From: Swami Giri
Sent: Sunday, October 17, 1999
To: Gokulananda das
Subject: Thoughts on Christianity
One of my brothers wrote to me very enthusiastically promoting Christianity. I responded with one very mild letter to which he replied with many quotations from the Bible, and so forth. This was my last letter to him after which I have not heard anything further from him in over a month. He did call me after receiving it to tell me it was “very interesting” and that he would reply, but then nothing. I thought you might also find it interesting and wonder if you think it is appropriate preaching for such persons. Especially the questions at the end. How do you think Rita would respond to such ideas?
I read with interest your reply to my last letter and was especially impressed with your thoughtfulness and acute analysis of both my letter and the teachings of Christianity. I can also understand you have studied the Bible sufficiently to offer references of substance related to our discussion. It would thus appear that you have penetrated the Christian theology more deeply than most who would consider themselves as Christians. My position in relation to Christianity, however, is not based on a dispute with the ill informed or lax practitioners of that faith. All religions and spiritual movements, including our own, are subject to such maladies. One of the purposes of my last letter to you was to make you aware of the fact that I have not come to my conclusions whimsically but after considerable attention and research in the matters of spirituality. It was also meant as a friendly warning that you should not be disappointed if I am not persuaded to your way of thinking. Many persons have become frustrated with me, and I with them, during the course of such discussions. Religious beliefs are deeply held convictions which, in the course of differing opinions, can easily fan the flames of anger and resentment. Because you are my dear brother I do not want to embark on a path that may lead to such a situation.
If at any time you think we may begin to tread on such dangerous soil you should let me know in time to halt the march into that territory. Having said this, I will be happy to discuss any points with you which time will allow. Unfortunately I am almost always overwhelmed with a demanding schedule that does not always allow me the time I would like for such discussions. It is better for me to talk with you by phone as it requires much more of my time to compose my thoughts into letters such as this one. For this reason don’t be disappointed if you should not get immediate responses to your emails.
The problem with Christianity is that it is not, as I mentioned in my first email, full fledged theism. That means it does not give a complete conception of God, nor a process by which one can be elevated to His Divine Abode. It is colored with mundanity to such an extent that it is impossible to sort through it and find pure spiritual life. In addition, it misleads its practitioners in many ways such as allowing them to think they have been “saved”, when they are, in actuality, continuing their mundane habits and existence with no means of actual salvation. Very simple questions about the nature of the soul, the spiritual world, the difference between matter and spirit and so forth are left unanswered. It is for these reasons that I put no stock in Christianity.
For example, to be a Christian I should think that God is benevolent. Fine. But why does this benevolent God cause me to suffer for the sins of Adam and Eve. Supposedly, some very long time ago this original couple did something they should not have done. Now for that all succeeding generations are “born into sin” and made to suffer as a result. If they have the further misfortune of never hearing or receiving the Gospel then they will live eternally in hell. What kind of benevolence is this? If I rob a bank should my great great grandchildren and all their succeeding generations be put into prison for my criminal act. No justice system on this earth would act so unfairly yet the Christians would have us believe their benevolent God does just that. This is not a theistic system contrived for intelligent men but for sentimentalist who like to think they can go on sinning and when their sinful life is finished they will be saved by the lip service they paid to Jesus. I don’t think so.
As I mentioned in my last letter the first step to progress in spiritual life is to seek the guidance of a spiritual preceptor who is realized in knowledge of the Absolute Truth. I think you did not understand my point in this regard. While I am pleasantly surprised to hear that you accept this principle, you missed the central idea. Christ taught his disciples and apparently told them to also go and make disciples, but whose disciple are you? I gather you consider yourself a disciple of Christ, but you cannot be a disciple of Christ for he has passed away some 2000 years ago. To make any kind of substantial progress in spiritual life you must have a connection with a living Guru who can guide you and correct your misconceptions just as Christ did with his disciples.
Perhaps Christ’s direct disciples made disciples themselves. I believe John (the Baptist) was a disciple of Christ. If John made some disciples then those disciples of his could claim to be in the spiritual succession of Christ. But what is your claim to discipleship? I know who my guru is, I know who his guru is and so forth. Our disciplic succession is traceable back to the beginning of this creation many billions of years ago. The same is true of our scriptures.
I don’t know how much benefit there is for either of us to offer quotations from our scriptures to the other. I do not accept the Bible as an authoritative scripture except for a few very basic spiritual principles. It is primarily a scripture meant for meat eaters who, because of their sinful habits such as meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication are barred from any deep penetration into spiritual precepts. I also doubt that you will accept our scriptures as authoritative. You may say Christ said so and so and I may say Krishna (God) said such and such but if you do not accept the words of Krishna then what is the point?
Although scripture may be helpful in understanding theological concepts it does not have so much relevance if the person quoting it does not have realization of the facts. I suggest, therefore that we center our discussion around our own realizations coupled with logic, reason and inspiration. This may prove of value as progress is almost certainly attained through the process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
If you believe you have already found the Absolute Truth and are not searching after further enlightenment then again I wonder if our discussion will have much value. It is not our practice so much to try and convert others to Krishna Consciousness as to try to satisfy the hearts of sincere seekers of the Absolute Truth who are anxious to get free from the influence of the sufferings of this material world and become established in their eternal position of transcendental knowledge and joyfulness in relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
If you do have such interest as just mentioned then I welcome your questions and comments. If you do not then perhaps I can arouse a little interest with the following questions.
Our conception of God is that He is very merciful. But if He is not so merciful, then He should at least be just and fair. If He is either, then why are we born into this world of suffering? Why were we given such sinful parents as Adam and Eve, and then made to suffer for their sins?
Are all children of God born to suffer this existence and, if so, why? Why are we not born directly into the spiritual world where God is eternally existing, and which is our ultimate home?
Is God lacking the ability to create sinless children from sinless parents? Apparently Christ was born sinless, why would God create Christ this way, and not the rest of us?
Although Christ seems to hold the highest and most favored position with God, even he, although born sinless, is made to endure the sufferings of sin, even more than us since he is supposed to suffer for the sins of everyone. It seems that God’s plan, according to the Christian conception, is that no one will escape the most horrible types of suffering, not even His own uniquely qualified, virgin birthed son Jesus. Why is this?
Waiting with interest for your reply,
PS My name was changed almost 25 years ago when I accepted spiritual initiation from my Guru. About 18 years ago I accepted the renounced order of life known as sannyasa, which may not have a Christian equivalent, but is perhaps something akin to the Catholics’ Bishop. My title and name is now Swami Bhakti Kanan Giri. My friends generally refer to me as Giri Maharaj.
From: Gokulananda das
To: Swami Giri
Subject: Re: Thoughts on Christianity
Your response to your brother was truly inspiring….when will the dishonest become honest, that is the real question. For those of us (I include myself) who enjoy the “easy way out” in many matters, the day of reckoning must come. It is too cheap a thing to just say I am OK, when will I actually attain that consciousness?..that is Krishna Consciousness. Your brother suffers from the same fear and apathy as the rest of us. The difference is, connection to a guru and seva. Both of which I have attained through Your Grace, Maharaja. It is a gift I remember always. Even if my current foolish state does not allow me to acknowledge it or act on it properly.
I would be interested in seeing what lines of “thought” your brother embarked upon in his previous emails to bring you to respond as such. I assume it was the conventional mundanity of dis-connected “spirituality” that creates the background noise of this universe. Your letter was very well stated and moreover, very cutting. It brings to mind our favorite adage “those who need to hear will never listen, and those who don’t need to listen, they listen in rapt attention.” Oh, well. I guess we file it all under “Mundane Reality 101!”.
I will be back in New York on Sunday and I will call in the evening when I get home.
Please accept my dandavat pranams at Your Feet, Maharaja, and also convey them to Srimati Lila Sundari as well.