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Re: Relating to Non-Vedic Religions - What is our stand ?

From: Krishna Susarla (krishna_at_tumora.swmed.edu)
Date: Sat Jan 08 2000 - 07:15:09 PST

From: Rajaram Venkataramani <rajav@hclt.com>
> Sages in Naimisaranya ask Suta Goswami about "What is a bonafide religion"
> Suta Goswami answers by saying "Any religion that cultivates unadulterated
> love of the Supreme Lord is bonafide".

This is not exactly correct. What the sages ask is as follows:

tatra traa~njasayuShman bhavataa yad vinishchitam |
pu.msaam ekaantataH shreyas tan naH sha.msitum arhasi || bhaa 1.1.9 ||

Please, therefore, being blessed with many years, explain to us, in an
easily understandable way, what you have ascertained to be the absolute and
ultimate good for the people in general (bhaagavata puraaNa 1.1.9).

bhuuriiNi bhuurikarmaaNi shrotavyaani vibhaagashaH |
ataH saadho'tra yat saara.m samuddhR^itya maniiShayaa |
bruuhi bhadraaya bhuutaanaam yenaatmaa suprasiidati || bhaa 1.1.11 ||

There are many varieties of scriptures, and in all of them there are many
prescribed duties, which can be learned only after many years of study in
their various divisions. Therefore, O sage, please select the essence of all
these scriptures and explain it for the good of all living beings, that by
such instruction their hearts may be fully satisfied (bhaagavata puraaNa
1.1.11).

and then Suuta responds as follows:

munayaH saadhu pR^iShTo'ham bhavadbhir lokama.ngalam |
yat kR^itaH kR^iShNasamprashno yenaatmaa suprasiidati || bhaa 1.2.5 ||

O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy
because they relate to Lord Krishna and so are of relevance to the world's
welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying
the self (bhaagavata puraaNa 1.2.5).

The actual fact is a little different, as I am sure you can see. The sages
don't ask for the characteristics of genuine religion. They simply ask for
the ultimate good of all men and the essence of all Vedic scriptures (which
might not be understood properly given that they speak of many dharmas, and
people in Kali Yuga in general are not intelligent enough to grasp their
meaning). And Suuta does not speak of God in any abstract way - he
specifically mentions Lord Krishna. There is nothing here to indicate that
any other non-Vedic concept of God is being entertained. Therefore, the
evidence does not support the idea that Suuta is speaking in a general way
about any
religion, or that he is suggesting that any religion which teaches love of
its concept of God is also bona fide. There is no evidence in the
Bhaagavatam as far as I know that any religion other than sanaatana-dharma
is considered bona fide.

> In that sense, pure form of Christianity or Islam are definitely bonafide
> because they preach love of God.

Whether they teach love or not is questionable - is it really love to be
taught that one should worship someone in order to avoid being thrown into
hell? And are they really teaching love of God? Shriiman Naaraayana is God.
There can be no other supreme God. Given that, and assuming the historical
truth behind such non Vedic scriptures as say, Exodus, are we really
prepared to accept that it was in fact Shriiman Naaraayana who is the God
being referred to in them? Are we prepared to accept that it was Shriiman
Naaraayan who told the Hebrews that they were His chosen people, and who
caused all kinds of suffering to the Egyptians, and who told His people that
"thou shalt have no other gods before me... for I the Lord am a jealous
God...." etc? I suppose it is possible, but personally, I reserve the right
to be skeptical. The kinds of
statements and actions attributed to God by some of these non-Vedic
scriptures don't seem in character with Him as He is revealed to us in the
Bhaagavatam.

From: <Mrgerald@aol.com>
> Here is the ISKCON list of interreligious books:
>
> Steven Rosen (Satyaraja)
> + East West Dialogues (Christianity related)
> +Om Shalom (Jewish related)

I have experience with these two books, having read them cover to cover.
While I think Satyaraja's writings are thought provoking, it's pretty clear
that the books don't prove in a scholarly way what he wants to prove - that
the other religions are ultimately leading to the same Supreme Lord that our
Vedas speak of. Again, I think that if one starts with the assumption that
the supreme goal of all the religions is the same, it might be possible to
manipulate the evidence in such a way as to show this. But from a scholarly
point of view, that is, one based on shaastric pramaanams, I don't see why
one necessarily would be constrained to start with this assumption, however
appealing it might be to our sentiments.