RABBI: The Torah describes a devastating flood brought
by God to destroy the sinful persons of the world who had refused to follow
His laws. It is said by God to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come
before Me. The world is filled with (man's) crime. I will therefore destroy
them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood. Divide the ark
into compartments. Caulk the inside and outside with pitch and for I Myself
am bringing the flood. Water shall be on the earth to destroy from under
the heavens all flesh having in it a breath of life. All that is on land
will die. But I will keep My pledge that you will come into the ark. You
will be together with your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives."
[Torah, Genesis, Noah 25.13-18] In the Vedic philosophy are there any descriptions
of a devastating flood like this?
DEVOTEE: Yes. According to the Vedas, there was not only one great flood, but there are thousands of them throughout the existence of the universe, they normally start at the beginning of Lord Brahmä's night.
RABBI: Do the Vedas describe any personality like Noah being saved from the devastation?
DEVOTEE: The Bhagavat Puräëa or Çrémad-Bhägavatam gives a description of an inundation that occurred many millions of years ago in connection with the Matsya avatar, the Lord's fish incarnation. Briefly, there was a king who was a great devotee of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord chose to show him some special favor. Like Noah, King Satyavrata was forewarned about a universal devastation. In this history, there was also a large boat, which was sent by the Supreme Lord to King Satyavrata. The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: "O King who can subdue your enemies, on the seventh day from today the three worlds-Bhüù, Bhuvaù and Svaù-will all merge into the water of inundation. When all the three worlds merge into the water, a large boat sent by Me will appear before you. Thereafter, O King, you shall collect all types of herbs and seeds and load them on that great boat. Then, accompanied by the seven sages and surrounded by all kinds of living entities, you shall get aboard that boat, and without moroseness you shall easily travel with your companions on the ocean of inundation, the only illumination being the effulgence of the great sages." [Bhäg 8.24.32-35]
RABBI: We have been discussing many similarities between the Jewish and Hindu theologies. Considering that the passage of time and the development of various cultures can lead to variations in historical accounts, perhaps both of these descriptions refer to the same event. In both accounts, a God conscious personality, accompanied by other spiritually elevated persons, and plants and animals of various species, all take shelter of a large boat or ark to be saved from a great inundation. But I am concerned that these two descriptions appear to have taken place at times in history at least tens of millions of years apart. Do you have any thoughts in that regard?
DEVOTEE: It is quite possible that the Vedic description described in the Srimad Bhagavatam is a different incident than the history of Noah's ark described in the Torah. As I mentioned earlier, the Vedas give information of innumerable inundations during the existence of the universe. I think that the most important consideration is not whether these two particular histories are exactly the same, but to understand their similar purposes and the way the Lord reciprocates with His devotees. The Lord promised Noah that He would protect Him and the others who boarded the ark. Noah was obviously a very godly person so the Lord was protecting His devotee servant Noah and his family while annihilating the sinful people of the world. Similarly, while the Lord arranged for a gigantic inundation during the time of King Satyavrata, He gave protection to the king and other saintly persons with him. In the Bhagavad-gitä, Lord Krsna says, "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion, at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium." [Bg. 4.7-8]
RABBI: A few minutes ago, you mentioned something that seemed very unusual. You mentioned a fish incarnation of God called Matsya avatar. Are you suggesting that God appeared as a fish? We discussed earlier that man may take his birth in a lower species of life, but why would God come like that?
DEVOTEE: The Vedas explain that part of the greatness of the Lord is that He is always transcendental. When a soul who has a human body misuses that valuable human form he may take his next birth as an animal. When he has that animal form, he is forced to remain in very low consciousness. On the other hand, when God appears in an animal form, He retains all the unlimited power and abilities of God. He is not reduced in any way. He sometimes appears in an animal form by His Own will to perform a particular activity. In the case of the fish incarnation, He appeared to protect King Satyavrata during the great universal inundation since a fish is a naturally expert swimmer. If He so desired, He could have appeared in any form to accomplish the same feat.
RABBI: Although the form of God is not described in the Torah in connection with the great flood, I can understand that He was actually present. It is significant that He chose to give protection to His pure servant, Noah and his family while killing everyone else on earth. God did not need to use a flood to kill all the sinful people. He could have accomplished that within a moment by any means.
DEVOTEE: That is also confirmed by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gitä: "All of them as they surrender unto Me I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prithä." [Bg. 4.11]
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