A Muslim boy visited us yesterday and said he was doing a study on comparative religion. He said that he was reading Zakir Naik’s writings. He started to ask us some questions.
Muslim student: Our respected Dr. Zakir Naik says there is no such thing as the Hindu religion. It’s supposed to be called varnasrama dharma. Or the followers could be called Vedantists, followers of the Vedas.
Gopal Das: Yes, this is true. We are not claiming to be Hindus. We are followers of sanatana dharma.
Muslim student: What is sanatan dharma and what are the Vedas?
Gopal Das: First try to understand that Vedas are the oldest body of knowledge in the world. Older than the Koran, the Bible or any other scripture. Even modern researchers of ancient writings accept the Vedas as being the oldest books of knowledge in the world.
Veda means knowledge. Knowledge is for everyone, not only for a particular community, caste or sect. For example; anyone can learn how to use a computer, car, cell phone, without consideration of caste, color or creed. Similarly anyone can learn the science of God from the Vedas.
Basically we can divide Vedic knowledge into three parts; sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. The ‘sambandha’ portion explains who we are, who is God and what is our relationship with God. Abidheya jnana explains how to act in that relationship and ‘Prayojana’ means what is the goal of that relationship.
So the first point we need to know is that we are not this body. We are spirit souls. The body is changing, and the soul is not changing. For example:
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati [ BG 2.13]
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change”.
We do not change, our bodies are changing. Just as you change your car for another one, similarly, at the time of death you change this body for another one. The soul never dies and never vanishes. This concept is found even in other religions scriptures. Christians say that after death you go to heaven. Muslims say that after death you go to God. So basically, there is life after death.
This is the first thing that we learn from Vedas – we are not this body, we are spirit soul. As you can see this knowledge applies to everyone irrespective of one’s social status, religious belief or educational qualifications. This is Vedic knowledge.
Now, after learning about eternality of the spirit soul, the next question is; what is the duty of the soul? What is the purpose of the soul? Everything we see around us has some purpose, so what is the purpose of our existence? The purpose of our existence is to serve God. Jivera ‘svarupa’ haya-krsnera ‘nitya-däsa’.
We are all eternally servants of God. This is called sanatana dharma. Dharma means characteristic, and our characteristics as souls is that we are servants. The intrinsic characteristic of the soul is to be a servant. Sweetness is the character of the sugar. You cannot separate sweetness from the sugar. Sweetness is the dharma of the sugar. In the same way you cannot separate service from the soul. This is called sanathan dharma. Eternal service to God.
You may claim to be a Muslim, Christian or Hindu, but the question is whether you’re serving God or not? That is called dharma, everything else is a designation. Because you read the Koran or the Bible, or because you are born in a particular country or community which claims to follow the Koran or the Bible, you declare yourself to be a Muslim or Christian. But the question is whether you follow what God says? Whether you act according to His instruction, in other words whether we serve God or not. If you serve God, you are follower of sanatana dharma. If not, there is a long way to go to reach God. Simply claiming that “I am Muslim, I am Christian” will not help us to fulfill the purpose of our existence.
Muslim student: The Vedas say that there are 33 crores of Gods.
Gopal Das: No. The Vedas say eka brahma dvitiya nasti: “God is one; He cannot be two.” This concept is found in all religious writings. Just like sun is one, but we can call it different names, as “sunce”, “solare”, “surya”, but the sun is one. I cannot claim that this is “Muslim sun”, “Hindu sun”. Sun is sun. So like that God is God. By definition itself God is the supreme creator, supreme controller, supreme enjoyer, He is the Supreme Being. There is no competition, there are no two Gods. Is this making sense?
Muslim student : Yes it makes sense, I can accept this.
So now the point is if God is one then why are there so many religions? There should be one God and one religion, and that religion is called sanathan dharma. Actaully there aren’t many religions, just many practices, or to put it more accurately; many levels of service to God.
Muslim student : Ok, now my question is why there are so many religious practices?
Gopal Das: Basically religion is one and God is one, but there are different levels according to one’s level of surrender. God is absolutely pure, spotless, all-perfect. So, if you want to be with Him then you should be completely pure.
Pure means, free from any desire of selfish enjoyment, and having only the desire to please the Lord. Following His instructions, having faith, developing the desire to serve Him and ultimately, developing love for Him. This is the perfection of religion – to develop love for God. How much are we doing things for God’s pleasure and how much are we doing it for ourselves? Do we want God to help us with material comforts, to cure our disease, to give us fame, name, a beautiful wife and car? Or do we want to simply surrender in His hands and serve Him under any circumstances. There is a gradation in living entities according to the degree that people are absorbed in serving the Lord.
There are some norms of purity which are universally accepted: goodness, selflessness, truthfulness and non-violence. These are basic concepts in every religion. Phalena pariciyate: a tree can be judged according to it’s fruit, the degree to which we are following God will attest to our level of purity. The level of our dedication will show our closeness to God.
Why are there so many religions? Because not everyone wants to follow God. People have material desires, a desire to enjoy separately from the Lord. This is the very cause of our existence in this world.
Muslim student : Can you elaborate on the subject of the purpose of this material creation?
Gopal Das: Every jiva (soul) is created to give pleasure to God. When the jivas misuse their independence, thinking that they can enjoy separately from the Lord, they come to this material world. The Jiva is covered by maya and forgets the lord and try’s to enjoy. But, this is not the place for enjoyment. It is a place of birth, old age, disease and death. There are so many disturbances. Disturbances that come from nature, from other living beings, and from our own mind and body. This is a place of miseries and suffering. So the question is why didn’t God create it perfectly? Because it is “durg”, a prison house. It is a place for rectification. We have to understand that it is not possible to enjoy separately from God. It is just like when the hands want nourishment, separately from the belly, in other words, without supplying food to it.
It is not possible to get nourishment in such a way. But if the hands serve the body, serve the belly, everything is automatically fulfilled. Similarly, the jiva can not enjoy separately from God. This is what is going on. People are trying millions of different ways to get enjoyment. By money, by enjoying sex, by becoming politicians, by power etc. But until they come to the practice of sanathan dharma (devotional service) they are in Maya . Maya means that which is not, this is not to be done. It is not a place for us. The concept is to come out of material world, and to go to the spiritual world. How? By purifying our consciousness, by accepting that the lord is supreme, by serving, by dedication and devotion. Then we will return back home, back to Godhead. This is called moksa, the goal of life. So every religion proposes this. Control the senses, give up material attachment, give up material desire, give up being the enjoyer, beg from the Lord, serve the Lord, follow the Lord, become purified.
Therefore there are vrathas, tapas, fasts, prayers. Like you have “Ramazan”. Why? To control the senses, to control the mind, not to be taken away by Maya. So this is sanathan dharma, everybody has to serve the Lord. God is one, dharma is one. To the degree that people follow God, there are gradations, different levels of surrender. Who is closer to God? One who is more pure. What purifies us? What is considered pure? What is considered impure?
So, now we have to see what the dharmic principals are.
The first thing is truthfulness. If we want to be close to God, a saintly person, a servant of God, then we must be truthful. Do you agree?
Muslim student: yes, I agree.
Gopal Das: Truthfulness is very important. If we speak untruth that mean that we want to achieve our goal by unfair means. It’s sinful. By telling lies we misguide people, we cheat people, we hurt them and we misuse them. It’s so bad, so truthfulness is required.
The next one is mercifulness. One should have mercy, compassion for others. One should not enjoy other’s suffering, or be the cause of it. That means he should understand that all the living beings, whether animals or humans are created by God. We are all brothers and sisters. These instructions are in the Bible and the Koran. Don’t harm others. No violence. Sastras say the same thing. So we have to develop mercifulness.
Muslim student : Yes I agree with your point.
Gopal Das: Not only mercifulness but we have to practice austerities as well if we want to control the mind and senses.
Muslim student : Yes, we also perform some austerities.
Gopal Das: Then we have to purify our life. Keep our body pure, our thoughts pure, pure deeds and pure consciousness.
Muslim student: Yes, purity is very important.
Gopal Das: So this 4 things truthfulness, mercifulness, purity, austerity is spoiled by meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex, gambling.
Muslim student: Why not meat eating??? God told us to eat meat! In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna told to Arjuna that to worship fore fathers you have to offer meat. I can’t remember the sloka but it is in Gita.
Gopal Das: We are studying everyday Bhagavad-gita. There is no sloka like that. Rather, Bhagavad- gita says, meat eating is in tamo guna. Sattvik foods are fruits, vegetables and grains. These things can be offered to the Lord and by eating that you can purify yourself.
Muslim student: Meat eating is recommended in the sastras.
Gopal Das: Until you stop killing animals, you are breaking the principle of mercifulness. You are harming them, causing them to suffer, they feel pain.
Muslim student: No. No. No. They don’t feel pain. Our Zakir told us how to cut the main nerve of the goat so that they don’t feel the pain!
Gopal Das: You are a rascal. Now you are teaching me your killing method. You are proud of your expertise in killing the innocent animals. “We know how to cut properly…”. Expert killers – this is what are you telling me. You cause so much violence just to satisfy your tongue. Instead, you can eat fruits, vegetables, grains, milk. But no, you are not satisfied. You have to kill – only then will you be satisfied. And moreover, you are causing pain, suffering, torture to animals, and still declaring – they won’t feel any pain. You are committing a sin. This is reality. You are breaking the principle of mercifulness. You are not able to understand it’s importance. You are not able to follow the higher principle of dharma, which is mercifulness; therefore you are on a lower level than those who are vegetarians.
But if you want to come to God, you will have to purify your existence, and stop all violence, even those towards the animals.
Otherwise repeated birth and death will be your destination.
Muslim student: So what about Vedas? Is there an allowance for meat eating?
Gopal Das: It is allowed, though with many restrictions for the purpose of restricting and regulating it. Meat eating is allowed to such rascals who can’t follow pure life. For those conditioned souls who arecompletely in tamo guna. And that too, under restriction. Once in a month you can offer it to Goddess Kali. Then you have to say a mantra in the ear of the goat “In this lifetime I am killing you, nextlife time you will kill me.” Who will agree to eat meat like this? Any intelligent person will give it up. No violence, no meat eating, no killing of animals. These are higher principles. For those who can’t follow the higher standard, lower principles are given. But they don’t give the same result. So you’re the follower of that lower principle. Now don’t try to justify it as a real religious principle. You are not able to follow real religious principles so God has given you a concession, but ultimately the principal is to give up meat eating. Even the Koran allows the killing and eating of only particular animals, and forbids eating of blood. How can you eat meat and not eat blood. So it is a clear intention to stop killing altogether. An intelligent person can understand this easily.
Muslim student: Yes, we should not eat any blood. That is why we take out the blood.
Gopal Das: But you are shedding blood, committing violence, killing animals unnecessarily. Can’t you understand this is wrong?
Muslim students: But according to science; when a potato is measured for its vibration while cutting it feels more pain then cutting the goat.
Gopal Das: This is complete nonsense. The consciousness of potato and that of a goat are different. The potato won’t feel pain as a goat.
Muslim student: No, It is more sinful to kill a handicapped person then a normal healthy man for the sick one is not able to defend properly. Similarly, a goat can scream and react feeling pain, but the potato can’t. So cutting a potato is more sinful than cutting a goat’s throat.
Gopal Das: You are simply a rascal! This logic is only for fools. You are not able to control your tongue, so you want to justify your violence by some imaginary logic. God allowed you to eat meat under restriction, and wants you to ultimately give it up. But you are so addicted to eating it, that you are ready to twist the holy scriptures and try to justify your lower sinful urges. Because you’re so much in ignorance you want make this lower principle into higher principle of dharma and now you are even trying to say that cutting a potato is more sinful than cutting a goat. You are simply a rascal! Nobody will accept this. It is logic for less intelligent people. If you steal 10 rupees and 1 crore, will the punishment be the same? Both are crimes, but for 10 rupees you will get a slap, whereas for 10 crores you will have to go to jail. Can you understand the difference?
Muslim student: but science says…..
Gopal Das: Which science? You are simply making excuses. You are killing goats and you’re saying it is less sinful than killing potatos. You are less intelligent, that’s all. By the way, when we harvest the rice it is already dead, it is dry, so we don’t kill the rice. When we take the fruit we don’t cut the tree. When we milk the cow, we do not kill the cow. All this items, even if some violence is committed, it is very less sinful compare to the killing of the goat, chicken or the cow. Another thing is that whatever we eat, before we eat it we offer it to God. We offer it to Krishna expressing our gratitude and requesting Him that “my Lord please accept this food which we offer with love and devotion. The Lord mercifully accept it and purifies it from any sin. Therefore it is called prasadam-God’s mercy. Sanctified food free from any sin. God says you have to eat something so eat vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, butter, sugar – sattvik food. Sattvam sanjayate jnanam. When you are situated in sattva guna, then you will be able to understand something about God. But if you eat meat, Vedas says you will never be able to understand God. Therefore you have to follow this principle of eating pure things, living a pure life free from sin, developing pure thoughts, then you may come closer to the all-pure God. Otherwise one will remain a sinner, and won’t be able to understand God. Can you understand this simple fact that killing animals is sinful?
Muslim student: Again, if you see science, they say…
Gopal Das: Forget the scientists. I am asking you to think and answer my question. Do you agree that killing of the animals is sinful?
Muslim student: But killing of the vegetables is also sinful.
Gopal Das: For example there is glass full of blood and glasses full of carrot juice, ok? Can you see the difference?
Muslim student: Yes, I can see the difference.
Gopal Das: So which one will you drink?
Muslim student: I will drink the carrot juice.
Gopal Das: Why don’t you drink the glass of blood?
Muslim student: Because the Koran says you can’t eat blood.
Gopal Das: You see, even the Koran says that it is not good to shed blood. And what are you doing on a daily basis– killing, shedding blood, committing violence, and then you want to speak about God? You are a sinner, and you do not want to accept that you are doing something wrong. You do not want to accept that you should improve your life, purify your consciousness. That’s why there are many religions – to give hope and at least some kind of guidance to the most fallen people who are not able to follow the purest principles of religion. At least do not kill men. At least do not kill female children. At least do not have sex with your mother. Love your neighbors. Do not lie, do not cheat…etc. But this instructions are only moral and social instructions, to make one a human being. Spiritual principles of loving and serving God with devotion are far above this. Therefore in the Koran and the Bible you will find mostly lower types of instructions which help one to become a human being. There was a need to instruct a specific group of people at the specific time and help them to come to a higher level of existence. But these are not the ultimate spiritual instructions. There are higher instructions about devotional service which we find in the Bhagavad-gita and the Vedas, which help us to develop pure love for God – the ultimate goal of human life. The Gita starts with the assumption that one is already following basic human principles, and then reveals the spiritual message, the secrets of the souls eternal relationship with God.
Don’t say your religion, my religion. God is one, religion is one. But there are higher and lower principles of religion. See which principles are more pure. Use your common sense. The purer one is, the closer to God one is, and one who is less pure, is further from God.
Muslim student: I have references from the Vedas where they allow eating meat.
Gopal Das: Even, if they allow, it is restricted with so many rules and regulations. It is meant for less intelligent people who can’t control there senses. For devotees, those who are engaged in devotional service, it is not allowed and they don’t want to do it. They know well what are the the pillars of religion, the value of mercifulness, purity, austerity and truthfulness. Without following these four principles, one is not considered to be a human being.
Muslim student: But you people worship idols and the Vedas say that this is for the less intelligent class of people.
Gopal Das: It is not for the less intelligent, but rather it is easier for those who are young students of spiritual practice to focus on the Lord . Even those who achieve perfection of spiritual realization still worship the Lord in His deity form for it is fully spiritual.
Muslim student: No, No, God has no form. So many Upanishads says that God has no form.
Gopal Das: Yes, Upanishads say that God has no form; it means that God has no material form.
Muslim student: How can you say that the Upanishad’s statement refers to negation of material form only?
Gopal Das: Because the same Upanishads describe God’s spiritual form. Sac-cid-ananda-rupaya krsnaya: “I offer my obeisance’s unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, who is the eternal blissful form of knowledge.” Why should God be without form? You have a form, I have a form, the trees, they have their forms. God has created all of us, so He must be the source of all forms. He must have a form, otherwise He would be missing something and therefore He would be incomplete. If I don’t have a hundred rupees, how can I give it to you? So if God has no form how can he create so many forms?
Muslim student: I think you are just imagining this form of God.
Gopal Das: Why should we imagine it? How can we imagine the form of God?
You see, we spoke on the phone before we actually met. You asked me what my name is and could you come to meet me. I said my name is Gopal and you are most welcome to meet me. Now, you spoke to me on phone and you started imagining my form. According to the tone of my voice you start to imagine that I am a fat person or may be I am tall, or short, or a foreigner, or an Indian. You could speculate about how I look for thousands of years but your imagination is not going to influence me or change my form. I am, as I am. And as soon as you met me, your imagination was dispelled and you could understand my actual form. When we make murtis, deities of the Lord it is according to the description in the sastras. God himself will reveals to His devotees how He looks like, and they describe it in the sastras. We are getting an actual description about God’s form from those with first hand experience.
venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam-
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
angani yasya sakalendriya-vrtti-manti …
The Vedas describe how God actually looks like. This is the difference between the Vedas, the Koran and the Bible. The Koran doesn’t give much detail about God, His form, His activities, His abode. It gives just the basic principles of moral, social and religious codes, but does not reveal as much as theVedas do. Just like a small dictionary and a big dictionary. Though the basic idea is the same, “we have to obey the laws of God”, the Vedas reveal in great detail, God’s name, form, activities, qualities, abode and His devotees, as well as the process of spiritual practice by which we can attain God. In summary the Vedas give us three types of knowledge: sambandha, abhideya and prayojana. Knowledge of our eternal relationship with God, knowledge of how to act in that relationship, and the result or the goal of that activitiy. So the spiritual practitioner is very safe on his path to God, being carefully guided by sastras.
Whereas incomplete knowledge of God brings confusion and makes intellectual class of people lose their faith in God and become atheists. Srila Prabhupada, our founder-achary said:
“The sastras of the yavanas, or meat-eaters, are not eternal scriptures. They have been fashioned recently, and sometimes they contradict one another. The scriptures of the yavanas are three: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran. Their compilation has a history; they are not eternal like the Vedic knowledge. Therefore although they have their arguments and reasonings, they are not very sound and transcendental. As such, modern people advanced in science and philosophy deem these scriptures unacceptable.”
Muslim student: Somehow or other I am not convinced. I think this is a stone idol and nothing else. If you can give some practical proof then I may accept.
Gopal Das: Well, a few years ago the Lord showed to all nonbelievers that He is not different from His deity form made of stone or metal or any other material recommended in sastras. The Lord was drinking milk. Thousands of people were offering milk to the Lord with the spoons, placing it right on to the mouth of the deity forms, and the Lord was drinking. You can see the videos of this occurrence at www.milkmiracle.com
Muslim Student: I never heard about it. There must be some scientific explanation for it.
Gopal Das: The most scientific explanation is that God is all powerful and not limited by material considerations; therefore He can accept the offerings from His devotees through His Deity form.
Muslim student: Is this the only proof?
Gopal Das: There are so many occasions where the Lord reciprocated with His devotees through His Deity form.
But the real proof of Lord’s Deity form to be spiritual is the way it affects its worshipers. The people who worship the deities are getting purified from kama, krodha, lobha, giving up all bad habits and making rapid spiritual advancement. They are getting purified. The Lord purifies them. It is not the stone. There are people who work in granite factories for therir whole life, but they never get purified. Maybe the deity is made of the same slab of stone, but the stone itself is not purifying agent – the Lord is. So this is another proof that deities are spiritual. By the way what is it in Mecca that people worship in your biggest mosque? The black stone, isn’t it?
Muslim student: Please do not be offensive. We do not worship stone, we worship God.
Gopal Das: So do we. But you have to admit that externally seeing, all the muslims in Mecca bow down to a black stone. Similarly when we bow down to the Deities made of stone, metal or other materials, ignorant people consider it material, and they criticize us, not knowing the absolute nature of God.
Not that God has form, but God can manifests crores and crores of His spiritual forms for He has no material limitations. He has all powers and all independence to do that. And from Vedic literatures we come to know that indeed there are unlimited forms of God, and some of them are described in the Vedas.
ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan
nanavataram akarod bhuvanesu kintu
krsnah svayam samabhavat paramah puman yo
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
Muslim Student: Why would God expand into many forms?
Gopal Das: Why not? Just because we cannot do it, that does not mean that God cannot do it. He can do it, and He does it.
By doing so, He appears at different times, places and circumstances, to the conditioned souls suffering in material world, and gives them instructions, shelter, and purifies them. He appears to rescue the conditioned souls from material miseries, by attracting them with His divine form, qualities, pastimes etc.
So he appears in many forms like Rama, Krishna, Nrsimha, Vamana, Kalki, Buddha.
Muslim Student: Still I do not understand why He has so many different forms.
Gopal Das: It is to reciprocate with His devotees who approach Him with different spiritual emotions. Forms may be different, but the message is the same. One shall surrender to God with love and devotion and serve Him selflessly.
Muslim Student: I accept that we shall serve God. But all those forms…
Gopal Das: One should accept the inconceivable potencies of the Lord which enable Him to do “impossible” things. That is why He is called God. He can appear at any place,and time at His will in any of His spiritual forms.
The Lord’s forms are all nitya, eternal, advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam, all unlimited, and spiritual, so according to this description any of the spiritual form if worshiped will enable one to advance spiritually. There are descriptions in the Vedas on how to make a murti , how to invite God to accept our offering. He can appear at any time and in any way.
So can’t he come into the murti? If one is worshiping with bhakti and it is the original form of Lord why can’t he reciprocate and prove that this is not the stone?
Muslim student: So, these are not imaginary forms?!
Gopal Das: No, these are the forms described in the Vedas, not any speculated form. You can’t imagine just any form or any stone. We have to worship the particular form.
Muslim student: Anyway I don’t have my notes in which Zakir Naik is asking so many questions. He says that this idol worship is for less intelligent people.
Gopal Das: Why less intelligent? It is more intelligent. For example seeing the form of the Lord is easier. It is like if I remind you about somebody may be you can’t remember. But when I show you his photo you immediately remember the person. In the same way if we want to remember God, think of God, there is a process. There are 9 processes of worshiping the Lord; remembering the Lord, getting purified etc.,
As soon as u speak about Hindu , Muslim, Christian, you don’t understand anything. God is one; religion is one. Best thing is to see who is following purely and he is the person who can tell you about God. you don’t want to follow and you find so many excuses to avoid his orders.
This Zakir Naik says people accuse Muslims of being terrorists but Muslims are very peaceful people because they eat very peaceful animals ! what kind of logic is that? This is complete nonsense and less intelligent thinking. You can see that people who can’t follow higher principles accept this religion. People who are covered by ignorance about Gods form, about Gods name, Gods purpose, about Gods mission, about Gods love for all living entities, simply want to make excuses and prove scientifically that their sin is justified.
Please give up this tendency to justify your inability to follow the pure life. And you people criticize the pure people who are vegetarian’s and who offer their food to Vishnu. Don’t find false shelter in science.
You see Vedas are the only knowledge. It is available for all. When you go to buy mangoes you don’t care whether a Hindu, Christian, or Muslim is selling them. You care whether the mango is sweet or not. so similarly if you want knowledge and if it is already available in the Koran then follow it.
If you get love of God from Koran then fine, if you get it from the Bible also fine, but get it just like if you want a job they ask whether you have a degree. Whether you got your degree from Delhi, Calcutta, or Bangalore doesn’t matter. The point is that you should have a degree.
If you can live a pure life and dedicate yourself to the service of Lord then you can follow the Koran or the Bible. But when we were following the Bible it couldn’t give proper guidance to us. So we came under the shelter of Prabhupada and we live a purer life. So can you see the truth now about which is purer? The fruit of the process is always seen through the followers. Judge the religion according to the followers. So until you are killing animals, there is no question of understanding God.
After this the Muslim student said he would come back with his notes. He then took some prasadam and a copy of Science of Self-realization.