“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)
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Friend1: The concept of salvation is certainly not exclusive to any one religion.
Friend2: Explain what you mean by “salvation.”
Friend1: The idea that everyone in this world is a sinner. That is the reason for being here, in the first place. Not through work alone does the situation change. Not through knowledge, sacrifice, penance, austerity, or any other specifically designated effort.
Friend2: Then what is the solution?
Friend1: Born-again faith.
Friend2: Oh. In a particular person?
Friend1: Sure, or a sacred book. The idea is that you must have faith. Otherwise, everything is hopeless.
Friend2: What happens if you fail to acquire such faith in this lifetime?
Friend1: I think most of the religions say that you are out of luck. Condemned to hell.
Friend2: Forever? No chance at redemption?
Friend1: This is your chance. Don’t let it go to waste.
Friend2: Okay, but what about those who pass on before they have the option to make a conscious decision?
Friend1: Babies, children, and the like?
Friend2: Or even someone who never gets the chance to hear about the need for salvation. Not everyone goes through the exact same cycle of life. What is the fate of such a person?
Friend1: I don’t know. I’ve heard different explanations. One is that the higher authorities involved in a specific faith give every person a chance at some point.
Friend2: What about the child in the womb?
Friend1: Yes, I never said I was an expert on these rules [smiling].
Friend2: Alright; no problem.
Friend1: Anyway, my question to you relates to the Vedas, and specifically the Bhagavad-gita. We have the promise from Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that a person who abandons all kinds of dharma in favor of surrender to Him has no reason to fear.
Friend2: They will be delivered, or “saved” if we want to stay consistent with the theme of today. They are protected from any negative consequences attached to giving up a specific dharma, which is a kind of system of religion or rule-set.
Friend1: Okay, so I understand that Krishna makes this promise at the end of the discussion with Arjuna. There is so much philosophy presented. It is a science for realizing the self; not just blind faith. At the same time, couldn’t someone make the accusation that the followers of the Vedas are insisting on the same kind of born-again faith for achieving salvation?
Friend2: It’s not the only way, though. And there are different kinds of liberation. Someone who enjoys speaking on the Vedic science enjoys hearing such challenges.
Friend1: Why is that?
Friend2: Because the person on the other side has no idea what they are about to hear. The transmigration of the soul. The concept of karma. The fundamental difference between body and spirit. The imperishable nature of the individual. The different kinds of bodies he can inhabit. The different kinds of worlds in which a person can take birth.
Friend1: Sure, that’s great, but how does it tie in to the concept of salvation?
Friend2: Again, you get a better understanding of what liberation means. It is the end to the cycle of birth and death. There are different kinds of enjoyment afterwards. A person who does not surrender to Krishna is not forever doomed. There is always a chance, since the Supreme Lord stays close by in the heart. He is the source of strength in both the sinner and the saint. The thief gets as much intelligence from Krishna as the world-famous preacher with hundreds of followers.
Friend1: But we do insist on surrender. We advise people to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend2: The discussion can continue for years and years to explain the glories of sharanagati, of experiencing the bliss of the shelter of the Supreme Lord. The short summary is that the devotion to Krishna is not exclusive. It does not invalidate any of the promises presented by the other faiths.
Friend2: There can only be one God. There is only one real religion. Perhaps it is explained in different ways based on time and circumstance, but the individual is always separate from the temporary conditions of the material world. He is always spirit soul, part and parcel of God. Connecting with Krishna means understanding and enjoying God in His complete feature. It means experiencing the best kind of life in liberation. The promise is not for scaring anyone; it is for alleviating concerns related to abiding by this rule and that. It is for removing doubts.
On born-again faith insisting,
With this logic persisting.
Of no other path aware,
Dedication with humble prayer.
Vedas the complete explanation giving,
Of just how in liberation living.
That no more on suffering wheel spinning,
Eternal association of Krishna winning.