Isn’t The Promise Of Liberation A Cheap Ploy To Increase Followers

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

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Friend1: We went over this one day.

Friend2: What?

Friend1: The idea of promising increased wealth for following bhakti-yoga.

Friend2: You mean lying to people? Telling something you know to be untrue in order to get them through the door?

Friend1: Right, to increase the attendance figures. To catch their attention. You concluded that it wasn’t worth it since they could easily see through the ruse. A quick survey of practicing devotees shows that increased wealth doesn’t necessarily follow chanting the holy names.

Friend2: There is the comparison made between devotees of Shiva and Vishnu. Worshiping Mahadeva, the destroyer, it is not difficult to please him.

Friend1: Hence the name Ashutosha.

Friend2: And so you can ask him for anything, including wealth. Vishnu devotees, on the other hand, might end up poorer as a result of approaching Him. Something to ponder, for sure.

[Lord Vishnu]Friend1: I know the explanation is that Vishnu is also known as Hari. He might take away something important to you, or at least what you think is important.

Friend2: If it is an impediment in the practice of devotion. The idea is that He helps to remove distractions, whereas Shiva doesn’t want to be bothered by petty requests. “Here, take your money and leave me alone. Let me get back to worshiping Vishnu.”

Friend1: Yeah, that is another aspect to ponder. Shiva is himself a devotee of Vishnu. Mahadeva is the most renounced person.

Friend2: He lives in a cave with his wife. He doesn’t require anything except a place to sit. Then he is happy.

Friend1: The money angle won’t work, but here is something to think about. You know how other religions gain followers?

Friend2: I am not an expert on other religions or divisions of faith. That is your area of interest, exclusively.

Friend1: Very funny. Anyway, what I’m referring to is the whole, “You better follow or you’re going to hell,” argument.

Friend2: Yes, that is standard. More of a threat. A similar one is, “You better accept or I’m going to kill you.”

Friend1: Coercion in either case. To me, something similar is the promise of enjoyment in heaven in the afterlife.

Friend2: Be more specific.

Friend1: If you accept such and such as the savior, you will be saved. Specifically, you will enjoy in heaven for eternity. Suffer a little now to gain a lot in the future. You don’t want to take a chance, do you?

Friend2: Spiritual life should, at a minimum, include descriptions of the unknown, particularly what will happen after death.

Friend1: Here is my question for the day. Is not the famous verse from the Bhagavad-gita doing the same thing, where Krishna promises to deliver from all sinful reaction if someone surrenders?

Friend2: To you that is the same as a blanket promise of eternal life in heaven for following blindly?

Friend1: Forget the following part. I’m talking about the promise. If you present that verse to someone, isn’t that an easy way to increase the number of followers?

Friend2: Is that what you think it is? A ploy?

Friend1: Someone could use it that way. Open to the page in the Bhagavad-gita and read the verse. Then tell the person to surrender to Krishna.

Friend2: You realize that the verse comes at the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita. Conclusion means that there is a beginning. The middle is quite substantive, as well. If a person reads only the beginning, they receive knowledge that is not available anywhere else. We’re talking knowledge here, not just faith. Truths that apply to the right now, to how life is lived in any era.

Friend1: I get all that, but I’m talking about the promise. It seems awfully similar.

Friend2: Krishna explains heaven and hell and life in between. He describes the difference between matter and spirit. He even explains what surrender is. It is consciousness. It is not merely an acknowledgment of faith. He didn’t tell Arjuna to simply have faith and then do whatever he wanted going forward, that actions are meaningless. There was no pledge to sign.

Friend1: But Krishna will deliver. There will be no sinful reactions because of the surrender.

Friend2: Surrender means consciousness. That is the distinction, and one that is important to acknowledge, accept and understand. You will feel the benefits of liberation before death. You are not just relying on hope. You’ve heard of the term jivan-mukta.

Friend1: Yes. Liberated in this very life.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: No need to wait for the afterlife. The promise has nothing to do with attracting followers. Let everyone reclaim what is rightfully theirs: ananda. This is real bliss that doesn’t have to wait until after death to arrive. Bhakti-yoga is a way of living; much more than faith. Practice the principles and see for yourself. Jnana and vijnana, knowledge and practical realization, go well beyond the, “Follow or you’re going to hell,” argument.

In Closing:

“Follow or you’re going to hell,”

The zealous preacher to tell.

Or that heaven to enjoy from accepting,

Out of fear people not rejecting.

Promise of Gita not similar how,

Since benefit from abandoning now?

After extended discussion, at conclusion to see,

Real meaning that the consciousness to free.

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