Thursday, February 24, 2011

End Times

No this isn't some article predicting the exact date of the end of times. This is a research paper I did for my "Intro to World Religions" course. It compares the eschatology of Catholicism and Hinduism. Enjoy.


Along with Death nothing strikes fear or curiosity into men than the end of times. In the Western culture, the end of times version of Christianity as written in the Book of Revelation is pretty well known, but the ongoing cyclical ages that Hindus are not as well known. This paper will compare and contrast the coming of Kalki, the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu, at the end of the Kali Yuga and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in relation to the eschatology of Catholicism and Hinduism.

Hinduism believes that the world lives through four “yugas” (ages or periods of time). These four ages are known as Kruta Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. These four ages span one lifetime of Brahma at the end of the cosmos are there dissolved. As the ages progress the time each one lasts progressively gets shorter. The Kruta Age lasts for 4,800 divine years, the Treta Yuga lasts 3,600 divine years, the Dvapara Yuga lasts 2,400 divine years, and the Kali Yuga only lasts 1,200 divine years. Added together this makes up 12,000 divine years or One Great Cycle called a “Mahayuga”. In terms of human lives, it is traditionally calculated that 1 divine year is equal to 360 human years so a Mahayuga would equal 4,320,000 years.

The final age, the Kali Yuga, is one of moral destruction, degradation, strife, and vice. This age is associated with Kali a male apocalyptic demon not to be confused with the goddess Kālī (read as Kaalee). Kali is said to be a negative manifestation of Vishnu and the cause of all evil during this age. Kali is said to be the product of a long line of incestuous monsters born from the back of Brahma. Brahma created this family line to hurry the dissolution of the cosmos at the end of the Mahayuga. Kali is said to be the son of Krodha, meaning anger, and Himsa, meaning violence. When the family takes human form they corrupt the hearts and minds of mankind which brings an end to Dvapara Yuga and the start of the Kali Yuga. Kali is described as being the color of “soot” with a large tongue and a terrible stench. This demon’s life is described as one of greed, gambling, and other licentious behaviors which would oppose a moral life.

In this age of corruption, rulers are said to turn from their noble duties and become of plunderers levying unreasonable taxes. Some texts even speak of cannibalism by the rulers, their victims primarily being the last true righteous on the Earth. The Vipras or Brahmins gradually lose control over the people. Interest in the spiritual world will cease and focus primarily on the material world becoming godless. Greed and wrath will become common where open displays of animosity and even murder are not seen as wrong or immoral. Sin will increase and while virtue fades away out of the memory of men. Men take little pride in their jobs and the caste system breaks down. Men are considered pious only if they are wealthy. 
At this time of corruption is seen as the savior of the age known as Kalki. Kalki originating from the word “kalka” refers to filth and foulness and thus denotes that Kalki is the destroyer of foulness, darkness, and ignorance. Kalki comes to destroy the wicked and re-establish righteousness on Earth bringing about the start of the Kruta Yuga, or the age of purity. Kalki is the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu and is the nemesis of the demon Kali. Kalki will be born into the prominent Brahmin family Vishnuyasha in the village of Shambhala, endowed with eight superhuman faculties. As a young man, he will be trained in the arts of war by Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. 

From the god Shiva, Kalki receives a sword and a white horse named Devadatta, meaning “given by the gods”. Up until his 32nd year of life on Earth, no living being will have seen him, after that he will begin his righteous campaign which will last for 20-years. His hidden view is supported by the legend that the village will be hidden until the end of the Kali Yuga.

According to the Kalki Puranas, Kalki sets out for the island nation of Sinhala where he marries the princess Padma. He desires to stay on the island and eventually he takes his new wife back to his village of Shambala where she gives birth to two sons named Joy and Vijoy. During this moment of happiness, Kalki forgot his mission, but eventually starts his conquest against evil. He starts the campaign off by performing a ritual sacrifice. He leads a massive army, composed of allies and Brahmins, from nation to nation slaughtering those who dare attempt to hinder his holy quest. Two notable characters that assist Kalki are the kings Devapi and Maru who are said to live through all the Mahayuga awaiting the end of the Kali Yuga where they will assist in the downfall of evil and re-establishment of Sanatana Dharma at which they will return to society to rule.

Kalki’s quest is not one of ease, but rather has its up’s and down’s. During a battle against a massive force against Jin, Devadatta, Kalki’s white horse, is injured and Kalki himself is knocked unconscious. Jin attempts to kidnap Kalki, but is unable to lift him. Kalki is saved by an allied king named Vishnakjupa whereupon Kalki regains consciousness and after encouraging his troop’s rushes towards Jin. Jin’s troops are soon overtaken when the enemy’s wives coming riding in armed for battle in an attempt to avenge the deaths of their husbands. Kalki rushed to the front lines to address them women informing them he could not fight them due to his principles.
"Ladies! Do ye know Kalki as the Supreme God, empowered by whom we take the lives of living beings. Have confidence in our words. On His command we propagate and on his glory we have attained various forms and by His mercy we have become renowned. By His empowerment does the five elements carry out their own actions. He is the Supreme Being Himself. Under His wishes has the nature created the whole Universe. The creation and the continuity of the creation is nothing but His action. He is the Beginning and the End, from Him arise all the holy things in the world. It is He, who is our husband, our wife, son, friend and relative. From Him comes forth all these illusion-like happenings. Those who know that life and death are nothing but coming and going under the influence of love, affection and fondness, those who are devoid of any feelings of anger and hate, who are the devotees of Kalki, they know the above illusion-like happenings as false. How was Time created? Where does death come from? Who is Yama? Who are the Gods? By His illusion, it is Kalki who has become many. O Ladies! We are not weapons and no one gets hurt by us. He is the weapon and it is he who hits. These distinctions are nothing but the illusion created by the Supreme Being. ...We cannot hit the devotees of Kalki.”

Upon these words, the women were so surprised they shed their illusions of materialistic attachment and became followers of Kalki.

The physical personification of Dharma appears before Kalki informing him that the wicked men have defeated him over time and pleads to Kalki to protect him and destroy the wicked men. Kalki set out to avenge the deaths and persecution of the true pious men. Hearing of Kalki’s conquest the demon Kali became angered and sought out to meet him in battle. Upon seeing Kalki, Kali ordered his troops to engage him. Two brother demons named Kok and Bikok engaged Kalki and were hard to defeat as they were extremely powerful and said to be even feared by the gods. Soon Kalki’s troops storm the city of Bishasan, the capital of Kali’s dark empire. Using what is said to be fiery missiles, Kalki’s army burnt down the city and destroyed most of Kali’s family. Kali himself was even injured from the fire.

After the victory in Bishasan, Kalki and his army headed for Vallat ruled by Sashidhwaj, said to be intelligent and brave. Kalki’s troops were soon overrun and dispersed. Kalki himself was captured by the Vallat king. The king though was said to be aware of Kalki’s divine nature and treated him with respect during Kalki’s internment. Eventually, they established a peace treaty and Kalki went on to marry the king’s daughter, Roma. As an example of this peace treaty, the allies of Kalki attended the wedding.

Kalki’s campaign came to an end with this union. At this time Kalki partitioned off the land to those rulers who had allied themselves with him and the Kruta Yuga was established. The remaining residents after the devastation of the Kali Yuga will produce the offspring of the Kruta Yuga, a race of pure, enlightened minds. The two kings Devapi and Maru rule as kings and establish a proper government. Kalki himself returns to the village of Shambhala and after some time ascends to heaven.

Turning to the eschatology of Christianity we must look at the central figure of Christianity is the messianic figure known as Jesus Christ from Nazareth. Said to be a descendant of King David and the patriarch Abraham, Jesus was the son of Mary who was engaged to Joseph. Mary is said to have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Joseph at first was taken aback by the pregnancy and was not going to wed Mary, but after being visited by an angel in his dream, Joseph took Mary as his wife.

Herod heard the rumors that Christ, the King of the Jews, was to be born when the wise men from the East came searching as they had seen the star in the East. Herod told the wise men to find Christ so that he could also worship him, but intended on murdering the infant as he saw it as a threat to his power. The wise men found the infant in a manger in the town of Bethlehem and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Instead of going back to Herod, they were warned by God in a dream not to, so they departed back to their home country by another route. God warned Joseph to take his family into Egypt to protect them from Herod. Herod angered that he was mocked by the wise men who slaughtered all the children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area that was 2-years old and younger. Upon the death of Herod, an angel appeared to Joseph instructing him to take his family into Israel. Joseph fearing the son of Herod took his family to the city of Nazareth.

Jesus meets John the Baptist and requests to be baptized by him. John forbade it as he saw Christ to be holier than him and would rather be baptized by Jesus. Jesus said that John must baptize him to “fulfill all righteousness”. When Jesus was baptized the heavens were said to open up where God said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus was then taken by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before the Devil came to him. Several times the Devil tempted Jesus to leave God and follow him, and each time Jesus denied him. The Devil left him whereupon angels appeared and “ministered unto him”.

Jesus started preaching around Galilee where he met such people as Simon called Peter. In his travels, he also began all healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. His fame began to spread and people from all over began bringing the sick, demented, and possessed to him to be healed. He took his disciples to the mountains imparting moral and divine laws unto them that should be preached to the world. This famous sermon is known as “Sermon on the Mount”. Jesus continued his journey of preaching and healing throughout the land. His closest disciples composed of 12 of whom Jesus gave them the power to heal the sick and power to cast out unclean spirits.

John the Baptist who had been jailed since the time of Jesus’ test in the wilderness was beheaded by Herod Antipas. For his faithfulness to Christ, Jesus paid tribute to John.

The Pharisees disagreed with the practices of Christ and his disciples so they held a council against him in an attempt to destroy him. No matter what their opinion, Christ continued to travel and give his sermons. The establishment viewed Christ as a threat. Christ began preparing his disciples for his upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection. Towards the end he spent his nights in Bethany, but his days in Jerusalem where he was seen arguing with Jewish leaders. In the last week before his crucifixion, he entered Jerusalem presenting himself as the Messiah to much skepticism and rejection, particularly by the leaders. He cleared the temples of money changers and hawkers, arguing with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He sat down for the Last Supper with his disciples declaring he would be betrayed. Later that night he went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He was there arrested by the troops led by traitor Judas Iscariot. In his internment, Jesus mistreated and beaten, and put through 6 trials. He was taken up to Golgotha to be crucified on the cross next to two robbers. He suffered great pain and wrath from God as means to bear all our sins. His body was placed in a tomb and covered with a large stone. Jesus was resurrected on the 3rd day after his death. Angels removed the stone to show proof that Jesus had indeed risen. Jesus appeared over the next 40-days to his disciples before ascending to heaven. He would return to heaven until the kingdom would be given to him at his second coming.

The second coming of Christ and the end of times is written down in the Book of Revelation by the disciple John. Heaven opens up and John is taken before God on his throne. Surrounding God are 24 elders and four beasts; the first beast looked like a lion, the second an ox, the third had the face of a man, and the fourth looked like an eagle. He holds a scroll with seven seals in his hand and only Jesus, the lamb, is found worthy to open the scroll.

As Christ opens the first 4 seals, each one of the beasts beckons John forward to see four horsemen come out. The first horseman rode upon a white horse armed with a bow and wearing a crown set forth to conquer and is seen as either religious deception or civil war; the anti-Christ. The second horseman rode upon a red horse armed with a sword sent out to spread war. The third horseman rode upon a black horse holding a pair of scales and went forth causing famine. The fourth horseman who was called Death and followed closely by Hell rode upon a pale horse.

Upon the opening of the fifth seal, cries from underneath the altar in front of God issued forth by the martyrs of those who kept faithful to Christ and the one true God. They were given white robes and told to wait a time until the rest of the faithful followers joined them. 

The opening of the sixth seal caused violent earthquakes to occur, the moon became red as blood, and stars fall from the sky. Four angels held the four winds at bay and are told to hold them until the chosen 144,000 faithful have been marked on the forehead by the seal of God.

When the seventh seal is opened, seven angels are given seven trumpets whereupon each angel blew the trumpets. The first trumpet causes hail and fire to rain down destroying a third of the land. The second trumpet causes a volcano to fall into the sea. A third of the sea turns red, a third of the sea creatures die, and a third of the ships are destroyed. When the third trumpet is sounded the star “Wormwood” falls to the Earth and pollutes the rivers and springs which kill those who drink from it. The fourth trumpet causes the day and night to lose a third of its light. A star, or rather the angel Abaddon, falls to earth as the fifth trumpet is sounded and is given the keys to open the abyss. Locusts pour out of the abyss and are commanded by Abaddon to torture those who have the seal of God on their forehead. The sixth trumpet is sounded and four angels bound by the river Euphrates are released. They with their massive army are prepared to destroy a third of all mankind. Those who survive do not repent. Another angel descends to earth with a scroll in his hand. His right foot is on land and his left foot is in the sea. He cried out and as he did seven thunders sounded, but John was instructed not to write down what was said. The seventh trumpet sounds causing voices to proclaim that the world now belongs to God. God opens the temple in heaven and the Ark of the Covenant was seen in the temple. Lightning, thunder, earthquakes, and hailstorms occur.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven”, a pregnant woman clothed in the sun with the moon beneath her and she wore a crown of 7 stars. The Devil then appears in Heaven as a great red dragon with seven heads with 10 horns and 7 crowns. He attempted to devour the women’s child when she gave birth, but God caught the child and took him up to his throne as this “man child” was to lead the nations. The woman then fled into the wilderness to a place God had prepared for her. Meanwhile, in Heaven, the archangel Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, Satan, and his minions. Upon losing the battle Satan and his army were cast out of Heaven. Satan searches for the woman who fled to the wilderness, but the woman is given wings to fly back to her refuge. Satan sends a torrent of water to search for the woman, but the Earth opens up and swallows the water. Satan is enraged by her escape and goes to start a war with the rest of God’s people on Earth. He establishes himself near the sea.

A beast comes forth from the sea with ten horns and seven heads with diadems (crowns) and blasphemous names. He is given power by the Devil. When one of the heads is mortally wounded Satan heals it, and in the wonderment, the world begins to worship Satan and the Beast. A second beast comes forth from the Earth and it has the authority of the first beast. It pushes for the world to worship the first beast, perform miracles, and leading the world astray. Eventually, these mislead followers are forced to receive the mark of the Beast, without such mark they are unable to buy or sell anything.

The Lamb, Jesus, stood upon Mt. Sion with his faithful 144,000. Three angels then descended to Earth; the first preaching the gospel of God, the second proclaiming that Babylon had fallen because of her iniquities, and the third warning not to worship the Beast or face the wrath of God. The “Son of Man” descended upon a cloud to Earth carrying a sickle and gathered all the grapes of God’s wrath to be pressed. The winepress is said to have produced enough blood to come up to a horse’s back.

Seven angels come forth with seven bowls each containing plagues, or God’s wrath. As instructed the angels pour the bowls unto the Earth. The first bowl causes boils to form on men who carry the mark of the beast. The second bowl causes all the seas to turn to blood and all life in them dies. The third cause all the rivers to turn to blood. The fourth burns men who are still unwilling to repent. The fifth bowl plunges the world into darkness. The sixth dries up the Euphrates for the kings of the East to prepare for war. The Devil, the Beast, and the Anti-Christ send forth spirits to gather the kings for war against the Lamb. The Devil assembles his army at the place called Armageddon. With the seventh bowl, a loud voice proclaims “It is finished.” The worst earthquake so far occurs destroying many cities including the great city.

A rider on a white horse emerges from heaven. His name was “the Faithful and True” and justice is his standard. The armies of heaven stand behind him. The war begins between Christ and Satan. Eventually, the Beast and the Anti-Christ are captured and hurled into the lake of fire. The rest of the damned armies were slain by the rider of the horse and his sword. An angel comes to Earth with a chain to bind the Devil for a thousand years after which time he will be released for a short period. After a thousand years, the Devil will muster the troops of Gog and Magog. He surrounds the holy city of Jerusalem where the faithful were. God sends fire from the heavens to devour the armies. The Devil is thrown into the lake of fire, and this is all, living and dead, are to be judged.

God then established the new earth and heaven and sent forth a New Jerusalem where God and Christ would dwell with the people and be their God. There would be no more sorrow, pain, death, or tears. He said these things are all true because he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end, will give the water of life to those that overcome and are thirsty. John was taken by the angels who bore the seven bowls to a high mountain that he may observe the New Jerusalem. It was surrounded by great high walls with twelve adorned gates to commemorate the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and an angel at each gate. There was no Temple as God and Christ would be the temple of the people. There was no sun nor moon as God would provide the light they needed, and there was no night.

Reading through these two tales one can see the many similarities between the Catholic version of the end of days and the Hindu one as well as many differences.

The most striking similarity seen when reading the Vedic and Christian scriptures is the definition of God’s sovereignty from the beginning to the end of time. This is seen in the Book of Revelation, the Vishnu Purana, and Kalki Purana. It is also by the Christian God’s act and the Hindu’s Brahman act that the end of times occurs and the savior ascends to battle evil.

There are many similarities relating to the description of Kalki and to a character from the Book of Revelation. Chapter 19 verse 11 talks about a rider upon a white horse whose eyes were as flames and had a name, but no man knew but himself. His name is the Word of God and on his thigh was written “King of Kings, Lord of Lords”. He carried a sword to destroy the nations that stood against him. This rider faced the armies of the enemies just as did Kalki in his campaign to end the Kali Yuga. One can assume from the degraded moral state and godlessness of the Kali Yuga that none but the few true righteous followers would remember Kalki or his name.

Kalki with his army of Brahmin’s can be compared to the chosen 144,000 that supported Christ in his fight against the Devil. The 144,000 that follow Christ had God’s name written in their foreheads. It is a known custom of the Brahmin to write the name of God, such as Vishnu, on their foreheads. They use the clay from the banks of the holy river.

In Kalki’s battle against the demon Kali, he faces the two demons named Kok and Bikok similar to Christ facing the forces led by Gog and Magog in the 19th chapter of the Book of Revelation. Satan released from his bondage after a thousand years seeks out to deceive the nations again and gather the troops of Gog and Magog who number as many as there is sand in the sea. Gog and Magog though seem to have been defeated a lot easier than Kok and Bikok.

In the 14th chapter of Revelation, three angels descend out of heaven making proclamations, the second one saying that Babylon had fallen because of her influences on man and leading them away from God. Babylon was often described as a whore, fornicator, or the mother of harlots. The city’s destruction is written out in Revelation 18:21: “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” Babylon sounds similar to the demon Kali’s capital city of Bishasan where Kalki’s forces used fiery missiles to burn down the city and destroy all those who still dwelled there. This burning of Bishasan can also be compared to Revelation 19:20 where the beast, the Anti-Christ, and the followers were thrown into a lake of fire.

Both stories deal with the theme that good will win in the end, but evil doesn’t know it and endeavors to cling onto its power base. Love, sacrifice, and those martyrs who were so bold to stand up for the good win in the end, often just require patience.

Hindus believe that time is cyclical in nature and as such believe that although the world may be dissolved at the end of the Kali Yuga it will be re-initiated into the Kruta Yuga, the age of purity. The Catholic version at the end of time is finite in that God will establish a new kingdom for the chosen few after the world and the evil inhabitants are destroyed. Catholics' timeline is also unknown, but it is believed that we are living at the end of times. The Hindus have set a number of years associated with their ages and the end of the fourth age.

When Kalki kills the enemy troops their soul was immediately purified so being killed by an incarnation of God was an advantage against those demonic beings that would otherwise not enter into the Brahma, or the Unseen Reality. This is in comparison to those who followed the Devil and his minions are thrown into the lake of fire. This is a very big difference between the Catholic and Hindu religions. Catholicism believes in a realm called Hell where the damned are fated to live while the Hindus believe in reincarnation in an attempt to attain “moksha” or liberation of the soul.

In the stories between the two heroes, Kalki seems to be more susceptible to injury than Christ. Kalki in some battles is either injured and in one killed, but resurrected. No such vulnerabilities are ever referenced towards Christ in John’s Book of Revelation. Kalki is said to shed his earthly form when he ascends to heaven while Christ is shown to keep his Earthly form when he first ascended to heaven after his resurrection and on his return during the end times.

The similarities between Kalki and Jesus Christ, and their roles in the eschatology of Hinduism and Catholicism are striking, but have their own unique differences. Both religions having bloody battles with themes that good will overcome evil in the end. The major difference between the two being Hinduism’s cyclical nature of time.


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