The Hare Krishna Movement, which has re-named itself The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), considers itself to be the modern core of Hinduism. Although Krishna lived over 5000 years ago, ISKCON today follows the teachings of Chaitanya who was born in Bengal in 1486 and who popularized the movement all over India. He is part of a lineage of successive disciples who, variously, taught the worship of Krishna, or the goddess Lakshmi or Rudra (referring to the god Shiva). Its principal scriptures were The Bhagavad-Geeta (The Song of God) and the Shrimad Bhagavatam (the story of the Personality of Godhead Shri Krishna Bhagavan).
Interestingly, ISKCON teaches that Absolute Truth is contained in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in the world. Other key ISKCON beliefs are: (i) belief in one God. (ii) the doctrine of Advaita (non-dualism) – that our souls are part and parcel of God (iii) The love of God should be practised by chanting the holy names of the Lord, most easily done by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”. (iv) the essence of the Vedas is found in the Bhagavad-gita, a literal record of Krishna’s words which was first put into writing about 5000 years ago.
Evidently implicit in the synopsis of the ISKCON beliefs summarised above is the notion that God reincarnates into human form (the belief that God came to earth 5000 years ago in the personage of Krishna). Svami Dayanand Sarasvati tests this idea: Does God incarnate or not?, in his book Satyarth Prakash (‘Light of Truth’). In Chapter VII of this great book, titled God and the Vedas, his answer is an unqualified No because:
It is stated in the Yajur Veda: “He is unborn.”…. He overspreads all…. He is pure, is never born and never takes on a human form.” It is clear from these quotations from the Vedas that God was, and never is, born.
He then addresses the question: ‘But Krishna says in the Gita, “Whenever there is decay of virtue, I take on a human form.” GEETA (4: 7) What is your answer to that? “
Dayanand response is: Being opposed to the Veda, the Geeta cannot be held to be authoritative (ISKCON seems to agree with Dayanand on this view of the Vedas because one of its core principles is the statement “the Absolute Truth is contained in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in the world”).
Dayanand goes on to suggest:“ It is possible that Krishna, being very virtuous and keen to further the cause of righteousness, might have wished to be born again and again, at different times, to protect the good and punish the wicked. If such was the case then it was harmless because whatever the good and the great possess – their wealth, their bodies and even their heart is at the service of humanity. Nevertheless, Krishna could never be God.
Dayanand, further, answers the question “Why do people then believe in the twenty-four incarnations of God?” with the following reasons: (i) a lack of knowledge of the Vedas (ii) such people have been led astray by sectarian ideologies and (iii) uneducated people are susceptible to ignorance, which is why they hold and propagate such false beliefs.
He then goes on to reject the objection that `God reincarnates into human form to destroy the wicked (as Raama did with Raavana)’ by asserting: “God – without being incarnated – not only has created this world, but is sustaining it and can dissolve it into its component elements. By being Omnipresent, God also pervaded the bodies of men like Kansa and Raavana and could have, at His will, cut off their vital life energy so instantly killing them. Only a fool would argue that the Supreme Spirit – possessed of Infinite Power, attributes and activity – needs to take on human form, to become subject to births and deaths, to kill an insignificant creature.”
Next Dayanand addresses another theoretical objection: “That God incarnates for the salvation of his devotees cannot be true, for, if those devotees conduct themselves according to His Law, He has the power to save them. Is the destruction of a Kansa or a Raavana…. even more difficult than the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the sun, the moon and the earth and other planets? Whoever reflects upon such acts of God cannot deny that there is no one like Him, nor shall ever be.”….”The reincarnation of God based on the idea that space entered a womb can never be true, because both space and God – being Infinite and Omnipresent – can neither enter nor exit. God’s leaving or entering could be possible only if it was the case that places exist where He is not present. But God was already present in (such a) womb as well as being outwith of it, so how can it be held that He went into and then came out of it?! It defies intelligent reasoning to believe in and say such things about God?” Dayanand concludes: it should so be understood that Christ and others also were not incarnations of God; they were all men.
How did God reveal the Vedas, and who to? Dayanand cites the SHATHAPATHA BRAHMAN 11: 4,2.3 for an answer: In the beginning, God revealed the four Vedas, Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva, to Agni, Vayu, Aaditya and Angira, respectively.”
He proffers the reason that at the beginning of the creation of humanity, ‘those four alone were the purest of all and so, God revealed the Vedas into their souls.
Q.What evidence proves that the Veda in Sanskrit is of Divine origin and not the work of man?
The scripture in which God is described as Holy, Omniscient, Pure in nature, character and attributes, Just, Merciful etc.; which in no way opposes the laws of nature, reason, the evidence of direct cognition, etc. nor the teachings of the highly learned altruistic teachers of humanity (A’ptas), and the intuition of pure souls, and in which the laws of science, attributes of matter and the soul are propounded as they are to be inferred from the order of nature as fixed by God is the book of Divine revelation. Only the Vedas fulfil all the above conditions, hence they are the revealed books and not books, like the Bible and the Q’uran.
[i)Dayanand critiques the Bible and Koran in chapters 13 and 14 of his book. (ii) It will also be seen from the preceding paragraph that the Geeta does not fulfil these criteria either – though it undoubtedly contains much wisdom of great beauty its brevity – in contrast to the 20,000 mantras in the Vedas – is clear proof that it is signally not a comprehensive and complete scripture of God’s Word or Law.]
Dayanand then discusses another objection, namely: “There is no necessity for the Veda to be revealed by God because mankind ca, over time, incrementally deduce all knowledge.” [Built into this query is the notion that Krishna – an incredibly wise and learned man – intuited all Vedic knowledge and summarised it into the Geeta.”]. Dayanand rejects this as follows:
“No, man cannot do that, because there can be no effect without a cause. For example, do uncivilised tribes ever become enlightened autonomously without being instructed by others? That is also true of men in civilized communities; they also need to be taught in order to become educated. Similarly, had God communicated the knowledge of the Veda to the earliest sages, and had they not, in turn, taught other men all mankind would have remained ignorant. If a newborn child is removed from his parents and kept in isolation and cared for by illiterate people or animals, he would develop into an ignorant and illiterate adult. [The tale of Tarzan vindicates this reasoning.]
Dayanand goes on to assert that “the people of Egypt, Greece, or the Continent of Europe were devoid of learning before knowledge spread to them from India. In the same way, before Columbus and other Europeans went to America, the natives there had been without any learning for hundreds and thousands of years. However, some of them have now become enlightened after receiving education from the Europeans.” Dayanand then quote the classical work of philosophy – Yoga Shastra written by Patanjli – that, analogously: “Just, as today we have become enlightened only after being taught by our teachers, likewise were – at the beginning of the world – Agni and the other three Rishis (sages) taught by the greatest of all teachers – God.” YOGA SHASTRA SAMADHI, 26.
This article exposes the reasons why certain ISKCON’s beliefs are erroneous, contradictory or false, particularly as reiterated below:
- Monotheism is incompatible with a belief in deities such as Rudra, Laxmi, Rudra, Shiva and Krishna.
- The fallacies in one of its main books – the Bhaghavad Puraana which also greatly traduced Krishna, the man.
- The Geeta cannot be the Word of God – it is a book written by Krishna’s disciples to quote a great rallying speech he gave in the heat of battle to motivate Arjuna. It defies belief that 20000 mantras of the four books of the Vedas could have been compressed into one motivational speech during a lull in a war; clearly the original words of the great man that Krishna was have since been edited by poetic licence – that such a great practitioner of the Vedic Dharma would have suffered a fit of megalomania to the extent of usurping God is surely nonsensical?
- Krishna undoubtedly was probably the greatest man to come out of India since the Mahabharata period 5000 years ago. However, over time his admirers seem to have not only elevated him to the status of God but also have replaced the conventional key names of God (as derived from the Vedas such as Eeshvar, Bhagvaan, Brahma and Aum in particular) with his name! Each Veda mantra, conventionally, begins with His name Aum e.g. Aum, bhuur, bhuvaha, svaha…Fortunately, ISCKON does not seen to have gone as far as using the word Krishna instead of Aum in this context (because such a step would, in one fell swoop, destroy the exact scientific prosody of the verses of the Veda).
- Elsewhere in his book, Dayanand asserts that “the account of the life of Krishna, as given in the Mahabharata, is true; that Krishna’s nature, attributes, character and conduct are all those of an apta (an altruistic, wide and saintly leader); there is no mention in that epic stating that he committed any sinful act during his whole life. But the author of the Bhagavatam has falsely attributed numerous vices and sinful practices, such as: the theft of milk, curd, and butter, adultery with a female servant called Kubja, flirtation with other people’s wives in the Ras mandal and so on. On the basis of this (false) account of Krishna’s life, the followers of other religions criticise him; had there been no Bhagvat, great men like Krishna would not have been wrongly lowered in the estimation of the world.
- It must be asked of ISKCON, somewhat rhetorically, why Lord Rama’s position, nowadays, seems to have been relegated to insignificance?