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“A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION”
Krishna Consciousness and the Judeo-Christian Tradition
A Guide to Interfaith Discussion
"We Adore Lord Jesus Christ"
According to Srila Prabhupada, "Jesus Christ was a guru." He explains: "...any bona fide preacher of God consciousness must have the qualities of titiksha (tolerance) and karuna (compassion). In the character of Lord Jesus Christ we find both these qualities. He was so tolerant that even while he was being crucified, he didn’t condemn anyone. And he was so compassionate that he prayed to God to forgive the very persons who were trying to kill him...As Christ was being crucified he prayed, ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.’
"Jesus Christ was such a great personality—the son of God, the representative of God. He had no fault. Still, he was crucified. He wanted to deliver God consciousness, but in return they crucified him—they were so thankless. They could not appreciate his preaching. But we appreciate him and give him all honor as the representative of God. Of course, the message that Christ preached was just according to his particular time, place, and country, and just suited for a particular group of people. But certainly he is the representative of God. Therefore, we adore Lord Jesus Christ and offer our obeisances to him.
"Once in Melbourne, a group of Christian ministers came to visit me. They asked, ‘What is your idea of Jesus Christ?’ I told them, ‘He is our guru. He is preaching God consciousness, so he is our spiritual master.’ The ministers very much appreciated that."
In The Path of Perfection, Srila Prabhupada describes the Vaishnava understanding of Christ and Christianity in greater detail:
"Bhakti-yoga means connecting ourselves with Krishna, God, and becoming His eternal associates. Bhakti-yoga cannot be applied to any other objective; therefore in Buddhism, for instance, there is no bhakti-yoga, because they do not recognize the Supreme Lord existing as the supreme objective. Christians, however, practice bhakti-yoga when they worship Jesus Christ, because they are accepting him as the son of God and are therefore accepting God. Unless one accepts God, there is no question of bhakti-yoga. Christianity, therefore, is also a form of Vaishnavaism, because God is recognized... However, where there is no recognition of a personal God...there is no question of bhakti-yoga."
Rohininandana dasa describes how he came to Krishna Consciousness: "While I was visiting Edinburgh at the time of the Arts Festival in 1970, a friend remarked to me, ‘There are some unusual people living just a few streets away. They shave their heads and wear robes, and they’re very poor. They’re some kind of monks. And whatever food they have they share with anyone who goes to their place.’ I was both awed and attracted just by hearing about these people, and I thought of my own miserly, anxious existence. Inside I wished that I was like them.
"...I began searching for a teacher, a perfect Christian. Apart from Jesus, I had no faith in any ‘holy man.’ Jesus was my model, my hero...So I used to visit St. Paul’s cathedral and stand for long periods in front of a painting of Lord Jesus that hung above one of the side aisles. I felt the Lord’s presence here more than anywhere else. ‘I am the light of the world, standing at the door of your heart. If you hear my call and answer me, allowing me in, we can exchange love with each another.’ The kindness of Jesus touched my heart, and I felt I must follow him...
"Lord Jesus had kindly given me a glimpse of his glory, but now I knew I needed training, practice in being a proper Christian. Yet who would teach me? I prayed,, ‘My dear Lord Jesus, please guide me to someone who perfectly practices your teachings..."
Upon hearing Srila Prabhupada lecture, Rohininandana dasa was "amazed that what Prabhupada was saying made so much sense. He explained that there is a distinct difference between matter and spirit; that the soul within remains constant throughout the many changes of the body and therefore is unaffected by death; that there is a common spiritual goal for all humanity, the absence of which renders human life ultimately meaningless, and that when there are no higher principles for people to strive toward, the entire society eventually becomes pandemonium. As he expounded further, he cleared all of my doubts in such a simple and pure way that I began to realize, ‘Here is the person who is going to train me in spiritual life. Here is that perfect Christian I’ve been looking for.’"
Krishna Consciousness is gradually expanding beyond monastic life. In 1982, an ISKCON leader said: "Our long term plan is to develop a congregation...We see now that a person who shows little interest may have to be cultivated a whole lifetime before he becomes a member. We have that broadness of vision now. So in the core you have full-time devotees who maintain the four regs (vows), and chant sixteen rounds. Then, expanding out, you have lesser degrees of commitment and involvement, and our preaching should be aimed all the way out...
"You have to keep your standards and preach to these people all the time, but at the same time not drive them away for not living up to them...If our movement is genuinely world-transforming, then it’s not going to happen that everyone in the whole world will join our temples and move in. It’s going to have to be a broader social movement." (E.B. Rochford, Jr., Hare Krishna in America, p. 261)
The Vaishnava tradition in America may be called liberal in terms of evangelism and outreach, but conservative with its literal interpretation of scripture and its emphasis on obedience to holy traditions and religious authorities. Christians and Vaishnavas will find interfaith discussions useful in understanding each other, and in better understanding their own respective traditions.
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19 - Bibliography
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