mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Follow this path or be condemned forever. Surrender now and be saved. Do you really want to take the chance with eternal damnation? Are you willing to accept such a risk? The wise have saved themselves. Accept our savior. Repent for your sins and be forgiven.”
With rationally thinking adults this line of persuasion is the least effective, as no one really wants to be told how bad they are. They also see an obvious conflict. If people from each religion spout the same words, there is automatically a contradiction. How can there be more than one savior? One of the groups has to be wrong, no? By accepting one religion, you’re automatically rejecting another.
The Bhagavad-gita is the highest philosophy known to man. It is spoken directly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a conversation meant to persuade a doubting warrior into action. Yet even that work has the obligatory call to surrender in the concluding verses. After explaining so many important topics to Arjuna, Krishna advises him to simply surrender. By so doing, Arjuna will be saved from all sinful reaction.
atha vā bahunaitena
kiṁ jñātena tavārjuna
viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam
ekāṁśena sthito jagat
“But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.42)
In another place Krishna says that the detailed knowledge of the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the world is not necessary. Just knowing a little bit about Krishna is sufficient. Is not this also a kind of sectarianism, then? If God is one, why would He make any religion exclusively superior to another? Indeed, even if one is worried about following Krishna blindly, out of sentiment, approaching Him in this manner is still the best course.
1. He sanctions the rewards offered by other heavenly figures
There is no need to even go outside of the Vedic tradition to run a thorough and extensive analysis. Within what is commonly known as Hinduism is a variety of styles of worship and worshipable figures. The higher authorities who are not God the person are known as devatas, which loosely translates to “demigods” in English. If you worship the demigods properly, you can get so many things. Indeed, anything in a material existence is available.
ye 'py anya-devatā-bhaktā
te 'pi mām eva kaunteya
“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.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.23)
Worship of these gods can be in a kind of sectarian mood as well. From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that Shri Krishna actually must give His sanction before any benediction can be handed out. In this role He is known as Yajneshvara, or the lord of sacrifice. He must be present in some capacity for these rituals to be effective. He is my benefactor’s benefactor, so there is no harm in going to Him directly for any desire to be fulfilled.
2. He is not a prophet or the son of God
The origin of the creation, the maintenance of the material nature, the eventual destruction, the three modes of nature, the potency in sacrifice - basically for any important topic Shri Krishna is the source. He uses the Sanskrit word “mam” all the time, which leaves no room for ambiguity. He is not speaking of any power higher than Himself. He even says that all truths rest in Him, like pearls on a string.
mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ
sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva
“O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)
If there were an authority superior to Krishna, it would have appeared on that battlefield of Kurukshetra, the scene for the Bhagavad-gita conversation. It was not a voice from the sky who spoke to Arjuna. There was not some God within that Arjuna had to consult. Rather, everything came from Krishna. Sentimental allegiance to Him therefore means having a favorable view of the highest personality.
3. He is the only person who explains every kind of religion
The reason to turn away from the overzealous preacher demanding surrender is that there is no logic behind their claims. Any person can say that they are God. Any person can instill fear in others by threatening doom resulting from neglect of worship. There should be some logic and reasoning behind the call to action.
“…Due to the great variety of desires and natures among human beings, there are many different theistic philosophies of life, which are handed down through tradition, custom and disciplic succession. There are other teachers who directly support atheistic viewpoints.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.14.8)
Surrender to Krishna is different because He acknowledges the variety of religious systems and even explains why they exist. The cause is desire. For every desire there are people supporting it. They have systems for fulfilling their desire of choice. There are teachers who even support atheism.
punar āvartino 'rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
Krishna explains every kind of religion. He is the superior philosopher since He is an expert on every philosophical viewpoint. He sums up the result of following the different systems in one verse in the Bhagavad-gita. He says those who worship other figures go to the planets of those figures, while those who worship Him go to His abode. Those who go to Krishna’s planet never return to the land of birth and death.
4. He will deny requests
Do you want money? Do you want fame? Has someone offended you and now you desperately want revenge? Do you desire renunciation in the quest for peace and quiet? Whether you are full of desires, free of them, or wanting only the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna is the best person to approach. He is unique because He will actually deny requests.
A famous television personality boldly claims to be “looking out for the folks.” Of course, this is not possible without having the potency to benefit others and knowing what is best for them. Only Shri Krishna, or God the person, can actually help out all folks, including those not in the human species. Sectarian allegiance to Him means having requests denied from time to time. Only a genuine benefactor would behave in this manner. Yet it is also the reason the majority of the earthly population is hesitant to approach Him. Krishna is also known as Hari, which means one who takes away. Worship of Krishna is purifying.
5. Sectarianism with Him is not limiting
There is a reason sentimental allegiance to a particular religion gets described as “blind following.” If you are entering only out of sentiment, you actually remain in the dark. The human being has intelligence for a reason. They should question everything, especially for something as important as life and death. They should bring every doubt to the table. Skepticism is a way to guard against frauds and cheats.
Skepticism brought into worship of Krishna helps to later on strengthen allegiance. Shri Krishna is the source of everything, so He can explain practically everything, up to the brain’s capacity to understand. He shines the lamp of knowledge, which acts as a sword to cut away the binding ropes of ignorance. Even if a person blindly follows the darling son of mother Yashoda, their allegiance brings the ultimate benefit in the end. If a person is given to sentimental following, the safest route is to stay attached to the all-attractive one.
From Him highest philosophy to gain,
Every viewpoint and religion to explain.
So that afterwards reservations without,
Encouraged to bring every concern and doubt.
Shri Krishna, even if following blind,
Through association purifying the mind.
Since looking out for interests mine,
Sometimes to deny requests in kind.