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Letters to Back to Godhead

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The editors of Back to Godhead welcome correspondence pertaining to the subject matter of Krishna consciousness. All letters will receive a personal reply, and correspondence of special interest will be published regularly.

A Reader Objects To Back To Godhead’s Exclusivity

Sirs:

Perhaps I misunderstand you, but I feel saddened when it appears to me that you espouse Krishna consciousness as the only path to the realization of God and, moreso, when you denounce as less worthy other philosophies which in fact differ only in aspect and reach the same ultimate goal.

“This platform of personal relationship is certainly higher than the impersonal platform or the platform of Supersoul or Paramatma realization.” Back to Godhead No. 54

I gather here that one of the impersonal philosophies referred to is Vedanta, which is nondualistic, with “many and no” personified God.

May I quote from the Gita as translated by Swami P-—:

“Some whose hearts are purified realize the atma within themselves through contemplation. Some realize the atma philosophically. . .Others follow the yoga of right action. Others who do not know these paths, worship God as their teachers taught them. If these faithfully practice what they have learned, they will pass beyond death’s power.”

And again, “Others worship Me, knowing Brahman in all things. Some see Me as one with themselves, or separate. Some bow to the countless gods that are only My million faces.”

Each man has his own “inclination.” Hence the four yogas-raja, jnana, bhakti and karma. I see no indication in the Gita or Upanisads that one path is inherently superior to another (assuming that either of the yogas or a combination of them is practiced with Truth, according to the scriptures.)

At any rate, it is also possible to adhere to the “platform of personal relationship” with another of God’s faces (the Holy Mother or Buddha, for example) and realize “Krishna” consciousness simply under a different name, say Christ consciousness.

Again from the Gita:

“When goodness grows weak,
When evil increases,
I make myself a body.
In every age,
I return to deliver the holy. . .”

Perhaps Krishna is the Supreme Godhead-but if worshiped in the same manner, does it matter what we call Him? Or is it fair to discredit worshiping in a manner closer to our own inclination to reach the ultimate Truth (“all paths lead to me. . .”)?

“Impersonalists cannot think along these terms [i.e., tendency towards pleasure”], for they deny the pleasure potency; therefore the impersonalist philosophy is incomplete and inferior.” Back to Godhead No. 54. This is an inadequate and unfair value judgment of Vedanta. Unfortunate in that whether or not one views the Gita as concerned with Krishna the individual and His aspect as Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, or Krishna the Supreme Godhead, the message is the same. Inadequate in that it does not acknowledge or relate the joy and peace that Vedanta has to impart to those of us who find it easier to worship God as the atman/paramatman.

The methods may be different, and yet we travel the same road, leading to the same place. Only our vehicles differ. This should not act as a wedge between us but should bring joy in the knowledge that we-all of us right Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Hindus-are travelers on the same road, honoring each other’s way, seeing harmony, not disorder, and that we can respect and acknowledge the unity in our endeavor.

“Truth is One: sages call it by various names.” Rg Veda. Om.

Elayne Prince

New York, New York

Dear Ms. Prince,

We have not expounded Krishna consciousness as the superior philosophy of God realization to sadden you; it is our duty to present Krishna consciousness as superior because as far as Bhagavad-gita and the Upanisads speak for themselves, this presentation is perfectly correct.

The Rg Veda’s statement that the Truth is one although called variously is certainly valid, but this does not mean that everything is the truth. The Upanisads clearly reject this idea. One must discriminate between Truth and illusion. The Isopanisad says:

anyad evahuh sambhavdd
anyad ahur asambhavat
iti susruma dhwanam
ye nas tad vicacaksire

“It is said that one result is obtained by worshiping the supreme cause of all causes and that another is obtained by worshiping what is not supreme. All this was heard from the undisturbed authorities who clearly explained it.” (Isopanisad, Mantra 13)

Since nothing exists outside of Krishna, certainly all paths lead to Him in one or another of His manifestations. But this does not mean that all paths lead to His highest manifestation. Some paths lead up, others down. Indeed, in that part of the “All paths lead to Me” verse which you did not quote, the Lord affirms, “I reward everyone differently according to the nature of his surrender.” (Bg. 4.11)

Different kinds of transcendentalists get different rewards. Not everyone achieves the same ultimate goal. If all paths led to the same goal, Krishna would not bother to speak Bhagavad-gita. Lord Krishna speaks the Gita for our benefit, to point out the most suitable path to the highest realization.

If you have not seen indications in the Gita or Upanisads that one path is inherently superior to another, I suggest you look more closely. True, in Bhagavad-gita Krishna explains different systems of yoga, but you will find that the Lord concludes:

yoginam api sarvesam
mad-gatenantar-atmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah

“Of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.” (Bg. 6.47) Here the Lord clearly indicates that bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotional service, is the topmost yoga system, surpassing all others. All other yogas are but means to elevate oneself to bhakti.

You have mentioned that some people bow to the gods who are but the million faces of Krishna. But you should understand this verse clearly. The faces of the many demigods are Krishna’s faces because Krishna is their Supreme Lord, just as the faces of a king’s agents are faces of the king they represent. But this does not mean that all the demigods are equal to Krishna. Bhagavad-gita clearly rejects this idea. If you look only eight verses past the one you quoted in this connection, you will find that Lord Krishna says:

ye ‘py anya-devata-bhakta
yajante sraddhayanvitah
te ‘pi mam eva kaunteya
yajanty avidhi-purvakam

“Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kunti, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without true understanding.” (Bg. 9.23)

In the next verse the Lord emphasizes the same point:

aham hi sarva-yajnanam
bhokta ca prabhur eva ca
na tu mam abhijananti
tattvenatas cyavanti te

“I am the only enjoyer and the only object of sacrifice. Those who do not recognize My true transcendental nature fall down.” (Bg. 9.24)

In the Gita Lord Krishna refers to the devotees who chant His glories as mahatmas, great souls (Bg. 9.13-14), but He refers to the worshipers of the demigods as “unintelligent” (Bg. 7.23) and declares that their minds are “distorted by material desires.” (Bg. 7.20) How then can you say that both classes of worshipers are equal?

Nor do the devotees of the demigods achieve the same goal as Lord Krishna’s devotees. Those who worship the demigods, Lord Krishna says, achieve limited and temporary enjoyment on the planets of the demigods, but His devotees ultimately reach His supreme planet (Bg. 7.23). Elsewhere in the Gita Lord Krishna declares:

yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino ‘pi mam

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Bg. 9.25)

Commenting on this verse, our spiritual master writes: “Nowhere in authentic scriptures is it said that whatever you do and whatever you worship you will ultimately reach the same goal. Such foolish theories are offered by self-made masters who have no connection with the bona fide system of disciplic succession. The bona fide spiritual master cannot say that everyone’s own mode of worship-be it worship of the demigods or of the Supreme-leads to the same goal. For a common man it is very easy to understand that a person starting by train from Bombay can reach the destination for which he has purchased his ticket, and nowhere else. A person who has purchased a ticket for Calcutta can reach Calcutta. But contemporary so-called masters say that whatever spiritual ticket you may purchase will take you to the supreme goal. Such mundane and compromising offers attract many foolish creatures to become puffed up with their manufactured methods of spiritual realization, but the Vedic instruction does not uphold them. Unless one has received knowledge from the bona fide spiritual master, one cannot have the real thing as it is.” It is not unlikely that your mistaken ideas about Bhagavad-gita have come from the books you have read. For a translation of Bhagavad-gita by a bona fide spiritual master, I strongly recommend Bhagavad-gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

God has many faces, for He appears in many incarnations, such as Visnu and Rama. This does not mean, however, that all faces are as good as God’s. Not everyone who has a face is God. Richard Nixon has a face. You have a face. I have a face. Even cats and dogs have faces. Does this mean that Mr. Nixon, you, I and all the cats and dogs are as good as God? Of course not. One must learn from authorities who God is. Then one can know His face from the faces of His many sons.

You have mentioned worship of the “holy mother,” by which I assume you mean the goddess Kali, or Durga. But, as the Brahma-samhita confirms (Bs. 5.44), Durga is the goddess who personifies the Lord’s material energy-in other words, she is may a (illusion) personified. How can worship of illusion be the same as worship of the Absolute Truth? Again, God has many names, but this does not mean that all names are as good as His. The Kali-santarana Upanisad states: “The only means to counteract the evil effects of Kali-yuga [the present age of quarrel and anxiety] is these sixteen names of the Lord: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

You indicate that there is no difference whether one is concerned with Krishna’s Brahman (impersonal) aspect or with His feature as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Lord Krishna devotees an entire chapter of the Gita—Chapter Twelve—to rejecting this idea. There Arjuna asks:

evam satata-yukta ye
bhaktas tvam paryupasate
ye capy aksaram avyaktam
tesam ke yoga-vittamah

“Which is considered to be more perfect: those who are properly engaged in Your devotional service, or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?” (Bg. 12.1) The Lord emphatically replies:

mayy avesya mano ye mam
nitya-yukta upasate
sraddhaya parayopetas
te me yuktatama matah

“He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be most perfect.” (Bg. 12.2) Thus it is clear that Krishna does not consider the two paths the same. He considers one path superior-bhakti, devotion to Him in His personal feature.

You cite the joy that Vedanta has brought you, but unless you understand Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, you don’t even know what Vedanta is. Without Krishna, there is no meaning even to the word “vedanta.” Veda means “knowledge” and anta means “the ultimate.” What is the ultimate knowledge of the Vedas? Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: “By all the Vedas, I am to be known.” (Bg. 15.15) Krishna is the author and knower of the Vedas. Unless you understand Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all your so-called Vedanta is useless. The purpose of studying the Vedanta literature is to understand the Absolute Truth. And what is that Absolute Truth? The Vedanta-sutra says, janmady asya yatah: “The Absolute Truth is the source of everything.” And what is that source? Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita:

aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
budha bhava-samanvitah

“I am the source of everything. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Bg. 10.8)

You say, “Perhaps Krishna is the Supreme Godhead. But if worshiped in the same manner, does it matter what we call Him? Or is it fair to discredit worshiping in a manner closer to our own inclination?” Obviously it does matter, at least to Lord Krishna Himself. Otherwise He wouldn’t have specified in Bhagavad-gita how one should act. After expounding the science of yoga before Arjuna, Lord Krishna indeed says: “Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Bg. 18.63) But then the Lord clearly reiterates the central message of all the Gita’s confidential teachings:

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ‘si me

“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (Bg. 18.65) Why should we try to dream up excuses for doing anything else? If Krishna is indeed the Supreme Godhead, why don’t you do what He says?

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”(Bg. 18.66)

I must indeed respect and honor you for your endeavor to know the Truth. But to cheat you by saying that all paths lead to the same goal would not be at all respectful. As the Upanisads say, “The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult.” There are many wrong turns and dead ends. Therefore one should be careful to follow, with the help of a bona fide spiritual master, the authorized directions that the Lord Himself, in the Gita, maps out.

One who understands Bhagavad-gita should promptly come to the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita by surrendering unto Krishna and engaging in His devotional service. One who follows this supreme path of yoga has indeed understood the Gita in truth.

Yours sincerely,
Jayadvaita dasa
Associate Editor
Back to Godhead

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