Religion and Philosophy

Dec 4 2009 - Krishna Talk 100

Master and Servant Re-li-gion:
The belief in, and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. 

The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence. 

From time immemorial the human race has acknowledged some form of higher presence or being than themselves. Clans, tribes or individuals all had their own idea. Some believe in a particular God, personalized or not. Some people follow nature. Others ascribe to the moon, the sun, the stars, or other things unseen. There were no organized religions, and no philosophy put down in books. No particular countries or large societies defining it. 

Today there is an estimated 6 billion, 790 million and 62 thousand inhabitants on planet earth, and over 80 known religions. Including major world religions, numerous factions, subsets and offshoots, there’s organized, unorganized and individual concepts, religion by country, and even society. There are countless books, texts and the internet expounding various views on theology. 

By the numbers alone, Christianity has the largest number of documented followers at about 2.1 billion, with Islam taking second place with 1.5 billion. General Hinduism  (including Vaisnavism) is next with about 900 million, and the list goes on. 

The latin phrase ‘vox populi vox dei’ or “The voice of the people is the voice of God” could be applied by the less intelligent to believe that what is most followed, is correct. But popular opinion is not always the right one. In truth the phrase is only accurate when reversed. “The voice of God is the voice of the people.” So where did it go wrong?

Historically speaking, mankind seems to have a driving need to create some form of theology for themselves or others, even if it doesn’t validly exist. Many religions have sprung up as a result of society or politics, others borrowed ideas and themes from religion before them and modified it to suit themselves. 

Srila Prabhupada states in the purport of Srimad Bhagavatam 3.9.10: 

"Not only in this age, but formerly also, there were many sages who tried to invent their own systems of religion without reference to devotional service to the Supreme Lord, but there cannot be any religious principle without devotional service to the Lord. The Supreme Lord is the leader of the entire range of living entities, and no one can be equal to or greater than Him. Therefore there cannot be any religion or system of genuine philosophy for the advancement of the living entities without the principle of devotional service."

As we can see, this unfortunate practice has been going on for a very long time, and it is no different in today’s world. Its an odd thing to believe you can create spirituality by your own effort. Whether due to ignorance or arrogance, its bound to fail, for the reasons given above. It simply can’t be done. You can’t give what you don’t have, and following such a idea, you can’t receive what isn’t there in the first place.

Still, valid or not, we are driven to seek out matters of God in some way or the other. Its inescapable. It lies dormant within the hearts of all living entities. 

"The Lord is also described here as sad-dharma-vidam varistham. This indicates that of all transcendental occupations the best occupation is eternal loving service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Dharma is sometimes translated as ‘religion’, but that is not exactly the meaning. Dharma actually means, 'That which one cannot give up, that which is inseparable from oneself.' Similarly, sad-dharma means ‘eternal occupation’. That eternal occupation is engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord." (Bhag. 6.3.19 Purport)

Also, A 19th century thinker, Leo Tolstoy said: 

"The essence of any religion lies solely in the answer to the question: 'why do I exist, and what is my relationship to the infinite universe that surrounds me? ' It is as impossible for there to be a person with no religion (i.e. without any kind of relationship to the world) as it is for there to be a person without a heart. He may not know that he has a religion, just as a person may not know that he has a heart, but it is no more possible for a person to exist without a religion than without a heart." (Leo Tolstoy, 1879)

As Tolstoy accurately stated, everyone has a position on god, even if they don’t know it. Even atheists, in claiming there is no God, are taking a stance on the matter. Speaking in more modern terms, everyone likes to have a form of what they consider mysticism, spirituality or ‘way of life’.  In general, It makes them feel comfortable, or that they have that part of their life covered. 

You can ask followers of various faiths as to what the purpose of life is, and they might tell you its to serve God. But even if they do its a much finer point as to how to serve God. The main query lies within foundation and concept. The problem with all man-made religions is that its start is mortal speculation, not divine descent. And a large part was, or even still is a mixture of population control, politics, or self interest. They prefer to take from God rather than give. As if He is an omniscient Santa Claus or gift dispenser from the sky. They do not seek to really serve, but to use or exploit. 

It is true there are sincere personages in such places, yet they believe at best, a partial truth. And while their spirit can be admired at times, their substance cannot. Aspects are appreciated, but in the end dismissed. This is simply because, upon examination the principles and concepts presented in such varied religions are flawed, incomplete, or contradictory. Its true there are gradations to everything, even within say, the genuine Vedic schools of thought such as Ramanuja, Madhva or Sankara. They are all valid, but still only one is the highest. 

Further proof lies within the histories of these religions, and the lives of the people who follow them. Most are filled with many sordid matters of extreme violence, cruelty, hypocrisy and mass exploitation. It is difficult to trace the actual spiritual matter within them, as there is so little of it to begin with. To be fair, there were and are a number of people who are pious and sincere, but that only goes so far when you have an incomplete theology.  

Srila Prabhupada says in the Bhagavad-gita:

"Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation." (Gita 3.3 purport) 

Srila Prabhupada continues: 

"That philosophy which does not answer the ultimate questions—What is the Absolute Truth? What is God?—is useless. Religion and philosophy should be combined so that we can scientifically understand who is God, what is our relationship with God, what is our duty toward God."

Unless you pay close attention to what you are following, after a point it can become convoluted. Religion a mere rule. Philosophy a speculation. Just a label with no substance. People want to ‘see’ or ‘feel’ God with their senses. Yet nothing mundane can reveal the spiritual. One must learn to see and feel with their hearts, and their faith.

Srila Prabhupada concludes:

“This science has to be studied, it has to be practiced, and it has to be realized.”

The material can never give rise to the spiritual. Most religions around the globe today consist of a person or person's concocted views about how God is, or should be. This is not descending from the Lord, but they are trying to ascend themselves. As such they are not to be taken as genuine, and should be rejected. 

Krsna consciousness has come from the Lord himself, and passed on through an authorized disciplic succession through the ages. The philosophy was never conjured. It was received, realized, and given to the next generation. Not only the most verified, it stands as the most complete conception of Godhead ever to exist. It never falters in the face of any theological opposition. 

This is why Krsna consciousness is far beyond anything originating in the finite realm. It is the essence of all lives, and all ways of living. It is absolute. And the Absolute has no right or wrong. It is as it is. The soul is life and everything else is dead matter. Thus Krsna consciousness is not a ‘religion’. Its more than a way of life. It is life itself. Executing loving devotional service is the single fulfilling factor to all individual souls, and the only path to achieving true love of Godhead.