“Seeing things through the authorized books or authorized teachers is the correct way to see. So, although Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and can see all that is past, present and future, to teach the people in general He used to always refer to the scriptures.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 20)
It is an arena of competing ideas, after all. Every person is free to state their case. They may or may not receive severe punishment as a result, but the option is always there to speak. Prahlada Maharaja waited until he was asked specific questions, and despite knowing the ire it would cause in the head of state, he was not shy about his preference for spiritual life.
In that case the teachers employed to shape and mold the younger generation tried their best to change Prahlada’s mind, but to no avail. The follower of the bhakti path meets many challenges, both subtle and explicit. The majority tend to be lacking a reference to authority.
1. Krishna is the worst
“Are you actually aware of His antics? I’m talking about what is clearly documented in the texts that you hold in such high esteem. Shrimad Bhagavatam. Bhagavad-gita. For starters, He is a warmonger. He urged a reluctant participant to fight, to kill people on the other side. Violence is never the proper course of action.
“Then there are His pastimes in Vrindavana. He sported with young, married women. That is quintessential sin. You are trying to become sinless, anagha, but your hero is known for stealing commodities from other homes and taking away the respect of innocent and chaste women. How could someone like that be the prime object of worship?”
2. Hinduism is a made-up religion
“You don’t really believe the stories, do you? A monkey-god leaping over an ocean and carrying a mountain in his hand. A guy with an elephant-head whose father keeps poison in his throat. His mother rides on a tiger and is ready to attack with pronged weapons.
”It’s obvious to any rational adult that Hinduism was concocted as a way to deal with the unknown. In primitive times people did not have the advantage of modern science. They had to find other ways to explain nature. It’s cool if you want to study that time period in history, but to actually derive any meaning from those texts seems silly to me.”
3. My religion is superior
“Surrender to my God. Don’t get sidetracked with this other stuff. If you don’t admit your sins and pledge allegiance to the savior, there is no hope. You will be doomed to hell for eternity. You don’t want to take that chance, do you?”
4. There is no need for books or explanations
“Just contemplate on the Absolute. You will learn everything through introspection. Wisdom is within you. There is no need of books or accepting a spiritual guide. They can only take you so far, anyway. The higher reality is meant to be realized through silence.”
The issue with these viewpoints is that there is no reference to authority. In this world any person can say anything. I think that today is Monday, in the month of May. Everyone at home and at work seems to agree, but one person claims that it is actually Friday. He thinks the month is January. There is no convincing him otherwise, as he does not quote an authority to back his claim.
The principles of Vedic culture descend in what is called parampara, which is a sequence of spiritually realized souls. They learn the truth from a teacher and then pass on the wisdom to one or many people in a succeeding generation; something like passing the torch.
Genuine spiritual life is thus learned through the combination of authority and the practice and adherence to principles. There is a scientific basis to achieving consciousness of the Supreme Lord. Otherwise, in the game of dogmatic insistence, one opinion is as valid as another. Every person is on an equal playing field, regardless of intelligence or reasoning.
The argument may be made that authority is determined arbitrarily, but there is always some kind of faith involved. From the Bhagavad-gita we see the proper way to understand. Arjuna accepts Krishna as the authority figure, the guru. Krishna presents the principles of spiritual life and answers any questions that Arjuna may have. In the end, it is up to the student to decide how to proceed. Bhagavan does not insist on blind faith.
Through consulting authority a person learns that the same God described extensively to be the origin of the universes, to be beyond the bounds of time and space, can most certainly enjoy with His supporters in any manner desired. He recommends violence when necessary, and the Divine figures associated with Him have extraordinary forms and abilities due precisely to the important roles they play in maintaining the material world.
If God can hold up the massive planets in the air, then most certainly it is possible for one of His devotees to be empowered to the point of carrying a large mountain in their hand. The baseless criticisms get quickly squashed when there is guidance from the spiritual master and some dedication to the association of transcendental sound: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
From dedication not to erase,
When baseless challenges to face.
Like Shri Krishna worst of all,
Or Vedas mythology to call.
Superior is religion of mine,
Surrender or hell to find!
Authority and intelligence the proper way,
Even quoting when Lord teachings to say.
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