Sunday, August 16, 2009

God is One

Krishna and His avatars“Since everyone has a different body and mind, different types of religions are needed. But when one is situated on the spiritual platform, there are no bodily and mental differences. Consequently on the absolute platform there is oneness in religion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 17.184 Purport)

Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna…God has many different names according to different religions. People may ask one another, “Who is your God? Who do you worship?” Though God may have many different names, He is still one. There isn’t a separate God for Hindus and a separate God for Christians or those following other faiths.

Seeing all the different religions that have existed since the beginning of time, one may think that God is just a man-made creation. This is a common sentiment amongst atheists and pseudo-intellectuals. Though it might seem plausible, the actual fact is that God appears in different forms based on time and circumstance. According to Vedic philosophy, God appears personally on earth when there is a general decline in dharma, or religiosity, amongst the people.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has incarnated throughout history in different forms such as Lord Narasimha, Lord Rama, and even personally as Himself. His specific purpose was different each time. Lord Narasimha came to kill the evil demon Hiranyakashipu, who was tormenting his devotee son, Prahlada. Lord Rama came to kill the demon Ravana, who had disturbed the sacrifices of the brahmanas and was harassing the demigods. Lord Krishna came to deliver the husband and wife pair of Vasudeva and Devaki, who had been imprisoned by Devaki’s evil brother Kamsa. The character of each incarnation was different as well. Lord Narasimha was very ferocious and mercilessly killed Hiranyakashipu. Lord Rama was a great king who was completely devoted to dharma and righteousness. Lord Krishna was much more lenient as far as rules and regulations went, and was most merciful to His purest devotees, the gopis of Vrindavana.

Lord KrishnaGod guides us based on our capacity to learn. The material world is made up of three distinct modes called gunas: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Vedic literature accounts for all these modes by having eighteen different Puranas, which are scriptures relating to ancient Vedic stories. There are six Puranas for each mode. In this way, even if a person is in the mode ignorance, someone who has no desire to learn about God, even that person has a chance to advance spiritually. For example, meat eating is prohibited for the people in the mode of goodness. However, meat eating is very difficult to give up for people living in the mode of ignorance. Thus the Puranas recommend the process of animal sacrifice for such people in the hopes that they will think of God while eating meat. The hope is that as one constantly thinks about God, His spiritual understanding will increase and that he’ll eventually give up the practice of animal sacrifice.

“Primarily, religion means to know God and to love Him. That is religion…if I profess to follow some religion but I do not know who God is or how to love Him, I am practicing a cheating religion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, Ch 1b)

Just because we see different forms of God with different accompanying scriptures, doesn’t mean He is a figment of our imaginations. God is very real, and we should take advantage of this human form of life to get to know and love Him. It is a common practice for people to attend church and ask God to “give us our daily bread”. While this sentiment is nice, God is already providing food to millions of animals who don’t have the capacity to worship Him. God supplies us with all of our necessities. We should strive to reach a higher platform of worship. Instead of asking from God, we should give to Him. That is true love. If we offer our daily bread, or other food that He’s been so kind to give us, then we gradually elevate ourselves to the platform of loving God. That is real religion.

"The supreme occupation, or dharma, for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy the self." (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)

We may see many different rituals, and different processes for spiritual advancement, but the best religion is that which teaches us to love God. In this age, Lord Chaitanya inaugurated the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” If we commit ourselves to chanting daily and following the process of devotional service, then we will surely see that God is one and that He is in everything and everyone.