Saturday, January 17, 2015

Controversial Movie PK Religious Questions Answered!

The recent Bollywood movie PK raised some questions on religious customs and traditional practices. In no time controversy erupted and many groups protested against it for hurting their religious sentiments. In the film, the character of Aamir Khan is portrayed by Rajkumar Hirani as an innocent alien trying for answers to religious practices of this world. However, far from trying and getting the right answers, the film labels all questions as ‘wrong numbers’. Of course, there are ‘wrong numbers’ – superstitions & malpractices, but that does not warrant condemning true religion/practices as bogus. Therefore, this is an attempt to shed the light of truth, based on the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, the Founder- Acharya of ISKCON, upon these questions. Comments are welcome. 

Do only people who are afraid go to temple?

Jo darta hai woh mandir jata hai – is this true?

Fear due to some impending danger or difficulty may be a reason for someone to go to a temple. And they do get relief when they pray to God for protection. But that is not the only reason why someone may go to a temple.

Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita that four kinds of people approach God (Ch. 7 Verse 16):

One who is distressed & wants relief from the suffering 

One who wants material benefits 
One who is inquisitive about God
One who is in knowledge about God
So, all persons going to the temple are not afraid; there are people who have proper knowledge of God and temple. They go to a temple because they know the purpose of a temple – spiritual advancement. Those who do not know this purpose should find out such saintly persons who have proper knowledge and try to understand from them.

Is religion a business run by godmen to exploit people’s fear?

True religion is not a business. Srimad Bhagavatam distinguishes between real dharma and kaitava dharma (cheating religion). Real religion is propounded by those saintly people who are not envious of anyone. But there are many cheaters who take advantage of the ignorance of the masses and exploit their religious sentiments by propagating some cheating religion. The author of Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Vyasadeva, affirms that by reading Bhagavatam one will be able to distinguish between real religion and cheating religions. When one understands and follows the real religion, he is relieved from all distress and his life is filled with auspiciousness.

Is religion made by man or by God?

Real religion is made by God. dharmam tu saksat bhagavat pranitam: The codes of religion are given by the Supreme Lord and the purpose of religion is to develop love for God. But, as stated above, many godmen take advantage of the religious sentiment of the common people and make their own concocted religion which is not real. Many of the superstitious beliefs stem from such concocted religion. One should approach a bonafide spiritual master and try to understand spiritual subject matter from him. How do we recognize a bonafide spiritual master? Scriptures say that a bonafide spiritual master should come in the disciplic succession descending directly from Krishna. The words of the bonafide spiritual master act as guiding light for people suffering in the darkness of ignorance. When we hear from such a person, we will be able to understand the real purpose of religion.

How can worshiping a cow get someone a job?

Worship of the cow is not meant for getting such benefit. We worship the cow because she is considered our mother. She gives us nutritious milk. It is a fact that milk is a miracle food and is very important for the human being. This apart, we have a question for those who question the practice of worshiping the cow. Did they ever question the practice of slaughtering cows? How does it make sense: to drink the milk of the cow and kill it when it cannot produce any milk? Is it human? Is it not like killing one’s own mother? Srila Prabhupada writes: The human society should recognize the importance of the cow and the bull and thus give all protection to these important animals. Even today, Hindus worship the cow and they consider it their responsibility to maintain the cows. To know more about the importance of cow protection, visit our website.

If God can hear our prayers directly, do we need to pray to a murti?

The murti (Diety) is not an idol if properly installed according to scriptural injunctions. There is difference between an idol and deity. A deity is an authorized form of God, which is made according to the directions in the scriptures. Praying or worshipping such a deity is meaningful since the prayer or worship directly reaches God. Srila Prabhupada gives an example to help us understand this: We may find some mailboxes on the street, and if we post our letters in those boxes, they will naturally go to their destination without difficulty. But any old box, or an imitation which we may find somewhere but which is not authorized by the post office, will not do the work. Similarly, God has an authorized representation in the Deity form, which is called archa-vigraha. This archa-vigraha is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. God accepts service through that form and thus gives us an opportunity to revive our love for Him. 

Srila Prabhupada explains further in one of his lectures: Krishna’s Deity and Krishna are not different. Krishna has come, kindly, to accept your service as you can deal with Him. If Krishna comes in His gigantic form—Krishna has got gigantic form also, as it was shown to Arjuna—you will not be able to dress Him. Suppose the universal form of Krishna is there, and you have to dress Him, so the whole cloth factory will be finished. Is it not? How you can dress? You have no capacity to dress. But Krishna has kindly accepted a form, the Deity. You can purchase cloth according to your means, and with your great devotion, you can dress. Similarly, the gigantic universal form, it is described in the Bhagavad-gita that He is eating, the whole humanity is going on in His mouth. Then where you will get such food? But, because you are not able to offer such gigantic food to Krishna, Krishna says, "All right, give Me, patram pushpam phalam toyam, give Me a little flower, give Me a little fruit, give Me a little water, I shall accept it." This is called arcana-vidhi. Krishna has agreed to accept your service as you can afford to do. It is not idol worship. It is actually worshiping Krishna.

It looks like God is not answering my prayers. Why?

How do you know that God is not answering your prayers? God is our supreme well-wisher and He knows what is good for us. He alone can do what is good for us. Let us try to understand this through an analogy.
  • The child went to its mother and asked for a chocolate; the mother did not give.
  • A guest who visited to the house gave a chocolate to the child. The mother forcefully took it away and kept it inside the refrigerator.
  • The child insisted again and again. The mother started beating the child.
  • The child cried for some time. Later the mother called the child and gave a little portion of the chocolate.
Can you say that the mother was wrong? Why did she punish the child and give only a little portion of the chocolate later? When the guest gave the chocolate, she should have allowed the child to eat it. Why did she take it away forcefully? We cannot question the behavior of the mother. The mother is always concerned about the well-being of her child and whatever she does, it is for the benefit of the child.
God cares for each of us as we are His part and parcel. When we pray to God in general we seek only material favors and we treat Him as our order supplier. God wants to do ultimate good to us, He wants us to give up this material world and come to Him. He fulfills our material desires as per our karma not as per what we whimsical desires. God does not want to interfere in the karma as per which we get our happiness and distress based on the principle of “As you sow so you reap.”
Hope you got the answer. Do we need to explain further? 

Why do religious teachers threaten people with fear of future punishment?

A warning is not a threat. If you smoke you will get lung cancer. Is it a warning or a threat? If you drink, your liver will get damaged – warning or threat? If you violate the traffic rules, you may meet with an accident. If you kill someone, you will be hanged. We live in a society and there are laws that govern the society to ensure smooth co-existence. If someone violates the laws, they are punished. The fear of punishment stops a person from engaging in such activities that result in inconvenience to others.
The laws of material nature are designed to ensure peaceful co-existence of all living entities in this material world. If you violate these laws and disturb the natural harmony, you will be punished. Such activities are called vikarma (forbidden activities). Be thankful to those who try to open your eyes. We are in the darkness of ignorance and the spiritual master opens our eyes and leads us in the path of light.
However, there are people who pose as religious teachers and try to exploit this fear for their personal benefit. People should be intelligent enough to identify such cheaters.

Different religions have different rituals. Why?

Religion is meant for connecting people to God. The ultimate purpose is to teach us how to love God and how to serve God. There may be many practices which are specific to the audience, but the primary principle does not change. Based on the time, place, circumstance and audience, there are changes made to the rituals and practices. Why do we need to focus on these differences? We say that India is a country with cultural diversity. We speak different languages, and our customs are different. But we are united as Indians.
Similarly, we should realize that we are all children of God and it is our privilege to love God. However we have forgotten our relationship with God. The purpose of religion is to teach us how to re-establish this lost relationship with God. Different people were taught differently. But the ultimate goal was the same. However, over a period of time, many superstitious rituals and practices were introduced and people, who do not have the right guidance, could not tell the difference. But when you develop cataract in your eye, you do not pluck out your eye. You get the cataract operated. Similarly we have to identify these wrong practices and remove them rather than questioning the relevance of religion.

Why aren't we born with our religion stamped on our body?

Religion has nothing to do with the body. Religion gives us direction. It tells us how to lead our life. Real religion is eternal (sanatana-dharma) and it always remains the same. There are many faiths that developed over a period of time and people accepted such faiths. But as explained in the answer to the previous question, these faiths and rituals do not make religion. The purpose of religion is to help us achieve the life of eternity; a life full of knowledge. The Vedas ask us to come out of this non-permanent existence in the darkness of material ignorance. They ask us to move towards a life of eternity by traversing the path illuminated by the light of knowledge: asato ma sad gamaya – tamaso ma jyotir gamaya – mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya – this is the call of the Vedas.

Does God like flattery? Why do we flatter God?

God does not need flattery. We flatter someone for our own benefit – not for the benefit of the person who is getting flattered. We want facilities for our enjoyment in this material world and we think we can get that by flattering God. But God is not our order supplier. He is our compassionate father and well-wisher. He sanctions what is good for us. But we have to glorify the Lord (not flatter) for our own purification. When we express our gratitude and praise the Lord for what He has bestowed upon us, then we become purified. Are we not enjoying various God-given facilities (which are not man-made) – the air we breathe, the water from the rivers, the resources from the mountains and seas and even from the core of the earth – we extract so much to make our life comfortable from nature. Are we not supposed to express our gratitude? What is wrong in glorifying the one who created such facilities for our comfortable life? We did not create it and we say it is nature; but our common sense will accept that there can be no creation without a creator.
We have to acknowledge His supremacy and glorify Him for everything He has given us (not flatter Him to get more).

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