BY: BALDEV DAS (RNS)
“I was doing book distribution in the trains on the day of Gita Jayanti and it incidentally happened to be the day of Bakri-id. So many Muslims were also traveling in the train on that day. After distributing books in that particular bogie I got down at Khandeshwar station to catch the next train. Five to 6 Muslim youngsters also got down from the same bogie and followed me.
Dec 08, CHOWPATTY, MUMBAI, INDIA (SUN) — Balaji Prabhu from ISKCON Chowpatty narrates this experience on the day of Gita Jayanti in Mumbai:
“I was doing book distribution in the trains on the day of Gita Jayanti and it incidentally happened to be the day of Bakri-id. So many Muslims were also traveling in the train on that day. After distributing books in that particular bogie I got down at Khandeshwar station to catch the next train. Five to 6 Muslim youngsters also got down from the same bogie and followed me. They had a spokesperson who seemed to be quite well read amongst them. He stopped me and then we started conversing.
Muslim: Oh! You seem to be a well educated person. Have you dedicated your whole life for this preaching mission?
Muslim: Oh! That’s very nice. You are doing such a nice thing. I am also very interested in knowing about your religion and I have done quite a lot of study about your religion also. Can I ask you a few questions?
The spokesperson’s tone, which sounded very pleasant till now, suddenly became sarcastic.
Muslim: So you people believe in idol worship?
Balaji: No, we believe in deity worship.
Muslim: What is the difference?
Balaji: The difference is like this. You see post boxes in almost every street of Mumbai. When you post a letter addressed to a person staying in Delhi or Chennai in the post box it will eventually reach him even if there is a slight mistake in the address. But if you yourself paint a box in black and red, hang it outside your door and post a letter in it, it will never reach the destination even if it is addressed to the person next door. Why? Because the postbox has been authenticated by the government, letters posted in that box are regularly cleared by postal department professionals and delivered to their destinations. Similarly the deities are invested with the complete potencies of the Lord Himself and hence can be worshipped.
Muslim: Oh! Then, does it mean that if I am at a place where there is no access to the deities I cannot worship the Lord?
Balaji: No, You can worship Him through His holy names. Holy Quran says that there are 100 names of Lord Allah. The same way our scriptures also mention so many names of the Lord which are invested with all the potencies. So, we can always worship the Lord through His holy names.
Muslim: Oh! If the Lord can be worshipped simply through His holy names then what is the need for deity worship?
Balaji: Ok. Now I will give you my cell phone and you have unlimited free minutes for the rest of your life to speak with your mother. Does it negate the need for having any more personal interactions with your mother for the rest of your life? Will you be satisfied by just speaking with her over phone or would you want to personally have some interactions with her and do some service to her when she is in need?
Muslim: I would definitely like to have personal interactions.
Balaji: Yes, the same way Deity worship gives us this nice opportunity do personal service to the Lord. Moreover, the many names of the Lord are actually named after their form. For example, the Lord is called Keshava, meaning, the one with beautiful hair. He is also called Padma Lochana, meaning, the one with eyes as beautiful as lotus petals. If just these names, which are named after the forms of the Lord, are so much attractive, how much more the forms themselves would attract the hearts of the devotees? Hence the deities are there in order to attract the devotees.
Muslim: But I have read in your Vedic scriptures that those who do Asambhuti worship go to the darkest regions of hell? (Referring probably to the Isopanishad verse)
Balaji: Yes, it is Isopanishad verse 12, “andham tamah pravishanti ye asambhutim upasate”.
His face had a completely shocked expression when he heard me actually quote the verse. May be he never expected any Hindu to know and what to speak of actually quoting the verse?
Balaji: Here the word asambhuti doesn’t refer to deity worship, but it refers to demigod worship. Anyways, you seem to be well read in our scriptures. What do our scriptures mention about the right process of acquiring Vedic knowledge?
Muslim: I don’t know.
Balaji: See (Opening the Bhagavad gita and showing Bg 4.34) this is the process. First one should surrender to a spiritual master, serve him nicely and then humbly question. Then the spiritual knowledge flows. Did you receive your knowledge by this process?
Balaji: Then, how did you learn?
Muslim: I read from the Oxford university press edition of your Vedas.
Balaji: See, that is the problem. Neither the person who wrote the book nor you, who read his book, understood the Vedas in the way it is recommended. One cannot understand the Vedic scriptures by a mere knowledge of Sanskrit, the same way a person with just a knowledge of English cannot understand a chemistry or physics book, though it may be written in the English language. But I see that you have a genuine interest in understanding our scriptures (with a pinch of sarcasm). So I will introduce you to a spiritual master and you surrender your life to him, serve him day and night and then humbly question him. That way your sincere desire to understand our scriptures will be fulfilled (again intended sarcastically). Now, you want to take this Bhagavad gita?
Muslim (With a completely confused look): No, No. I will call you later. He hurriedly walked away with his cheerleaders.