“One should know the Lord as much as can be known by our limited knowledge. It is impossible for the Lord to be known perfectly as He is, even by such liberated persons as Shiva or Brahma, so what to speak of other demigods or men in this world. Still, by following the principles of the great devotees and the instructions available in the scriptures, one can know to a considerable extent the features of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.3 purport)
Friend1: Can you clarify the reason behind the existence of different religions again?
Friend1: I’m just wondering.
Friend2: Someone press you about it?
Friend1: It comes up a lot. I notice that people are reluctant to accept the truths of the Bhagavad-gita right away.
Friend2: What’s so difficult to accept?
Friend1: The stuff about reincarnation and karma is fine. The same goes for being detached and not worrying about the outcome to actions. But it’s the surrendering to Krishna part. That sounds sectarian. People will say that their religion says to surrender to someone else.
Friend2: Oh, okay. I see what you’re asking now.
Friend1: And then you get the “all religions are the same” argument thrown into the mix.
Friend2: Well, the starting premise is that all religions acknowledge God. That is what makes religion distinct from atheism.
Friend1: Yeah. Theism implies a deity.
Friend2: So there really shouldn’t be any controversy here. We’re saying that Krishna is the God your religion speaks of.
Friend1: But what is the proof?
Friend2: What proof do they have that it’s not true? We have the complete knowledge that is the Vedas. We have the five important topics of the living entity, the supreme controller, time, karma and the material nature. These are discussed in depth by Krishna. The same speaker shows the universal form to Arjuna to dispel any doubts, though Arjuna really didn’t have any on this matter.
Friend1: That’s a lot of detail there.
Friend2: Exactly. The descriptions of Krishna are unlimited. The Vedas are actually glorifications of God. That is why Vedic literature expands infinitely. New people are constantly entering the discipline and realizing the Supreme and then sharing their experiences. The realizations occur through accepting authorized practices and implementing principles that aren’t concocted in the mind.
Friend1: But the more you refer to God as a person, the more people will consider it to be sectarianism. Shouldn’t we be respectful of others?
Friend2: Who is saying that we’re not respectful? Krishna is very kind; He allows people to understand Him in an abstract way if they want. That is the impersonal effulgence known as Brahman. This idea of loving everyone and treating them equally is a form of appreciating Brahman. The people may not know what to call this realization, but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from telling them.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: It’s as if you want first graders and college students to be equal in intelligence. You want the people with more knowledge to admit that their understanding is no different than people with less knowledge.
Friend1: That’s kind of a snobby attitude, don’t you think?
Friend2: Can the unlimited ever be equal to the limited?
Friend1: Is that a trap?
Friend2: No. It’s a simple question.
Friend1: The obvious answer is “no.”
Friend2: Exactly. So if one side has only a limited understanding of God, who is the object of religion, then why should another side hide what they do know about the Supreme?
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Especially if the side with more information knows that learning about Krishna and being conscious of Him is the way to solve all the problems of life. Imagine if everyone agreed that God is a person. Imagine if everyone wanted to serve Him with love. You would still have conflict, but it wouldn’t be as bad as things are today. Those with limited understanding would be treated with compassion, helped along the path to increasing that understanding.
Friend1: The unlimited can help the limited; not the other way around.
Friend2: Correct. We are born limited. We have to be taught so many things by the elders. It is for this reason that the Sanskrit word “guru” applies not only to teachers, but to parents as well. You’re supposed to respect your parents because they know better, at least at the beginning of life. The spiritual master is also a guru because they give you the second and more important life.
Friend1: I take it that you don’t think these interfaith conferences are helpful?
Friend2: That the different groups can get their message across is a positive thing. It’s always better if people talk in a peaceful manner, to exchange ideas.
Friend1: Yeah, that’s what I like too.
Friend2: But again, the premise of the whole thing is to equate the unlimited with the limited. No good comes from that. If someone who got a failing grade in the class gets promoted along with someone who got a passing grade, you’re not helping either party. The first should stay until they have learned to a satisfactory level and the second will be justified in thinking that their studying was a waste of time.
Friend1: So what is the way to get everyone together?
Friend2: Increase their understanding. Be more than sentimental. Understand that God is more than just an abstract. The Supreme Lord is one who manifests in many ways; there is no denying that. If you say you have your own God, then worship Him. But if you don’t know much about your own God, have an open mind to learn about Him. The Supreme Lord is not the exclusive property of any sect. He is for both the sage Agastya and the warrior Arjuna. He is for the dairy farmer Nanda and the servant Sumantra. He is even for the vulture Jatayu and the monkey Sugriva. By saying that God is a person, we are not excluding anyone from worship. Rather, we are including everyone. The Vedas are inclusive.
With sentiment God to adore,
But beyond concept there is more.
A person with features is He,
All-attractive that others can see.
That all faiths equal wrong to state,
Since unlimited with limited to equate.
Understanding increase for together to bring,
Holy names open for all to sing.