Wouldn’t it be nice if all the religions could get along? Peacemakers like to suggest an impersonal way to do it. Sometimes they even try to use the Gita to support their ideas
I spoke yesterday of well-intentioned people and their currently fashionable notions of atheism. What some thinkers are doing now – and its not really a new thing, but now they have ample reason to do it all the more – is saying something like this:
“Well, we can understand that all you spiritual and religious people still need something to believe in. But please listen to us – there is a difference between the God of Religion and the Ultimate Reality. The first is the figure you believe in, pray to, and have a kind of emotional faith in. The second is a slightly more abstract notion of a state of universal, cosmic light from where all the incarnations and saints, angels and prophets come from and into which they merge after their time with us is finished.”
They continue: “Believe in what you will, according to your local customs and culture, or just your personal choice, but please understand one thing: that ultimately God is one, neither Krishna nor Jesus, Allah nor Buddha, but simply ONE. One ineffable, inexpressible Ultimate Reality. That means that you all, in reality, believe the same thing, which means you can stop fighting with each other.”
There are very many well-meaning intellectuals and peacemakers who speak like this. I meet them everywhere, every single week of the month. What is surprising is just how many of them feel they are telling me something novel that I may not have considered before! Some of them even slow down their talking, (as an Englishman might sometimes talk to a foreigner) just so I can understand their brilliant conceptions!
They all have the same idea, however, and its based on the contrasting notions of the God of Religion and the Ultimate Reality.While the first is good for children, simple minds and emotional people, the second is for grown-ups and people who aren’t afraid to think for themselves.
Unfortunately – and really unfortunately for people who happen to meet me, because I’ve run out of patience – many people try to use the Bhagavad-gita to substantiate their arguments. Sorry, its the wrong book for trying to prove an impersonal, abstract ultimate reality.
There are many popular philosophies today that in various ways relegate Shri Krishna to a secondary, subjective feature of the Godhead; that imagine Him to be a personal manifestation of a higher impersonal supreme.
The corollary of these philosophies is that we as spiritual souls will one day, at the moment of our freedom from spiritual ignorance, realise that individuality does not exist and merge with that formless Divine.
Whilst there is certainly scope for these lines of thought to be accommodated within the entire range of Vedic philosophical systems they are not substantiated by the most widely read scripture: the Bhagavad-gita. The Bhagavad-gita, or ‘Song of God,’ has been acknowledged and annotated by the greatest minds of India for thousands of years. Its 700 verses explain Vedanta philosophy and the conclusion of all Vedanta: devotional surrender of the individual soul to a personal God.
That this is the inner meaning of the Gita and that the Supreme is neither an impersonal energy nor a nihilistic void is amply and clearly evidenced by many verses.
There is no objection if anyone wishes to hold tight to an ultimately impersonal conception and makes that the goal of their spiritual life. Yet if the holder of that conception wishes to substantiate their view with verses from the Gita, there must be a reply from those who know the simple and clear essence of the text.
What follows are verses wherein Sri Krishna, the speaker of the Gita, clearly explains his actual identity and purpose, and the nature of the individual spiritual soul.
Readers may like to inspect the original Sanskrit of these verses and see for themselves that an impersonal conception of Godhead, a conception of a divine one-ness as the Ultimate Reality, can not be proven from the Bhagavad-gita.
2.12 – The eternal individuality of the soul.
2.23-24 – The soul or spirit cannot be cut
4.1 – Krishna declares his pre-existence
4.6 – Krishna says that he is unborn and that his form within the world is transcendental
4.9 – That one who knows the true nature of his divine form will not take birth again
5.29 – He further indicates the spiritual attainment of those who know him
6.30 – That he is all-pervading and that those who know this will never be lost
7.5 – That the souls are his separated energy, and that matter is also
7.7 – That there is no Truth superior to him
7.19 – That those holding to the impersonal conception will attain him after many births
9.4 – That the unmanifested form is a subjective part of him.
9.11 – Those who think his body is temporary and material are foolish
10.8 – That everything material and spiritual emanates from him.
12.2 – Those who fix their minds on his form are most perfect
12.5 – Yet those who meditate on his impersonal form will always have troubles.
14.27 – The impersonal Brahman rests on him, not that he rests on it.
15.7 – Souls are the eternal, fragmental parts of God
18.54 – One who reaches Brahman will reach devotional service to God
18.55 – Devotion is the path to fully understand God
18.66 – All other paths are ultimately to be abandoned in favour of devotional surrender