“If we examine all persons, we will find that everyone has a beginning, but when we approach a person who has no beginning, He is the Supreme Person. That is the definition given in the Brahma-samhita. Ishvarah paramah krishnah: [Bs. 5.1] the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krishna, the supreme controller; He is without beginning, and He is the beginning of everyone. This definition is found in all Vedic literatures.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.3 Purport)
Girish: I like your philosophy, don’t get me wrong. It sounds interesting, for sure. I am more interested in it than the blinding fanaticism I see elsewhere. I like that there is some logic behind everything, that I’m not being threatened with eternal damnation at the outset. That being said, I’m having trouble with the devotional aspect.
Shankar: What do you mean?
Girish: Specifically the worship of Krishna.
Shankar: Yes, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Girish: Okay, that’s fine, but don’t you think that perhaps the devotion is a means to a higher end?
Shankar: Such as what?
Girish: Such as full oneness in transcendence, complete enlightenment.
Shankar: So basically, liberation.
Girish: Exactly. Isn’t the worship of Krishna just one way to get liberation?
Shankar: Sure, but what do you think happens after liberation? Do you think that everything just stops? What are you supposed to do when you have no more hankering or lamenting? How are you supposed to act when you see the spiritual equality of all beings? What is the next step when you are free from anger, hatred and envy?
Girish: Why does there have to be a next step? Those things that you described are fine as it is.
Shankar: With a perpetual existence, there must be a next step. There is always a future for something that exists forever. As of right now liberation is a future goal. Once that future arrives, which is by no means guaranteed, there needs to be a future after that.
Girish: But why Krishna? Why can’t I just worship God? Why do I have to see Him as a young bluish boy who holds a flute? Don’t get me wrong, I think He is very attractive. I could sit for hours and hours looking at His beautiful form. I never get tired of hearing about His childhood pastimes in Vrindavana.
Shankar: Which one is your favorite?
Girish: Probably the time He gave butter to the monkeys. That always makes me laugh. That would drive any parent nuts I would think. It’s like taking something you worked so hard for and giving it away to someone who may not appreciate it so much. And yet Krishna knows that even the monkeys are His friends, so He is more than happy to do this.
Shankar: Yes. So why not continue thinking of Krishna all the time?
Girish: Well, I know that others may not be so open in the beginning. They will think that Krishna is a Hindu God. You know, the idea of “I have my religion and you have yours. Don’t bother me. We’re all the same.” Don’t you worry that speaking so much about Krishna will give others the wrong idea?
Shankar: What idea is that? That worship of Him is very important? That He is the most magnanimous, the most merciful and the kindest person to all souls?
Girish: He is those things, but you know sometimes people say bad things about Him at the outset when they don’t know Him very well. They’ll take this pastime out of context or they’ll present this teaching in the wrong light. Wouldn’t it be better to make it more generic, like speaking about God only?
Shankar: You can surely do that. Krishna facilitates this, in fact. If you read the Bhagavad-gita, which is nothing more than Krishna’s direct words, teachings which He considers to be most important, you can understand Him in vague terms. He allows you to understand Him in any way you choose.
Girish: What do you mean?
Shankar: Well, if you think that invoking the name “Krishna” will raise questions in others, you can refer to the same person by saying “the cause of all causes.” Like basic substitution, we could say that the Bhagavad-gita is spoken by the person who has no beginning.
Girish: I see.
Shankar: Even when discussing matters with those who think that the universe originated from a big chunk, we can tell them that we simply worship someone who came before the chunk. There was obviously something before that; that is our experience now. If you’re saying the chunk came out of nowhere, then you’re saying the chunk is God. We’re saying that the beginning of all beginnings is the person whom we worship. Where we part ways is that we know He is a personality. We take this off of faith, just as you expect others to accept your speculations about the origin of the universe on faith.
Girish: So if you know of God only as the person without a beginning, are you missing something?
Shankar: Well, you’re missing out on knowing Him. You will only know of Him as anadi, or without beginning. He is also sarva karana-karanam, or the cause of all causes. He is also parameshvara, or the supreme controller. He is adi-purusha, or the original person. So these are better ways to know Him, and I think they alleviate the concerns you have of people being put off by mention of Krishna directly.
Girish: I think so. That way they’ll be more open to accepting the philosophy of reincarnation, the three modes of material nature, the cycle of the creation and destruction, and the importance of consciousness at the time of death.
Shankar: Yes, so Krishna allows for endless ways for describing Him. You should bear in mind that the degree to which you know Krishna directly correlates to your level of happiness in spiritual life. If you know Him only as the person without a beginning, your happiness will be limited. You are more susceptible to falling back into the trap of illusion, where you accept this present body as everything and sense gratification as the vehicle for lasting satisfaction. If you know Him as the son of mother Yashoda and the darling of Vrindavana, you’re more likely to stay attached to Him, and thus enjoy with Him in the afterlife.
Girish: Yeah, that makes sense. I guess Krishna is a good name for Him, as He really is all-attractive.
Afraid of Krishna to others to tell,
For wrong idea when not knowing Him well.
Still to explain other ways exist,
So that descriptions of Him to persist.
The origin of everything way one,
And also person having an end none.
The more of Krishna that you know,
The more pleasure in liberation so.