My mother, for instance, is a very righteous woman. She is very truthful to God and worships Him in truth and spirit. She has always believed in Krishna and literally felt Him work in her life without believing in Christ. Even some of the people, who lived before Christ was born, were good believers of other faith. Weren’t they closer to God? So, why Christ?—SS.
–Closer to God is a relative term and each one can fix her own criterion and also respective scriptures give various lists. If one reads Gita alone, about the mark of a true ‘yogi’ (sthitahprajnata) spread over several chapters from 7 onwards, no one can claim to follow them all to call oneself a ‘yogi’ or ‘righteous’ person and there by come closer to God. So according to Muktiveda ‘no one stands righteous’ either by the standard that it given by the scripture or based on one’s own standard (Romans chapter 2 & 3). ‘All have sinned and gone away from God’ is its universal claim: ‘janami dharmam na cheme pravrthi; janami adharmam na cheme nivriti; kenapi devena hrdayas thithena; yada niyuktosmi tata karomi’—I know what is dharma, but there is no advancement in it; I know what is adharma, but there is no deliverance from it; whatever god has put in my heart (viz. my nature, pravarti), I act accordingly.
However, if one feels that she is righteous then it is left to her to believe and continue to live up to that righteousness. At the same time we have to accept the fact that ‘no one ever lived above her (own) creed’. So if you believe that your mother is a very righteous woman, I respect your opinion about your mother and I have no issue about it. But whether your mother can declare the same is a thousand dollar question. And if she believes so, then again I respect her faith in her and I have no issue about it.
Everyone has the right to believe in any particular deity and trust Him/Her as true in her life. That is the way faith/bhakti works in religious world and every one need not and could not believe in Muktinath. But both God and my conscious is not going to ask account for others faith/bhakti or even righteousness but only about mine. So according to Muktiveda faith is both personal and collective. And each one has to stand before God for her own faith/bhakti and life and none can become an interlocutor for others to God. That is why all the people on this earth—past, present and future first has to give account to God the way She works first through their conscience. God has revealed Her righteousness in their conscience first and each one is accountable for that all the time.
So to the question about good believers in other faith and their closeness to God is left to them, I have no right to judge them in any way. Here the Christians quoting from the Muktiveda could point out the eternal condemnation outside their faith/church/community and I respect their view. However according to me, my answer is: ‘I don’t know’. Thankfully God is not going to ask my view about it at any time, though based on Muktiveda I am have the responsibility to share the ‘subhsandesh’ in the Lord to everyone. I am first responsible to me and then I have a debt those around me and I cannot avoid it by arguing about certain issues on which I have no right or control—here about the good believers in other faiths and those who lived in the past or will in future.
Regarding my response to those who strongly believe in other deities, I would say, ‘Good. Keep that faith and bhakti as you like. But if any time in your life if you feel that you still lack something within you to ‘know God and also known by Her’, then give a chance to Muktinath and He will never fail you. Or, still keeping your personal faith on your ‘ishtadevata’ give a chance to Muktinath also and if you feel that He can help you in every way in the life both for here (on earth) and hear after (eternity), then decide according to your conviction’. One can bring the horse the pond but none can force it to drink the water. So to the question ‘why Christ’ to such good people in other faiths of past, present and future my answer is: by giving Him a chance you are not going to loose anything in your life. And if He proves Himself worthy to be followed, you have gained a simple and a natural way to ‘know God and known by Him’. And if He fails, the loss is not His. This is the way I too took decision, when I came to know about the Lord. I said, ‘well, all these days I tried various ways and let me give Him a chance. And if He proves to be the guru whom I seek, then I gain. And if He fails, at least I would have gained some knowledge about Muktiveda and Muktinath.’ So taking some risk for a worth and noble cause is not wrong as Jim Elliot said: He is no fools who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose. And in that gamble there are only two players: God and that individual and no third person can do anything more than encouraging the individual to take that risk. And once God gives that chance to every individual, no excuse on the part of the individual will work further. One has to sincerely try even before give up. But arguing on some other issues which is not relevant to her decision on hand about the Lord won’t help. God accepts our weakness but not excuses. Once she is convinced about her need and commit to the Lord, then God will work slowly to reveal all Her plan not only for her but also about others—past, present and future. When one cannot understand about oneself completely, then where come the question of demanding the answer for everything under the Sun. And even if one demands the answer for everything before finding personal answer, a wise person has to say, ‘sorry I don’t know’. And only an arrogant person will try to give all kinds of answers which will convince no one.
So, my answer to your this question, ‘I don’t know’. But once you try to find the answer to the question of your personal need, then God will give answers to other questions. ‘Dharm and dharmikta angan me suru hotahai’—faith (bhakti, religion, duty) and righteousness first begin at home. Here the ‘home’ is oneself first.
Regarding my point of ‘simple and natural way to “know God and Known by Her”’, my experience is that, in Muktinath, to know God and also to known by Her I need not do anything physically or mentally beyond within my reach. Neither by karma (rituals, religious observances, vows, alms, pilgrims and name anything that one can do or has to do physically) nor by jnana not even by bhakti I have to do anything to find out that ‘simple and natural way’. God in Muktinath has already done everything for me (on the cross) and I simply have to believe and accept it. But this is the serious point of contention among faiths. ‘If one can simply believe this and could be saved, then you people made salvation so cheap’ was my father’s response when I shared the subhasandesh to him. Of course what looks foolish to the wise God revealed to the humble. For those who believe this is not a religious formula but both a historical fact and personal reality. However those who try to understand or argue over this ‘formula’ first and then ready accept it won’t get success. But those who first accept this and then try to understand based on their need will find the ‘natural and simple’ way that God has prepared for the humble. FAITH STANDS BEYOND REASON, but never remain UNREASONABLE for those who believe.
The relationship between parent and child, husband-wife; among friends, brothers/sisters, relatives all works well when we first accept that relationship and work it out slowly in life than after having a clear intellectual understanding about the relationship. The same is with faith/bhakti. Even if it is an imaginary theory that God through Muktinath reconciled us by offering Herself as a prayaschitta for my sins, then those accept it by faith and try to work it out slowly within first and then try to understand it through other scriptural, historical etc. evidence found that it was not an imaginary theory or formula but a historical fact, however it was interpreted variously throughout the history. At least it worked that way well for my life and million others around the world. And if others like your mother believe the same about Krishna, Rama, Siva, Allah, Buddha etc., I respect their faith and bhakti. But the assurance of that bhakti, faith and even mukti is the final test for every individual to further proceed in her chosen faith or to seek further as per the chance given by God. And here Muktinath gives that assurance in a different way than the claims of other faiths and deities.
This will naturally lead to another question:Krishnagives the same kind of assurance in Gita 18:66 and many other deities and scripture give the same assurance. Then why only ‘Muktinath’? For this I wrote a long chapter in my unpublished (and also unedited) book: Living Dialogue: Why Only Jesus? And here I would like to share with you a part of it, again warning that one need to read not only the entire chapter (Why Only Jesus) but also the book: Living Dialogue to understand the following extract from that chapter. As there is no hope for publishing this book in immediate future, I would like to share a part of this chapter to answer to my own question: Why Only Muktinath?
Uniqueness of the Muktiveda (Bible) for me:
Unlike the modern Hindu apologetic I do not need to explain the contradictions and shortcomings in a rationalistic and so called scientific way. This is true with the Muktiveda also. I can with honesty, at least to myself, accept the contradictions, reject the shortcomings, integrate good things and wait upon Him to reveal the clarity that I need to follow Him—taking help both from the Muktiveda and Hindu scriptures. At the same time, if I need to give any spiritual and moral authority to one scripture, then without any hesitation, I will give it only to the Muktiveda because of the way it is written—not as a fiction; ancient story (purana); mystical; esoteric; book on social code (dharma sastras) or even as history, but it evolved among the people with their limitations, struggles, and failures revealing god’s character and purpose for his creation.
But if the question is still asked seriously, why not Rama orKrishnaor Siva etc., then not to condemn them or to glorify Muktinath, I have to share my view of it. However one tries to prove the historicity of all the Hindu gods, except those deified historic gurus of a sampradaya, they are still on slippery ground with mere speculation. Then regarding their character, I cannot selectively take those good aspects of their character, leaving out the bad side of their stories. Of course several such stories, which are immoral according to human standards, are explained differently.17 For example, all the dalliance ofKrishnawith Gopies is explained philosophically as portraying the relationship with jeevatman (individual soul) and paramatman (god). I respect their right to explain them in that way or any other way. However, my expectation of god is different. Though the personification of various natural forces and characters serve our purpose, yet for me, they all are human endeavors and anybody can do such things with any ideals. For example, for several Neo-Hindus, Muktinath is the personification of ‘ethics’, ‘love’, ‘a cosmic Christ’ etc.18 They all acknowledge Muktinath as ‘Christ’ of their own expectation and understanding, but they never have accepted His authority as guru and god.
Take for example, Siva. This adjective, which means ‘kind, auspicious’, was used for various deities in the Vedas. Later in an attempt to incorporate a Dravidian deity, the vedic deity Rudra was superimposed on Siva and made part of the Vedic pantheon and the latter, the supreme deity in Siva sects. Forget the historicity, but all the later claims about Siva and his plays in various Siva Puranas and Tamil Saiva scriptures have never appealed to my reason as the aspect of a god of my expectation.
When I recently completed the Tamil Saiva Purana, ‘Periyapuranam’, the story of the 63 Saiva Saints by Sekizhar, the life of some bhaktas of Siva really shocked me. Though everywhere in the world, in the name of religion, the religious authorities (with the help of the state) have committed several atrocities against humanity in the name of faith. Christianity stands the worst followed by Islam. However, the way a bhakta of Siva can do some acts in the name of his bhakti to the lord really shocked me (see in Chapter on Morality). Of course Hindu apologetics like Dr. Sivapriya explain them in their expected line: as lila (divine play of Siva; or to test their bhakti etc. (see notes no. 5 in Chapter on Morality). Whereas, a bhakta of bhagavan Muktinath cannot do the same kind of act, even in the name of bhakti—as it will violate the very teaching and life of his Lord (see above Julian’s words). I need not further explain this point, as my aim is not comparison. Therefore, each scripture needs to be evaluated in its religious, social, cultural contexts.
In the case of Krishna, going along with the view of Gandhi, unless one has emotional and sentimental devotion to him, the rest of the stories and lilas (plays) related to him, though they entertained me, never appealed to me to accept him as my god. Of course all the philosophizing about his lilas are correct from the sectarian and apologetic point of view, which others need not accept. The same can be said about Muktinath and god of the Muktiveda.
In the case of Rama, the imaginary character of the Ramayana or deification of some historic figure really attracted me.18a Yet, being a Tamilian, my approach to Rama’s character based on Kamba Ramayana and some personal study of his acts of killing Vaali and banishing Sita to the forest based on the rumours etc., portrays him as a human being struggling with duty and morality (dharma and ethics). However, one can learn many good lessons, and this imaginary story and the central character can be anybody’s ideal. Though such ideals are appealing, yet I am not impressed to take him as my guru or god.
There is no point of sharing my view about all of the other major and minor deities. Isolating any one aspect of these deities and rejecting other parts, which are against any ideals, is not acceptable to me. For example, I cannot reject the Krishna of the Mahabharata and take only that of the Gita or a cosmic Christ and not that of the historical Muktinath.19 Even if Muktinath is merely an imaginary character of the Uttara Veda (New Testament), what appeals to me is his total personality. I would prefer to strive to reach that ideal stage with the help of god, rather than accept every deity as the representation of that one invisible, unfathomable, non-comprehendable god.
17. The following story told by Nirad C. Chaudhuri shows how common people can easily explain such incidents against any criticism of their gods:
When I was young a neo-Hindu sadhu came to preach in my town. He spoke of Krishna, and referring to the accusation brought forward by the Christian missionaries that he was licentious, the champion of Hinduism said something in Hindi whose equivalent I give in English: ‘That showed that Krishna was a mighty hero. If you had to carry on with sixteen hundred lusty young women like Krishna, in one night your face would look like a baked apple’. The roar of laughter and the approving murmur that followed showed that the Hindu crowd was satisfied that the blasphemous missionaries had been answered in the way they deserved. — The Continent of CIRCE: An Essay on the Peoples of India, Twelfth Jaico Impression,Mumbai,1999, p. 98 58
18. For a complete survey of Neo-Hindu’s view of Christ and the way it is evaluated by Christian critics see: M.M. Thomas, THE ACKNOWLEDGED CHRIST OF THE INDIAN RENAISSANCE, S C M Press Ltd.,London, 1969.
18a. …The Epic heroes, Rama, Krishna, etc., became incarnations of the god Vishnu, and the Epics, which had been essentially bardic poetry, were now given the sanctity of divine revelation. The Epics had originally been secular and therefore had now to be revised by the brahmans with a view to using them as religious literature; thus, many interpolations were (p.133) made, the most famous being the addition of the Bhagavad Gita to the Mahabharata.— Romila Thapar, A HISTORY OF INDIA, vol. One, New Delhi, Penguin Books, (1966), Reprint, 1990. pp. 133-34
19. See my Review on Badrinath Chaturvedi’s two books. The following is the final part of that review:
Every perception has its own limitation, because most of the time it is bound by the experience of the person concerned with Reality or Truth etc. If Jesus’ disciples ever understood him wrongly, then there is no hope for us to claim that we can understand Him rightly better than His disciples. Even if we forget the importance of a Historic Jesus Christ to uphold the Church doctrines, we cannot deny the historicity of His first disciples understanding based on their personal experience with Him. No doubt, all the Church doctrines and theologies of an organized Christianity may not help one to have that personal encounter which His disciples had with Him. But in order to PROMOTE A COSMIC Christ, to say that His disciples personal understanding of Him based on their experience is improper is wrong. Because they never said that He was ‘a symbol of a reality greater than his individual self or not a Person but a state of being.’ At least for them, He Himself was that Great Reality—the very God in flesh in His PERSON. Definitely there was a progressive understanding about this among His disciples, which was completed only after his crucifixion and resurrection. It is equally true that ‘What Jesus was saying, was that it is truth and love, and not the satisfaction of physical appetites alone, that make man fully human. What he was saying, was that it is love, and not the laws, that has the redeeming power.’ (pp.184-5) But it is a wrong perception to say that, ‘Seen in this light, neither his crucifixion nor his resurrection is to be understood in its gross physical sense, although that is how they have mostly been understood.’ Because at least for the first disciples of Jesus, all that happened in gross physical sense in the life of Jesus has become a historical event for us now. Because history is not ‘mere records of events’ (p.166), but also its interpretation. Most of the time, the interpretation alone made an event a historic one. For me at least, the criteria for history is not the event, but the interpretation of that event by those who have directly encountered it. However, we agree with the author’s perception about the historic dharmic vs. ‘Christianity in history’, at least in India, it is not that ‘Christianity in history’ with its all verities of believes will help us to understand Jesus Christ as a PERSON, but the relationship which we have with Him, because of our faith—both as a gift of god and our conscience response to that gift.
Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam,March 16, 2011