Ever since organized religion has existed in the world, people in different parts of the world have tried to establish the name by which they call God as greater than any other name used to call God. Those who use the same name as theirs come within the ‘We or Us’ circle. Those who use a different name are addressed as ‘They or Them’ and fall outside the ‘We’ circle.
Some say “Krishna is the greatest”, some say “Shiva is the greatest”, some say, “There is no God but Allah”, some say “Christ is the greatest”…
Those who call God by the names of Rama/Krishna/Vishnu, they call themselves Vaishnavas or Gaudya Vaishnavas (represented in ISKCON or Hare Krishna movement today that establishes Lord Krishna as supreme). Those who call God by the name of Shiva call themselves Shaivas. In India, if you go to Maharashtra, you’ll see people remembering God by the name of Ganesh. If you go to West Bengal, you will find people chanting the names Durga or Kali. In India and in other parts of the world, those who know the son of God by the name of Jesus Christ call themselves Christians (or Roman Catholics or Protestants, etc. when they disagree over various aspects). Similarly, those who do not recognize any other name for God apart from Allah call themselves Muslims (or Shias or Sunnis, a distinction established after the death of Prophet Mohammad when his followers couldn’t agree on whether the leadership after the great Prophet should be based on lineage or capability).
Remember God by any name (including those of Energy, Time, Consciousness, etc.), and He (or She if you see God in the female form) will manifest within you in that particular form [जाकी रही भावना जैसी प्रभु मूरत देखहिं तिन तैसी Jaaki rahi bhawna jaisi, Prabhu murat dekhi tin taisi “One sees God as per his/her feelings”, or “the form of God you see is a reflection of your thought process”, says Tulsidas in Ram Charit Manas]. Call God by any name you wish, s/he’ll present himself/herself in the image, form, symbol (or lack thereof) you wish to see.
In this beautiful video from the new Ramayan made by Sagar Arts and presented in the Indian channel ‘NDTV Imagine’, Lord Ram establishes that He is a bhakta or devotee of Lord Shiva (thus, He’s a Shaiva). On the other hand, Lord Shiva establishes that He is a devotee of Lord Rama (thus, He’s a Vaishnava). Thus, Lord Rama sings and plays the instrument in devotion of Lord Shiva. On the other hand, Lord Shiva dances in devotion of Lord Ram. Each is trying to please his Lord. Each is the devotee of the other. Each is the Lord of the other.
In Hindu scriptures, there are 18 puranas – each dedicated to a particular name for God – and each establishing that name as supreme. The Shiva purana establishes Lord Shiva as the greatest. The Vishnu purana establishes Lord Vishnu as the greatest. The Shrimad Bhagvad Purana establishes Lord Krishna as the greatest. Do you see a contradiction? There is a welcome contradiction. It has been done purposely so that the devotee can be free to choose the name/form of God s/he is most comfortable with, and also be assured that the name s/he is chanting is the greatest. Similarly, there is nothing wrong when we, as Christians, recognize the name Jesus Christ as the greatest or when we, as Muslims, recognize the name Allah as the greatest.
However, we should understand that while we have the right to call the name we know for God as greatest, other fellow human beings have the right to call the name they know for God as greatest. This essentially means that call Him (or Her, if you’re a feminist) by any name, we are all reaching out to the same God within us and outside us and all around us. Instead of fighting over which name is greater, devote yourself in realizing the name/form/words of the God you worship deep within you. If you’re a Hindu, be a good Hindu. If you’re a Muslim, be a good Muslim. If you’re a Christian, be a good Christian.
While it is perfectly fine to have your favorite name for God, don’t give your faiths a bad name by looking down at those in other faiths who address God by their own favorite name(s), or by having the misconception that those who address God by different names or try to reach him through different paths will go to hell. Observe the other path(s), go for a trek using the other path(s), meet and speak to people who’ve taken that way, read the guidebooks detailing those path(s) and you’ll find that it may be better or worse laid out, there might be more people treading them or less people treading them, but they too lead to the same peak up there! We are giving ourselves too much of credit when we think that there is only one superhighway leading to God and that anybody who is not on it will land up nowhere and that it is our moral duty to coerce them, beg them, pull them into the highway – even if the person was already on a well-paved road leading to the peak. If you really want to help the person, show him how to be a better driver or trekker on the road s/he already is, instead of trying to change his/her road to the peak.
When the missionary E. Stanley Jones had met with Mahatma Gandhi, he had asked him, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi had replied, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today,” he added (Dibin Samuel, 14 Aug 2008, Mahatma Gandhi and Christianity, Christian Today).
On quest for conversion to Christianity, Gandhi’s message was that instead of preaching Christianity, if a Christian Missionary was to live his life in service as exemplified by Christ, the message would be better received…”live the life according to the light…. If, therefore, you go on serving people and ask them also to serve, they would understand. But you quote instead John 3:16 and ask them to believe it and that has no appeal to me, and I am sure people will not understand it.” “A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon; the fragrance of religious and spiritual life is much finer and subtler than that of the rose.” (Dibin Samuel, 14 Aug 2008, Mahatma Gandhi and Christianity, Christian Today).
For Martin Luther King: “Mahatma Gandhi was the first person in human history to lift the ethic of love of Jesus Christ, above mere interaction between individuals and make it into a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. We may ignore him at our own peril”. When an American churchman upbraided him for this he replied “It is ironic yet inescapably true that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity.” (Ambassador (Retd) Alan Nazareth, Gandhi and Christianity, mkgandhi.org)
“Ekam sat vipra bahauda vadanti” (There is but one REALITY, though the wise speak of it in many ways), declared the Rig Veda [I.164.46 ], the oldest scripture of the oldest living religion in the world. In the few millenniums since the Rig Veda, the human race is still struggling to understand this simple truth.
Thus, instead of trying to establish the supremacy of Krishna or Rama or Shiva or Allah or Christ, we should recognize that they are different ways to address the same God (who is all pervading and within each one of us and all around us). Our quest should be to realize this God within us – to remove the layer of dust that is covering our inner soul. As a Hindu and as an Indian, I can safely say that this is the essence of Hinduism. This is the essence of India!
हर मानव में छिपी हुई है दिव्य गुणों की आग – Har maanav mein chipi hui hai divya gunon ki aag
दिल से मर्म शिखा बस छू दो तुरंत उठेगी जाग – Dil se marm shikhaa bas choo do, turant uthegi jaag
“Inside every human is hidden a fire of divine qualities
Simply touch the molten tip with all your heart, and it will immediately set ablaze”
So forget about establishing which name of God is the greatest! Go seek out the God inside you. Once you know that there is God within you, and that God can do anything, you’ll see that nothing is impossible! Go, outshine the stars!!