Recently we received this comment from a reader:
"I read with much dismay your reflections ("Healer, Heal Thyself") in Vol. 13, No. 9. What gives you the right to criticize faith healers and charismatics? Most of them that I know have never killed anything in their life…. As for me, I serve a God that is concerned about my body and my pains as well as my soul. I would hate to think that I served a God who would want me to suffer pain for some past sin when I had confessed it and asked forgiveness….
In "Healer, Heal Thyself" we made two criticisms that we may further clarify for Mr. Fisler. We pointed out that calling on God to remove physical distress is far short of pure love of God. The scriptures teach us to love God and have faith in Him unconditionally; our devotion should not be dependent on His adjusting our material situation as we may desire. As we also pointed out, suffering is an inevitable part of life in the material world. The only way to get ultimate relief is to get out of the cycle of birth and death and return to the spiritual world. Turning to God as the order supplier for our material desires is at least recognition of the Supreme and may therefore be considered religious, but it is more like religious business than pure devotion. Even if God blesses our family with health and prosperity, that does not mean we have attained to the kingdom of God. Rather, before we can attain to the spiritual world, we must give up all material attachments, whether our attachments are impious or pious. Even attachment for a good, wholesome material life will be the cause of our taking birth again in the material world and inevitably suffering its miseries.
The kingdom of God is attained by one who has exclusive devotion for Him and never asks for anything but to be engaged in His eternal devotional service. Such a devotee of the Lord takes even material distress as a manifestation of God's mercy, since it reminds him that his only shelter is in the eternal world and that there is no permanent abode of peace in this material world. In the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam a devotee expresses these higher sentiments of pure devotional service: "My dear Lord, one who constantly waits for Your causeless mercy and goes on suffering the reactions for his past misdeeds, offering You respectful obeisances from the core of his heart, is surely eligible for spiritual liberation."
Mr. Fisler says he would hate to think he served a God who would allow us to suffer after we have confessed and asked for forgiveness. By definition, God is merciful, and He never wants us to suffer. He wants us to be with Him in the spiritual world, but when by misuse of our independence we fall into the material world, suffering is inevitable. Sincere confession will certainly gain us Krsna's mercy, but if we are actually sincere, then we have to reform our activities. Otherwise, such repeated "confessions" become a mockery of His mercy. If we repeatedly confess our sins and praise the Lord but claim we are too weak to follow His commandments, then we are attempting to cheat God. But because Krsna is the most intelligent and no one can cheat Him, it is we who have to be cheated and suffer. And we cannot blame Him for sufferings that we have brought upon ourselves. Even an ordinary civil magistrate would not be fooled if a repeated offender asked to be let off with a few words of confession. And the Bible affirms,
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my father, who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21) On this point the Christian and Vedic scriptures are in agreement, although the Vedic scriptures contain a more developed description of how the soul transmigrates and how the law of karma acts upon him.
We also stated that the healers who claim mystic intimacy with the Supreme should demonstrate their confidential love of God by at least following His commandments, such as the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Mr. Fisler has objected to our implication that some healers are not following this commandment. "Most of them that I know have never killed anything in their life." But aren't faith healers among those who pay to have thousands of cows slaughtered daily for meat?
The Vedic literatures acknowledge that in this material world one living being is food for another, but this does not allow for unrestricted violence or cannibalism or murder. Each living being has a quota allowed by God, and he should not go beyond that. For example, if a tiger attacks a deer and kills it with his own claws, that is not considered a transgression of God's laws, but all the great scriptures of the world insist upon nonviolence as standard for the human being. (Even if a human being takes his own life, that is a great sin, and he has to suffer for it in his next life.) Humans should spare not only the lives of their fellow human beings but also the lives of animals.
Even a vegetable is a form of life (though a lower one). So while complete nonviolence may be impossible, violence should be kept to a minimum. The Vedic scriptures prescribe that a human being should avoid animal slaughter and eat only simple foods such as grain, fruit, milk products, and vegetables. Although the vegetarian is also taking life, if he makes an offering of his food to God, he's relieved from the karma. Otherwise, as Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (3.13), "Those who eat food for personal sense enjoyment verily eat only sin."
We certainly do not intend to insult the sincere follower of any authentic scripture. But those who pursue the path of religion must be exemplary in their behavior and must thoroughly understand the science of God. A person who really wants to follow God's will does not try to make Him his private "healer" or order supplier for material advantage; his sincere desire should be to serve and praise God, no matter what material position he is in. And acknowledging that all living creatures are sons of God, he should obey the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" and avoid the slaughter of innocent creatures, animals as well as human beings.