What is the Krishna conscious perspective of nondevotees with good moral qualities like Jains?
From Sudha Mehta:
What if there are people who are honest and truthful naturally, but don’t believe in Krsna or God? Many times we do meet people who exhibit Morality, good demeanor, Integrity but don’t believe in God or believe in god but not in the way Iskcon preaches like changing our consciousness or developing love for god. Like in Jainism, which also preach that we should have high moral standards but they don’t believe in God. Apologies if in any way I have offended. Will be highly obliged if you can answer this Prabhu.
answer : the vedic scriptures explain that human beings can fall in the three modes. So according to the modes that the person is situated in, the person develops corresponding qualities. So if certain people are situated in the modes of goodness then they will have good qualities of the kind that you have mentioned, like morality, integrity. But now does goodness necessarily require godliness ? no, not necessarily, because goodness is a material quality. Certainly as a material quality or you may call it as a meta quality , meta quality means a quality that underlies other quality. Say goodness has quality like thoughtfulness, morality, sensitivity, love for study. Passion has quality like , impatience, vigorousness and , the fourteenth chapter describes all these qualities in the Bhagavad Gita. “lobhah pravrttir arambhah , karmanam asamah sprha, rajasy etani jayante, vivrddhe bharatarsabha.” There is greed, there is eagerness to do new new things, and correspondingly inability to perceiver with old things. so these are the qualities which characterize the modes. Now if you want to see, goodness is a mode, and as a mode it can be called as meta quality, a quality that underlie the all other qualities. So these are material qualities . Even Krishna is described in the mode of goodness, He is not necessarily describing it in spiritual or devotional terms. sardareshu …………………………………………..This knowledge is not necessarily scriptural or spiritual knowledge, it can be material knowledge also. And as example of goodness, Shrila Prabhupada gives the poet, the philosopher and the scientist, and Shrila does not mention that these have to be devotees to be in the mode, so therefore, our understanding is that there are people who are not devoted to God, or they may even not be believing in the existence of God , but if they have the quality of goodness, they are regarded to be good. Now ofcourse as far as the goodness is concerned, there are various qualities , not just ones intellectual , ones morality, but the austerities that one performs, that one gives, the food that one eats, the way a person speaks, all these determine the person’s mode. That’s why some people have some qualities in goodness. For example some people may be extremely intellectual but they may also be extremely sensual . So they use their competence to get sensual gratification . So are they in goodness or in passion ? Krishna explains that actually the modes overlaps and there is competition between the individual heart between the two. So it is not necessary that a person will purely be in goodness just because he/she is intellectual or not, but that determined by what is ones understanding of the goal of life. So if the understanding of the goal is basically sense enjoyment, then that is the mode of passion, and if it is cultivation of knowledge and acquirement of long term pleasure , enlightenment pleasures, that is the mode of goodness. And if a person is just , a person thinks that the success of life is, to have no work to do and to sleep fifteen hours in a day, watch tv and just fool around in that way, that is in the mode of ignorance. That’s why after Krishna gives a systematic analysis of the three modes defining their various characteristics, determination, knowledge, work. and all these things, He gives in the fourteenth chapter , seventeenth chapter and the eighteenth chapter. The last item of knowledge that He describes is the conception of happiness. In eighteenth chapter verse thirty seven, thirty eight, thirty nine , He describes happiness in goodness ignorance and passion, as I just described. So ultimately a person mode can be determined by the conception of happiness. So if a person is not interested in sensual pleasures and is interested in morality and some of more refined pleasures, then we can as a broad catagorization say that the person is in goodness . So goodness can become a platform for a person to attain transcendence . when a person is in goodness. then it is as if a person like a dry wood. So when dry wood comes in contact with fire , it gets lit immediately. When a person is in a mode of goodness comes in contact with Krishna consciousness, the possibility, even the probability of that person getting illumined with spiritual knowledge is much higher than what it would be for a person in a mode of passion or in ignorance. Passion would be like semi wet wood and ignorance would be like wet wood. So we see people based on what scripture says . there is two ways of looking at it, at all living beings. In terms of the modes that they are in. in terms of their attitude towards Krishna, In terms of their respectfulness or receptivity towards Krishna. So from the modes point of view , certainly having good qualities , like integrity are in goodness and that sense they are commendable. but if they are anti theists , as some of these people are atheists, who do not believe in God. Some people are anti theists , they are actually aggressively they are pre atheism. and they criticize , these people normally may be in goodness, because they are intellectual and moral also. more often they are quite sensual in their day to day actual life. but even if not. still that goodness is unfavorable to Krishna consciousness , and that from the scripture point of view that is looked down upon; . And we see this in scriptures many times that in the tenth canto when there is the pasttime of yagya Brahamanas and their wives, so yagyna brahamans but they did not recognize Krishna, they were so enameled by the falcity of the sacrifices that they were doing, that they did not realize that the Lord, who is the goal of their sacrifices is come here/ Therefore , actually they are from the Bhagavatam’s point of view , are highly unfortunate. They condemn themselves after they realize their folly. so from the devotional point of view, and they actually say that their vibes are highly……………………….may not have been so brahminically situated as they are. But because they had a devotional attitude towards Krishna , which made them receptive and even eager for Krishna, so they are considered higher. That’s why we can respect people, ultimately we respect everyone as they are part of Krishna and at the same time certainly who are in the mode of goodness we will, because they are higher than the rest. At the same time the mode of goodness should not be the criteria by which we should look at people. Afar more important criteria is the receptivity towards Krishna. Shrila Prabhupada went to America in 1965-66, to a large extent India that time was in the mode of goodness. Now they were in goodness they were actually turned away from goodness towards passion. and that means that they turned away from Krishna, from goodness, one can turn upwards towards Krishna or one can turn downwards passion. so although overall the Indian culture and lifestyle was quite a bit in goodness but the forceful infatuation with passion with the western way of living and how one could get similar prosperity technology and luxury. So therefore Shrila Prabhupada realizes that they are not at all receptive to Krishna consciousness although they may have had materially good qualities. and at time when he went abroad, hippies are actually far from goodness, they were in ignorance, but they were receptive to Krishna consciousness and they got the mercy of the Lord Krishna and eventually many of them then became the spiritual teachers of those Indians, those Hindus , who had earlier not taken Prabhupada very seriously. Because devotion elevated these Americans from lower modes to above goodness also. So that’s why we also need to see people in terms their potential receptivity for Krishna consciousness. So if people are in goodness and are receptive to Krishna consciousness, then that is excellent, but if people are in goodness and are not receptive to Krishna consciousness or worst still , are hostile to Krishna consciousness, then we have to understand that they have this good qualities, and they have got these good qualities by some activities that they have done in their past lives and the way they have behaved in this life, their upbringing or whatever. So we recognize those good qualities but we understand that that is not something to be ……………… about. but because they have not yet become receptive to Krishna consciousness. So Jainism , if we see historically speaking, Jainism and Buddhism emerged as a rebel or relegate religion within Hinduism. When Hinduism became excessively castist and oppressive towards the lower caste, towards the animals. So basically from the philosophical point of view, jains are atheists , they reject God but they do not display the atheistics, they have their own idea of the universe in which they try to subsume the various Hindu Gods within the , subsume means incorporate in oneself. So have tried to create subsume the various Hindu Gods within their overall atheistic frame work. That’s why there might be some Hindu Gods within the Jain temples also, but ultimately they say that all these Gods ,they are just the part of the frame work and ultimate is the Jain idea of enlightenment, which ultimately is like nothingness. So the jains also have a Jain Ramayana in which they have, it is a complete distortion from the historical Ramayana by Valmiki, but they have Lord Ram meeting, they do not consider him to be God , they consider him to be a king, and they have about Lord Ram in the forest constantly meeting Jain sages and then eventually when Sita returns back to the earth then lord Ram becomes enlightened, becomes detached and He embraces Jainism. That is their version of Jain Ramayana, which is quite estrange to say the very least. But the point is that from the philosophical point of view Jainism is the historical response to the Indian or the vedic tradition which had evolved primarily as an atheistic religion. Of course modern Jains are not are anti theist by any means, they are usually not aggressive about their beliefs, so we see Jainism as not so much atheistic religion but as a pre-theistic religion. So pre theistic means, just has the Lord Buddha , he came when people were indiscriminately killing animals and he told them please stop killing animals by which you will come to the mode of goodness, by practicing basic morality and then afterwards they can learn about God and spiritual truths later on. so Buddhism in that sense was the transitional religion, to raise the people from the lower modes to a basic level of morality and goodness. So Jainism also saw this similar purpose, and because Jainism is , as far as the life style is concerned, not as far the beliefs are concerned, the life style is in the mode of goodness, that;swhy culturally their are substancial number of similarities between what we practice in Krishna consciousness and what Jains practice. and they also avoid meat eating very strictly , and they also avoid onion garlic, and that’s why as devotees sometimes if we are in a place where we can’t get prasad. then if you want food without onion garlic, Jain messes are very helpful for us. So as devotees , Prabhupada would quote Chanakya Pandita, he says ‘ wise person sees good everywhere , even if there is a piece of gold lying in a big dustbin, actually the wise person will pickup this piece of gold. So we appreciate the goodness in the overall culture of the Jains and today if they are receptive we can encourage to Krishna consciousness, but if they are agressive about their atheism then we understand that actually they may have some qualities of goodness but those are overpowered by a negative quality of antipathy towards Krishna . Of course as I said the antipathy towards Krishna is not among many Jains, so in general as devotees we can try to see the potential for Krishna consciousness in everyone and see if we can be of assistance in helping them develop them that their potential. but if we find that also these people in goodness if we can help them to initiate the wisdom of Krishna consciousness, they can take it up and they would rise very quickly, so in that sense we can try to share Krishna consciousness with them, but if we find that while being in goodness they are are running antipathy towards Krishna consciousness then it is safer to keep a distance from them by which we will be able to preserve our Krishna consciousness. Because people who are in goodness are sometimes also, not only able to impress others by their character and behaviour they may also have certain intellectual abilities . so our faith may get disturbed or we may get a false perception by interacting too closely with them, so we need to take care of our Krishna consciousness , then if we can share Krishna consciousness with them and if they are receptive then they are the best candidates for Krishna consciousness.