IN THE PREVIOUS issue of BTG, we mentioned that a magazine in the Pacific Rim had published an editorial objecting to our series on the demigods, the exalted servants of Lord Krsna who govern the laws of the universe. I had expected that in the present issue we might answer the editor's objections.

We won't and for an unanticipated reason: local religious politics. In several countries on the Pacific Rim, the national government has set up local boards to advise it on religious affairs, and among these is a board for Hinduism. The countries I have in mind have large Hindu populations, so the board is meant to represent the Hindu interest.

The governments take seriously the boards they have appointed, so the boards have a fair amount of power. By the advice of the board, a religious group can receive full state approval and support or it can be marginalized or even banned.

As fate would have it, the majority of Hindu leaders in these countries subscribe to precisely the idea which BTG, in recent articles, has challenged: the idea that worship of any god will bring one to the same goal, since the gods merely represent a higher, impersonal Absolute.

As our recent articles have shown, in the Bhagavad-gita this idea is rejected. The Gita clearly declares that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and all other deities are His servants. Though the Absolute does include a formless, impersonal feature, that feature is in fact subordinate to the ultimate personal form of Godhead, Sri Krsna.

What we are seeing here is a difference of views that has been a hallmark of philosophical discussion in India for centuries: the difference between personalism and impersonalism.

Both the personalists and impersonalists agree that everything is one. But the impersonalists say that everything is utterly one nothing and no one is ultimately distinct from anything or anyone else. And the personalists say that oneness includes eternal variety. Everything is one because everything is the energy of Lord Krsna. We are all one because we are all part and parcel of Krsna, yet at the same time, everything and everyone is truly and distinctly individual.

Getting back to politics: In some countries where the impersonal school of Hinduism is in the majority, local Hindu leaders seem inclined to advise their governments that as long as everything is one, everything is cozy: peace and harmony and religious tolerance will prevail, because everything is one. But Krsna consciousness, they say, will mean intolerance and discord, because it insists on individuality, and in particular the supreme individuality of Krsna. So the impersonalists, it seems, would like the government to weigh in on their side. But in arguing for the coziness of oneness, they have also shown the flaw in their thinking. For all paths are equally true except Krsna consciousness. All views are equally valid except Krsna consciousness. All should be honored and tolerated except Krsna consciousness.

What kind of oneness is that?

Anyway, in the interests of keeping harmony with powerful and potentially repressive local boards, we'll leave that Pacific Rim editorial without further comments. Except this

In arguing for oneness, the impersonalists have proven our point: everyone is eternally individual.

-Jayadvaita Swami