How KC is the solution of all problems 7 – Religious Problems
How Krishna Consciousness is solution to all problems 7 – Religious Problems
Lecture by HG Chaitanya Charan Prabhu
Transcribed by- Ambuj Gupta and Keshavgopal das
Today we will discuss about communal or sectarian violence. Many people feel that religion is the source of so much conflict and wars and there are so many examples to cite for that. We have in India itself there has been so much conflict between Hindus and Muslims. In the Middle East there is the conflict at the Gaza strip, Israel. If you look at European history first there been so many conflicts between the Roman empire and the Christians and then between two sects of Christianity, the Protestants and the Catholics, almost hundred year war between Christians, Catholics and Protestants, there two main branch of Christianity. So over all it is undeniable that there has been lot of violence that has gone on in the name of religion. And many people fear religious terrorism, Communal violence. We are saying Krishna consciousness is the source of all, is the solution to all problems, but Krishna consciousness also has religion in it. And religion we see incites so many people towards war. So how can we say that Krishna consciousness is actually the solution to any problem.
Difference between religion and spirituality
So first we have to understand the difference between religion and spirituality. What is the primary difference? Actually just as in science we have two fields – there is theory and there is experiment. Similarly in spirituality there are two fields- there is philosophy and there is religion. The theory in science tells us ok, every particle of matter attracts every of the particle of matter with a force that is directly proportionate to the mass and square of their distance. This is the law of gravity. This is theory. How do we know that theory is right or wrong? For that we have experiments. So similarly in spirituality there is philosophy which offers us a theory. Theory is that say, we are all parts of God, and we will get real happiness by loving to serving God. So this is the theory. Now how do I know this is true or not. For that I have to do the experiment and that experiment is actually religion. So philosophy and religion are like the theory and the experiment.
For example, if we look at the different religions in the world, Christians may offer respect to God by say doing mass. Muslims may offer respect to God by doing namaaz, raising their hands. Hindus may offer respect to God by folding their hands. Here we see the gestures are different. But the essential principle is the same. What is that essential principle – to offer respect to God. Now if we only look at externals, we feel that there is a radical difference. But if we go beyond the externals into internals then we will find there is similarity. So Srila Prabhupada said that there is philosophy, there is religion. Now if some people practice religion without understanding the philosophy then they don’t know the purpose of what they are doing and that leads to narrow mindedness, which eventually leads to violence. Srila Prabhupada said that religion without philosophy is sentimentalism or fanaticism. Srila Prabhupada says that if we have only philosophy without religion or if we have only religion without philosophy, let us see what happens?
Cause of religious violence is lack of philosophical understanding
If there is only philosophy without religion, that is like theory without experiment. Then it is just mental speculation. It may be like this, it may be like that. I don’t know what it is. Actually I can never know. So it is just like everything stays entirely on the abstract platform, and nothing gets tangibly understood or realized. On the other hand if there is only religion without philosophy then what happens? Then there is sentimentalism or fanaticism. Sentimentalism means oh, don’t deride anyone, everything is right, everything is good, everybody is fine. So we will see that if we look at this and try to understand that if there is no philosophy and only religion it can become fanaticism. Why fanaticism? Because people think that, there is no philosophical understanding, and people think that my God is the only God and your God is a false God. Therefore what I will do? I destroy your God. So this comes because there is no clear philosophical understanding. Something might be there but that is not at all logical or systematic or coherent. It is just often indoctrination. So when there is just violence, the root cause is not religion, it is a lack of education, a lack of philosophical understanding.
Human beings are same at a material level
If we can see human beings are similar even at a material level. Whether a person is Hindu or Muslim or Christian, if the hand is cut blood will come. Hindu, Muslims, Christians, Jews, even an atheist, all of them get old, all of them get diseased, all of them had to die. If we look at the basic principles of Krishna conscious philosophy, even if somebody doesn’t believe that Krishna is God, Krishna says that to begin knowledge we have to understand that
In thirteenth chapter, the Bhagavad Gita verses 8 to 12, He talks about twenty characteristics of those in knowledge. And He says this quest for serious philosophical knowledge begins with perception of a problem. Ultimately all knowledge is meant to solve some problem. Medical knowledge is meant to solve the problem of disease. Not necessarily all diseases can be solved but some specific diseases. Similarly every branch of knowledge is there for a particular purpose. In the house women learns to cook because she wants to solve the problem of the hungry stomach or the tasteless food. Most people feel that this spirituality, what is the purpose. If we don’t know the purpose behind spiritual practices then people will not take it very seriously. Ok, you are interested in spirituality, you practice, I am not interested, I will not practice. But Krishna says that serious quest for spiritual knowledge begins when you understand that
Bhagvad-Gita provides solution to problems for all people irrespective of their religion
The miseries of birth, old age, disease and death are there. Now is there any religious discrimination in it? Everybody has to suffer this. Similarly the tritaap– aadhyatmic, aadhibhautic, aadhidevic, everybody has to suffer this. There is no difference whether a person is Hindu, Muslim, and Christian at all. Similarly now people may say we don’t believe in the soul. Ok, that still matter. Whether there is a soul or there is not a soul that can be a matter of discussion and believe. But if there is a soul then everybody has a soul, isn’t it? All people if the source of the consciousness is not the body it is soul then Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, for everybody the source of consciousness should be soul.
So like that if we look at most of the fundamental teachings of the Bhagvad Gita. Similarly if you talk about three modes of material nature, this terminology may be used in Bhagvad Gita, but these character types are universal. There will be Hindus who will be in goodness, there will be Hindus who will be in passion, there will be Hindus in ignorance. Similarly there will be Christians in these three modes, there will be Muslims in these three modes. If we look at the fundamental teachings of Krishna consciousness, especially with respect to material world, there is no sectarianism in these teachings. These are broad principles which Krishna is talking about. Now somebody may say that my religion is the best religion. Or my religion is the only religion. This actually is not much different from somebody saying my country is best country or my race is the best race. This is just the false ego. This is just bodily pride which takes on various garbs.
Story of an atheist Jew
One of my devotee friend, Steven Rosen, he is a scholar, he was telling me he is from a Jew family, and now he is a Hare Krishna devotee. He is a well known international author. He was telling that he met his family members, his relatives, in a get together and there Steven was talking about Krishna consciousness. So his uncle said, are you trying to convert us? His uncle was an atheist. Steven said I did not know you belong to any religion. I am a Jew. I am an atheist but I am a Jew atheist. What do you mean by Jew atheist? In Jew, Judaism, the first command is thou shall love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my might. So if I am an atheist, I don’t even believe in the existence of God then how can I be a Jew. Isn’t it? It’s like saying I am an atheist Krishna bhakta. For us, if we are Krishna bhakta you cannot be atheist or if you are an atheist you cannot be a Krishna bhakta. What this indicates is that the designation Jew is no longer conveying any philosophical import. It is just another bodily designation.
False ego causes pride and pride causes conflict
When religion becomes another part of the false ego, becomes another bodily designation, then religion loses spiritual essence. Then it becomes another source of conflict. See blacks and whites may fight. Now Serbs and Croatians may fight. In Russia many of its states, Azerbaijan and Armenia, they are fighting. In the material world people often have a tendency for violence. And they will find some reason for becoming violent. So when two false egos collide, in this world, if two objects hit each other, often both break. But when two false egos collide, both become bigger. So like that in this world people who have pride, people who have bodily misidentification, so somebody may think oh, I am an Armenian, my country is the greatest country. Another will say, I am from Azerbaijan, my country is the greatest country and both starts fighting. So here the basis of the fight is what, the misunderstanding that I am the body. And then a further some bodily designation may come. I belong to this country. I belong to this race. I belong to this family.
Sometimes in movies they show that there are family feuds. This family, that family. They will be fighting for generation after generation after generation. And since childhood, the children are told, “that family is our enemy”. And then movies try to show a love affair between the boy and girl of these two families and then all the complications come up through that. The point which I am talking about here is, actually when two are having fighting, that is primarily because there may be some property dispute or some quarrel over some issue and then it’s a bodily designation. Actually think that I belong to this dynasty or that person belongs to that dynasty, actually that’s a misunderstanding because we are soul. We are just temporarily bound in a particular body and we live in a particular dynasty for this life time.
It’s like we are travelling in a particular train. Say I am going from Mumbai to Kolkata and somebody is going from Kolkata to Mumbai. And two trains are going in opposite directions. And because the two trains are in opposite directions I think I belong to this train, you belong to that train, my train is better than your train, so I’ll attack your train. Isn’t it? It is so ridiculous, you are in a train for a short time, you got nothing to do with the train, you got in and you’ll soon get out, why identify with the train and why fight with somebody else in another train? Isn’t it? So similarly, actually life is like a journey and the body and all the bodily designations we have are like a train. So I may belong to particular race, or a particular dynasty, particular nationalities, similarly a particular religion.
Actually when people identify with the false ego, then they come under the affect of pride, and one of the results of pride is conflict. So if we look at the fundamental cause of war, the common basis is bodily identification. And then eventually there will be conflict which results. So the cause is not religion. Religion is just a trigger. It’s like there is a gun filled with bullets and there is a angry person who has the gun with him and then suddenly something causes him to press the trigger. Similarly people have pride because the pride they have loaded themselves with feelings of animosity, anger, hatred towards other, and religion becomes the trigger for acting on that anger, for perpetrating violence. Generally speaking when there is no philosophical understanding properly, then people identify with the body. When they identify with the body, they form groups and then they often feel like opposite groups are enemies and they fight with the opposite groups. That’s how most conflicts originate and that’s how most conflicts continue.
How Krishna consciousness avoid religious conflicts?
Now how do Krishna consciousness avoid this? First of all, Hindus and Muslims are fighting. Krishna consciousness first of all tells us that actually we are neither Hindus nor Muslims. So that doesn’t mean there will be no violence. Arjuna understood I am not the body I am the soul and he fought. But in that case the cause was very clear. The cause was utter injustice; injustice against the Pandavas, violation of the honor of their wife, and more importantly there were criminals who were ruling and they would have perpetrated further crimes against the citizens. And that had to be corrected. So the principle to understand over here is that as long as we are motivated by false ego we will find some reason or the other to fight. And often religion becomes the reason. But when we understand that we are not the body we are the soul that will not stop all fighting but that will enable us to free ourselves and others from the misunderstandings that cause fighting.
Thinking aham-mameti is the basic misunderstanding that causes all conflicts
What is the basic misunderstanding that causes all conflicts? That is to think I am the body and the things which are connected with body and mind.
janasya moho ‘yam aham mameti
The Bhagvatam describes and Krishna as incarnation as Rishabhdeva Maharaj that janasya moho, the common misconception of all people is aham mameti, I and my. These are the misconceptions which cause people to fight endlessly. And the only solution to such conflict is to remove the misconceptions.
So now we may wonder how will this apply to say to current situations of violence that are there in the world. It is not that if some terrorist are going to attack we are going to tell them, we are not the body we are the soul. And I am not the body I am the soul. There is a forum for such education. There is often a requirement for assertive action where it is necessary it has to be done. Having better progress is not going to end criminality. If criminality is to end there has to be education and transformation. Criminals had to see that, actually this criminal way of life is not going to lead me to any lasting happiness. And they should become free from those criminal desires. Only if we can do that, then there will be any chance of tangible reduction of criminal life. Police is essential. But police is a deterrent, it is just a preventive measure. It is not a curative measure. Similarly if there is some violence in the name of religion that have to be countered. At the same time we also have to go deep root. And the deep root for all violence is misunderstanding of the bodily conception of life. I talked earlier about how there are so many conflicts in the world. But if you look most of the major conflicts of the last century, World War I, World War II, was religion a factor in that? No, there is no factor. Both the wars are fought just primarily to expand for wealth and power. So those were two biggest wars in recent memory. But now, if we see the conflict in Somalia, the conflict in North Korea and South Korea, the Vietnam war that is there, in most of these religion was not even a factor at all. Even when religion seems to be factor, usually the factor that is, if we go deep down is not religion. It is actually something much greater. It is much more materialistic. It is power, it is money, it is revenge, all these material emotions come up.
All religions are not at the same level
Having said that, we also have to recognize that all religions are not at the same level. If there is no philosophy, but only religion, then there will be conflict. But does that mean if we just get rid of religion then all conflict will go away. No, if we just get rid of religion, like we just have the theory without the experiment. We’ll never be able to verify the theory. We’ll not be able to realize the philosophy. Religious practices often occur at different levels. There are primarily practiced at four different levels: fear, desire, duty and love. But before we understand four levels, let us first understand various categorization of religions.
Various religious parts can be categorized into these three categories: exclusivists, inclusivists and pluralist. What is this exclusivist religion? Exclusive means what? I alone. So exclusive religion says my way is the only way. Only if you worship my God then you are going to heaven. Otherwise you go to hell. Not only you go to hell, we will help you get there faster. Isn’t it? Some people have this idea. This is the exclusivist religion. Then there is pluralist religion. Pluralist religion means that oh, actually you have your way, I have my way, he has his way, everybody has their way. And ultimately nobody has seen God. So who knows what is right. Whatever people want to believe, let them believe. So this idea seems to be very broad minded. Let everybody believe what they want to be. However it is, we should be broad minded. We should not be so broad minded that our brains fall out. Isn’t it? We are so open minded that nothing stays in the brain. Then what is the use of that open mindedness. So let us understand this with simple example.
Suppose somebody says that I am from so and so medical college, and only those students who are from this medical college, they are doctors. Everybody else is bogus. Isn’t that a foolish idea? Somebody may ask, does your medical college have monopoly on medicine, medical degrees. And then some people say we should not be so narrow-minded. We have to think that our medical college is only medical college. We will be broad minded. Everywhere is a medical college. So exclusivism is the idea that my religion is the only religion. My belief is the only right belief. That is like my medical college is only one, but pendulum goes to the other extreme in pluralism is, it’s like saying every building is a medical college. In other words, whatever a person believes that is the religion of that person. There are as many religions as there are people in the world. So this idea is foolish because ultimately if somebody say my religion is that I don’t believe in God. If that person religion is true then no other path is true. So that way the correct understanding is what is called as inclusivism.
Inclusivism means there is one path with many levels on that path. What are those many levels? It is not that there are many paths, but there is one path with various levels on that path. Those are four levels primarily: fear, desire, duty and love. Initially, most people approach God because of fear. If I don’t worship God there will be some suffering that come on me. Desire means worship God and God will give me what I want. So each of these path has something positive and something negative associated with it. Fear, the positive part of it is that it is better than atheism. Out of fear, materialistic people follow, to some extent, the laws of God. But negative part is that one gets very negative conception of God. Oh, God is a judge. God is a punisher. And God is sitting somewhere up in the cloud. This idea of God, it may induce terror in us. But it does not induce love. And it’s a negative conception of God. So this is the problem with the idea of fear. Then there is desire. At the level of desire what happens? People think if I worship God then I get things in return. So many times when there are exams, the number of students visiting the temple increases. People will pray. Today is a very difficult paper. What is a paper? My paper is a paper of Darwin, evolution. Oh God, please help me to pass this paper. And what I am writing when I am passing the paper God does not exist. So I am praying to God to help me, write properly the paper will say that God doesn’t exist. The point is that often at this level the relationship with God is like a business. God, I will offer you this relation and you offer me this, salary increment or mark increment or whatever. So people think this is a business. Now in business basically there is not much motivation of love. I give you this I take this. So because of this business motive, the relationship works and as long as give and take relationship continues. If something doesn’t work out then people forget God. And even if it works out as soon as business ends people forget God. I go to a shop keeper I get a commodity from that person. I pay the money. I don’t care for the shop keeper. That is the relationship with God at the level of desire.
Motivation due to fear and desire are at the materialistic level which often leads to conflict
So now fear and desire are levels that are largely materialistic. And because these levels are materialistic often they lead to conflict, because in both these levels God is not the center. I am the center. Many times people come to a temple and they close their eyes and they pray. And they go out and ask, who was there in the temple on the altar? I didn’t see only. Or even if they see they don’t think about it. Ok there is a temple, there is somebody, who care about it. Then people are self centered, they are not God centered. And when they are self centered naturally at this level there is conflict because if we are centered on God then we will understand that God is a father of all living beings. God is the creator, the father, the maker of every one. It is not that He is my maker and not your maker. God is the maker of everyone. He is the maker of every one. Because the focus is not on God, the focus is on me.
Just like say that there is father who has a lot of property. And the children and the sons are not focus thinking about the father. Who will get more property? I will get property. As long as sons are self centered then they will fight. I want more, I want more, I want more. But to the extent they become centered on their part they will understand, actually if you want to please my father then we should all share. If we fight because we are the sons of same father, it will displease our father. So at this level of religion people are self centered at that level there is inevitably conflict because people are not seeing the commonalities. They are seeing the differences. And the seeing of difference creates conflicts. So in Krishna consciousness the very aim is Krishna consciousness. It’s not self consciousness. The more we chant, the more we practice Krishna consciousness, the more our consciousness shifts from ourselves to Krishna. And the more our consciousness shifts to Krishna the more we become selfless. And the more we can sensitively and respectfully deal with others.
Srila Prabhupada closes his eyes on hearing namaaz prayers in Iran
So when Srila Prabhupada had gone to Iran on a preaching tour. So at that time some Muslim youth had come to meet him and they were asking him questions. Prabhupada answered the questions. And at that time in the back the prayers or the namaaz started. And Prabhupada closed his eyes and folded his hand and he prayerfully heard the full namaaz prayers. And then when the whole thing got over, Prabhupada opened his eyes and his eyes were bright. He said wasn’t that beautiful? And the devotees were really surprised. One of the devotees said Prabhupada would it not be better that instead of chanting Allah O Akbar, they would be chanting Hare Krishna. So Prabhupada looked hurt. Prabhupada said they are worshipping God in their way. And we are worshiping God in our way. Why are you making me sectarian? So the common principle is the principle of worshiping God. And Bhaktivinode Thakur said if we go on to a mosque or a church or to some other place of worship, the way the God is being worshipped we can’t appreciate that. Because the way of worship is different, the both method of worship is different, then we should think is that, actually Krishna is so magnanimous.
Krishna is so accommodating, that in order to attract these people He has assumed this form. He has accepted this way of worship. And by that our appreciation for Krishna should increase. How broad minded is Krishna. So magnanimous! So accommodating! And our devotion to Krishna in the form in which we know Him, as revealed in the Vedic scriptures, our emotion to Krishna in that form should increase. So this is how a broad minded person sees.
If you are travelling in train and sometimes you see Muslims doing namaaz, they are so diligent. They are unashamed. In today’s particular society people don’t feel ashamed of doing shameless things. The people often feel ashamed of doing something religious. Somebody has the courage or conviction to practice their religion that is good. It makes people inspired. Let me also practice. Why should I conceal what I am doing. Why should I feel embarrassed in what I am doing? In this way we can take inspiration from others.
Philosophical misunderstanding is also sometimes the cause of conflict
Now beyond this sometimes when there is unclear philosophical understanding that may also lead to conflicts. One thing I said is that when there is religion without philosophy then there will be conflicts. But sometimes there may be something which seems to be a philosophy but it is a philosophical misunderstanding. And that may also cause conflicts. But again the fundamental cause of conflict is not the philosophical misunderstanding, it is the self centeredness. As long as I am self centered, I and you. I have this opinion, you have this opinion and I am right and you are wrong. Because you are wrong I will I get you out of the way. My way or the highway. That is the idea. Get out, don’t follow my way. So this is what leads to conflicts.
Develop shastra chakshu to stop conflict
So now as you practice Krishna consciousness more and more our philosophical understanding enables us to see beyond the diversity to the similarity. When we look out with our eyes we will see ok-ok, this is person is of this religion, this person is of this nation, this person of this gender, this person is of this dynasty, we see all these externals. But when we become rooted in Krishna conscious philosophical understanding then we develop shastra chakshu, the eye of scripture. Then we learn to see things from a deeper perspective. And then we see ok, whatever dress the people are wearing beyond that we are souls. And qualitatively they all are like us. And that enable us to see everything from a broad perspective. And then we see not the differences but the commonalities. And that engenders dialogue. This engenders understanding. And that removes conflicts.
Today when we see fundamentalism, fanaticism, often that is largely because of materialism. It has got very little to do with religion per se, even lesser to do with spirituality. For example if we see there is religious terrorism. In Afghanistan, Pakistan these are relatively poorer countries. The children over there, they don’t have very good financial prospects and they are told you become weapons of war, you become jehadis, you become terrorists and we will give you money in this life and Allah will give jannat in next life. So what is the idea, it is completely materialistic. What is the idea of jannat also. They have the idea that in jannat every jehadi will have seventy three virgins to enjoy with. So it is not love for Allah. It is love for virgins. That is what has caused so many wars throughout history. And this is another war. It is got a religious garb to it. So religion is not the cause of conflict. It is materialism. Materialism stems from the false ego, misidentification with the body. By Krishna conscious education we get the philosophical vision by which we can see commonalities. And we see these commonalities then the causes of conflict get minimized.
Krishna consciousness is the easiest way of worship to convert people from lovers of matter to lovers of God
And as devotees we certainly want to share Krishna consciousness with the world. But this is not because we think that this is the best, this is the only way. Because Shri Krishna has given this method which Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given in kaliyuga. Therefore this is the easiest way. But this is not the only way. There is a difference between the two.
Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter to Pope John Paul 2, the head of catholic religion. Catholics are the biggest groups within Christianity. So Prabhupada said that atheism is spreading all over the world rapidly and we should work unitedly to counter this atheism. And Bhaktivinode Thakur said actually it is not that one religion is the enemy of other religion. All religions have the common enemy and that is atheism and that should be countered. Atheism means people are in ignorance. They are suffering. So we compare it to a disease. It is like an epidemic. And when there is epidemic, people are suffering and there is a hospital. What is the duty of the hospital staff? Who is getting admitted in the hospital, cure them. And the epidemic is too big that the hospital is not the only place of treatment happens. From the hospital the medical staff goes out into the community, into the house, into the slums, into the villages and gives medicine over there to cure people.
The various religions in the world they are like the hospitals. They are curing the soul, or forgetfulness of Krishna, or the disease of materialism. So now imagine that there are two hospitals in the city and there are many-many sick people. So many place that people can go and treat the sick people. But suppose these two hospitals they start fighting with each other. My hospital is better than your hospital. And not they start fighting, actually people go for a one hospital and drag patients from the other hospital to come to this hospital. That is stupid. Isn’t it? They are getting treated over there. Let them get treated and get cured.
Srila Prabhupada many times he would say that my goal is not to covert Christians into Hindus or to covert people from one religion to another religion. If there is any conversion at all that we want to do that conversion is to convert people from the materialist to become spiritualist, from being lovers of matter to lovers of God. So if somebody was a devout Christian, say somebody was a Christian monk or seriously practice of Christianity, then Srila Prabhupada would not tell them you have to become a Hare Krishna. Understand the Bible properly and follow it properly and if you study Bhagvad Gita you will understand the philosophy better. The same principles are taught in greater detail and greater logical systematic presentation in the Vedic scriptures. And you will become a better Christian by studying the Bhagvad Gita. You will become better religionist by understanding the universal principles of spirituality. That’s the recommendation for somebody who is a normal practitioner. But many of the Christians were never practicing Christianity, they were Christians only for name sake. For such people Srila Prabhupada would encourage that they directly start following Bhagvad-Gita because that would be the easiest way for them to elevate themselves. For example, if there is a hospital where the treatment is very good and the cure is easier and faster, so then naturally we would like people to come there and get cured. It is not because other hospitals are bad but here in the first hospital people can get cured faster. Is this again our sectarian claim, because we are Hare Krishnas so we are claiming that this is the best? This is the easiest? It’s not, because we can actually see with our own experiences and the experience of millions of people around the world that this leads to rapid transformation of people’s lives. All over the world whether in India or Russia or Africa or Europe or South America or North America or Australia, wherever people have start chanting Hare Krishna, this transformation, from being lover of matter to lover of God, takes place very fast. That happens rapidly. We can see there are people who sometimes practice some nominal form of religion for fifteen, twenty, thirty years and still they can’t give up smoking. Or they can’t even give up tea. A devotee chant Hare Krishna within six months, what happens? The higher taste is so wonderful that many of the undesirable things just go away. Meat eating, intoxication, gambling, they are not easy to give up.
And in general if we look at all the religions, broadly speaking they discriminate these things. They do not out rightly ban them because people may not be at the level of giving up entirely. But these are never glorified in any religion. They are generally discouraged. But how many people are actually into practicing it. So we share Krishna conscious principles to help people get cured better, to get cured easier, to get cured faster. The basis is not the idea is that this is the only way. The basis of the idea this is the easiest way. But this way also involves principles that are universal. Again I’ll conclude with this point of universality that when Prahalad Maharaj talks about bhakti, he gives nava lakshana, nine characteristics of bhakti.
So he describes these nine nine limbs of bhakti: Hearing (sravanam), speaking (kirtanam), remembering (smaranam), offering prayers (vandanam) etc. If we look at these, these are universal. If you go to a Christian church or if you go to a Jewish synagogue then you can see sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, over there. There will be some kind of vandanam over there. Some kind of archanam over there. So when the process of bhakti is being talked about, its talked about in universal terms. That’s why there is a process of transformation and this process is most powerfully available in the Krishna conscious tradition. But that doesn’t mean that other traditions are not correct. Actually if people become transformed, people start developing devotional love for God in the fighting will be reduced. But if there is no devotional love for God then over trivial issues there will be fight. So as devotees we understand the fighting is ultimately because of anger, it is because of false ego, it is because of modern misconception. And all these three are countered by the practice of Krishna consciousness. So in this way we can understand that by practicing Krishna consciousness we are striking at the root of the problem. Just like when we have to cut down the tree, you can cut the branches hundreds of times then will grow again. But if we cut down the root, the branches will never grow again. That root is modern misconceptions. Krishna consciousness education helps us to become free from these serious misunderstandings and prejudices that lead to conflict.
I started by talking about how religion seems to be a cause of violence bet actually cause of violence is false ego, pride. Then we discussed difference between religion and spirituality. There is theory in science, there is philosophy in religion. Experiment in science there is religion in spirituality. So philosophy without religion is mental speculation. Religion without philosophy is sentimentalism or fanaticism. And then we discussed about how there are different levels of religion. Fear, desire are discussed about because they are at materialistic levels. They are self centered. And when we are self centered naturally there is conflict. And then we discussed about how once the Krishna conscious principles are understood then the goal is not to convert people from one religion to another. But it is convert them from lovers of matter to lovers of God. And we share Krishna consciousness not because we think it’s the only way but because it is the easiest way with Krishna mercy. But the principle I talked about Krishna consciousness are universal. And people of other religion also appreciate and practice these and become better devotees of God by this practice. In this way we can understand that Krishna consciousness in principle can help us to remove this great menace of religion based communal violence.
Question: Christians say that Jesus is the only way, Muslims are saying that Mohammed is the only way, and we are saying the Krishna is the only way. Does Christianity, Islam and Krishna consciousness lead to the same destination?
Answer: No we do not say that Krishna is the only way. Let us understand.
Ultimately all these religions started by messengers of God. They lead to God. But they will not lead to God immediately. Going back to God is not a matter of affiliating with a particular path. We can’t even say that everybody who joins ISKCON will go back to Krishna. If everybody develops love for Krishna will go back to Krishna. Similarly the characteristic for going back to God whatever be the religion is developing love for God. So if in the Christian religion, if somebody develops love for God that person will go back to God. In the Islamic tradition, if somebody develops love for God that will person go back to God. Just like if I join the medical college, doesn’t matter which medical college I join. What matters is whether I learn the subject, develop the skills then I’ll get the degree. But still there will be some medical college which will have better teacher, better facilities, better environment and it will have better support systems for the students to study. But ultimately it is the students who have to study, and only then they will get promoted. And then they will graduate. So I’ll come to the point, we don’t say that Krishna consciousness is the only way. There are many colleges, there are many hospitals. What we are saying is in Krishna consciousness, the support systems are many. We have very clear philosophical understanding, we have very powerful process of self transformation, we have very clear conception of spiritual world that is given, a very attractive conception of God. So all these are support system, but ultimately we have to purify ourselves. We have to transform our hearts.
And why some religions do make these kind of statements that ours is the only way. That is basically not a eternal truth, that is a statement given for creating a focus. Just like if a patient goes to a doctor and says, doctor I am sick. Doctor say take this medicine. But you know doctor I had gone to that doctor, and he told to take that medicine. And I have to gone to that doctor also. He told to take that medicine, and I have gone to that doctor also. He told me take that medicine. Doctor says, forget everybody else, just take this medicine to get cured. That doesn’t mean he is saying that all other doctors are false. Purpose about this is to create a focus. Take medicine and get cured.
Srila Prabhupada was also asked one time, Swamiji your philosophy sound like the philosophy of Buddha. So Prabhupada asked, do you follow Buddha? Purpose is follow Buddha, follow Jesus, follow Krishna, follow someone, don’t just talk. This talk, it’s just like going to a doctor and talking with the doctor but never taking a medicine. How will the person be cured. So it’s a difference. Sometimes some statements like this are made in some scriptures, but if you look at the overall message that is given, we understand these statements are primarily given to create a focus. But if somebody follows the universal principles properly that person will go back to God.
So common people how should they know what they should do? Actually speaking I just like going to doctor. How do I decide when I go to a doctor. I have to go to the doctor and see whether he make sense. Ok, whether what he is saying make sense. If I have say pain in my stomach. Doctor say you have to do surgery of the leg. Doesn’t make sense. So like that if we go to some spiritual path, the philosophy should make some basic sense. You need to have some basic intelligence. So faith should have two characteristics- sensible and verifiable. Sensible means before I go to doctor or before I started the treatment I evaluate what the doctor says make sense. And after that I start taking the treatment and see whether I feel better. If I don’t feel better, then no need to take the treatment. If I feel better then I come to the treatment. Ok, I take the treatment and I find that I am feeling better.
So that way we start practicing and we find if it help you to become better. If it does than I continue that. That’s how we can learn. So people have to have some basic understanding and that’s why in general people should follow a spiritual path that involves some education. Otherwise we just go to a temple or a mosque or a church and just fold hands and do some sort of worship and come out, then people don’t get education. And they don’t know whether they are doing right or wrong. That’s why philosophy does it make sense and religion it is a practice that enables us to verify whether this is right or wrong. Does it make sense, does it work? This is what we do if we go to a doctor. Same way applies to spirituality. Does it make sense, does it work?
Question: We go to holy places we find that they have just become highly commercialized? So what should we do?
Answer: That’s why scriptures say that the primary purpose of going to holy places is to associate with the devotees and hear from the devotees.
yat tīrtha-buddhiḥ salile na karhicij
janeṣv abhijñeṣu sa eva go-kharaḥ
If someone thinks that the purpose of holy places is just to take a bath over there or just ring some bell over there rather than to meet man of transcendental knowledge then the person is no better than a cow or an ass. That’s why we need to go in association of devotees. We should certainly go because there are spiritual vibrations in these places that can be very powerful to inspire and transform us. But at the same time there is no doubt that there is commercialization of things that has happened and we need to be aware of it. Yes there are these people and that just because these people are just materialistic and they just want money and for them God is just a business, that is a common possibility.
Another possibility is also that in the past there was a proper cultural arrangement by which those who are devoted to God they are also taken care of. Now there is no arrangement like that. Traditionally, whenever there is a temple there has to be worship. There has to be a priest, who do all the worship. How would the priest be maintained? The idea was that there will be lot of land which the wealthy people will donate to the temple. And on that land there will be grains which will be grown. And those grains will be offered as bhoga to the deities. And there is income from the land that would be used to take care of the temple expenses as well as those of priest who is worshiping in the temple.
Donations will come but donations are never reliable. And this will be not just a occasional donation but a permanent sort of donation. And this is the way not just in India, all over the world religions have been going on. When India became independent, the government decided that we will have a land settlement act. That nobody can own land beyond a particular quantity because they want to break the feudal landlord system. So that was fine. Landlord were having huge amount of land. There were people working like slaves. But when the government made this rule, they brought the temples under the settlement act. But they did not bring the mosque and they did not bring the churches. So for generations, from millennia families of priest who were devoted to worshiping the God, suddenly they had no means of income. So what to do? Some of them just left the priesthood and then went into other professional fields. Some of them stayed in priesthood and tried to live whatever they could. And many of these priests were married. They have their families. They have to take care of them. But they also wanted to devote themselves to God. And some of them are unfortunately started to extract money from the pilgrims, not to preach them, but just to extract money from them.
We have to understand that some of these people who make a business out of religion they are victimizers. But many of them are also victims themselves. Srila Prabhupada did not want to share Krishna conscious philosophy by writing books or giving talks. He wanted to create a culture. And when the culture is created then these sort of anamolies can be avoided.
Question: Now people wanted to care for God? How should we inspire the people?
Answer: In general especially for people who are intelligent or educated or even the people who think that they are intelligent and educated fear doesn’t work. Fear is useful but that is not basis for inspiring people to come to ISKCON, especially those who are intelligent. Bhagvatam does talk about the sufferings for those who are sinful. But that was not the emphasis of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Srila Prabhupada did not say if you don’t worship Krishna you’ll go to hell. He always emphasized, we are not the body we are the soul. Why you are wasting your time in illusory pleasures. So we need to provide education to people. And some people will take education. Many will not. But it is our duty to provide education. And if you provide, there are significant number of people who are searching for truth. And they will get attracted. So our focus should be to inspire people towards duty and towards love and that will happen through education.
Thank you very much. Srila Prabhupada ki jai. Gaura bhakta vrinda ki jai. Nitai Gaura premanande. Hare Krishna.