Who Follows the Principles of Religion?

Ecumenical Seminar on Krishna Consciousness, 14 October 1978, Columbo, Sri Lanka

Hearing from Authority

This movement is based on authority of Vedic literature. We have not manufactured the philosophy. It is the same philosophy which was spoken by Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra 5,000 years ago.

Whatever I or any disciple of Krishna consciousness may speak is what we have heard and realized from the lips of our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. This is the basic principle of disseminating Krishna consciousness. It is the basic principle of the Vedic religion, called guru parampara. It means that we do not manufacture anything out of our own, but we hear from the authorities such as the Puranas, Upanishads, Vedanta Sutra, and of course Bhagavad-gita through the spiritual master. Vedic knowledge comes through the chain of guru parampara, or the disciplic succession of spiritual masters, which traces back to the original speaker of Vedic knowledge, Krishna Himself.

One great American statesman has said, “There are two kinds of knowledge: we either know a thing ourselves or we know where we can get knowledge upon it.” And another great personality has said that knowing that one is ignorant of the facts is a great step towards knowledge. The Vedic literatures explain that there are three ways to understand something, or there are three types of knowledge:

  1. knowledge which we get by direct perception. I see something or I touch it, I smell it. That is called pratyaksa
  2. And then there is a second kind, which is called anumana, inductive. We may hypothesize, “It may be like this, perhaps it was like that.” Like Darwin’s theory, for example. That is called anumana, inductive.
  3. And the third type of knowledge is called shabda brahman, or shabda brahma, Vedic knowledge, knowledge which we receive from higher authorities. For example, we accept a radio guide as authoritative. We don’t have to speculate what is playing on the radio; we consult the radio guide. Or the TV guide.

Similarly, if we want to take information about God and our eternal relationship with Him, then we have to approach a higher authority, because the subject matter of God is beyond the purview of our limited senses. A conditioned soul is imperfect by four defects.

  1. He is working with imperfect senses. For example, I cannot see what is going on beyond this wall. I cannot hear what is going on beyond this room. My senses are imperfect in so many ways. That is the first defect.
  2. The second defect of the conditioned soul is that he makes mistakes. Even great personalities make mistakes. Mahatma Gandhi, for example, he went to a meeting, and at that meeting he was killed, although he was warned not to go. So to err is human. Everyone makes mistakes.
  3. And every conditioned soul is illusioned. At night, for example, we sleep and we dream something, and we think that we are awake that that we are acting, but in fact we are sleeping and forgetting our real position. That is called illusion. And when we are awake, we identify ourselves with the material body, although we are not this body; we are something else. We are the living force within the body. So this is illusion.
  4. And the fourth defect of the illusioned soul is that he has a propensity to cheat. Everyone has a cheating propensity. A man may be in illusion—he does not know what he is—but he will write books, expounding philosophy, although he does not actually know the subject matter. This is called cheating.

Therefore perfect knowledge cannot be accepted from any conditioned soul. Perfect knowledge has to be received from a perfect source.

The Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, it begins with the verse janmady asya yatah: “The origin of everything is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” There is no use in challenging the statements of the shastras, because it is a system or a process of understanding. If we want to understand the Absolute Truth, the source of everything, then we have to accept that process. And if we are not interested (someone will say, “I don’t believe in God”), that’s all right, you may not believe, but there is no use in arguing. There is no room for argument. It is a matter of accepting an authority.

The teacher says, “Two plus two is equal to four.” You may not believe it, but there is no place for argument. So the whole Vedic literature aims at understanding the Supreme Absolute Truth. It begins with that premise: janmady asya yatah, the origin of everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. In Bhagavad-gita (7.7) also it is said, “I am the source of material and spiritual worlds. The wise, knowing this, worship Me with all their hearts. There is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.”

If someone is interested in understanding the Absolute Truth and his relationship with Him, then the next step is one has to approach a bona fide spiritual master. It is also explained in Bhagavad-gita (4.34):

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadekshyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darshinah

“Just try to approach a spiritual master, inquire from him submissively. Render him all kinds of service. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you, because he has seen the Truth.”

This is the process of Vedic understanding. One has to approach the authority of the spiritual master, who has heard and realized perfectly about the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, from his spiritual master, who has in turn heard it from his spiritual master. The original spiritual master is Krishna Himself.

Principles of Religion

The spiritual master does not manufacture his own ideas or opinions or give a new system of religion. No. Dharmam hi saksat-bhagavat-pranitam. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (6.3.19) it is said, “Religion means the orders given by God.” An ordinary man cannot manufacture religion. Sometimes people ask us, “Why are there so many religions? Hindu religion, Christian religion, Buddhist religion, Mohammedan religion.” And we have to reply that, in fact, there is only one religion. There cannot be many religions because God is one, therefore His orders are one. Therefore religion is one. What is that religion? It is one principle—just as mathematics, either in Colombo, in Delhi, in London, in New York, or in San Francisco, two plus two is equal to four. The principle is one and the same. Similarly, either one follows the teachings of Christ, or one follows the teachings of Krishna, or Mohammed. The principles of religion are the same.

What are those principles? They are nonviolence, ahimsa, no killing of animals. Therefore this movement… everyone who is a member of this movement follows four principles: no meat, fish or eggs, no intoxication; no illicit sex; no gambling. These are the four principles of religion: mercifulness, cleanliness, truthfulness, austerity. And the four principles of irreligion are animal killing, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling.

According to Vedic culture, it is the duty of the government to protect the religious principles. Formerly, the government leaders were not elected, but they were appointed on the basis of their character and spiritual strength. Not by popular votes—that is a new thing, and that is not working very well. It was the duty of the king to protect the principles of religion. Unfortunately, in this age we see that the leaders, the presidents, prime ministers, they do not protect religious principles. They do the opposite. They support irreligious principles. At least, in Western countries we will find it is the government that is supporting the liquor industry. It is the government that is supporting the gambling casinos. It is the government that is supporting illicit sex in the form of night clubs, hotels, cinemas.

So, the whole world is now steeped in irreligion, although people claim, “I am a Hindu”, “I am a Christian”, “I am a Buddhist”, “I am a Mohammedan”. In fact, they do not follow their religion. They are rubber-stamp Christians, rubber-stamp Buddhists, rubber-stamp Hindus. On principle there is no observance of religious principles.

It doesn’t matter. Either you follow the teachings of Christ or you follow the teachings of Krishna or you follow the teachings of Buddha. It doesn’t matter. All of them are teaching the same principles. It may be higher or lower philosophy—that is another thing. Just like in school. In the grade school we learn two plus two is equal to four, adding, subtracting, dividing—simple arithmetic. But in the university we learn physics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry. It is the same mathematics, but in a higher form. Yet two plus two is equal to four even in physics. So either a Buddhist or a Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan, whatever you may be, it doesn’t matter. But follow the principles: no eating meat, fish eggs, no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling.

And then: yat karosi yad asnasi, jaj juhosi dadasi yat. Krishna says, “Whatever you do as work, whatever you eat, whatever you give away in charity or perform as penance, that should be done as an offering unto Me. By this principle of work you will be freed from all sinful reactions and come to Me.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.27) This world is not the property of any man. It is not created by any scientist, politician, philosopher or whatever. The world is the creation of God. Therefore in Bhagavad-gita (5.29) it is said: sarva-loka-maheshvaram. God is the proprietor of all the planets and all living beings thereon. Therefore whatever we living beings, living on the land or property of God produce, that belongs to God. Just like a big estate owner, whatever the servants grow or utilize on his estate, that is the property of the master. So we are all servants, every one of us, servants of God, and we are living on His property and by His grace. He supplies material nature, sunshine, water, air, earth, sea. We are producing so many things—fruits, vegetables, wood, iron—but all these things are the property of the Lord. Therefore whatever we create by combining wood, metal, glass, stone or other ingredients, that also belongs to God. This is called ishavasya idam sarvam (Ishopanishad Text 1), a God-centered society. There must be a revival of God consciousness practically, not just lip service—”I’m a Hindu,” “I’m a Christian,” “I’m a Buddhist,” “I’m this,” “I’m that.” That will not do. That is useless.

This Krishna consciousness movement is not a movement which is competing with other religious communities. No. But it is a movement which is simply reminding people all over the world to take the tenets of their religious teachers and leaders such as Jesus Christ or Mohammed or Krishna Chaitanya or Lord Buddha seriously and live peacefully and happily in Krishna consciousness.

As far as we are concerned, we follow these four principles: no meat eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling, and we chant the holy name of the Lord: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and we accept Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures as Absolute Truth. We live by them. We preach all over the world, and people can join this movement, but it is not necessary. If you feel that you are following the teachings of Christ, this is very good. There is no objection—but you have to follow the teachings. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” yet Christians are killing the animals and eating them. That is sinful. And Lord Buddha came to teach ahimsa. We also worship Lord Buddha, because in Bhagavat Purana and Agni Purana the name of Lord Buddha is mentioned as a Vishnu avatar, and that he would descend on this earthly planet in this age to stop animal killing. Lord Buddha came because people were killing animals in the name of Vedic sacrifice. Lord Buddha then preached against the Vedic religion and said, “If you allow animal killing, then I don’t care for your religion. I have my own religion.” In this way, because he was a great logician, a great scholarly logician, by word jugglery he got the people to follow him and to stop animal killing. His basic principle was ahimsa, nonviolence, and he introduced an eight-fold path: right thinking, right action and so forth. Lord Buddha made the people good, although he never taught anything about the soul, and he never taught about God. But he never taught against, either. He simply did not teach [that subject], because people were not prepared to understand it. The teachings of Lord Jesus Christ were also very simple. He said, “I have many things to teach you, but you cannot bear to hear it.” And Lord Buddha, when he was sitting under the Bodhi tree one day, a leaf fell down from the tree, and he picked it up and said, “The knowledge I am giving you is like this leaf in comparison to the tree of knowledge.”

Original Religion of the World

We have to understand religion on principle—not just external rituals and customs, but on principle. If we understand things on principle, then every religious community is good. We also know that of course before the introduction of Christian religion, Mohammedan religion, Buddhist religion, Zoroastrian religion, the original religion of the world was Vedic religion. Vedic literatures are at least historically known to date back 5,000 years, and if we accept the authority of the Vedic literatures, we can understand that formerly, as little as 5,000 years ago, the whole world was under one culture and one religion. That has deteriorated over time, and now what is left of the Vedic culture is just a small tract of land, which is now known as India. But formerly, India, which was the seat of Vedic religion—especially Hastinapura, which is now New Delhi—ruled the world. Ceylon or Sri Lanka was part of India. Burma was part of India. Thailand was part of India. Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan… all these countries were part of what is called Bharata-varsha. Bharata-varsha is now just that small portion, India, but formerly the entire planet was known as Bharata-varsha.

It has been predicted by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared in India 500 years ago, and who according to Srimad Bhagavatam is Lord Krishna in this age, that this movement of chanting Hare Krishna would spread all over the world. It is a very simple movement, based on Bhagavad-gita and the simple process of chanting the holy name of the Lord: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The chanting is an authorized process, an effective process of meditation by sound vibration, vibrating the holy name of the Lord: Krishna and Rama. It doesn’t matter if you have another name for God, such as Allah or Jehovah or… I think even the Buddhists chant the name of Buddha. So this is a very simple, universal practice, and you can adopt it anywhere, either at home or in the street or at work or in your business, or you can come to the temple and chant this simple mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and you’ll make your life perfect.

We have also published a number of books, not less than 60 big volumes: Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-charitamrita, Ishopanishad, and we are distributing our books all over the world. In this way we maintain and expand our movement by translating and publishing books. Those books you may see at the rear of the auditorium at the end of the program. We have distributed over 70 million books within the last six years.

The Missing Point: Krishna

People in America and Europe are very interested in Vedic religion because they have reached the pinnacle of material advancement. They have every material facility, but still they have found that they are not happy. Something is missing. This Krishna consciousness movement is bringing the missing point: Krishna, God.

Unless one understands God, his life is nothing more than a polished animal life, because the material necessities of both the human being and the animals are the same. The animal eats, and I eat. The animal sleeps, and I also sleep. An animal indulges in sex; a man indulges in sex. An animal fights for territorial possessions, and the human beings fight for territorial possession. We may be very sophisticated in our eating, sleeping, defending and sex, but nevertheless in principle there is no difference between the animal and the human being. The thing which distinguishes a human being from an animal is religion, and religion means to abide by the orders of God. It cannot be manufactured by any ordinary person. Religion is one thing in principle.

So in brief, I have tried to present some of the ideas and philosophy of this great movement. Now if any of you Ladies and Gentlemen have any questions, I will be glad to answer them for you. Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.

Social Consciousness without God Consciousness

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: [Speaks at some length about how Christianity is becoming ritualistic and how it must be more “society conscious.” He concludes:] It is wrong to stress the fact that we worship somebody. Actually it is useless worshiping Christ or worshiping God if I am not society conscious. [He says further that we must liberate the human being.]

HANSADUTTA: What are you going to liberate the human being from?

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: From their sufferings.

HANSADUTTA: How will you do that? Suffering means birth, death, old age and disease. Can you stop birth, death, old age and disease?

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: No.

HANSADUTTA: Then how do you propose to liberate the suffering human being? Vedic religion and also Christian religion… The very word Christ is a title. That was never the name of Lord Jesus. That was his title, Lord Jesus the Christ. Do you know the meaning of the name Christ? It comes from the Greek language, christos, and it means “the anointed one”, “the lover of God.” And this word christos in the Greek language comes from the Sanskrit word Krishna. So in fact Christ was a lover of Krishna. That is his title. It was not his name. Just like Jayewarene the President. “The President” is not the name, but his title. Similarly, Christ means “one who loves Krishna.”

When Christ was asked, “What is the first and foremost commandment?” he answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul. And the second is like unto it: love thy neighbor as thyself.” You speak of society consciousness, but God consciousness is above society consciousness, because when you learn to become conscious of God, God being the reservoir of all things and all beings, you automatically become society conscious. If you put your water on the root of a tree, automatically every leaf, flower, fruit and branch will get the water. But if you try to put water on every leaf and branch and flower, that will be of no use. This is the problem.

You are supposed to be a priest, a Christian priest, and you say… you specifically said, “It is useless worshiping Christ or worshiping God.” How can you say such a thing and still maintain your position as a priest? A priest means a person who loves God with all his heart and with all his soul. He will lay down his life for God because he knows that God is everything.

In Bhagavad-gita (10.8) it is said, aham sarvasya prabhavo: “I am the source of all material and spiritual worlds.” If you love God, automatically you love your neighbor and everyone else. There is no question of not loving a human being or an animal or an insect or a bird or even a plant. A person who is truly God conscious will see God in everything. In Bhagavad-gita (6.30) Krishna says, “For one who sees me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost to him, and he is never lost to Me.”

So in fact God consciousness means to be conscious of everything, and if one says, “It is useless worshiping God, it is useless worshiping Christ, then we have become less than animals. Even the animals have respect for something great and wonderful like thunder or lightning. But if a human being announces, “It is useless worshiping God, it is useless worshiping Christ, but we should become society conscious,” then this is less than animal consciousness. Society consciousness exists in the society of cats and dogs. They also have a consciousness of society. The bees who gather honey also have a consciousness of society, but it doesn’t mean that they are more than human beings.

A human being automatically becomes a gentleman or civilized man when he becomes God conscious. It was God consciousness or the teachings of the Christian monks coming to Europe that made European people into gentlemen out of barbarians. And it was because they learned how to worship the central figure, Christ. You cannot be a Christian priest and say that it is useless worshiping Christ, it is useless worshiping God. Then what is the use of being a priest? What distinguishes a priest from an ordinary man? Simply that he is wearing a robe and reading the Bible? That is not the difference. The difference is that he abides by the orders of God. And the first and foremost order of the Lord in any scripture, whether it is the Bible or the Bhagavad-gita or the Torah or the Koran is that one has to learn to love God. Without love of God, there cannot be love of any other thing, because everything, even the flowers, are a creation of God.

People Not Following the Teachings of Religious Leaders

[The Christian priest then re-phrases the question. He says that the religions of the world are “flourishing in every sense of the word” but something still seems to be lacking. There are so many problems in society. How can adding more religion, Krishna consciousness, help?]

HANSADUTTA: The problem is that nobody follows the principles. I was here last August when the rioting was going on.

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: You don’t know what we went through. There was human consciousness, there was fear consciousness. What I want to say is that it is not enough to be God conscious, but we must also be community conscious. The question I want to ask is will Krishna consciousness help with these social problems and not stop at God consciousness only?

HANSADUTTA: Thank you. What the Reverend has said is very nice. I just want to make a short comment on what he spoke. Although all four major religions of the world are represented in this country, unfortunately no one follows their religion. No one is following. Just rubber-stamped, and they will speak so many things, but practically speaking, no one is following, and this is the problem. Any religion, whether Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, any religion is very good. But people do not follow the teachings of their religious leaders. They do not follow Lord Buddha, they do not follow Lord Krishna, they do not follow Lord Jesus. Buddha taught ahimsa, don’t kill anything, not even a mosquito. Lord Jesus Christ also taught, “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery.” No one is obeying this. They kill the animals and eat. This is the problem. Thank you.

MR. ABHISHEKAR: Although there appears to be much religion in the country, actually it is superficial. We have to develop our divine consciousness or Krishna consciousness or God consciousness, call it what you will, and then automatically society consciousness will come out.

Everything Belongs to Krishna

GUEST 2: Why you are asking people to renounce the material values of the western world and become God conscious through a system of renunciation? [He speaks also of scientology and working for peace, love and brotherhood.]

HANSADUTTA: This is a very intelligent question. This is a general misunderstanding that people have, not only about our community, but about religious monks in general. They think that one has to abandon everything and become a beggar in the street. This is a misunderstanding about spiritual life. In fact, Krishna never taught Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita to give up his responsibilities. Arjuna was a warrior. He was a statesman, a politician, a family man, and Arjuna himself wanted to give it up. But Krishna said, “No, you have to perform your prescribed duty. But at the same time you should think of Me.” In the Bhagavad-gita (9.27) Krishna says, yat karosi yad asnasi, yaj juhosi dadasi yat: “Whatever you do as work should be done as an offering unto Me. By this principle of work you will be freed from all sinful reaction and come to Me.” It is a misunderstanding to think that to be a Krishna conscious person or Christ conscious or whatever means to give up everything. It doesn’t mean that. It means that everything should be utilized for the service of the Lord. That is genuine renunciation. Krishna says, “You are entitled to perform your work, but you are not entitled to the fruit of the work.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.47) So we must learn how to work for the satisfaction of Krishna. That is practical, and that is called varnashrama dharma in a society which is organized by dividing the human society into four occupational divisions and four spiritual divisions. It is a cooperative society, where everyone contributes his particular intelligence or talent for work. Not that we will have a society of loafers, simply sitting in a monastery, living at the expense of others. Krishna did not advocate this. That is not our society.

If you have seen the book which we are passing around, you will see that we are very active in every field of endeavor, whether it is business, architecture, publishing, music or art or education. Our people are very active. They are not sit-down-do-nothings. No. No, we don’t advocate that. That is the answer to one of your questions.

Refer to Shastra and Spiritual Master – Do Not Manufacture or Interpret

The answer to the question about scientology is of course what we are trying to achieve is the same thing they try to achieve. In fact, everyone is trying to achieve the noble principles of peace and love and brotherhood. There is no doubt of it. But unfortunately if we try to achieve peace, love and brotherhood but we do not know the process, we are liable to achieve the opposite result. Just like a child who wants to enjoy everything. He wants to have some fun in everything. But because he does not know how to do it, he will take matches and by playing with them he will burn the house down. He doesn’t mean to do that, but that is the result because the child is in ignorance.

In the Bhagavad-gita (7.27) it is explained, iccha-dvesa samutthena, dvandva-mohena bharata: “Every living being is born into ignorance, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” We are born ignorant, therefore we send our children to school to be educated in reading, writing, arithmetic and so forth. But there are two kinds of education. One education is material, which is required for eating, sleeping, defending and so on. But there is another education that is described in Bhagavad-gita (9.2): raja-vidya raja-guhyam, pavitram idam uttamam. There it is said, “This education is the king of knowledge.” Raja means king. Vidya means knowledge. Raja-vidya raja-guhyam: it is the king of education. So we also have to learn this education, and we have to learn it from the shastras and from the spiritual master. We cannot speculate. Just as I tell my son, “This is a watch, this is a microphone, this is a glass, this is a fan.” He learns to distinguish between a watch and spectacles. He only hears from his father what it is, and he repeats it, and his knowledge is quite perfect. Similarly, if we want to understand God consciousness, Krishna consciousness, or the science of the soul, we should take knowledge from the shastras and from the spiritual master. Then it is very easy and perfect. It doesn’t matter, either you follow the Bible or you follow Bhagavad-gita or Koran, but you should accept the knowledge given there as perfect.

If we interpret and give our own fashionable meaning, that will spoil the whole thing. Just as in your country there are laws. If I interpret the laws to suit my particular whims, that will not be accepted. I have to accept the laws of the government as they are given. If the law says that I must drive my auto on the left side, I have to do it. I can’t say, “Well, in America they drive on the right side; why do you want us to drive on the left side? It’s just as good”, this, that and the other thing. No. The government makes the laws, and the citizens have to obey them. That is material law. Above that there is God’s law, or nature’s law or religion. Religion, God’s law, nature’s law are the same thing. And civil law in fact is nothing but an extension of natural law, God’s law: “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery.” These are God’s laws. So we cannot speculate and add our fashionable interpretations. That will spoil everything.

Belief does Not Add Up to Knowledge and Realization

Just as today there are so many so-called religions, as you were nicely pointing out. There is Buddhism, Christianism, Hinduism, Mohammedism, Zoroasterism—so many isms. But if we look in the shastras, we never find that Christ was a Catholic or Episcopalean or Lutheran or anything else. We never find the word “Hindu” in any Vedic literature. We never find that Mohammed was a Mohammedan. He was servant of Allah. Allah means “the Great”, “God”. These designations are not found in the scriptures. They are manufactured words. We have to understand things on principle. As this gentleman was pointing out, you have to search your heart. It is a matter of becoming a servant of the Supreme. It is not a matter of external rituals or this thing or that thing. We have to see on principle.

Just like gold. If I go to the market to purchase gold, I have to know what gold is. I have to know the characteristics. Otherwise the man will sell me brass, and I’ll be cheated. If I say, “Oh yes, I believe it’s gold,” that’s not enough. It is not enough to say, “Yes, I believe in God. I believe in Christ. I believe in Mohammed. I believe in Krishna.” That is not enough. One must actually know what is Krishna, what is Mohammed, what is God, and what is my relationship with Him. There must be actual understanding, philosophy and practical application. That is called jnana and vijnana: theory and application. In the university we get theory. Hydrogen and oxygen combine to produce water, H2O. Everyone knows it. But then the student must go into the laboratory and he must combine the two substances, hydrogen and oxygen, and when he sees water produced, then his knowledge is perfect. It is not enough to simply claim, “I am a Christian”, “I am this”, “I am that”, “I believe in this”, “I believe in that”. Belief is not enough. One must actually have realization, knowledge. How do we get that? Vasudeve bhagavati, bhakti-yoga prayojitah. Bhagavatam (1.2.7) says as soon as you render service to the Supreme Lord, automatically causeless knowledge and detachment from the world follow.

Detachment doesn’t mean that I will simply leave my family, leave my business, leave everything and become a beggar. No. Detachment means I will accept everything for use in the service of the Lord. Just as I am using this microphone, so microphone is good, because I am using it to serve the Lord. I am using an airplane to come here, so airplane is all right if you can use it in the service of the Lord. If you give me some money, I will use it in the service of the Lord. To use everything in the service of the Lord is real detachment. Thank you.

Standard Principles of Religion

MUSLIM IMAM: Our problem here in the East is that we have too many religions.

HANSADUTTA: Religion is too much only if it is bogus.

MUSLIM IMAM: What I mean to say is that here in the East people are very much steeped in God.

HANSADUTTA: I don’t find that to be true. Just as the Reverend pointed out, last August there were communal riots here in Sri Lanka. People were going mad, just like animals. How can you say they are steeped in religion?

MUSLIM IMAM: And in the West, people are steeped in materialism.

HANSADUTTA: In Sri Lanka also they are steeped in materialism. Whatever we have in the West they want in the East. People in the West are materialistic and irreligious, but unfortunately, in the East they are becoming mad after becoming westernized, and they are abandoning religion.

MUSLIM IMAM: Has Christianity failed you?

HANSADUTTA: Christianity has not failed, if you follow it. But people don’t follow it.

MUSLIM IMAM: Now you are giving up meat eating, illicit sex, gambling and intoxication. I see your movement as a reaction to your own country’s failings.

HANSADUTTA: No. These are the principles of religion. They are not a reaction. Of course, it may seem like that because in our country the standard life for everyone is to eat meat three times a day, drink liquor from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night, smoke cigarettes, have illicit sex. We know that. But these four principles are the standard of any religion, whatever it may be—Islam, Vedic religion, Christian religion. Every religious teacher instructs us not to kill. Nonviolence, ahimsa. They teach not to commit adultery, not to gamble. These are standard teachings for every religious community. You cannot deny it. These teachings are not a reaction to the cultures of the East and West. In fact, we are all one family. If God is one, and He is the creator of everything, then there is no difference between me and you.

MUSLIM IMAM: What I am trying to say is that religion can lead us to love of God. And materialism can lead us to proper life.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, I agree. I think we agree in principle. But unfortunately people do not follow the principles. This is my point.

Obedience to God

Nor does society consciousness lead to God consciousness. I’ll give you an example. In Germany, during the years 1922 to 1941, there was the most intense society consciousness that was ever known on the face of the Earth. But it did not lead to God consciousness. It led to the opposite. It led to material consciousness, demonic consciousness. Practically it led to the destruction of the world. And the same thing is happening now in the form of communism. Communism is a very intense form of social consciousness, but it does not lead to God consciousness. It will lead to just the opposite. The opposite is demonic consciousness, just eating, sleeping, having sex.

God consciousness begins by following the orders of God. It is as simple as that. So God has said very simply, “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal.” The first thing we should do is abide by these four principles: we should give up animal slaughter, intoxication of all kinds (including tea, coffee and cigarettes), illicit sex and gambling. As soon as you give up these four things, you will see that people will become good. They will at least become good, if nothing else. And then, if you add to that the chanting of the Lord’s name, just as in Islam you chant the name of Allah, that is a very effective process for keeping the mind pure. Thank you.

MUSLIM IMAM: The most important thing in Islam is submission to God. We must submit five times a day.

HANSADUTTA: No. All day. Why five times? All day long, not only five times. Real Islam means all day. Just like Mohammed. All day and all night, he was submissive to God.

MUSLIM IMAM: No, but he fought also.

HANSADUTTA: He was fighting for God. What is the meaning of Allah? It means “The Greatest”, doesn’t it? Krishna means the same, it means “all attractive”. In fact, God has no name, but according to His attributes He is known. Just like Vishnu. What is the meaning of Vishnu? Vishnu means “one who lives everywhere”. So it is not exactly a name, but He is called according to His characteristics.

We do not worship just anyone as God. We worship Krishna, or Allah. We worship also Lord Jesus, and we also worship Lord Buddha, because Lord Buddha is also a Vishnu avatar. We worship even an ant, because Lord Chaitanya said one should give respect to all living creatures.

MUSLIM IMAM: But you worship an ant? Which one?

HANSADUTTA: At least we give respect. We don’t kill anyone. We give everyone respect.

Do Not Kill Unnecessarily

MUSLIM IMAM: As a Muslim, I don’t think I could join this movement because of the first principle “don’t kill animals”. We have to kill animals to eat. Sometimes there is nothing else to eat.

HANSADUTTA: Are you living in the North Pole? First answer this. Are you living in the North Pole? It is practical. If you are living in the North Pole, then we will see. But now you are living here, so don’t kill animals.

MUSLIM IMAM: We must take care of ourselves first. But we don’t believe in doing anything in excess.

HANSADUTTA: Not doing it in excess means that if there is no need to kill, don’t kill. You don’t need to kill any animal because there’s enough fruit, vegetables, enough rice, enough milk, enough of everything. You don’t have to kill. Therefore your scripture also says not to kill.

MUSLIM IMAM: No, you are misquoting.

HANSADUTTA: I am not misquoting. When your shastra says not to take anything in excess, this is the meaning. If there is no need to kill an animal, don’t do it. If a man is living, for example, in a desert where there is nothing to eat, and he is going to starve, naturally he will kill some animal and eat it. But we are not living in the desert. We are not living in the North Pole. We are living in Sri Lanka, where you can produce every fruit, vegetable, grain, sugar and milk in abundance and live very peacefully and happily and healthily. Why do you want to kill these poor animals?

MUSLIM IMAM: So your religion is only for certain areas?

HANSADUTTA: No, this religion is for everyone. If you are starving to death, then of course you have to eat an animal. But who is starving to death? Therefore Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill”, Buddha said, “Ahimsa“, and your religion says, “Do not take anything in excess.” Every religion says don’t kill. Every. It is a universal principle. How can God allow killing?

Ascertaining the Bonafides of the Representatives of Religion

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: We can accept your point that the principles are essentially the same in all religions, although the language may differ. But all these religions have so far failed to solve the problems of the world. Why is this?

HANSADUTTA: The reason is because people don’t follow.

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: That is one reason. But another reason is that there are so many religious movements. They are also competing and trying to force their ideas on the people.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, you are correct. Therefore it is an individual matter, as this gentleman, Mr. Abhishekar, pointed out so nicely. It is an individual matter. You have to examine yourself, and you also have to examine the authority which you are going to accept. Now, everyone works under some authority, but we should not work blindly. We should use our intelligence. Therefore we are having this seminar. I am speaking something, so I am posing as an authority. And it is your duty to place relevant questions before an authority and examine his behavior to see whether his precept and his practice are one and the same thing. So we should not take religious life as something mechanical, like “Oh, simply because he is doing something, let me do it.” No. That is foolishness. When the animals are sent to the slaughter house, if one goat goes in, then all the others will also go. That is foolishness. We should hear about religion and philosophy from some authority, but we should also formulate questions and clear the way, and see whether the behavior of the person who is speaking is actually harmonious with his teaching. It is your duty to do that.

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: One thing I would like to know is why all these authorities have failed.

HANSADUTTA: No, they have not failed. People have not followed. Just like mathematics. If you get cheated by a businessman, it doesn’t mean that mathematics is not good. It means that you have not applied it very well.

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: If you examine the life of Christ or of Krishna, you can see that they were able to achieve some success because they were able to see the suffering of the people in the society at that time.

HANSADUTTA: Well, if you examine the life of Christ, what did he achieve? He was killed. The people killed him. They were so barbaric. His achievement is that he himself personally set the highest example, the highest standard of behavior, and he taught it also to the public. But as far as achieving something, what did Christ achieve? After all, he was crucified at the age of 36 or 39. He did not live a very long time. He didn’t build a skyscraper. He didn’t introduce any economic development. But he himself behaved on he highest standard of spiritual understanding. That is his achievement.

As far as we are concerned, we cannot be compared with Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t propose to present ourselves like that. But at least our behavior… we can pattern our behavior after the behavior of such great personalities. And we can abide by the principles of religion. We may not be very learned or very powerful, but at least we can live an exemplary life of Krishna consciousness. It is not difficult to do that.

And that is the only solution to the problems of the world today. All over the world people are suffering due to Godlessness, because they are trying to exploit the resources of material nature for their personal sense gratification. As soon as we understand and see that everything is the property of the Lord, then automatically we become society conscious, as Mr. Abhishekar pointed out. There is no difference between society consciousness, God consciousness, Krishna consciousness, Christ consciousness or Islam consciousness. If that consciousness is genuinely there, genuine philosophical and scientific understanding of God, then there is no problem about society consciousness. There is no separation. It is one and the same thing.

OBSERVER: Didn’t Krishna ask Arjuna to fight? Why was he allowed to kill? You are saying, “Do not kill.”

HANSADUTTA: Yes, don’t kill anything. But for protection, if you have to protect yourself, if you have to protect the society, then fighting may be employed also. Just like Mohammed, he had to fight. And Krishna was sometimes fighting. Even Lord Jesus was taking a stick and beating the money-lenders out of the temple. So he was also fighting. Fighting for the right cause is all right.

Anyway, I can come to you as docile, in the service of the Lord, but there must be a class of men who give protection to the people, and if necessary they will fight. And there must be a class of men who will be learned and who will speak. That is also required. There must be a class of men who produce food and trade. And there must be a class of men who labor and work. Everything is useful when it is applied to the service of the Lord. That is called varnashrama dharma. This is the original system of government, and it is described in Vedic literature.

OBSERVER: There are so many sects of religion, and the number is increasing all the time. And there are also the scientists, who explain things differently.

HANSADUTTA: Yes. I can explain this phenomenon. As I explained earlier, religion must be understood on principle. If there is no principle, then there is no religion. If you examine any of these so-called religions which are flourishing in western countries, you will find that none of them follow any principles. They do not abstain from meat, fish and eggs; they do not abstain from alcohol or smoking or drugs; they do not abstain from illicit sex; and they do not abstain from gambling. So where is the question of religion? It is simply some manufactured club. If I make up some name, naturally I will get some followers, but that doesn’t mean that it has become religion. Just like gold. Gold is understood by its characteristics, which make it distinct from other metals. If I come to India and I see that everyone is wearing brass earrings and I have no idea what gold is, I might say everyone is wearing gold. No. Gold means it must have certain characteristics. So religion means there must be certain principles. If there is no principle, then there is no religion. In America and in Europe, there are many societies with so many names—Mormons, Episcopaleans, Lutherans, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists. But practically they don’t follow any principles, so what is the basis of their organization? What is the basis of their society? It is nothing; it is simply superfluous.

CHRISTIAN PRIEST: If all religions are one in principle, what is the need to change from Christianity to Hare Krishna?

HANSADUTTA: There is no need whatsoever. But we were unable to find a real Christian. Therefore we had to accept this Krishna consciousness, because we found in our spiritual master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a person who actually exemplified the principles of religion, so we accepted him. Not that we thought, “Now we are going to become Hindus.” No, we are not interested in Hindu religion. We are interested in the principle of spiritual life.

OBSERVER: Then it is all right for us to follow Christ?

HANSADUTTA: Yes. That I have said all along. Follow him and be a good Christian.

OBSERVER: You say you are not interested in Hindu, but you follow Krishna and Bhagavad-gita. That is a contradiction.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, we follow Krishna and Bhagavad-gita, but Bhagavad-gita is not Hindu. You will never find the word “Hindu” in Bhagavad-gita.

OBSERVER: It is all right to follow Hare Krishna if you can read English, but here in Ceylon many people do not speak English. For them to go out of the Muslim religion…

HANSADUTTA: It is all right. If you follow the order of Mohammed, it is perfect. If you follow the order of Christ, it is perfect. If you follow the order of Krishna, it is perfect. And you will find that none of them contradict one another. They are all in agreement. Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.

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