After giving a lecture in Bombay in April 1979 Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami Acaryadeva answered a probing question from the audience: ‘All over the world, Christians are living and dying for their Christian faith. How is it that you young people-their progeny—have embraced another faith?”
Srila Acaryadeva: Actually, you’ve put your finger on the real problem with our world. If we are thinking in terms of “Christianity” or “Hinduism,” then we are not actually on the spiritual platform—we’re on the material platform. We have already seen historically, not onlyhere in India but even more so in the Western countries, that this type of sectarian faith has simply produced war and suffering.
Spiritual life means to understand scientifically what we are and what God is. If we simply become attached to some so—called denomination, some designation—“Iam Christian,” “I am Hindu”—and we do not have a scientific understanding of God, then we are still on the material platform. From God’s point of view, there is no question of “Christian” or “Hindu.” He wants to see who loves Him.
Therefore, everyone should put forward his knowledge and love of God, and whoever puts forward the best knowledge and love should be recognized and accepted by all. That’s the test. So we are going all around the world, especially in Christian countries, publicly challenging that this Bhagavad-gita offers the best way to know and love God. [Applause]
Religion without philosophy is mere sentiment. So on the basis of philosophy, knowledge, and practical understanding, we are “defeating” other systems of approaching God. It is dig-vijaya. as you say. After all, one has to look at a thing’s symptoms. For example, one doctor may say, “I have the best clinic-you should come to me,” and another doctor may say, “No, my clinic is much better-I have much better equipment, I have better techniques-you should come to my clinic.” But if we see that at one clinic all the patients who come out are sick and dying, and at the other clinic they are coming out healthy, then it is obvious which is the real clinic. [Laughter]
The whole thing is completely nonsectarian, completely scientific. In Srimad-Bhagavatam the question is raised, atah sadho ‘tra yat saram samuddhrtya manisaya: “What is the best religious system? What is the best spiritual process’?” And the answer is given by Suta Gosvami:
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhoksaje
‘The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendental Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” [Bhag. 1.2.6] What is paro dharma—whatis the best dharma? Suta Gosvami does not say, “Hinduism is paro dharma,” or “Christianity is paro dharma.” This would be a very childish understanding. Suta Gosvami says, sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje: “The best spiritual process is what actually brings you to the point of love of God.”
But the problem is that everyone will cheat and say, “No, I already do love God.” So therefore Suta Gosvami, anticipating this cheating, has given us the symptoms, because when the symptoms are clearly known, you cannot cheat.
For instance, if I give you some money and say “Please hand this money over to Mr. Patel” but I don’t tell you exactly what he looks like, then someone else can come and say “I am Mr. Patel—you can hand it over to me.” [Laughter] But if I tell you, “No, he is a man who dresses like this, who speaks like this—you should identify him in such and such a way,” then by clearly knowing these symptoms you’ll avoid all cheating.
In the same way, everyone will say, “I love God.” So therefore the symptoms are given: ahaituky apratihata yayatma suprasidati. When you love God, the first thing is ahaituki—there’s no hetu—there’s no material cause for your service to God. It is not that like the Christians, you just pray for bread: “O my dear God, please give me bread.” What is this—simply praying to God for bread? And I think also in India, sometimes we pray for something material.
But this is not actually religion; this is called kaitava-dharma. cheating religion, because we are not approaching God out of love. It is business; it is a business relationship: “My dear God, I am offering You such and such—now You kindly reciprocate. Here is my list; I want this and this.” [Laughter] This is not religion; it is business. But love of God means no business. You trust God; He is your father.
If your child said to you every day, “Mother, Father, am I going to eat today? Are you going to cook today? Will there be food today’?” you would become very discouraged. “Oh, our son has no faith; he has no love. Every day he thinks that we are going to starve him.” [Laughter] So if you are always asking God, “God, can you send bread today? Will there be bread today? Please don’t let me starve today,” God will say, “What is this nonsensical person doing?”
God is not a poor man. So there is no question of asking God for bread. He knows what we deserve, He knows what we need, and He will give it to us. We should pray for love of God; that is ahaituki.
And apratihata: When one loves God he is always serving God. Everything he will do for God. That is described in Bhagavad-gita, yat karosi yad asnasi yaj juhosi dadasi yat: “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away should be done as an offering to Me.” So always serving God means there must be some vairagya, detachment. Otherwise, I will serve God now, and then my senses will drag me away. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam describes,
janayaty asu vairagyam
jnanam ca yad ahaitukam
“By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world.” [Bhag. 1.2.7]
So when we are actually engaged in loving God, serving God, we must have vairagya, detachment, and jnana, knowledge. Both things must be there.
“Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service, and detachment from whatever does not foster Krsna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.” [SriCaitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 6.75] These two things are mentioned throughout the Vedic literature-detachment and knowledge. These are the symptoms we’re looking for.
If someone says “I am Christian,” that’s all right. But we want to know, “Do you have detachment and knowledge? Then we will accept you as a Christian. Otherwise, if you have no detachment and if you have no knowledge, then we will never accept your nonsense.” And the same thing goes for Hindus, the same thing goes for Muslims, or anyone. We have to be practical; we have to be scientific.