Is ISKCON’s conception of God like the Abrahamic religion’s jealous God?
From Mrigank Sharad
The main ISKCON theory is that Krishna is the only enjoyer and all
others are to be enjoyed. This is the ultimate truth and those who rebel
against it , violate their essential ‘dharma’ and a bound to fall down.
This is nothing better than the portrayal of God as an envious frowning
master by the Abrahimic religions!
Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath
Question: In your Gita daily article, Krishna is not a jealous God, He is zealous God. You mentioned that in the western religions, it is talked about how the God there is depicted as jealous and that god approves the destruction of other Gods. So if the Bible and Koran and in the Abrahamic religions also the revelations are coming from god, then why do they depict the god as jealous. Are these revelations are fraud or how we understand that if are revelations, then they contain something which is not true.
Answer: It is not exactly not true, the point is that the Vedic culture gives a complete revelation in which there is a supreme God and there is s system of assistant administrative demi gods, and it is those gods they are real but they are not supreme. Whereas at the time when the Bible, the Quran or the Old Testament where this is spoken, now the word Bible is sometimes is used to refer to both, the old testament and the new testament, and sometimes it is referred only to the New Testament, So the old testament is the sacred book of the Jews, and the new testament is f often in short called as Bible is referred to as the book of the Christian. And Quran is of course is of the Muslims. So I will use the old testament, new testament and the Quran, Now they are spoken at a time when there was no system of demigod worship as it is talked about in the Vedic scriptures. So they were spoken in a socio cultural situation when people had a concocted the worship of many different kinds of Gods. that means they has personified manifestation of nature and they were worshiping that kinds of Gods. So the idea was that anything that seems powerful in nature m, let us worship that. And people are also, actually while it is natural for people to worship some higher being, but it is not natural for everyone to be philosophical enough to be discriminating enough to understand who the ultimate object of worship is. So by some folk tradition, some populist superstition, certain things start getting worshipped. so for example, in the old testament it is described that when Moses was leading the people, who later came to be known as Jews, they have been slaves in Egypt, and when he was leading them towards the promised land of Jerusalem, at that time Moses had gone away from them for some time to receive the ten commandants from God, he had gone on top of a hill, and during that time the people took all their gold that they had and made into golden calf and start worshiping that, and Moses was infuriated on seeing this, that they just created, they some concocted some zoomorphic conception, zoomorphic means making an animal into a deity and worshiping that. And he smashed it and then he said, one of the commandments, “That thou shall not worship any others gods before me”. So the idea is that when people are having concocted conceptions of whom to worship and that is distracting them, not only distracting them , that is actually them far away , distracting means to just deviate, but to take further away from God, then that is undesirable . So what we need to understand is that the statements, rather than considering them as absolute truths , they are contextual truths. and there are also other statements, which also we will find in the scriptures. For example in the Quran itself it is said that there should not be any force in the religion, so the idea is that, if some other people are worshiping something else, you don’t have to necessarily destroy their forms of worship, or whatever. But in general , depending on the temperament of the people and especially the temperament of the leaders , certain sections of the scripture gets emphasized and certain gets deemphasized. so often the exclusive sounding statements, which are there in these scriptures have been emphasized, and the more inclusive types of statements have been deemphasized, and that’s why the prominent notion at present, within the Abrahamic traditions are at least within the conservative groups within the Abrahamic traditions is that, one cannot worship any other God and that’s they don’t have the conception of one supreme god assisted by other gods who are like ministers. They consider the other gods to be like competitors, and not just competitors, but they make it into marital bond and this is , wife should not have relationship with man other than husband[gn1] . so the idea is that god is the husband and we are the wives and to have a relationship with any other god is unchastely. So the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t talk of it in terms of un-chastity, it talks about it in terms of indiscriminating attitude, Kamai ……………….devata. So worshiping other gods , Bhagavad Gita does not say that it is sign of un-chastity, it says it is sign of unintelligence. Less intelligence. So that is the difference between the Vedic conception and the western Abrahamic conception, and because they do not have the conception of demigods within their tradition, because they are concocted god that they worshiped at that time, and because their leaders were focused on exclusivist sounding statements within the scripture, that’s why the notion of a jealous god has gained prominence within these traditions. Thank you.
Transcription: Sudha Mehta
Question: Is ISKCON’s conception of God like the Abrahamic religions jealous God?
Answer: Superficially the two conceptions may seem similar but there are huge amount differences. First of all the Bhagwad Gita 5.29 says
Boktaram yajna tapasyam
Sarva loka Maheshwaram
Suhrdam sarva bhutanam
Jnatva mam santim rchhati
so it is not Iskcon’s theory but Krsna’s statement. Krsna states “I am the enjoyer” and this is not only in one place this is 5.29 in the Bhagwad Gita then again in 9.24 he says
aham hi sarva yajyanaam
bhokta ca prabhur eva ca
na tu mam abhijananti
tattvenatas cyavanti te
so aham hi sarva yajyanam bhokta ca prabhur eva ca I am the enjoyer and I am the master of all the yajnas and na tu mam abhijananti one who do not understand this then what happens tatve natas cyavanti te people fall down.
So first thing this is not Iskcon’s theory it is Bhagvad Gita’s statement. The Two clear verses which talks about this “that God is the enjoyer and one who do not understand him to be the enjoyer falls down”.
Now moving forward if we look at the concept of God in the Abrahamic religions that concept of a jealous god is based on the presumption that there is one true god and then there are many false gods and that’s why even Moses at the beginning itself when he had gone upto the Mt. Sinai to get revelations then when he came down and he found that his followers were worshipping a Golden Calf and he bashed up that Golden calf and that began the tradition or that sort of activated a tradition, it might have been there before also, of “Icon bashing”. Often the triumph of the true God is by the destruction of the false Gods. Now the Bhagavad Gita does not recommend this. Bhagavad Gita says those who worship the other God’s are less intelligent and it is very clear in Srila Prabhupada’s teaching as based on the vedic scriptures that Prabhupada never ever recommended any kind of icon bashing like this. He said that we should also respect the demigods they are devotees and they deserve our respect. And Rupa Goswami very clearly states that one of the the sixty four items of devotional services is we should respect the devataas and disrespecting them is an offence to be avoided. So they are given due respect. That’s why firstly it doesn’t have one true God and other false Gods. There is one Supreme God and then there are assistant Gods. Now this is a fundamental difference in ontology itself. There is no similar concept of hierarchy of administrators in the Abrahamic religions
Now with respect to practice how do things work out? Actually the Vedic scriptures do say that there is Dharma, Artha, Kama Moksha. There is a progression and as long as one is living within the precincts of the Dharma then one can have Artha and Kama also but this is a gradual process of evolution spiritual evolution “ Bhaunam Janamanam ante” whereas there can also be a rapid process of evolution that can happen and the rapid process happens when “Sarva Dharman Paritajya Mam ekam sharanam vraja” so that is when one focuses purely on the principles loving and serving Krsna.
Now again in the Abrahamic religion the concept of loving God is quite amorphous although it is said that “ We should love god” But God himself is not revealed much and that is why how to love him? is not very clear in terms of Who God is ? How does he look? What does he do? and even the conception of heaven is more of people who are happily living there with their family members and heaven just is portrayed as continuation of earth earthly lives without its troubles. Infact Siosloves (Spelling to be confirmed) Siosloves is a famous christian theologian and in his famous Narnia series there is a metaphor of a very kind lion symbolic of Jesus and basically he says when they reached heaven they found that heaven was just like London. So this is a very simplistic conception “Heaven is just like London” that means that the heavenly life or life in the Kingdom of God is just like continuation of life here. Whereas Bhagavad Gita itself when it describes the spiritual world as bha sethe na suryo shyan kuna pavaka it describes the spiritual world in attractive terms and which are not set to resemble the what is seen in this world. There is a whole actual God centered life which in itself is very sweet and endearing that is described in the spiritual world and that is the highest aspiration that the Bhagawatam says which will satisfy our heart the most ye atma supra sidhati
At the same time the Bhgawatam also acknowledges that there are other lokas and the Bhagwad Gita also does and people can go to the other lokas also
Yanti deva vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad yajino pi mam
Bhagvad Gita 9.25
So Krsna acknowledges the reality and the validity and potency of other paths also.
This is not present in the Abrahamic religions so with respect to Sadhya and Sadhana the Abrahamic religions are monopolistic. There is only one God and there is only one path to that God Whereas the Vedic conception of God is not monopolistic. It is in one sense broad user friendly as I say in one article said “From your place at your pace join the race” so from your place and you may be at the level of karma, gyana, moksha, dharma, ashtanga yoga or Bhakti whatever from your place at your pace you can take the fast track quickly or your pace “Bhahunam janamanam ante” you can join the race so from your place at your pace join the race joint the race means advance towards going back to God. So they are very broad. Although there is one Supreme sadhya i.e Krsna along with that there are other Sadhyas also one can worship the devatas also they are real and they have power also though not the Supreme power similarly there is not only one Sadhana one path but there are many paths and the other paths also have the potencies but they do not have the Supreme potency.
And the idea in the Abrahamic traditions is that if somebody refuses to Worship God then God himself is vindictive and gives suffering whereas as per the Vedic understanding it is not that God has some agenda against someone who refuses to serve him God himself comes as Supersoul in the heart to help the souls to return back to him Supersoul does not cause suffering. This world is working based on the Law of Karma and God is simply a judge who gives us what we deserve based on our actions. God himself does not cause anyone suffering. He doesn’t not condemn people to hell so the envious jealous frowning God of the Abrahamic religions is the person who casts people into the fires of hell forever just based on just one chance but that is not the Vedic conception at all Actually Lord continues accompanying the soul life after life and keeps working and striving for the well-being of the soul. So if you look at the nature of the love as is revealed in the Vedic scriptures then that is also extraordinary.
The Lord is tireless in offering that love and by accompanying the soul continuously life after life also tell us that Lord is not jealous at all but zealous, zealous means he is tirelessly working to help people redeem themselves he accompanies as Super soul and he doesn’t punish anyone as Vendetta against anyone for refusing to serve him. He lets them act and choose their destiny as per their Karma. He tries to open the way for the best to study themselves by outlining and inspiring towards the path of devotional service. So there is a huge difference between the Abrahamic conceptions of God
And even I would even say that the Abrahamic conception of God is not necessarily clear understanding of God. Abrahamic scriptures have limited revelations and based on that a lot has been extrapolated by which the idea of jealous God has come up. But the jealous God is definitely not the conception of God as given in the Bhagavad Gita and is taught by the Krsna consciousness movement.
Now Rupa Goswami in the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu does talk about Krsna being a jealous lover but that is w.r.t a very high level of spiritual reality wherein that jealousy is actually positive and it is an indication of love and what that jealousy means is that Krsna wants our love and everything in the spiritual world is pure so just as the attraction between the Gopis and Krsna it is not as selfish or grossly material as is in this world. Just as there is pure lust, there is pure greed, there is pure anger as exhibited by Hanuman when he burned in Lanka like that there is pure jealousy also which is not based on trying to stamp out somebody’s existence or punish somebody for not loving it is just an expression of love. And that is with respect to part of lila in the spiritual world and that has got nothing to do with how he administers this world. Here he works with Zealous and tirelessly as Supersoul to guide the souls back to their Supreme destination.
Thank You. Hare Krishna.