DEVOTEE: According to Jewish understanding, what is the soul's purpose for being in the material world?
RABBI: Eleazar put the following question to R. Simeon. "Since it is known to God that men will die, why does He send souls down into this world?" He answered, "This question has been discussed many times by the teachers, and they have answered it thus. God sends souls to this world to declare His glory and takes them back afterwards..." [The Zohar II 235a][ Prov. V,15]
DEVOTEE: According to the Vedic understanding, the Lord does not actually put us here to declare His glories. Rather, we have fallen into this world because of our envy of the Supreme Lord. However, now that we are here, we may return to the Lord by purifying our consciousness by glorifying the Lord's names, fame, pastimes, paraphernalia, and devotees. There are also a few special souls who are sent here by the Lord to preach His glories for the benefit of mankind. Those devotees are very confidential servants of the Lord and cannot be compared to the ordinary sinful living entities that are forced to suffer in this world. By the influence of those great souls, many others become inspired to glorify the Lord, serve Him, and thus elevate themselves to the transcendental platform.
The material world serves two functions. The first function is to give those souls who want to enjoy their lives separately from the Lord a stage on which they can attempt to act out their fantasies. The second function of this world is to give the souls who have become frustrated with material enjoyment the opportunity to engage in devotional service to God and thus elevate themselves back to the Lord's eternal abode.
RABBI: Many people do not readily obey the laws of God unless they are fearful of the consequences of disobeying those laws. Therefore, the Jewish scriptures emphasize serving God out of fear. Unfortunately, people who resent this approach may reject our religion. What mood of worship do the Vedas embrace?
DEVOTEE: The Vedas also warn us of the severe consequences of disobeying the laws of God. But they also offer a very practical approach, which attracts almost everyone. the Karma Kanda section of the Vedas deal with offering materialists the means by which they can satisfy their material dreams without further binding themselves to this world. By striving for material enjoyment according to Vedic karma-kanda (fruitive) rituals, a person can gradually elevate himself to the pure platform. Ultimately, the real purpose of the Vedas is to elevate a person back to Godhead. The Bhagavad-gita says, "All purposes served by a small well can at once be served by a great reservoir of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them." [Bg.2.46] All Vedic rituals are meant to lead us to the path of pure devotion. We are safe as long as we do not forget that the ultimate purpose of those rituals is to help us surrender to the Lord.
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