After teaching English to a Hindu family, I was very interested in learning more about the primary Hindu text: the Bhagavad Gita (BG).
Bhagavad Gita, Translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 2nd Edition; Revised and Enlarged, The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc., 1972, 1983
The BG is a story about the supreme Hindu god, Krishna, and his discussion with his follower, Arjuna. The setting is a battlefield where Krishna calls Arjuna to fight against his enemies, though many in the opposing army are members of Arjuna’s family. Krishna encourages Arjuna to keep his duty, which is the highest devotion one can pay towards Krishna. For more, see here.
The wife in the family I was studying with assured me that the BG, just like the writings of other religious groups (the Bible, the Quran, etc.), was all about love. She said that each of these writings taught their respective communities how to love one another and make the world a better place. In modern society, this is a very appealing statement. It is tempting to accept the notion that all religions are just different, but very similar, representations of each culture’s desire to leave the world better than they found it. If this was true, how could any religion claim to be superior to another?
As I read the BG, however, I didn’t find very much about love. In fact, I can’t recall “love” ever being mentioned in a positive light. Unfortunately, I believe my friend has been misguided. She is a very sincere and lovely person, but the religion that she and so many other Hindus follow is wholly inadequate when compared to the Christian religion. It is my purpose in this article to show the inadequacies of the supposed god Krishna and, thus, question the foundations on which many Hindus base their faith.
From what I have learned, there are many important Hindu writings, which I am sure would benefit me in my study of this religion. The translator, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, assures that though there are many important writings the BG is sufficient in leading one into the “truth” of Krishna.
Because Bhagavad Gita is spoken by the supreme personality of godhead, one need not read any other Vedic literature…This one book will suffice because it is the essence of all Vedic literature (BG Intro, 28).
Though the preface to the book claims that the BG is “historically authorised” (BG, xvii), The historicity of the BG, unlike that of the Christian and Jewish writings, is difficult to certify because of the lack of evidence. The introductory material of the BG actually claims that:
Krishna descends to this planet once in a day of Brahma, or every 8,600,000,000 years (BG, xviii).
One can imagine how difficult it would be to historically prove this claim. Because of the lack of information, most assert that the BG would fit in the literary category of the epic, along with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The writing of the BG has been dated somewhere between 400 BC and 200 AD but there is no evidence within the writing itself that assumes a historical date of the events therein.
Swami Bhaktivedanta, in the introductory material, makes claims about the Bhagavad Gita that differ from my friend’s more inclusive statements about all religions:
The Krishna consciousness movement is essential in human society, for it offers the highest perfection of life.
In this present day, people are very much eager to have one scripture, one God, one religion, and one occupation. Therefore,…let there be one scripture only, one common scripture for the whole world – Bhagavad Gita…let there be one God for the whole world – Sri Krishna…and one hymn, one mantra, one prayer – the chanting of his name…and let there be one work only – the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
– BG Intro, 29
It is clear from these quotations that the respected swami does not consider all religions to be good and useful. On the contrary, the BG and its introduction makes similar claims of religious exclusivity that the Bible makes.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
If both of these religions claim to be exclusively true, their teachings deserve examination.
Searching Out the Truth in the Gita and in the Bible
Let’s first examine the methods by which these books ought to be read.
Lord Caitanya clearly says that anyone who tries to understand Bhagavad Gita from the Mayavadi (those “without perfect knowledge of Krishna”) point of view will commit a great blunder. The result of such a blunder will be that the misguided student of Bhagavad Gita will certainly be bewildered on the path of spiritual guidance and will not be able to go back to home, back to the Godhead.
In order to save oneself from this offence [interpreting the Bhagavad Gita without first trusting in Krishna], one has to understand the Lord as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
To understand Bhagavad Gita, one must “be a devotee in a direct relationship with the Lord.”
-BG Intro, 4
Bhagavad Gita should be taken up in a spirit of devotion.
-BG Intro, 5
The Gita is “for devotees only.”
-BG note, 716
Much like the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4) , the BG asks its reader to trust it as absolute truth before reading it. I find this to be a major logical fallacy. Ought we trust someone just because they tell us they are trustworthy? In everyday life, we only trust things that have already proven themselves to us. The Bible teaches this clearly:
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.
Unlike the BG, whose translators tell us, “Vedic knowledge is complete because it is above all doubts and mistakes… We have to accept perfect knowledge which comes down, as is stated in Bhagavad-gita” (BG Intro, 13), the Bible actually tells us to test everything and only accept it if it passes our tests. If a god capable of giving us intellect and reason actually exists, we would expect his writings to be in accordance with the intellect and reason that his creatures exhibit. “Trust me, because I said so” is not a mantra fit for the questioning and logical human mind.
Let’s consider some conclusions that the BG asks us to trust, just because “Krishna says so” (10.14).
Societal Divisions and Prescribed Duty in the Bhagavad Gita
Krishna – “The four divisions of human society are created by Me.”
– BG 4.13
The duties and qualities of each of the four divisions (Brahmans, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras) are laid out in BG 18.42-44.
Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness – these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work. Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the ksatriyas. Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaisyas, and for the sudras there are labor and service to others.
Take note of what this passage teaches. There are certain classes of people who cannot attain to virtues such as: purity, honesty, knowledge, and wisdom. The lowest class cannot attain to anything higher than physical labor and service to others. Krishna specifically states that women, vaisyas, and sutras are of “lower birth” (BG 9.32).
The subsequent outcome of the caste system, Krishna’s four divisions of society, is the prescribed duty of each individual in whatever caste they find themselves born into. Examine the teachings of the BG passages regarding duty.
BG 2.27 – Duty is unavoidable.
BG 2.31 – Duty is specific according to caste.
BG 2.33 (3.8) – It is sin to reject your given duty.
BG 2.47 (3.19, 31; 18.9) – “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your actions.”
BG 3.5- Duty is prescribed by being born into a specific caste.
BG 3.22-24 – Even Krishna is subjected to prescribed duties.
BG 18.7 – “Prescribed duties should never be renounced.”
BG 18.59 – “By [Arjuna’s] nature, [he] will have to be involved in warfare.”
In summary, everyone is born into a particular caste, which comes with its own particular duty. It is sinful to reject your prescribed duty or to aspire to a higher duty than the one you have been born into. Because of the prescription of duty and the unchanging nature of your caste, you shouldn’t feel responsible for the consequences of your actions. Consequences of actions are, after all, not your fault since Krishna demands that you follow your duty.
Take careful note of the implications of the following passage:
By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done. By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work. It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions…Therefore one should not give up the work born of his nature, O son of Kunti, even if such work is full of fault
These particular words of Krishna’s are in response to Arjuna’s reluctance to killing his brothers and cousins in war. In essence, Krishna says, “You must do it. You are a soldier and it is your duty.” In this teaching, perfection is not a moral standard to be aspired to, but a blind acceptance of one’s duty, despite the outcome of one’s actions.
Isn’t it interesting that Krishna admits that certain types of prescribed duties are “full of fault” ? It is human nature, as Arjuna argues, to hold more tightly to moral obligations than to perceived caste duties. Should the son of a family of beggars, with a talent for music, not seek to improve his family’s desperate status by leaving his socio-economic class behind for a better, more prosperous status? Should the boy born in Nazi Germany have honoured his duty to fight as a soldier upholding Hitler’s evil regime, instead of his moral obligation to fellow man? Would Krishna be pleased with someone born to a family of beef butchers who worked in the slaughterhouse because of his prescribed duty?
Societal Divisions and Prescribed Duty in the Bible
Consider the aspects of societal divisions and “duty” as seen from the Bible. It is evident, I believe, that the teachings found in the Bible fit within the moral obligations inherent in human society, much better than the notion of prescribed duties taught by Krishna in the BG.
Instead of the caste system, in which all people are divided, the Bible teaches that Jesus has come and torn down those barriers which formerly separated groups of people. Everyone has the same value, no matter their race, gender, and economic standing.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
For [Jesus] Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.
Christianity teaches the unity of mankind where every individual is equally valued and important. In accordance with this teaching, every man and woman has the same duty.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
The duties taught by Krishna might very well include fighting and killing because of the group you were born into. The duties taught by Jesus include loving God and as a natural outgrowth of that love, loving all other humans.
Standard of Morality in the Gita Compared to the Bible
You can imagine that the standards of morality given by Jesus and Krishna would be as vastly different as the prescribed duties that each of them teach. In the following passage, Arjuna tells his reluctance to fight his brethren. In fact, he is much closer to the moral teachings of Jesus before he is convinced by Krishna to follow his duty as a soldier.
Arjuna – I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom or happiness…Of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield? …Why should I wish to kill them, even though they might otherwise kill me? …I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth…Sin will overcome us if we slay such aggressors…How could we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?…Why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts of sin?
– BG 1.31-38
Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts…Better for me if the sons of Dhrtarastra, weapons in hand, were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield. – 1.44-45
Arjuna’s words of love and sacrifice for his family are very similar to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-29, 31-33.
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either…Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
Unfortunately, Arjuna listens to Krishna, who tells him that his love for his family is “degrading impotence” and “weakness of heart” (2.4) because he is not ready to uphold his duty.
Krishna’s reasoning for saying these things is as follows:
Never was there a time when I did not cease to exist, nor you, nor all these kings; not in the future shall any of us cease to be. – BG 2.12
“How can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, eternal, unborn and immutable kill anyone?” – BG 2.22
“If, however, you do not perform your religious duty of fighting, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.” – BG 2.33
Here is another passage in the BG where devotion to Krishna requires a blind acceptance of Krishna’s words as truth, solely because “he said so.” Why ought we to believe in the cyclical rebirths and reincarnation taught in the BG? Because Krishna says we ought to, and because we ought to have already come to faith in Krishna before we started reading the BG. This reasoning is as cyclical as the cycles of reincarnation taught in this book.
It is remarkable that Krishna, after commanding Arjuna to fight and kill his family members, he then tells him to “keep all abominable activities far distant” from him (2.49).
The Christian might ask, “If killing isn’t abominable, what is?”, but the BG is consistent in the teaching that sin is only accomplished when one does not keep his duty (2.33).
Krishna wavers in his definitions of what is abominable. In one passage, an “abomination” is simply failing to uphold one’s prescribed duty. In a later passage, his definition of “abominable” seems to be more inline with Arjuna’s perceived moral obligation to love his family. In this case, however, Krishna reminds Arjuna that:
Even if one commits the most [seemingly] abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination. – BG 9.30
This is in complete contrast to what is taught in the Bible.
Hate what is evil. Hold fast to what is good.
Notice that the things God hates are certain types of behaviour that humans take part in. Therefore, unlike the teachings of Krishna, the God of the Bible has set a divine standard for human behaviour. See Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
Questions for the Bhagavad Gita
1) If Krishna truly desired peace (BG, xiv), why did he give his army to Duryodhana and give himself as advisor and chariot driver to the Pandavas, Duryodhana’s enemies? If he truly desired peace, why did he command Arjuna to fight at least five times (BG 2.18, 39; 3.30; 8.7; 11.33-34) ?
2) If Krishna is completely separate from the material world, why would he desire his followers to offer material things to him (BG 9.26-27) ?
3) Krishna urges Arjuna to “be relieved of the miseries of material existence” (BG 9.1). If Krishna created the material universe (BG Intro, 11), why did he create it to be so miserable?
4) Why does Krishna give conflicting commands to Arjuna? He tells Arjuna to fight and kill his enemies (family members), and then later says that if anyone wishes to come to him, he must be “friendly to every living being” (BG 11.55)? Later, Krishna says that if one wishes to be his devotee, he must be “a kind friend to all living entities” (BG 12.13). Furthermore, Krishna states that godly men will show “charity,” “nonviolence,” and “compassion for all living entities” (BG 16.3; see also 17.14 and the comments on 18.17). How do these commands harmonise with one another?
5) Who prescribed Krishna’s duties (BG 3.22-24)? If Krishna really is the “Supreme Personality of Godhead” (BG Intro, 29), who would have the authority to tell him what to do?
Differences between the teachings of Krishna and Jesus
BG 3.13 – Enjoying food is a sin.
1 Timothy 4:4 – For [every food] created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.
BG 5.20-21 – Rejoicing because of something pleasant or lamenting because of something unpleasant is evil.
Romans 12:14 – Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
BG 6.10 – A holy person ought to live alone in a secluded place.
Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
BG 7.11 – Sex for pleasure is sin.
God created sex to be good and enjoyed between a husband and wife.
Hebrews 4:13, Song of Solomon, 1 Cor. 7:2-5
BG 8.13 – All sensual engagements are sin.
Jeremiah 2:7 – “I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things.”
BG 16.16 – Hell is for those who enjoy the senses.
1 Timothy 6:17 – God richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
BG 6.15 – Heaven is the “cessation of existence.”
Revelation 21:1-4 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “ Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away
Differences in the person of Krishna and the person of Jesus
Krishna’s mercy depends on our perfection
“A person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control his senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord” – BG 2.64
Jesus’s mercy depends on His perfection
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” Titus 3:5.
Krishna desires destruction.
“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I myself appear, millennium after millennium.” – BG 4.8
“Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people.” – BG 11.32
Jesus desires no-one to perish.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”- 2 Peter 3:9
Krishna claims to be death.
“I am all devouring death.” – BG 10.35
Jesus claims to be light.
“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'”. – John 8:12
I urge all followers of Krishna and the BG to consider the logical fallacies found within this book. The life that the God of the Bible has created for you is not meant to be hated. Life’s joys are meant to be enjoyed and our sadnesses and griefs such as death, infidelity, and loneliness bring sadness to God as well. He has created us in His image (Genesis 1:26) and we have the same moral values as our Creator. This is why Arjuna initially felt wrong in killing his family members. Arjuna was right before he listened to Krishna! God created us and he has put within us a compass pointing us to do what is right and to flee from what is evil.
The caste system and subsequent duty taught by Krishna in the BG is not reconcilable with the human values of: love, compassion, and improvement. These values are found in the Bible and are celebrated as being from God.
Likewise, Krishna teaches that perfection is found only when all earthly desires are rejected. Jesus teaches that physical desires are not inherently evil, and that God’s creation (food, relationships, beauty) are made to be enjoyed.
If you are a Christian, please show love to your Hindu friends and neighbours. Tell them about the “abundant life” that Jesus has provided for everyone who follow Him (John 10:10).
If you are a Hindu, please consider this article. Consider your feelings and emotions. Do you think God created everything that is pleasing to mankind just so he can make us feel bad for enjoying it? Of course not.
Jesus loves you and wants you to enjoy your life.
Jesus- I came that [you] may have life, and may have it abundantly
He also wants you to be prepared to meet Him in the next life.
God will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well- doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self- seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil… but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good…For God shows no partiality
Are you ready?