This is a very interesting lecture about the sociology of religions, how spiritual messages vary according to time and place while the goal remains the same and about the challenge to present the message of Krsna Consciousness in an appropriate and intelligent way today. Therefore it is important to find objective and reasonable principles to evaluate religion.
Migration of religions: When people express their devotion or beliefs they wear certain clothes and there are certain ceremonies. That is how human beings are wired. We expect certain ceremonies or behavior and we become attached to a certain way of doing things. People need to ritualistically ceremonize and punctualize their beliefs. Every organized group has a certain jargon because they have a unique reality – certain music, literature, protocol and etiquette. When a religion migrates is comes in a certain package, e.g. Christian missionaries in India. There was a time in Kerala before Western clothing was wide-spread where those Christian Indians wore suit and tie which was called “Christian dress”. They identified it with the religion where the missionaries came from. This is psychologically very interesting. In our movement when women wear saris sometimes they feel more devotional. We even call it devotional dress. In India a sari is not a religious dress, but because it comes from India it become a religious dress. And it goes deeper; it is not just dress and cuisines. People express themselves in literature.
Recently the polygamy was in the newspaper. It is practiced by a Mormon community in Texas. The adults dress like Americans in the mid 19th century.
Srila Prabhupda wrote his books in the 50ties, 60ties and until he died. His language was a Victorian English which become a religious language for certain people because it is the language of the founder. Or certain genres like the Bhagavatam (epic narrative) are presented to communicate with people hundreds of years ago. There were arguments which we may find weak but were very convincing then and we may have arguments which they would find don’t proof anything. So the issue is how to translate these texts into concepts and presentations which make sense to people today. If you take a body of wisdom which is true spiritual (and universal because we are all souls) a particular revelation may not be suiting for all of us, because we have competing religious claims which may be true. Different people many have different spiritual needs and capacities. There are different categories of statement, eg. in the Bible there is a section where it is explained in detail how to treat your camel. So the sacred rule how to treat camels may not apply to us. Or in the Vedic literature there is the concept of yugas, planetary ages like seasons.
So there are different religious processes which are appropriate in different times and places. The goal is the same, but it may vary how to get there.
Taking the spiritual knowledge of Krsna and trying to present it so that it unleashes its power is a great cultural and intellectual challenge. We really have to make clear to people what it is. People do things because it is in their rational self-interest. It has to make sense.
Another handicap is the checkered religion on this planet. Religious history in Germany and other countries in so bloody and horrific that people are traumatized by it (crusades, inquisition and witch-burning). People don’t want to talk about it. We are left with the aftermath of certain “attitudes”, which can be called posttraumatic religious disorders (PTRD).
It has become common to characterize someone’s belief to be evil based on dogma, not for moral behavior. (In Brasil there was a cult where babies were offered to the ocean goddess and drowned – which can be judged on moral grounds).
Our only two options are not only the two extremes: “if it is your religion and it makes you happy”-line and the fanatic “I have the only true religion” which is irrational exclusivism and not based on qualities. One is the irrational acceptance of every form of religion and the other is the dogmatic claim as opposed to a philosophical claim.
We need objective principles which are reasonable, beneficial and true. The battle cry of the 60ties was not to legislate morality. The same people who didn’t want sexual restrictions were demanding from Washington human rights legislation. The moment you do something that affects other people it becomes a public act which generally is regulated by the public. Therefore reproduction is not entirely a private act.
There is not a single law which is not a legislation of morality: The law against murder, thievery, rape … (even security versus freedom are metaphysical values). If you say we have a right to do something that is also legislating. So there have to be reasonable principles.
In the teachings of Jesus salvation is not a doctrinal requirement, but depends on being a good person. Jesus was involved in debating many technical and legal arguments about following certain given rules (like stoning). He accepted only two rules: To love God with all your heart and might and to love your neighbor as yourself. The historical Jesus was actually teaching a reasonable, objective path .He says nothing about believing a doctrine. That came only later.
From Q &A:
Personal question to H.D. Goswami why he is following this path:
A: I was looking systematically for a way to elevate my consciousness. What really works is the best. There are basically two alternatives: monism and dualism. (like in Judaism where you cannot even pronounce the name of God and fall short of worshipping Him). In Krsna Consciousness we understand that we are all one spiritually but at the same time are free individuals. There is perfect intimacy, harmony and eternal freedom. When you are serious about something you want a discipline and exercise, a challenge. In Krsna Consciousness there is discipline and commitment.
–We should want to know for us what is beneficial and have a good heart. We should care about someone as a whole not just curing the immediate problem. Why are people in this material world, what is the real problem? Why are we dying if there is a God? We need that knowledge that can benefit ourselves and others.
–John (Book of John) sacrifices historical accuracies in order to make theological points. There Jesus talks in Greek (a language which he never spoke) and plays with words. John wants to make the point that the father had to kill his someone for the sins of the people. So instead of killing the sinful sons he killed his good son. John is also the only one who claims Jesus made the statement “No one can come to the father than through me”. The followers of Jesus came up with a new doctrine, the Holy Spirit. Even in ancient times the Book of John was not considered to be a historical work but to support a religious doctrine. Only here we find the fanatical views. Jesus didn’t preach that, he was not a religious fanatic. The most dramatic change was to belief a particular doctrine and that one can go to hell forever (for mental crimes). Jesus didn’t teach that.
–There is a connection between the atrocities that have been committed by fanatics and their doctrine. Therefore today civilization is suffering from PTSD, of which hypersensitivity is a symptom.