In Mathew 17:15, Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets.” But how?
Not all prophecies can be trusted, much less believed. It is necessary to read prophecies carefully—and critically.
For instance, there are a number of apocalyptic texts that base “last events” on “past events.” In other words, such prophecies appear to “foretell” what are actually past occurrences (usually in the fairly recent past) as though these events were going to happen in the future! In these not-very-prophetic “prophecies,” recent history gets “replayed”—but with a different outcome in the future scenario.
Some prophecies are even borrowed, as we’ve seen in the case of the Kalki prophecies, which, surprisingly, are found in both Hindu and Buddhist texts!
In previous articles, we looked at some Hindu texts regarding the adventures, exploits and conquests of Kalki, as told in the Kalki Purāṇa. We have seen how Baha’u’llah has been proclaimed as “Kalki Viṣṇuyaśas,” the future avatar, by Baha’is from a predominantly Hindu background. “Kalki” means the “Destroyer” (of what is foul, i.e. sin). “Viṣṇuyaśas” translates as the “fame of Viṣṇu”—similar to “Baha’u’llah” whose name, in Arabic, means the “Glory of God”.
But a word of caution here: the public claim that “Baha’u’llah is Kalki” should be qualified. Here’s why:
We have previously shown how the Kalki Purāṇa depicts Kalki Viṣṇuyaśas as leading a fierce military campaign against Buddhists, as well as Jains and other mlecchas (“barbarians” or “foreigners”). Baha’u’llah, of course, did not do that. Quite the opposite: Baha’u’llah proclaimed that Hindus and Buddhists—as well as the followers of all other religions—should strive to do the following:
Now here’s a new problem: there are actually Tibetan Buddhist prophecies that predict that Kalki will militarily fight and defeat Muslims (but without killing them)! According to Alexander Berzin, a renowned scholar of Tibetan Buddhism: “With Kalachakra, the Buddhists responded to the general fear of an invasion by asserting its own messiah prediction.”
Here’s one such prophecy:
The cavalry of the Tāyin [Arab Muslims], engaged in war, will entirely destroy shrines that display buddhas, bhairavas, men, women, and snakes. They belong to a single caste, and do not take [each] other’s property; they speak the truth and practice hygiene. Their youths avoid others’ wives, and upholding the precepts of asceticism, they resort to their own wives. On earth and in heaven the lord of darkness [Allāh, i.e. God] only protects those Tāyin and tīrthikas [i.e. Arab Muslims and other “heretics”] who, having washed, prostrate to the worshipped Rahu [Raḥmān, i.e. God] five times each day at noon, afternoon, evening, night, and sunrise. In fierce battles [he] protects [them] like a father [protecting his] sons and servants. Since the kshatriyas [warrior caste] will not fight, [the Tāyin] king, having worshipped the terrifying [deity] with the flesh of birds and beasts, will cut off [the kshatriya] lineages by harming various sentient beings and pillaging others’ wealth. …
In the future, the descendants, relatives, and men of the lord of the barbarians, Muḥammad, will destroy sixty-eight temples of the sacred sites and pilgrimage places on earth. In eighteen hundred [?] years, in Makka [Mecca], etc., [and in India,] the land of the Aryans, I [Kalkin Yaśas, having reincarnated as Kalkin Raudra Cakrin], will annihilate the barbarians and the god of darkness [Allah] whom they imagine to be the sun.
O Surya, I will place living beings in happiness by establishing them in [the Dharma] through the rite of the three refuges in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Then I will go from Kalapa [in Sambhala] to Tusita, the supreme abode of the gods. – Śrī-Kālacakra-tantrottara-Tantrahṛdaya-nāma II.4 and II.6, translated by John Newman, “Islam in the Kālacakra Tantra,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 21.2 (1998): pp. 311–371 (above quotes on pp. 344–345, emphasis added).
Obviously this prophecy was written after the fact. According to Alexander Berzin, this is what happened:
The singular Buddhist textual tradition that mentions any Islamic customs or beliefs is the Sanskrit Kālacakra Tantra literature, which emerged in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries CE. … Buddhist masters saw a threat to their society posed by a certain Muslim political faction. Consequently, they seem to have felt it necessary to inform their followers about the beliefs of the possible “invaders.” …
From 876 to 976 CE, the entire region was under Hindu Shāhi rule. The Sunni Muslim Ghaznavids, vassals of the ‘Abbāsids, conquered the Afghan side in 976 CE and finally overthrew the Hindu Shāhi rulers of the remaining Pakistani side in 1010 CE. The Ghaznavids were tolerant of Buddhism and Hinduism within the former Hindu Shāhi realm. – Alexander Berzin, “Historical Survey of the Buddhist and Muslim Worlds’ Knowledge of Each Other’s Customs and Teaching,” The Muslim World, Vol. 100 (April/July 2010): pp. 187–203 (p. 191).
Dr. Berzin elsewhere states that these Tibetan Buddhist prophecies of Kalki are cyclic in nature and are intended to be meditated upon. But that doesn’t change the fact that these Buddhist prophecies of Kalki—borrowed and adapted from prior Hindu prophecies—were written as a response to Arab invasions. In other words, these prophecies were a form of “crisis literature” at the time that they were written.
In previous articles, we have seen how the Zoroastrian prophecies of “Shāh Bahrām Varjāvand” were written after the Arab conquest of Persia in the seventh century CE. The take-away from all this is that such prophecies, which appear to “foretell” Arab invasions, were actually written after these events took place. Scholars refer to future predictions of past events as “vaticinia ex eventu” (Latin for “vaticinations (predictions) from (past) events”). That would definitely qualify as a false prophecy.
So: “Beware of false prophecies.” If they are “too good to be true,” then they may, in fact, not be true!
When all is said and done, prophecies, at times, can be problematic. To be sure, Baha’u’llah fulfills the spirit—but sometimes not the exact letter—of these prophecies. Not only that, but the manner in which Baha’u’llah fulfills prophecies is often far better than what the prophecies themselves promise.