Krishna.com Spring Fundraising Drive: Krishna.com is a non-profit organization that depends on your donations to operate. It takes (only) $6,500 each month to run Krishna.com's web department, with a dedicated staff of 5 people and dozens of volunteers, reaching more than 7 million households in 194 countries. Please join our family of supporters and give a donation to support this important project.

Religious Form versus Substance

0

One of our great predecessor gurus or acharyas, Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur who lived during the second half of the 19th till the beginning of the 20th century, analyzes religions as having both form and substance.

The form is the outer manifestation of the teaching in terms of it's appearance, special dress of practitioners, rules and regulations etc. The value or purpose of the "form" of the teaching is to deliver the substance or really the inner or esoteric purpose.One of our great predecessor gurus or acharyas, Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur who lived during the second half of the 19th till the beginning of the 20th century, analyzes religions as having both form and substance.

The form is the outer manifestation of the teaching in terms of it's appearance, special dress of practitioners, rules and regulations etc. The value or purpose of the "form" of the teaching is to deliver the substance or really the inner or esoteric purpose.

In our case as Gaudiya Vaishnavas, our goal is not Krishna or God, but love of Krishna: "Krishna prema" (where Krishna prema is Krishna is). All our practices (form) are meant to serve this ultimate goal. If that is forgotten or if the externals become ends in themselves than the real benefit of our practices is lost. (This is spoken about in Rupa Gosvami's [principle disciple of Shri Chaitanya] book "Upadesh Amrita" translated by our Prabhupada as "following the rules and regulations only for the sake of following them").

The religious arguments, and wars, and more extreme acts like suicide bombers etc, are all about quarrel over form, or the external aspects. On this level they have little to do with the true goal of the religion. The idea of my religion is right, all others are wrong is considered the most neophyte level of religion. We call that "Kanistha".

Kanistha means thinking only I, or my religion is correct. It is focused on God being only in my Temple, Church or Mosque, only in my scripture (or interpretation of scripture, i.e different sects) and only in my name of God. This is total black and white thinking and breeds intolerance and fanaticism.

We are encouraged to rise to the next or intermediate stage of "Madhyam" where we not only accept the existence of God in our place of worship, but we also give respect to the holy people who represent the tradition, the devotees of the Lord. We can appreciate the various religions on the basis of their purpose (substance) to know and love God, which includes everyone and everything as part of Him.

The Madhyam acknowledges the universal presence of God, makes friends with theistic people, shows mercy to the innocent by sharing their spiritual understanding, and avoids the envious or antagonistically atheists.

The highest grade practitioner, or Uttama (also called Maha-bhagavat) doesn't just follow the religious tenets, he is one with their purpose. He has realized the purpose of all religious scriptures, and acts out of his or her love for God.

Prabhupada describes this superlative devotee as follows: "But those who see everything in the Lord or everything of the Lord and also see in everything an eternal relation of the Lord, so that there is nothing within their purview of sight except the Lord...." are Uttama. "Such Maha-bhagavatas, or first-grade devotees, although moving amongst men, are not contaminated by honor or insult, hunger or satisfaction, sleep or wakefulness, which are all resultant actions of the three modes of material nature. Similarly, some of them are engaged in worldly dealings, yet are unaffected. Unless these neutralities of life are there, one cannot be considered situated in transcendence."

Such an exalted person thinks all others except themselves are engaged in the Lord's service. Sometimes such pure souls adopt the characteristics of the Madhyam devotee for preaching or sharing the truth with others. Why? Because from the perspective of the highest devotee, there are no problems, and everyone is engaged in the Lord's service. The Madhyam devotee however, see with the discrimination of the intelligence based on scripture, seeing the devotee, as well as those who are ignorant. So he or she wants to help others to awaken and creates a way to do that, usually through some religious structure.

However, this person never acts on the level of the neophyte fanatics who preach extremism and bring about havoc on the world scene. The extremists are often the loudest voices, and certainly the most fanatic and sometimes violent.

We can apply this test to any practitioner of religion to see if they are Kanistha (concerned only with form) or Madhyam (understanding the substance or goal), or Uttama (who have realized the purpose of scripture and confirm this by their actions).

Those who are only concerned with form can become dangerous elements as is currently evident in the world stage. Whereas those who are advanced and can understand the unity of all paths should be appreciated as the real progressive and broad minded persons. Of course it takes a more broad minded person to make these distinctions.

In our case as Gaudiya Vaishnavas, our goal is not Krishna or God, but love of Krishna: "Krishna prema" (where Krishna prema is Krishna is). All our practices (form) are meant to serve this ultimate goal. If that is forgotten or if the externals become ends in themselves than the real benefit of our practices is lost. (This is spoken about in Rupa Gosvami's [principle disciple of Shri Chaitanya] book "Upadesh Amrita" translated by our Prabhupada as "following the rules and regulations only for the sake of following them").

The religious arguments, and wars, and more extreme acts like suicide bombers etc, are all about quarrel over form, or the external aspects. On this level they have little to do with the true goal of the religion. The idea of my religion is right, all others are wrong is considered the most neophyte level of religion. We call that "Kanistha".

Kanistha means thinking only I, or my religion is correct. It is focused on God being only in my Temple, Church or Mosque, only in my scripture (or interpretation of scripture, i.e different sects) and only in my name of God. This is total black and white thinking and breeds intolerance and fanaticism.

We are encouraged to rise to the next or intermediate stage of "Madhyam" where we not only accept the existence of God in our place of worship, but we also give respect to the holy people who represent the tradition, the devotees of the Lord. We can appreciate the various religions on the basis of their purpose (substance) to know and love God, which includes everyone and everything as part of Him.

The Madhyam acknowledges the universal presence of God, makes friends with theistic people, shows mercy to the innocent by sharing their spiritual understanding, and avoids the envious or antagonistically atheists.

The highest grade practitioner, or Uttama (also called Maha-bhagavat) doesn't just follow the religious tenets, he is one with their purpose. He has realized the purpose of all religious scriptures, and acts out of his or her love for God.

Prabhupada describes this superlative devotee as follows: "But those who see everything in the Lord or everything of the Lord and also see in everything an eternal relation of the Lord, so that there is nothing within their purview of sight except the Lord...." are Uttama. "Such Maha-bhagavatas, or first-grade devotees, although moving amongst men, are not contaminated by honor or insult, hunger or satisfaction, sleep or wakefulness, which are all resultant actions of the three modes of material nature. Similarly, some of them are engaged in worldly dealings, yet are unaffected. Unless these neutralities of life are there, one cannot be considered situated in transcendence."

Such an exalted person thinks all others except themselves are engaged in the Lord's service. Sometimes such pure souls adopt the characteristics of the Madhyam devotee for preaching or sharing the truth with others. Why? Because from the perspective of the highest devotee, there are no problems, and everyone is engaged in the Lord's service. The Madhyam devotee however, see with the discrimination of the intelligence based on scripture, seeing the devotee, as well as those who are ignorant. So he or she wants to help others to awaken and creates a way to do that, usually through some religious structure.

However, this person never acts on the level of the neophyte fanatics who preach extremism and bring about havoc on the world scene. The extremists are often the loudest voices, and certainly the most fanatic and sometimes violent.

We can apply this test to any practitioner of religion to see if they are Kanistha (concerned only with form) or Madhyam (understanding the substance or goal), or Uttama (who have realized the purpose of scripture and confirm this by their actions).

Those who are only concerned with form can become dangerous elements as is currently evident in the world stage. Whereas those who are advanced and can understand the unity of all paths should be appreciated as the real progressive and broad minded persons. Of course it takes a more broad minded person to make these distinctions.

Combined comments from old site

Thu, 10/18/2007 - 04:25 — Radhikesh
Essence of religion

You have brought out so beautifully the essence of religion. 'Our goal is not Krishna but love of Krishna' - deep words. This is why the pure devotees do not even care for liberation such as salokya and are contend to serve the Lord wherever they may be and whatever situation they may be in. The gopis exemplified this highest perfection, for they wanted only the pleasure of Krishna.

The advanced souls can understand the unity of all paths. Krishna consciousness is all inclusive but also has exclusive traits in that it tells us more about God, the person and not just God, the Supreme.

Thanks once again Karnamrta Prabhu for filling our ears (karna) with nectar (amrta).

Your servant
Radhikesh das


Thu, 10/18/2007 - 00:07 — Navasi
Powerful!!!

Hare Krishna,
Karnamrita Das Prabhu,
Well, this is incredible, very powerful!!! Wow!
You were certainly in "your zone" when you wrote this!!!
I think we could all discuss this for the next century!
What you are saying here is so important!
It's so easy to get caught up in the "practice" "performances" and "presentations" of any religion, and that of course includes Krishna Consciousness.
You have very clearly stated the necessity of making a distinction between the actual substance of Krishna Consciousness, and the external "attributes" of it....
While the external attributes are certainly very attractive and everyone desires them, they are not, as you have clearly stated, the entire picture, nor the most important part of the picture.
They are simply "part" of the picture......
This is so wonderful, what you have written, I could discuss this with you forever.... I think of all sorts of things I'd like to say here, about this, and get your feedback on...
But, I'm not writing the blog, you are, and I'm just commenting, so I'll limit myself to only this much.
Thank you so much for this really great blog!
Love You,
Dear Karnamrita Prabhu,
Navasi Devi Dasi