Chapter Thirty


DEVOTEE: Rabbi, can you tell what the Jewish scriptures say regarding activities that should be avoided by a good Jew and why those activities should be avoided?
RABBI: In the Torah, when the Israelites were travelling toward the Promised Land, they were ordered by God not to perform certain kinds of activities practiced by sinful and materialistic people. Some of those activities involved communicating with the dead through mediums, practicing witchcraft, casting of spells, etc. He indicated that they should not seek answers from the material science of astrology, for that was meant for materialistic people. He wanted his people to depend on Him for everything and not give up that dependence to take shelter of any materialistic methods, especially those revolting practices performed by the lower classes. Throughout their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land under the guidance of Moses, God time and time again showed that He would give them protection and would maintain them if they would follow His orders. God was insisting that they take shelter of Him and continue to do so even after they reached the Promised Land.
DEVOTEE: The same idea is in the Vedas. Although God is aware that most people are materialistic, He gives us the free will to engage in mundane activities, still He makes what He wants very clear. He says in the Bhagavad-gita, "Give up all varieties of religion and just surrender under me. I will protect you from all sinful reactions." [Bg. 18:66] That means that we must give up any activity other than devotion to the Lord. We must make the Lord the center of our lives as our only shelter from the material, as the means to achieve happiness and our protection. Lord Kåñëa further says in this connection, "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me." [Bg. 9:34]
RABBI: Although I can see why God would discourage His followers from performing degraded activities like witchcraft or communicating with the dead, but what about the basic activities required to live? Are we really expected to just sit around and make no endeavor to acquire our basic necessities of life in the name of taking shelter of God rather than material facilities?
DEVOTEE: Certainly the Lord does not want us to become lazy or irresponsible in the name of surrendering to Him. Kåñëa consciousness or surrender to the Supreme Lord is supposed to be very practical for everyone. The understanding is based on the principle; everything belongs to the Supreme Lord and should be engaged in His service. For example, if we are to serve the Lord we must eat to have energy. We should not sit and wait for the Lord to hand us food. Rather, we should work, making honest endeavors. The principle is to accept whatever is favorable for engaging in devotional service and to reject whatever is not and use that which we have to educate others.
RABBI: What about astrology? In both the Jewish and Vedic traditions, astrology is an exact science that can be used to understand our future. There is indication in the Torah that God did not want the Israelites to take advantage of it.
He said, "Do not act on the basis of auspicious times." Is there anything in the Vedas that would explain why the Lord would discourage the use of such a useful science?
DEVOTEE: Astrology, although a very exact science, is often misused by materialistic people so they can understand something of the future and take advantage of it for material purposes. They try to avoid inauspicious reactions indicated by an astrological reading. A person who is fully surrendered to the Lord is not concerned about the future. We accept whatever happens in our life as the mercy of the Lord. We do not want to distract our attention from our service to the Lord worrying about changing or avoiding certain upcoming reactions. In the Torah, God ordered His followers to not allow anything to distract them from their surrender and service to Him, their Lord. The same principle, full surrender to the Lord, can be found in any religious faith.

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