Hinduism: God and gods

While I was editor of Back to Godhead, we published a series of articles called “The Glories of the Demigods.” The articles praised the demigods as great servants of Lord Krishna. Not everyone was pleased. The Federation of Hindu Associations objected. So did the President of the Cambridge University Hindu Society. Here’s what they wrote, along with my replies.

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From the Federation of Hindu Associations

The Federation of Hindu Associations, Inc. (FHA) takes strong exception to the article and subsequent rejoinders in the Back to Godhead magazine, May/June 1995, which in effect state that Shiva, Ganesha, Brahma, Rama and other deities can at best be considered as “demi-gods” and “a little higher” than human beings.

Statements of this type are extremely offensive and confusing to the devout Hindus and are destructive to the Hindu interests. Branding the worshipers of such deities as “offenders” is not fair to the compassionate and diversified philosophy of Hinduism.

With interpretations suiting to themselves, from obscure Puranas, since thousands of years, schools of Vaishnavism (Krishna), Shaivism and Shaktism (Durga) are unfortunately conflicting on this question. The attitudes reek of fundamentalism, violate the very spirit of Hinduism, and create the possibility of another offshoot from the mother religion. By following such interpretations, they are creating exclusive territories of influence and business around one deity, by eliminating or reducing the significance of others.

FHA considers that in Hinduism all deities represent the different forms, attributes, qualities, powers or shaktis of the same Almighty. A partial attachment to any of them, and not surrendering to all of the others remaining, does not complete surrender to all the qualities and components of the definition of God. Surrender to any deity is surrender to one of His attributes. Hence, all of them are worshiped, at one time or another, to complete the “Puja” [worship] of the Supreme. So, nobody should knock down, degrade or insult any of the Gods or Goddesses by creating classes or grades around these multi-faces of the same God. FHA proposes that, for the benefit of Hinduism, we should stop this discussion and treatment of superiority and inferiority.

FHA appeals to ISKCON to continue the good work initiated by Swami Prabhupada. FHA notes that even after the identification of this controversy by Radha Raman temple, Placentia [California], the statements of ISKCON are still confusing and hurting to the cause of Hinduism.

FHA appeals to ISKCON to make a clear statement that “there is no superior or inferior among Krishna, Shiva or Durga” and retract the objectionable statements and declare themselves belonging to the Hindu family and way of life, respecting everyone.

FHA appeals to all temples, associations and activists to join and work together in the best interests of Hinduism, to benefit this commonwealth of beliefs and protect it from any damage.

Please Remember: Confinement is not Hinduism. HINDUS, PLEASE SAVE HINDUISM.

Sincerely,

Prithvi Raj Singh
President
Federation of Hindu Associations (FHA), Inc.
Hawaiian Gardens, California

Reply to the Federation

Dear Mr. Singh,

Thank you for sending us a copy of your resolution. I am grateful to you for expressing to us your concern.

You have appealed to us to continue the good work initiated by Srila Prabhupada. Thank you for that request. We consider it your blessing.

You have also appealed to us to make a clear statement, and so we shall. Here it is: We reaffirm that Krishna alone is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. He appears in unlimited Vishnu forms such as Narayana and Rama. All other gods and living beings are His servants.

Now, let me respond in some detail to the points you have raised in your resolution.

We honor the devas

Yes, we have referred to Lord Siva, Sri Ganesha, and Lord Brahma as demigods — but not Lord Sri Rama. We consistently distinguish between the forms of Vishnu (the Supreme Lord) and the devas (the exalted servants of the Supreme Lord). According to authoritative scriptures, Lord Rama is another form of Vishnu — He is identical with Krishna, the Supreme Lord Himself — and deities such as Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, and Sri Ganesha are His servants.

Yes, we refer to these exalted servants as “demigods.” This is an English rendering of the Sanskrit word deva, and it means that they are partial manifestations of God. Yes, we say they are subordinate to God and are His servants.

Far from being insults, these are terms of high praise. According to the Rig Veda (1.22.20), to be subordinate to the Supreme Lord is the glorious qualification of the gods (om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah). As conditioned souls, we are insubordinate — rebellious against the Lord — whereas the devas always humbly consider themselves subordinate and always look toward His lotus feet.

We therefore honor the devas for being exalted devotees. We do not call them ugly or bogus, dismiss them as “seducers,” or consider them merely “a little higher” than human beings.

Who are the offenders?

In a sheet attached to your resolution, you have enclosed a page from Back to Godhead in which you circle some passages to which you object. There we find the context in which we used the word bogus. We said that anyone who claims to be God but whose claim has no basis in scripture is “simply bogus.” Do we still stand by that? Absolutely. An imposter who claims to be God is not God but a dog. Such an imposter is just the opposite of the devas (gods); he is an asura (demon).

Are the devas “a little higher” than human beings? No, we never said that. They are vastly higher. But they are still subordinate to Vishnu, the Supreme Lord.

You are unhappy that we published a statement describing the worshipers of the devas as “offenders.” But that word wasn’t ours. It appeared in a direct quotation from the Padma Purana (one of the eighteen principal Puranas, and hardly obscure). The specific Sanskrit word used is pashandi. We have given the translation “offender.” According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary, alternatives are “heretic,” “hypocrite,” “imposter,” or “anyone who falsely assumes the characteristics of an orthodox Hindu.”

That’s not our fault. That’s what the scriptural quotation says. We have simply repeated it.

What does the Gita say?

Anyway, for the moment let us leave the Puranas aside. In the Hare Krishna movement, our main source of teaching is Bhagavad-gita. That is our primary source of authority, the main scripture we follow. How about you? Do the members of your Association accept the words of Bhagavad-gita? I assume they must.

Then what do you make of this statement (Bhagavad-gita 9.23):

ye ’py anya-devata-bhakta
yajante sraddhayanvitah
te ’pi mam eva kaunteya
yajanty avidhi-purvakam

Here Lord Sri Krishna clearly says that those who are devotees of other gods (anya-devata) and who worship them with faith (sraddhayanvitah) are actually worshiping only Him (mam eva) — but they are doing it in the wrong way (avidhi-purvakam).

The Bhagavad-gita says it is wrong. Why should we say it is right?

Elsewhere in the Gita (7.20), Lord Sri Krishna says that because of materialistic desires (kamaih), those who surrender to other gods (anya-devatah) are bereft of intelligence (hrita-jnanah). The intelligent, Lord Krishna says (7.19), surrender to Him (mam prapadyante), knowing that He, Lord Sri Krishna, who appeared as the son of Vasudeva, is everything. He is the complete whole, the Absolute Truth, of whom all other living beings are a part.

Therefore, by worshiping Krishna one automatically worships all other deities, just as by watering the root of a tree one waters all the leaves and branches or by putting food in the stomach one feeds the entire body.

We can’t water every leaf of a tree or offer food to every cell in the body. But when we pour water on the root or put food in the stomach, the entire tree or the entire body is satisfied.

To whom should we surrender?

As you say in your resolution, “Surrender to any deity is surrender to one of His [God's] attributes.” True. But surrender to the Supreme Lord Himself is surrender to the source of all deities and all attributes.

You speak of the need to surrender to all the gods. But the Vedic scriptures tell us there are 330 million gods. So how will it be possible? We can’t even think of all those gods, what to speak of surrender to them.*

Therefore, we have to follow the method given in the Bhagavad-gita by Lord Sri Krishna, God Himself: surrender to Krishna. In that way our surrender will be complete.

God is the complete reservoir of all qualities, powers, and attributes, and yes these are represented by various gods. Therefore some people are attracted to one god, some to another. But as you say, “A partial attachment to any of them, and not surrendering to all of the others remaining, does not complete surrender to all the qualities and components.” But because Krishna is the origin and refuge of all these gods, one attains the perfection of surrender to all — in one stroke — simply by surrendering to Him alone.

More from the Gita

Whatever one might get by worshiping any other god is in fact bestowed by Krishna Himself (mayaiva vihitan hi tan, Gita 7.22). Why then should one refuse to surrender exclusively to Lord Sri Krishna?

The benefits one gets from other gods are temporary (anta-vat), and therefore Lord Krishna says in the Gita (7.23) that those who worship such gods are alpa-medhasa, “meager in intelligence.” The devotees of such gods attain the abodes of those gods, which are all temporary and subject to distress (duhkhalayam asasvatam, Gita 8.15). The devotees of Krishna, on the other hand, attain the abode of Krishna Himself (yanti mam api), where they enjoy immortal bliss and knowledge.

Again, these are not our statements. They are the statements of Bhagavad-gita. We simply accept them. What else are we supposed to do?

The mother religion and the father

You castigate us for violating “the spirit of Hinduism.” But without the Bhagavad-gita, what is the meaning of Hinduism? The ideas to which you are objecting come directly from the Gita. So why are you objecting?

You accuse us of deviating from “the mother religion.” But the mother religion is not “Hinduism.” The mother religion — for all living beings — is sanatana dharma, or bhagavat dharma, devotion to Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord. In Bhagavad-gita (14.4) Lord Sri Krishna says that He is the father of all living beings (aham bija-pradah pita). He is even the father of the devas (aham adir hi devanam, Gita 10.2). The mother religion, therefore, is the worship of the Supreme Father (Bhagavan), the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna.

The Vedic scriptures, in fact, may be compared to our mother, and the Supreme Lord to our father. If we are in doubt about who our father is, we should best consult our mother. And according to the conclusion of all the Vedic literature, the father of all living beings is Bhagavan Sri Krishna (krishnas tu bhagavan svayam).

Srila Prabhupada, therefore, in books such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Srimad-Bhagavatam, has presented the Vedic literature with scrupulous integrity. And he has distributed its message intact through the Krishna consciousness movement. Anyone born in India, the land of Vedic knowledge, is extremely fortunate. And we appeal to all such fortunate people to make their lives perfect by joining the Krishna consciousness movement and spreading it everywhere for the eternal benefit of all living beings.

Saving Hinduism

On your letterhead I see the slogan garv se kaho ham hindu hai – “Proudly declare, ‘I am Hindu.’ ” But in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna never tells Arjuna to declare himself Hindu. Rather, He directs Arjuna to give up all other forms of religion and simply surrender exclusively unto Him (mam ekam saranam vraja). The Lord then says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhakta pranasyati: “O Arjuna, declare to the world that My devotee will never be vanquished.” Therefore, if we are going to follow Bhagavad-gita, a better slogan would be garv se kaho ham bhagavan-sri-krishna-ke das hai – “Proudly declare to everyone, ‘I am a servant of Lord Sri Krishna.’ ”

If Hinduism is to be saved, the way to save it is to accept Bhagavad-gita as it is. We may have been taught that all gods are equal and we should therefore surrender to them all. But Lord Krishna says to give up all such notions, accept Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and surrender to Him alone (sarva dharman partiyajya mam ekam saranam vraja).

As long as we refuse to surrender to Krishna we shall be confined to this material world (Gita 9.3). So if confinement is not Hinduism, we should at once surrender to Krishna. Lord Krishna will then at once grant us liberation from all material confinement and take us back home, back to Godhead. In this way — by following the divine instructions given in Bhagavad-gita by Lord Sri Krishna Himself — one attains the perfection of Hinduism, and the perfection of human life.

Hare Krishna.

Sincerely,
Jayadvaita Swami
Editor

*A friend has pointed out to me that to separately worship each of the 330 million gods within the course of a year, we’d need to worship more than 900 thousand of them every day.

From the Cambridge University Hindu Society

This letter is in response to your article “Is Back to Godhead an Offender?” [That's the title we gave the exchange between the Federation of Hindu Associations and BTG.] As a young Hindu living in Britain, where the media consistently portrays the religion as fanatical, it is upsetting when it seems that Hindu sects, such as ISKCON [the International Society for Krishna Consciousness], for whom I have great regard and respect, do propound such rigid views which are in direct opposition to the universal tolerance of Sanatana-dharma. When these intolerant views are propagated within the body of this eternal faith, it is even more distressing and worrying.

God is one

I myself am a Krishna bhakta, and believe that Krishna is the Supreme Godhead who takes on different manifestations, is called by different names, but is essentially the one, true Brahman. However, I also truly believe that those devotees who call Him Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, etc., and certainly those who call Him Siva or Brahma worship one and the same God.

Thus, in quoting Gita 9.23:

ye ’py anya-devata-bhakta
yajante sraddhayanvitah
te ’pi mam eva kaunteya
yajanty avidhi-purvakam

in support of your argument, I believe you are grossly misinterpreting what the Lord says here. (I hasten to stress that I myself am in my third year of a Sanskrit degree, and so am not talking without foundation.) I give here another translation of the verse:

“Kaunteya, even those devotees who, endowed with faith, worship other gods (with some interested motive), worship Me alone, though with a mistaken approach.”

Now, I, upon reading this, came to an entirely different conclusion to yours. To me, when Krishna says the approach is mistaken, He means it is wrong to consider your chosen deity as the only Supreme and the others as inferior; i.e., if the devotee worships Siva and does not accept Krishna as one and the same (when they are one in reality) then they are mistaken. I disagree vehemently with, for example, those Christians who believe “Jesus is the Son of God and the only Way and worshippers of other faiths are misled, ignorant, and damned.” God is one and He is not so petty, as you seem to imply, that if you called Him Siva with full faith and devotion (while at the same time accepting that others call him Krishna, etc.) He would be displeased. Indeed, in the Ramcaritamanas, Rama says:

sivapada kamala jinihin rati nahin
ramahi te sapanehun na sohahin

“(He who) has no devotion for the lotus feet of Lord Siva, even in his dreams will not be tolerated by Lord Rama.”

When Krishna talks of “ME” He is speaking of the Supreme Consciousness, not limited by name or form. Krishna even states in the Gita, not that Siva is inferior but in fact rudranam sankaras casmi – “Of all the Rudras, I am Siva.”

What sets Sanatana-dharma apart from other world religions is that it truly believes that they are all equal. The Vedas, whilst referring to 300 million Gods, are inferring the infinitude of the Divine and his forms, not that they really are separate, individual devas. The same Veda states, ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti: “Truth is One, but learned men express it in different ways.”

Beyond limited forms

Secondly, it is mistaken (not wrong, which is too strong a word) to worship deities such as Lakshmi only in their limited forms (in the latter case as the Bestower of Wealth), thinking that that is the ultimate reality/true spirituality. That devotee, looking at God in a limited form, will only experience God in a limited way, e.g. as wealth and prosperity, and not attain oneness with Him:

yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah
sraddhayarcitum icchati
tasya tasyacalam sraddham
tam eva vidadhamy aham

“Whatever celestial form a devotee (craving for some worldly object) chooses to worship with reverence, I stabilise the faith of that particular devotee in that very form.”

But that must be the individual’s choice, and I believe it is a much graver sin to proclaim him a sinner or offender.

If I may recount one of my favourite stories. Tulsi Dasji, that great bhakta of Sri Rama (who you accept, as an incarnation of Vishnu, to be equal to Krishna) did not consider Kanha [Krishna] to be of equal prominence to his Rama. He refused even to enter a temple where the idol worshipped was other than Raghava [Rama]. But one day, for one reason or another, he was forced to enter a temple dedicated to Madhava [Krishna]. Lo and behold, what did he see? When he turned his eyes to the murti [Deity] he saw Rama! And thus he understood. “Lord, I perceive you in my narrow fashion as Rama, but you are beyond form, beyond such limitations. You are Rama, You are Krishna, You are Siva, You are All!”

Sanatana-dharma must encompass all

My preferred form of Brahman is Krishna. When I buy pictures, I consistently discard representations of other deities and always choose those that are of my Kanhaiya (as some ISKCON devotee who came to Cambridge witnessed!). When I sing, I sing of Rama and Krishna; when I pray, I pray to Krishna. I believe it is very conducive for imperfect human beings to have an ista devata [chosen deity], whom they see as the Supreme Godhead. But BRAHMAN is not imperfect; Sanatana-dharma must not, cannot be anything but all-encompassing. The various Puranas are written from the point of view of the devotee, but simply because they are not all-encompassing, not universal in outlook, this does not mean that Sanatana-dharma is not. And this is why Krishna also states categorically in the Gita:

ye yatha mam prapadyante
tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
mama vartmanuvartante
manusyah partha sarvasah

“O Partha, howsoever men seek Me, even so do I approach them, for all men follow My path in every way.”

Yours sincerely,
Aarti Sethia
President, Cambridge University Hindu Society
Cambridge, UK

Reply to Cambridge

Thank you for your kind words of respect for ISKCON. And I’m glad to know that you have chosen Krishna as the deity you most prefer.

Sanatana-dharma is indeed all-encompassing, for it offers every human being an opportunity to make further progress and at last attain perfection.

Yet among the followers of Sanatana-dharma there are two schools, with contrasting views. The contrast is not between the inflexibly rigid and the universally tolerant, but rather between the impersonalists and the personalists.

Both schools accept that the Supreme has both a personal and an impersonal aspect. The question to be settled is how best to regard these two different aspects of the Supreme.

Two schools of thought

The impersonalists agree to the worship of any god because in their view these gods are but steppingstones to a higher reality — the impersonal Absolute, or impersonal Brahman. According to this view, only the impersonal Absolute is real, and all else — even the gods themselves — must ultimately be seen as illusory and therefore given up. According to this view, one may worship Lord Krishna (or any other god), but ultimately one must understand that Krishna (as well as all the other gods) merely represents a higher, impersonal reality; ultimately, the personal identity of Krishna is but an illusion.

The personalists, on the other hand, regard realization of the impersonal Absolute as but a partial, incomplete understanding of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. According to this view, one must go still further, beyond the impersonal Absolute, to recognize the eternal nature of Lord Krishna’s name, form, qualities, pastimes, and other transcendental personal features.

The basis of the formless Absolute

This difference of opinion between the personalist and impersonalist schools can best be settled by reference to Bhagavad-gita.

In the Bhagavad-gita (14.27) you will find that the impersonal Absolute rests upon the Personality of Godhead. According to the Gita, brahmano hi pratisthaham: It is Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the basis of the impersonal Absolute.

The impersonalists say that the Personality of Godhead is but the formless Absolute represented in a form of material nature (prakriti). But in the Bhagavad-gita (9.10) Lord Krishna instructs us that, on the contrary, He is the controller, the supervisor, of the material nature.

To emphasize the factual superiority of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna says in the Gita (9.11), “Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature [param bhavam] as the Supreme Lord of all that be.”

After many, many births

The impersonalists insist that the param bhavam, or supreme nature, of the Lord is higher than the Lord Himself. That supreme nature, they say, is the unmanifest, impersonal Absolute, which manifests itself as Lord Krishna.

But elsewhere in the Gita (7.24) we find:

avyaktam vyaktim apannam
manyante mam abuddhayah
param bhavam ajananto
mamavyayam anuttamam

According to this verse, those who subscribe to such an impersonalist view do not know the Lord’s param bhavam (param bhavam ajananto). The Lord says that only those still lacking in intellectual development (abuddhayah) think that His manifest feature as the Personality of Godhead is derived from an unmanifest, impersonal feature of the Absolute.

After many, many births of progress in cultivating knowledge, when one reaches perfection, one surrenders to the Personality of Godhead (Vasudeva). Vasudevah sarvam iti: that Personality of Godhead is everything. It is He who is universal and all-encompassing, and all else — including the Vedic pantheon of gods and the impersonal Absolute — is but a partial manifestation of Him.

A mistaken approach

Now, let us look at some other points raised by your letter.

Quoting Gita 9.23, you offer your own translation and interpretation of the verse. You translate it this way:

“Kaunteya, even those devotees who, endowed with faith, worship other gods (with some interested motive), worship Me alone, though with a mistaken approach.”

From this you argue that the problem with these devotees is not that they’re approaching other gods but that they’re doing it “with some interested motive.”

As a third-year Sanskrit student, however, you’ve been properly scrupulous about putting that phrase “with some interested motive” in parentheses, thereby indicating, quite rightly, that it doesn’t appear in the text.

So what you’ve done, really, is to parenthetically insert your own comment into the verse, and then argue from your comment as though it were evidence from the Gita.

Ms. Sethia, please — you simply can’t do that.

Drop the parenthetical intrusion, and your rendering of the verse is fine: “Even devotees who, endowed with faith, worship other gods worship Me alone [Lord Sri Krishna], though with a mistaken approach.”

Whether we prefer to say that worshiping other gods is “mistaken,” “irregular,” “wrong,” or whatever, it boils down to pretty much the same thing: it isn’t right. What’s right is to abandon all other approaches and surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja).

Above all others

You suggest that it’s wrong to regard Krishna as “the only Supreme” and others as inferior. But the very meaning of Supreme is “highest,” “ultimate,” “above all others.”

Thus we find in Bhagavad-gita 11.43 that Arjuna says to Lord Krishna, na tvat-samo ’sty abhyadhikah kuto ’nyo: “No one is equal to You, so how could anyone be greater?” The same conclusion is confirmed in the Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8 (na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate).

Lord Siva and other gods are exalted servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore it is proper that one have great respect and devotion toward them also. But still one should understand their true exaltedness as servants of the Supreme Lord, not as independent Lords themselves.

The origin of all the gods and sages

From Chapter Ten of Bhagavad-gita (10.23) you quote Lord Krishna’s statement rudranam sankaras casmi: “Of all the Rudras, I am Siva.” This is fine, but not as evidence that Lord Siva is equal to the Personality of Godhead.

In the same chapter, Lord Krishna says that among beasts He is the lion (10.30), among fishes He is the shark (10.31), among seasons He is spring (10.35), and among cheaters He is gambling (10.36). The point is not that the lion is God, the shark is God, spring is God, or — least of all — that gambling is God. The point is that each of these, in its category, is superlative and by thinking of what is superlative one can ultimately come to think of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, the Personality of Godhead.

The entire chapter, in fact, is meant to help us understand that all opulences flow from the ultimate source of everything, Lord Krishna. This is clear from the final verses. There Lord Krishna says (10.40), “Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.” And finally (10.41): “But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.”

By the way, in the beginning of the chapter (10.2) Lord Krishna has explicitly stated that none of the gods or sages can know His opulence, because He is the origin of all the gods and sages.

Not limited by name or form

That Krishna is not limited by name or form is also a fact, because Krishna’s name and form are identical with Krishna Himself and therefore have unlimited potency. So when Krishna speaks of Himself by saying “Me,” we need not impose our own interpretation by saying that Krishna is speaking of an impersonal “Supreme Consciousness.” To rightly understand Bhagavad-gita, better to accept Bhagavad-gita as it is. When Krishna says “Me,” He means just what He says. “Me” means the person speaking, who here is Lord Sri Krishna, mentioned throughout Bhagavad-gita as “sri bhagavan,” the Personality of Godhead.

What sets Sanatana-dharma apart is not that it would have us believe that all gods are equal, but rather that it explains the Supreme Personality of Godhead in detail, with all His diverse opulences and potencies, as mentioned in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate). In this way, with broad, deep understanding, one can realize the all-encompassing presence of Lord Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, and avoid the fanaticism sometimes seen among the narrow-minded and less well informed.

Not everything is the truth

That learned men express the truth in many different ways does not mean that everything is the truth. Otherwise, what would be the need of learned men or Vedic scriptures?

Rather, in various ways all the Vedic scriptures glorify the Personality of Godhead. Therefore Sripada Madhvacarya has quoted:

vede ramayane caiva
purane bharate tatha
adav ante ca madhye ca
harih sarvatra giyate

“From the very beginning [adau] to the end [ante ca], as well as within the middle [madhye ca], all the Vedic literature, including the Ramayana, Puranas, and Mahabharata, glorifies Hari [Lord Krishna], the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

Who gives that faith?

You mention Bhagavad-gita 7.21 (yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah), and again the meaning of the verse is clear:

“Whatever celestial form a devotee [craving for some worldly object] chooses to worship with reverence, I [Lord Krishna] stabilize the faith of that particular devotee in that very form.”

So even if for worldly gain one chooses to devote oneself to one of the 330 million subordinate gods, one can do so only by the grace of the Supreme God, Lord Krishna. On the other hand, when one recognizes Lord Krishna to be the ultimate source of everything and therefore surrenders to Him in love and devotional service, it is Krishna Himself who gives one the power to do so and thus attain Him (dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te).

Following the path of Sri Arjuna

That the separate, individual devas merely serve as symbols of the Divine, that they don’t really exist, and that therefore all paths are equal is not supported in Bhagavad-gita.

In Bhagavad-gita (9.25) we find:

yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino ‘pi mam

Here it is stated that those who worship various devas (Lord Siva, Ganeshaji, goddess Durga, and so on) reach the abodes of the devas. Those who worship the ancestors reach the abodes where the ancestors reside. Those who worship ghosts go to live among the ghosts. And only those who worship Lord Krishna go to Krishna’s supreme abode (tad dhama paramam mama).

If you buy a ticket from London to Glasgow, it will not take you to Paris. So too, it’s not that whatever spiritual ticket one chooses will bring one to the same destination.

Were all paths and all choices equal, there would have been no need for Lord Krishna to speak Bhagavad-gita. He could have simply let Arjuna slink from the battlefield in disgrace and illusion. “Well,” the Lord could have said, “that’s your path, and all paths are one.” Instead, He enlightens Arjuna so that Arjuna becomes Lord Krishna’s surrendered devotee. And anyone can attain perfection by following the path of Sri Arjuna.

Natural attraction to Krishna

As you say, Brahman cannot be imperfect, because Brahman is all-encompassing, all-inclusive. But the impersonal aspect of Brahman, though transcendental, is not all-inclusive, because it excludes the eternal existence of spiritual form, name, qualities, pastimes, and individuality.

But the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, includes all these — and also includes the impersonal Brahman as one aspect of His transcendental existence (brahmano hi pratisthaham).

Therefore, when one has gone even beyond the impersonal Brahman realization to realize Brahman in the highest aspect, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, one surrenders to Him in pure devotional service (mad bhaktim labhate param).

As I can understand from your letter, you are already naturally attracted to Krishna and devoted to Krishna, so much so that you have even written the holy name “Krishna” in devanagari on the top of every page.

So I hope you will forgive me if I have unintentionally said anything insolent, unmannerly, or discourteous.

As devotion to Lord Krishna is already your chosen path, I am not trying to divert you. I simply hope you will follow that path further and further. And at the end of the path, may you ultimately meet your Lord Kanhaiya face to face and become one of His eternally joyful companions in the spiritual world.

Hare Krishna.

Sincerely,
Jayadvaita Swami
Editor