He would not allow his brothers to cause such trouble in Egypt. So, he made a plan that would test his brothers. He needed to be sure that their attitudes had now changed. If they were humble, he would forgive them. If they respected him, he would give them honour and wealth. But if their attitudes were still wrong, Joseph could not help them.

As the *famine continued, Jacob’s family became desperate for food again. But Jacob still would not let Benjamin go to Egypt. And the other brothers did not dare to go to Egypt without Benjamin. The *Egyptian ruler had warned them not to enter Egypt without Benjamin. Of course, the brothers did not know that this ruler was really Joseph, their own brother.

In the end, Judah persuaded Jacob to let Benjamin go. Judah promised that he would protect Benjamin. And Judah would accept the blame if anything bad happened to Benjamin.

Jacob ordered the brothers to take a gift for the *Egyptian ruler. Then, Jacob *blessed them. And he prayed for them.

When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph prepared a wonderful surprise for them. He wanted to show his kindness to them. And he wanted to show them how wealthy he was. So, he provided a great meal for them. Joseph showed special honour to Benjamin, who was Joseph’s closest brother.

But Joseph still did not tell his brothers who he really was. He wanted to test them first. In the past, they had been jealous, cruel and selfish. So now, Joseph needed to know whether their attitudes had changed.

Joseph’s plan to test his brothers was a simple plan. But it was also very clever.Jacob had given the *birthright to Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and they hated him. So, they sold him to be a slave when they had the opportunity.

Now, Joseph would give his brothers the opportunity to make Benjamin a slave. Benjamin had become Jacob’s favourite son. So, perhaps they were now jealous of Benjamin. Perhaps they wanted Benjamin to lose the *birthright too.

Joseph arranged the test well. The brothers really believed that the *Egyptians wanted to take Benjamin as a slave. And perhaps the brothers even thought that Benjamin deserved this, as a punishment.

In Genesis 43:9, Judah accepted responsibility for Benjamin’s safety. Judah was the brother who actually sold Joseph as a slave. But now, Judah’s attitudes had changed. Judah wanted to become a slave himself, so that Benjamin could be free. So now, Judah was both noble and humble. He offered to lose everything in order to rescue his brother.

Joseph had to pretend that he was someone else. He did that in order to test his brothers. But now, Judah had shown that their attitudes had changed. In the end, Joseph could not control his emotions. He had to cry. And he wanted to hug his brothers. So, he quickly ordered his servants to leave the room.

Even when Joseph spoke to his brothers in their own language, they could not immediately recognise him. And they were afraid of him. But Joseph’s words helped them to feel more confident. Joseph was not angry with his brothers. He forgave them. He believed that, in fact, God sent him (Joseph) to Egypt. God sent Joseph there to save lives. And now, Joseph was able to save his own family from the terrible *famine.

*Pharaoh was pleased to hear that Joseph’s brothers had come from Canaan. *Pharaoh wanted the whole family to live in Egypt. *Pharaoh even sent wagons so that the weaker members of the family could travel to Egypt more easily.

The news from Egypt astonished Jacob. But, when he saw the wagons, he believed. He knew that God had been kind to Joseph. And Jacob saw that the events in Joseph’s dreams  really happened. Jacob could remember the promises that God gave about his family . So, Jacob was confident that God would do these things too. These things would happen after Jacob’s death, but Jacob still believed. But now, Jacob would go to see Joseph again. And, during the journey, God would speak to Jacob again.

On the way to Egypt, Jacob stopped at Beersheba. Beersheba was a special place for Jacob. There, God had spoken to his father, Isaac . Isaac had gone to Beersheba because God told him not to go to Egypt. But God’s message to Jacob was different.

In a dream, God spoke to Jacob. God told Jacob not to be afraid to go into Egypt. God had a plan for Jacob’s family in Egypt.

The chapter then contains a list of Jacob’s sons and grandsons. The numbers are difficult to calculate. But the final figure is 70 people. This was a very large family. In time, the family would become a great nation. God had promised Abraham that he (Abraham) would have very many *descendants . God made this promise before Abraham had his son. And Jacob was Abraham’s grandson.

Jacob and Joseph were very happy to see each other again. Joseph knew that Jacob would encourage him. Joseph still had his important work to do for *Pharaoh. Until now, Joseph was probably the only person in Egypt who served the real God. The *Egyptians served *idols. But now Joseph had Jacob to support him.

Joseph arranged a place where his brothers could work. They would continue to be *shepherds. So, they would not become rulers. But Joseph continued his important work for *Pharaoh

The right time came for Joseph to introduce his family to *Pharaoh. Joseph chose 5 brothers (on behalf of the whole family) to meet *Pharaoh. Then, Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to *Pharaoh.

*Pharaoh respected Jacob because Jacob was a very old man. And *Pharaoh also gave honour to Jacob because of Joseph’s importance. *Pharaoh realised that Jacob, like Joseph, was a holy man.

Jacob explained to *Pharaoh that he (Jacob) did not consider himself a great man. Jacob referred to the lives of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob believed that they were really great men. He said that life on earth was like a journey. Perhaps he was desiring his permanent home in heaven . Then, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh.

Afterwards, *Pharaoh became much more important as a ruler. This happened because of Joseph’s great skill. He bought the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. And Joseph also arranged regular taxes that made *Pharaoh much more wealthy.

At the end of the chapter, Jacob was very old. Soon, he would die. So, he called Joseph. Jacob asked Joseph to promise to bury him (Jacob) in Canaan. Jacob wanted his *descendants to realise that Egypt was not their permanent home. Instead, God had promised Canaan to them. Joseph made the promise. In fact, Joseph would ask his own *descendants to make a similar promise about his own body, too.

The *blessings that Jacob gave to his family start in this chapter. These *blessings were not just Jacob’s own ideas about his sons and grandsons. In fact, the *blessings were *prophecies about the future. Jacob spoke these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Many of Jacob’s *blessings are difficult for us to understand. Some phrases have several possible meanings. But we need to remember that the *descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 *tribes of Israel. So, often the words in the *blessing describe the places where the *tribes would live in Canaan.

The *blessings were also a type of poetry. They use descriptions that may seem strange to us today. And they often repeat the same ideas in different words.

Jacob began with his *blessings for Joseph’s sons. Joseph received the *birthright because of Reuben’s *sin. So, Jacob gave a special *blessing to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob wanted people to include Ephraim and Manasseh when they made lists of his (Jacob’s) sons. So, the *descendants of Ephraim became another *tribe of Israel. So did the *descendants of Manasseh. And the *descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would receive their own land in Canaan

After Jacob *blessed Joseph’s sons, Jacob *blessed his own sons.

In fact, Jacob did not give a *blessing to all 12 sons. Reuben, Simeon and Levi deserved no *blessing because of their evil deeds.

But God still gave Jacob a *prophecy about each son. All the sons belonged to Jacob’s family. And all the sons received the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would make the *descendants of all the sons into a great nation. The *descendants of each son would become a *tribe in that nation. God would give them the country called Canaan.

And God would use them to *bless people from all the nations. Among them, Eve’s special *descendant  would be born. That *descendant would free people from *sin and from the devil’s power. God’s promises to Abraham were also promises to that *descendant . And that *descendant would be the real king of Israel . The Bible tells us that these promises were about Jesus. He was that special *descendant.

Jacob had asked his sons to bury his body in Canaan. So, after Jacob’s death, Joseph arranged for the funeral to be in Canaan.

It was not just Jacob’s family who attended the funeral. Many *Egyptians came to the funeral too. This fact shows how many people respected Jacob. It took several days to travel from Egypt to Canaan. And it was a difficult journey.

After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers became afraid of him again. They thought that he might be angry with them. They thought that he might punish them.

Joseph wept when he heard about their fears. He never wanted to be cruel to his brothers. He had forgiven them. He was sad that they did not seem to realise this. So, he explained that God placed him in Egypt in order to do God’s work. Their actions had been evil. But they could not prevent God from doing something good.

Joseph was an old man when he died. Before he died, he gave an instruction to his family. He did not want them to bury his body in Egypt. Instead, he asked them to store his bones. At the right time, God would take their *descendants back to Canaan. And Joseph wanted them to take his bones with them. Joseph showed by these instructions that he trusted God. And the *descendants of Joseph’s family did what he wanted.

What is the baptist bird and john the baptist?
John the Baptist is the man who baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan river and who became one of his first twelve disciples.
John the Baptist is also Jesus’s cousin. As for the baptist bird, once Jesus became baptized,
the heavens opened and The Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove that landed on Jesus’s shoulder.
Then God said this is my son.

 

Is the Baptist church named after john the Baptist?
No. Both Baptists and Anabaptists have their names deriving from the idea that they would “re-baptize” people.
By 1500’s it had become normative to practice the Christian rite of baptism on infants as an expression of faith of the parents.
Both Baptists and Anabaptists believed that baptism is to express the faith of the individual.
Therefore, people who joined Baptist or Anabaptist groups were required to undergo “believer’s baptism” even if they had been baptized as infants.
John the Baptist was described as such because his most famous role in the Bible was as the one who baptized Jesus.
Even though John did practice believer’s baptism, he was not a “Baptist” in the Christian sense. John’s baptism was a Jewish baptism of repentance.
(The English term “baptize” is simply the transliteration of a Greek word meaning to dip or immerse.) It was pre-Christian.

 

What was St. John the Baptist known for?
John the Baptist is known for being a cousin of Our Lord.
He dressed in coarse animal hair clothing and lived in the desert, eating honey and insects.
He preached a baptism of repentance to prepare the people for the arrival of Our Lord.

 

Are John the Baptist and St John the same?
No they are not the same:Description:
Saint John of God was born in 1495 at Montemoro Novo, Evora, Portugal to a very poor couple.
Following an impulse of his heart, he ran away from home to become a shepherd in Madrid, and then later, joined the Spanish Army.
At the age of 40, John returned home to find both of his parents dead.
Stricken with guilt, he devoted himself to the ransom of Christian slaves in Africa.
Years later, John found himself in Granada, Spain. After attending a sermon given by John of Avila, his heart was once again moved to change his life.
John of God discerned his true vocation and started a hospital for all the poor and sick in Granada.
In his hospital he created an atmosphere of welcome, peace and hospitality. After 10 years spent in the service of the suffering,
Saint John of God’s life came to an end when he contracted an illness of the heart.
He died in 1550 and was canonized in 1690.
He is recognized today as the patron of those suffering with heart disease. His feast day is March 8th.
Saint John of God, Pray for Us.

 
Why do we call John the baptist John the baptist?
Repent and be baptized. This meant a turning around from Godlessness and a dedication to God’s purpose.
He also preached that a Messiah was to come and to prepare for Him.

The Illuminati is a name given to several groups, both real and fictitious. Historically the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an enlightenment era  founded on May 1, 1776 to oppose religious influence over public life, abuses of state power and to support women’s education and gender equality. The Illuminati were outlawed along with other secret societies by the Bavarian government leadership with the help of roman catholic church. And permanently disbanded in 1785. In the several years following, the group was vilified by conservative and religious critics who claimed they had regrouped and were responsible for the French Revolution.In subsequent use, “Illuminati” refers to various organizations claiming or purported to have unsubstantiated links to the original Bavarian Illuminati or similar secret societies, and often alleged to conspire to control world affairs by masterminding events and planting agents in government and corporations to establish a New World Order and gain further political power and influence. Central to some of the most widely known and elaborate conspiracy theories. the Illuminati have been depicted as lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings and levers of power in dozens of novels, movies, television shows, comics, video games, and music videos.

History

The Owl of Minerva perched on a book was an emblem used by the Bavarian Illuminati in their “Minerval” degree.

The movement was founded on May 1, 1776, in Ingolstadt (Upper Bavaria) as the Order of the Illuminati, with an initial membership of five, by Jesuit-taught Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830), who was the first lay professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt. It was made up of freethinkers as an offshoot of the Enlightenment and seems to have been modeled on the Freemasons. The Illuminati’s members took a vow of secrecy and pledged obedience to their superiors. Members were divided into three main classes, each with several degrees, and many Illuminati chapters drew membership from existing Masonic lodges.

The goals of the organization included trying to eliminate superstition, prejudice, and the Roman Catholic Church’s domination over government, philosophy, and science; trying to reduce oppressive state abuses of power, and trying to support the education and treatment of women as intellectual equals. Originally Weishaupt had planned the order to be named the “Perfectibilists”.The group has also been called the Bavarian Illuminati and its ideology has been called “Illuminism”. Many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians counted themselves as members, including Ferdinand of Brunswick and the diplomat Xavier von Zwack, the second-in-command of the order.The order had branches in most European countries: it reportedly had around 2,000 members over the span of ten years. It attracted literary men such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder and the reigning dukes of Gotha and Weimar.
In 1777, Karl Theodor became ruler of Bavaria. He was a proponent of Enlightened Despotism and his government banned all secret societies including the Illuminati. Internal rupture and panic over succession preceded its downfall.A March 2, 1785 government edict “seems to have been deathblow to the Illuminati in Bavaria.” Weishaupt had fled and documents and internal correspondences, seized in 1786 and 1787, were subsequently published by the government in 1787.Von Zwack’s home was searched to disclose much of the group’s literature.
Barruel and Robison

Between 1797 and 1798 Augustin Barruel’s Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism and John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy both publicized the theory that the Illuminati had survived and represented an ongoing international conspiracy, including the claim that it was behind the French Revolution. Both books proved to be very popular, spurring reprints and paraphrases by others (a prime example is Proofs of the Real Existence, and Dangerous Tendency, Of Illuminism by Reverend Seth Payson, published in 1802). Some response was critical, such as Jean-Joseph Mounier’s On the Influence Attributed to Philosophers, Free-Masons, and to the Illuminati on the Revolution of France.[citation needed]
Robison and Barruel’s works made their way to the United States. Across New England, Reverend Jedidiah Morse and others sermonized against the Illuminati, their sermons were printed, and the matter followed in newspapers. The concern died down in the first decade of the 1800s, though had some revival during the Anti-Masonic movement of the 1820s and 30s.
Modern Illuminati

Several recent and present-day fraternal organizations claim to be descended from the original Bavarian Illuminati and openly use the name “Illuminati.” Some such groups use a variation on “The Illuminati Order” in the name of their organization,[9][10] while others such as the Ordo Templi Orientis use “Illuminati” as a level within their organization’s hierarchy. However, there is no evidence that these present-day groups have amassed significant political power or influence, and they promote unsubstantiated links to the Bavarian Illuminati as a means of attracting membership instead of trying to remain secret.[1]
Popular culture

Main article: Illuminati in popular culture
Modern conspiracy theory
Main article: New World Order (conspiracy theory)#Illuminati
There is no evidence that the original Bavarian Illuminati survived its suppression in 1785.[1] However, writers such as Mark Dice,[11] David Icke, Texe Marrs, Jüri Lina and Morgan Gricar have argued that the Bavarian Illuminati survived, possibly to this day. Many of these theories propose that world events are being controlled and manipulated by a secret society calling itself the Illuminati.[12][13] Conspiracy theorists have claimed that many notable people were or are members of the Illuminati. Presidents of the United States are a common target for such claims.
A key figure in the conspiracy theory movement, Myron Fagan, devoted his latter years to finding evidence that a variety of historical events from Waterloo, The French Revolution, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and an alleged communist plot to hasten the New World Order by infiltrating the Hollywood film industry, were all orchestrated by the Illuminati.