“O conqueror of wealth, Arjuna, have you heard this attentively with your mind? And are your illusions and ignorance now dispelled?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.72)
कच्चिद् एतच् छ्रुतं पार्थ
प्रणष्टस् ते धनञ्जय
kaccid etac chrutaṁ pārtha
praṇaṣṭas te dhanañjaya
Mention a preference for a specific kind of food. Tell someone about how much you love your dog, how you can’t live without them. Describe the various tourist spots you visited on the most recent vacation.
In fact, choose any kind of preference to discuss, outside of politics, and you likely won’t run into problems. Yet the mere mention of God or religion will turn heads. The people on the receiving end have been driven away through their own life experiences, and the last thing they want to do is revisit the issue.
1. Forced upon future generations
“Follow because I say so. There is no option to decline. My parents made me do things a certain way and I am better off for it. I had a rebellious tendency when I was younger, and if they had let me choose everything on my own who knows where I would be today. This is the religion passed down from our forefathers and you will one day pass on the same to your offspring.”
2. Dogmatic insistence
“Follow because this is what the book says. We refer to it as scripture. Why is that penance recommended? Why is man put on this earth if there is no choice but to accept? Why do we have the ability to think if there shouldn’t be so many questions asked? I don’t know the answers. Don’t put so much effort into it. Just accept the principles and don’t stray too far. These other religions are not bona fide.”
3. Irrational allegiance
“Yes, the leaders have been in the news recently. They did unspeakable things. I will acknowledge that this new leader has me scratching my head with some of his stances. Still, we associate with this particular faith, and part of the doctrine is to accept whatever the leader says. If we were to question, we would lose our status as faithful members of that denomination. I am not ready to risk that over a few regrettable incidents made public.”
4. Blind faith
“Okay, I get that others were led down the wrong path by accepting a leader blindly, without questioning, but this is different. We are following the word of higher authority. Accept the principles without question. You call it blind faith, but I call your way deliberate ignorance. Everything is laid out for you. Accept and be saved. Otherwise, be forever doomed.”
In this way the natural inclination towards Divine life gets squashed. The fire inside which should be raging gets almost fully extinguished. Meanwhile, the propensity for service will always remain. To remove it would mean to end the very nature of existence. The Bhagavad-gita explains that such an essence can never be killed.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The genuine religion meets the needs of the individual. It is beyond the temporary world, which creates illusory situations that have the external appeal of satisfaction, while in reality the end result is continued misery.
The Bhagavad-gita is an explanation on the real religion, commonly grouped into the category of “faith” for the purpose of comparative discussion. Yet there are several notable distinctions. This work has the direct words of the Supreme Lord; not forwarded hearsay evidence. The teachings also have a scientific component to them; the student is not encouraged to accept blindly.
Most importantly, at the end of the presentation there is a choice. In this case the warrior named Arjuna is the quintessential student. The teacher, Shri Krishna, asks if everything has been properly explained and understood. If not, He is ready to review again; enough times until no doubts remain.
Arjuna has the choice. Accept and follow through. See the results of the bhakti path, of abandoning all other dharmas in favor of pleasing the Supreme Lord. Or follow the whims of the senses, neglecting intellect in favor of emotion. Every person has this choice, though they may not have had the full suite of options made known to them.
Vedic literature accounts for every situation of living, and so every person has the opportunity to bring their worldview into the analysis. See for yourself if chanting the holy names has a positive impact: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Judge whether Krishna is indeed the one God not incompatible with the many ways religion is practiced. Run a side-by-side experiment of the results of following material life and of taking up the timeless science that is the true dharma of the individual.
From all angles analysis mount,
Vedas for such variety can account.
Not that only blindly to accept,
And real questions to reject.
Follow with faith but mind too applying,
Understand on shastra vision relying.
Try yourself and see the effect,
If more peace and bliss to detect.
Categories: the four