The Real Purpose Of A Divine Messenger
There is no difference between any of the representatives of God who come to deliver the conditioned souls of this material world, they simply come when the previous instructions are not clearly understood or when there is a great need of their appearing for a specific purpose.
Throughout human history, there have been many varieties of monumental events; Political upheavals, revolutions, the rise of empires and their subsequent downfall, shifts in focus like the renaissance and more recently the hippie movement, and technological advancements that changed the face of the world, like the industrial revolution. Perhaps a sometimes overlooked aspect, however, but one that nonetheless permeates all cultures and certainly molds the very direction of growth and change within this world, is the appearance of those great personalities sometimes referred to as "Divine Messengers".
Most notable amoungst the preachers of the divine and the higher truths of reality are Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, The Prophet Muhammad and most recently His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. But why is there a need for such descended masters of the spirit? This world might superficially seem to be going along just nicely without said saintly persons. If we take a closer look at the world itself and how it's working, we will see the urgent necessity of the elevated personalities like His Divine Grace Swami Prabhupada, and why, in the ultimate issue, there is fundamentally no difference between any of them.
If such a messenger is at all bona-fide, he will say pretty much the same thing as any other: This world is temporary and full of suffering and it is in one's interest to get out out of it. This is the first and foremost point for any messenger. We experience death, birth, old and disease as basic principles of life at the present moment and have done for longer than anyone has a memory of. Besides these impeding and inevitable aspects of reality, we accept life as it is as enjoyment. We work very hard for a little remuneration, just like an ass, who strains himself by carrying tons of cloth for a morsel of grass. Even if a person was able to become very successful with a big bank balance, a nice looking wife, plenty of fast cars and a big mansion, he is forced by the influence of time to meet his cruel end at the hands of death at the end of it all. One should therefore inquire, if he has any sense, "of what use is all of that work?". Even while we are working so hard just to meet death, our life is full of suffering. We are troubled by the mind, hindered by the body, attacked and tortured by other persons and animals, and we are by harassed by natural disasters and disease. The topmost point of contradiction of the living entity in this world is that he is eternal, but the world around him and the body he is situated in are not. The world and body are comprised of five elements; earth, water, fire, air and ether and all of these elements, along with the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and false ego, are changing. This is the nature of anything material. The universe, one could call it the gigantic body, came into being at one point, expanded for some time and eventually began to decay. Eventually it will be annihilated. Everything within this material world is consequently always of the same nature. That's confirmed by both modern science and the Bhagavad-Gita, in which it is said
"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both." [BG 2.16]
Although everything within our immediate visual vicinity is temporary, we can observe by the presence of consciousness that the person who experiences this temporary nature is eternal and unchanging. A persons body is going through so many chemical changes and drastic growths: One starts with a small, youthful child's' body and it progresses on up to a old persons frail body, but the person is always there, despite so many changes of the body. The body is completely different, but he is always the same observer. That eternal consciousness is somehow or other now forced into a temporary atmosphere and forced to try and enjoy it, which can be compared to a man asked to enjoy a room full of pleasures with the only condition being that he will shortly and definitely be shot in the head. Such a room is very difficult to enjoy. Thus this world, although seemingly full of pleasures, is momentary and is consequently very miserable. Therefore, a divine messenger is required to lift us out of it. Because we are in ignorance of the solution, and often too entangled in the material nature to understand that we are even suffering, the messenger is completely necessary to wake us up out of this dream of reality. Being above the laws of material nature, he can understand our precarious position and also the process by which to get out.
In order for us to properly understand the position of the divine messenger, we first must understand our relationship with God. God is the supreme and original person, transcendental, absolute and the source of all energies. There are two principle energies of God, who's name is Krishna, of which one is the material energy, which contains the separated inferior energies previously described as earth and water etc. But there is another, superior energy called the living entity. The living entity is an expansion of Krishna and is a unique, individual soul, eternally His part, parcel and thereby eternal servitor. There are two divisions of these minute expansions, which in Sanskrit are called Jiva tattva. The two kinds of Jiva tattva are eternally liberated and eternally conditioned, nitya-mukta and nitya-bandha respectively. The latter is called eternally conditioned because he has been embodied within the material nature since longer than anyone can chalk out. The living entity decides to take a material body as soon as he wants to enjoy just like Krsna, to be on an equal platform with Krishna. A great Vaisnava poet, Jagadanada Pandit, explains very clearly the position in his prema-vivarta when he says "When an individual soul forgets his eternal relationship with God and tries to lord it over the material nature or resources, that condition, that forgetful condition, is called maya, or illusion." [Prema-Vivarta] A minute part and parcel and never be equal to the complete whole Personality of Godhead and he can never assume such a position because that is simply not his nature.
Krishna is always the enjoyer, and his part and parcels are expanded for his pleasure. When one wants to assume Krishna's position, he must take an illusory, materially constructed body, which covers him with the illusion that he is God. The material senses make one bereft of spiritual vision. Only then can a minute soul think that he is Krishna, because as soon as a soul understands Krishna, he immediately understands his own position as a subordinate. Because he is eternally the servant of Krishna, In the spiritual state, his senses are always directly engaged in Krishna's service, but in the conditional state, they are indirectly serving Him in the form of the senses and their objects, which are also his impersonal, separated material energies. This indirect service makes one feel independent from Krishna, thereby giving him the illusion of being himself the lord of all he surveys. The Nitya-Mukta, the eternally liberated soul, however, ever remains a full cognizant servant of Krishna.
When one is in his original spiritual position, he is eternally blissful and full of knowledge, because he is in his real and eternal position as an expansion of the eternal, blissful and fully cognizant God. Emanating from Krishna, he has the qualities of Krishna in minute quantity. In the spiritual world, the nitya-mukta is enjoying with Krishna in a loving, transcendental service relationship, as a friend, parent, servant, a neutral object or even as a lover. This relationship is spiritually ecstatic and therefore the nitya mukta naturally feels compassionate for the suffering conditioned soul. On the order of Krishna, the ever-liberated pure devotee enters the material world, completely uncontaminated by material energy, to deliver the fallen conditioned souls by reawakening their God consciousness. In the vaisnava-pranama, a prayer by Bhakti-yogis, those connect to Krishna through love and devotion, the attitude of a pure devotee is portrayed. The devotee prays "I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord. They are just like desire trees who can fulfill the desires of everyone. They are oceans of mercy and are the purifiers of the fallen souls." [Vaisnava pranama] A devotee of the Lord has the Lord's interests at heart, and the Lord's interest is that the soul suffering in the material world return to his eternal abode of happiness and complete knowledge.
When a pure devotee comes to the material world, he is always in touch with Krishna. He is firmly established in Yoga, which means "to connect to the Supreme". Being always with the most pure and transcendental Lord, the pure devotee is not subject to any illusion or material inebriety. This means that a pure devotee also has pure senses. In conditional life, on account of the imperfect material senses, we cannot have perfect knowledge. Every person has four defects due to his being in a material tabernacle: He must have imperfect senses, he must be illusioned (Just like how we think we are the body even though we are factually not), he must cheat others and he must also make mistakes. In effect, we can never ascertain perfect truth and subsequent happiness thereof. A soul liberated from the material nature is therefore the only way to understand God and life beyond the body. He is the only way to ascertain knowledge beyond the senses. A conditioned living entity has a material body on account of his desire to enjoy material senses, separately from Krishna, but a pure devotee, who only is thinking of Krishna's satisfaction, has no such material body. He always remains in his pure and fully spiritual position, although it may appear to a conditioned soul that he is an ordinary man. However, one should make no such distinction or be bewildered by his seemingly mundane affairs. Every action of the spiritual master is transcendental and an instruction.
There is no difference between any of the representatives of God who come to deliver the conditioned souls of this material world, they simply come when the previous instructions are not clearly understood or when there is a great need of their appearing for a specific purpose. At different times, places and to different categories of people, the pure devotees appear to give different instructions with the same goal in mind. A very clear example of this is of Lord Buddha, who advented 3000 years ago. When he incarnated he apparently preached atheism. His main message was twofold; that the world is suffering and that one should transcend it to a state of consciousness known as nirvana. This nirvana means the cessation of material existence, no more activity. That kind of message was very palatable for the atheistic class of men at the time of his incarnation. When Lord Buddha appeared, animals were being sacrificed brutally and in great quantity simply for the sake of eating. In the Vedas, the most ancient scripture in the world, there are prescribed animal sacrifices for the testing of ancient mantras. These mantras, when properly vibrated, would actually be for the benefit of the animal, giving it new life after the destruction of it's old body. But because the atheistic class of men were using the Vedas simply for their sense gratification, Lord Buddha incarnated in order to preach both ahimsa, non-violence, and nirvana, an atheistic spiritual path. But actually, because Lord Buddha was a pure devotee, a direct representative of Krishna, by worshiping him, as Buddhists currently do, even though they claim to atheistic, they actually get the benefit of following and worshiping a pure devotee. In this way, they will reach perfect God consciousness.
All bona-fide representatives of God come here to do the same thing, to reawaken our dormant love for God. However, according to the land of their birth, their upbringing and culture, people have different experiences and some have more or less intelligence. It follows logically then, that according to the varieties of circumstance, different preaching is required. Just like in a mathematics class, there is the principle that one plus one is equal to two. Now, in a more advanced calculus class, the same principle is there, but there are also higher mathematics. Similarly, the aim of religion, to love God, is always there, but it is more or less elaborate according to the time, place and circumstance. For the crowd that Lord Jesus Christ was preaching to, for example, we know from the Bible that the first thing he stressed was the following of the first commandment, "thou shalt not kill". The people around the time Christ appeared were simply killing each other and animals, and therefore Christ had to give them a simplified message of the science and message of God-consciousness, more suited just to rectify their mentality in order to approach God.
Now, however, people are a little more cultured, technology advanced, more educated and more intelligent. They are fond of science and even questioning previously firmly established dogmas and beliefs. They are not satisfied with simply that "God is great" and "God created everything". A full explanation of the science is required for the modern thinking man. Therefore, Srila Prabhuapda arrived in the west with the Science of Krishna consciousness, the complete and detailed information of God and how to love him. The philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, As It Is, is unrivaled by any other literature or philosopher in all of history. No other sect of spiritualism or critic or scholar has been able to find a legitimate fault in the philosophy and practice of Krishna consciousness: It is fully authorized and there is no dearth of perfect knowledge. It's practical effects are seen also, with young men and women easily giving up the cornerstones of materialistic life: Illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and meat-eating in favor of development of love for God. Therefore, it is the perfect message for the modern society, and the solution to the social, economical and religious problems that the world faces today. Srila Prabhupada translated the great song of God, Bhagavad-gita, and wrote purports supported by the strength and authority of Vedic literature, previous stalwart teachers of the science called Arcaryas, and other saintly persons. His works have been approved, studied and recommended by prestigious universities and institutions all over the world. People from every corner of the planet have joined the Krishna consciousness movement, giving up all worldly opulence for a simple life of self-realization, a life of pursuing Krishna.
The Krishna consciousness philosophy doesn't say that one should give up his religion and practice Krishna consciousness instead. All the previous bona-fide divine messengers gave the proper direction, and if people actually follow the instructions of those great saintly persons, then they too will come to the perfection of life, full Krishna consciousness. It is simply a question of whether or not one's religious practice is resulting in an increase of love for God or for matter. That is the test. If one is becoming more and more God-conscious, he will eventually only have attraction for God. It's just like the
Muslims say, "God is more important than anything, even one's own family, friends and duties." So no divine messenger will ultimately contradict each other. The underlying and eternally true message of love for Godhead is the principle that all religions now have lost. It's the message that all the previous great representatives of God, Lord Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha were talking about. These saints were not Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists. They were self-realized souls, who understood that to love God unconditionally is the actual purpose of religion. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita,
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." [BG 18.66]
Thus the real purpose of religion and the real divine message is established. It isn't about saying "This is my practice" and "this is my teacher" and "your practice and your teacher are different so you're a nonsense". No, the purpose of religion is to give up all the designations and simply surrender in love to God.