Christ and Krishna
These are many similarities in the essence of Christianity and Krishna consciousness. The reason is quite obvious – they are both paths to the same goal– God consciousness. It is impractical to think that God would restrict Himself to only a certain group of people based on their birth or on sectarian divisions. God is universal, He cannot be limited by rituals or personal beliefs. He manifests Himself in ways and forms most receptive to the persons, based on time, place and circumstance.
Srila Prabhupada was once asked by a group of Christian ministers in Melbourne about his position regarding Jesus Christ. Prabhupada responded, ‘He is our Guru, He is preaching God consciousness, so he is our spiritual
master’. Describing Jesus Christ as a representative of God, Srila Prabhupada said: ‘we adore Lord Jesus Christ and offer our obeisances to him’.
In Krishna consciousness Lord Jesus is considered as the perfect son of God because he perfectly executes the will of his Father. He descended as an empowered incarnation (shaktivesha avatar), to teach by word and by
example the path to return back home, back to Godhead. He exemplified tolerance, compassion and preached surrender to God. This is also the essence of all the Vedic teachings, so it is not at all surprising that there are many similarities in the underlying philosophy.
With this perspective, it is interesting to compare some of the key, defining aspects of Christianity and Krishna consciousness.
Surrender to God
Both the religions emphasize surrender of one’s mind, body and soul to God as the only means of liberation. When Lord Jesus Christ was questioned by the Pharisees as to which was the greatest of all the commandments, He clearly replied (Matt 22.37-22.38)‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. This is the first and greatest commandment’. Similarly the entire contents of the Bhagavad Gita (BG) are summarized in the verse ‘Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me; I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.’ (BG 18.66)
In the Book of Revelations (Rev 22.5) it is said that ‘And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the Sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever’. Similarly Sri Krishna says in BG 15.6 ‘That abode of mine is not illuminated by the Sun or Moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to the material world’. Thus both scriptures talk about an eternal, indestructible abode of the Lord, illuminated by His effulgence. Once attained there is return from this eternal abode.
Incarnations of the Lord
The name of Christ reveals some thing about His character. The word Christ or ‘Christos’ is the Greek translation of the Hebraic ‘Messiah’, which means ‘the anointed one’. In the Vedic scriptures one who has thus been anointed or empowered is called an avatar (one who descends), more specifically a ‘saktivesa avatara’ - one who has been directly empowered by God to descend for a particular mission. In the Brahma Samhita (Text 46), its said ‘The light of one candle being communicated to other candles, although it burns separately in them, is the same in its quality. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda who exhibits Himself equally in the same
mobile manner in His various manifestations.’.
The name Jesus is derived from the Hebraic name Joshua or Jahveh, meaning salvation or deliverance. Jesus is so called because he saves or delivers His followers from sin. ‘And thou shall call His name Jesus: for He shall
save His people from the sins’ (Matt 1.21). Similarly, in the BG (4.7-8) Sri Krishna states that when ever and where ever there is a decline of religiosity, He personally descends to destroy evil and protect the saintly.
Chanting the Holy Name
God and His name are non-different. In the Bible it is said ‘At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under earth’ (Phil 2.10-11). Or, ‘For whosoever shall call upon
the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Romans 10.13). In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is said that ‘Living beings who are entangled in the complicated meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately by even unconsciously chanting the holy name of Krsna, which is feared by fear personified.’ (SB 1.1.14).
St. Paul (Romans 12.1) ‘I beseech you therefore brethren…that ye present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’. In BG 18.65 Sri Krishna says that ‘Always think
of me, become my devotee, offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are my dear friend’.
John 1.1 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ John 8.28 ‘When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then ye shall know that I am he, and that I do nothing for myself; but as my Father has taught Me, I speak these things’. John 5.18 ‘The son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do’. Similarly, all the Vedic scriptures state that the ‘sabda’ or ‘word’ of God, heard from a transparent media of the Guru or spiritual master is only way to make spiritual advancements. Bhagavad Gita (4.34), Sri Krishna enjoins that the 'self-realized soul can impart knowledge because he has seen the truth'.
The Mukunda Upanishad (1.2.12) states that a sincere student has to approach an ideal guru to receive transcendental knowledge and enlightenment.
Duality of God and living entity
John (14.28) ‘I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I’ In BG 15.7 Sri Krishna says that the ‘the living entities in this material world are my eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life they are struggling very hard with their six senses which include the mind’. So in both philosophies there is a clear distinction made between God and the living entity.
Equality of all living entities
In Genesis 1.25 it is said that ‘And God made the beast of the Earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the Earth after his kind; and God saw that it was good’. In the BG 14.4,
Sri Krishna says that ‘It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and I am the seed giving father’.
In Gal. 6.7 it is said ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’. In Exodus 20.5 it is said that ‘For I the Lord, thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me’. In Numbers 32.23 it is said ‘Be sure your sins will find you out’. In Genesis 3.19 it is said ‘Dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return’. The Bhagavad Gita is based on the reincarnation and karmic reaction stating that while the body is impermanent, the soul never dies (2.12) and everyone is suffering or enjoying the results of past and present karmic reactions.
Both philosophies enjoin that one has to bear the results of their activities, good or bad, but surrender to God immediately absolves one of all sins. This surrender is genuine, by the heart, not just by the tongue. The meaning of forgiveness is that that once forgiven, the offensive activity is stopped. For instance Lord Jesus forgave an adulteress with the injunction ‘Go and sin no more’ (John 8.11). In Isaiah 1.18 God said ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow’. In BG 9.30-31 Sri Krishna says ‘Even if one commits the most abominable acts, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination. He quickly becomes righteous and acquires lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that my devotees never perish’.
So we see there are many similarities in the two philosophies. Religion means the laws of God. There may be difference in practices - in fact there will be differences in practices based on time, place and circumstances. In BG 17.3 Sri Krishna says that according to one’s mode of Nature one evolves a particular type of faith. The wise who understand this, pursue their paths to God consciousness, in accordance with His original instructions, without any motivated interpretations. But the essence of all bona fide religions has to be the same – God consciousness.