Gita and Bible (Muktiveda)

Dialogue with SS

I have lots of questions inside me and I so want to know more about God and the truth. I am going to be very frank with you…Please guide me through and forgive me if I write something wrong and teach me out of it.


In the gospel of John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, 14:4, Lord Krishna says,”“It should be understood that all species of life, o son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed giving father”.
He also says in 10:39 ,”I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being, moving or unmoving, that can exist without me” and in 18:66 “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
…if we look at both their statements, it brings out the fact that the way to know more about God is just one and exclusive. If one is to be believed, the other stands wrong. I want to know which one is closer to the Truth?  It also then brings up the question in me that why do I need to come to Christ? 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?

…I do believe that there is a God. It is God, who made us and everything else on this universe and that He loves as His own children but the thing that I want to know is, who is He? Where do I find the real Him? Is he Jesus? Is he Lord Krishna or someone else? It has also let me to ask myself that, are God and religion different? Can it ever happen that religion might miss out some aspect of God and there might be more about God that we may never know? Do we have to follow a religion to know God? Does God have a humanely form? because according to the bible, human beings are the image of God while in the Gita, it seems like God exists in some metaphysical state.

…these are the questions that I haven’t found any answer to yet. Its in the hope of an answer that I put my questions in front of you. I feel that my life will make much more meaning when I get to know Him. I admit I don’t know much and maybe there might be some misconceptions about Him in my mind too. I want you to show me the light, the truth.

Yours sincerely

SS

Dear SS,

Shanti!

Thanks for sending your mail and asking so many questions.  Before answering your questions I would like to share a bit about me so that you can have some kind of understanding about my responses.

First of all the language.  I am a Tamilian and never studied in English medium school.  So if you find my English is not communicating or answering your question properly, you have to ask it again.

I am a Hindu and a bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath, whom the Christians and others call Him ‘Jesus’.  It will take several pages for me to give the reason for calling Him as ‘Muktinath’ and not Jesus.  But to give some basic understanding I have to explain them a bit.  First Jesus is an Anglisized term for His name first in Hebrew as Jashua and then in Greek Yehesu (or something like that).  But His name Jesus means ‘one who saves’.  So I prefer to call Him using Indian term and I translated that meaning in Sanskrit/Hindi and use ‘Muktinath’ or ‘Mukteswar’ or ‘Taraneshwar’ etc.  In the same way I call Bible as Muktiveda etc.  So in my responses you should keep these terms in understanding them.

In giving my response to your question, I should be bit careful, as you are an IIT student, who will approach the answers more analytically.  This in fact is good for me, as I can give, some time more an academic answer than merely sharing some sentiments in the name of bhakti/faith etc.

Finally, thanks for asking such deep and wonderful questions.  This helped me to think about my own faith/bhakti in God and Satguru Muktinath.  So in my responses, I will share more of my conviction based on faith/bhakti, which several time looks more unreasonable.  However I have my own doubt about the ‘rationality of the very reason itself’, which often stands on shaky ground.

Now turning to your questions, which I have divided as follows and I will give my answer to each one separately, though there will be some overlapping and repetition.  As you are busy with your examinations and studies, I would like to post my responses one by one so that when you have some time, you can read and take time to reflect and ask further questions or clarification.

1. In the gospel of John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, 14:4, Lord Krishna says,”“It should be understood that all species of life, o son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed giving father”.
He also says in 10:39 ,”I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being, moving or unmoving, that can exist without me” and in 18:66 “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”

…if we look at both their statements, it brings out the fact that the way to know more about God is just one and exclusive. If one is to be believed, the other stands wrong. I want to know which one is closer to the Truth?—SS

DB response:  Exclusivism is trade mark of every religious faith.  And when we read any such exclusive claims as the only ‘way, truth life’, then we should try to understand them in the context in which they are said or quoted.  There is no point of doing any comparative theology among such claims.  All look true and relevant considering their context.  Above all, the followers of the respective faith/God take these claims literarily and believe it.  So I would like to take those sayings of both Lord Krishna and Bhagavan Muktinath in their context to clarify your doubt.

First to Gita.  Here also we have to separate 14:4 &10:39from 18:66.  Because what Krishna says in10:39& 14:4 is in the context of explaining the relation between ‘prakriti’ and Purusha’.  The entire Gita should be understood only in the context of Sankhya school of thought, which was elaborated in Mahabharata (Mbh.) to which Gita is a part.  However several acharyas have interpreted Gita to prove their particular philosophical/theological view.  Here the context is that in creation God is not only the efficient cause but also material cause.  For example,Krishnasays in 14:4 clearly that ‘prakriti’ is the mother and he is the seed giving father.  And the context is not exclusivism or faith but explaining the creation.  And one should be careful to super impose one’s faith/bhakti/theology on such verses and began to compare with other such claims within Hinduism or outside Hinduism.

Next is 18:66 which is called ‘charama sloka’.  As the entire context of the Gita is to urge Arjuna to do his dharma based on Varnashramadharma (varna + ashrama+ dharma) concept, here, exhorting Arjuna after giving a long discourses and answering several of his questions, finally Krishna says, ‘if you have still any confusion and doubt regarding about your dharma as a Kshatriya’, then even surrender that dharma (duty) to me.  As your preceptor and friend I will take the responsibility (already he took by saying that Arjuna is only a ‘nimit’ as all those soldiers were already killed by Him) and therefore surrendering all your dharma carry on your duty.  Here also the context is not any exclusivism in faith.  It is important to note that however Krishna asks Arjuna to surrender even his dharma and take refuge in him, yet three verses before it in 18:63 he urges him to ‘thinking properly all the teaching that so far he parted with him and do whatever he likes’.

Having said this, I have to accept the fact that all won’t accept my interpretation and explanation of these verses.  Because from the beginning several achryas have interpreted Gita to fix for their particular school of thought like Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Davita etc. However as a student of scripture, I personally feel that keeping our personal faith and conviction, we have to approach the text in its immediate and total context.  Otherwise we will end up in doing ‘text torturing’.

Now coming to the claim of Muktinath 14:6 of ‘I am the way, truth and life’ etc.  Here I am going to share a part of my long response to a question asked by a Christian.  Some of my answers to his question may go beyond the context of your question.  However I believe that those extra materials might help you to clear some of your doubts in over all context of all your questions that you have asked in your mail.  Now the question asked by that Christian to me is:

On the basis of ‘pluralistic inclusivism’ in Hinduism, is Lord Muktinath superior to Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita? This is the core issue.—

But even to understand the context of this questions itself, I have to share some of my response to the previous question asked by the same person.  But I am removing several points from my response to him, as it will confuse you at this stage than helping you to clear your doubts.  Sorry for such long responses from your short questions.   Because as an IIT student I hope you will agree with me that in order to make our response very clear, we have to use many words than giving ‘yes’ and ‘no’ kind of short answers.  Here it is.  But I am sending only a small part of my response to the above question.  Because, at this stage I am not sure whether I can send all my response to this question to you.  However it will help you to understand both the above question and my answer in the total context.  Let me to know whether you are ready for it.  In order to mark the difference of my direct response to your question from quoting from other sources I have changed the color to help me in future, in case I need to refer them back.

This is the my response to the above question:

At the same time we should not get confused with all the exclusive claims of Muktinath as the only ‘Way, Truth and Life’ etc. in Muktiveda in any context of comparative theology.  For example, Acts 4:12is quoted as proof of the unique claim about salvation only through Muktinath.  Now the question that comes to my mind is this, “Is the verse addressed to the Gentiles in particular, or both to the Gentiles and the believers, or only the believers, or–as per the context–is it addressed to those who are opposing the preaching about the Lord?” As I strongly believe in scriptural exegesis, this verse, if interpreted correctly according to the context should never be used for our exclusive claims. About this, A.T. Robinson says, ‘The word for “saved” here (and hence “salvation”) is exactly the same as that rendered three verses earlier in Acts 4:9 by “cured”. The context is not one of comparative religion but of faith-healing.  The issue is “by which power” the cripple is made “completely well” (3.16).  Is it by some innate power or godliness of the apostles (3.12), or is it by “the name of Jesus, awakening faith”’ (3.16)?2  The same is the case with John 10:8, which again, according to Robinson, ‘ has nothing to do with comparative religion’.3   The following explanation offered by Robinson on John 14:6 will further highlight this point:

Much the same must be said of another Johannine text, which is frequently put to exclusivist use: ‘Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father but by me”’ (14.6).  The context here is Thomas’s question about how the disciples can know where Jesus is going, and therefore, how they can know the way.  The answer is that he is going to the Father, and since they know him, they have no need to ask further.  With Philip, ‘Show us the Father’: to have seen Jesus is to have seen the Father (14.1-11).  The point the evangelist is making, to use an earlier distinction, is that Jesus as the Christ is totus Deus: the Father is perfectly reflected in him, he is God ‘all through’.  There is no suggestion in the context that he is claiming to be totum Dei, that outside him there is no truth or life to be found.  The assurance is that in him truth and life are to be found; therefore, there is no cause for anxious fears.4

So we should keep all these important facts when we try to make any comparative theology with Hindu deities and scriptures.  Unlike the Greco-Roman World, the religious context ofIndia(Hinduism) is different one (though one could find several similarities).  We find so many features of God that we found in Muktiveda in many Hindu scriptures like—God as a person, love of God, assurance of salvation, forgiveness of sin etc. At the same time one advantage in Hinduism is the pluralistic inclusivism giving space for ‘exclusive’ faith in one particular deity. This doesn’t mean that we need to revile other deities or condemn their faiths.  Sectarian rivalry and condemnation of faiths among Hindu sects is known to exist.  But this happens not only in the context of theology but also claiming supremacy based on hierarchy of one deity over the other.  Whereas we never found such competition or hierarchy in Muktiveda.  One God, one Faith, one form of Salvation is the uniqueness of Muktiveda.

Notes:

2. John A.T. Robinson, TRUTH IS TWO EYED , SCM Press Ltd., p. 105

3. ibid. p.106.

4. ibid. p. 107.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam,March 11, 2011.