“Krishna used to put a vaijayanti garland around His neck. This vaijayanti garland is made of at least five differently colored flowers. The length of such a garland was always touching Krishna's knees or feet.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 26)
“Isn’t it silly to put faith in someone that we can’t see? Why dedicate your whole life, sacrificing fun in the process, towards an end that won’t be experienced until this existence is over? What if it’s all a lie? What if there is no heaven? What if there is no intelligence behind this creation?”
In Kali Yuga, the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy, man is generally unfortunate. The things around us seem to say the opposite. In the past few decades we got the compact disc, the fuel efficient automobile, the personal computer, the internet, and more recently, the smartphone. These things have changed the experience of life so drastically that people today wonder how those in the past ever lived without such items.
The most obvious sign of the misfortune is the general ignorance about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is little time to concentrate and hear properly. Even a trip to a restaurant lacks dedicated conversation. The heads are down checking the smartphone every few minutes. Who actually reads books anymore? Why not just peruse a website to get your information?
idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase 'śubhāt
“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)
Due to increased distractions and greater indulgence in sense gratification, there are many misconceptions about the origin of everything. The Vedas provide the clear picture, and they have done so since the beginning of time. The only requirement for understanding is non-enviousness. Don’t be jealous of God and you’ll be able to understand Him properly. Otherwise, you’ll remain in the dark for lifetime after lifetime, falling victim to false ideas and faulty logic.
1. God is the sole property of certain people.
The “my God” opinion reveals this misconception. “In my religion we do that.” “My religion is different from your religion.” In fact, if there is a God, He would have to be for everyone. The Vedas give many names for the Supreme, and each one can be understood scientifically. The most generic name, the one that best matches up to the term God is Ishvara. This means the chief controller. There is also Adhokshaja, which means one whose qualities cannot be measured by blunt instruments.
na lakṣyase mūḍha-dṛśā
naṭo nāṭyadharo yathā
“Being beyond the range of limited sense perception [adhokshaja], You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.” (Queen Kunti speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.19)
Ishvara’s influence is everywhere. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. The sun shines its light on all people, regardless of where they live. There are many religions; of this there is no doubt. Yet each one speaks of the same Ishvara, even if the followers are unaware. To think that God belongs to any single group is to think incorrectly.
2. He only manifests in a specific country.
The Vedas give us the term avatara. This means “one who descends.” The Supreme Lord comes to this earth, and more than just one time. His descents are documented in ancient books. He appears in areas that still exist on the earth today, i.e. they can be found. If you go to those areas, they are primarily in the country known as India. But this does not mean that the Supreme Lord is only for the Indians. He can appear at any place, at any time, in any form He chooses. He creates the universes effortlessly, through exhaling. He enters each one of those universes as the maintainer, and then He enters the heart of each created living entity, staying there as the Supersoul.
bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari' kara para-upakāra
“One who has taken his birth as a human being in the land of India [Bharata-varsha] should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 9.41)
The conditions at the time of birth are varied. Some people are born into poverty, while others appear in a family with tremendous wealth. In the same way, being born in a specific land gives an individual a better chance at understanding God. Shri Krishna Chaitanya says that those born in the land of India [Bharata-varsha] have a duty to spread the message of Godhead to the rest of the world. Essentially, this is the fortunate helping the less fortunate. Still, it doesn’t mean that the less fortunate will never see God in their land.
3. He is impersonal.
Even those who have access to the wealth of information that is Vedic literature can come to the wrong conclusion about the Supreme Lord. Maya is the illusion of the material world. Her first trap is luring the living entity into thinking that sense gratification alone will make them happy. “Work hard at economic development and become the richest person in the world. That is the meaning to life.”
The jnani, or intelligent person who seeks higher knowledge, is fortunate to escape from this mentality. Maya continues to act, however. Her last snare is fooling the living entity into thinking that they are God. This is the idea of impersonalism. “Everyone is a fragment of spirit, so the entire collection must be God. Besides that, there is no separate personality.”
The impersonlists base their logic on the concept of advaita, or non-dualism. The actual meaning to advaita is that everything is part of God the person. It doesn’t mean that everyone is equal to Him. There is simultaneous oneness and difference. This has been explained by great acharyas like Ramanuja, Madhva, and the aforementioned Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Impersonalism is a great misconception since it limits the enjoyment a person can get from spiritual life. If they think that there is no personal God, they don’t get to swim in the ocean of transcendental nectar that is devotional service.
4. All living beings are identical to God.
This is a variation of impersonalism, a product of the incorrect understanding of advaita. Here the Supreme Lord and His avataras are acknowledged. A person accepts the Vedas and all they say. The divergence comes when there is the belief that every individual is equal to God, that they can become just like Him. The Supreme Lord Krishna spoke the famous Bhagavad-gita on the battlefield to Arjuna. He repeatedly refers to Himself when discussing the origin of the creation, the different kinds of planets for residence, and the object of service in duty, or dharma. Yet this group thinks that Krishna is only referring to the Krishna within, that every person can become supreme.
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
Through logic alone the philosophy falls apart. If Krishna says that He is the source of both material and spiritual worlds, how can anyone else lay claim to the same? Can I ever take credit for the work of my parents and grandparents? I am in the same family, so I have similarities to them. I can possibly replicate things they have done, but I can never go back in time and do what they did. In the same way, the living entity, no matter how enlightened they become, can never be equal to Krishna. They may even get their own planet to live on, but they are still never going to be the Supreme Controller, the chief of all chiefs.
5. He is a vengeful, old man.
There is the common proclamation of “I am God-fearing.” A person does this to distinguish themselves from those who don’t believe in God at all. While a step in the right direction, there is nothing to fear from the Supreme Lord. The threefold miseries of life automatically arrive through the workings of the material nature. God is not an old man, since old age is unwanted, indicative of a changing body. He is not angry, either, since anger is the result of frustration. If God is truly supreme, He never gets frustrated.
The Vedas describe that God is all-attractive; hence His name of Krishna. In that original form, He remains always in the state of youth. He looks like He is around sixteen years of age. Not one aspect of His transcendental body is deficient in any way. Everything about Him is attractive. The same property is there in the words that describe Him, in the books that contain those words, in the people who properly understand and speak from those books, and in anyone who serves those wise souls with every thought, word and deed. Everything about Krishna is ever fresh and new, and those who worship Him no longer have any misconceptions about the Supreme. They find the meaning of life in surrender to Him, which takes place through unending service, the soul’s dharma.
Since God with eyes can’t see,
Why dedicated to Him I should be?
Or perhaps maybe just like me,
From merging meditation to be free.
Vedas these misconceptions clearing,
All-attractive Krishna, not one to be fearing.
Dedicated with thought, word and deed,
From the illusion of ignorance be freed.