According to the Bhagavad-gita (16.6), here are two kinds of created beings: "One is called the divine and the other demoniac." The Sanskrit for "divine" is sura, which denotes the theist, whereas asura means "atheist." The consequences of belonging to one or the other of these two classes is very serious, and perhaps for this reason many persons try to look for a middle ground, such as agnosticism or impersonalism.

It is unfortunate that nowadays theism is often described as mere faith. Sometimes it is contrasted with modern science, as if science were verifiable truth, and religion simply blind faith. Yet physicists, chemists, and mathematicians also require faith in the axiomatic principles of their systems. Similarly, faith is required for beginning to hear the science of God from the bona tide spiritual master and from the Vedic literatures. But faith is not everything. In theism there is certainly a verifiable process whereby one can know his advancement in spiritual life.

I can recall my own position as a professed agnostic and how I became convinced of theism by Srila Prabhupada. My case was a typical example of how the bona fide spiritual master can create faith in the faithless.

Srila Prabhupada attacked my doubts from many fronts. In the beginning I did not accept the Vedic scriptures as absolute proof, but I was interested in hearing reasonable explanations. Srila Prabhupada explained that God is the supplier and maintainer of life in the universe. All around us we find an expert arrangement for water, light, and food. Water is stored in the oceans, but when it is needed for human use, it is evaporated into the clouds and delivered as distilled water.

Similarly, there are natural supplies of heat and food. These supplies are not produced by man, and neither is it feasible to say that they all come about by chance. Rather, the universe is maintained by very exact management. If the sun were to deviate from its orbit and come even slightly closer to the earth, all life would be annihilated in fire; if the sun were to go slightly farther away from the earth, everything would become frozen to death. The abundant evidence of supply and control strongly indicates the presence of an intelligent force behind life and nature. Examples like these had occurred to me even before I met Srila Prabhupada. but when I heard them from him. with his conviction and deep appreciation of the Supreme Lord. they had a new effect on me.

Before I met Srila Prabhupada. I had only a vague awareness of the Vedic scriptures. I had heard that they were the oldest spiritual writings on earth. From Srila Prabhupada I began to gradually understand their comprehensiveness. For example, the Vedas discuss two types of transcendental knowledge: impersonalism and personalism. Although the Vedas declare both to be features of the Absolute Truth, the personal feature of God is revealed as the highest. (See Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 12.1-3) The science of the atma, or soul, the laws of karma, the varieties of yoga. the ultimate goal of eternity, bliss, and knowledge all these and much more is given in the Vedic texts. The more I heard the Vedic wisdom, the better I liked it.

Vedic scriptures not only teach us that the Supreme Personality of Godhead exists, but they inform us of God in His original, confidential form as Lord Krsna. From Srila Prabhupada I also learned of the eternal abode of Krsna. where He engages in pastimes of love with His pure devotees.

Srila Prabhupada further explained that the present millennium is known as Kali-yuga. an age of degradation. But the Supreme Lord has given a benediction to the people of Kali-yuga in the form of the chanting of the holy names of God, the Hare Krsna mantra. The chanting is a special way to approach Lord Krsna by which even less qualified persons become successful.

In addition to hearing logical examples from the spiritual master and learning the Vedic scriptures from him. I received further blows to my atheistic doubts when I learned about the disciplic succession of great spiritual teachers. The names and lives of many persons who have succeeded in becoming liberated from the ungodly nature are given throughout the Vedic literature. I learned of great philosophers, such as Narada and Vyasa, who could analyze the difference between matter and spirit, and who found out the Absolute Truth by strength of intellectual reasoning as well as mystic devotion. I also read of yogis, like Brahma and Kardama, who transcended the relative material world through meditation and were able to directly associate with Krsna and His internal energies.

When I learned of sages like Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas, and Sukadeva Gosvami his son. who spoke the science of God in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and as I began to realize that there is a long chain of teachers after them that extends into the modern age, with writers such as Madhva (A.D. 1239-1319). Ramanuja (A.D. 1017-1137). and Lord Caitanya and His followers. I began to consider these gurus the best examples to follow. My affection for Western writers and thinkers paled in comparison to my growing appreciation for the poets, saints, and military heroes of the theistic Vedas.

The greatness of the sages themselves is therefore another evidence of the existence of God as the Supreme Person, exactly as stated in the Vedic literature. As Srila Prabhupada used to say. "We should not think that sages like Vyasadeva would insert fairy tales or mythologies into their literature."

Besides reading the teachings and the authentic histories of the ancient sages. a person is fortunate if he can actually meet a bona fide spiritual master. Before I met Srila Prabhupada. I was an asura, not only because of my intellectual doubt about God. but also because I was addicted to the ungodly habits of the asuras. Indeed, I fit the description given in the Bhagavad-gita "Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them."

But by following the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. I soon was able to give up at least the gross manifestations of sinful activities, such as illicit sex, intoxication, and meat-eating, and I prepared myself for the real work of human life to act in devotional service for the pleasure of the Supreme.

Regarding the serious consequences of belonging either to the godly or the ungodly class, Srila Prabhupada writes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.8.31):

At the present moment throughout the entire world, the atheists are extremely numerous. . . . Thus the material world is becoming more and more godless, and consequently everything is in a disturbed condition. If this continues, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will certainly take action, as He did in the case of the demon Hiranyakasipu. . . . The demons should therefore be careful and curtail their godless civilization. . . . Otherwise they are doomed. . . . The godless civilization can be destroyed at any moment.

Since the stakes are so high, it behooves an intelligent person to look thoroughly into the available information on theism, even if it means going outside traditional Western sources. In an age characterized by irreligion, the Krsna consciousness movement is serving humanity by reminding us of the validity and importance of the theistic way. Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami