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On Jesus Christ — Letters

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In the October issue of BTG, the “Yoga Dictionary” made a careless definition of Christ. It was stated, “The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ as the son of God, and the Vedic scriptures speak of Lord Krsna as God Himself. So Jesus Christ is the son of Lord Krsna.”

If this were actually so, why did Jesus not tell us that His beloved Father’s name is Krishna? It would have been so simple. And if the father and the son are one in purpose, why did Jesus not instruct His disciples to chant the maha-mantra as the way of salvation? It would have been less painful than dying on the cross as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins.

The answer to this confusion is very simple. There is obviously a misunderstanding of the actual meaning of “God’s son.” One would naturally assume that the distinction of “father” and “son” implied two different persons. This is true in the material sense of distinctions. But when one speaks of God as Father and His son, it is not material but spiritual.

Jesus answered this confusion of His disciples when Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9) Through the bodily form of Jesus Christ, God has revealed His true nature perfectly. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Col. 2:9)

If, as you claim, Krishna is God the Father, then He and Jesus would be non-different in their nature and characteristics. In fact, were we to place Christ and Krishna side by side, there would appear some obvious differences in essential character. The most glaring difference is that while Krishna claims to remain transcendentally aloof from the dilemma of human suffering and requires a relentless enforcement of karmic law, Jesus Christ willingly laid aside his equality with God, humbled himself to identify with human suffering, and gave himself freely to die for man’s sin so that all men might receive God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. (Phil. 2:5-11)

I have met many Krishna devotees who claim to be Christians. They all have this same confusion. The true answer of the Bible is the same for them as I have presented to you. Please be aware that you are leading many astray with your careless definition of Christ and Christianity. It is simply a vain attempt to maintain your so-called claim of nonsectarianism. I have studied Krsna conscious philosophy and the vaishnava bhakti writings. There are some rather striking similarities to Christianity, but Christ and Krishna is not one of them. Vaishnavism is Hindu, so you embrace Hinduism—at least admit that much. Then if you can stop deceiving yourself, you may be inclined to stop deceiving others.

Your servant in Christ,

Timothy A. James

Mt. Sterling, Kentucky

Our reply: Even if you disagree with our thoughts about Christ, they were not careless or hasty—we said precisely what we intended.

As mentioned in Bhagavad-gita, God sends His messenger or appears on earth Himself at various times to reestablish the principles of religion. Whenever this occurs, His purpose is the same: to turn us away from materialistic life and back to love for God.

Yet because the Lord or His envoy appears in various times, places, and circumstances, He presents this same message in various ways.

Preaching to the followers of the Jewish tradition, Jesus used the language of that tradition. He chose not to introduce the unfamiliar word Krsna. And still people rejected his message and crucified him.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed to Krsna, “My dear Lord, You have hundreds and thousands of names, and in these names You have invested all Your transcendental potencies. You have kindly made it easy to approach You by chanting Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.”

Lord Caitanya did not insist that one chant the maha-mantra. Instead, He said that one may glorify the Supreme Lord by any of His limitless holy names. Praising the holy names and glories of the Lord and His pure devotees is the essence of all religion. (Isn’t that why you’re writing to us about Jesus Christ? If you don’t agree, what is your letter all about? And what were Jesus and his disciples doing if not praising God and His glories?)

Yes, Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Yet mankind—even that portion of it that claims to be Christian—can’t seem to give up sinning. (We’ll speak more about this later.)

You point out that Jesus and God are one. This oneness is something Krsna’s devotees do understand. But they also see how Jesus and God are different.

The use of the words father and son obviously points to the existence of two different persons. When Jesus prays to God, do you think he’s praying to himself? And the statement that Jesus is sitting “at the right hand of God” would be nonsense without the existence of two distinct individuals—Jesus and God. This is not a material distinction. It is an eternal, spiritual distinction. Even in God’s spiritual kingdom, there are two distinct individuals—the father and the son, the Lord and his servant.

It’s too bad you quoted only part of the discourse between Jesus and Philip. Here’s how Jesus continues: “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:9-11)

There is an intimate relationship between the Supreme Lord and His pure devotee. As stated in our Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Supreme Lord is always in the heart of the devotee, so the devotee is always in the heart of the Lord. Speaking of those who devote themselves to Him in pure loving service, Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (9.29), “They are in Me, and I am in them.”

The sweetness of this eternal relationship between the Lord and His pure devotee depends on their eternal individuality. Without individuality, how can there be service, how can there be sacrifice, and how can there be love?

When a pure devotee speaks, he does so not on his own behalf but on behalf of the Lord. And because the devotee completely surrenders to the Lord, the Lord works through Him. Therefore seeing the pure devotee is as good as seeing the Lord Himself.

Lord Caitanya summarized this understanding by saying that the devotee and the Lord are “simultaneously one and different.”

The Vedic literature therefore recommends that one serve the Lord by serving a pure devotee of the Lord, accepting him as one’s spiritual master. One should respect such a spiritual master as one would respect the Lord Himself, because such a dear servant of the Lord is a direct representative of the Lord. In a verse that’s strikingly parallel with the text that you quote from Colossians, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.17.27) records that the Supreme Lord says, “One should know the spiritual master to be one with Me and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he fully embodies all the qualities of God.”

Yet although the spiritual master is one with God, one should never think that he is God. Both oneness and difference are essential to the eternal relationship between the Lord and His pure devotee.

And the difference is precisely the one you cite: Although the Lord remains aloof from the world and strictly enforces His laws, the Lord’s servant descends to the material world to bestow the Lord’s mercy on sinful fallen souls.

This distinction between the Lord and His pure devotee is what gives the devotee’s role its special sweetness. The devotee, in effect, is more merciful than even God Himself.

But to truly accept God’s mercy, we have to do what He says. As Jesus says in that same conversation with Philip, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

It’s not enough to glibly say, “Jesus died for my sins.” Jesus is eternal—he never dies. But he enacts the transcendental miracle of death and resurrection so that faithless people will have enough faith in him to listen to him and do what he says.

But some of us refuse to do what he says. We don’t want to serve God—we want to gratify our senses. And we’re perfectly willing to employ the name of Jesus as a tool, an excuse, for our sense gratification: since Jesus died for our sins, we think we’re saved and we’re free to indulge in whatever gross behavior we want.

For example, Jesus condemned fornication, yet many of his so-called followers think themselves free to sleep around to their heart’s content. Jesus said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Yet killing and feasting on the bodies of dead creatures has become a Christian institution.

This type of religion is, in one word, hypocrisy.

The message of Christ—and the message of Krsna—is that one should give up all such materialistic parodies of religion and surrender to the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead. One who does so embraces the essence of Hinduism, the essence of Christianity, and in fact the essence of all true religion.

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