Srila Sridhar Maharaj: They say three: God the Father, God the Ghost, and God the Guru as Christ, the deliverer. Three phases of conception in theism, according to Christianity. And in Islam, there are so many messengers from God, and Mohammed was such a messenger. The Mohammedans accept, mostly, the messengers of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in common: Moses, Abraham and others. But according to them the last messenger of God was Mohammed, and he is considered by them to be foremost.
And some conception of God is there, but that conception is not so much diffentiated or developed as we find in Hindu mythology or ontology, or in the Vedas or Upanisads- in the revealed truth, revealed scriptures. The renowned German scholar Max Muller once told, “What is in the store of the Upanisads in India, that will feed the whole world. The whole world will be fully fed, fully nourished by that; not a point, not a drop of knowledge will be lost, will be missed, if the world can get the knowledge which is stored there.” That was his conclusion.
We can understand it in this way: within every phenomenon that exists, there is some intrinsic, central position. Whether in gold, or in diamonds, or industry, or education, or religion within all of these there is a central, original, or most concentrated position, and we may not find that most fully fledged manifestation everywhere where that phenomenon may appear.
So, in the case of religion, or theism, India was selected by God to be in the central or highest position. It is not unreasonable: a university college cannot be established in every village, but some particular place must be selected for that. It is the same for the hospital, the police station, and so on. So in this world, some place was selected to be the highest seat of religion, of theism and that came in the lot of India.
If we have the proper eye to see this, we won’t be envious: “Why it should be India?” That thinking is ludicrous, just as someone from the village thinking “Why in our village there is only a primary school, and in that city there is the university college?”
The highest school for theistic education should be located somewhere on the globe, and the place selected was India. If we are to approach the comparison in theistic education, we should do so with this kind of background understanding. And from that viewpoint Max Muller wrote: “If we look in the Upanisads, we will find that what is contained there will satisfy all classes of religionist, people of any religious inclination- and still the store will not be diminished, even slightly.” That kind of knowledge is an eternal fountain: its water is always flowing, the fountain will never become dry.
Wherever the universal truths of religion are found, they should be accepted. If it were not so, then those who are Christians from various nations, for example, the Americans, or the British, they should say: “Christ was born in the Middle East; why should we take his instructions? He was not born on our soil, his teaching has not sprung from our country- why should we accept it?” But the geographical difference is all illusion, maya.
Wherever the real thing, the real religious truth, is found, we must be open to accept that for its own intrinsic value, and not be guided by the physical, mundane affinity from where I have got my body, or my country, and so on. We must rise above all this material consciousness and be a clear student; with complete openness we shall be an enquirer after the truth, from wherever it comes.
The atom bomb was created somewhere, in some particular location, but does that mean that those in other places are not trying to get it, to develop it? Will those others say, “O, it was invented somewhere else- we won’t take it”! The battle tank was first invented perhaps in France, in the first Great War now it is everywhere. The rocket was first created in the form of the ‘V2’ of Hitler, but is now, in its developed form, existing everywhere. And if even here in this world, everything has its universal character and application in this way, should we think that the spiritual world, the world of spiritual reality, will be all of a narrow, national kind of conception? Will the highest truth, which can give relief to all troubles, be relatively located? Rather, that will be the broadest, the most universal. It will be unique.
Student: But the problem I have found on many occasions, is that when I speak with for example a Christian, he will appreciate the high position of bhakti, devotion, and of surrender, as being even above that of liberation, yet he will insist that Christ is the ‘only way’.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: He may accept ‘surrender’, but surrender to whom? Surrender may be of many kinds it may be to the family, for the sake of the family, or for the country, for the nation, and so on. But the value of surrender will be according to its criterion: surrender for what?
Student: Surrender to God.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: ‘God’ means what? What is the conception of God? There is the hazy conception, and the clear conception. We are to come to the clear conception of what God is. We are to come to a very minute comparative study, just as, in the laboratory, the germs and viruses will come under our closer inspection. And the closest inspection will give us the deepest conception. So, what is God? Is it a hazy thing‘unknown and unknowable God’? Does God mean something unknown and unknowable, and not anything concrete?
Student: The Christians say, “God is revealed in Christ.”
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Christ gave us something, some conception; but still, that conception is hazy, it is not clear. Just as, for example, with the sun or the moon: there exists a hazy conception about them, but they have their own, real existence. On closer inspection many more astonishing things about them will be seen, and ultimately those heavenly bodies will be found, they will be discovered in their real identity, as they are.
Student: But the Christians are afraid to go beyond what Christ has said.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: That tendency is everywhere, at every step it is to be found: wherever a person is, in whatever plane of knowledge, or ignorance also, he is attached to that conception. Such is the case not only in religion, but everywhere it is a tendency common to all.
Student: These Christians take excuse from the Bible; there Christ says that no-one can come to the Father, except through him.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: This too is a common thing: all peoples of the world have some sort of religious authority. Some people accept the Bible, some the Koran. The Hindu class will accept something else; the tribal Africans also, they have their authority, and again, the Sankarites have theirs. But when a comparison is to be drawn, the people must come out of their local bigotry and approach the matter with an open mind; they will have to come out into the broad daylight, under the open sky, and will have to consult, to compare, to reject, and to accept. Otherwise, where is the chance of progress? Because whatever the conception in which one is presently situated, he is attached to that; such is the situation everywhere, and not only in religion.
For example, every nation may boast that “We are the first-class military power.” But when the test comes, when there is war, then it is decided who is who! Russia boasted “We have the power to control the whole world”; others also have done the same. In the beginning of the second Great War, Emperor Tojo of Japan said, “We are prepared for a hundred years of war! The Europeans will fight together and be finished, and we will be Emperor of the whole world”. This was his boast but as it was shown, to think something is one thing, and reality is another.
There was one Arabian gentleman who became a devotee. He told: “From the beginning, I had the tendency to go through the religious books of all the nations. In the course of that I found that the Indian religious writers have covered, in space and in time, a huge field the most vast and ancient. In the Bible it is told that the world was created a few thousand years ago; but Indian theology says that so many evolutions and dissolutions have taken place.
So many creations and dissolutions have occurred throughout history the entire solar system has been dissolved, and again created, and again dissolved. And the history of such vast spans of time is to be found in those writings; time has been dealt with in such a spacious way there as compared to its treatment by other theologians of the world. And such a treatment is given not only of time, but space also: the creation of the universe itself, how it was begun, was formed, and is ended; and the history of the great planets, like the polestar Dhruvaloka and the sun.” Both geographically and historically, that gentleman found that what has been given in the Indian theological books is such that nothing can come in comparison with it.
And he was astonished also to discover, how from beyond this body, and beyond this universe, those rsis could gather knowledge; knowledge of such a graphic and spacious nature, collected from the planes beyond the known world, has been distributed by the propounders of the Indian religious scriptures. So that man concluded: “This must be the broadest amongst all religious conceptions.” And he was attracted to search for the Truth through that way.