A clarification of religion
This debate between the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Shringeri Sharada piitam, Shrii Shrii Abhinava Vidyathiirtha mahaswamigal ( 1931 - 1989 ) and a Christian Missionary which took place sometime in the year 1973. The missionary had come to Shringeri (Karnataka India) to debate with the Acharya and establish the "supremacy" of Christianity over the Dharma. After exchanging a few words of formality:
Jagadguru: What is the purpose of your visit ?
Missionary: Swamiji, I intend to open a Christian church and an ashram near by.
Jagadguru: What's the objective or motivation for doing so?
Missionary: I want to preach Christianity and help distressed people seek peace and salvation
Jagadguru: Well, what do you preach ?
Missionary: Regarding Christianity; the greatness of Jesus Christ and thereby convert people to our Christian religion.
Jagadguru: Well, could you kindly explain to me about your religion ?
Missionary: With Pleasure Swamiji !!!. You may ask me specific questions. I will answer to them.
Jagadguru: How old is your religion ?
Missionary: It has been 1973 years since my religion was founded.
Jagadguru: Good. It means that there is a specific date for the beginning of your religion. But were there not people before your religion was born ? Were they not living happily ?
Missionary: If there were no people at all, for whom should we have preached our religion? Before Christianity was born, people were very much there. Christianity began to show people the sure way to go to the heaven.
Jagadguru: Ok !!! you mean to say that only those who follow your religion go to heaven and the rest fall into hell? What happened to the millions of people who lived (and died) before your Christianity was born ? Were they going to heavens or to hell after death ?
Missionary: They were all sinners since they didn't follow Christianity and hence went to hell to suffer.
Jagadguru: That is highly unfair!!. Even the most corrupt government of the present age won't follow such a foolish policy!. Is it justifiable to say that all those who didn't follow the rules and regulations before it was formulated would go to hell? Is it possible to know in advance the rules of Law that would be enacted sometime in distant future and follow it now?
Hence it is not only unfair, but highly foolish to say that all those who didn't embrace and follow Christianity before it was founded, were sinners and went to hell.
At this point, the Missionary was highly confused and embarrassed. His face turned pale. He had observed that the Mahaswamy was very cool and composed throughout the debate. In contrast, the Missionary was breathing heavily due to anxiousness and showed signs of restlessness. Unable to look at the glittering persona of the Mahaswamy, the Missionary bent his head and said in a low voice.
Missionary: True Swamiji. I agree to your words. Those people (who lived before Christianity was born) would not have gone to hell. They would have only gone to the heavens.
Jagadguru: Even that would be highly unfair. Because according to you, every person who lived before the birth of Christianity would have gone to the Heaven. But according to the teachings of Christianity, only those who follow the Christ's path would go to the Heaven and the rest would go to hell. Therefore, it was better
before Christianity was born, since everyone could go to heaven without discretion!!!. Your Christianity is indeed doing injustice to people.
Now the Missionary was highly disturbed. He had to eat his own words. He simply wished to somehow escape from that place; but he could not do so.
Missionary: Swamiji, please don't ask me such questions. Please let me go.
Taking pity at the vulnerability of the Missionary, Jagadguru continued: Ok, let us leave all those stuff for now. You see, people in this world are subject to different kinds of worries, sufferings and pleasures. What's the reason for this?
Missionary: The almighty God Jesus is responsible for this.
Jagadguru: If your God is responsible for the pitiable condition of a beggar and the pleasures enjoyed by a wealthy man, then doesn't it mean that your god likes some people and dislikes the rest ?
Missionary: That is God's own wish. We are helpless. He can act according to his wishes.
Jagadguru: Ok then, He could have blessed everyone with only pleasures and happiness. Why did He then give sorrow and sufferings to some people ?
Missionary: Its all left to God's wish. We never know why
Jagadguru: I find no logic or essence in your answer. By the way, one more question to you. Some people die while in childhood itself.
Some others die in their old age. Where do the children go after death - to heaven or hell ?
Missionary: How can small children commit any mistake ? They are flawless. Since they are too young, there is no question of sin or good deed.
Jagadguru: That's why I asked you regarding children
Missionary: All children go to heaven only!
Jagadguru: Oh !!! Then our parents have done a great injustice to all of us. They should have killed us while we were small children so that we would have not committed any sin when we grew up. The heavens also would have been ours!
The Missionary was once again in trouble
Missionary: Swamiji, I am unable to say anything.
Jagadguru: Ok leave it. After death, all have to go either to the Heaven or hell. Can you tell me when this happens?
Missionary: Whenever the God wishes to dispense justice, the fate of a soul is decided.
Jagadguru: What a surprise !!!!!! Is God so lunatic that he dispenses justice as and when he wishes ?
Missionary: No not like that. There is a particular order.
Jagadguru: Ok please explain to me that order explained in your Bible.
The Missionary started sweating and blabbering.
Jagadguru: Ok I will tell you what has been told in your Bible. Kindly correct me if I am wrong
Missionary: Sure Swamiji
Jagadguru: After the death of all people on this earth, on one fine day (known as "the Judgement day"), the God will dispense justice by sending some to heaven and the rest to hell.
Missionary: Yes Yes !!! your words are very much true Swamiji.
Jagadguru: Look my dear, observe the happenings of our own world. If a person is caught for committing a crime, he is housed in a jail for a couple of days, before conducting an inquiry. If it is required to keep him in jail for long, he has to be produced before the Magistrate and obtain his permission. If the Magistrate doesn't agree for that, the culprit has to be let free.
According to your religion, after the death of a person, his soul has to wait for the death of all the rest of the people on this earth, even if it means billions of years, to seek judgement from the God. People keep taking birth and dying. How unfair it is to say that one has to wait for the death of all the rest!. Even in man made courts, no judge will ask an accused to wait for trial until all the rest commit some crime !!!!!
The Missionary was totally speechless and blank. He didn't know what to do or how to react. He just sat like stone.
Jagadguru continued: Your religion is supreme to you alone. You should follow it with utmost faith and reverence. But you have no right to question and destroy the faith of others, nor try to "convert" them. Also it is not at all fair to preach that those who don't follow your religion will go to hell. It is nothing but ignorance to think that only your faith leads to God and that of others are useless. Stop preaching and start seeking the Truth. A realized person treats all equally.
As usual, the Jagadguru blessed the visitor (Missionary) and blessed him with fruits and "mantrakshatha". The Missionary prostrated before the Jagadguru with utmost reverence and left the place.
Jagadguru addressed his disciples who were present around him:
"sahayajnaah prajaa ShrsShtA purOvAcha prajApathih |
anEna prasaviShyaThya mOkShOvOsthwiShwa kAmaDhuk ||"
The Supreme Father of the Universe created men along with the yajnas (a ritual offering) and blessed us that yajnas will be our "kAmaDhenu" [a divine Cow that fulfills all wishes]. The Supreme Father, while doing creation has also formulated the rules for the well-being of our Universe. This is the philosophy of our Vedic Dharma, this is the greatness of our Dharma.
Our holy scriptures proclaim that the Supreme Being (God) is primordial (one who has no beginning or end). So is this Universe and our Dharma. Living beings enjoy the fruits of their own actions.
Good deeds and actions bring good results. Likewise, bad deeds and actions bring bad results to living beings. The Paramaathma (Supreme Being) is alone capable of judging the fruits of our actions. It is very much true that God is very kind. Just like a judge lessens the punishment of a convict who confesses before the court, the God forgives those who repent for their bad actions and leads a virtuous life thereafter. But he will not forgive for sure, those who repeatedly commit the same mistake.
Our Shasthras urge that one should possess good intellect along with faith. They strongly emphasize right thinking. But other religions preach that just faith is enough. Blind emotions are the hallmark of such religions. Our Vedic Dharma strives to strike a balance between emotions and intellect. Our Saints and philosophers accept something only after giving much thought to it and subjecting it to lots of "fire tests". Hence ours are time tested values and they are very much relevant for all ages.
Incarnations of great divine personalities like Lord Rama and Krishna are unique to our Dharma. Our Dharma is not founded by these great men. Instead, our Dharma contributed such great men to humanity. Such is the greatness of our Vedic Dharma.
We are all greatly blessed indeed to have born in such a great country and society. Let us all inculcate and assimilate the essence of our Dharma and accomplish the real purpose of our births.
From the book "Yogiraja Shrii AbhinavaVidhyathirtha" in Kannada language, authored by Shrii Huragalawadi Lakshmi Narasinha Shasthry.
East vs West
The Story of Omar
Capitalism Part Two.
Origins of religion
Origins of religion_1
Did Jesus Exist?
Jagadguru and The Missionary
Women in Islam
Polygamy in Islam
Islam and Science