Srila Giri Maharaja “Have You Become a Polytheist?”

From: Swami B.K. Giri
To: Steve Deace
Date: July 3, 2021
Subject: Difficult to believe.

Mr. Deace,Recently you mentioned something I found difficult to believe. It went something like this: “The Christian God and the God of Islam are not the same.” You may have mentioned others’ God also, such as the God of the “Hindus”*.

I was surprised to hear you are a believer in polytheism i.e. there is a Christian God, an Islam God, a Hindu God, etc.

I think you misspoke.

By definition there cannot be more than one God. He is, alone, the Supreme Being. There cannot be a second, a third, etc.

What you should say in such situations is something like this:

There is one God, but he is seen differently due to the different vantage points of the onlooker. Thus, the Christian, standing with the Bible, sees Him from one view point. The Muslim, standing with the Koran, sees him from a different point of view. The Vaishnava standing with the view from the Bhagavad-gita, sees Him as Krishna.

I am including a passage from “The Bhagavata Speech” by Bhakti Vinoda Thakura below my signature. If you care to read it you will find the above idea expressed more fully.

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.

Swami B.K. Giri

*Hindu: this is a meaningless term originating with ancient Persians who described the people inhabiting the land mass south and east of the Sindhu (now Indus) river as Hindus. Generally you may think of this as the territory of India.

The most ancient of the Vedic scriptures (Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda), believed to have originated in India,describe and proffer many different and distinct theistic, or supposed, theistic systems of dharma (religion) encompassing all the known schools of philosophical and religious thought. All of these fall within the following six philosophical theses:

(1) The Mīmāṁsaka philosophers, following the principles of Jaimini, stress fruitive activity and say that if there is a God, He must be under the laws of fruitive activity. In other words, if one performs his duties very nicely in the material world, God is obliged to give one the desired result. According to these philosophers, there is no need to become a devotee of God. If one strictly follows moral principles, one will be recognized by the Lord, who will give the desired reward. Such philosophers do not accept the Vedic principle of bhakti-yoga. Instead, they give stress to following one’s prescribed duty.

(2) Atheistic Sāṅkhya philosophers like Kapila analyze the material elements very scrutinizingly and thereby come to the conclusion that material nature is the cause of everything. They do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes.

(3) Nyāya philosophers like Gautama and Kaṇāda have accepted a combination of atoms as the original cause of the creation.

(4) Māyāvādī philosophers say that everything is an illusion. Headed by philosophers like Aṣṭāvakra, they stress the impersonal Brahman effulgence as the cause of everything.

(5) Philosophers following the precepts of Patañjali practice rāja-yoga. They imagine a form of the Absolute Truth within many forms. That is their process of self-realization.

(6)] All five of these philosophies completely reject the predominance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and strive to establish their own philosophical theories. However, Śrīla Vyāsadeva wrote the Vedānta-sūtra and, taking the essence of all Vedic literature, established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

— Bhaktivedanta Swami, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 25.56, Purport

The people of India came to be called Hindus due to geography, not due to a particular religious system because, individually, they may have followed any one, or a combination of, the six philosophical theses described above.

The last of these “established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead” known as Krishna and is a monotheistic spiritual system which, in that way, is very similar to Christianity in that pure love of God is the preeminent goal of the practitioner’s life. Those who accept Sri Krishna as the Supreme fall into this sixth category and are known as Vaishnavas.

You can easily find many confirmations of my contention that “Hindu” and “Hinduism” are utterly deficient when used to describe a well defined religious system. Here is one of many:

The word “Hindu” is derived from the name of river Indus, which flows through northern India. In ancient times the river was called the ‘Sindhu’, but the Persians who migrated to India called the river ‘Hindu’, the land ‘Hindustan’ and its inhabitants ‘Hindus’. — “The Origins of Hinduism”

Hinduism is as useless as Americanism when it comes to defining a religion. You would do well to stop using it in that way.

From “The Bhagavata Speech” by Bhakti Vinoda Thakura

. . . Oh! What a trouble to get rid of prejudices gathered in unripe years.

As far as we can understand, no enemy of Vaishnavism will find any beauty in the Bhagavata [one of the Vedic scriptures]. The true critic is a generous judge, void of prejudices and party-spirit. One who is at heart the follower of Mohammed will certainly find the doctrines of the New Testament to be a forgery by the fallen angel. A Trinitarian Christian, on the other hand, will denounce the precepts of Mohammed as those of an ambitious reformer. The reason simply is that the critic should be of the same disposition of mind as that of the author whose merits he is required to judge. Thoughts have different ways. One who is trained up in the the thoughts of the Unitarian Society or of the Vedanta of the Benares school will scarcely find piety in the faith of Vaishnavas. An ignorant Vaishnava, on the other hand whose business it is to beg from door to door in the name of Nityananda, will find no piety in the Christians. This is because the Vaishnava does not think in the way in which the Christian thinks of his own religion. It may be that both the Christian and the Vaishnava will utter the same sentiment, but they will never stop their fight with each other only because they have arrived at their common conclusion by different ways of thoughts. Thus it is that a great deal of ungenerousness enters into the arguments of the pious Christians when they pass their imperfect opinion on the religion of the Vaishnavas.

Subjects of philosophy and theology are like the peaks of large towering and inaccessible mountains standing in the midst of our planet inviting attention and investigation. Thinkers and men of deep speculation take their observations through the instruments of reason and consciousness. But they take different points when they carry on their work. These points are positions chalked out by the circumstances of their social and philosophical life, different as they are in the different parts of the world. Plato looked at the peak of the Spiritual question from the West and Vyasa made the observation from the East. So Confucius did it from further East, and Schlegel, Spinoza, Kant, and Goethe from further West. These observations were made at different times and by different means, but the conclusion is all the same, in as much as the object of observation was one and the same. They all hunted after the Great Spirit, the unconditioned Soul of the Universe. They could not but get an insight into it. Their words and expressions are different, but their import is the same. They tired to find out the absolute religion and their labours were crowned with success, for God gives all that He has to His children, if they want to have it. It requires a candid, generous, pious, and holy heart to feel the beauties of their conclusions.

Party spirit—that great enemy of truth—will always baffle the attempt of the enquirer who tries to gather truth from the religious works of his nation, and will make him believe that Absolute Truth is nowhere except in his old religious book. What better example could be adduced than the fact that the great philosopher of Benares will find no truth in the universal brotherhood of man and the common fatherhood of God? The philosopher thinking in his own way of thought can never see the beauty of the Christian faith. The way in which Christ thought of his own Father was love absolute, and so long as the philosopher will not adopt that way of thinking, he will ever remain deprived of the absolute faith preached by the Western Saviour. In a similar manner, the Christian needs adopt the way of thought which the Vedantist pursued before he can love the conclusions of the philosopher. The critic, therefore, should have a comprehensive, good, generous, candid, impartial, and sympathetic soul.