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Title: Love or Fear of God
User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2006-02-14 23:25:00
Q.Devotees of Krishna are enchanted and attracted by His wonderful, transcendental qualities. Our religion is definitely a religion of love, not that of fear. Still, in several Vaishnava scriptures we find the the description of different horrifying things which await those who do not obey God, or who make mistakes in His worship. In the Gita also, Krishna is very liberal, He gives His instructions to Arjuna, and then leaves it all up to him if he follows them or not, He never says, "Obey my words or you go to hell." So I think many Westerners are attracted to this concept of God instead of the Christian idea of an angry, old man, Who is ready to punish and destroy those who do not obey Him. Also, it is said that even the smallest effort on the path of bhakti saves one from the worst type of fear, while in other places we can read that even the smallest mistake or offence in worship can lead to hell. I guess in the West people are a bit fed up with priests threatening them with hell, I am sure Krishna is enchanting enough to attract souls by His beauty, not by horrible threats. Threats and colorful descriptions of different hellish torments will never lead us to spontaneous, confidential bhakti. On the contrary, the fear of God makes it impossible to think of Him as our friend, lover, etc. So could you please comment on these seemingly contradictory statements, please.
Answer by Swami Gaurangapada:
Lord Gauranga-Krishna is certainly the most enchanting but the problem is that we have spoilt ourselves in this conditioned stage to think of ourselves as the centre of all enjoyment. And this mentality is so strong that in most cases it cannot be recitifed without the administration of proper punishment.
This is similar to the punishment which the hard-core criminals have to face in the jail for their rectification. If you say that the criminals should simply be given love, that may not be enough for most of them. Because they may misuse that love until they are purified of their criminal mentality by discharge of proper punishment. That is the precise reason why the prison is created by the government and why the material world with the 28 kinds of different hells was created by the Lord.
Descriptions of the fearful hells in the Vedic scriptures and the words of God and His pure devotees are a fact and they are guaranteed reactions for the sinful activities commited by the fallen conditioned souls. So simply stating the facts cannot be called as cruelty but it is compassion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
So the scriptures don't just want the souls to become fearful but they just want to state the fact about what is the next destination of the soul if the soul leads a sinful life. If the soul is in ignorance about the consequences how can you ever expect the soul to stop indulging in the sinful activities?
The scriptures do not want to merely create fear but they mercifully want to show us our miserable, factual and irreversible destination if we do not stop our sinful activities.
As Shrila Prabhupada said, fear of Maya and hell and God is very healthy for the spiritual life of the neophyte beginner. And proper fear as per the Vedic scritures in no way dimishes the loving relationship with God.
Like a son is fearful of the father in regards to doing something wrong but does that dimish or affect his extreme love and affection for his father? Noo infact it increases it if the son understands that the punishment which the father administers is just because the father loves him and cares for him and does not want to see him go astray.
So we are not saying that one should always create fear in the people in the name of spirituality but a healthy balance of love and enchantment for the Holy Names of Lord Gauranga-Krishna and fear in their hearts for doing anything against the instructions of God is the perfect balanced formula and dose for the kanishtha adhikari devotees until they achieve spontaneous attachment to the Lord.
Thus the principle of healthy spiritual fear of Maya as per the Vedic scriptures should not be rejected or compared with the whimsical and fanatical fears being imposed in the name of spirituality in the present materialistic society.
And just because the trend is that people do not like to be fearful does not mean that we neglect or reject those portions of Shrimad Bhagavatam like the 5th Canto which describe in detail the sufferings in the various kinds of hells in the nether regions of our universe.
Real spirituality means that we do not bend the Vedic facts to suit the modern materialistic ideas or trends but we fearlessly present them as they are ofcourse in a palatable manner. Ofcourse a preacher can always decide to make all the souls to first chant the Holy Names and then they will automatically develop faith in the Bhagavata philosophy and a healthy fear of their karmic reactions.
This healthy spiritual fear of Maya actually enables the soul to become even more sincere in chanting the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna!
When I sit to respond my pen keeps on flowing but I will end my reply here.