Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Next question, Śrīla Prabhupāda. "As the world is coming to be divided into just two classes—atheist and theist—is it not advisable for all religions to come together? And what positive steps can be taken in this direction?"
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The steps to be taken have already been explained—this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. The atheist class and the theist class will always exist. This is the nature of the material world. Even at home—the father may be an atheist like Hiraṇyakaśipu, and the son a theist like Prahlāda. So atheists and theists will always exist—in the family, in the community, in the nation.
But the theists should follow the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā and take shelter at Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet, giving up other, so-called religious principles. That will bring religious unity. Religion without a clear conception of God is humbug, bogus. Religion means to accept the order of God. So if you have no clear conception of God, if you do not know who God is, there is no question of accepting His order. Find this verse in the Sixth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam [SB 6.3.19].
dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam
na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ
na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ
kuto nu vidyādhara-cāraṇādayaḥ
"Real religious principles are enacted by . . ."
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Ah. "Real." Go on.
Hari-sauri: "Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great sages who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the demons, ordinary human beings, Vidyādharas, and Cāraṇas."
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hm. Read the next verses also.
svayambhūr nāradaḥ śaṁbhuḥ
kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo
balir vaiyāsakir vayam
dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ
guhyaṁ viśuddhaṁ durbodhaṁ
yaj jñātvāmṛtam aśnute
"Lord Brahmā, Bhagavān Nārada, Lord Śiva, the four Kumāras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahūti], Svayāmbhuva Manu, Prahlāda Mahārāja, Janaka Mahārāja, Bhīṣmadeva, Bali Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and I myself [Yamarāja] know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhāgavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is uncontaminated by the material modes of nature. This transcendental religious principle is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance one fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead."
Śrīla Prabhupāda: So these mahājanas-Brahmā, Nārada, Lord Śiva, and so on—they know what the principles of religion are. Religion means bhāgavata-dharma, understanding God and our relationship with God. That is religion. You may call it "Hindu religion" or "Muslim religion" or "Christian religion," but in any case, real religion is that which teaches how to love God. Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje: [SB 1.2.6] if by following some religious system you come to the platform of loving God, then your religious system is perfect. Otherwise, it is simply a waste of time—bogus religion, without a clear conception of God. So we have to understand what God is and what He says, and we have to abide by His orders. Then there is real religion, there is real understanding of God, and everything is complete.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, one may ask why someone like Christ or Moses is not mentioned among the mahājanas.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: There are mahājanas among the Christian saints. They include Christ, and in addition to Christ, so many others—St. Matthew, St. Thomas, and so forth. These mahājanas are mentioned in the Bible. A mahājana is one who strictly follows the original religion and knows things as they are. And that means he must be coming in the paramparā, the system of disciplic succession.
For instance, Arjuna learned Bhagavad-gītā directly from Kṛṣṇa. Therefore Arjuna is a mahājana. So you should learn from Arjuna. You follow the way Arjuna acted and the way Arjuna understood Kṛṣṇa. Then mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ: [Cc. Madhya 17.186] you are following the mahājana—you are on the real path. Just as we are. In these verses from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is a list of mahājanas, including Svāyambhu, or Lord Brahmā. So this sampradāya of ours is called the Brahma-sampradāya. Our sampradāya also includes Nārada, another mahājana. Sambhu, or Lord Siva, is still another mahājana. He has his own sampradāya, the Rudra-sampradāya. And similarly, Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, has the Śrī-sampradāya.
So we must belong to one these sampradāyas. Sampradāya-vihinā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ: if you do not belong to a bona fide sampradāya, originating from a mahājana, then your religious process is useless. You cannot concoct some religious system. So whether you follow the Christian mahājanas or the Vedic mahājanas, it doesn't matter. But you have to follow the mahājanas. If a Christian says, "I don't believe in St. Thomas," what kind of Christian is he? It doesn't matter which mahājana we are discussing. The real mahājana is he who is strictly following the principles enunciated by God. Then he is following a real religious system. Otherwise, there is no question of religion. The so-called follower is simply a mano-dharmī, a mental speculator. Mental speculation is not religion. Religion is the order of God, and one who follows that order—he is religious. That's all.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Then as far as I can understand, Śrīla Prabhupāda, you're saying that there's no need to maintain sectarian labels, that there's one religion in the world.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: One religion exists already: how to love God. This is the one religion. Will the Christians say, "No, we don't want to love God"? Will the Muhammadans say, "No, no, we don't want to love God"? So religion means how to love God, and any religion which teaches how to love God—that is perfect. It doesn't matter whether you are Christian or Muslim or Hindu.
Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: [SB 6.3.19] "Real religion is directly enunciated by Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead." So, Bhagavān, Lord Kṛṣṇa, says, "surrender unto Me." Of course, you cannot surrender until you love. For instance, you are surrendered to me. Even though I am not from your country, because you have love for me, you surrender. If I say, "do this," you'll do it. Why? Because you love me. So when will there be surrender to God? When one loves God—when one reaches the platform where he thinks, "O Lord, I love You; I can sacrifice everything for You." That is the basic principle of religion.
Therefore, that religion is perfect which teaches its followers how to love God. So let everyone come to this platform of loving God. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We are teaching nothing but how to love God, how to sacrifice everything for God. That is real religion. Otherwise, it is all a bogus waste of time, simply a following of ritualistic ceremonies. That is not religion. That is superfluous. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.2.8],
dharmaḥ svanuṣṭhitaḥ puṁsāṁ
viṣvaksena kathāsu yaḥ
notpādayed yadi ratiṁ
śrama eva hi kevalam
"You are very good; you are following your religious principles very strictly. That's all right—but what about your love of God?" "Oh, that I do not know." So, the Bhāgavatam says, śrama eva hi kevalam: "Your religion is simply a waste of time—simply laboring. That's all. If you have not learned how to love God, then what is the meaning of your religion?"
But when you're actually on the platform of love of God, you understand your relationship with God: "I am part and parcel of God—and this dog is also part and parcel of God. And so is every other living entity." Then you'll extend your love to the animals also. If you actually love God, then your love for insects is also there, because you understand, "This insect has got a different kind of body, but he is also part and parcel of God—he is my brother." Samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu: you look upon all living beings equally. Then you cannot maintain slaughterhouses. If you maintain slaughterhouses and disobey the order of Christ in the Bible—"Thou shall not kill"—and you proclaim yourself a Christian, your so-called religion is simply a waste of time. Śrama eva hi kevalam: [SB 1.2.8] your going to the church and everything is simply a waste of time, because you have no love for God. That foolishness is going on all over the world. People are stamping themselves with some sectarian label, but there is no real religion.
So if all people are to come together on one platform, they have to accept the principles of Bhagavad-gītā. The first principle is that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If you do not accept in the beginning that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord, then try to understand this gradually. That is education. You can begin by accepting that there is somebody who is supreme.
Now, if I say, "Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord," you may say, "Why is Kṛṣṇa the Supreme Lord? Kṛṣṇa is Indian." No. He is God. For example, the sun rises first over India, then over Europe. But that does not mean the European sun is different from the Indian sun. Similarly, although Kṛṣṇa appeared in India, now He has come to the Western countries through this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
So you should try to understand whether Kṛṣṇa is God or not. But He is God. There is no doubt about it. If you have the intelligence to understand what God is, then try to understand. But Kṛṣṇa is God, undoubtedly. So take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and abide by the order of Kṛṣṇa. Then everyone can come together on the same religious platform. One religion, Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, sometimes in our preaching activities we meet people who claim to be very devout Christians or Muslims but at the same time blaspheme Kṛṣṇa. Is it possible that such persons can actually be associates of God?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. If one is serious about understanding what God is, then he will accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Lord. Once he knows what God is, he'll understand, "Here is God-Kṛṣṇa." If he remains in darkness and does not learn what God is, then how will he understand Kṛṣṇa? He'll understand Kṛṣṇa as one of us. That's all. But if he knows what God is, then he'll understand about Kṛṣṇa: "Yes, here is God."
For instance, if a person knows what gold is, then anywhere he comes upon gold, he'll understand, "Here is gold." He won't think gold is available in one shop only. And if a person knows what God is, what the meaning of "God" is, then in Kṛṣṇa he will find God in fullness. Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam: [SB 1.3.28] "Kṛṣṇa Himself is the Supreme Personality of Godhead." The śāstra explains what Bhagavān, or God, is, and how Kṛṣṇa is Bhagavān. You should understand and see from the activities of Kṛṣṇa whether He is or is not Bhagavān. It requires a good brain to understand. If I say, "Here is God," now it is up to you to test my statement. If you know what God is, then test my statement about Kṛṣṇa, and then you'll accept Him as God. If you do not know how to test my statement, then you may refuse to accept it. That is another thing. You may also accept iron as gold. That is your ignorance: you do not know what gold is. But if you actually know what God is, you will accept Kṛṣṇa as God. There is no doubt about it.
So this is the common platform—Bhagavad-gītā. Everyone, come and take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Understand God and learn how to love Him, and your life will be perfect.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: But many people claim to have the best religion, Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But we have to look at the result. how will we decide what is real religion? Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmaḥ yato bhaktir adhokṣaje: [SB 1.2.6] by seeing whether the followers have learned how to love God. If one has no love of God, then what is the use of claiming that one's religion is the best? Where is the sign of love of Godhead? That is to be seen. Everyone will say, "My understanding is the best." But there must be practical proof.
If someone claims to have the best religion, we ask, "Tell us how to love God. What is your process of loving God? If you do not know your relationship with God and others' relationship with God, then how can you love God?" That process of loving God is lacking. Nobody can give a clear conception of God. If you have no understanding of what God is, where is the question of love? Love is not mere fantasy or imagination. You cannot love air. You love a person, a beautiful person. If you merely say, "I love the air, I love the sky," what question is there of love? There must be a person. So who is that person we want to love?
Unfortunately, most people have no personal conception of God. Nor can they describe the Lord's personal beauty, knowledge, strength—His fullness in the six personal opulences. There is no such description. They have some conception of God, but actually they do not know what God is. But religion means you must know God and love Him. Love is something tangible. It is not merely fantasy or imagination. So we Kṛṣṇa conscious people accept Kṛṣṇa as God, and we are worshiping Kṛṣṇa, and we are making progress.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Recently a priest visited us and admitted that he didn't know what God looks like. He couldn't say anything about God, but he said he loved God.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then? What kind of love is it?
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Nor did he say his people were very enthusiastic about coming to church. He said, "At best they come once a week." He said that's all that is necessary.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Well, love does not mean that you come once a week to my house. Love means you come to my house every day, give me some present, and take something from me. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes the symptoms of love in his Upadeṣāmṛta ;
guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati
bhuṅkte bhojayate caiva
If you love somebody, you must give him something, and you must accept something from him. You must disclose your mind to him, and he should disclose his mind to you. And you should give him some eatable, and whatever eatable thing he offers, you accept. These six kinds of exchange develop love.
But if you do not even know the person, then where is the question of love? Suppose you love some boy or some girl, then you will give some present, and he or she gives you some present—that develops love. You give something to eat, and whatever he or she gives you to eat, you eat. You disclose your mind: "My dear such-and-such, I love you. This is my ambition." And he or she makes some disclosure. These are the exchanges of love.
But if there is no person-to-person meeting, where is the question of love? If I claim to love somebody, but I visit his house only once a week and ask,"Please give me such-and-such," where is the exchange of love? Love means there is some exchange. If you love somebody but you have not given anything to that person or taken anything from him, where is the love?
The conclusion is, religion means to love God, and that means you must know who God is. There is no alternative. You must know the person who is God. Then you can have loving exchanges with Him. That we are teaching. We are asking our disciples to rise early in the morning and offer maṅgala ārati, then bhoga ārati, to the Lord in His form as the Deity in the temple. Are we such fools and rascals that we are wasting time worshiping a "doll"? Sometimes people think like that. But that is not a fact. When you enter the temple, you know definitely, "Here is Kṛṣṇa. He is God, and we must love Him like this." That is the superexcellence of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We do everything definitely, on the positive platform. Is that clear? Does anyone have any further question?
Pradyumna: Śrīla Prabhupāda, you're saying we must know God before we can love Him. So that means devotional service is preceded by knowledge.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, that is the process given in the Bhagavad-gītā. There are eighteen chapters, and the whole eighteen chapters are education—how to know God. When Arjuna at last comes to complete awareness, he accepts, "Kṛṣṇa, You are paraṁ brahma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Then Arjuna surrendered, as Kṛṣṇa advised—sarva-dharmān parityajya [Bg. 18.66]. But unless you know God, how will you surrender? If some third-class man comes and says, "Surrender to me," will you do that? "Why should I surrender to you?" You must know, "Now, here is God. I must surrender." Eighteen chapters describe God and how to know God, and then Kṛṣṇa proposes, "Surrender unto Me." Then Arjuna does it: "Yes." So without knowing God, how can you surrender to Him? It is not possible.
So the Bhagavad-gītā is the science of how to know God. The preliminary science. If you want to know more, then read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. And if you are in intense love with God, read Caitanya-caritāmṛta—how your love for God can be still more intensified. That is Caitanya-caritāmṛta. So Bhagavad-gītā is the preliminary book: to understand God and surrender. And from the surrendering point, further progress—that is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. And when the love is intense, to make it more intensified—that is Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Caitanya Mahāprabhu was mad after God. He cried, śūnyāyitam jagat sarvaṁ govinda viraheṇa me: "I find everything vacant without Kṛṣṇa." That is the supreme ecstasy.
So these things cannot happen without love. If you love somebody and he's not there, you find everything vacant. So Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu felt this way about Kṛṣṇa—lover and beloved. Śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁ govinda viraheṇa me: "I see everything vacant without Govinda." That is the supreme stage of love. Is that clear or not?
Pradyumna: There's just one more thing, Śrīla Prabhupāda. What's the minimum knowledge one must have to . . .
Śrīla Prabhupāda: God is great. That's all. God is great. Kṛṣṇa proved that He's great. Therefore He's God. Everyone says, "God is great." Allah-u-akbar, the Muslims say: "God is great." And Hindus say, paraṁ brahma: "You are the Supreme Spirit." So God is great. And when Kṛṣṇa was present, He proved that He is all-great. Therefore He's God. If you accept that God is great, and if you find somebody who is great in everything, then He is God. How can you deny it? You can see how great Kṛṣṇa is simply by considering His Bhagavad-gītā. Five thousand years have passed since Kṛṣṇa spoke Bhagavad-gītā, and still it is accepted as the greatest book of knowledge all over the world. Even people from other religions who are really learned accept it. That is proof of the greatness of Kṛṣṇa—this knowledge. Who can give such knowledge? That is the proof that He is God. Kṛṣṇa has all opulences in full, including knowledge. Other than here in Kṛṣṇa's words, where is such knowledge throughout the whole world? Every line is sublime knowledge. If you study Bhagavad-gītā scrutinizingly, you'll understand that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord.