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EAST – WEST DIALOGUES

An inter-religious encounter

CHAPTER ONE

RELIGION IS ONE

Rev. Hart:

Last time we spoke, you quoted a biblical verse: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine..." (II Timothy 3.16-17). Frankly, as you might remember, I had some trouble with your interpretation.
You were using this verse to show that a Christian might potentially use the sacred books of the East, the Vedic
literature, to understand the Absolute Truth. While this may be true - the books of the East can be used - I don’t
think that you can use this New Testament quote to substantiate this view. Still, your argument was not without
merit. You reasoned that the Vedic literature is also scripture, and the Bible, in this verse, refers to all scripture...
But traditionally this verse only refers to Old Testament literature; at least this is the common interpretation.
Anyway, after debating with you in this way, I thought about it for quite some time. Why would the Bible say "all
scripture” if it merely meant biblical literature? Were the prophets and compilers of the Bible unaware of the
Vedic literature, which predates the biblical tradition by many generations? I don't think so.
Anyway, I wasn't going to agree with you so easily. I went through my reference library and found a wonderful
statement in The Book of Mormon, which, mind you, is a book that I generally have no connection with and rarely
ever read.

Satyaraja Dasa:

What did you find?

Rev. Hart:

Well listen to this. I really liked it quite a bit, although it definitely substantiates your point of view. Let me read it
to you:

"Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men,
and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth
beneath; and I bring forth My word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of My word? Know ye that the testimony of two
nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the
same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together, the testimony of the
two nations shall run together also...And because I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak
another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man..."
Satyaraja Dasa:

This is wonderful...

Rev. Hart:

Wait, it goes on:

“Wherefore, because that ye have Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words. Neither need ye
suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the East and in the West, and
in the North and in the South, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto
them. For out of the books that will be written I will judge the world..."

Now it's not that I necessarily accept this as divine revelation or anything. But it certainly rings true. And I think it
lends credence to your position in regard to the Vedic literature and the other holy books of the East.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. Religion is one. It is revealed variously, selectively, according to time and circumstance. But the essence is
the same. For example, take a dictionary. You have a small, expedient version - a pocket dictionary. Or you have
huge, unabridged dictionaries, like the one here on your desk. The knowledge is the same, but the unabridged
dictionary gives more detail, explaining every nuance of any given word. The real thing, of course, is to find that
tradition which gives the greatest and most complete revelation. To my mind, Jesus reveals quite clearly the
limitations of the Christian revelation: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but your ears cannot bear them
yet." (John 16.12)

Rev. Hart:

Yes. Although it is said that he gave deeper, confidential knowledge to his disciples, it is also true that the biblical
tradition as a whole is revealed in parables, and, it seems, there is great difficulty in finding a cohesive, systematic
way of finding out those original, deeper truths. To go along with your point, you'll be interested to know that the
Bible also quotes Jesus as saying, "If you do not believe when I tell you of material things, how will you believe
when I tell you of spiritual things?" (John 3.12)

Satyaraja Dasa:

Exactly. But Krishna says in Bhagavad- gita: "I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal
and numinous. Once this is known, there is nothing further to be known." (B.G. 7.2) And there is a clear,
systematic approach for attaining this level of God realization. It is called Krishna consciousness. So this Vedic
revelation has a lot to offer.

MONOTHEISM
Rev. Hart:

When you refer to "the Vedic tradition," I understand you to mean more than just some antiquated Indian religion.
Let me see if I'm correct. In our recent discussions, if I may summarize, what has emerged is this: There was an
ancient monotheistic tradition known as Vaishnavism, or the worship of Vishnu (Krishna, or God). This was
originally referred to as “sanatan dharma”, or "the eternal function of the soul." The sacred culture and literature
that elucidates these truths may be referred to as "the Vedic tradition." Is this correct?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes.

Rev. Hart:

The interesting thing, to my mind, is that a superficial look at religious history tells us that Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam are the only existing monotheistic religions, or certainly the three earliest. But now I can see quite
clearly a precursor in the Vedic (Vaishnava) tradition of ancient India. This is fascinating. As a Christian, I am
intrigued by the idea of an ancient culture having love for God - especially the same "One Supreme God" that I am
familiar with. Prior to the commonly accepted Judaeo-Christian origins, this existed-I have no more doubts. But
where did it end? Why is Indian religion no longer accepted as monotheistic?

Satyaraja Dasa:

The original system of loving God was more technically called bhakti-yoga, or the science of devotional service.
Contrary to popular belief, India gave rise to the first monotheistic tradition - you are correct - and it was based on
bhakti-yoga service to Lord Krishna. The view of a "One Almighty God" was integral to original Vedic culture, and
this is clear from the earliest parts of the Vedic literature. Most scholars have no problem with this. But with the
influx of Buddhistic thought in five hundred B.C., and with the monistic- "it's all one" - teaching of Shankara in the
eighth century A.D., the original Vedic concept became obscured. What followed is the confusion now broadly
known as "Hinduism," with its plethora of gods and the desire to merge into the existence of the Supreme. Prior to
these interpretive ideas, love and reverence for the One Supreme Godhead- known by an unlimited variety of
names but primarily as "Krishna"- permeated the Vedic tradition. This predates the three popular monotheistic
traditions. Incidentally, this original Vedic tradition never died. It was obscured, no doubt, for some time. But it is
thriving today. There are literally millions who follow this path in India. And in the West, it is best represented by
the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

THE FOREMOST COMMANDMENT

Rev. Hart:

Followers of this ancient monotheistic tradition would have appreciated what Jesus called "the first and foremost
commandment": to love God with all of one's heart, soul, and mind. And the second important commandment,
according to Jesus, is just like it: to love one's neighbor as one loves one's self. I'm just curious. As a modern
practitioner of this ancient bhakti-yoga, or Vaishnava system, how do you interpret Jesus' commandment?

Satyaraja Dasa:

This first commandment is synonymous with the essence of bhakti-yoga. However, the fulfillment of this
command is best expressed in the Vedic literature. The Bible, which might be considered a Vedic supplement, gives
some indication of how to fulfil the mandate to love God. But to know Him is to love Him-and one can know Him
most clearly through the Vedic texts. This is not a subject for debate. One need simply make a comparative study.

Rev. Hart:

Yes. I think, in a sense, more information is given in the Vedas. And this tends to give greater facility. As you say-
to know Him is to love Him. That is, if you really know Him, how could you help but love Him. He's the most
wonderful... But what of the second command, to love one's neighbor?

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is a noteworthy teaching. Jesus makes a distinction between loving God and loving one’s neighbor which, he
says, is like loving God. Still, there is a distinction. So we do not show God that we love Him by loving our
neighbors, although this blending of the two commandments is commonly assumed within Christian circles. Do
you follow?

Rev. Hart:

Yes. Certainly. I think mature Christians know that there is a difference. At least I can speak for my
denomination. Otherwise, loving God and loving man is the same. And implicit in Jesus' statement, these two
types of love are not the same. But then how do we show God we love Him? Through prayer?

Satyaraja Dasa:

That's one way. But I propose something that connects the two commandments. And it can be summed up in one
short saying: spread the word. Preach. What does it mean to really help another living being, or to love one's
neighbor? As soon as we ask ourselves this we are assaulted by a barrage of cliches: help the homeless, feed the
hungry. And these are certainly laudable activities. But such actions could only be considered "virtuous" by those
who are not very introspective. I realize that this assessment seems harsh. But ask yourself this question: Can it
really be considered an act of transcendent love to throw a rope to a drowning man?
Or to clothe someone? Or to feed them? Are we so jaded that we would consider a natural human response to
someone else's suffering a virtuous “Christian" sacrifice, a fulfillment of the second commandment?
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding Yes! In this way the biblical commandment to love one's neighbor has
been reduced to what is really just a fundamental human reaction to another's pain. What's more, it keeps the
commandment to love one's neighbor on the bodily platform.
The commandment suffocates. It doesn't reach its divine potential.
This is at the heart of my argument. Let's breathe new life into this commandment. Or, rather, let's give it back its
original life, elevating it once again to the spiritual platform. If it's a religious command it should address not onl y
the body but also the eternal soul. My contention, then, is that the real essence of Christian love -all spiritual love -
consists, in its roots, of sharing knowledge of God with others. Loving one's neighbor is best affected by
transmitting the teaching of God consciousness. In this way, one can best show one's love for God as well.

TRANSMIGRATION

Rev. Hart:

I agree completely. But let's move on. I'm interested in this concept of the soul. You were mentioning a soul-
based interpretation of these commandments rather than a material, or in addition to, a material one. This is
essential, at least to my way of viewing things.
Aquinas, you know, had a great deal to say about the soul...

Satyaraja Dasa:

But it was so confused. He taught that there was a vegetable soul, an animal soul, and a rational soul.

Rev. Hart:

Right. And he initially claimed that beasts and even women were not to be counted amongst those with rational
souls. I'm not saying that I agree or that he made sense in all soul-related areas. Remember, I'm Episcopalian, not
Catholic! [laughter]

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Vedic conception of the soul is much clearer. There are not three types of souls, as Aquinas mistakenly
asserted. His confusion arises due to a misidentification with the body. Because he saw, basically, three types of
bodies, he concluded that there were three types of souls. But the soul, being spiritual, is of one nature. Duality
cannot rear its ugly head in the realm of the spirit.
According to the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, there are 8,400,000 species of life, or bodily forms, and the same "type
of soul" transmigrates through each of these, by gradual evolution, and eventually reaches the human form. This
form is like a gateway through which we can attain transcendence or, instead, go back down the chain of species.
Pious activities elevate us in the human form and impious activities send us back down. This is c alled karma, or the
law of causality. According to our merit we transmigrate into appropriate bodies. This is nature's law.

REINCARNATION

Rev. Hart:
Reincarnation? That is a very interesting concept, with a long history in Christian circles....Quite
controversial....You know, although St. Thomas Aquinas is certainly not known for promulgating reincarnationist
views in his Summa Theologica he describes how departed souls reach their respective “places” after death. He
says that living beings have a tendency to "sink" (gravitas) as well as to "rise" (levitas); exactly what he meant is
unknown.
In the Second Letter of Peter, the word exitus ("exit" or "a way out") is used for "dying." The expression implies
that something does exist which at death goes away, or "exits" the body. Reincarnation would explain a great
many things - such as just where the soul goes after death. After all, it is unlikely that a merciful God would send a
sinner to "hell" after just one birth into this crazy world....It takes time...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. According to the Vedic tradition, we-the soul-actually do not die. We are merely recycled, so to speak.

Rev. Hart:

[laughter] Reincarnation was also accepted by many philosophers in the early church. To my way of thinking, it is
a logical explanation of what happens at the time of death. After all, the first Law of Thermodynamics -the law of
conservation of energy-states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. So what happens to that energy, that
thing which animates the body, at the time of death?

Satyaraja Dasa:

A rhetorical question, no doubt.

Rev. Hart:

Of course. Reincarnation is an acceptable answer. The earliest Church fathers knew this. In fact, it is quite
interesting if you study the history of how modern Christendom came to reject the doctrine. This is detailed by a
prominent Christian theologian, Dr. Geddes MacGregor. His book is called Reincarnation in Christianity. It's
excellent.

Satyaraja Dasa:

I understand that the early Church was influenced by Plato, which would have given additional emphasis to
reincarnationist beliefs.

Rev. Hart:

Christian doctrine was essentially Platonic - all the way up to the time of Aquinas, when Aristotelian philosophy
started to infiltrate Church teaching. But the Plato-influenced Church, like Plato himself, strongly endorsed
reincarnationist ideas. I think it was not until the Fifth Ecumenical Council, or the Second Council at
Constantinople, that the doctrine was dropped. This was in the sixth century.
Satyaraja Dasa:

Why was it dropped?

Rev. Hart:

That's difficult....There are problems....Well, essentially it was dropped due to a papal edict, which was, in turn,
influenced by the leading politicians of the time- most notably, Emperor Justinian. It seems that "the powers that
be" were expecting people to become lax in their resolve to attain perfection. If people thought that they had
more than one life with which to become a perfect Christian, they might resort to sinfulness in this life, thinking
“I’ll atone in my next.” So it was decided to obliterate the doctrine of reincarnation. All texts taken out of the
Bible....Anyway, this is the more charitable scenario. There is actually another perspective that tells a more
devious story. Politics...intrigue....In any case, that's history. And there isn't much we can do about it.

PRAMANAS

(or means of acquiring knowledge)

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, we can give people the truth. We can explain the logic and even the scriptural basis of reincarnation. The
Vedic tradition is devoid of politics, at least on a spiritual and philosophical level. Devotees involved in
organization and management may have to dirty hands to some degree, but this is never on points of theology or
hermeneutics. It is merely organizational.

Rev. Hart:

But how does one receive knowledge? Surely he must use his concoctive and speculative abilities. Political
leaders tend to influence the way we think, and they tend to direct the way in which we speculate...

Satyaraja Dasa:

No. That may be true in the West-indeed; it is the history of western culture and the perversion of the Judaeo-
Christian tradition. But in the East, and especially in the Vaishnava tradition, it is the brahmanas - the pure
intellectual and priestly classs - that are looked to for guidance. Definitely not the politicians.
You see, there are standard pramanas, or means of acquiring knowledge, in the Vedic tradition. And these make it
very difficult for a political leader to extend his influence. The most important pramana is shruti or shabda-this
refers to valid testimony or revelation, particularly as it is enunciated according to scripture by the pure devotee
coming in disciplic succession. So there is little room for outside influence.

Rev. Hart:
What are the other pramanas.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, there is pratyaksha, or "sense perception," and anumana, or "inference." Also sometimes accepted are
upamana, or "analogy;" abhava (sometimes called anupalabdhi), or "proof from non-existence or non-perception;"
and arthapatti, or "inference from circumstance." Jiva Goswami also accepts arsha, or "the statements of saints
and sages;" sambhava, or "probability;" aitihya, or "traditional knowledge;" and cheshta, or “gesture." Among
many of these, there are merely subtle distinctions, and they all have their place when we seek to acquire
knowledge. But spiritual seekers mainly accept the shabda process, for this is considered infallible, especially
when received in the proper way.

8,400,000 SPECIES

Rev. Hart:

Tell me, earlier in the discussion, you mentioned 8,400,000 species. I understand that this is Vedic knowledge, a
scriptural statement - I guess you would call it shabda, at least according to the pramanas you've just enumerated.
But I can't see how this could be accurate. It seems like there are only a few species, at least that's what I was
always given to understand.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, the 8,400,000 species refer to varieties of species. In terms of broad categories there are actually six species,
and these are aquatics, plants, insects, birds, beasts, and humans.

Rev. Hart:

This makes more sense.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, yes. According to the Padma Purana there are 900,000 types of aquatics; 2,000,000 species of plants and
trees; 1,100,000 species of insects; 1,000,000 species of birds; 3,000,000 species of beasts; and 400,000 species of
humans - no doubt we can see many of them right here in New York.

Rev. Hart:

[laughter] Okay. So these are the 8,400,000 varieties of species. That I can accept. Wait, you said there are
400,000 human species? How so?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Unlike modern biologists, the Vedic literature does not draw distinctions based upon gross physical appearance or
morphological nature alone. The major deciding factor is the level of consciousness. And of these there are
many...

Rev. Hart:

I see. This is so much to absorb. Let's back- track a moment. So, through a natural evolution we come to the
human form...hmmm....This is similar to Origen's statement. He was an early Church father who claimed that
when a soul falls from the spiritual world he first incarnates as an ang el-perhaps you would say he incarnates as
Lord Brahma, or some other elevated demigod - and then, due to association with irrational passions borne of
materialistic life, falls to the lowest species and gradually works his way up to human. He naturally evolves. At this
point-the human level; one becomes responsible for one's activities. This, again, is where karma - action and
reaction- comes into the picture, and the soul goes up or down. To heaven or hell. Depending, of course, upon
one's activities and faith in God.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is the Vedic conception. But the Vedas take it further. Up and down, as you say, refers to life in this world;
there are heavenly planets and hellish planets, and according to one's activities and one's relative faith in God or
mammon, one gets a bodily existence on one of these planets. One goes up or down. But Krishna teaches us to
transcend the "up and down" of this world. He says that:
"Whoever, at the time of death, quits his body remembering Me alone, he attains to the kingdom of God."
Such an attainment is rare. And there is a definite distinction - both in the Bible and the Vedic literature - between
heaven and the Kingdom of God.
The righteous and pious of this world may go to heaven, but only the pure devotee goes to the kingdom of God.
This is rarely achieved. Heaven is a "good" place, but God's Kingdom is "transcendental." In other words, it goes
beyond the good and evil-the dualities-of this world. It's the final destination.

SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION

Rev. Hart:

I have a question and I wonder if it's answered in the Vedic literature. Through which species do we enter the
human form?

Satyaraja Dasa:
Yes, the Vedic tradition outlines this quite clearly. But there are variables. A basic hierarchy of bodily forms is
delineated....One evolves from fish to plant life. And then to insects, birds, and, finally, beasts. From there, we
find three gateways into the human form....Basically, if one is born as a human in the mode of goodness, he comes
by way of a cow's body. A human in the mode of passion comes through a lion gateway. And a human in the
mode of ignorance comes by way of a monkey body....This is general....Of course, in order to be a highly evolved
human, in the mode of goodness, one will generally pass through many human forms....This is another sense of it...

Rev. Hart:

This is no doubt judged by the mode that predominates, since, as you once mentioned, we are all, largely, a
combination of these three modes...interesting...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. In general, this is the rule, though there are exceptions. This knowledge, however, is merely academic, at
least in one sense, for in whatever way we attain the human form our ultimate duty is the same: we must
surrender to God and we must begin by transcending the bodily concept of life. The very first step in self -
realization is to understand one's identity as separate from the body. There is no question of going beyond this
point if this first step is not fully realized.
It is not my position to pontificate, but I think that most religionists today have not even gotten to this rudimentary
level. That's one of the reasons that we still judge "my religion" and "your religion." We are judging by the outer
shell. We have not yet developed the ability to go beyond the external vision-even in relation to our own being
(which is our most immediate experience). Naturally, we uncons ciously extend this misidentification with the
outer and we identify ourselves as "Christian" or "Hindu" because our bodies were born into a Christian or Hindu
family.
But our real identity is not the body and its bodily designations. We are pure spirit-soul.
Part and parcel of Krishna. And we become religious by developing love for Him, not by labeling ourselves
according to some bodily or familial designation, even if it's apparently religious.

Rev. Hart:

That is very deep. I don't say that I agree with everything you've said, but you've certainly given me food for
thought. This non-sectarian view that you're espousing was also taught by our Christian mystics, some were not
even that mystical. In fact, St. Augustine himself, even after he became a pillar of orthodoxy, was quoted as saying
that: "the religion preached by Jesus predates what is now known as Christianity." Various interpretations of this
statement include very catholic, universal, and non-sectarian views. I think there is a "common" religion, if you will,
and a “transcendental" religion. You are emphasizing the transcendental side, but not everyone can grasp this
side. Nor is it suitable for everyone.

Satyaraja Dasa:

I disagree with you there. It is the essence of religious truth that I am speaking about. True, there may be two
distinct levels of religion, the common and the transcendental, as you say. But the Vedic revelation is meant to
bring everyone-gradually-to that highest level. Not to let them rot in the den of misconception. If you give
someone a half-truth, you are giving them a lie. They should know the ultimate goal and, according to their means,
they should pursue it. Krishna's Bhagavad-gita concludes with the instruction to give up "common" religion and to
embrace "transcendental" religion. The latter being embodied in full surrender unto His lotus feet.

WHY DO WE COME TO THE MATERIAL WORLD?

Rev. Hart:

I see. Yes, when you put it that way, I can readily agree. But these talks bring to mind questions that have plagued
me since my youth. Related questions. For instance, we were speaking of the soul's evolution through the various
species in this material world. But this naturally gives rise to a more fundamental question: why is there a material
world in the first place?

Satyaraja Dasa:

The material world is a necessary manifestation of God's completeness.

Rev. Hart:

How so?

Satyaraja Dasa:

God has multifarious potencies, and these include both limited and unlimited energies. He must have both,
correct? If He were lacking one of these energies. He would not be complete. He would not be God. So the
material world is a manifestation of God's limited energy, which must exist for God to be complete and is thus
necessarily a part of God.

Rev. Hart:

Okay, I can accept that. It's logical enough. But it doesn't explain why we would come here. Are we not perfectly
happy in relation to the Lord in His spiritual kingdom? What's the Vedic viewpoint on this?

Satyaraja Dasa:

We are part and parcel of God. We are like small samplings of the Supreme. Whatever quality He has in full, we
have also, but in smaller quantity. For example, He has all strength, beauty, wealth, fame, knowledge, and
renunciation. Being part of Him, we share these qualities, too, but in minute proportion.
Now, one of His qualities is that He is supremely independent, that's what makes Him God. Similarly, we, as His
parts and parcels, have minute independence. After all, if He did not give us independence then how could we
choose to love Him? It would be a forced affair, and that can't really be considered love. So He gives us a choice
and, naturally, some misuse that choice, and they decide to leave the Lord. But the Vedic literature affirms that a
small number of jiva-souls actually leave God's company. It's described that one quadrant of all of existence is
here for the rebellious souls. The vast majority remain in their constitutional position as eternal servants of the
Lord. Unlimited living beings serve Him eternally, and an insignificant few tend to fall into the material world.

Rev. Hart:

But my question...

Satyaraja Dasa:

I'm getting to that. But I needed to give this much background information. Now your question is this: of the few
who do fall, why would even one want to leave the perfect spiritual world? This is your question, correct?

Rev. Hart:

Yes.

Satyaraja Dasa:

As I've explained, we are part and parcel of Krishna, and we share His qualities, but in minute portion. Okay. Now
one of His qualities is that He is Supreme Enjoyer. So we must also have the enjoying propensity in minute
proportion. Enjoyment presupposes personality and taste - it is this taste that is at the heart of answer to your
question. Some people like rich, sumptuous halavah, and others puffed rice. Both desire to enjoy, but one likes a
luxuriant thing and the other enjoys more humble fare.
That’s called taste. Variegated tastes have their origin in spiritual world. Therefore it can have its perverted
reflection here. Good taste and not-so-good taste. Perfect enjoyment or pleasure exists in the spiritual world while
lower or imperfect enjoyment and pleasure is in the material world. Now, when we first manifest lower taste in
God's kingdom, it still necessarily takes the form of devotional service - we do not easily give up such service. That
kingdom is the realm of service and love - and nothing more. We do not become envious in the spiritual world, as
it is often told. No. No material quality-such as envy-can rear its head in the spiritual world. What happens,
rather, is that we desire to serve Krishna in a lower way, a way that is not necessary in the kingdom of God.
For instance, we may desire to serve as a creator. Since the spiritual world calls for neither creation nor
destruction, it is eternal, the service of a creator is called for elsewhere. In the material world. Therefore we take
birth as an elevated demigod, like Brahma, and we serve as a creator. Notice that we are still serving. But in the
form of Brahma, now that we are in the material world, our difficulty begins, and we inevitably fall to the l ower
species. In this way, we gather conditioning and various inferior, material qualities. These qualities haunt us and
torture us birth after birth. Eventually we come to our senses, and we naturally evolve, meet a pure devotee,
when we are finally ready, and advance back to Godhead.
But let's backtrack for a moment. It should be pointed out, also, that there are certain elements inherent in the
lesser realm of enjoyment that may go along with our taste.
For instance, in the material world we can be the center instead of Krishna. So when we have this inferior taste,
which we can say is borne of envy and lust (but this is overly simplistic)-we must satisfy this taste in an inferior
realm. Therefore the material world is created, so we can enact this perverted pastime of indulging our lower taste
and engaging in a lesser service.
But we only enact it temporarily, and gradually Krishna shows us the true inferior nature of our taste. We thus
develop a higher taste in due course, and we voluntarily return to Him. It's something like having a taste for
cigarettes. And then when we get sick by giving way to this taste, we come to our senses and give up our bad habit
gradually developing a higher taste when the poisons are out of our bloodstream. Then we wonder how we could
have smoked at all...

Rev. Hart:

Fascinating. This is a satisfying answer, more profound than it initially sounds. Aquinas gives a similar explanation
in his Summa Theologiae - but now it is very clear. You know, there are still those who would not be able to follow
the rigorous logic here...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Such persons can at least understand this: if you're drowning and someone throws you a rope with which to save
yourself, what will you do?

Rev. Hart:

[laughter] You grab it for dear life!

Satyaraja Dasa:

Right. You don't start contemplating how you happened to appear in the water or how you got yourself in that
terrible predicament. There's time for that latter. Nor do you question the man throwing you the rope: “Who are
you? Is this the best rope you have?" No. If you’re drowning, you grab it! So we are drowning in the ocean called
the material world. How we ended up here is secondary. The primary concern is to return to God.

Rev. Hart:

Bravo! I agree completely. Do you think, that once we return to God we could again fall into this world? After all
our inferior taste may again develop.

Satyaraja Dasa:

It's not likely. Not for the majority. In this if one develops cancer or some other serious life- threatning disease as
a result of bad habits, such as meat-eating, one's lower taste will soon be rectified, at least, if one is intelligent.
The point is this: when your only alternative is death, you start to seriously reconsider your priorities. You'd be
surprised how quickly one's taste can change. If it is a disease that one can control by one's activity, just watch and
see the vital transformation that often occurs. And, in due course, you definitely develop a taste for those things
which are better for you. Of course, there are those who will not learn from their experience. Such stubborn
unfortunates are rare, though. The majority will work hard to reorder their tastes - especially if their life hangs in
the balance.
It should further be noted that one who returns to Krishna's abode is guaranteed by the Lord that he need never
return to the distasteful land of birth and death. The painful playground we mistakenly call "home." Krishna says
this quite directly in Bhagavad-gita. When we finally come to our senses, Krishna says, we never return to the
material world.

Rev. Hart:

Thank you.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Hare Krishna.

CHAPTER TWO

VEGETARIANISM
Rev. Hart:

Since reading your book, Food for the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions, I have given up the practice
of meat-eating. It's something I've been considering for quite a while. But your book helped to put the icing cake,
as it were. It gave me an in-depth theological perspective on the issue.
Since I stopped eating meat, I feel healthier and more with God's works, with the indwelling spirit of all things. The
Vedic teaching in this regard seems more dynamic than the religious dietary teachings from other spiritual
traditions. In the Christian tradition, of course there have been great saints, like St. Francis, for instance, who also
embody this mood, but I feel it is more in the Vedic scheme of things.

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Vedic tradition, acknowledging one type of soul in all living creatures, naturally endorses ahimsa or
"harmlessness," and this is often extended to vegetarianism. Vaishnavas, in particular, shun the use of flesh-foods.
They are lacto-vegetarian.
But the reasoning behind their diet is only partly because they do not want to harm other living creatures. The
more direct reason for their vegetarianism is based on the scriptural injunction that God will only accept lacto-
vegetarian foods as a sacrificial offering. A loving devotee will only offer God that which He will accept in sacrifice,
and then the devotee graciously takes the "remnants" as his meal. This is traditionally called prasadam, or "the
Lord's mercy." According to the Vedic tradition, only such prasadam should be eaten by one who is aspiring to
develop love for God. And if this prasadam is distributed to others, it has even greater transcendental potency. In
any case, this holy food is considered non-different from God, having taken on His qualities by association and
love...
Rev. Hart:

It's like the Mass, where the Host is considered non-different from the body of Christ, and the wine from his blood.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, there is a similarity. But we have Communion three times a day! And prasadam is real food - not the
transubstantiation of merely one wafer and a sip of wine. Prasadam is a whole meal; every morsel of food that
goes into the devotee's mouth is transformed into the body of God. In this way, the devotee is actually nourished
by God's mercy.
In other words, a Vaishnava only eats food that is offered as a sacrament to God. Others may take such food on
Sunday only, or, at most, when they feel inspired to do so.

INTOXICATING DRINK

Rev. Hart:

Incidentally, as an abstainer from intoxicants, you will be happy to know that wine, which is now distributed as the
blood of Christ, was not always used in the transubstantiation process. At least this is what certain reputable
scholars are saying. Originally, according to one view, it was grape juice.
In biblical times, you see, all fruit of the vine was called wine whether it was fermented or not. This is what they’re
claiming now. There are thirteen different words used in Hebrew and Chaldee, and four in Greek. The common
word in Greek was oinos. This Greek word corresponds to yayin or yain in Hebrew, vinum in Latin, and wine in
English. However, in classical biblical usage, these words simply refer to grape juice.
In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Bible, the Hebrew word for grape juice is translated thirty-three times
as the Greek word oinos. It is also used to denote kinds of drinks, such as lotus fruits and dates.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Is this your opinion, or can you cite other scholars and authorities on the subject?

Rev. Hart:

Oh, of course. This is almost common ledge among scholars of Old Testament history. According to Professor
Samuel Lee of Cambridge, the root of this Hebrew word I've been discussing is yain, or wine. But even Professor
Lee admits that in biblical times the word did not refer to intoxicating liquor made by fermentation. It more
referred to a thick, unintoxicating syrup produced by boiling. The boiling process gave the grape a long shelf-life
and so it became more storable. So we should not think that the early biblical prophets endorsed the use of
intoxicating drink. Wine, in those days, generally referred to grape juice.

Satyaraja Dasa:
So intoxicating drink was frowned upon in biblical times?

Rev. Hart:

Oh, definitely. We learn from the Bible that intoxicating beverages are habit-forming (Proverbs 23.35), result in
violence (Proverbs 4.17), and distract its imbibers from God (Amos 6.6).

Satyaraja Dasa:

That's really interesting...really...and I only wish that Christian laymen would learn about these things. But I want to
return to the subject of vegetarianism for a moment. In my research of the Christian tradition, I found that they,
too, endorsed vegetarianism, at least at one point in Christian history. This was certainly the case with the early
Church Fathers. But the part that boggles my mind is this: where did it stop? What were the circumstances
surrounding the popularization of meat- eating in the Christian tradition?

FAITH AND WORKS


Rev. Hart:

I think it is traceable to Emperor Constantine, in the early fourth century....Oh, yes, it involves the Edict of
Milan....You see, Constantine was not a theologian. No.
He was simply a politician, and a simpler Christianity was bequeathed to him “just have faith in Jesus."

Satyaraja Dasa:

I think this was the Pauline doctrine.... he had the temerity to argue with the, Apostles over matters of doctrine.

Rev. Hart:

Well, you might run into trouble with this idea. This is a common misconception that Paul was in disagreement
with the Apostles, chiefly because he accentuated faith. But it should be remembered that Paul used the Greek
word pistis, which means not only "faith" or ''belief,” as is commonly supposed, but it also means "complete
surrender." It implies the practical application of faith. So Paul's "just have faith" was not so simple. His doctrine
was later distorted by politicians and rogues, but...

Satyaraja Dasa:

I see. So Paul along with the Apostles had claimed that one should follow the old law, which included dietary
observance.

Rev. Hart:
Well, not just the law. Paul did emphasize the spirit behind the law. This is quite complicated. Suffice it to say
that one could make a strong case for vegetarianism based on the old law, the Torah, as you do in your Food for
the Spirit. But some do say that Paul rejected it. Jesus himself, however, had claimed that these laws should be
followed, at least according to Matthew. But Paul, in a sense said "no"- the real thing is faith in Jesus.

Satyaraja Dasa:

So then, in a sense, my point still stands. Paul's doctrine was more appealing to Emperor Constantine, not exactly
Paul's doctrine, but the perversion of his doctrine that claims "faith" is merely "belief," and not the practical
application of faith. It was this form of Christianity that was embraced by the Roman Empire, and the norms were
eventually set by those in power. Original, pure Christianity was eventually obscured by this perversion of Pauline
doctrine. Actually, I've even read where scholars of religion now laughingly refer to modern Christianity as
"Paulianity" or "Churchianity," but they rarely refer to it as "Christianity."

Rev. Hart:

Well, again, you say that "Constantine chose” Pauline Christianity. I don't know if you could call it a conscious
choice. He was not a theologian. He and other politicians were simply interested in making Christianity "socially
acceptable." And this, it may be said, is where the Christian tradition suffered most.
Anyway, it is certainly true that as history went on it was this type of "just have faith" religion that allowed
carnivorous Christians their indulgence, "Works" just didn't come into it. And so what you eat (which was
considered "works" or "acts" as opposed to "faith") does not really matter, it's what you believe in that counts.
Who would suspect that what one eats might effect one's faith, or vice versa?!
Of course, discerning Christians soon realized that faith without works is dead, as it says in the Bible. Again, this is
even implicit in Paul, when he uses that word pistis. So faith and works are related. And, I think it's clear, that if
you truly have faith in Jesus - if you love him, as he said - you will keep his commandments. These include all Old
Testament laws, such as Thou Shall Not Kill.
But this is down-played quite a bit. Protestants and especially "Born Again" Christians -whoever they may be,
emphasize faith over works, even though the Bible really teaches that these two must go hand-in-hand. The
problem began, I think, when Paul tried to preach to the Pharisees, who were extremely pre-occupied with works. I
think he went overboard trying to show them the importance of faith. And, as a result, the importance of works
was obliterated. A sort of beguiled faith is all we have left.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Incredible! Tell me, does this have a corollary in the tradition of the Old Testament?

VEGETARIANISM & THE OLD TESTAMENT


Rev. Hart:

Not really. In fact, vegetarianism is more easily endorsed through the Old Testament, especially when you
compare it to the New, which is relatively vague when it comes to diet. The Old Testament says that a man should
diligently guard his health and life (Deut 4.15). This might be taken as an endorsement of vegetarianism.
Especially today, when it has been thoroughly documented that vegetarianism is definitely healthier than meat-
eating.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Of course, there are those who will argue that vegetarianism is not really healthier. They say that only cranks and
loonies support this view. But then let them study the convincing work of the late Paavo Airola, the world's leading
authority on nutrition and natural biology. Or let them review the more orthodox, Journal of the American
Medical Association, or, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, or even, The Borden Review of Nutrition
Research. All are powerful in their support of vegetarianism as a healthier diet than such, containing meat.

Rev. Hart:

Anyway, if the mandate to guard one's health is not enough, there is another Old Testament command which is
even clearer: 'tzarbaalay hayyim’. This is the original Hebrew and it translates like this: Man must have
compassion for animals. So if we take these two commands together, vegetarianism seems like a natural
conclusion. Unfortunately, too few see it that way...

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Old Testament tradition seems to have a profound view of animal rights. The Talmud, for instance, says,
"When a man shall become proud in his heart, say unto him, 'the little fly has preceded you in creation….."' But
let's return to Christianity for a second...

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I want to answer your initial question. I think the rationale for meat-eating really began, at least in Christian
circles, with Aristotle. He, of course, was Thomas Aquinas' main influence. The Aristotelian-Thomistic view, which
is almost Cartesian in scope, basically assumes that animals are here for our pleasure, with no purpose of their
own. Modern Christianity largely embraces this more or less egocentric world view.
Now, there's another stream of thought in traditional Christianity, and this might be called the Augustinian-
Franciscan view. This school is Platonic in scope and basically teaches that all creatures are brothers and sisters
under God's fatherhood. St. Francis, it might be remembered, is the Patron Saint of Animals, and he taught the
intimate relation of all things under God. Also, I think, along these same lines, if Jesus is to be truly known as "the
Prince of Peace," then the Augustinian- Franciscan form of Christianity is to be considered more authentic, for it
more fully displays the qualities of universal mercy and compassion. This fits in very neatly with the vegetarian
way of life.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Thank you. I deeply appreciate that explanation. Otherwise, Christianity appears to be a rather heartless religion.
How can one, with a clear conscience, ask God for mercy if he is not ready to show mercy to those who are weaker
than he is? It's downright hypocritical! If we pray for God's mercy and we will not show mercy to those who are
weaker than we, then we are nothing more than hypocrites. Isn't it so? Violence begets violence. If we don't show
mercy, why should we receive it? We won't. Rather, divine justice will be shown. As we sow, so shall we reap.
This is called karma in the East.

Rev. Hart:

Ah, the universal law of cause and effect. I fully believe that there is a tragic reaction for the eating of meat.
Christian love should be all embracing, extending even to animals.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Throughout Christian history, there have been others...

Rev. Hart:

Yes. In the early days of Latin and Byzantine Christianity, as well as in the period of its full bloom in the Middle
Ages, Christian art loudly proclaimed the importance and beauty of the animal kingdom. Animals are
compassionately represented in Christian sculpture, in illuminated manuscripts of the Bible, in stained-glass
windows, and in tapestry, too.
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to St. John Chrysostom, of the fourth century, who said, "The saints are
exceedingly loving and gentle to mankind, and even to brute beasts," and "Surely we ought to show them great
kindness and gentleness for many reasons, but, above all, because they are of the same origin as ourselves." This
vision of common origin was especially stressed by St. Francis, and was adopted by those who emulated him, many
of whom were vegetarians.
And many Georgian saints, hundreds of years before Francis, were distinguished by their love for animals. St. John
Zedazneli made friends with bears near his hermitage; St. Shio befriended a wolf; St. David of Garesja protected
deer and birds from hunters, proclaiming, "He whom I believe in and worship looks after and feeds all creatures, to
whom He has given birth." Early Celtic saints, too, were in favor of compassion for animals. For instance, Saints
Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany of Ireland in the fifth and sixth centuries after Christ, went to great pains for their
animal friends, healing them and praying for them as well.
These, of course, are the good examples. There is no doubt, however, that Christianity as a whole has failed to
construct a satisfactory moral theology in relation to animals. The Vedic saints and prophets, on the other hand,
would have all endorsed vegetarianism and kindness to animals. But that's because, once again, you do have a
very developed moral theology in relation to animals.

RELIGIOUS JUSTIFICATION FOR ANIMAL ABUSE


Satyaraja Dasa:

Why do you think such an important part of moral theology would be lacking in the Christian tradition?

Rev. Hart:
Oh, there is a whole range of specifically religious justifications for animal abuse. I would summarize these into
three distinct categories:

(1) the animals "belong to us" and we can "do with them as we please";
(2) since they are "non-rational," they do not have a soul; and
(3) they cannot feel pain.

A close study of the Bible reveals quite clearly that these arguments carry no substance. The Vedic literature, as
you know, is even clearer on these points. People should think about these things, however, and decide for
themselves.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Still, I think that whatever conclusion one comes to, one inevitably must come to terms with this: that Christ's love
and compassion is universal, and that it naturally extends to animals, for they are also the Fathers handiwork. A
true Christian must come to this understanding. He must develop this level of religious sensitivity…

Rev. Hart:

It goes beyond Christianity, as you say, it is simply non-sectarian religious sensitivity. If one is going to call himself
a "Christian," especially, he should at least consider the doctrine of extending Christ's love to all of God’s creatures.
If he does any less, he's hardly a Christian.

Satyaraja Dasa:

The "dominion" concept is the one that is most often thrown in my face. I think you listed it as the first of the
three rationalizations for meat-eating in the biblical tradition: "they are ours to do with as we please"

Rev. Hart:

It's actually a shame. The Hebrew word used in the Bible comes from the root radah, and is extracted as yirdu,
and connotes a sense of stewardship or guardian-ship. In other words, the Bible asks us to care for our more
humbly endowed brothers and sisters, not to kill them.
For instance, a king is said to have dominion over his subjects. But that doesn't mean that he should eat them, or
abuse them. No. He must care for them, help them, and even love them. This is the type of dominion the Bible is
referring to.
I would also like to point out that the biblical verse, which gives us dominion over animals, appears in Genesis 1.26.
Only three verses later, in Genesis 1.29, a vegetarian diet is recommended. In other words, God gives us dominion
over the animals and, only three verses later, prohibits their use for food. Implicitly, the dominion He gives us
cannot include using animals for food.

Satyaraja Dasa:
Yes, that is covered in my book. Also, in the very next verse-Genesis 1.30-God makes it clear that animals do have
a soul. So rationalization number two is debunked as well. God says that all creatures, whether on land, in the sea,
or in the sky, have a "living soul" within their body. He uses the words nephesh for "soul" and chayah for "living."
These are the same two words used to describe the soul in human bodies. So animals and humans have the same
kind of soul, at least according to the Bible.

Rev. Hart:

Yes, it makes one wonder why Aquinas was so confused about these issues. Could you tell me a little more about
the code of ethics delineated in the Vedic literature? I love the way these things are crystal clear in the Vedic texts.
One could not have an Aquinas, that is to say that one could not have the confusion and trouble assoc iated with
Aquinian doctrine, if one studies the Vedic literature in a scientific way.

LORD CHAITANYA

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. That's true. In connection with vegetarianism and the plight of animals, the Vedic literature is particularly
clear. This is important. Unless one can understand that one is not the body and that one should not
unnecessarily harm living creatures, these two basic points, there is no question of going any farther. It is a
spiritual dead-end, progress is improbable without being clear on these two points.
Five hundred years ago, Krishna Himself descended in the form of His own devotee. This was the confidential
manifestation of God known as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Remember that book I gave you a couple of weeks age
India's Spiritual Renaissance: The Life and Times of Lord Chaitanya?

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I'm just finishing it now...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, there's one chapter that describe Lord Chaitanya's interaction with Chand Kazi, the Muslim leader in
Navadvip, West Bengal.

Rev. Hart:

I remember the incident. They discussed the importance of vegetarianism in the Koran and the Vedas.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, and this was extremely important. Chand Kazi was trying to obstruct the sankirtan, the congregational street
chanting of the holy name. Lord Chaitanya used to take His devotees into the streets, chanting:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare


Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

When Chand Kazi forcefully objected. Lord Chaitanya could have given a detailed exposition on the holly name.
His understanding was scientific, and He had elucidated these points of divine chanting many times in he past. But
in this case He did not. Rather than explain the divine name that Chand Kazi was so much in favor of deprecating.
He gave His enlightening soliloquy on vegetarianism. What was the relation? Why speak on vegetarianism if it was
the chanting of the name that the Kazi objected to?

Rev. Hart:

I see. Since one cannot understand deeper subjects if one does not have a full grasp on the Lord's compassionate
ways, Chaitanya started His lecture with an explanation of vegetarianism.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Exactly. The Chand Kazi could not understand love of God and the importance of chanting His name with love and
devotion. Therefore, Lord Chaitanya took great pains to explain the importance of vegetarianism, its underlying
compassion and expansive spiritual vision. To substantiate His views, He used both the Koran, the Kazi's own
scripture-and the Vedic literature.
My own spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, also emulated this approach.
Whenever he was involved in inter-religious dialogue, he very consciously kept the conversation on two main
points: "You are not that body", and "Thou shalt not kill.”

Rev. Hart:

Very interesting... I’m just curious, later, when Lord Chaitanya went to Orissa, did He receive the same kind of
opposition - was there a Chand Kazi in Jagannath Puri?

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is not widely known. Of course, He received more popularity in the later pastimes, and so He was met with
less opposition from the common people. He was amassing thousands upon thousands of devotees. Still, there is
always opposition in this material world, especially for thos e who are trying to preach the message of Godhead.
There was one, Govinda Vidyadhara, a political leader who was against Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's mission.
Historical accounts compiled in Jagannath Puri give documentary evidence that this rascal politician had tried to
assassinate King Prataparudra. Lord Chaitanya's dedicated follower. Some reports from the Archeological Survey
of India state that although Govinda Vidyadhara did not kill the king, he was successful in killing the king's son.
But, in any case, this in no way obstructed Lord Chaitanya's mission....But, then, we are getting ahead of
ourselves....We were discussing vegetarianism.
VEDIC LITERATURE AND COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I did want to hear more about the Vedic literature and compassion for animals. It seems that there is a code
of ethics in this regard that allows followers of your tradition to be very clear on the importance of animal rights.
You were going to describe this for me...

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Vedic tradition promotes sarva- bhuta- hita ("devotion to the good of all creatures") over loka-hita ("devotion
to the good of humanity"). The first ethical system, according to the Vedic tradition, includes the second. And it is
therefore more complete. If one cares for all living creatures, then one naturally cares for humanity as well. The
converse is not necessarily true.
The Vedic viewpoint is that one should see the same life force in all living entities, regardless of “outer dress” (the
body). Those who cannot understand the principle of life in animals might then eventually misunderstand what
the life force is altogether and lose their sense of humanity. Accordingly, sarva- bhuta- hita, or the desire to good
for all creatures, is the superior code of ethics that is delineated in the Vedic tradition. And this is extended to the
point of vegetarianism by all followers of Vaishnava dharma, or the original Vedic way.
It is, of course, our contention that all of the major world religions must graduate to this all-encompassing code of
ethics if they are to understand deeper spiritual truths. If one still identifies with the external body, and if one
identifies animals with their external bodies and thus eats them, one can never progress on the path back to
Godhead

Rev. Hart:

So followers of the Vedic literature see all things equally?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. Krishna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita (5.18): “The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with
equal vision the learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste].”

Rev. Hart:

Ah, this is real spiritual vision.

CHAPTER THREE

CHANT THE HOLY NAME

Rev. Hart:
When we call on God - and we should learn how to do this at every moment, even in the midst of our day to day
work - we should be conscious of Him, and then our prayer will have deeper effects, deeper meaning. This I know,
is the basic idea of Krishna consciousness. In the Christian tradition, too, we are told to pray ceaselessly. This is a
biblical command (1 Thess. 5.17) We are also warned, however, to be on guard against "vain" repetition. And I
know that Krishna devotees are also on guard. Your scriptures instruct you to chant "attentively" and in Krishna
consciousness.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is the essential process for God realization in this age: "Chant the holy name! Chant the holy name! Chant
the holy name! In the age of Kali there is no other path for spiritual realization. There is no other way! No other
way! No other way!"

Rev. Hart:

In a sense, this could also be considered the heart of the Christian process as well. For instance, in the Latin Mass,
before the Gospel is read, there is a prayer spoken by the priest: domimis sit in corde meo et in labiis meis, which
means, "May the Lord be in my heart and on my lips." What better way is there to have God on one's lips than by
chanting the holy name? Therefore, the Psalms tell us that from "the rising of the sun to its setting," the Lord's
name is to be praised. And Paul echoes this idea by telling us that: "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will
be saved." (Romans 10.13)

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. This is Krishna consciousness.

Rev. Hart:

But to be conscious of Him. This is an interesting concept. He is the Creator, the Maintainer. He is our most
immediate experience. Yet still He is elusive. To be conscious of Him sounds a lot easier than it is. At first, it is
actually impossible to be truly conscious of Him, for our conditioning has us in a state of spiritual amnesia, so to
speak. We do not even know who He is. We have forgotten our original Father. I have had a difficult time
explaining this to my seminary students.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Naturally this would be difficult. In the biblical tradition there is not a great deal of information about the
kingdom of God. What does it look like? Where is it? What does God look like? Does He manifest in various
forms? One form? No form? How do you meditate or call on God if your concept is nebulous? If your information
about Him is vague, how can you expect to develop an intimate relationship with Him?
Analogically, this "amnesia" business is actually quite accurate. We have forgotten our eternal relationship with
God. And just like ordinary or conventional amnesia, it is best cured by taking the patient to his original
surroundings. This will jar his memory. But in order to take him to his original surroundings, you must first know
where those surroundings are. You must know his family, friends, and entourage. Then, by exposing him to these
things, he gradually becomes cured. And he remembers his real life.
Similarly, in Krishna consciousness, all the details of the Kingdom of God are revealed. It's actually quite a mazing.
All of God's intimate associates in His kingdom - those who have never fallen away...we learn of their existence and
whereabouts... Also, it is taught in the Bible that God is all pervading, but only in the Vedic literature is it taught
exactly how this comes to be. How He expands into His quadruple forms, and then into the three Vishnu (purusha)
avatars, entering into every atom. All the details are there. It's more than the mind can accommodate. It jars the
memory, piercing through our materialistic conditioning. We are cured. Even the sound of the chant - the Hare
Krishna maha-mantra - it is imported from the spiritual worldd. When we give submissive aural reception to this
chanting, it is like hearing someone scream while we are sleeping. It wakes us up. At first it may cause some
uncomfortable sensation, but then it is like waking up to a new day. It is refreshing and invigorating. We are sorry
we spent so much time under the covers.
Given these details, it becomes almost easy to meditate on God as one chants, or prays, to Him. In addition, one
becomes quickly cured of one's spiritual amnesia...

DESCRIPTIONS OF GOD
Rev. Hart:

I am also amazed at the details, which abound in Vedic texts. We are also aware of God the Creator, Maintainer
and Well-Wisher of all living beings, and we know Him as the Son, who died for our sins...

Satyaraja Dasa:

But if you listen to your own descriptions of God, you will see that they are primarily egocentric. That is to say that
they center around you and the rest of your kind. He is the Creator and Maintainer-of whom? You. Jesus died for
whose sins? His own? Of course not. He died for your sins - mine and yours. But what about God in His own right?
What about Him?
Does the biblical tradition hold any information about His self- existent nature?

Rev. Hart:

Christian philosophers would say that such knowledge is beyond the grasp of man. God's self-existent nature is
unlimited, and as such, it cannot be grasped by limited beings.

Satyaraja Dasa:

I say that this is just a rationalization because the information in question is not found in the Bible. Consider this: If
God is unlimited, as you say, then He has the power of making Himself known, in full, to a limited being. And if you
deny Him the power to do so, then you are limiting Him.

Rev. Hart:
So, logically, we can know God's self-existent nature...hmmm....But it must be by His prerogative. He must take
the initiative...it can't be any other way...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, of course. By His own prerogative, He takes the initiative and reveals Himself to us. This is revelation.

Rev. Hart:

I can accept that.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Of course. And He does so when we please Him....So by sincerely chanting His name and spreading the message to
others...

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I see, but it is still an abstraction...

GODS PRIMARY NAMES


Satyaraja Dasa:

That's alright. He will remain an abstraction until you learn to chant His primary names under the direction of a
qualified spiritual master,

Rev. Hart:

Primary names?

Satyaraja Dasa:

The subject is explained very clearly by Bhaktivinode Thakur, a great Krishna conscious saint in the late nineteenth
century. In his book, the Hari Nama Chintamani, he explains that there are primary and secondary names for God.
While he admits that the foremost thing is sincerity and attentiveness, he also asserts that one should chant God's
primary names.
Now, which names are primary and which are secondary? How is it judged? This is very interesting. Bhaktivinode
Thakur describes as secondary those names of God that are ordinary, abstract, or representational, the kind to
which we are commonly accustomed in this world.
These names describe God only as He relates to us. They are external and certainly less intimate. Creator,
Maintainer, as you have described. These are distant and abstract and largely impersonal. They have little to do
with God's self-existent nature.
His more intimate and primary names, however, deal directly with His self-existent nature. They describe who He
is in relationship to His eternal associates in the kingdom of God. They are not necessarily connected to His
interactions with the material world.

Rev. Hart:

Can you give some examples?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, but if you are not familiar with the details of God's internal nature, as revealed in the Vedic literature, they
will naturally sound alien to you. For instance, names such as Yashomati-nandana, Nanda-kishor, Damodara. These
describe Krishna in relation to His eternal, confidential associates, in His original kingdom. They have virtually
nothing to do with our world of relativity. These types of names are primary, and they are very confidential and
dear to Krishna. Such names are also dear to pure devotees, who know Krishna well.
The secondary names are more like descriptions of God from our perspective. And, remember, our perspective is
divorced from reality. We have spiritual amnesia. But the primary names are like descriptions from His inner
circle.
For instance, if I refer to you as "the priest," your seminary students would probably know to whom I am referring.
But if I called you by your given name - this is more intimate - and there would be no mistake.
Now, to extend it further, if I were to call you by a pet name-say a name that only your parents and good friends
know about - this is even more intimate. Such a name is analogous to the names of God revealed in the Vedic
literature, such as "Krishna" or "Govinda." These names are more intimate and thus accelerate the process of
curing spiritual amnesia. What's more, these names very easily situate one in love of God.

Rev. Hart:

I think I have it now. The name "God," for instance, is certainly a secondary name. We call Him "God" because He
is good to us. The word is of Germanic origin and means "the Good One." It's a description of how He interrelates
with us.
What about "Awoon"? This was the Aramaic name Jesus used for God. It means "Our Universal Father." Is this...

RASA

Satyaraja Dasa:

Again, it is simply how He relates to us in the material world. Jesus sought to show his followers that we are all of
common origin. We all come from the same universal Father. This rasa, or relationship, however, is non-existent
in the spiritual realm.
Rev. Hart:

God is not the Father in the Kingdom of God?

Satyaraja Dasa:

He is always our source. So in that sense, ....but the child is always out to take something from the father. "Please
give us our daily bread..."
"What can my father do for me?" the child always asks. 'He must take care of me." This mentality is natural for a
young child, but when one matures, he wants to do something in return. Similarly, when one is spiritually mature
and goes to the kingdom of God, he does not hanker after this rudimentary relationship. Rather, he wants to
render service, not take it. Actually, Jesus merely used this "Father" concept as a catalyst for us to remember our
dependence on the Lord, especially in our neophyte state.
But the kingdom of God is the land of dedication and love. We are not out to extract anything from Him. We are
there merely to render devotional service. In this supreme abode, there are five primary relationships (rasa): one
can serve in a neutral mood, or in the mood of a menial servant, a friend, a parent, or even as a conjugal lover. But
one never sees God as one's father, at least not in the Christian sense.

Rev. Hart:

Conjugal love?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, Krishna is a person, and all inter-personal relationships have their origin in Him. Of course, love in the
spiritual realm is divorced from the carnality and impermanence of the mundane sphere. It is of a whole different
nature. It is wholesome and pure. It is spiritual. The Deity is never contaminated by material conceptions.

DIETY – IDOL WORSHIP

Rev. Hart:

Oh, that reminds me. You were using the word “diety" in a generic sense, to refer to God. But I have question
about Deity worship. You know, of course, that idol worship is condemned in the biblical tradition. There are
strong Old Testament proscriptions against carving an idol - these were mainly to keep the followers of Yahweh,
the One Supreme God, from bowing down before the Baals and Ishtars of their neighbors. In other words, there
was a lot of demigod worship at that time, and so, in an attempt to avoid this, there were strong proscriptions
against worshipping "lesser" gods, this included various forms of idol worship.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. And then, as usual, the proscription got out of hand. And so even the Deity of Krishna, God Himself, would
be desecrated by those who considered themselves "believing Christians."

Rev. Hart:

Oh, no. I disagree. I think you mainly have your Jews and Muslims who would take a strong stance against Deity
worship...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Actually, you are right. Historically, it was mainly the Muslims who desecrated the Deities. Jews are also against
worshipping a divine form, but as you mentioned, this was mainly because they received strong prohibitions in the
Old Testament.

Rev. Hart:

Yes. And the interesting thing is that it never actually says not to carve a form of God! First, it says: Thou shall
have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20.3).
Okay. I think you would agree with that. The Supreme Godhead is speaking, and He is basically condemning
demigod worship. Next, and this is the key verse against idol worship, God says, "Thou shall not make unto thee
any graven [carved] image of any likeness of anything that is in the sky above, or that is on the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth....Thou shall not bow down to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am
a jealous God." (Exodus 20.4-5)
I find it truly fascinating that followers of the Judeo- Christian culture would have developed such a strong
abhorrence for idol worship, just based on this text. After all, I'm sure you would agree that it is repugnant to
carve, bow down, and worship a "lesser god" than Krishna. But you are worshipping the Supreme Godhead.
Obviously, this Exodus text is more against worshipping lesser gods than carving forms.
Krishna is not a likeness of anything on land, in the sky, the sea. He is transcendental. Therefore, in fashioning an
image of Him, you are not breaking the command- against idol worship. Correct me if I'm wrong, but lesser gods,
indeed all living beings, are modeled after Him. Not vice versa and if this is true, then carving a form of Krishna and
then worshipping it, according to the strictures of the Vedic literature, would then definitely not qualify as idol
worship.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Right. Another, related point is this: If we say that Krishna's form, which appears human, is “human-like,” they
accuse us of being anthropomorphic. And this would be correct. But we are made in the image of God! So there
must be some similarity. Consequently, we like to say that our form is theomorphic. We look like God. He does
not look like us. I guess that sounds confusing...[laughter]

Rev. Hart:

Well, the main point is that His form comes first. Ours is fashioned after His.

Satyaraja Dasa:
The form of Vishnu, especially, with His arms, is certainly not a likeness of anything on earth, sea, or in the sky.

Rev. Hart:

[laughter] Right. Right. The Exodus quote loses meaning in this case.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Anyway, not to get too far off the track, we were explaining primary and secondary forms and names of God. The
Bible is replete with secondary forms and names...

Rev. Hart:

What is an example of a secondary form?

Satyaraja Dasa:

A form that merely represents God. The burning bush, for instance...

Rev. Hart:

Ah, yes. This is a peculiar manifestation. In Deuteronomy (4.24), when God is described as a consuming fire. Is
there a similar representation in the Vedic literature?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Hmmm?…Ishvara tattva-yena jvalita jvalana. This word jvalana means "fire." Thus the Lord is compared to a
blazing fire in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (Adi-lila 7.116). But, again, these are representational forms of God.
Krishna is the Supreme Lord Himself.

DOES GOD WEAR A HELMET?

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I know. But these manifestations do interest me, especially when there is a connection between biblical and
Vedic writings. Tell me, is there a manifestation wherein Krishna is known to wear a helmet of some sort? I ask
you this because Yahweh, the God of the Bible, is described as wearing "the helmet of salvation" (Isaiah 59.16-18).
Aside from the usual metaphorical interpretations, some believe that God actually wears such a helmet. After
reading some of the Vedic texts, it would not surprise me if much of the biblical symbolism - or that which we
traditionally take as symbolism - had a more concrete basis in reality.
Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, believe it or not, as I recall. Lord Hari (Krishna) is sometimes described as wearing a helmet. Yes, in the
Srimad Bhagavatam (6.4.39) there is beautiful description of Krishna. Among His ornaments, His head-dress is
described as a maha-kirita, or an extremely large and gorgeous helmet.

Rev. Hart:

Such parallels are amazing. I really enjoy these comparative studies. Traditions that are today geographically and
culturally at odds, at least to some degree, have more in common than most people would assume. To me, it
hearkens back to a time when we were all worshipping the same one God, before the artificial separations which
today engulf us had a chance to take over. Before Kali-Yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, had a chance to
develop.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, I like this eclectic talk as well. It gives us an appreciation for all cultures, and ultimately how everything is
traceable to Vedic culture. In fact, I've researched this subject quite a bit...

CORRELATIONS BETWEEN DESCRIPTIONS

Rev. Hart:

I know. You are definitely the person to be discussing this with. You once told me that you have found many
correlations between descriptions of Yahweh in the Bible and Vishnu in the Vedic literature. Could I hear them
now?

Satyaraja Dasa:

That was a long time ago. I only remember a few of them off hand....hmmm...Yahweh’s voice is described to be
like thunder (Job 40.9); Vishnu has a voice like thunder (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.7). Yahweh is described as having
a rod (club) and a staff (Palms 23.4, or 89.32); and it is well-known that Vishnu, depending upon which expansion
He manifests, has a club (S.B. 6.4.39) and a trident (S.B. 4.30.7). A fire is sent by Yahweh to burn up His enemies
(Psalms 97.3, or 50.3; also see Deut. 9.3); the chakra of Vishnu is as destructive as the fire of devastation and
burns His enemies to ashes (S.B. 6.8.23).
Yahweh, at times, carries a shield (Deut. 33.29; Psalms 84.11); so does Vishnu (S.B. 6.439). The comparisons are
endless. And the central point to understand is that God is one. When we speak of Krishna, or Vishnu, or Yahweh,
we mean God.

Rev. Hart:

In connection to our discussion, there is another common factor, something that gives additional emphasis to
Vishnu and Yahweh being one and the same.
In the Jewish Encyclopedia, under a section on cherub etymology, I found the most fascinating information:
Dillman, Duff, and other prominent scholars “still favor the connection between Yahweh's cherub and gryphus
[Garuda].”

Satyaraja Dasa:

That's incredible. And if I remember my Bible, although there is sometimes a description of many cherubim,
Yahweh rides upon only one, as Vishnu rides only upon Garudaji….hmmm....Both concepts of God include bird-like
carriers, even though these concepts were greatly separated, as you noted, both geographically and culturally.
Well, we're talking about the same one Supreme Lord. I'm convinced! [laughter]

THE LORD’S BACK

Rev. Hart:

This may be a little off the subject, but since we're talking about God as a person, and also in His representational
forms, I was wondering what you'd have to say about a certain episode in the Bible. If you read Exodus (33.18-23),
it is clear that God does not easily reveal His glory, or His form. Of course, I know you're something of a
fundamentalist, and so you probably take the various biblical statements about the form of God quite literally-and
I'm not sure that I would in all cases agree with this. But in this particular section of Exodus, it mentions that God
was willing to show Moses His "back." He would definitely not show His face, but His "back" was shown to Moses.
I know, in your view, this definitely confirms that God has a form, a "back" and a "face." But I wonder, do you see a
metaphorical interpretation in these particular texts?

Satyaraja Dasa:

First of all, it is clearly indicated in these verses from Exodus that God has a form, you are correct. Ask yourself this
question: Why would the biblical prophets repeatedly use a personal metaphor to describe God if He was indeed
impersonal? It is a dangerous proposition. Misleading. You may say that these personal metaphors are used just
to help us relate to God. But what is your evidence that they should not be taken literally? Why assume that it is a
metaphor? Anyway, food for thought...
Now, in regard to Moses seeing the "back" of God. The emphasis of God's "back" is related in Srimad Bhagavatam,
and, yes, there is a sort of metaphorical interpretation. More accurately it is an "inner" interpretation. According to
the second canto of the Bhagavatam (2.6.10), the Lord's "back" (paschimah) represents frustration and ignorance.
More importantly, it is said to be the seat of impersonal realization. Those who are fortunate enough to be graced
with the vision of His "front," in other words, will pursue God realization in its highest, personal feature. But the
impersonalists must resign themselves to God's "back" only.
Of course. His "back" is also transcendental, and so impersonalists may gradually evolve to the personal
conception realizing Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This, of course, is a far way off for
impersonalists. Traditionally, then, one can understand the plight of Jewish philosophers, for their leader, Moses,
was only given knowledge of the back of God. If you want to understand this biblical idea from the Vedic
perspective, you can see it in this way.
Rev. Hart:

Extremely interesting...You might be interested to know that there have been elaborate studies undertaken to
compare Christianity and Vaishnavism.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, I noticed John Plott's work in your office. This is an important contribution, where he compares the teachings
and theology of Ramanujacharya to St. Bonaventura.

Rev. Hart:

Yes, but this is academic. I would be more interested in your work, or in the work of someone who is actually part
of the tradition...

DISCIPLIC SUCCESSION

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is very important. Vedic knowledge comes in disciplic succession. Your intuition is correct. You cannot delve
into these truths without learning from a spiritual master in one of the genuine preceptorial lines. The Apostles
studied under Jesus. Even Aquinas studied under Albertus Magnus. There is an esoteric link between guru and
disciple that is essential.
There are four genuine sampradayas, or lines of disciplic teaching. The Padma Purana, part of the Vedic canon,
mentions these four sampradayas by name and even predicts the four prominent teachers that these bona-fide
disciplic chains would give birth to:

sampradayavihina ye mantras ie viphala matah


atah kalau bhavishyanti chatarah sampradayinah
shri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaishnava kshitipavanah
chatvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purushottamah
ramanujam shrihi svichakre madhvacharyam charurmuhash
srivishnuswaminam rudro nimbadityam chatuksanaha

Rev. Hart:

That was beautiful. That's the original Sanskrit?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. It loosely translates like this: "One who chants a mantra, or prayer, but was not given that mantra in one of
the four bona-fide disciplic successions, is more or less wasting his time. Thus, in Kali-yuga, there will be four
important teachers representing each of these sampradayas, known as the Shri, Brahma, Rudra, and Sanaka (or
Kumara) sampradayas. Shri (Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort) chose Ramanuja [to establish her sampradaya]; the four-
headed Brahma chose Madhva; Rudra (Shiva) chose Vishnu Swami; and the four "Sanas” (Sanaka, Sanatkumara,
Sananda, and Sanatan) chose Nimbarka." In this verse is the secret of Vedic knowledge, for the esoteric truths of
the kingdom of God are passed down in disciplic succession.

Rev. Hart:

You began this quote by saying that if one does not receive it in disciplic succession one's mantra, or prayer, is
without any effect. Or you said it was "a waste of time". This is a strong statement.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is to show the importance of receiving knowledge in disciplic succession. It cannot be stressed enough. The
exact Sanskrit word in the verse I just quoted is viphala, which means "fruitless." Unless you align yourself with one
of the established disciplic successions, your chanting is considered fruitless, at least in the ultimate analysis. The
inner meaning runs something like this: Prayer and chanting of any kind, when directed towards God, is good, and
it will gradually elevate one to the highest levels of attainment, even to the point of liberation. But the real "fruit"
of prayer is to develop pure love for God. So it is this highest achievement that is only reachable when one takes
initiation in disciplic succession.

THE JESUS PRAYER

Rev. Hart:

I guess the Christian tradition is proof enough that such a bona-fide disciplic succession is important. Jesus started
something like a disciplic line with Simon/ Peter. But soon after, in less than sixty-five years, there is an
embarrassing history, ....and then in the fourth century, when Constantine made Christianity "socially acceptable",
true Christianity became quite covered. The history of the papacy, ...the de Medici Popes and their successors.
They were perhaps the most debauched men in the history of religion.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, however, and among the Christian mystics, there has been a strong reform
movement, an attempt to regain the original spiritual potency of early Christianity. Perhaps you've heard about
Hesychasm, a technique of mantra meditation that was employed by Christians as far back as the third century
after Christ. The method was the simple chanting of "the Jesus Prayer," which runs like this: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son
of God, have mercy upon me." I personally have found great comfort in this mantra.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This Jesus Prayer is undoubtedly very pure. But I prefer the Hare Krishna maha-mantra - it seems purer.

Rev. Hart:
I don't think you're being objective...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Have you looked at it objectively? In the Jesus Prayer, you are asking God, the Son, for mercy. Fine. That is
certainly commendable. There are many gross material things that one could ask for. And in light of this, it is a
blessing indeed to find one who is praying for something as needed as divine mercy. But the Hare Krishna maha
mantra does not ask for anything, not even something as subtle as mercy. The prayer simply requests "Please
engage me in Your service." It asks for nothing in return. What's more, it is addressing God, the Father, and His
internal potency. It is quite esoteric and pure. Incomparable. So even objectively...

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I see....But it's difficult to be objective about one's heartfelt prayers. I'm inclined to the Jesus Prayer.
Although it was recently popularized by the New Age movement as a result of its appearance in The Way of a
Pilgrim and Franny and Zooey, "the Jesus Prayer" has a long and venerable tradition in the Philokalia, an important
book on Christian mysticism. The word Philokalia literally means "the love of spiritual beauty," and I can say that
the book definitely brings its readers to that level of appreciation. For me, this book is one of my favorites, up
there with The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John's Dark Night of the Soul, and Thomas a-Kempis' The Imitation of
Christ.
Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that the Philokalia also emphasizes the importance of accepting a spiritual
master. The Greek words used are starets and geront, but they basically mean the same thing. One must learn
"the Jesus Prayer" from a qualified master who is accomplished in such chanting. The result of chanting under a
proper master is theosis, or the "respiritualization of the personality."

Satyaraja Dasa:

This doesn't sound like your average Christianity.

Rev. Hart:

No, you're quite right. It's actually extremely rare nowadays.

Satyaraja Dasa:

I think that the whole thing deteriorated as a result of this one point: the whole concept of the spiritual master
became weakened. Of course, in the Christian tradition, it was almost destined to do so. When Aquinas
synthesized a Church philosophy by way of Aristotelian logic, he had inadvertently a ccepted an impotent
conception of the guru.

Rev. Hart:

How so?
Satyaraja Dasa:

Because Aristotle had rejected his teacher! If you study Plato, Aristotle's teacher, you find a very spiritual
philosophy; he was a partially realized soul. But Aristotle, in trying to take Plato's ideas a bit farther and
accommodate the scientific age, had rendered his teacher's philosophy too materialistic. Aristotle was not
qualified to adjust his guru's teaching.
So when Aquinas used Aristotle's views to create Church doctrine...

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I see....That would make an interesting thesis...

JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY?

Satyaraja Dasa:

I have a question for you. Generally, nowadays, Christians feel that there is no need for a spiritual master. I think
this is largely attributable to the fact that Christians feel that Jesus is the only guru, You know, Christian exclusivity.
Jesus is the only way....

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I see your point. I would have to say that this is a very narrow-minded conception. Certainly it is not
representative of true Christianity. This type of "Christian exclusivity," as you call it, is of course based on the book
of John (14.6), where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through
me."

Satyaraja Dasa:

That's it. That's the one they always quote. Only through Jesus, they say.

Rev. Hart:

Yes. This is an unfortunate interpretation, one that is quite prominent, however. Anyway, the original Greek has a
different story to tell. ego eimi ha hodos kai ha alatheia kai ha zoa; oudeis erketai pros ton patera ei ma di emou.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Can you translate?


Rev. Hart:

Well, I've already quoted the verse, but the key word here is erketai. This is an extremely present-tense form of
the verb. In other words, a more accurate translation would be as follows: I am the way, the truth, and the life;
no man can presently come to the Father, except through me” You see? In Palestine, two thousand years ago,
Jesus was the guru. If he wanted to say that he would be the teacher for all time, he would have used a word
other than erketai, but he didn't. In one sense, of course, I can empathize with my fellow Christians. I have also
accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. But, objectively, there is no reason to say that he is the only one, although
many do say such a thing.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Consequently, one does not know how to interpret scripture. For instance, the Bible has two distinct creation
stories. What's more, the Gospels of Mathew and Luke contain two completely divergent genealogies of Jesus.
Which of the stories are parables? Which are to be taken metaphorically or analogically?

Rev. Hart:

But Luther said that we "all have our own divine right to interpret scripture..."

Satyaraja Dasa:

More unwarranted liberalism! Who are we to interpret. There are those who use scripture to rationalize murder.
There are those who use it to promote war and those who use it to promote world peace. You use the scripture to
prove that Jesus was the expected Messiah of the Jews. The Jews use it, just as effectively, to prove that Jesus
could not have possibly been the Messiah.

Rev. Hart:

What can be done?

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Vedic literature recommends a three-point check and balance system. Guru, shastra and sadhu. That is to say
that one must approach a guru in disciplic succession. This method solves all problems of scriptural hermeneutics.

Rev. Hart:

But the spiritual master must be genuine. Otherwise the same problem occurs...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Exactly. But the Vedic literature asserts that one must approach a guru, and that the guru must be aligned with
one of the four sampradayas mentioned previously. Now, how to discern that he is genuine. Oh, there are so
many texts...According to the Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.12), the two main qualities are srotriyam, that he comes in
disciplic succession, and brahma nishtam, that he is fixed in the Absolute Truth-his life is dedicated to Krishna.
In addition, he should be in control of his tongue, belly, and genitalia....The pure devotee, spiritual master, has
twenty- six qualities...All of his statements can be backed by scripture....And his interpretation of scripture never
deviates from the predecessor gurus in disciplic succession....You see? It's very clear. There are so many
references....

GAUDIYA SAMPRADAYA

Rev. Hart:

Which disciplic line is your movement with?

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Brahma-Madhva line. It is one of the four...

Rev. Hart:

Yes. Where does Lord Chaitanya fit in?

Satyaraja Dasa:

He modified Madhva's teaching. I think we discussed this earlier...

Rev. Hart:

But He did accept the Brahma-Madhva school?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. His teacher was Ishvara Puri, who was a disciple of the famed Madhavendra Puri. He, through his guru, was
clearly linked to the Madhva sampradaya. And in this way we are linked to the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya
sampradaya.

Rev. Hart:

Gaudiya?
Satyaraja Dasa:

This refers to Lord Chaitanya. Because He revitalized the disciplic line and because He was the long - awaited
avatar. He is given a special place. The area of Bengal, where He displayed His pastimes, is sometimes known as
"Gauda-desh." Hence, "Gaudiya" sampradaya.

Rev. Hart:

I think that initiation is essential. In your tradition it is so clear...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Instead of reading War and Peace, some try to save time by reading a synopsis. Likewise, instead of searching out
a bona-fide spiritual master, some people settle for some quack whose instructions may be easy to follow, or,
some even settle for no spiritual master, or they accept themselves as a spiritual master....

Rev. Hart:

“One who thinks he's his own spiritual master has a fool for a disciple."

Satyaraja Dasa:

(laughter] Yes. Similarly, no one who reads a synopsis of War and Peace can hope to experience the variegated
nuances in the lives and frustrations of Pierre, Natasha, and Prince Andrei. While this is a crude example, the
principle should be clear: there may possibly be shortcuts in many areas of life, but one will find trouble if one
tends to look for shortcuts in areas of great complexity. One would do best to take instruction from one who has
already traversed the path successfully. Spiritual life is just such an endeavor.
One who does not accept a spiritual master in disciplic succession will necessarily miss out on the cardinal points of
transcendental science.

CHAPTER FOUR

BHAGAVAD-GITA
Rev. Hart:

What can you tell me about the Bhagavad-gita"? In many of our previous conversations, you've quoted from it
extensively. And I've been fascinated by the work since college.
Satyaraja Dasa:

The Bhagavad-gita, or "the song of God” is one of the most important scriptures to come out of India. Although
widely published and read as a separate text, it originally appears as an episode in the Mahabharata, a great
historical epic consisting of some 100,000 couplets. It is known as the longest poem in world literature.

Rev. Hart:

But the Gita….

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. The Gita occupies chapters twenty- five through forty-two of the Bhishma-parva section of the Mahabharata.
As it begins, Krishna - the Lord - is standing in the midst of the Kurukshetra battlefield - as a charioteer - for His
friend and devotee Arjuna. The dialogue that ensues is the gita, or "song," of Bhagavan, "the Supreme Lord." He
sings His song because His devotee, Arjuna, is in need of instruction. Bewildered by the mandate to fight, Arjuna
hesitates to engage in the fratricidal war before him. Lord Krishna, however, elucidates the implications of His
devotee's reluctance. He points out that, as a warrior, Arjuna's specific duty is indeed to fight on behalf of the
righteous. And his hesitation, Krishna adds, though superficially noble, is actually based on illusion, a
misidentification of the body with the self.
The opposing party is, after all, guilty of many atrocities and already doomed, even if many of them are Arjuna's
relatives. Krishna has sealed their fate or, rather, they have sealed their own fate, and Krishna is encouraging
Arjuna to act as His instrument in meting out the appropriate reaction. The Gita's seven hundred verses embody
Lord Krishna's elaborate arguments in this regard and Arjuna's ultimate acquiescence.

Rev. Hart:

You have mastered the art of explaining complex things in an easy-to-understand way. Of course, you are giving
me the verdict of the disciplic succession, and according to the tradition itself, this is the perspective that we
should accept. But throughout the ages there have been many exegetical commentaries. Can you give me an
historical breakdown, telling me which of the Gita commentaries have been worthwhile and which are bogus?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Most popular commentaries today are clearly bogus. They lack depth and do not honor the traditional
commentaries that are essential for formulating one's own exegesis. Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, is
thus the only English translation and commentary that properly respects the bona-fide historical commentaries...

Rev. Hart:

What about Dr. Barbara Stoler Miller's new Gita commentary. You know, she's that Sanskritist up at Columbia?
In terms of prose...
Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, it is a nice translation. I especially appreciated her after word, about Thoreau taking the Gita to Walden
Pond...

Rev. Hart:

Yes. Yes.

Satyaraja Dasa:

But as far as authenticity and fidelity to the tradition, I can only recommend Prabhupada's. The Gita has been
assaulted by unnecessary commentaries many times in the past, the earliest being the great Shankaracharya's
commentary in the eighth century after Christ. While important in its own right, it missed the essentially theistic
nature of the Gita's overall message. Shankara's exegesis served to "depersonalize" the Lord for Shankara's
impersonalist (mayavadi) followers.
His forced interpretation opened up a new school of scriptural hermeneutics for the Gita, and less worthy
renditions eventually flooded the market. Contemporary writers list these bogus Gitas in their own work and
doubtless refer to them as authorities: Gandhi, Aurobindo, Huxley, Hartmann, Steiner, Tagore, to name a few.
While these men may enjoy a certain distinction in their respective fields, they are hardly authorities on Bhagavad-
gita.

Rev. Hart:

I've read Geoffrey Parrinder's The Significance of the Bhagavad-gita for Christian Theology and William
Blanchard's Ph.D. Dissertation, entitled, "An Examination of the Relation of the New Testament to the Bhagavad-
gita.” Excellent. Oh, I've also read Charles Wilkins’ Bhagavad-gita. That was the first English translation, you
know, published in 1785.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Unfortunately, the more important commentaries are scarcely even known to modern readers: Anugita, the
Gitamahatmyas. Jayatirtha, who comes in the Brahma-Madhva sampradaya, wrote an important commentary on
the Gita, as did Vedanta Deshika of the Ramanujite school.

Rev. Hart:

No, I've never seen these.

Satyaraja Dasa:

More important still are the commentaries of Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur and Baladeva Vidyabhushana, for
these are Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya commentaries and as such bring out the highest conclusions of love of God.
Rev. Hart:

I'm afraid I'm not aware of these commentaries either...

Satyaraja Dasa:

They are not available in English. But these are the traditional, long-established Gita commentaries. You see, the
bogus interpretations work in such a way as to obscure the Gita's real message, including its most important
commentaries.
Today, one can penetrate the Gita's mystery with the help of Bhagavad-gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A. C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. This is the definitive edition, with original Sanskrit, word-for-word
transliteration, English translation, and lengthy purports. The sum and substance of all traditional commentaries
can be found in this version, and here it is.

Rev. Hart:

A gift? Thank you.

Satyaraja Dasa:

All I ask is that you read it carefully.

Rev. Hart:

Thank you, really.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This gift is to help you avoid the deviant commentaries.

Rev. Hart:

[laughter] Well, this will have me reading for some time. It looks like a thousand pages. Just about. Yes, I will
start it tonight...

Satyaraja Dasa:

This version is recommended in the Gita itself.

Rev. Hart:

Hmmm?
Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, the fourth chapter of the Gita sings loudly: evam parampara praptam, imam rajarshayo viduh, This is the
original Sanskrit, and it says, in essence, that one must approach a spiritual master in disciplic succession
(parampara) to know the truth of the Gita, it will not suffice to approach an academic research scholar. The
mysteries of religious literature can only be solved by practitioners, by religious mystics, as you know, and
scriptural hermeneutics are best left to those whose lives embody the scriptures.
In this regard, the Gita's message is crystal clear: approach a self-realized soul in order to understand the Gita. He
can give you knowledge because he is situated in the truth. By contrast, a mental speculator, however adept he
may be, can only teach one how to speculate. One who studies Bhagavad-gita clinically, from a distance, can
never enter into its deeper understandings. One who lives the Gita, however, can resolve all philosophical,
historical, and hermeneutical problems, both for himself and for those he teaches. This is the value of Srila
Prabhupada's Gita.

KURUKSHETRA

Rev. Hart:

That's quite an endorsement. Thank you again. Some theological questions: Why was Kurukshetra chosen as the
main battlefield? (I say "main" because I understand that it was a world war...) It was obviously considered a holy
place before Krishna and Arjuna's sacred conversation, some 5,000 years ago. In fact, as I recall, it is specifically
stated that this was a holy place even before the Gita revelation.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Kurukshetra is a plain near the present city of Delhi, southeast of Thanesar, and very close to Panipat. It is part of
the larger area called Dharmakshetra. It was considered sacred because it lay at the confluence of two of India's
most holy rivers, the Yamuna and the Saraswati. This is one of the reasons. Of course, the holy dialogue of Krishna
and Arjuna, which is totally spiritual, is not limited to considerations of time and space, which are material factors.
So, Kurukshetra was always a holy place, for the transcendental conversation that took place millions of years ago
with Vivaswan, the Sun-god, would one day transpire between Krishna and Arjuna. This came to pass 5,000 years
ago, but the pure sages always knew that it would one day come to be. And so the place was always considered
holy, even prior to the time of Krishna and Arjuna.

Rev. Hart:

What is the Gita’s teaching on acquisition? Arjuna is a great king who wants to give up his opulence; he becomes
attracted to renunciation. But Krishna will not allow him to artificially renounce. This is intriguing. Doesn't the Gita
ultimately teach renunciation?

Satyaraja Dasa:
Yes, but it teaches complete renunciation, yukta-vairagya. The type of renunciation to which we are accustomed
is incomplete. And it is dry. To give up the amenities of this world does not necessarily make one a lover of God.
The Gita, therefore, teaches that real renunciation is not to give up the things of this world - but to utilize them in
Krishna's service. This, according to the Gita, is the highest renunciation. To give up more than the fruits of one's
work - to give up the fruitive mentality. To work, with devotion, for Krishna. This is real renunciation. And it is this
kind of renunciation that Krishna was trying to bring Arjuna to understand.
It's a question of understanding who we are in relation to Krishna. Are we the enjoyer or the enjoyed. Besides,
what can we renounce if everything belongs to God?
Let's say you find a wallet on the ground. If you grab it and keep it for yourself, you are a thief, simply addicted to
your own sense pleasure. In Sanskrit, that is called a bhogi, a sense enjoyer. Now, if you just ignore the wallet,
thinking "it's not mine - it's none of my business," you are still guilty of an impropriety. You are heartless. You
could have helped someone by returning it to them. This is comparable to tyaga, or the conventional type of
renunciation that is rejected by the Gita. But if you pick up the wallet and try to find the original owner, that is
comparable to a bhakta, a devotee, who is always trying to use the amenities of this world in Krishna's service, in
the service of the original owner of the wallet.
So, in a sense, the enjoyer and the renunciant are the same. Only the bhakta stands out as virtuous.

Rev. Hart:

Yes. This business of enjoyment and renunciation, how in one sense, they lead to the same end, reminds me of a
story in the life of Diogenes, the Greek philosopher. When Alexander the Great set out to conquer India, he first
stopped in on his friend Diogenes. Upon meeting, they greeted each other with great affection, for they were old
friends and had not seen each other for some time.
Relaxing comfortably on his favorite couch while his anxious friend paced back and forth, Diogenes began the
discussion, "Where are you off to now?" Alexander said, "I'm going to conquer Asia Minor first." "And where to
after that?" Diogenes asked his ambitious friend. He was always intrigued with Alexander's exploits. "I will then go
on to conquer India” Alexander answered. "And then what?" asked the sage. Alexander's response:"I will conquer
the whole world”. With a bemused smile, Diogenes looked up at Alexander-with a distinctly challenging look in his
eyes - and said, "Once you've conquered the world, what will you do then?" "Ah," said Alexander, "then I can rest
and relax."
This response drove Diogenes to hysterical laughter. He called over his constant companion, a frail dog who was
resting nearby. "Do you hear what this madman has just said?" Diogenes confided in his dog, "He is going to rest
after conquering the world. We are already resting and we have not conquered anything-except, perhaps, the
desire to be a world conqueror."
Then Diogenes turned to Alexander and said, "If rest and relaxation is your ultimate objective, why not join me and
my dog right now in this comfortable room? There is enough space here for all three of us. Why are you going to
create so much disturbance, all over the world, just so you can come back here and rest with us? You can do it
now."
Alexander, needless to say, walked away with great embarrassment, but what could he do? He was already
attached and conditioned. But the sage had definitely given him food for thought.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Great story. We support that conclusion, but only if service to Krishna, God, is the ultimate reconciliation between
Alexander and Diogenes.
Rev. Hart:

Yes, that's my point. Alexander is the bhogi, the sense enjoyer, and Diogenes is the tyagi, the renunciant. What is
required is the devotee, the bhakta.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, this is the point...

YOGA

Rev. Hart:

Say, this may seem a bit disjointed, but since we're talking about the Gita, I wanted to ask you about yoga. Many
chapters are devoted to this subject, and, since the '60s, one hears so much about the yoga phenomenon. I know
the Gita is one of the original books to delineate the various systems of yoga. For some reason, "Raja yoga" comes
to mind. Oh, well, some of my students are involved with various forms of Raja yoga, and I was just wondering
how this relates to the message of the Gita.

Satyaraja Dasa:

The Raja yoga system is outlined in Bhagavad-gita. But it's unfortunate that your students are involved in this,
once again, this is directly attributable to the bogus translations and commentaries. Arjuna himself rejects this
system as too difficult for this day and age. Krishna agrees with him, and prescribes the simpler Bhakti-yoga,
wherein one learns to fix one's senses on the Supreme through devotional service, as we've discussed. This Bhakti-
yoga process is the ultimate “Raja” yoga, since raja means "king." Bhakti-yoga is the king of all yogic processes.

Rev. Hart:

But what then is this inferior Raja yoga, the one that is so popular today?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Although it is generally referred to as Raja yoga, most people today are actually referring to Ashtanga yoga - or
the yoga of eight limbs, also known as Hatha yoga. The eight limbs of this process include Yama ("self- restraint
and discipline"), Niyama ("religious observance"), Asana ("physical postures"), Pranayama ("controlling and
regulating the breath"), Pratyahara ("controlling the senses from their sense objects"), Dharana ("fixing the mind
on God"), Dhyana ("meditation on God"), and Samadhi ("total absorption in God"). This was intended to be a
gradual process, taking thousands of years to perfect. Yes, it was for a previous age, when people lived for many
thousands of years.
Therefore Arjuna rightly rejected it as too troublesome and impractical for our current day and age. Originally, the
Rajayoga process was meant to give its followers some level of mastery over the body and mind, so the two could
gradually be used in service and absorption in God.
People have turned it into a sensual affair. Now they use it to stop mid-way, when the "Kundalini" energy is
aroused, and they get their bodies in shape for good sex and forgetfulness of God.
This Kundalini energy is carried through the Shushum- na nadi ("vein"), one of the 72,000 veins we have running
through our bodies. The yoga process was meant to cleanse, or purify, our nadis so that the Kundalini energy
could travel unimpeded. This is usually affected by the Pranayama part of the process, which itself takes more
than a lifetime to perfect.

Rev. Hart:

So this complex process is rejected by the scriptures for this age and Bhaktiyoga is recommended instead. But why then does Krishna
not start out with this instruction on page one? Why the recommendation to try Raja yoga and only after Arjuna's rejection of it does
Krishna then recommend Bhakti? Was it that the grueling Ashtanga process was recommended in previo us ages? You seem to have
alluded to this...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. Krishna appeared at the tail end of the previous age, Dvaparayuga. He was giving an account of historical
yoga process, just to show, by Arjuna's rejection of it, that it was indeed outdated. Arjuna was such a qualified
individual. If it was not possible for him, we should not even consider it.
The Raja yoga process, scripturally, was actually meant for Satya-yuga, the first age, when people lived for an
inordinately long time-they actually lived for many thousands of years. After that came Treta-yuga, where the
lifespan diminished somewhat, and the recommended process for God realization was to perform elaborate
sacrifices, inconceivably elaborate. Next Dvapara-yuga came, and lifespan was again cut down considerably. In
this age, gorgeous temple worship was recommended as the prescribed process. This age, Dvapara -yuga, was
special in many ways. For one, Krishna Himself appeared in this age, and so people were inspired directly.
Moreover, the process of mantra meditation began to become a popular means of pleasing the Deity. This
prepared aspiring devotees for Kali-yuga, when mantra meditation would be the recommended spiritual practice.
But back to Dvapara-yuga for a moment. The Chaitanya Charitamrita (madhya 8) specifically notes that in
Dvapara-yuga the Lord was worshipped by the following mantra:

namas te vasudevaya
namak samkarshanaya cha
pradyumnayaniruddhaya
tubhyam bhagavate namaha

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, expanded as Vasudeva, Sankarshana,
Pradyumna, and Aniruddha."
This prayer originally appears in Srimad Bhagavatam, and was especially recommended for worshipping Krishna,
along with temple worship in Dvapara-yuga.
This ushered in the Iron Age, Kali-yuga, when our lifespan decreased to a great degree and we lost all finer
qualifications, such as those needed for Raja yoga, elaborate sacrifices, and gorgeous temple worship. In this age,
our only hope is to sincerely chant the holy name in the company of other Vaishnavas ("sankirtana"). Especially
recommended is the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare


Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Just as Lord Krishna personally appeared in Dvapara-yuga, He again descends in the Kali-yuga, again accompanied
by His personal associates. This time, however, He assumes a golden color, as opposed to Kris hna's blackish hue
and He appears in His most confidential feature, officially introducing the Hari -nama Sankirtan movement, the
yuga-dharma ("the process for this age"), which consists of chanting this Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
This, of course, is the avatar of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The scriptures inform us that the most fortunate will
take shelter of this glowing manifestation of the Supreme, and will, in Him, find their much-needed respite from
the age of Kali.

HIGHEST TEACHING

Rev. Hart:

Interesting. In essence, then, the Gita concludes by telling us to surrender to the One Supreme God - Krishna - by
acts of devotion and chanting His name. Uncanny. It really seems just like Christianity. The conclusion is
essentially the same. Actually, this last instruction of Bhagavad-gita is my favorite: "Abandon all varieties of
religion and simply surrender unto Me," Krishna says, "I'll protect you from all sinful reactions." This instruction
was mysterious to me, at first, I must admit it. But what is meant, I think, is that one must ultimately give up
conventional religiosity and surrender to God. One cannot perpetually hide behind rituals and formality. If this is
indeed what Krishna means, then I must agree that this instruction succinctly articulates the highest and final
teaching of all religious traditions.

Satyaraja Dasa:

It is a very exalted teaching, no doubt. The Ramanujites also consider this the charama-shloka, or "the final verse"
of the Bhagavad-gita. But you will be surprised to learn that it is definitely not the highest teaching.

Rev. Hart:

I cannot imagine anything higher. For the Christian, total submission to the will of God is the highest...

Satyaraja Dasa:

The subtle distinctions and nuances of submission" and "love" are clearly brought out in the Vaishnava tradition.
It goes much further than this instruction in Bhagavad-gita. You will be surprised to learn that Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu, in a sense, rejected this Bhagavad-gita teaching as inferior. When Mahaprabhu had His talks with
Ramananda Roy, He asked Sri Ramananda to elucidate on the highest end in spiritual life. Ramananda proceeded
to explain the Vedic concept of social stratification - the Varnashram system and he further exxplained that
everyone should perform his prescribed social duty specifically for the Lord's service. Mahaprabhu, however,
rejected this as superficial. Then, Ramananda Roy suggested the essence of Bhakti-yoga, found in the Gita's ninth
chapter (text 27): "...All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that
you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me”. Believe it or not, Lord Chaitanya rejected even this
proposal that everything one does, one should do as an offering to the Lord - as superficial.
Finally, Sri Ramananda felt safe in jumping to the "final" instruction of the Gita, the one you just quoted: "Abandon
all varieties of religion and simply surrender unto Me..."
But, again, Mahaprabhu rejected it as superficial. It was karma-mishra-bhakti, or fruitive actions mixed with
devotional service," for Krishna is telling you how to act. It is not yet spontaneous....You see, one is only told to
"abandon" something if one is in the illusion that they have something to abandon. But everything ultimately
belongs to Krishna. Nothing is ours. This is the realization. So when we are told to "abandon" something, or when
we engage in devotional service with the mood that we have "given up" something...that is still karma-mishra-
bhakti. It is still mixed. It is not unalloyed service.
Next, Sri Ramananda decided to describe a state of sure transcendence. This, he thought, would certainly be
accepted as the highest end in spiritual life. To describe this exalted state, he quoted another verse from the Gita's
eighteenth and final chapter (text 54): "One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme
Brahman. He never laments, nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that
state, he attains pure devotional service unto Me." Ramananda Roy first suggested devotional service rendered
with renunciation of fruitive actions, but here he suggests that devotional service with full knowledge and spiritual
realization is superior.
Again, Mahaprabhu rejected his claim as superficial.
This time he was guilty of jnana-mishra-bhakti. The word mishra means "mixed," and here Ramananda's claim was
contaminated by "knowledge mixed with devotional service." The emphasis of this verse is "realization," not
unmotivated love for Krishna. Ramananda Roy was beginning to get the point.
You see, Lord Chaitanya was enticing him to go further.
They were relishing this together. In Bengali, especially, you can appreciate it as a very sweet exchange. Lord
Chaitanya kept telling him: eho bahya age kaha ara, which means, "These things are external; go deeper; go
deeper."

Rev. Hart:

Did he finally give Lord Chaitanya the appropriate answer?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, yes. The very next words out of his mouth catapulted Lord Chaitanya into a state of spiritual ecstasy.

Rev. Hart:

Do you know the text?

Satyaraja Dasa:

I can only paraphrase, but, quoting an esoteric passage from the tenth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.14.3),
Sri Ramananda said, "My dear Lord, in the ultimate analysis, one should give up fruitive religiosity, monistic
speculation, and the cultivation of knowledge altogether. He should begin his genuine spiritual life in devotional
service by receiving information of the Lord's activities from a realized devotee of the Lord in disciplic succession.
If one cultivates his spiritual life by following these principles and keeping himself on the honest path in life, then
although Your Lordship is never conquered, You inconceivably become conquered by such a process."
After hearing this, Lord Chaitanya relented, saying that this was the beginning of real perfection. It was the true
beginning of the highest end in spiritual life, for it was divorced from the desire for even the subtlest attainments
of karma, impersonalism, and the pursuit of knowledge.
After this, the Lord asked Sri Ramananda to elucidate on advanced topics of love of God, taking perfection to its
zenith. In other words, this answer was perfect, but there is also more perfect and most perfect.

Rev. Hart:

(laughter] I love it. So do the followers of Lord Chaitanya ultimately reject Bhagavad-gita"!

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, no. Not at all. Absolutely not. Please don't misunderstand me. Rejection is perhaps too strong a word, for it
implies finality. No. The followers of Mahaprabhu worship the Gita as Lord Krishna's holy words. But they would
reject your statement that the conclusion of the Gita, that verse you quoted - is the highest philosophy. Actually,
Bhagavad-gita is only a preliminary study, a necessary one, but basic all the same. From there, one must study
Srimad Bhagavatam and then, if one is especially fortunate, one can enter into the mysteries of the Chaitanya
Charitamrita. It is this work that reveals the highest possible attainments in spiritual life.

CHAPTER FIVE

IS JESUS PREDICTED IN THE VEDAS?


Rev. Hart:

With all of the detailed information available in Vedic texts, I was wondering if Jesus is predicted. You had once
mentioned that the Incarnations of God are foretold in the Vedic literature - you mentioned Buddha, Rama,
Krishna and Lord Chaitanya, They were all predicted...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. Jesus, of course, was a Shaktyavesh avatar, which means that he was a specially empowered incarnation. I
will explain some more about these particular manifestations at some later time. In any case, such avatars are
described throughout the Vedic literature by qualification, if they are not specifically identified. The Vedic
literature goes into great detail, enumerating all of the qualities one might look for in a Shaktyavesh avatar. In this
way a divinity could be ascertained. Jesus, as you know, was quite special and so, as one might suspect, he is
specifically mentioned in the Maha Bhavishya Purana. This ancient purana, which is part of the Vaishnava canon,
mentions that he was crucified, apparently he went to India just after the crucifixion.

Rev. Hart:

Interesting. The Muslims, too, believe that Jesus did not die on the cross, nor do they believe in the ascension.
Satyaraja Dasa:

There are many ancient traditions in this regard. Anyway, the Vedic literature fully predicts, having been compiled
some 5,000 years ago, the story of Jesus.
It mentions specifically that they called him "the messiah," that they crucified him, and that they believed that he
was born of a virgin. Also, Jesus is quoted in the Bhavishya Purana as saying that he was trying to preach to "the
Amalekitcs”, which were a Jewish sect of the time...

Rev. Hart:

Was Jesus mentioned by name?

Satyaraja Dasa:

The name used was Issa, this is what Jesus was called by many ancient peoples.

Rev. Hart:

Yes, the Latin spelling of Jesus is Iesus, in Arabic, it is Isa.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, also, it comes originally from the Sanskrit root, Isha, which is short for "Ishvara," an Indian name for God
literally meaning "the Supreme Controller."

Rev. Hart:

You realize, of course, that there are scholars who would claim that these predictions are merely interpolated
texts, compiled after the time of Jesus, in order to lend an air of authenticity to the Vedic revelation....After all,
prophesy is a sure bet...

Satyaraja Dasa:

What is their evidence for interpolation? We are presenting an age-old, reputable tradition - so the burden of
proof is on them. They would simply be groping in the dark. In fact, the only reason that they would be even
slightly suspicious is because they see what has happened within the Judeo-Christian tradition....But this is a whole
different state of affairs...
You see, when you have a culture that is aware of the detriment in changing things, there is little worry that they
will interpolate sacred texts. Followers of the Vedic tradition, having full faith that the scriptures and indeed, the
whole Vedic way of life, are a divine revelation. Would not even think of changing even the slightest nuance.
If you study the Vedic tradition, you will see that the foods, the spices, shaven-headed hairstyle, the clothes.
Followers today wear the same types of robes that their predecessors did in ancient times! Sometimes devotees
are criticized for this: "Why don't you at least adapt your clothing to modern times?" people often ask.
Although generally criticized for this, it is this very thing that gives assurance that the sacred texts would not be
changed. If a given group of believers will not even change something as external as clothes or hairstyle, then how
much more sure can we be that they would never think of changing religious scripture? For followers of Vedic
culture, this would be unthinkable. No. The Vedic tradition is not one of innovation and change. It is eternal and
consistent.

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I see. Are there other predictions of great saints from other cultures? This seems peculiar to the Vedic
revelation, and I like it. Most religious traditions include prophesy about saints and sages from within their own
line. But the Vedic scriptures are unabashedly outward. They seem to predict personalities from all traditions.
This gives additional emphasis to the Vedic doctrine of universalism, it is non-sectarian and all encompassing.

Satyaraja Dasa:

As a matter of fact, Mohammed is also predicted in Vedic texts. He is mentioned by name in the Bhavishya
Purana. It is further mentioned that he was preaching to low class idol worshipers, which is true and that he was
"the pure one among the illiterates," and this also came to pass. He was known to be illiterate. Actually,
Mohammed was mentioned in two places, in the Bhavishya Purana and in the Atharva Veda, Kanda 20, Shukta
127, Mantra 1-3. These things are there-

WHAT IS THE DESTINATION?

Rev. Hart:

This is amazing information, when you think about it....Now, let's talk about worship for a minute. The concept of
“Krishna” is not known in most religious traditions. Most religions have a vague concept of the Deity. So, Jesus and
Mohammed, for instance, they gave their followers as much as they could. But where does this stand? If they
brought their followers to the point of liberation, for example, but could not give them "Krishna," the Person,
where do the followers go? What is the destination?

Satyaraja Dasa:

You are asking many things at once....It is complicated. Followers of Jesus of course, can go to Jesus. The Gita
teaches that if one worships in a particular way, that sort of specific worship will determine his destination after
death. This is a general answer to your question. If one is liberated from the material world but does not have
specific information about God in His personal feature, if one does not know "Krishna". It is sometimes said that
such a person goes to Mahesh-dhama. This is the abode of Lord Shiva, and it is located in between the material
and spiritual worlds. The living being can then progress from there. This information is given in the Chaitanya
Charitamrita (madhya 8, chapter 21, text 54, purport).

Rev. Hart:
But in general, where do worshipers go? According to their concept of God, they must have specific types of
attainment...

CONCEPTIONS OF GOD

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, there are basically three conceptions of God, Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. According to the
teachings of Lord Chaitanya, the indeterminate Brahman is the destination of the speculative thinker who perfects
his art. In other words, one who fully directs his speculative process toward the Supreme, making it a type of yoga,
may attain a certain rudimentary level of transcendence. In this case, one's concept of God is generally abstract, as
in the teachings of Mohammed and Jesus.
Actually, the Brahman is the spiritual effulgence of the Lord, known as the Brahmajyoti. To the uninitiated, this
effulgence appears no different from the Lord, just as the rays of the sun appear to human eyes as identical to the
sun itself. As people of the earth, we cannot see the distinct form of the sun, with its various parts. Likewise
persons on the path of Brahman realization whether they know it or not, often confuse the lustre of the Lord's
body with His person and form.

Rev. Hart:

It seems that although many traditions and world religions claim to be personalistic, in reality, they are largely
confined to this path of Brahman, for specific information of God's form is often lacking.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. I think that this is true.

Rev. Hart:

Please describe the other two levels of realization.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Paramatma is the Lord in the heart and the Lord as He permeates all of existence by entering into every atom.

Rev. Hart:

Ah, the Vishnu form. Actually, I'm a panentheist, a person who believes that God indwells all things. This would be
similar to the Paramatma level, I think.
Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, Paramatma is a twice removed expansion of Karanadakashayi Vishnu. He is a part (amsa) of Krishna.

Rev. Hart:

This is the indwelling spirit of God. I think this is comparable to the Holy Spirit in Christian theology.

Satyaraja Dasa:

I agree. Traditionally, the Paramatma feature of the Lord is sought after by the meditating yogi. Paramatma is God
as He relates to the material world and to the jiva-souls who come to this world. Paramatma has two aspects. The
first, Bhagavadangatva, enters the heart of all souls in the material world. The second, Jagadgatattva, enters into
every atom, thus allowing the phenomenal world to be an aspect of reality, for without His presence, nothing could
exist. Now, I know that this sounds pantheistic...

Rev. Hart:

Actually, you know, Rudolph Otto has made an important distinction between pantheism ("all is God") and
theopanism ("God is all"). Otto argues that the pantheistic notion, raising the world to the Absolute, does not exist
in India. I'm not sure what this distinction really represents.
There is a statement by Meister Eckhart that seems to shed some light on this. He says that there are three ways
of knowing God. The first he calls "morning knowledge," which is when one knows God in the world - in worldly
phenomena. One sees the world and can see God's presence in everything. The second way of knowing God is
called "evening knowledge,” when one sees the world in God. Here one moves from focusing on the world as a
center and instead of seeing the world first and God in the world, one now sees God first and the whole world as
taken up into Him.

Satyaraja Dasa:

What is the third level in Eckharts view?

Rev. Hart:

To see God Himself, going beyond this world altogether.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is Krishna consciousness....Hmmm....Let us go on to Bhagavan realization.


This is the zenith. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu recommends this realization. We should approach God as a person. The
word bhagavan implies "one who is full in all opulences."
An abstract force or an "indwelling spirit" cannot be full of all outstanding qualities. But God, in His original form,
must be. In fact, it is His central qualification.
The sages of ancient India have narrowed all opulence’s down to a basic six: strength, beauty, wealth, fame,
knowledge, and renunciation. So God is necessarily the reservoir of these attributes. We may exhibit these
qualities in minute proportion, being part and parcel of the reservoir, but He must exhibit them in full. This is God.
We must serve Him, for we are subservient to Him, and this is our constitutional position. When we realize this,
and we devote our lives to His service, in Bhakti-yoga, we are on the path back to Godhead. One who finds that
Person-Bhagavan Lord Krishna-will attain to His Supreme Abode.

HIS SUPREME ABODE

Rev. Hart:

Are there higher and lower levels of this abode?

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, yes. It is endless. In general, just as there are infinite manifestations of Krishna, so there are also infinite
manifestations of His abode. Vrindavan is the highest level, and this is where Krishna in His original form relishes
pastimes with His ever-free associates. But let us start at the beginning. Above the fourteen divisions of material
universes, there is a realm for liberated souls, and there is also Shiva's dwelling place, as I've mentioned. Higher
still is the Paravyoma, where there are infinite avatars and partial manifestations of Krishna.
One goes to one of these Vaikuntha planets according to the particular form of the Lord one favors.
Now, above these unlimited spiritual worlds is Krishna loka, also known as Goloka, which, according to the
variables of pastime and the demeanor of the intimate associates, appears in three distinct forms: Dvaraka,
Mathura, and Gokula (Sometimes Krishna manifests these three abodes on the earth, as when He descended 5,000
years ago). These three I have mentioned in their order of excellence and sweetness, Gokula being the sweetest of
the three, since this is where intimacy reigns supreme. It is therefore sometimes called the inner portion of
Goloka.

Rev. Hart:

This is an elaborate cosmology, or a transcendental cosmology, if you will. It seems clear that these particular
manifestations of God's kingdom are especially meant for intimate associates...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, they must know Krishna to go there...

Rev. Hart:

Granted, if we are not conscious of Krishna as a person, we cannot direct our prayers to Him. And perhaps we do
not attain His kingdom, as you have described.
But let us not underestimate the power of prayer. God is merciful. I suppose you would say that if we are sincere
in our prayers then God would direct us to one who knows Krishna directly. This is perhaps true. But what of
those of us who may have an eternal relationship with one of God's other forms? I suggest that prayer is very
intimate, and those whose prayers are directed toward Jesus will eventually be directed by him. And they will go
where he leads them.

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is definitely the case...

Rev. Hart:

Many admirers of Christian mysticism may acknowledge the prayers of the great mystics as exceptional, and they
may think that the experiences of the mystics are beyond the grasp of modern seekers. Such pessimism arises, I
think, because modern Christians are largely unaware of the meditative tradition that at one time dominated
Christianity in the Middle East. The tradition of the Desert Fathers, as it came to be called, is quite reminiscent of
the Vedic tradition, with its emphasis on simple living and absorption in God. This same path is open to us today.
St. Anthony established a systematic school of meditation in 310 A.D. Sixty-five miles south of Cairo, this saint
guided thousands of Christian monks and directed their meditations. You know, the Rosicrucians and the
Freemasons are also yogis of sorts.
1 guess what I'm saying is that there is another current in Christianity. One that is very deep. I will give you that
the tradition, as a whole, has given in to superficiality. But, like any tradition, it essentially exists on two levels, one
is superficial and the other is much more profound.
I think that many of the truths in Krishna consciousness were revealed to the followers of Jesus. After all, did Jesus
not say to them:
"To you has been given the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables." (Mark
4.11)?
So these inner secrets are available to sincere Christians. But it is definitely going to be an up-hill struggle. It's
true, our disciplic line is non-existent. The information given in our Bible is scanty. But God gives revelation to
those who are sincere, and He gives them a deeper understanding of scripture.

Satyaraja Dasa:

That deeper understanding will necessarily include all the basic principles of Krishna consciousness, principles that
most Christians today would not even consider.

Rev. Hart:

You mean like the basic four...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, No meat-eating, no gambling, no illicit sex, and no intoxication - none! - not even the wine at Communion.

Rev. Hart:
No doubt there are few Christians today who see the virtue in these basic principles, but, yes, I agree with you, if
they truly become "Christ conscious" or "Krishna conscious," they will appreciate these ideas, if not tacitly endorse
them. But a little wine at Communion...

Satyaraja Dasa:

These are sub-religious principles. One is hardly even beginning if he is not following...

Rev. Hart:

Alright. But let's go on for a moment. What I'm trying to say is that a true Christian will reach the kingdom of God
if he is sincere in his prayer. And the particular realm he reaches will be distinctly Christ-like.

Satyaraja Dasa:

I have already agreed to that. But he must also follow the principles...

Rev. Hart:

Yes.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Anyway, you are not really describing your average Christian. You are describing some obscure monk...

MONK

Rev. Hart:

Yes, unfortunately that is true. You know, the word "monk" comes from the Greek monos, which means "alone."
Monks would live in their little hermitage and develop their meditation upon God. The common Christian layman
never developed this sense of total absorption.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. And the Greek word monos is traceable to the Sanskrit muni, which again is similar. An Indian monk is called
a “muni." The difference, however, is that in Vedic culture everyone is expected, at least at one point in one's life,
to experience what a monk's life is like. Meditation and absorption was known to all factions of society, at least at
one time or another.
Rev. Hart:

You really know your subject.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, you are very kind...

Rev. Hart:

I am also interested in connections between Christianity and Indian philosophy, as you know. And I firmly believe
that the two are ultimately one - for there is one God. Isn't it so? Religion is also one. One God, one religion.
Perhaps Christianity actually grew out of the Vedic system. I recently discovered that Ori gen, the Church Father,
was part of the Catechetical school in Egypt. His teacher was Clement of Alexandria, and Clement's teacher was a
mystic known as Pantaenus who, according to Coptic stories, spent a good deal of his time in India.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Ah, you see? This is interesting...

Rev. Hart:

Oh, certainly, and this gave rise to the technique of meditation and prayer that I was talking about earlier. The
Desert Fathers. The teachings of Pantaenus were related to another fellow, Dionysius the Areopagite. Dionysius
understood the spiritual Journey as a profound meditative process. And he wrote his meditations down and
chanted them as well.
Many Christian saints and theologians found the Dionysian texts a reputable map, or blueprint, for their spiritual
journey. Although it is not widely known, many of the medieval theologians and monastic founders assimilated the
Dionysian perspective and used it to formulate their own doctrines. The Victorines, Albertus Magnus,
Bonaventura, Meister Eckhart, and many others - all owe a debt of gratitude to the Syrian texts of Dionysius.

Satyaraja Dasa:

But where is it today?

Rev. Hart:

Well, there are some that are sincerely trying to take Christianity out of the mainstream and back to these
roots....But it is watered-down, beleaguered by a sort of "New Age" eclecticism....I think Father Bede Griffiths,
Matthew Fox, Brother David Steindl-Rast...I’m not sure if you would be impressed. While their teachings are
loosely based on the masters, they are heavily influenced by what you would call "impersonalism," even more so
than the people they seek to emulate...
Satyaraja Dasa:

I think so. I've read some Matthew Fox...not really enough to draw conclusions.

OM

Rev. Hart:

What of prayer in the Vedic tradition? I know that prayer is the central thing-the process for the age. You know,
when I was a kid, my impression of Indian spirituality was a thin man who sat on a bed of nails chanting "om" for
days on end. I have my own understanding of the "om” mantram. As the Bible speaks of "the Word," I think
perhaps that this is represented in the Eastern tradition as "om." But what does the Vedic literature say? What is
"om" anyway?

Satyaraja Dasa:

It is also impersonal. But don't underestimate it. It is a sound representation of Krishna. When Brahma, the first
created being, tried to articulate the sound of Krishna's flute, this word "om" came out. It is a seed-mantra. The
holy beginning for the famed gayatri mantra, chanted by Indian priests three times a day.

Rev. Hart:

Are there other descriptions in the Vedic literatures? I mean "om" seems like a big part of Indian philosophy...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, the Vedic texts describe that "om" is actually a shortened form of “omkara” a mantra that is represented by
three letters: A, U, and M. The great teachers in the Gaudiya Vaishnava line have analyzed "om" according to
these alphabetical constituents. This is based on a detailed explanation of the Sanskrit letters themselves,
including the etymology of the Sanskrit "omkara." To be brief, the first letter, "A," represents Krishna. The second,
"U," refers to Krishna's energy, Radharani. And the third letter, "M," represents the living entities. Taken together,
then, these three letters represent the totality of existence, and as a mantra it is thus very powerful.

Rev. Hart:

I guess "om" is more than I thought. It seems to involve your whole philosophy.

Satyaraja Dasa:

In a sense it does. Actually, it is such an important seed-mantra that it has worked its way into many languages as
a representative of God. In English, for example, all of the important descriptions of God have this "om" as its root.
“Om” comes to the English language through the prefix omni, and so words such as omnipotent, omniscient, and
omnipresent are valid descriptions of God and they all begin with "om" as their root.
Christians use the word "amen" at the end of prayer, do they not?

Rev. Hart:

Yes...

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is also related to "om," or AUM. Muslims also say "amin," which is basically the same. It denotes God. But, in
getting back to your initial question about the nature of prayer in the Vedic tradition, the main prayer, of course, is
the Hare Krishna maha-mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare


Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

This prayer is meant to be recited just in the same way that a young child calls out to its mother. With fervent
sincerity and full attentiveness.
Basically, the prayer may be understood in the following way: It is an invocation. Radharani (Mother Hara) is being
invoked, the vocative form of Hara is Hare. For what reason? Why are we calling on Radharani? For no other
reason than to be engaged in the Lord's service. This is the purity of the maha-mantra. A direct translation would
be as follows: "My Lord. O supreme energy of my Lord, known as Srimati Radharani, please engag e me in the
Lord's service." Krishna and Rama are both primary names for God.

Rev. Hart:

Why is the prayer directed to Radharani?

Satyaraja Dasa:

According to the Vaishnava tradition, one approaches the Lord through His potency. Like Jesus is, in a sense, the
avesha, the potency, of the Lord, and Christians approach God through him. Similarly, Radharani is the original
internal potency, so one approaches through Her Divine Grace.
As Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master has said, "Radharani is the predominated Moiety, whereas Krishna is the
predominating Moiety. Together, they make up the Absolute Truth. Two parts of the ultimate Truth. But they are
both Supreme” Radharani is especially known as the supreme devotee, as the one who pleases Krishna the most.
Of course. She is able to do this because She is none other than the female manifestation of God.

GREATEST DEVOTEE

Rev. Hart:
I thought you once said that the demigod Shiva was the greatest devotee.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Oh, in his realm of influence this is true. As the scriptures say, vaishnavanam yatah shambhu: "Shiva is the
greatest devotee."
You see, Brahmaji is considered the greatest devotee in his sphere, known as karma-mishra-bhakti'. Then, Shiva is
the greatest in jnana-mishra-bhakti. Especially the yogi and jnani class will sense that Shiva is the greatest
devotee. But above Shiva there is still a hierarchy mentioned in the scriptures. Of the devotees (Bhaktas), Prahlad
Maharaja is considered the chief. The Pandavas, though, are considered greater than Prahlad. This is stated in the
Bhagavatam. Some of the Yadavas are even more advanced than the Pandavas. The chief Yadava, in fact, is the
great devotee known as Uddhava, and he is more advanced than all the rest. The gopis, however, surpass even
Uddhava, who himself desires to attain their love for Krishna. Now, amongst the gopis, Radharani is the greatest.
She is the greatest devotee. She is God as a devotee....and when She and Krishna descend as Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu, that is the topmost manifestation of devotion...

RADHA AND KRISHNA

Rev. Hart:

So we approach Krishna through Radharani...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well, She is, in a sense, inaccessible, just like Krishna, so one must seek Her mercy through a bona-fide guru in
disciplic succession. Such a guru is an intimate servitor of Srimati Radharani. He is assisting Her with Her service to
Krishna.

Rev. Hart:

Why is She inaccessible?

Satyaraja Dasa:

She is also God. She is the female counterpart to the Male Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. In one sense, of
course, they are both extremely accessible. But one must know just how to approach them. The methodology is
given by the bona-fide spiritual master, who represents the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna, in this world.

Rev. Hart:

How does the Divine Couple interrelate? Are Radha and Krishna considered friends? Are they married? Is there
any sense of that? I mean can it be understood in that way?

Satyaraja Dasa:

No. We cannot project our conceptions upon them. No limitations. They are completely transcendental. God in
two features. That's all....It is very deep....Certainly they are not friends, not in the Platonic sense. But they should
not be understood as lovers either, at least not in the mundane sense. They are spiritual lovers, transcendentally
enjoying each other's association. We have only a perverted reflection in this world. But for them, there is no
concupiscence or sense of exploitation. Their love is pure, totally devoid of prurient interest. Not contaminated by
matter.

Rev. Hart:

Are they considered married in some way?

Satyaraja Dasa:

This is very confidential....We will discuss this later....Their conjugal relationship is considered the highest. She is
His eternal consort. Unmarried....But there is also a sense of it....In the Tamil tradition, they are married. Also in
the Matsya Purana. Rupa Goswami depicted their marriage in the tenth act of his Lalita Madhava, a dramatic play
about their intimate affairs. Jiva Goswami, too, in his Gopal Champu….But we will discuss this later. The main thing
to understand is that the maha-mantra is a prayer first to Radha and then to Krishna. This will give you a sense of
Her supreme position. Krishna is dependent upon Her, and She is dependent upon Him. The intensity of their love
is mutual. Their Godhood is mutual.
But still Krishna takes a subservient position to Her. She has totally captured His heart. And so to really attain His
grace one must go through Her.

Rev. Hart:

A female manifestation of God.

Satyaraja Dasa:

It must be so. If God is truly complete and absolute. He must also have a female manifestation. Or He would be
lacking.

Rev. Hart:

The feminists will love it!

CHAPTER SIX
LORD CHAITANYA, JESUS CHRIST AND VASUDEVA DATTA

Rev. Hart:

I can't help thinking of the parallels between the life of Lord Chaitanya and that of Jesus Christ. For example, both
performed miracles, or extraordinary feats such as raising people from the dead. After such feats, both divinities
forbade witnesses to reveal what they had seen.
In the Bible, after much denial, Jesus finally accepts the title "Son of God" and acknowledges his messianic nature.
Much is made of Jesus' statement, “I Am" in the book of Mark, for in this way, it is said, Jesus affirmed his
Godhood.
Similarly, when Lord Chaitanya first worked His miracles. He asked His voteries to keep secret what they saw. But
He eventually revealed His full divinity, as in Shrivas Pandit's courtyard. There, as you know, while Lord Chaitanya
was on "the throne of Vishnu," He implicitly revealed that He was the expected avatar of the age. In fact, He
showed all who were present and there were many, His Godhood.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes, there are many comparisons. But the differences should be known as well. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is a
combined manifestation of Radha and Krishna, He is the Adi Purusha, or the original Person, in His most esoteric
form. According to the Vedic tradition, He is svayam bhagavan, or the source of all incarnations of Godhead.
This original source first expands into two basic categories of Godhead- tad-ekatma rupa, which is identical to His
original form in essence but may differ in appearance, and avesha, who is generally a divinely empowered living
entity. Jesus Christ fits into this latter category...

Rev. Hart:

If you feel that the comparisons between Lord Chaitanya and Jesus Christ are inappropriate...

Satyaraja Dasa:

I don't say that they’re inappropriate. But the differences should not be ignored.

Rev. Hart:

Well, is there anyone in the Vedic tradition who you think would be more comparable to Jesus Christ?

Satyaraja Dasa:

There is one special soul, a great devotee of Lord Chaitanya. His name was Vasudeva Datta. In the whole Vedic
tradition there is perhaps no one who felt for the suffering of fallen souls as he did. His compassion was
incomparable.
He prayed to Lord Chaitanya in ways that are strikingly reminiscent of Lord Jesus Christ. "My heart breaks," he said
to Lord Chaitanya, "to see their suffering. I request that You take the sinful reactions of all living entities and place
these reactions on my head. Let me suffer for their iniquities." Vasudeva Datta wanted to suffer perpetually in hell
if it would alleviate the suffering of his fellow creatures. All creatures. Vasudeva Datta was not selective. All
8,400,000 species are due his mercy. He did not want to hold back from any of them. His love was all -embracing.
Sometimes it is said that if you are good, and you surrender to Jesus, or simply that you have faith in him. Then you
are relieved of your sinful reactions. We are told time and again, "he died for your sins!" But Vasudeva Datta
wanted to accept the sins of everyone, whether they were his followers or not. Whether they had faith in him or
not.
Actually, you should read this passage in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (madhya 6). It's heart-rending. And it’s so
reminiscent of Jesus’s love. In fact, Vasudeva Datta is glorified in these texts as "sacrifice itself," and as "Universal
Love" itself.

Rev. Hart:

This is fascinating.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. There's a lot of Jesus symbolism here. Vasudeva Datta was an incarnation of Prahlad Maharaj, the perfect
devotee. Completely empowered by God. Just like Jesus, he was specially empowered, the son of God.

JESUS, THE ONLY SON?

Rev. Hart:

It is sometimes said that Jesus was the only son.

Satyaraja Dasa:

But the Bible says, "To as many as received me to them I give the power to become the sons of God." (John 1.12)
Besides, why is it that you or I can have many sons, but God cannot? Is God impotent? To say that we can have a
plurality of children but that God can only have one son, is to say that we can do something that God cannot. This
defies the definition of God.
You see, the difficulty arises when we do not understand that we are all the sons of God. Jesus is the good son, but
we should become good as well. Then we can be counted amongst God's children. "Can we become as good as
Jesus?" someone might ask. Well, according to Jesus himself, we should become not only as good as he is, but
perfect. "Be ye perfect," Jesus says, "even as God in heaven is perfect." (Mat. 5.48) To become a son of God
means to realize one's constitutional position as God's servant.

Rev. Hart:

And then you get the argument that Jesus is the only "begotten" son, but even this is not accurate. If one studies
the Old Testament, one finds that the children of Israel were all called the "begotten" sons of God. This "only
begotten" business is merely Church doctrine. It has little to do with real Christianity.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Well just what is "real Christianity." The more we speak, the more elusive it becomes.

Rev. Hart:

Look, the essence of Christianity is to love God. Whatever may have become of the biblical tradition due to the
history...the ecumenical councils, the bad Popes, the interpolation of the Bible...ultimately, the lack of disciplic
succession....I firmly believe that a fortunate few, in the last two thousand years, have grasped the essence of
religion through the fundamental teachings of Jesus. Take Thomas Merton, for example, it would be hard to
deny...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not denying anything. I'm quite sure that the sincere at heart will eventually
develop love for God, and whether they call their methodology Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or whatever
- that is more or less an inconsequential issue. It's actually a moot point.
As an advanced process for attaining the supreme level of divine love, however, I must strongly recommend the
Vedic tradition. It is by far the most time honored and comprehensive enunciation of spiritual wisdom known to
man, and it behooves one to take advantage of it.
Whatever tradition one feels personally comfortable with there is much that can be gained from the Vedic
tradition. Having accepted what this tradition has to offer, one can apply this wisdom to whatever methodology
one cherishes as one's own.

GREAT LOVERS OF GOD

Rev. Hart:

Yes, I can appreciate that. I have read that the Vedic revelation has been likened to "a post-graduate study of
religion." So I'm comfortable with that.
The point I'm trying to make, though, is that there have been great lovers of God in the Christian tradition.
Granted, as a process, it may be lacking, especially today, but there are some good examples to follow: St. Teresa
of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, and many others. The mystics had developed a great sense of
love for God within the Christian tradition. This is somewhat comparable to the love exhibited by Lord Chaitanya...

Satyaraja Dasa:

There you are treading on thin ice. I agree with you that there was a sense of love for God in the Christian mystics.
But even if it is acknowledged that they developed advanced stages of divine love, you cannot compare it to the
love exhibited by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Unlimited love can only be experienced by an unlimited being. Lord Chaitanya was Krishna Himself, the Supreme
Lord - in the role of a devotee. Therefore He can experience mahabhava, or the most intense form of divine love.
This mahabhava is not even experienced by all forms of Godhead, what to speak of ordinary jiva-souls. It is a
special potency.
Before Lord Chaitanya's time, only Srimati Radharani, the female counterpart of the male Personality of Godhead,
experienced this exalted state of unlimited prema, or divine love. Some of the more intimate gopis, the cowherd
girls who had given their lives to Krishna, have also experienced mahabhava. Perhaps other great devotees, too,
who have an extremely intimate relationship with Krishna, can, by the Lord's grace, experience a facsimile of
mahabhava. But this is rarely achieved.

Rev. Hart:

Well, perhaps the Christian mystics didn't experience the same level...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Then it's alright. The great Christian mystics, whom you've mentioned, might have experienced a shadow of such
love, at best. But please understand that even this shadow is a blessed event - rarely achieved. So the love of
Mahaprabhu, especially, is no ordinary thing.
No being of this dimension, or any dimension (but this dimension especially) - can attain such a level. Although we
should aspire beyond our means, it is true. Such aspiration will at least take us as far as we - as limited beings, can
go.

LEVELS OF PERFECTION

Rev. Hart:

According to the Vedic tradition, what is the highest level of love for God that a limited being, such as you or I,
could attain?

Satyaraja Dasa:

We can reach the level of Uttama-bhakti, but this is far off. Fundamentally, there are nine levels of perfection
before one even enters the realm of love. Before these nine levels, we may have some anda-bishbas, or blind faith.
Most religionists, it seems to me, are stuck on this level. If, however, one is fortunate enough to progress, then he
starts his journey to divine love.
The first real step on the path to spiritual perfection is Shraddha. This is a sort of "faith," but it is distinct from
blind faith, it is experiential faith. Faith based on acquired knowledge. After many births and deaths-
reincarnation-one develops a sort of intuitive knowledge about God. Real knowledge and realization may be
lacking, but genuine faith naturally develops. This is the first level of genuine spiritual progress. Next, we have
sadhu-sanga, which means the association of devotees. If you're experiencing something higher than mundane
life, you naturally look for others who share your experience. Then comes bhajana-kriya, or initiation by a bona-
fide spiritual master. Few, in our present day and age, have reached this level.
Now, if one is fortunate enough to reach the level of finding a bona-fide spiritual master and taking initiation from
him, one is eligible to really progress on the path of transcendence. After initiation, one can begin to experience
anartha-nivritti, a stage of life when one begins to unburden one's soul of unwanted bad habits. After this comes
nishta, or "steadiness" in devotional discipline.
From such steadiness one develops ruchi, or "taste." After one develops this higher, spiritual taste, one becomes
fixed on the path of love - this beginning stage is called ashakti. This soon blossoms into bhava, the dawning of
true love. And from here one goes on to prema, and the various levels of love of God. So these are the nine levels
of perfection.

Rev. Hart:

It's very scientific. You know, in one sense, it's kind of interesting that "love" should be described in a linear,
scientific way. Love and science are almost diametrically opposed. So it's almost comical to talk about it like this.
On the other hand, anything that exists has certain laws of function, and love is certainly not an exception. It could
only be to our advantage to scientifically study those great souls who were successful in developing love for God.
In this way, by studying their process and behavior, we may follow in their footsteps. In the Bible, three Greek
words are used to categorize the various types of love:

(1) Eros, which is basically the attachment that develops between men and women;
(2) Philadelphia, which refers to feelings between friends; and
(3) Agape, this refers to the love of God. But this three-level distinction is as far as it goes. It is not as
elaborately delineated as it is in the Vedic tradition. Both Augustine and Aquinas have tried to categorize
things in this way, with less accuracy and success than the Vedic seers, I might add.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. In Rupa Goswami’s Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu, which scientifically delineates the progressive levels of divine
love, he takes us all the way to the level of Uttama-bhakti. This is the highest level of prema, or divine love, that an
ordinary being can attain to.
But Rupa Goswami goes even further in his Ujjvala-nilamani. In that work he gives details about levels that are
generally beyond our grasp. He speaks of mahabhava and Ujjvala-rasa, This is the type of love that is experienced
by Lord Chaitanya. The Goswami details these advanced levels so that we might perchance understand something
of the Lord's nature. In addition, he gives this information so that mukta-jivas, or liberated souls, could aspire after
higher levels of attainment in subservience to the ever free and eternal associates of the Lord.

Rev. Hart:

I'm just interested, could you explain something more about the exalted levels of divine love? Hearing about
these things as a science is quite enlivening. The thought that a culture, Vedic culture, was advanced enough to
fully document and categorize these things is mind-boggling.

Satyaraja Dasa:

Of course, I can only explain these things as they are presented in our Gaudiya Vaishnava line. More specifically, I
can only explain them as they were explained in the books of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. My own realization in this regard is severely wanting. But in the service of...
Rev. Hart:

Yes, please, I do so want to hear more....What, for instance, was Lord Chaitanya's specific contribution to rasa
theology? What did He teach about the advanced levels of holy love?

VIPRALAMBHA AND SAMBHOGA

Satyaraja Dasa:

He taught, by word and deed, the special ecstasy of the madhurya-rasa, or the relationship of conjugal love. This
rasa expresses itself in two forms: Vipralambha and Sambhoga.
Vipralambha is conjugal love in separation. This is Lord Chaitanya's special contribution. Sambhoga signifies
"union" or consummation of love. Vipralambha, according to Lord Chaitanya, represents the highest form of
madhuryarasa because it naturally increases the intensity of love and enhances the joy of Sambhoga. The
anticipation of Vipralambha makes the union of Sambhoga more intense.

Rev. Hart:

Please go on...

Satyaraja Dasa:

In the spiritual world, when the lover and beloved meet, they are called yukta ("connected"), Previous to their
meeting, they are called ayukta ("not connected"). But this ayukta feature manifests in a more dynamic form as
the relationship deepens. And this makes the desire for union much more intense and indescribably sweet.
Sweetness, in fact, gradually became the popular metaphor in describing the levels of divine love that permeate
the Vaishnava tradition. Our most orthodox philosophers have compared these levels of love to various
configurations of sugar, starting with sugarcane seeds, sugarcane plants, sugarcane juice, molasses, c rude sugar,
refined sugar, sugar candy, and rock candy.
Each configuration is progressively more and more concentrated, and these levels of sweetness have been
compared to carefully delineated levels of love of God: sneha ("affection"), mana ("indignation from unfulfilled
affection"), pranaya ("love"), raga ("attachment"), anuraga ("sub-attachment"), bhava ("ecstasy"), and
mahabhava ("exalted ecstasy"),

Rev. Hart:

My head is swimming. Does it go deeper?

Satyaraja Dasa:

(laughter) We have barely scratched the surface....Vaishnava philosophy is so deep....We could discuss the
emergence of our original female (prakriti) nature. That is to say that we are all female in relation to God, who is
the Supreme Enjoyer (purusha). The soul thus takes on a feminine quality in relation to Him, the Supreme
Godhead. Of course, the spiritual world is not devoid of male members, there are gopas, cowherd hoys, just as
much as gopis, cowherd girls. But the feminine aspect gives rise to the most intimate relationships.
For instance, let us consider the various sub-divisions that exist on the highest levels of love for God: Svakiya and
Parakiya. Briefly stated, svakiya refers to more orthodox or conventional relationships in the conjugal mood, such
as that of marriage. But Parakiya-rasa was especially glorified by Lord Chaitanya as the highest end in spiritual
affairs.
Rupa Goswami defines one in the parakiya mode as one who offers herself to Krishna on account of her raga, or
natural attachment toward Him, without entering into formal wedlock. Her love is so deep that she is
unconcerned for the propriety or impropriety of her act, even though the scriptures may condemn her act as
unchaste. She takes the ultimate risk for Krishna. Out of love. According to Lord Chaitanya, the most intimate
servitors of Krishna may be classified in three distinct groups:

(1) Lakshmis in Paravyoma, or consorthood in the opulent side of God's kingdom;


(2) Mahishis in Dvaraka and Mathura, or the great goddesses in the middle ground between opulence and
sweetness; and
(3) the gopis of Vrindavan, the land of Vraja. This is the level of the highest sweetness, for these simple
cowherd girls take shelter of God's love completely divorced from His opulent feature.

The Lakshmis and Mahishis are svakiyas, while the gopis alone are parakiyas. Of the gopis some are women who
are married to other devotees and some are single women. Both types of gopis, however, regard Krishna as their
real husband. Although He is, from the worldly point of view, only their upapati, or paramour. These are the
relationships of the most confidential servitors in the most confidential realm.

Rev. Hart:

This is going on in the spiritual world? Yes, now that I think about it, it could only be so. God is inconceivably great, and His loving
interactions are also on this platform of inconceivable greatness. These things you are describing are clearly the last word in
transcendence. If we relate Krishna's pastimes to material phenomena, we are definitely making a great mistake. Yet material
phenomena, if I may be so bold, must be related to spiritual phenomena, at least in some way. And I think I am now seeing how this is so.
Just as we are created in the image of God, so, too, are interpersonal relationships in this world created in the image of "divine
relationships," as the kind you just described between Krishna and the gopis. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this truth could be applied to
all aspects of the material and spiritual worlds. What I'm trying to say, in other words, is that for everything material, there is a sp iritual
counterpart. Therefore, Krishna's interactions with the gopis may appear material, but in reality they are not. I see that now...

Satyaraja Dasa:

Yes. But, remember, the spiritual world and the material world are opposites. The worst thing here is thus the
highest thing there. Hence, parakiya-rasa is considered paramount in the spiritual realm. Such a relationship in
the material world, however, would constitute a low standard. But it must be remembered that when we are
speaking of Krishna and the gopis we are speaking of spiritual beings of the highest order. And they are not
beleaguered by material bodies. This is important. In their extra-marital affairs there is not a hint of carnality.
Such loving interaction is only understandable by pure self-realized souls. It is not a cheap thing.
In fact, it is recommended that one read the first nine cantos of Srimad-Bhagawtam before starting on the tenth.
The tenth canto deals with these esoteric topics. And unless one has studied the first nine under a bona - fide
spiritual master, one will necessarily misconstrue Krishna's affairs as grossly ma terial. Some philosophical
foreground information is thus needed, as is the necessary purification to understand such transcendental events.
I have only introduced you to these ideas in order to whet your appetite. But if you want to truly relish thes e
descriptions of God's most internal pastimes, I suggest that you read Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya
Chantamrita, especially as they are explained in succession by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.

Rev. Hart:

I will do that - I will order these books. I must say that I enjoyed this dialogue very much, and I think that open-
minded people the world over would do well to engage in such discussions. It seems that war and social and
religious prejudice come from avoiding talks such as these. Something can be gained by studying all religious
traditions, not just one’s own.
Especially India's Vaishnavism, the ancient sanatan dharma or, "the eternal function of the soul". There is much to
be gained from studying this most complex theological system. I appreciate your explanations, especially and I
hope we can go on having similar conversations. Krishna consciousness adds a new dimension to my own practice
of Christianity, so I like adding Krishna...

Satyaraja Dasa:

In India, there is an old proverb: kanu bina gita nahi. It means that without Krishna, there is no song."

Rev. Hart:

Thank you very much.