“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
Friend1: What is the common way that the existence of the different religions is explained?
Friend2: What do you mean? What is the actual reason or what is the most popular explanation based on mental speculation?
Friend1: You know what I mean. According to the Vedic point of view.
Friend2: Hmm. Are you prepared for that detailed an explanation?
Friend1: I mean specifically the analogy. Isn’t there something about a pocket dictionary?
Friend2: Oh, right. For starters, let’s establish that God is one. One of the many names for Him in Sanskrit is Ishvara.
Friend1: That means “Supreme Controller.”
Friend2: Correct. That controller isn’t only for the Hindus. He is not supreme only amongst people from India.
Friend2: As God is one, so is religion. The Sanskrit word is dharma, which means “essential characteristic,” at the root level. There is only one dharma.
Friend1: Then why are there different religions?
Friend2: They are ways the single dharma is explained. Think of it like a mathematics class. In first grade, children learn basic addition and subtraction. In high school, they learn calculus. Just because calculus is absent from the elementary school curriculum doesn’t make those classes any less about mathematics.
Friend1: That’s good, but you’re veering off course. What about the pocket dictionary?
Friend2: Same thing. You have a complete dictionary, which is large when available in print form. The pocket dictionary is a handy reference guide. It’s easier to carry around. It’s also a dictionary. You can’t deny that fact.
Friend2: At the same time, the full dictionary has more words. It is superior based on content. The Vedic tradition is like the full dictionary, while other traditions are like pocket dictionaries.
Friend1: Okay. That’s what I was getting at. Now, let me ask you this. Don’t you think people who follow those other traditions will get insulted when they hear this?
Friend2: Why should they?
Friend1: You’re saying that their religious tradition is inferior.
Friend2: First of all, it’s not my opinion. The Bhagavad-gita features the five topics of the living entity, the material nature, time, karma, and the supreme controller [the aforementioned Ishvara]. If one book has all of these high topics that apply universally, to all people and to all species, how can traditions that have faith and not doing this thing and that at the foundation be on an equal footing?
Friend1: But you know they will be offended. You’re essentially saying that their sacred books are like “Religion for Dummies.”
Friend2: Okay. Let’s accept that opinion. What is wrong with following a book that is for “dummies”?
Friend1: Umm. I believe the answer is obvious.
Friend2: You think it’s insulting, but the popular books for dummies are highly instructive. I don’t know a thing about coding in HTML. If I want to learn quickly, I can pick up one of those “for dummies” books. It won’t teach me everything about HTML, but it’s a great way to get started.
Friend2: And every living entity is born into ignorance. Shri Krishna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita.
sarge yānti parantapa
“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)
If I am born into ignorance, it means that at some point I have to learn. Learning about God always helps. There is no denying the fact.
Friend1: What about people being offended, though? Wouldn’t it be better to employ a different tactic?
Friend2: Again, there is nothing to be offended over. The Vedic aphorism “athato brahma jijnasa” applies to every human being. Now is the time for inquiring into your true nature. Be more than just a believer in God. Go beyond fear and respect of an abstract figure that you don’t know much about. Become a servant of His, pure in heart. Follow service to Him with confidence through knowing more about Him. Knowing Him will give you knowledge about yourself, about who you really are. We want everyone to be happy. We know that a religion is bona fide when it leads to love for the Supreme Lord. This is what the Shrimad Bhagavatam defines as religion.
With religions existing more than one,
How to tell which the superior one?
Like different dictionaries to explain,
From deluxe edition most knowledge to gain.
Bhagavad-gita covering topics five,
From it to right conclusion arrive.
When boundless love for God to feel,
Then known that religion followed is real.