THE GARDEN OF EDEN AND VRINDAVAN
DEVOTEE: Rabbi, the Vedas clearly and explicitly describe the spiritual world, the eternal abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the activities of the Lord and His devotees there. Do the Jewish scriptures give us any information about the spiritual kingdom of God and what activities take place there?
RABBI: Yes, the Jewish scriptures do describe an eternal place where God takes pleasure in being with righteous souls. R. Simeon says in the Zohar that it is written: "King Solomon made him a palanquin (apiryon) of the trees of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love by the daughters of Jerusalem" [S.S. III, 9,10] Apiryon symbolizes the Palace below which is formed in the likeness of the Palace above. This the Holy one, blessed be He, calls 'The Garden of Eden,' for He created it in order to satisfy His own ardent desire for joyous and continual communion with the souls of the righteous who have their abode there-these being those souls who have no bodies in this world. These all ascend and are crowned in that place of perfect delight, and have each their appointed places from whence they can perceive the "loveliness of the Lord", and partake of all the delicious streams of pure balsam (aparsamon). This aparsamon symbolizes the hidden Supernal Palace, whereas apiryon is the Palace below." [Zohar 127a Terumah (Exodus)] In other words, there is a Garden of Eden in the eternal spiritual kingdom of God, and there is also a manifestation of the Garden of Eden that exists within the material world.
DEVOTEE: In the spiritual world, everything is self-effulgent and there is no need for the (*) sun, moon, nor electricity. There is a spiritual world where God and His devotees eternally enjoy together. The highest level of the spiritual realm is the spiritual planet known as Goloka Vrindavan. The spiritual world also exists within this material world. One such place is known as Vrindavan or Gokula Vrindavan. When Lord Krsna comes to this world, He does not come alone, but He brings with Him all of His associates and paraphernalia to perform loving pastimes with His devotees. Those who have become pure devotees of the Lord while in this material world, go back to the spiritual world to be permanently with God. According to Lord Krsna, in the Bhagavad-gita, "After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection." [Bg. 18.15]
RABBI: You said that the pure devotees of God engage in intimate loving pastimes with Him. The Jewish scriptures describe a dance that the Lord prepares for the righteous in the hereafter. It is stated, "In the hereafter, the Holy One, blessed be He, will arrange for a dance for the righteous in Gan Eden." [Every Man's Talmud, XI, VI}. Do the Vedas describe any dance arranged by God for the righteous?
DEVOTEE: Yes, there is an intimate dance known as the Rasa-Lila dance performed by the Lord and some of His intimate devotees. I will not go into detail about that dance, but the important point to understand here is that having become perfected souls, or souls who have revived their perfect love for Lord Krsna, they became qualified to associate intimately with the Lord in devotion. In fact, the Lord prefers to associate with His pure devotees in intimate loving relationships rather than to be worshiped in awe and reverence. But that is only for the perfected souls. Until we have perfected our lives, we must worship the Lord with great awe and reverence and strictly follow His laws.
RABBI: In reference to God's desire to associate with the righteous intimately it is described in the Jewish scriptures: "The Holy One, blessed be He, will walk with the righteous in Gan Eden in the Hereafter; and the righteous, on beholding Him, will retreat in terror before Him. But He will call to them, 'See, I am the same as you!'
The above statement is in the Torah, while also emphasizing the need to be extremely reverent and fearful of God. This seems to imply that in both Hinduism and Judaism the righteous, the pure in heart, can look forward to associating intimately with the Lord in the eternal spiritual realm.
DEVOTEE: As we are all pleasure seeking living entities, it is most important to understand that in the spiritual realm there is unlimited pleasure and variety. Otherwise, no one would want to go there. Generally, people think of the spiritual world as being impersonal or void, because they have a very vague idea, at best, of what really goes on there. If we do not understand what goes on in the spiritual world, our tendency may be to consider it similar to this temporary material world which is so full of miseries. Why would anyone want to practice religious or spiritual life seriously if they thought that it would lead them to another situation similar to what we presently experience? Therefore, the Vedas give vivid descriptions of the spiritual world, while teaching us the means by which we can qualify ourselves to return there. One picturesque description of the spiritual world is found in the Brahma-samhita, where it is stated, "I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems and surrounded by millions of purpose trees. He is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune." [Brahma-samhita 5.29]
RABBI: The Jewish scriptures state, "The virgins without number" are those angelic hosts of whom it is said, "Is there a number to his bands?" [Job.XXV, 3] Perhaps this Jewish reference is related to the goddesses of fortune mentioned in the verse you just quoted.
* Also New Testament quote Rev. 22: 5:
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