Edited from a lecture by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa

It is normally taken by people that religion means a type of faith, but this is not actually the real meaning of religion.

In the introduction to the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains very clearly that actually the Sanskrit word 'sanatan-dharma' is a little different from the English word 'religion' in that it better describes what religion actually is. Generally, we think of 'religion' in connection with a particular sect, but 'sanatan-dharma' refers to the eternal function of the eternal living being in relationship with the Supreme Lord. Bhaktivedanta Swami explains:

"The English word religion is a little different from sanatan-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change that faith and adopt another, but sanatan-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken away from the living entity."

So this means that the constant companion, or eternal quality of the living entity is the living entity's religion.

In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Person states:

One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living being. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me. One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.
—Bhagavad-gita 18.54-55

In this description, it is clear that it is not possible for one to enter into the kingdom of God except through the path of loving service to the Supreme. And in order for this actual attitude of love toward the Supreme Lord to exist, one must also simultaneously be free from any hatred or prejudice toward another living being. In other words, you must see everyone equally. You experience love not only for the Supreme Lord, but also for all of His parts and parcels.

The following article was edited from a lecture given by Jagad Guru.

JAGAD GURU: Close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself in the position where you are about to leave your body. One hour from now there’s going to be a nuclear war and we are going to leave this world behind. Our bodies won’t even get a chance to grow old.

You can open your eyes now. What do you want to communicate to God and to those who are around you? What do you want to feel when you come to that point in your life? Are you ready to leave?

You will ultimately experience that despite all your thinking that you are a great person or a successful individual, you cannot stop yourself from leaving this world. Whatever false pride you have, you’re now faced with you not being the controller. You cannot stop yourself from dying.

Gift-giving during Christmas time has become a worrisome experience for many people. Practically everyone is trying to figure out, “What should I get so-and-so for Christmas? What will make him happy? Hmmm, maybe a bicycle . . . a DVD . . . a new shirt . . . or a pen. Something . . . some thing.” People visit a shopping center, look at all the display windows and wonder, “Humm, will that make her happy?”

Some individuals can’t decide all the way to the last minute. They don’t really know what’s going to make people happy, so they put off buying gifts until the last minute. Then during the last two days before Christmas, they join this big rush in the department stores where they just end up buying whatever. They guess, “Oh well, maybe this will make him happy. I’ll just give him this. Since I spent enough money on it, it’s bound to satisfy him because after all the more expensive it is, the more satisfying it’s supposed to be to whoever gets it. Right?”

The Supreme Personality of Godhead Who is greater than all, is attainable by unalloyed devotion. Although He is present in His abode, He is all-pervading, and everything is situated within Him.
-Bhagavad-Gita Ch. 8.22

Some people say that God is not attainable and that we can never see God. Many people are taught that God must always remain a mystery to us and that we cannot actually attain God.

But here it is stated in scripture by God Himself that He is attainable. We can actually achieve perfect God-realization. We can have a perfect relationship with God and see Him face to face. We can have God as our Master, as our Friend, as our Beloved.

Question: It seems like every day there is another national or world crisis in the news. Is there a solution to the global economic and environmental problems facing us today?

Jagad Guru: The real question is, “When is enough enough?”

In some parts of the world, people are dying from severe undernourishment, while in other parts of the world people are dying from obesity.

There is more than enough food, water, and fuel to satisfy the needs of everyone on the planet, but not enough to satisfy everyone's greed.

In their activities and interests, humans and animals have several characteristics in common:

  • Animals eat. Human beings also have to eat.
  • Animals sleep. Human beings also need sleep.
  • Animals have sex to procreate. Humans also have sex.
  • Animals defend themselves; they fight. Human beings also have to defend themselves.

Despite the similarities, there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals. What is that difference?

Our journey through life can be compared to traveling through a vast and varied landscape full of all kinds of wonders, enjoyment, dangers, suffering, heartache, light and darkness, clear and cloudy skies. On our journey through life we come across many different people and other living entities, all kinds of landscapes, experiences, challenges, fearful situations, and comfortable and happy situations...

Hatred and conflict are often rooted in differences between people of different races and religions. We all need to respect people of different races as well as people of different faiths and religions. We need to unite by recognizing our common desire and need for a harmonious society—a society in which we and our children and families and friends and communities can all live our lives in peace and harmony...

Question: I’m a teacher and am disheartened that racism is still so prevalent, not only in schools, but we see racial tension and resulting problems across the U.S. and throughout the world. How can we overcome racism?

Jagad Guru: To overcome racism, indeed for there to be any chance of harmony in society, there must be a clear understanding of the nature of our identity as being different from our bodies.

The foundation of racism and racial conflict is the false identification of the body as the self.

Identifying a person by the race of his body is like identifying a person by the color of the shirt he is wearing.