Editor’s Note: Our article ‘Real Religion is Not Man-Made” received more responses than usual from our readers. Since the topic has stimulated such interest we have decided to answer some of the comments in this article.)
Question: Wasn’t there perhaps sincerity in some of these religions at the time when they emerged? God is omnipresent and, after all, a man in the desert who had some desire to know truth would experience an aspect of God’s beauty, power, love etc. He could feel that to be God and not yet know about Śrī Kṛṣṇa, due to his unfortunate karma of not being near a pure devotee. Does it mean that he has no realisation just because he doesn’t yet know about Kṛṣṇa?
Answer: Yes, he may have ‘realisation’ about Kṛṣṇa’s external energy and he may even develop a vague understanding of the impersonal aspect of God, but who God is, what is His personality and what are His characteristics will remain unknown to such a soul until he comes in contact with a bona-fide religious process – one given by God Himself and not created from the flickering mind of men.
Question: Can’t God manifest, at least incompletely, to some sincere souls, leading them ever closer to the most complete realisation and comprehension of Him?
Answer: The external energy of God sometimes works in that way and as a result one may adopt a more pious way of life. This in turn may lead to better association and a better quality of life. Then, after many such lifetimes, one may come in contact with real religion. In this way it is said in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta that after wondering throughout the universe for millions of lifetimes one, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, meets a bona-fide guru. And from the bona-fide guru one gets the seed of devotion.
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
“After being born and reborn again and again throughout the entire material creation, some fortunate soul may, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa and the guru, be given the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, 2.19.151)
Question: I used to be a practitioner of the Yogānanda path (Self Realisation Fellowship). In those days I sometimes meditated 2-4 hours daily, praying with all my heart at times to know God, to love God. Sometimes I felt great bliss. I felt it was God answering my prayers. When I met devotees and heard about Kṛṣṇa, I felt God had answered my prayers to know Him more completely.
Answer: Yes, I was a follower of Yogānanda also and I prayed to God to please guide me. The Supersoul (Paramātmā) guides the wanderings of all living beings – some are guided to the night-club and some are guided to the lotus feet of a pure devotee. It deeply depends on one’s desire. I know many followers of Yogānanda in California and they haven’t even adopted a purely vegetarian diet – so how much they have gained from their meditations is certainly a question, at least as far as I am concerned.
Question: I saw God in the sunset, the nature, rocks, etc. I knew nothing more, but I knew there was more, but I did feel an aspect of God’s presence. I believe that led me further on. I did not know Kṛṣṇa, but I was praying to Him and He answered even when I knew Him not. Is this not the position of some origins of religions too, at least some practitioners in them?
Answer: Some people say they saw God in LSD or in sacred mushrooms but all that is vague and incomplete. Kṛṣṇa also says that He is the shark (jhaṣāṇāṁ makaraś cāsmi) but no amount of association with a shark will make you Kṛṣṇa conscious. In fact, the shark will, sooner or later, kill and eat you! God is everywhere but to know Him we have to serve the pure devotees.
The so-called realisations of God in the environment are usually a product of the mind and are not actually realisations of God. The mind is one of the senses and one of the eight material elements. The mind actually has no power to realize God. God is realized in consciousness and not in the mind. Mind and even intelligence are material. Consciousness however is not material and can therefore perceive God when He chooses to reveal Himself. Self-realisation is a subjective experience and all that you have referred to above falls into the category of objective endeavours to know the truth. From objective endeavours a vague understanding of impersonal Brahman and a hazy understanding of the Paramatma may be reached, but not Kṛṣṇa.
It is a hard lump to swallow for many of us with Judeo-Christian backgrounds – but the fact is that Christianity is not a transcendental religion. As I mentioned in my previous article, for all the 2,000 years of Christianity, the Christians still do not know what the soul is. Understanding the soul is the first step in God realisation. Christians haven’t even made the first step in 2,000 years. They still think they are the body. Why? Because Christianity is a man-made religion. It is not bona-fide or transcendental.
Question: I think it is possible to appreciate good aspects of other faiths without watering one’s own philosophy down or creating some kind of rasābhāsa, although this danger is always there of course.
Answer: The principle to see the best in everything is indeed laudable and this is certainly true of the ‘romanticized ideal’ of Jesus. But herein lies the problem – what was the ideal of Jesus? Who was Jesus and what did he actually teach? As it turns out, there is no reliable source to answer these questions other than the Bible, which was created after the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. This council, convened by the Roman emperor Constantine and attended by 318 Church Fathers of the then loose-knit cult of Christianity, was motivated by political and despotic ambitions. At the council the divinity of Jesus (as good as God) was fabricated and any reasonable understanding or Gospel of who Jesus might have been (such as the views of Arian and the Gnostics) was henceforth driven into extinction.
When the Church fathers assembled at Nicea the council began with a punch out. The commonly accepted story amongst scholars is that Bishop Nicholas of Myra rushed across the hall and hardily punched Arian in the nose. Thus the stage was set – there was a preconceived doctrine to be put in place regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ and anyone who didn’t heed this doctrine would be dealt with in the strictest physical terms! For the past 1681 years the Bible has been delivered as ‘The Infallible Word of God’ on the end of a sword and now its being delivered on the end of a bayonet (cloaked in democracy).
Christianity began as a Jewish heresy, born from dissatisfaction with the status quo of Judaism and a need for change. Unfortunately, men and not God inspired those changes and for the past 2,000 years the same thing has continued – men are dissatisfied with the status quo of the Church and so they set about creating new reforms, new doctrines, new political alliances, new dogmas and New Age concepts. The plot thickens and the distance between superstitions about God and the Absolute Truth increases.
Many contemporary Vaiṣṇavas like to pick and choose what they want to believe about Jesus. In doing so they neglect the example of Jesus himself. For example: Jesus was a student of the Torah (the Old Testament) and Jesus says he came to uphold/fulfil the ‘Laws of Moses. But which Christian or proponent of Christ these days bothers to follow the laws of Moses? It was good enough for Jesus but they don’t take the trouble to follow it themselves.
The Laws of Moses, were given to Moses by the God of Abraham, Jehovah. Some may argue that the God of the Old Testament is actually Kṛṣṇa but this cannot be established from the texts itself.
In the Old Testament the two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, make an offering to God. Cain offers grains and the fruits of the land because he was a tiller of the fields. Abel offered slaughtered lambs to God because he was the herder of sheep. It is said that God ignored the offerings of Cain and only accepted the ‘blood’ offering of Abel! So how can any sane person say that this is the same God as Kṛṣṇa?
The Old Testament God is the God that causes famine to fall upon the Earth and among other atrocities causes his so-called chosen people (the Jews) to eat their own children. Here we find God speaking in the Bible, but how could anyone possibly compare this to the words of Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gīta?
“Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. The most gentle and sensitive woman among you – so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot – will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that your enemy will inflict on you in your cities.” (God spoke: Deuteronomy 28:53-57, also Lev 26:29)
And why does God bring this wrath upon his people?
“Because thou serve not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things.” (Deuteronomy 28:47)
The question arises, how can we love such a God, a God which Jesus himself revered in the Torah? The God of Jesus could not have been Kṛṣṇa.
And let us not forget the poor little witches of all ages (young and old) that perished under the tyranny of the Church. How did the Church get into such a morbid mind-set in the first place? Because it says in the Bible that witches exist and witches should be killed (“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!” – Exodus 22.18).
Here is a quote in that regard that was sent to me by a friend.
“During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so (Exodus 22:18). The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore, the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.” (Mark Twain, Poet/Author)
The simple fact is that although seemingly firm in their convictions about Jesus, most contemporary Vaiṣṇavas have not made a thorough study of the Bible or of Christian history. Their knowledge is mostly derived from romanticized hearsay, the propaganda of the Church or the propaganda of Church dissidents (New Age gurus in favour of Jesus being something different from the Church). That is to say that even the ‘ideal’ of Jesus is something that has been exaggerated and romanticized, but has no actual basis, other than having been borrowed from pagan and other much wiser traditions than Christianity.
If one studies the Bible objectively like many intelligent people have done, then an obvious conclusion is that today’s ‘Fundamentalist Christians’ are actually following the Bible! This means that the Bible was created with a fundamentalist mentality, whereby anyone who does not accept Jesus goes to Hell and witches and heretics should be put to death. In the past Christians performed many atrocities based on Biblical authority and the same ideal continues among the Christian right wing today. On the other hand, the liberal Christians have no authority for what they think the teachings of Jesus are, other than their speculations. They have no scripture to support their views.
Question: There are certain things that I have appreciation for in Christianity such as that Christians in general have a very clear understanding that they are not God. This gives them a much better position than the great amount of atheists, Buddhists and māyāvādī’s out there dominating the ‘spiritual’ scene in the West. Devotion to a personal God remains a central theme, and I think it is for this reason our ācāryas have spoken of Vaiṣṇavism as extended Christianity. I have yet to meet the first Buddhist who changed his outlook to Vaiṣṇavism, whereas Christians have done so in larger number. So, I do feel your statement, about it being unfortunate if one appreciates Christianity, to be rather strong.
Answer: I mostly disagree with your statement. In the first place Christianity is admittedly one of the main causes of atheism in the modern world. Christian dogma and Christians have done more to turn intelligent people away from God than Darwin and the host of scientists in his wake. In fact, some atheists are more God conscious with their ‘humanistic views’ than Christians with their Bible-banging rhetoric and lack of knowledge.
Furthermore, the Christians are māyāvādīs in that they say that the guru (Jesus) is God. As for Christians like the Mormons, their belief is that they themselves will become ‘gods’ and rule their own universe. And as for the early Christians, they are the one’s that took the divinity out of nature and declared themselves ‘Lords’ of the material world. Thus they are largely to blame for the environmental holocaust.
Christians may have an idea that God is a person but what type of person is their God? In their opinion, God has given them the right to exploit the material energy for their fullest enjoyment.
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
Ultimately every Christian believes in Heaven, but it is clear in the Bible that Heaven is on this Earth after the Day of Judgment and that the saved will inherit and enjoy the Earth. The idea that Heaven is somewhere in the sky is an idea that came into Christianity much later, after the time of Jesus. Early Christians were an apocalyptic cult that was awaiting the final battle between good and evil in which evil would be destroyed and they would inherit the earth after the Day of Judgment. Christians are still waiting for the apocalypse and the Day of Judgment – one has but to read The Book of Revelations to understand this fact or just tune into any Sunday morning televangelist program.
It is also a fact that since the alleged time of Jesus, every Christian generation has preached that they are living in the ‘End of Times’, that Jesus was coming within their generation to judge the living and the dead and to bring God’s kingdom to Earth. This is still the Christian worldview in 2006.
And what does Jesus say he will do on Judgment Day? Check this out:
“The son of man will dispatch his angels to collection from his kingdom all who draw others to apostasy (to reject Jesus), and all evildoers. The angels will hurl them into the fiery furnace where they will wail and grind their teeth.” (Matthew 13-41)
The success in preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the west has not been due to people having a favourable Christian background, but rather the success has been due to certain political doctrines (constitutions) in the west granting freedom of religion. Particularly there is the constitution of the United States (where Kṛṣṇa Consciousness got a foot hold in the west) that guarantees freedom of religion, but this doctrine was not the work of Christians – it was the work of Deists who made up most of the founding fathers of America. In fact, it was the fear of a Christian theocracy taking control in America that prompted the founding fathers to separate church and state.
You say that devotion to a personal God remains a central theme in Christianity and that because of this Christians have converted to Vaiṣṇavism in larger numbers, but I do not find this to be entirely true. Many of the devotees who first joined Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the 1960’s and 1970’s had practiced some sort of impersonalism, Zen, etc. Very few were practicing Christians, if any. The greater number of devotees from the west, who have converted to Kṛṣṇa Consciousness did so after rejecting Christianity and the materialistic culture that Christianity fostered. They rejected Christianity because of Christianity’s lack of knowledge of even the most basic spiritual points, because of Christian hypocrisy and because of Christianity lacking compassion for other living beings. The fact is that hardcore Christians rarely, if ever, convert to Vaiṣṇavism.
Question: I have been personally present when my Gurudeva spoke appreciatively of Christianity, and he did not do that just to be polite or for preaching purposes.
Answer: Yes, that may be the fact (the romanticised ideal is laudable), but according to Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and also according to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Christianity is not something that is desirable for a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura considers that some men of small intelligence gave birth to a very wild idea and that this is not acceptable to intelligent men.
“Some philosophers say that because of the first living entity’s sin, all the other living entities are imprisoned in the material world. Later, punishing Himself for their sins, God delivers the living entities.”
“Deliberating on the virtues and faults of this world, some moralistic monotheists concluded that the material world is not a place of pure happiness. Indeed, the sufferings outweigh the pleasures. They claim that the material world is a prison to punish the living entities. If there is punishment, then there must be a crime. If there were no crime, then why would there be any punishment? What crime did the living entities commit? Unable to properly answer this question, some men of small intelligence gave birth to a very wild idea. God created the first man and placed him in a pleasant garden with his wife. Then God forbade the man to taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Following the evil counsel of a wicked being (a snake), the first man and woman tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge, thus disobeying God’s command. In this way they fell from that garden into the material world filled with sufferings. Because of their offence, all other living entities are offenders from the moment of their birth. Not seeing any other way to remove this offence, God Himself took birth in a human-like form, took on His own shoulders the sins of His followers, and then died (was crucified). All who follow Him easily attain liberation, and all who do not follow Him fall into an eternal Hell. In this way God assumes a humanlike form, punishes Himself, and thus liberates the living entities. An intelligent person cannot make sense of any of this!” (Tattva-viveka)
One may also note that since many western devotees in contemporary times came from Christian cultures, that our ācāryas sometimes were generous in their statements about Christianity. But at the same time we may also note that they were very outspoken and direct about any concoctions within their own Indian traditions. Thus, it is for those of us from Christian cultures to speak out about Christian concoction as our ācāryas have done in speaking out against Hindu concoctions.
Question: I have some appreciation for the Christian monk Thomas Keating. For me he has many saintly qualities. I genuinely feel I am not mistaking ‘being nice’ for saintliness here. It is about displaying the qualities of saintliness as we know them from our Vaiṣṇava scriptures: tolerance, humility, devotion to God. He may not have the philosophical understanding of the Vaiṣṇava conception, but he displays certain qualities of a devotee to a much higher extent then so many followers of kṛṣṇa-bhakti that I know.
Answer: I have never met Thomas Keating but I have met several Vaiṣṇava paramahaṁsas, so I also have some idea about saintly qualities. As per my understanding, one may have ‘saintly qualities’ to some extent but without proper knowledge one is not actually a saint. If a person has no proper knowledge of the soul or of God then such a person is a neophyte (kaniṣṭha) and it is not possible for the neophytes to have ‘saintly qualities’ – that would be a contradiction
Thomas Keating, in your opinion, may have saintly qualities, but in fact so do many atheists such as the Dalai Lama or even Amṛta Mā for that matter. Mahatma Gandhi was also considered a saint (a saint among politicians, but a politician among saints). These personalities that I mention may have tolerance, humility and so-called devotion to God but the question is, to which God?
Of course, the Dalai Lama says there is no God. Amṛta Mā and others like Sai Baba say they are God, and all Christians (Thomas Keating included) say that Jesus is God or that the God of Abraham is God. The fact is that all the above are mistaken. Jesus is not God nor did he say he was and the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, was a pagan God (one of many) in early Judaism – not the monotheistic God that he is made out to be today. So without knowing who God is – then all the so-called saintly qualities one may have simply fall short of the mark.
Even if one blindly accepts that everything that Jesus taught is true still it does not compare to even a drop of the great ocean of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura put it this way:
“The highest morality taught by the noble Jesus does not come even near the principles of amorous love enshrined in the devotees of Kṛṣṇa.” (Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura – Interview with Prof. Suthers)
In addition to the above it is also a fact that India has produced thousands of sadhus over the past 2,000 years, having saintly character and many of them as great as or greater than the alleged Jesus – particularly since the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. As for the Vaiṣṇava literature (produced by the saints of India) that deal with the Absolute Truth and the ultimate goal of love of God – the Christian world has nothing to even slightly compare.
In the opinion of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, these so-called Christian priests (monks) are comparable to the Pūtanā demon. Christianity amounts to soul killing because it pats everyone on the back and tells everyone to just believe in Jesus, to be happy in this material world and then go to heaven to enjoy when they die – because Jesus died for their sins. There is nothing spiritual in such a conception. Christianity, when taken to task, has no spiritual knowledge or proper conception of Reality.
Question: I have been reading some writings of Christian mystics and some articles by Thomas Keating, and they convey a certain degree of realisation that goes much beyond what most people know of Christianity. They also seem to have developed good techniques for meditation, that have helped me in my own japa. I think more devotees could benefit from a better system for nāma-japa since, for the great majority of devotees, it doesn’t get very far beyond the level of chanting with a totally distracted mind.
Answer: The Christian mystics and others that you speak of were at best trying to reach God by the ascending process whereas what Bhāgavata devotee have to offer and what is given by your guru and the sadhus is coming down to us unadulterated and full of transcendental nectar – descending in paramparā. Those given to the ascending process can never know Kṛṣṇa nor do their processes actually enhance Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Only Kṛṣṇa Consciousness can enhance Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.
Since receiving your email I have also read some of the articles of Thomas Keating and in none of them did I find any spiritual knowledge that even remotely approaches the beginning chapters of Bhagavad-gītā. Keating often refers to parables and stories from the Bible and tries to squeeze out some truth – but alas he only comes up with some sentiment and an occasional sub-religious principle. In none of his articles did I find any information about the soul or who God is. Religion without proper knowledge is sentiment and knowledge without religion is speculation.
As for the ‘good techniques for meditation’ developed by Christians and the writings of Christian mystics, one should question from where these techniques and writings have come? Are they ‘God sent’ or simply the product of mental interpretations? I am highly doubtful that such techniques have any real applicability to Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Rather, I am of the opinion that such interests develop from our own anarthas and lack of faith.
If one is interested in ‘techniques’ to improve one’s Kṛṣṇa conscious sādhana, then our recommendation is that one should study the books of the Six Gosvāmīs and their bona-fide representatives.
External techniques are actually of no use in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism is built on three spiritual principles; śraddhā, śaraṇāgati and sevā (faith, surrender, and service). If one is having trouble controlling the mind while chanting or developing the qualities of a Vaiṣṇava then one should question one’s own sincerity. A wandering mind is due to anarthas and aparādhas and not because of a lack in technique.
We may say that people like Thomas Keating are sincere and have many good qualities, but what lies within, only God (Kṛṣṇa) knows. Kṛṣṇa directs the wanderings of all living beings throughout the universe and when a soul is sincere he directs that soul to the lotus feet of a bona-fide guru. So are we to assume that even though Mahāprabhu has come, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has come, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has come, Bhaktivedānta Svami Prabhupāda has come, Śrīdhara Mahārāja has come, Bhakti Pramoda Purī Maharaja has come and many other Vaiṣṇavas (all teaching and leaving their books behind to guide us) that Kṛṣṇa has just overlooked the sincerity and qualities of gentlemen like Thomas Keating – leaving them to fare for themselves in the shadow of the cross? Or could it be that beneath a veil of saintly qualities they remain envious of the Personality of Godhead and lack the sukṛti, due to their bad karma from previous lives, to recognize and accept Kṛṣṇa Consciousness? If that is the case, then we should learn from their mistakes and not from their literature.
A staunch disciple of Bhaktisiddhānta by the name of Sadānanda Prabhu was of the opinion that, “If a religion doesn’t even have a clear concept of what the individual ātmā is, what to speak of God, it is not worth the name ‘religion’ at all.”
Sadānanda Prabhu is also on record as having said to another Vaiṣṇava that, “If he didn’t like the razor-sharp distinctions in bhakti, he could return to his old mysticism.” “Mysticism,” he said, “appears only where bhakti is not present.”
(Note: Sadānanda Prabhu was the first person from a Judeo-Christian background [Germany, 1933] to embrace Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism and become a disciple of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. He was a strong preacher and as is evident from the above quotes, he gave up completely any sentimental attachments for Christianity.)
Question: People have an aversion to fundamentalism. Hardly anybody goes to Church here anymore, the old way just doesn’t work anymore. So in order for me to effectively preach Vaiṣṇavism, an appreciative view of the aspects of Christianity that are also present in our tradition is only helpful.
Answer: Yes, many people have an aversion to fundamentalism as you have mentioned but not all. There are over 50 million Christians in America who are hardcore fundamentalists (and they have the guns)! That’s a lot of people. These fundamentalist Christians, given the political authority, would imprison you and every other Hare Kṛṣṇa devotee in the world. In fact, wherever the fundamentalist Christians, Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians have the clout they use that to interfere with the spreading of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Russia, Serbia, Germany, USA and even India are places where this has recently occurred. Real Christianity is a religion of fundamentalism and fanaticism. It is not a religion of love or even of peace as the propaganda tells us. Throughout history whenever there has been a Christian theocracy, there has been repression, torture and death brought upon the people. Even Martin Luther, who stood up against the oppression of the Catholic Church, after coming to power himself brought about his own brand of repression and sanctioned the burning of thousands of so-called witches and heretics. In England, when the Protestants came to power, they persecuted the Catholics and when the Catholics came to power they persecuted the Protestants. Thousands of innocent people died! In Ireland this fight is still going on for the past couple of centuries.
Then there are the Muslim fundamentalists and they number in the many millions also. So to say that there is no market in this world for fundamentalism is not accurate. Fundamentalism may also be a good thing – it depends on what type of fundamentalism we are talking about.
Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is purified fundamentalism. The Absolute Truth (Kṛṣṇa) is the fundamental basis of Reality. To speak this conception directly (frankly and straightforward) and to point out that the cheating religions of the world are the principle cause of suffering may not be appreciated by the liberal left, but compromising the truth and becoming duplicitous is not the solution – it only serves to perpetuate the delusions of ignorance that Christianity has spread around the world for more than 2,000 years.
People should be informed that Christianity is a man-made religion and that because of such it has no real value for spiritual advancement. Preaching means philosophical war against ignorance. Truth will set us free!