The originator of the yatha mat tatha pat -”all paths lead to the same goal”doctrine is a so-called Indian incarnation. Born in the 19th century, this person proclaimed to become the Supreme God, the cause of all causes and foolish persons lacking mature discrimination believed him. Any sane reasonable man will ask though: “If God is eternal and absolute, how can He ever become God? What was before He became God and who gave birth to such a cheap God?” Only a fool can accept an ordinary man, who is subjected to the laws of nature as God. Nevertheless the rascal philosophies of these so-called incarnations of God are confusing people until this day. Although completely off from the conclusions of the Vedic scriptures(which are considered to be the top most authority in the matter of India’s rich and deep spiritual knowledge), these twisted nonsense conceptions have actually become the fundamental basis of the Western society’s excuse for spiritual life.
For example, as a result of the propaganda of such unauthorized yogis and swamis, there’s a notion going around suggesting that dogma means to follow one teaching strictly without mixing it with anything else. People who are very much fond of calling themselves “open-minded”, “liberal” and so many noble sounding names can be spotted huffing and puffing whenever a bona fide Vedic philosophy is presented to them. The absolute devotion to Krsna, which is the conclusion of Vedic understanding is simply too much to handle. This is however an imperfect definition of dogma. If I say Ottawa is a capital of Canada it is a fact and if someone says: “Why are you so dogmatic? C’mon, Ottawa is also a capital of Japan, Holland and China” he’s a fool. There are so many things we take in a one way fashion on day to day basis, yet we don’t call them dogmatic. In fact, we cannot avoid the one way approach as it is our very nature to look for one way because I am one. I’m not simultaneously you and hundred other people. No. I’m me and I’m individual and no one in the whole universe is exactly like me. Even a soldier in a uniform is marching in his own specific way and yet externally he might seem to us like a totally brainwashed robot. Therefore whatever I choose can only be one way. Even the “all paths lead to the same goal” slogan is actually one way as the one who teaches it obviously has a preference for it. The slogan is actually a nonsense because there is a path which says that “not all paths lead to the same goal” (For example there are some people who say that jesus is the only way) One can only wonder how to include this one into the little shall we say a rizzotto of paths? How will it cooexist with the other ones? Because just think about it – if we truly believe the slogan then we should accept that all paths lead to the same goal and not all paths lead to the same goal at the same time. We would then be a half fanatic and a half liberal. But you cannot be the two at the same time, because individuality means choice. If we dont choose we are not living beings. Unfortunately this is the position of someone who in his scepticism unlimitedly trusting his limited mind voluntarily cuts himself from his own free will and attains the cherished ideal –total neutrality. He ends up like a dead stone.
Another point, which I would like to mention, is that although those who preach the so-called all-inclusive slogan want to establish it as superior to any other path, they are hardly telling us anything about where the paths lead to. In other words, they completely avoid the subject of the goal. You might have different path than I do, that’s ok, but where are we going? Isn’t that kind of important? There’s no point in arguing who’s more cool if both of us are going to end up in a ditch, or is there? So far I can understand, there’s a suggestion in the air that the goal might be God. What they mean by God though, they choose to keep as a mystery. For the rest of us, it would be worthwhile to understand what we exactly mean by God as the word God has been used very effectively in the past to inflict pain, manipulation and obstruction of individuality, freedom and creativity. It would be worthwhile to verify whether the word God is not used in a similar way in this case as well. Such careful inquiry will distinguish us from foolish fanatics, who accept whatever one says blindly without caution.
The desire to misuse the God word in order to force one’s will on others manifests as an attempt to bring the subject of God into relative or limited platform. It actually ceases to be God at that point, because God is absolute and can never be subjected to the limited conception of an insignificant living entity. We cannot bring God to our limited conception because God is unlimited. Just like the statement Ottawa is a capital of Canada is meant for everyone, similarly the conception of God must be for everyone. God is not a Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Hindu. Sectarian religions have been created by people, but God is totally beyond this. Srila Prabhupada says:
So He’s not so easy to understand. “Oh, Krsna is born in Mathura. His father is Vasudeva. Oh, He…” No. He’s unborn. He’s unborn, but I am seeing that He’s born. Just like sun is unborn. I am seeing that at five o’clock sun is born in the eastern side of New York City. This is my foolishness. Sun is never born. He’s always there. It is my imperfectness that I am seeing that sun is born this hour. Similarly, Krsna is never born. Krsna is just like sun. So as they are, if we want to understand… Acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: “Things which are beyond your conception,” avan manasa gocarah, “beyond your expression, beyond your knowledge, don’t apply your so-called argument and reason.” That is Vedanta study.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.107-109 — San Francisco, February 15, 1967
To our imperfect vision it might appear that the teachings of God are coming from a certain corner of the world, from a certain tradition, but in actuality, just as God, the teachings of God are eternal and have no particular origin. This can be very nicely seen in the Bible which says: “In the beginning there was the Word and that Word was God.” Before God began to create this material world, his Word was already there. That means that even before the material time began to tick, the Word of God existed. If God’s Word was created and in actuality God was silent, then God would be a looser, cuz we would be able to do something He couldn’t-talk.
Eternity however is not the only aspect of God. God is also complete. In other words, there’s nothing beyond Him. When we speak of ourselves, we are limited to our body. I cannot feel what you feel in your body and you cannot feel what I feel in mine, but God is all bodies and God is us also. God is everything and therefore He is also His word. Because the Word of God was already here before the manifestation of duality of the material universe, there is no difference between God and His Word. In the absolute platform –there’s no cause and consequence like here.
Now coming back to the pathways, if the goal is God as some people suggest, there’s no question of actually walking any path since God is everywhere, neither there’s a question of different paths since God is everything. We simply have to first of all understand what God actually means! God is already here and the whole point is to realize God or not. Freedom means to choose one of the two-to realize Him by following His word or carry on with our dogmatic thinking. Because God is for everyone, naturally not to choose realizing God means to isolate oneself from God and this is the real definition of a dogma. Dogma is a false attempt to make a division from God with the purpose to create a situation where one can take His position. By making up one’s subjective idea of God, we have to fight with other subjective ideas for supremacy –God-competitors. In such mentality, one even sees the genuine understanding of God which applies to everyone as subjective and thus commits a mistake of projecting his dogmatic thinking on the teachers of the true teachings of God. What is funny is that because God or Krsna allows free will, such an illusion is also God. It is God and yet not God at the same time.
By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.
It is not God for the living entity who wants to use God for his selfish purposes and it is God for an intelligent man who can see how God is trickily cheating the living entity by manifesting such an illusion of Himself to fulfill the entity’s desire to forget God more and more.
I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-mäyä]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.
Krsna consciousness is therefore the ability to see along with the oneness of all of us with God, also our difference. Yes, I am a tiny god making my silly little satellite, but Krsna is the God, who is flying innumerable planets and universes. This rare consciousness can be developed by the dogmatic too if he simply opens up to the idea that he might be dogmatic.
The ability to question one’s understanding of God is closely interrelated with how much we understand that we’re not all-knowing. In other words, an open person knows that his so-called opinion conditioned by so many factors in his life is not shaped according to his freedom but it is influenced by circumstances into which he’s so to speak thrown into and against his will.
The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.
No one decides where he takes his birth, yet since childhood our consciousness, opinions, dreams and so-called originality is being shaped according to what our parents tell us, according to country where we’re born, social group, etc. etc. Therefore an open minded person knows very well that his opinion is as original as for example a DJ spinning records in a club is considered to be a composer. In other words, an open person is not taking his so-called opinion that seriously. He actually laughs about it. He’s not burdened by the false ego of knowing everything. He’s like: “What? Krsna? Lol. Why not? What do I know? I’m completely brainwashed anyway.” Although appearing as a looser to so-called wise, such an attitude is actually a proof of his great intelligence.
Another quality of an open person is that he understands his inability to fight the nature. He understands that even if he becomes the most intelligent and gets to know all the different paths in the universe, it’s all ultimately futile because he has to die. We may mention a Greek mythological character called Sizifos in this connection. Sizifos is condemned to push a big stone up the hill and then seeing it rolling down, he has to push it up again for eternity. Our life is just like that. We try for so many things like being famous, honored, successful, more creative, etc. yet at the end we all fail to grasp the meaning of it all when death comes and puts all our efforts into an absurd context. It is for this reason an open minded person is ready to perhaps explore whether there is another purpose of life than just illusory happiness of “I’m not thinking of the death problem right now” . What is he opening up to though? He’s opening to something more. You can never open up to something less, because opening up to something less is called limitation.
It is only for this reason that an open minded person can accept that there might be knowledge or opinion which is superior to his. You can only open to something more than you. This is not anything special. We do it every day. It is called “the process of acquiring knowledge” or shortly –learning. Let’s be honest, if we never opened up to the possibility that the teacher in school might actually know the ABC better than us we would hardly be writing and reading right now as we’re doing right now. Those who never opened up to such an idea for some reason or other can’t read what I just wrote. In other words, if one does not open up, he must remain in ignorance.
When discussing God or Krsna, the same applies. Just like any other taboo, you have to be open to discuss it, otherwise you cannot understand it. In other words, the whole realization of God is directly depending on whether you want to use your free will to do it or not. That’s why it is not a dogma. The “non-fanatical” even if they found the correct path to God would still not accept it if it didn’t tally with their subjective conception of what the right path is supposed to be. “If there’s God, he must be like this, like that exactly as I want, otherwise let Him go to hell” –they say. We can only ask then in what way they want to understand the Absolute? This leaves us with nothing else to think but that they actually do not want to understand God, but want to stay in their illusion of being God themselves. The only reason why they are discussing it is because the subject matter of God is perhaps a threat to their illusion of already knowing God and the genuine understanding of God can only disturb their hallucinatory trip of being open minded.
Unable to stand up to the challenge and face the opposing arguments against his nonsensical conception like a man, the dogmatic will try to attack the genuine and logical understanding of God by finding irrelevant reasons for not opening up. It is just like a child who refuses to accept the authority of a teacher who wants to teach him ABC. The child because of his ignorance of the ABC has no power to understand whether the teacher really knows the ABC or not and therefore his reasoning as to why not accept what the teacher says will consist of non-related so-called flaws of the teacher. For example he might say that the teacher looks ugly, or he has stinky breath, or is too old as though his beauty, his breath, his age or let’s be a little spicy his race, sexual orientation, religion or nationality were the criteria to determine whether he knows the ABC or not. The truth is however, that the child actually does not want to study because of laziness. The dogmatic will also try to point out some so-called flaws about the proponents of the genuine understanding of God in order to evoke sympathy from a limited circle of similarly superficial and close minded people without ever touching the point of why a particular teaching cannot be a genuine and scientific answer to the question of God for all to benefit from in the first place. When a person’s viewpoint is not accepted on its own merit, but due to the fact that he’s black, we call it racism. When a person’s viewpoint is not accepted, due to the fact that he belongs to a particular religious group, whose practices are “weird”, “unusual” or “Hindu” we call it religious discrimination.
I find it quite admirable that such people do not fear exposing their narrow minded mentality so nonchalantly for everyone to see especially in the context of today’s open minded society when most of us are not that much fond of fascists anymore. An honest admittance however is undoubtedly a good sign, but the person should now seriously take up the study of opening up. Unless he takes up the positive alternative, simple lamentation about how biased he is is not going to have any practical result.
If he agrees, then we can point him out to the Bhagavad-gita, which gives a very nice proposal of how to resolve the conflict of many different paths. Krsna says:
yavan artha udapane
tavan sarvesu vedesu
All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them.
The word Veda means knowledge. Knowledge is for everyone and there are many books of knowledge. In the West, there is the Bible, in the Middle East it is the Koran. These are all Vedas. In India the book of knowledge is the Bhagavadgita.
In the 15th chapter of this great literature, Krsna, who is considered to be the Supreme Godhead by all the stalwart acaryas, or saintly teachers, who shaped the India’s culture for thousands of years, says:
“By all the Vedas am I to be known”
Therefore if we know God, who is the ultimate aim of all knowledge, we will be able to understand all different books of knowledge and we do not even necesarily have to study all of them in minute detail. If however, we do not come to the understanding of God, never mind how many different paths we have researched, our endeavor has been wasted. We are still limited. It is just like watering a root of a tree. If we water the root, automatically all its branches and leaves are nourished. Without watering the root, no matter how many branches and leaves we water, the tree dries out. To understand God is the only way how to be truly open minded. We, the Krsna consciousness movement, are presenting God here: Krsna, along with His form, His activities, His associates, His abode. If you’re looking for God and unless you have a more thorough description of God, why don’t you open up to Krsna?
Prof. Hopkins: People, various people read your writings, your commentaries, and they, they react to them sometimes with reservation because they see your writings as dogmatic.
Prof. Hopkins: They see your writings… Some people see your writings as dogmatic.
Prabhupada: Or “He is dogmatic.” (laughter)
Prof. Hopkins: They say, “He is dogmatic,” okay. Do you feel that you are dogmatic or…
Prabhupada: No. You find out any passage in my book dogmatic, then you say dogmatic. Any page you open, where is dogmatic?
Prof. Hopkins: Well, dogmatic, to call someone else dogmatic means to start with that you don’t agree with what they are saying. If I agree with you and you…
Prabhupada: No, you have to agree. You open any passage of my book.
Prof. Hopkins: Well, some people would say to insist that Kṛṣṇa is the only way, that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the only way…
Prabhupada: No, no. The only thing that God is one, that you have to accept. God cannot be many. If God has got competitor, then he is not God.
Prof. Hopkins: Okay.
Prabhupada: So if we don’t admit Kṛṣṇa is the only God then you present who is only God. You say me. Either you have to learn from me or I have to learn from you.
Prof. Hopkins: So to insist…
Prabhupada: If you do not know what is God you cannot say, “Kṛṣṇa is not God.” As soon as you say, “Kṛṣṇa is not God,” that means you must know what is God. You present. But if you cannot present, you say, “No, I do not know God,” then you cannot say, “Kṛṣṇa is not God.”
Prof. Hopkins: All right.
Prabhupada: So they are dogmatic. Dogmatically they are saying, “Kṛṣṇa is not God.” He does not know God and he says, “Kṛṣṇa is not God.” So what is this nonsense? You do not know God. How you can say Kṛṣṇa is not God?
Prof. Hopkins: I agree with you, I just… I want to get… (laughter) If we’re dogmatic, we’re on the same side.
Prabhupada: We are not dogmatic. Those people who are talking us as dogmatic, he is dogmatic. He does not know God, and when God is presented before him, he says, “No, He is not God.” That is dogmatic.
Conversation with Professor Hopkins — July 13, 1975, Philadelphia