Why do insubstantial religious groups spread extensively and pure saints remain unknown?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: Sometimes we see some some religious teachings which do not have much deep philosophy or much substance. They spread very far and wide and other times pure devotional teachings, exalted philosophy does not spread far and wide. Why does this happen like that? Sometimes there are saints also, who are very advanced, but there teachings does not spread. Why is it like that?
Answer: In general there are brahmanical and kshatriya cultures. Brahmanas are more focused on cultivating knowledge and sharing knowledge. But the brahmanical culture does not shape or affect society in large way unless its coupled with kshatriya culture. If we see Buddhism itself was not a very wide spread religion till Ashoka took it up. Similarly Christianity was actually a persecuted religion till the Roman empire accepted it. In fact, that unfortunately roles were shifted and then Christian begins persecutors of other religion also.
What will bring about the joining of hands with Brahman and kshatriyas?
There are many factors and Prabhupada was asked what will determine that how far the Krishna movement was spread? Prabhupada said it depends on preachers. At one level we can say it is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s prophecy and will get filled. But then Prabhupada did not just let that idea of prediction lead to passivity. He focused primarily on practicing vigorously and sharing vigorously.
Religion can be understood by various perspectives like historical perspective, sociological perspective, psychological perspective etc. It sometimes happens that the social and cultural environments are such that certain ideas are taken up at a particular time. We cannot just say that Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur disciples we failures and Prabhupada was successful. That is true from an objective point of view, but there are factors involved. Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s disciples they went in 1930’s and at that time Europe was boiling up towards the war. Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur also departed and when the war took over, there no preaching possible over there. On the other hand Prabhupada came there. The hippies were already searching for spirituality and they were already interested in eastern form of spirituality. So it became easier. We can’t say just because the environment was suited that’s how it automatically happened. The environment is like the setting of the stage for a dance performer to come and dance. Even if the best stage set up is there, still if the dance performer is not excellent then the story is not going to be impressive. When we talk about socio cultural historical factors we do not deny necessarily the credit to special spiritual teachings. But we also acknowledge the role of other factors.
That way what to speak of other saints, Bhakti Vinod Thakur also did not preach all over India. Vishwanath Chakarvati Thakur’s realizations are so great in the Bhagavatam but then his commentary was practically unknown before Srila Prabhupada spread it. So how it happens? There have to be leaders who have to take up the preaching task vigorously. In this world what spreads is what is marketed, in today’s terminology. It’s not that purity has potency in terms of elevating a person upwards. Saint who has purity will go back to God. But that purity of the saint for it to reach people there has to be vibrancy for sharing that. Generally we will not see too many cases where the saints themselves get too much into creating systems for propagation. Some saints will do that but still they need the joining of hands with kshatriya or people of kshatriya mentality. Only when that happens then there is vigorous spreading.
If we look at the history of Islam or Christianity then we will find that St. Paul was a very resourceful person. He did a lot in terms of vigorously sharing Christianity, what otherwise would have ended up just as a sub religious group within Judaism because Jesus did not explicitly reject Judaism. He was born as a Jew and he rejected the ritualism within Jewism, but he did not rejected Jewism per se. But subsequent teachers, especially St. Paul, they propagated the teachings vigorously. So historically speaking we understand that it is the initiative of the specific leaders in terms of outreach that determines whether it will spread or not.
From the transcendental perspective we also understand that eko bahunam yo viddhati kaman. Krishna accommodates different people with their different desires and accordingly He provides different ways for spiritually elevating themselves also. At a transcendental level we see that if there are superficial religions that are spreading, what to speak of religions which are authentic originally but have superficial versions now. We may see even today that there are fake godmen who are cheating people but they become immensely popular. Why is that because we understand that from Krishna’s plan its kaliyuga and in kaliyuga one of the form of adharma is ‘adharma masquerading as dharma’. So in one sense because of the effect of ages, the sub religious principles will spread more. If the devotees preach vigorously then it can be countered.
Now we shouldn’t expect that pure devotion will lit the whole world on fire because if we see even in Vedic times it is not necessary that pure devotion was known to everyone. Maharaja Prachinbari is a religious king but he is saying oh! I have heard about karma kand, I have not heard about bhakti. That means we should not expect that shudha bhakti will spread far and wide to everyone. That has not happened even in the Vedic time. When we say it will spread in every town and village that means there will be people in every town who will practice. It’s not that everyone everywhere will be practicing. That cannot happen in kaliyuga and that has not necessarily happened in previous years also. But the facility for practicing Krishna bhakti should be provided to people. As devotee preachers we see that if people don’t have the facility that is our problem and if people don’t take up the facility that is their problem. We focus on providing the facility in a way that it is intelligible attractive to them. So because of various factors at different times different teacher become popular and some teachers don’t become popular, even if they have purity and potency.
Question: Can we say that Islam and Christianity are propagated as a part of kaliyuga?
Both are true. It is true they were revelations at that time but then they have become contaminated now. But that has happened in Vedic tradition also. We could say that even in the Vedic tradition the various updharmas that are there, they are distracting people but we don’t have to be very narrow about this in the sense that, even if there is mayawad, mayawad is taking people away from pure devotion but at a socio cultural level, not at the spiritual level, not at devotional level, but at socio cultural level even these fake gurus, even they may be in some ways preserving something which is conducive for Krishna conscious living. They may respect the cow, they respect the Deities, so as devotees we don’t have to be too negative. In one sense we can say that Christianity and Islam have the history of negativity to the Vedic path but they also kept the flame of God consciousness alive at some level and Prabhupada appreciated that.