Other Religious Traditions
by Laxmimoni dasi
Thanks for your question. There are many different names of the Supreme Lord. Krishna is one of them; it means "He who gives the highest pleasure and is all-attractive." Certainly God has these qualities in any religious tradition. Whatever religious tradition helps one to develop a loving relationship in service with God is good. One may sincerely and diligently follow any bona fide religion and make spiritual progress.
On the other hand, Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, as well as many others, are demigods. They are assistants to the Supreme Lord. Brahma and Shiva help by creating and destroying the material creation. It is explained in the Bhagavad Gita, as well as in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that Krishna is the source of all demigods. And Lord Brahma himself, in his Bramha-samhita, states, "ishvara parama Krishna. . ."the highest supreme controller is Krishna. From Him everything else comes."
Is Islam against the worship of God's Deity form? If so, why? Doesn't God reveal Himself according to time, place, and people's desire to know Him?
by Laxmimoni dasi
As you said, God arranges for His worship according to the level of spiritual understanding of the worshiper. Actually the Deity appears to us because of Krishna's kindness so that we can engage our natural propensity to serve a loved one with nice material things - jewelry, silk, nice flowers/scents, good food, music and dance – because by using these things in the service of God we can become purified of material desire.
If one is afraid of a personal relationship with God or perceives Him as one without a form, just an energy, then what does he need the Archa Vigraha (worshipable form of God) for? He can simply think of a formless God. But then it is more likely that such a person will simply use material things for his own sense pleasure and fall down from his spiritual practices. But Krishna is so kind to His devotees, who know that He is a loving person, that He offers them opportunities to render personal loving service to Him by coming in His Deity form.
Thanks for your question. Jesus Christ gave his life to preach God consciousness. In that sense, as Krishna's pure representative, he is as good as Krishna. But Jesus is the Son of Krishna, so in that sense they are different!
No need to worry. You can worship both Ganesha and Shiva as assistants on the path of worshipping Krishna. They will certainly not be offended if you realize their true position and seek their help, association and guidance in becoming a perfect devotee of Lord Krishna.
Also Srila Prabhupada said that Ganesha can remove the obstacles on that path of Krishna consciousness. For this purpose, many Vaishnava temples—especially in India—feature forms of Ganesh at their entrance.
However, occasionally, especially when he saw that others were being misled, he spoke out strongly. I have pasted an article that Srila Prabhupada wrote for a newspaper, in response to an article that was written regarding something that Satya Sai Baba said. I think this article will explain Srila Prabhupada's feelings in regards to your question.
(the following is an excerpt from Transcendental Diary, Volume 4, by Hari Sauri dasa):
Pradyumna prabhu had a lengthy meeting with Srila Prabhupada this afternoon to finalize his reply to the Blitz article on Sai Baba. Pradyumna read from the opening paragraph of the article which was entitled "God is an Indian." "'His contemporary avatara rests in the trinity of Sirti Baba, Sai Baba, and Prem Baba to come. So Satya Sai Baba, the second of the triple incarnation, asserted in the course of a marathon interview to add, 'In my present avatara, I have come armed with the fullness of the power of the formless God to save humanity.'"
Srila Prabhupada dictated the outline of the letter to Pradyumna:
"'Dear Sai Baba, just recently in the Blitz paper, published on—give the date—we were surprised to find one article "God is an Indian." And you have claimed to become an incarnation of God to save the human society. What is the ground of your claiming as incarnation? And what you have done to save the human society? Will you explain for enlightenment of us, or many of us.
"We have got the list of incarnations recorded in the Vedic scriptures and their respective activities also. So where is that record in the Vedic scripture about your appearing as incarnation? Lord Krishna's incarnation-ness is fully described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Similarly, Lord Ramacandra's incarnation-ness or Lord Buddha's incarnation-ness, Lord Caitanya's incarnation-ness, we have got full information in Vedic literatures. Where is your incarnation described? Will you kindly give the reference?
"Anyone can say, like you, that one is an incarnation, as it has become a fashion nowadays. But is that claim the only proof of one's becoming incarnation? Some such unauthorized claim of becoming an incarnation is certainly ridiculous. Then you have claimed to take form. . ."
"What he has written?" (Srila Prabhupada asked)
Pradyumna re-read Baba's claim to being an avatara "armed with the fullness of the power of the formless God."
Prabhupada continued. "'So you have claimed to take a form of the formless God. But we see in the Bhagavad-gita that God is never formless.'"
He had Pradyumna read out verse 7:24 from the Gita, and its purport. Telling Pradyumna to quote the verse in the letter, along with a quote from Yamunacarya found in the purport, Prabhupada went on with his dictation:
"'Only the rascals and less intelligent class of men think that God is formless and when He incarnates, He takes a particular form.... So in this connection, the statement of Bhagavatam is especially important. Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate. Brahman is impersonal, Paramatma is localized, and Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.'"
Voicing aloud Prabhupada's statement as he wrote it down, Pradyumna repeated, "Brahman is the impersonal..."
Prabhupada immediately corrected him. "'Brahman is impersonal.' Not 'the.' 'Paramatma is localized, and Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.'"
"'So one has to accept the statement of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, how He is originally the purusa or person,'" he said. "'Impersonal Brahman is expansion of the rays of His personal body, exactly like the sunshine is expansion of the rays of the sun-god Vivasvan. Vivasvan is a person in the sun globe and Krishna is also a person who spoke the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita long, long years before He spoke the same to Arjuna. Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam.
"Therefore, the conclusion is that originally God is always a person. Impersonal Brahman is emanation from the personal God. In other words, God, personal God, is not from impersonal Brahman; but impersonal Brahman is from the personal God. That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita. Impersonal Brahman is resting on the personal God, exactly that illumination of light is resting on the electric bulb, not that the bulb is resting on the illuminated light.'"
Again quoting from the Gita, Prabhupada came to a very pointed conclusion:
"'So Krishna, as a person, says to Arjuna that both of them existed in the past as person, and they'll continue to remain person in the future. So without knowing all this knowledge, a mudha accepts the incarnation of God as coming from imperson, avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam. Under this heading you have proved yourself to become a mudha ('ass'). And how a mudha or an ass can become the incarnation of God?'"
Not content with that, Prabhupada asked Pradyumna to read the rest of the article to him.
Pradyumna squinted through his glasses at the paper and read out a declaration by the writer of his acceptance of what he called "the avatara concept which broadly means the descent of the divine principle into human affairs." Reminding the reader of Lord Krishna's descent to save humanity, the writer declared: "Solution and cure to world's ills: To Baba's devotees, the avatara has similarly come to provide both the solution and the cure to a world living in terror of a nuclear holocaust. The false dichotomies created by Western thought between God and man, purusa and deva, simply do not exist in the Indian scriptures, which prescribe the assimilation of God in man and man in God as the basis of religion."
Prabhupada was disgusted. "This is another rascaldom. God is always distinct from man."
Pradyumna said that Sai Baba made a similar quote himself, later in the piece. He read it out: "God is man and man is God. All of us have something of God, the divine spark, within us. All men are divine, like myself, with the spirit embodied in human flesh and bone. The only difference is that they are unaware of this Godhood."
Skipping to another section of the article, Pradyumna went on, "Here he says, 'The mission of the present avatara is to make everybody realize that since the same God or divinity resides in everyone, people should respect, love, and ...'"
Prabhupada cut in. "No, no. If he resides in everyone, then why he has special claim?"
"Yes. Well, he says he has remembered."
"He remembers?" Prabhupada asked. "How God can forget?"
"That he says here. He says that, 'Take paddy or rice by way of an illustration. Every grain of rice is enclosed in a husk. You have to remove the husk to get the grain of rice. Now husk and rice both come from the same seed. Rice is the quivalent of God in man.'"
"But still husk is not rice," Prabhupada said. "You cannot say husk is rice."
Nodding in agreement, Pradyumna read on. "He says, 'Rice is the equivalent of God in man, while the husk can be compared to desire which reduces God to man.'"
Prabhupada sat shaking his head. "No, no."
Pradyumna finished the quote: "Therefore life plus desire equals man. Life minus desire equals God."
Prabhupada dictated the concluding words of his letter:
"You are desiring to become God. There cannot be no desire. But you're unceremoniously desiring to become God. Although there is no proof in the shastras ('scriptures'). In the Bhagavad-gita it is accepted that the living entities are sparks of, part and parcel, of God, Krishna. But part is never equal to the whole. So you can claim as a spark of God, as every living entity can claim, but you cannot claim as the Supreme Person with full power. That is misleading. You can show a little magic, as other magicians also can show, but you cannot show the full magic, as Krishna displayed or Lord Ramacandra displayed. Therefore, your claim as a full power is completely false and blasphemous."
Pradyumna stopped writing and looked up, raising a point of his own, "Now someone may bring up a point, they say 'Well, if an avatara comes if he must show all kinds of great opulences and powers.' Then he says sometimes the incarnation shows this, but sometimes, like when Lord Caitanya appeared He didn't show visvarupa ("universal form") or..."
Prabhupada replied. "But He [Lord Caitanya] never claimed that 'I am avatara.' But we understand from the sastric evidence. He never claimed. Rather, when He was addressed as Krishna He blocked His ears, 'You don't say like that.' He never claimed. He fully displayed Himself as a devotee, not Bhagavan. Therefore gaurangavada is illegal; gauranga-nagari, that is illegal."
Familiar with the apasampradaya ("unauthorized school of thought") that Prabhupada was referring to, Pradyumna said, "Gauranga-nagari, mentioning Lord Caitanya in the role of Krishna dancing with the gopis..."
Prabhupada nodded. "In this way, find out the faulty statement and give him proof."
Leaving Prabhupada to chant quietly in the garden, Pradyumna typed the letter out and it was sent off to Satya Sai Baba.
This excerpt was taken from a diary of Srila Prabhpada's servant at the writing of that article.
I hope this is helpful.
The philosophy and practices of Krishna consciousness are based on the essential teachings of the Vedas, which ultimately direct one towards establishing a loving relationship with a single, personal Supreme Being. The terms "Hindu," "Hinduism," and "Hindu dharma" aren't found anywhere in Vedic literature. Rather, the origin of these terms can be traced to fairly recent history. Hinduism also generally defines the supreme truth as impersonal, and because it commonly includes the worship of demigods, it is often believed to be polytheistic. So although Hinduism and Krishna consciousness seem to have some philosophical and cultural similarities, they aren't the same.
Krishna consciousness is also known as sanatana-dharma, the eternal function of the self, which is the standard spiritual culture outlined in the Vedas. Everyone—whatever their nation of origin and whatever religion they may profess—has an eternal relationship with the Supreme Person, and Krishna consciousness is meant to revive that relationship. As such, Krishna consciousness is open to Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or anyone else wanting a better understanding of themselves and their ultimate source.
We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:
- Srimad-Bhagavatam, 12.3.32, Purport:
". . . the teachings of the Vedic scriptures will be distorted in this age. Great universities teach courses on Hinduism in which Indian religion, despite limitless evidence to the contrary, is described as polytheistic and leading to an impersonal salvation. In fact, all Vedic literature is a unified whole, as stated by Lord Krishna Himself in Bhagavad-gita ( 15.15): vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyau 'By all the Vedas I [Krishna] am to be known.' All Vedic literature is meant for enlightening us about the Supreme Personal Absolute Truth—Vishnu, or Krishna. Although known by many names and appearing in many forms, God is a single absolute entity, and He is a person. But this true Vedic understanding is hidden in the Kali-yuga."
- Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya-lila 25.121, Purport:
"When we are on the material platform, there are different types of religions—Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and so on. These are instituted for a particular time, a particular country or a particular person. Consequently there are differences. Christian principles are different from Hindu principles, and Hindu principles are different from Muslim and Buddhist principles. These may be considered on the material platform, but when we come to the platform of transcendental devotional service, there are no such considerations."
- Civilization and Transcendence, Chapter 2:
"First of all, the Vedic scriptures make no mention of such a thing as 'Hinduism.' but they do mention sanatana-dharma, the eternal and universal religion, and also varnashrama-dharma, the natural organization of human society."
- Civilization and Transcendence, Chapter 3:
"So far as the Vedic religion is concerned, it is not simply for the so-called Hindus. . . This [ Krishna consciousness] is sanatana-dharma, the eternal and universal nature and duty of every living being. It is for all living entities, all living beings. . .The living entity is sanatana, or eternal; God is sanatana; and there is sanatana-dhama, the Lord's eternal abode. . . the Vedic system is called sanatana-dharma, not Hindu dharma. . .
The very term "Hindu" is a misconception. The Muslims referred to the Indian people, who lived on the other side of the river Sind, as "Sindus"—actually, due to the peculiarities of pronunciation, as "Hindus." In any case, the Muslims called India "Hindustan," which means "the land on the other side of the river Sind, or 'Hind.'" Otherwise, "Hindustan" has no Vedic reference. . . "Hindu dharma" has no Vedic reference."
- Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 6:
"This word Hindu is not a Sanskrit word. It was given by the Muhammadans. You know that there is a river, Indus, which in Sanskrit is called Sindhu. The Muhammadans pronounce s as h. Instead of Sindhu, they made it Hindu. So Hindu is a term that is not found in the Sanskrit dictionary, but it has come into use. But the real cultural institution is called varnashrama. There are four varnas (social divisions)—brahmana, ksatriya, vaishya, and shudra—and four ashramas (spiritual divisions)—brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. According to the Vedic concept of life, unless people take to this system or institution of four varnas and four ashramas, actually they do not become civilized human beings. One has to take this process of four divisions of social orders and four divisions of spiritual orders; that is called varnashrama. India's culture is based on this age-old Vedic system."
- Journey of Self-Discovery, 2 "Beyond Religion":
"In our Krishna consciousness society there are many who were formerly so-called Hindus, so-called Muslims, and so-called Christians, but now they don't care for "Hindu" or "Muslim" or "Christian." They care only for Krishna. That's all. If you follow a false religious system, you suffer; but if you follow a real religious system, you'll be happy.
Unfortunately, the Indian people gave up the real religious system—sanatana-dharma, or varnashrama-dharma—and accepted a hodgepodge thing called "Hinduism." Therefore there is trouble. Vedic religion means varnashrama-dharma, the division of society into four social classes and four spiritual orders of life."
Do you believe in Jesus? How do Krishna devotees view Christianity? Is there a concept of hell in Krishna consciousness?
We accept Christ as the Son of God, as God's empowered representative on earth, but not as the sole representative who has ever come or will ever come. The Supreme Person visits this world in many ways. Sometimes God sends His son, like Christ, but sometimes He comes Himself, as Krishna or Rama.
We accept Jesus' statements that he is the Son of God because he was representing God by engaging people in worshiping God. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna also promotes the worship of the Supreme Lord. Jesus did make a distinction between himself and God the Father. We accept that Jesus and God are two distinct personalities, but because Jesus was acting purely in the interests of God the Father, they are one in spirit.
It's important to understand that there is only one Supreme Being, and that He is so inconceivably great that He is seen and known from many, many different angles of vision and described in different scriptures in different ways. We have the greatest respect for any teachings that bring one closer to a clear understanding and knowledge of the Supreme Person, with the goal of developing a mood of loving service to Him.
Vedic literature provides extensive descriptions of various types of hellish environments which are designed to reform the conditioned living entities' tendency to exploit the material world unrestrictedly. More information on that in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Hell exists, but it's not eternal. For a limited number of sinful acts, a limited length of time in hell is given. Then one gets another life to try again.
If you have faith in Christ, do you think he would say that you would go to hell? We also disapprove of idol worship. We make very clear distinctions between idol worship and Deity worship. When one imagines a form of God and worships that according to his imagination, that is 'idol' worship. When God says in scripture that if you make a form of Me using these substances and worship according to these directions, I will reveal Myself to you through the medium of the Deity. That is Deity worship.
Srila Prabhupada explains that Deity worship is authorized by God while idol worship is not. He uses the analogy of the mailbox. If you put mail in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox it will go to the destination. If you make your own box, and paint it red and blue and write 'U.S. Mail" on it, the letter won't go anywhere, because the box is not authorized by the postal service.
Catholics generally have fewer problems with the concept of deity worship than Protestants since in that tradition the form of Christ and those of the different saints are seen as spiritual and worshipable. Some Catholics are surprised by the similarities in the traditions. The Eastern Orthodox Church is also similar but they call their worshipable forms "Icons" rather than deities. In Sanskrit such forms are called ‘murtis’.
It could be argued that the Ark of the Covenant—which carried the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s staff, and holy manna, and was protected by angels—was also spiritual and therefore worshipable, like a deity. We consider scripture to be as worshipable as God.
The Supreme Person sends many avatars—incarnations and prophets—to earth. Depending on the audience, different prophets and incarnations of God give more or less knowledge.
This is similar to how a math teacher gives different knowledge according to the grade level of the students. Beginning math has just numerals and symbols but advanced math, like algebra, employs variables represented by letters. Someone unfamiliar with algebra may protest, "What are these letters doing here? This isn't math!" But what they're seeing is only a higher level of math than what they're used to.
For example, Buddha teaches how material desire is a cause of suffering. Krishna also teaches this in Bhagavad-gita. But Buddha did not teach about God, the soul, and their relationship because His audience was not as advanced. Buddha is an incarnation of Krishna, He knows everything, but He only spoke partial knowledge in order to reach His particular audience.
We so often see disagreement between religions due to a lack of understanding of this principle. God is one, but He is infinite, and can be seen from unlimited angles of vision. One thing all religions have in common is the idea of developing love for God as the highest goal of life. Religious people who are focused on this goal have less trouble accepting the validity of others' religious beliefs. Religious people who are focused on lesser goals are more likely to find fault with the beliefs of others, since their understanding of the essence of religion isn't as developed. This is known as the inability to see the forest for the trees.
As you'll find in more detail here, the word "Hindu" isn't found in Vedic literature. When we speak of Krishna, we're referring to the Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth, the ultimate source of all energies.
"Hindu" is a relative term referring to customs and beliefs of a portion of the population of Southeast Asia. It came into use in relatively recent history. The Supreme Person, God, isn't bound by time or space, so He can't be referred to as "Hindu," "Christian," or "Muslim."
Some believe the Absolute Truth to be ultimately impersonal, and that Krishna is merely a historical personality appearing in India to teach "Hinduism." In answer to this, Krishna Himself says in the Bhagavad-gita,
"Unintelligent men, who do not know Me perfectly, think that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme."
"They say Krishna is Indian or Krishna is worshiped by the Hindus and therefore He is one of the Hindu Gods; and they think that Krishna is saying, "Yes, I am the Hindu God. Yes, I am Indian." But He is like the sun. Why American sun or Indian? Nothing is American or Indian; that is all artificial."
—Krishna Consciousness, the Topmost Yoga System, 4
"Krishna is not sectarian. Krishna is not Hindu; Krishna is not Indian; Krishna is not African. Krishna is nothing of this material world. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, transcendental. Simply by knowing Krishna, one becomes immediately liberated and goes back to Krishna. . ."
— Srila Prabhupada, from a lecture given on Bhagavad-gita, 7.3 in Bombay on February 18, 1974