Devotee: Very interesting article, but it created some doubts in me. Does God not reveal his teachings in many places simultaneously?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: There is no such statement in the revealed scriptures (śāstras) that Viṣṇu/Kṛṣṇa (God) reveals His teachings in many places simultaneously. When it is mentioned that religion is taught according to time, place and circumstances then that is referring to bona fide teachers of eternal religion, like Śrī Rāmānujācārya and Śrī Madhvācārya and not upstarts like Mohammed, Jesus or St. Paul.
What is mentioned however is that in Kali-yuga many false doctrines and religions will sprout up all over the world. This pertains to false doctrines sprouting up in India such as māyāvāda, Buddhism, sahajiyāism, etc and in western countries this applies to paganism and the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) that are considered the religions of the mlecchas.
Devotee: I mean, other religions may not have the pure essence of Vaiṣṇava philosophy, but still they have some seed of real bhakti that can sprout and grow to some level.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: If they don’t have the “pure essence,” then it is contradictory to say that they have “some seed of real bhakti.” Pure essence and the seed of real bhakti are synonymous. The “seed of real bhakti” is the intrinsic knowledge of who God is and what our eternal relationship with Him is. The real seed of bhakti is not a hazy or unclear conception. Because Christianity and other Kali-yuga religions have no clear conception, they cannot develop in any useful manner. Nor does God appear or send his bona-fide representative to teach a hazy conception, unless it is for the purpose of deluding the atheists such as in the case of Śaṅkarācārya.
Vaiṣṇavas reject the teachings of Śaṅkarācārya as irreligious even though Śaṅkarācārya was Śiva (a great devotee). So even if we did accept Jesus as a representative of God, because the teachings of Christianity are vague and imperfect, we reject them as having no practical application. For example, in the past 2,000 years it has not been possible for Christians to understand who God is or even what the soul is or anything about reincarnation, etc. That means that even after practicing Christianity for a lifetime, a Christian still dies in ignorance and goes to ‘Hell’ for his sins. The idea that Jesus died for one’s sins and one is thus eligible to enter Heaven and live eternal life is a man-made idea, an idea created by Paul to get easy followers. Such an idea is not a reality.
Devotee: The idea that all manifestations of religion other that pure bhakti are only creations of the mind seems too radical to me.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: This may be a radical idea, but it is also a historical fact. Christianity developed from a Jewish heresy and was mostly fabricated by Paul. Judaism had received its scriptures and religion (monotheism) from the Persians (Zoroastrians) and Zoroaster had been rejected from Vedic civilization for concocting a heretical philosophy (this is mentioned in the Ṛg Veda). Starting with Zoroaster one mental concoction simply gave birth to another mental concoction and the end of such mental concoctions is nowhere in sight – especially as concerns Christianity. They go on concocting ideas such as salvation thru Jesus, purgatory, virgin births, Heaven, Jesus is God, inventing scripture, etc — none of which are anything less than a mental concoction.
The history of Christianity reads something like this: Jesus was a Jew, Christians were Jewish heretics, after killing off all Gnostic Christians and other sects of Christianity, the Orthodox church reigned supreme, Roman Catholicism crushed the Orthodox Church and killed any remnants of ancient Christianity and persecuted the Jews, Protestant Churches were the bastards of Catholicism, the Mormons are a Christian cult among the Protestants and Jesus is coming soon!
Devotee: I have translated one article by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who respects other signs of bhakti in other religions. According to the article of Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Swami Mahārāja, religions other than Vaiṣṇavism cannot lead their adepts towards God. Until now I was thinking that although these religions cannot give one, for instance mādhurya-rasa, still they allow one to make spiritual progress that ultimately will give that person the highest position.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: No amount of progress in ignorance gives one the highest position, not even after a million births. Without a clear idea of who God is and how to serve Him, one remains lost in the fog of misconception and wanders in the material world forever.
Devotee: Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written as follows:
“Sectarianism is a natural by-product of the Absolute Truth. When ācāryas first ascertain and instruct the Truth, it is not polluted with sectarianism. But the rules and regulations received through disciplic succession regarding the goal and the method of achieving it are changed in due course of time according to the mentality and locale of the people. A rule that is followed by one society is not necessarily accepted in another society. That is why one community is different from another? As a community gradually develops more respect for its own standards, it develops hatred towards other communities and considers their standards inferior. These sectarian symptoms are seen in all countries since time immemorial.”
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: The ‘sectarianism’ that Bhaktivinoda is speaking about is Christianity and Islam. The Absolute Truth is Vaiṣṇavism. Real Vaiṣṇavism is the Truth taught by ācāryas. Those ideas gradually become changed as in the case of Zoroaster and gradually become doctrines like Christianity that hate other communities.
We do not hate Christians, we hate ignorance and to defeat ignorance we preach the Truth. Christianity, on the other hand, has a horribly blood-stained history of killing everything and anything that they do not understand. Christianity is therefore sectarian, whereas Vaiṣṇavism or sanatāna-dharma is the eternal function of the soul (jaiva-dharma).
In the stage of being a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava one cannot make proper distinctions between real religious principles and māyā (illusion). The fact is that many devotees of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement these days have become stuck in the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī stage and are not making proper advancement. However, when one becomes situated in the stage of madhyama–adhikārī, by proper association and guidance, then one is able to discriminate between eternal religious principles and sectarianism such as Christianity.
Devotee: Bhaktivinoda continues as follows; “The religious principles taught by Mohammad and Jesus Christ are similar to the religious principles taught by Vaiṣṇava sects. Buddhism and Jainism are similar to śaiva-dharma. This is scientific consideration of truths regarding religious principles. Those who consider their own religious principles as real dharma and others religious principles as irreligion or sub-religion are unable to ascertain the truth due to being influenced by prejudice. Actually religious principles followed by people in general are different only due to the different qualifications of the practitioners, but the constitutional religious principles of all living entities are one.”
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: Bhakivinoda is speaking in such a way as to encourage the followers of sectarian doctrines such as Christianity and Islam to give up their limited concepts and recognize real dharma (Vaiṣṇavism). Bhaktivinoda is not condemning the followers of Vaiṣṇava dharma as sectarian for recognizing that Vaiṣṇava dharma is the eternal function of the soul.
Don’t forget that Bhaktivinoda’s opinion is (as stated in Tattva-viveka) that no intelligent person will accept the ideas of salvation thru the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus as Christianity suggests.
Text and commentary from Tattva-viveka by Bhaktivinoda as follows:
ādi-jāvāparādhād vai sarveṣāṁ bandhanaṁ dhruvam
tathānya-jīva-bhūtasya vibhor daṇḍena niṣkṛtiḥ
“Some say that due to the sin committed by the first living entity, all other living entities are therefore trapped in the material world. Thus God accepts punishment in order to deliver the living entities.”
Contemplating the virtues and vices of this world, some moralistic monotheists came to the conclusion that this world is not a place of pure pleasure. In fact, the sufferings are more than the pleasures. They concluded that this world was a prison house meant to punish the jīvas. If there is punishment, then there must also be a crime. If there is no crime, why would there be punishment? What crime did the jīvas commit? Unable to properly answer this question, some men of small intelligence gave birth to a very wild idea.
They said that God created the first jīva and had him stay in a pleasurable garden with his wife. He was forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Following the evil advice of an impious person, the first beings ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge, thus disobeying God’s instructions. They then fell from that place into the world filled with misery. Due to their offence, all living entities are also offenders from the time of their birth. Not seeing any other way to eliminate this offence, God Himself took birth amongst human beings, accepted all the sins of those jīvas who took shelter of Him, and then He died. Those that do not follow Him fall into hell eternally. Thus God punishes Himself in order to liberate the jīvas. An intelligent person cannot make sense of any of this (ei matati sahaja-buddhite ayatvā karā yāya nā).
janmato jiva-sambhāvo maraṇānte na janma vai
yat-kṛtaṁ saṁsṛtau tena jīvasya caramaṁ phalam
“They claim that the jīva’s life begins at birth and terminates at death. After death, he is not born again. Whatever activities that jīva has performed, he will attain the results at the end.”
To have faith in this mixed-up religion one must first believe these rather illogical ideas – the living entity’s life begins at birth and ends at death. Before birth the jīva did not exist, and after death the jīva will no longer reside in the realm of material activities. Also only humans have consciousness and other creatures do not. Only those with minute intelligence can identify with this (ei viśvasati nitanta saṅkīrṇa prajñār paricaya).
The jīva is not spiritual by nature. By His own will the Supreme Being created the jīvas out of dull matter. Why do jīvas appear in very unequal situations? These people cannot say. Why is one jīva born into a house filled with misery, another jiva born into a house full of happiness, another jīva is born in the house of a devotee and another living entity born into the house of a demoniac atheist? Why is one jīva born in a place where he is prone to perform good acts, and become pious? Why is another jīva born in a place where he is encouraged to perform sinful acts and becomes wicked? They cannot say. In this way it seems that God is irrational (īśvarake avivecaka balite haya).
Why do they consider that animals have no consciousness? Why do birds and beasts not have consciousness like humans? Why do the human only have one life, and due of their actions in that life must attain eternal heaven or eternal hell? One who believes in a compassionate God will find this system totally unacceptable (e viśvas udayamaya īśvarānugata lokera pakṣe nitasta agrāhya).
Devotee: I feel that religion has different levels and presenting everything only in black and white does not convince me. I hope that nobody will crucify me if I write that there were many really exalted and wise persons in other traditions, like St. Francis, Tolstoy and many others.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: If you consider St. Francis or Tolstoy as “really exalted” then you must be prepared to recognise that India has millions of such exalted persons. In fact, even the rickshaw drivers in Vṛndāvana, Māyāpura and Jagannātha Purī are thousands of times more advanced than either St. Francis or Tolstoy. There are million and millions of people in India who know Kṛṣṇa is God. They know about reincarnation, vegetarianism, karma and other Vedic knowledge.
Holy places like Haridvāra, Hṛṣīkeśa and Badarinātha have produced thousands of saintly personalities equal and greater than Jesus or John the Baptist, but the only difference is that their followers did not forsake them and crucify them. Even an average ‘good Hindu’ is hundreds of times greater than Jesus and what to speak of Vaiṣṇavas like Vāsudeva Datta, who are considered thousands of times greater and more magnanimous than Jesus. So why then are a small handful of persons from the western mleccha civilisations, who have only meagre knowledge of God and the purpose of life, being considered really exalted? The answer lies in that even after coming in contact with Vaiṣṇavism, it is difficult for some devotees to give up their previous misconceptions and religious bias.
Devotee: Of course, they were not on the level of Haridāsa Ṭhākura but there is such a thing as gradual progress and they were on high moral and ethical level and were thinking a lot about God, so maybe in future lives it will be more easy for them to get to this high level of bhakti.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: Not only were they not on the level of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, they were not even on the level of the average Hindu housewife who is strictly vegetarian, who follows Ekādaśī and who worships Bala-Kṛṣṇa every day.
Among the mlecchas, comparatively speaking, St. Francis and Tolstoy may have been above average but when compared to the standards of spirituality in India, they were far below average. When you stop to think about it, in the era of St. Francis and Tolstoy, even so-called educated people in Europe didn’t know how to clean their backsides after passing stool or to take a daily bath.
Devotee: Although Narasiṅgha Mahārāja`s article is interesting, my heart is much more moved by this dialog of a Christian with Śrīdhara Mahārāja, ‘Beyond Christianity’ from the book, ‘Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Reality the Beautiful.’
In the following conversation, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja compares theistic beliefs with some Christian students from America.
Christian: Can you explain the Vaiṣṇava viewpoint of Christianity?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Christianity is incomplete Vaiṣṇavism; not full-fledged, but the basis of devotional theism. We find the principle of “Die to live” there to a certain extent, at least physically. The Christians say that the ideal shown by Jesus is self-sacrifice. In our consideration, however, that is not full-fledged theism, but only the basis. It is an unclear, vague conception of Godhead: “We are for Him.” But how much? And in what shape, in what attitude? All these things are unexplained and unclear in Christianity. Everything is hazy, as if seen from far off. It does not take any proper shape. The cover is not fully removed, allowing us to come face to face with the object of our service. The conception of service to God is there, and a strong impetus to attain that, so the foundation is good, but the structure over the foundation is unclear, vague, and imperfect.”
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: Yes, Christianity is imperfect, vague and unclear as Śrīdhara Mahārāja has mentioned. If you knew Śrīdhara Mahārāja, then you also will know that when something is unclear, vague and imperfect that it cannot lead to perfection. Śrīdhara Mahārāja was also fond of saying that, “No amount of ignorance can produce knowledge. No amount of darkness can produce light.” Only pure bhakti can give pure bhakti, therefore one must give up all cheating man made religions as adharma or unfavourable for the cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and take complete shelter of jaiva–dharma, the eternal religion.