Definition of True Religion - Pure Love of Godhead

Summary Article

Śrīla Prabhupāda presents a Vaiṣṇava ācārya's perspective on true religion based on pure love of Godhead and refuting worldviews contradictory to pure love of Godhead - Atheism, Polytheism, Skepticism, Pantheism, Materialism, and Impersonalism. This article, sourced exclusively from the published archive of Śrīla Prabhupāda's books, lectures, conversations and letters, provides a summary of what Śrīla Prabhupāda had to say in regard to true religion - pure consciousness or prema bhakti - and its perverted material reflections based on false materialistic logic. In addition, it includes a view into how Śrīla Prabhupāda interacted with followers afflicted by materialistic philosophies.

Principles of Dharma or Religion

Laid down in the Vedas

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "Principles of religion are laid down in the Vedas, and any discrepancy in the matter of properly executing the rules of the Vedas makes one irreligious. In the Bhāgavatam it is stated that such principles are the laws of the Lord. Only the Lord can manufacture a system of religion. The Vedas are also accepted as originally spoken by the Lord Himself to Brahmā, from within his heart. Therefore, the principles of dharma, or religion, are the direct orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam (SB 6.3.19)). These principles are clearly indicated throughout the Bhagavad-gītā. The purpose of the Vedas is to establish such principles under the order of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord directly orders, at the end of the Gītā, that the highest principle of religion is to surrender unto Him only, and nothing more. The Vedic principles push one towards complete surrender unto Him; and whenever such principles are disturbed by the demoniac, the Lord appears."[1]

Manufacture spiritual knowledge

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "You cannot manufacture any religious principle. It is not possible. That is not accepted in Vedas. Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇī. Dharma means the rules and regulation which is given by God. That is accepted everywhere. In Bible, in Koran also. The laws of God."

Differences in Religious Expression

Accepting principles and practices which are based on Love of Godhead

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "That is bhakti-yoga. Because they accept God. Unless you accept God there is no question of bhakti-yoga. So Christian religion is also Vaiṣṇavism because they accept God. Maybe in the, some stage different from this. There are different stages of God realization also. The Christian religion says "God is great." Accept! That is very good. But just how great God is, that you can understand from Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. But there is acceptance that God is great. That is therefore that is beginning of bhakti. You can apply that bhakti. Even the Mohammedan religion. That is also bhakti-yoga. Any religion where God is the target, that is applied in bhakti. But when there is no God or impersonalism, there is no question of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga means bhaja jayukti bhaja-sevayā(?). Service. Service means three things: the servitor, the served, and service. One must be present who will accept service. And one must be present to render service. And in the via media, the process of service. So bhakti-yoga means service. If there is nobody to accept the service, then where is the bhakti-yoga? So any philosophy or religious principle where there is no acceptance of God, the Supreme, there is no application of bhakti."[2]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "Actual bhakti means minus all material... Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11). One must be freed from all material desires. But even if you have got some material desire, still you can take shelter of Kṛṣṇa."[3]

Rejecting Ignorance opposing Love of Godhead

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "ISKCON is meant to establish a clear, practical common formulation of the common ideal of all theists, and to defeat the unnecessary dogmatic wranglings that now divide and invalidate the theistic camp. This common ideal of theism is to develop love of God."[4]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "It can be concluded that all the theories of the materialistic philosophers are generated from temporary illusory existence, like the conclusions in a dream. Such conclusions certainly cannot lead us to the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth can be realized only through devotional service. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti: (BG 18.55) “Only by devotional service can one understand Me.” Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī has composed a nice verse in this regard, which states, 'My dear Lord, let others engage in false argument and dry speculation, theorizing upon great philosophical theses. Let them loiter in the darkness of ignorance and illusion, falsely enjoying as if very learned scholars, although they are without knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As far as I am concerned, I wish to be liberated simply by chanting the holy names of the all-beautiful Supreme Personality of Godhead—Mādhava, Vāmana, Trinayana, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Śrīpati and Govinda. Simply by chanting Your transcendental names, O Lord Madhupati, let me become free from the contamination of this material existence.'"[5]

Real Object of Pure Love

Refuting materialistic logic

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "The philosophers and the logicians have tried to understand the intrinsic relationship of living entities with God by various conceptions and methods, on the strength of their mundane education and scholastic research. But the Absolute Truth remains above the philosophers and their acquired knowledge. The conception of the Absolute is never perfectly attained by such an ascending process, because of its being born of imperfect, material senses. These empiric philosophers and logicians cannot realize their imperfection by the vanity of material knowledge, and the ultimate conclusion of such materialistic philosophers is atheism. They deny the existence of God, who is the Supreme Person, different from all other persons. Under such a vague assumption, we remain in the same darkness as before. We are content with a conception of Godhead according to our own individual idea, without knowing the real relationship of Godhead and ourselves. Therefore, the transcendentalists do not recognize such a process of generalization but pass over direct perception to receive the knowledge of deduction in its various stages—from authorities who have actual revelation of transcendental knowledge. This revelation is made possible from the deeper aspect within the human personality. The real knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His relationship with us can be revealed only by this transcendental method. Since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is absolute, He reserves the right of not being exposed to the mundaners. He can be known by one absolute process, and the relative process of sense perception cannot reach Him ever. If Godhead were subject to being revealed by our relative sense perception, then our sense perception, and not Godhead, would be absolute. The process is therefore fallacious in all its manifold stages."[6]


Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "Āstikyam means to believe firmly in the scriptures. Just like Bhagavad-gītā we are studying, or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. We should firmly believe what Kṛṣṇa says, not interpretation. This is called āstikyam. And nāstikyam means not firm belief, atheism."[7]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "So there should be educational department to create first-class men by all these qualities: how to become controller of the mind, how to become controller of the senses, how to become cleansed, bāhyābhyantaram, inside clean and outside clean, śaucam; titikṣā, how to become tolerant, tolerant. One should be not agitated by a single cause. Tolerant, and similarly, simplicity. He should be so simple. It is said simplicity: even the enemy inquires from him some secret thing, he'll say, "Yes, it is like this." Simplicity. And jñānam, full knowledge. Full knowledge: what is this world, what I am, what is my relation with this world, what is God, what is my relation with God. Everything full knowledge. And vijñānam. Vijñānam means completely application of the knowledge of life. And āstikyam, āstikyam means full faith in transcendental literature, that is called also āstikyam, and full faith in the existence of the Supreme Lord. Āstik... These are the brahminical qualification. So those who are claiming to become first class, learned men in the society, they must have all these qualification."[8]


Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "No. Knowingly means that every Indian knows that Kṛṣṇa is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At least... The every Indian, at least Hindus, they perform Janmāṣṭamī, accepting Kṛṣṇa. But still, they will not accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality. They'll bring many other competitors: "Why Kṛṣṇa shall be...? I have got Durgā. I have got this, Śiva. I have got that. I have got that. I have got that." This is going on as Hinduism. So many gods. So many gods. Although the Vedic literature says, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam (SB 1.3.28), īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ (Bs. 5.1). In Bhagavad-gītā... Everyone reads Bhagavad-gītā. Bhagavad-gītā it says, Kṛṣṇa says, mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat (BG 7.7): "There is no more superior than Me." Ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavaḥ (BG 10.8): "Everything is emanation from Me." Sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (BG 18.66). These things are there, but they'll not accept. Therefore they are offenders. Otherwise, where is the difficulty? God is one. That is accepted. Eko brahma. God cannot be two. God is one. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām ekaḥ (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13). One nitya, one eternal, one living being, that is Supreme. We are living being. We are also nitya, eternal. But He is nityo nityānām. He is the chief of the nityas. He's the chief of the living entities. So that is chief. Kṛṣṇa personally says, mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat (BG 7.7): "There is no more superior living being than Me." So these things are there in the Vedas, and they are supposed to be Vedic scholars, but they do not know the simple thing. So in that way they are ignorant. They read the Vedic literatures, but they do not understand, or they misinterpret in a different way for their own purpose. So they are..., they're offender. Otherwise, there is no difficulty."[9]


Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "Furthermore there are many persons who cannot understand spiritual existence at all. Being embarrassed by so many theories and by contradictions of various types of philosophical speculation, they become disgusted or angry and foolishly conclude that there is no supreme cause and that everything is ultimately void. Such people are in a diseased condition of life. Some people are too materially attached and therefore do not give attention to spiritual life, some of them want to merge into the supreme spiritual cause, and some of them disbelieve in everything, being angry at all sorts of spiritual speculation out of hopelessness."[10]



Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: " is very difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Generally, people who are attached to the bodily conception of life are so absorbed in materialism that it is almost impossible for them to understand how the Supreme can be a person. Such materialists cannot even imagine that there is a transcendental body which is imperishable, full of knowledge and eternally blissful. In the materialistic concept, the body is perishable, full of ignorance and completely miserable. Therefore, people in general keep this same bodily idea in mind when they are informed of the personal form of the Lord. For such materialistic men, the form of the gigantic material manifestation is supreme. Consequently they consider the Supreme to be impersonal. And because they are too materially absorbed, the conception of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void."[11]


Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "In the beginning of spiritual realization, while one is trying to give up one's attachment to materialism, there is some leaning towards impersonalism, but when one is further advanced he can understand that there are activities in the spiritual life and that these activities constitute devotional service. Realizing this, he becomes attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrenders to Him. At such a time one can understand that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa's mercy is everything, that He is the cause of all causes, and that this material manifestation is not independent from Him. He realizes the material world to be a perverted reflection of spiritual variegatedness and realizes that in everything there is a relationship with the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa."[12]

Related articles (Vanipedia)

Our True Identity

References and Further Reading


Key texts and purports

  • BG 4.7, Purport - Principles of religion are laid down in the Vedas
  • BG 4.10, Purport - People who are attached to the bodily conception of life are so absorbed in materialism that it is almost impossible for them to understand how the Supreme can be a person.
  • BG 7.19, Purport - There are activities in the spiritual life and that these activities constitute devotional service.

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