The key is to acknowledge the origin of all life.
I RECEIVED A PHONE CALL from Sri Bhari B. R. Malhotra, a prominent industrialist based in Pune, India, inviting me to speak at a conference on "Reverence for All Life." Considering the Malhotras' relationship with Srila Prabhupada he had called them "our good friends" and wanting to present the message of Krsna, I accepted.
The list of the conference organizers was impressive. Prominent representatives from various fields and cultures had joined together to promote vegetarianism.
The conference was held on the grounds of the most prestigious hotel in Pune. Gathered on stage were distinguished leaders from the fields of religion, politics, science, business, social work, and even the military. Thousands of delegates from around the world sat in the audience.
The program began with a representative from each religion reciting a short prayer of invocation. Then all the participants on stage joined to light a sacred lamp. One after another the distinguished speakers appealed for compassion, nonviolence, and reverence for all life. Finally my turn came:
The Origin of Life
"I am very pleased to be with you today and wish to express my gratitude to the organizers, especially my dear friend Sri Bhari Malhotra, his older brother, Sri S. P. Malhotra, and all the other great souls who have helped organize and make this function so successful.
"We are here to appreciate and develop reverence for all life. The Bhagavad-gita, which is a scientific explanation of the supreme soul and His relationship with the individual soul, explains that all life emanates from the supreme life, or God, known in Sanskrit as Krsna. When we have reverence for God, naturally we have reverence for all life. If we love God, naturally we will love all living entities, who come from Him. Lord Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah: 'All living entities are My fragmental parts and parcels, and they are eternal.'
"The Bhagavad-gita also explains that a learned person sees all living entities equally panditah sama-darsinah because he sees the same soul within the different varieties of bodies. My spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, used to say, 'We want brotherhood, but what does it mean to be brothers? It means we have the same father.' Only when we recognize God as the supreme father can we have real brotherhood. Knowing God to be the supreme father, we can understand that if we deal with God's other children nicely, God will be pleased. But if we try to exploit and commit violence upon one another, how will the supreme father be pleased? And if God is not pleased, how can we expect peace and prosperity in the world?
"Animals are also children of God, although they have less developed intelligence. They resemble human children, who also do not have developed intelligence, or developed speech. Nor can they defend themselves. But in a family the strong are meant to protect the weak. For a stronger older brother to torture or massacre a baby is a terrible crime. How upset and angry the father would be! So animals should be treated like our younger brothers or sisters, to be protected, not exploited or slaughtered so we can eat their flesh.
"By Krsna consciousness, by realizing that God is the supreme father of all living entities, we can actually achieve brotherhood and unity among all living beings.
"Now, we have heard many wonderful talks today. I felt enlightened by hearing the noble thoughts expressed by the esteemed participants. We have heard about the need for love, for compassion, for reverence for all life. We have heard of the horrors of cruelty and violence inflicted on less fortunate living beings. But we are faced with the practical fact that so many human beings do not love as much as they should. Nor do they have compassion or reverence as they should. So how to create the love and other finer sentiments we value? There must be some process.
"The Gita and other scriptures of the world advise us that to develop love for God, which naturally includes love for all living entities, we must adopt a spiritual process. And the best process recommended for the modern age is the chanting of the holy names of God. The Vedic scriptures advise:
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
'One should chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names. There is no other means of success in the Age of Kali [the present age].' (Brhan-naradiya Purana 3.8.126)
"Similarly the Koran advises that one should chant the names of God. For many years I had the opportunity to go to Pakistan and teach Krsna consciousness. I was pleased to meet some very learned Muslim friends. Just as the Hindus have Visnu-sahasra-nama ['The Thousand Names of Visnu'], the Muslims have 'Ninety-Nine Names of God.' The Koran (7.180) states, "The most beautiful names belong to God, so call on Him by them." And learned Muslims understand that they can achieve the perfection of life by chanting the holy name of God at death. I even learned from my Muslim friends how vegetarianism is part of the teachings of the Koran, and I saw a book by a Muslim physician entitled Vegetarianism and the Koran.
"Similarly, the Bible enjoins that one should praise the name of the Lord with cymbals and drums. And in the teachings of Buddha, one is advised to chant the holy names of God: "All who sincerely call upon My name will come to Me after death, and I will take them to paradise." (Buddhist Sutras, Vow of Amida Buddha, 18)
"So the chanting of the holy names of the Lord is a universal process recommended in all scriptures for the modern age, and unless we adopt a practical means for purifying the heart of hatred and anger and violence, our pontification or platitudes will not really bring the desired results. So I appeal to you all. Many of you are important leaders in society. Even if you are not very big leaders, you are leaders in your society, in your community, in your family. Please consider the need to chant the holy names of God to purify the heart of the sinful desire to commit violence on other living entities.
"All over the world we have practical experience of the effects of chanting the names of God. The Vedic literature explains that in the modern age, the Age of Kali, the Lord Himself, Sri Krsna, appears as Sri Krsna Caitanya. Five hundred years ago Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama sarvatra pracara hoibe mora nama
'In every town and village of the world, My name [the name of God] will be sung.'
"ISKCON's founder and spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was instrumental in fulfilling the desire and prediction of Lord Caitanya. And what has been the consequence of chanting throughout the world? People addicted to all sorts of bad habits have given up their vicious activities and are following regulative principles: no eating meat, fish, or eggs, no intoxication, no gambling, and no illicit sex. Those who from babyhood were fed meat, without any consideration that meat-eating is wrong, have become vegetarians, or 'Krsnatarians,' who eat only sanctified food offered to the Lord. The potency of chanting of the names of God is so great. And I believe that our aspirations for reverence for all life, for an end to unnecessary violence, can be successful only if people are engaged on a large scale in chanting the holy names of God. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna."
Sri Bhari Malhotra interjected, "Why don't we all chant!"
I continued: "Actually, these names of God are not sectarian. There is no question of a Hindu God or a Muslim God or a Christian God. There is only one God, who is the supreme father of all of us. And He is not Hindu, Christian or Muslim, but He is the supreme spirit soul.
"So now we'll chant Hare Krsna, and later, if any of you want to lead the chanting of any other name of God, we will also be happy to join in."
I led the audience in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra responsively, first two words at a time, then four, then eight, and finally all sixteen words. Eventually almost everyone in the audience respectable ladies and gentlemen of various faiths were standing and clapping and singing: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
I thought, "Now the conference is successful. The participants have chanted the holy names of Krsna (God), the origin of all life."
Giriraja Swami serves as an ISKCON Governing Body Comissioner for Mumbai, Mauritius, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and several other places.