A while ago I went on holiday to Auckland, and outside a market I saw some people sitting on the grass singing and chanting. I sat down and listened until I had to go. A woman was handing out magazines called "Back to Godhead." I had heard of Hare Krishna consciousness, but that was all. I had no idea whatsoever of what the religion was all about. I read the magazine, and now I want to know more. I am genuinely interested. The devotees were chanting Hare Krishna Hare Rama, and I have never seen people's faces so happy and peaceful, as though they really loved living. I guess watching and listening made me realize that perhaps their happiness is every person's dream.

Tania Price
Hastings, New Zealand

I am a practicing Catholic and for the last five years have chosen to be very involved in our church. I've also for the last four years been involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal, which no doubt you've heard of. Although I've been very interested in other religious sects and cults to the extent that I've read a lot of literature on them, I've never felt compelled or "threatened" enough to question my own faith. Well, what a shock I received at Sweetwaters! Especially there since I wasn't too keen to spend much time listening to the bands and really had only two other options: to join in with the Christian activities or to interest myself with the Hare Krishna movement. Well, I opted for the second of those choices for various reasons.

To get to the point, when I saw the devotion that the Hare Krishnas had for God I was really amazed. And not only that but frightened too. In my own church I'm constantly with people who love God, people who are honestly seeking the Father, and through this are aiming to loosen the bonds of material existence. Seldom, though, have I come across the kind of love I witnessed at Sweetwaters. So you see in a way it scared me and I hope that you can understand that. . . . I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm interested from a distance. I have a hundred questions that would really be neat to discuss, but before there's any point in asking them, there are two fairly basic ones that I need answered.

In the Bible, Jesus states many times that the only way to the Father is through him. How is it then that you believe God speaks only through your divine master when He should be sought through one another, where Jesus Christ abides?

Secondly, throughout the New Testament it is stated that God lives within us, He dwells amongst us. Therefore to truly love God, it is not enough to appear to honor Him, but we must show it through our actions. Jesus said love one's neighbor, our brother, as he loves us! So please tell me what emphasis you place on seeking God in one another through Christ, and also where does love for another come into your beliefs? Please do not feel that I am getting either respect or passion mixed up in this. I'm referring to the type of love Jesus preached.

It's obvious that you're very learned and I needn't quote scripture to you, as you probably know it better than me. I hope that one day I might discuss these things with the devotees. I have no doubt that your knowledge far surpasses mine. In spite of my eagerness to learn I have to constantly remind myself that although knowledge is a good thing, it is only a human achievement. However, true wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I always have and always will pray for wisdom. God Bless You.

Mary McCulloch
Hamilton, New Zealand

Our reply: It is not true that the only way to God is through our divine master. It is true that the only way to God is through a pure devotee of God, who becomes the spiritual master of a sincere soul in order to lead him back to Godhead. The principle is that to serve God favorably you must seek out God's pure servant and become that servant's servant. Such pure servants act as God's representatives in this world. Of course. God is omnipresent, being situated in the heart of each of us as the indwelling Supersoul. When He sees that we are ready to reestablish our loving relationship with Him, He arranges for us to encounter one of His bonafide representatives, the spiritual master, who acts as the external manifestation of the Supersoul. If one is so proud as to think he can directly serve God, God will not accept his service. But if one humbly strives to please the beloved servant of God, God becomes very pleased. Indeed, only through the mercy of a pure servant is God available to us. Therefore Jesus Christ emphasized the necessity of surrendering to him. God's pure son. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).

In the most advanced spiritual literature revealed by God, "postgraduate" scriptures like the Upadesamrta and Srimad-Bhagavatam, you will find careful directions by which you can recognize one who is a true representative of God and distinguish him from pretenders, hypocrites, and cheaters. During his missionary work, Jesus found it circumstantially not possible to deliver such advanced instruction: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). Consequently, he simply emphasized that he was the only way. Since the word of God is one and is manifest identically through every pure devotee, Jesus told the truth. Anyone who serves any of God's pure devotees also serves Jesus, and keeps his commandments. It seems that you have recognized this spiritual stature in the ISKCON devotees you met at Sweetwaters. It is wise to remember that Jesus remarked, "Not everyone that sayeth unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna, God the Father, claims all living beings as His children, for all emanate from Him and are maintained by Him; all souls are part and parcel of Him. Therefore, if we obey the first great commandment of Jesus and love his Father with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37), we will naturally follow the second great commandment and love our neighbor as ourself. It is just like pouring water on the root of a tree, or giving food to the stomach of the body. Only in this way are the branches and leaves watered, the other limbs and organs nourished. If we tried to water the leaves while ignoring the root, or to feed the hand independently of the stomach, nothing would be accomplished. Similarly, we cannot really love or serve anyone independently of God. But when we love and serve God our love and service automatically spreads to embrace all God's children. Thus you will discover that the real servants of God do not needlessly kill and eat innocent animals, who are, after all, our brothers, our neighbors. And among human beings such servants of God engage in the highest welfare work—freeing their brothers from the bondage of material existence and leading them back to Godhead.

There is no reason to be frightened by any of this. It is no betrayal of Christian principles to serve the devotees of Krsna, and it is no betrayal of Krsna to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. True religion is service to God. The only necessity is to find a devotee who is serving God purely, without any motivation and without any interruption. That is the one you should serve. If you find such devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement, it will not be because we have come to abolish the teachings of Jesus, but because we have come to fulfill them.