Guardiões da Devoção
BEYOND SECTARIANISM AND RELIGIOUS FANATICISM
ByJagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa
It is normally taken by people that religion means a type of faith, but this is not actually the real meaning of religion.
In the introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains very clearly that actually the Sanskrit word 'sanatan-dharma' is a little different from the English word 'religion' in that it better describes what religion actually is. Generally we think of 'religion' in connection with a particular sect, but 'sanatan-dharma' refers to the eternal function of the eternal living being in relationship with the Supreme Lord. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains:
"The English word religion is a little different from sanatan-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change that faith and adopt another, but sanatan-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken away from the living entity."
So this means that the constant companion, or eternal quality of the living entity is the living entity's religion.
Firstly, we must analyze what part of the living being does not change. We've already described many times how the cells of the gross material body are completely removed at least every 7 years, thus we can conclude that the body is not a person's constant companion because it is always changing. The living entity is not the material body, but is the living force or soul temporarily within the body, eternal spirit soul. Although the body and mind may change, you are still you. Also anything in connection with the temporary body, any labels that are put on it, must also be considered to be temporary.
For example, a person may profess to belong to a particular faith which is in reference to a certain time and circumstances, but such designations are not sanatan-dharma, or eternal, because they have a beginning and an end. For example a person may change his faith from Christian to Moslem or he may recall that 'I became a Christian on such and such a date,' therefore these designations are simply added labels in connection with the temporary body. They are temporary, external designations because you have taken them on and therefore it is natural to conclude that they will be taken off sooner or later.
So when we are speaking of religion, we are not meaning something artificially placed or superimposed on the living entity. After all, what was there before you started calling yourself a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Buddhist? What characteristics of yourself existed before you started calling yourself any of those things? We've already established that the first quality of the living being is that you are eternal, spirit soul. You cannot take this quality away from yourself any more than you take liquidity from water, or heat from fire. You are in essence the eternal living being.
The second characteristic or tendency of the living being (you can analyze this in yourself) is that the living being is always rendering service and feeling love or affection You can easily see that every living being is constantly engaged in rendering service to another living being. For example, lower animals serve human beings as servants serve their master. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains:
"It can be seen that there is no exception in the society of living beings to the activity of service. The politician presents his manifesto for the public to convince them of his capacity for service. The voters therefore give the politician their valuable votes, thinking that he will render valuable service to society. the shop-keeper serves the customer, and the artisan serves the capitalist. The capitalist serves the family, and the family serves the state in the terms of the eternal capacity of the eternal living being. In this way, we can see that no living being is exempt from rendering service to other living beings, and therefore we can safely conclude that service is the constant companion of the living being and that the rendering of service is the eternal religion of the living entity."
The point is that if you are eternal by nature and your eternal function is to love and serve someone then obviously your activities should be in connection with the Supreme Eternal Living Being, beyond the bodily conception of life. 'I am a Hindu, I'm this, I'm that.' If you can stop being a Christian or a Hindu or if you can become a Christian or a Hindu, then that is not actually religion because it is not eternal.
Actually the different faiths are ultimately meant to wake a person up to his actual, eternal, religious condition. In other words, whatever process one may be following - the Christian faith, the Hindu faith, whatever it may be, if it doesn't have the effect of bringing a person to the platform of understanding his eternal identity as spirit soul and his eternal relationship with the Supreme soul, then it has no meaning. This is because instead of helping a person come to the platform of actual religion, namely love of God, the person begins to identify his particular faith as religion itself. So to become a religious person does not mean that 'I'm a Hindu, I'm a Christian, I've joined this team, I've joined that team', but it means to uncover what is already there, your personal eternal loving relationship with God, beyond all sectarianism and fanaticism.
So all of this fighting, this party or sectarian spirit is described by Bhaktivinode Thakur as 'greatest enemy of mankind'. If someone thinks I'm a Christian', he'll be considering Moslems or Hindus to be his enemy and vice versa. Such divisions have nothing to do with real religion but are based on false bodily identification. There are so many similarly based conflicts and religious wars; for example, why do the blacks and whites fight: Why do they think there is any difference? Because they are only seeing with their material eyes. They do not see with the spiritual eye, that within the black body and white body are both the children of God. If people were thinking 'I am spirit soul, you are spirit soul' There would be no question of conflict
But despite all the talk of religion, the vast majority are actually following the faith of materialism` identification with the external body, regardless of what they may call themselves.
Ex-president Jimmy Carter, supposedly a Christian, once made a statement that is indicative of this limited kind of vision. He said something like, 'the Egyptians and Jews are all right. I really fell close to them because after all we worship the same God, the God of Abraham.' So indirectly, he was saying that there must be other Gods, because we worship the same God. In other words, he couldn't feel close to some other people because they worship another God. But actually God is the Father of all living beings, not just the Father of some nations or one religious faith.
Just like in Webster's Dictionary, they describe Krishna as 'a Hindu God'. Now that's strange because I'm certainly not an Indian or Hindu yet I worship and sing the names of Krishna. God is God. God means Number One and there can only be one Number one.
So Lord Chaitanya has appeared to teach us what is real religion, i.e. we are not actually these material bodies but we are actually eternal part and parcels of the Supreme Person and by nature we are meant to love and serve Him. Lord Chaitanya stated that in this age of chaos and confusion, where everybody is bickering due to party spirit, the only way to go beyond all this is to congregate and sing the names of the Supreme Lord. He further states:
Oh my Lord, You have hundreds and millions of names and each of Your Holy Names is invested with transcendental power.
So although God is one, He has many names which are based on His different qualities. For example, God is called Jehovah because God is all-powerful. God is called Allah, meaning all-compassionate. And he is called Krishna, the all-attractive Person. So you may call God by one name or different names but that doesn't mean there is another God. This is a misunderstanding which leads to so much fighting.
The first point of religion is that you must understand that you are not the body. You are the spirit soul within the body. As soon as you understand this, you will immediately realize that you are not white or black, American, or Russian, Christian or Hindu, or any external designation. The second is that your position is dominated. You are not the Supreme Spirit, you are part and parcel of the Supreme. This brings you to the third point, your natural function, which is engaging in His loving service.
Krishna states at the end of the Bhagavad-gita:
Give up all varieties of religion or faith and just love Me
So somehow try to develop your love for God. This is the real meaning of religion.
AN INTERVIEW with JAGAD GURU
QUESTION: One doubt I think a lot of people have in their minds, is the method by which some so- called religious groups collect funds or donations. How do you feel about the tactics sometimes used?
JAGAD GURU: Any religious or non-profit organization has the right to solicit, and all charity organizations do so, practically speaking. But, the question is whether or not the donations are being obtained voluntarily or by force. I don't want to comment specifically on any particular organization-- ISKCON, the Catholic Church, or anyone else--but all I know is that within the depth of myself, I am against pushing people or trying to coerce people in any way to give any amount of money. In the vedic, yoga system the idea of encouraging someone to give something is that if they give from their heart, voluntarily, it is not only helping you do your work, but it is directly helping the individual who is giving. He is feeling, this is going to God, This is going to be used in God's service. So he is sacrificing something which he could use for his own material enjoyment in the service of God and others. This is known as devotional service, or loving service to God.
A person who accepts money or gifts on behalf of God is not allowed to use a penny of that for his own enjoyment. His position is simply as a medium. Whatever others give him, his business is to offer that to God, or use it directly in God's service.
The most important thing is that the offering is given out of the person's own volition. In the Bhagavad- gita, Krishna says:
If someone offers Me a fruit, flower, a little water or a leaf with love and devotion, then I will accept that gift.
So even a simple thing like a fruit, a little water or a flower can be actually offered to God in a spirit of love, and God accepts this gift in His own transcendental way. It' not that God wants something temporary and material. What He's really enjoying is my giving, the feeling or the love with which the object has been given.
Just like if I give you a garland of flowers, really what I'm giving you is the feeling or expression of love. At Honolulu Airport in Hawaii, the employ professional lei-givers. The lei-giver calls out, "Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones?' and comes up to you and throws the garland around you -- it can be the most beautiful , opulent garland in existence, but because it's a professional thing, because there is no love behind it, there's nothing really for you to appreciate.
QUESTION: Does that mean that God only accepts things which are given freely?
JAGAD GURU: Yes. Accepting something for God in charity, as an individual or an organization, means accepting what people are giving from their hearts, voluntarily. It means love. Love is based on freedom -- the freedom to give or not to give -- the freedom to give how much you want to give. It's the sincerity of the offering that God actually appreciates.
When we speak about the kingdom of God, we're saying that God is the enjoyed, that God is enjoying in His kingdom. What does He enjoy? He enjoys the reciprocation of loving exchanges between Himself and His children, the souls. Obviously, He doesn't enjoy anything material. Just as a mother appreciates the love with which her child has made her a mud pie, similarly, God appreciates our desire to offer something to Him rather than the thing itself.
If somebody is actually representing God, then gathering funds for their work is only going to be a part of their actual desire. Their primary desire will be engaging people in god's service, helping people to remember God, making it possible for them to offer something from their hearts in the service of God. Now, unfortunately, some fanatics think that you can put a gun at someone's back and say, 'OK, give me your money. They even think they are doing it in God's service. I wrote a song once called 'Dear Fanatic Take it Easy, and a line in it says, 'Take your knife from my throat, get your gun out of my back, stop taking money from my pocket and get your hand off my head'. If a person is coercing you and forcing you to serve God, it's kind of like saying, Well, this is all God's you know, so I'm going force you to use it in His service'. But he is not helping me because I'm not giving voluntarily.
The fact is that ultimately, God's going to get everything back at death. Death is the Supreme Robber who comes like a thief in the night and takes the whole bundle. So there are two kinds of surrender to God. One is the kind of surrender like surrendering out of fear to a robber with a gun -- you hold up your hands and say, 'I surrender'. The second kind of surrender I the surrender of the heart, which is known as love. The first kind is based on coercion, or force, and the second is voluntary. If a person thinks that he can force someone to offer everything back to God then actually that person is not an agent of God. He is the agent of maya, the illusory energy. What is that? Death, material nature. Material nature is that aspect of God which takes by force. The actual representative of God is that aspect which enables people to have a change of heart. He helps them so that they actually undergo a change of attitude, whereby they offer God's energy back to God voluntary and enjoy doing so. This is the difference between a real servant of God and a fanatic.
So when we speak about the function of a religious organization, we are speaking about the attempt to convince people that they will be happy loving God or surrendering to God and using their possessions in God's service. This will make them more happy than they would be using everything for their own enjoyment. So there are different degree of surrender in God's service. One person may be surrendering his whole life -- body, mind, and soul and all his possessions. Someone else may be offering only 1% of their body, mind, and soul. But in all cases, it must be voluntary; otherwise it is not spiritual.
QUESTION: So you're saying that the idea that you can benefit someone by taking something from him and using it in God's service is the root of fanaticism?
JAGAD GURU: Yes. The idea that I can benefit a person by taking $20 out of his wallet and somehow using it in the service of God is absurd. It's crazy. That would mean you could benefit even more people by robbing money from a bank. If you robbed a bank and used the money, supposedly in God's service, how would the people who had the money in that bank be benefited? Would they feel any happiness or love? Would they feel any closer to God? No. When they find out that their money has been stolen, they feel angry. The same with someone who has been somehow coerced into making a 'donation' on the streets. They're not feeling love, they're feeling anger. Now why, if I was actually engaging -- helping somebody get closer to God, why would they be angry? You can't engage me in God's service. Only I can engage me in God's services. It must be voluntary. If force is used, then there is no question of service -- it's slavery.
This is fanaticism It is totally alien to the teachings of the Science of Identity.
QUESTION: This means then, that it is the individual's personal decision as to what he is going to do with his life, his possession, etc.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. Exactly. When we speak of love of God, we're speaking about an individual's freedom.
The Science of Identity is based on the eternal individuality of the living being, or the soul. We are eternally individuals and God is the eternal Supreme Individual. So if I am an individual, that means that I have to make the decision myself to serve God or not to serve God, to offer something to God or not to offer it to Him. If you try to force someone else to serve God or take someone else's money or whatever, what you're really doing is denying them their individuality. You're taking their free choice away from them. So what you're really denying them is the possibility of their ever having a relationship with God. You're getting in the way of their loving relationship with God
QUESTION: Why do people act like this?
JAGAD GURU: Because they're faithless. They think that if people are left to choose between serving and not serving God, then they won't serve God. And why do they think like that? They think like that because they're like that. They're projecting their own desire not to serve God on to others. That's all. Does God force us to serve Him? No. God is all-powerful; H could have kept us by force in His kingdom. But He chooses not to do that. Why? Because he doesn't want you to do something if you don't want to do it. The entire kingdom of God is based on freedom. The material world is that section of God's kingdom where the individual souls have chosen not to serve God. But the point is that we still have our freedom, eternally, to serve or not to serve.
So if we're going to try to get people to the kingdom of God -- whether we are working calling ourselves Christians or Hindus or Muslims or whatever -- we have to appreciate this point: God has not forced His children to remain in the kingdom of God as if it is some type of jail. He has not used force to make people come to Him or love Him. He has not used force to make people surrender to Him. So then, why should His representatives try to force people to surrender to God? Surrender really means love. So can you force me to love someone else? No, of course not. Love means voluntary. The kingdom of God is based on love -- it is founded on love. Love is the entire taste or flavor in the kingdom of God -- and that is based on freedom. Anyone who's working on behalf of God or trying to bring people to God has to appreciate this point. And if they don't, then they're not actually representatives of God because they're not actually tasting love of God. They themselves are not actually having full faith in God, that He is in control. They think, 'God's lost control, we'd better take over here'. They start thinking that they're going to save people whether they like it or not. That is fanaticism.
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