Christianity and Vaisnavism
Jul 01, CANADA (SUN) A three-part comparison of Vaisnava and Christian devotional principles.
Because Christianity and Vaisnavism are both personalist philosophies, they are quite similar in nature. The Vedas teach that the son is non-different from the father and similarly, Christian theology teaches that Christ, the son of God, is also God. While Christ says "I am the son of God", He never says, "I am God." This is in agreement with the acintya-bhedabheda-tattva philosophy given by Lord Caitanya, that the Lord, due to his inconceivable potencies, is simultaneously one and different. Christianity is a form of Vaisnavism because God is recognized, and Christians practice bhakti-yoga when they worship Jesus Christ because they are accepting him as the son of God and are therefore accepting God. Christ preached that the topmost relationship is a direct, personal loving relationship with the Lord.
Like the Vaisnavas, Christ was always compassionate and anxious to save humanity from suffering. Christians believe that through His crucifixion, Jesus Christ assimilated all the sinful activities of the world's people. One of the most significant differences between Christianity and Vaisnavism is that Christianity does not accept the Vedic conclusion on reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul. Christian doctrine holds that there is heaven and hell (akin to the divine and demoniac natures), but Christianity teaches that upon death of the body, the spirit soul does not return to a new earthly body. If, during his lifetime, the individual comes into relationship with God the Father through Christ the Son, then all sins are forgiven and the individual goes to Heaven. There is a process of confession and atonement, and atonement is required and must be undergone according to the gravity of one's sinful acts. According to the Vedic conclusion, however, everyone is responsible for his own sinful activities. While the spiritual master may mitigate a disciple's sins, if one continues to commit sinful acts he will reap the reaction, or karmic effect, in this lifetime or in future lifetimes.
Christ consciousness is also essentially Krsna consciousness, but at present people do not follow the rules and regulations of Christianity (the commandments of Jesus Christ), consequently they do not come to the standard of God consciousness. For example, the Bible contains the commandment "Thou shall not kill," but Christians have built the world's best slaughterhouses. This is another of the most significant practical differences between Christians, who encourage killing other living entities for food, and Vaisnavas, who follow strict standards of vegetarianism.
Jesus Christ Was a Guru
The spiritual leader of the Hare Krsna movement here recognizes Lord Jesus Christ as "the son of God, the representative of God... our guru... our spiritual master," yet he has some sharp words for those who currently claim to be Christ's followers..."
"The Srimad-Bhagavatam states that any bona fide preacher of God consciousness must have the qualities of titiksa (tolerance) and karuna (compassion). In the character of Lord Jesus Christ we find both these qualities. He was so tolerant that even while he was being crucified, he didn't condemn anyone. And he was so compassionate that he prayed to God to forgive the very persons who were trying to kill him. (Of course, they could not actually kill him. But they were thinking that he could be killed, so they were committing a great offense.) As Christ was being crucified he prayed, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing."
A preacher of God consciousness is a friend to all living beings. Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this by teaching, "Thou shalt not kill." But the Christians like to misinterpret this instruction. They think the animals have no soul, and therefore they think they can freely kill billions of innocent animals in the slaughterhouses. So although there are many persons who profess to be Christians, it would be very difficult to find one who strictly follows the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ.
A Vaisnava is unhappy to see the suffering of others. Therefore, Lord Jesus Christ agreed to be crucified--to free others from their suffering. But his followers are so unfaithful that they have decided, "Let Christ suffer for us, and we'll go on committing sin." They love Christ so much that they think, "My dear Christ, we are very weak. We cannot give up our sinful activities. So you please suffer for us."
Jesus Christ taught, "Thou shalt not kill." But his followers have now decided, "Let us kill anyway," and they open big, modern, scientific slaughterhouses. "If there is any sin, Christ will suffer for us." This is a most abominable conclusion.
Christ can take the sufferings for the previous sins of his devotees. But first they have to be sane: "Why should I put Jesus Christ into suffering for my sins? Let me stop my sinful activities."
Suppose a man--the favorite son of his father--commits a murder. And suppose he thinks, "If there is any punishment coming, my father can suffer for me." Will the law allow it? When the murderer is arrested and says, "No, no. You can release me and arrest my father; I am his pet son," will the police officials comply with that fool's request? He committed the murder, but he thinks his father should suffer the punishment! Is that a sane proposal? "No. You have committed the murder; you must be hanged." Similarly, when you commit sinful activities, you must suffer--not Jesus Christ. This is God's law.
Jesus Christ was such a great personality--the son of God, the representative of God. He had no fault. Still, he was crucified. He wanted to deliver God consciousness, but in return they crucified him--they were so thankless. They could not appreciate his preaching. But we appreciate him and give him all honor as the representative of God.
Of course, the message that Christ preached was just according to his particular time, place, and country, and just suited for a particular group of people. But certainly he is the representative of God. Therefore we adore Lord Jesus Christ and offer our obeisances to him.
Once, in Melbourne, a group of Christian ministers came to visit me. They asked, "What is your idea of Jesus Christ?" I told them, "He is our guru. He is preaching God consciousness, so he is our spiritual master." The ministers very much appreciated that.
Actually, anyone who is preaching God's glories must be accepted as a guru. Jesus Christ is one such great personality. We should not think of him as an ordinary human being. The scriptures say that anyone who considers the spiritual master to be an ordinary man has a hellish mentality. If Jesus Christ were an ordinary man, then he could not have delivered God consciousness."
Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 4
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.