Mukunda: What would you say is the difference between the Christian view of God, and Krishna as represented in the Bhagavad-gita?
George: […] It’s a joyful relationship. But there’s this morbid side to the way many represent Christianity today, where you don’t smile, because it’s too serious, and you can’t expect to see God–that kind of stuff.
I believe Harrison’s view of Christianity is a reflection of his Catholic upbringing, and perhaps European churches in general. What I fail to understand is him saying that you can’t expect to see God. Christendom has a history of art and the representation of Christ going back for over a millennia. He is setting up straw men only to knock them down. Further, I would guess that even his priests growing up smiled once in a while! Certainly there was a more sober approach to God in pre-Vatican II Catholic parish than in a ring of Hare Krishna devotees chanting and dancing, but that’s a pretty weak reason for deciding on ultimate truth. Harrison continues:
If there is God, we must see Him, and I don’t believe in the idea you find in most churches, where they say, “No, you’re not going to see Him. He’s way up above you. Just believe what we tell you and shut up.”
Once more, if he is referring to pictures of Krishna, then why can’t he understand that Christian iconography fulfills the same function? And the position of Christian churches is not to shut up and believe, but rather to submit to the teaching authority of God as revealed in his Scriptures. I doubt that Hare Krishna was any different. Further, we know that God is both immanent and transcendent, he isn’t ‘way above us’, he’s all around us in his omnipresence. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
I mean, the knowledge that’s given in Prabhupada’s books–the Vedic stuff–that’s the world’s oldest scriptures.
Well, it’s not older than Genesis, but that’s a matter of presuppositions.
They say that man can become purified, and with divine vision he can see God. You get pure by chanting, then you see Him.
Harrison even wrote a song about this, “Chant the name of the Lord and you’ll be free.” Here is a point of contact with Christianity. We can be purified, we can see God. In fact, this is the goal of the Christian life – to experience the divine vision of God in the end. As Richard Hooker puts it: “concerning these virtues, the first of which beginning here with a weak apprehension of things not seen, endeth with the intuitive vision of God in the world to come; the second beginning here with a trembling expectation of things far removed and as yet but only heard of, endeth with real and actual fruition of that which no tongue can express;”
So we both want to see God, but chanting does not accomplish the purity Harrison sought. Chanting may induce hallucinations and dissociated states of mind, but it will not bring you near to God. What we need is what Paul said, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)
God brought us near to him, without chanting or fasting, but rather by faith, baptism and a new life.