Following is an interesting debate that took place between the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Shringeri Sharada piitam, Shrii Shrii Abhinava Vidyathiirtha Mahaswamigal (1931–1989) and a Christian Missionary
Sometime in the year 1973. The missionary had come to Shringeri to debate with the Acharya and establish the “superemacy” of Christianity over the Sanatana Dharma. After exchanging a few words of formality,
Jagadguru: What is the purpose of your visit ?
Missionary: Swamiji, I intend to open a Christian church and an Ashram just near your mutt.
Jagadguru: What’s the objective or motivation for doing so?
Missionary: I want to preach Christianity and help distressed people seek peace and salvation.
Jagadguru: Well, what do you preach?
Missionary: Regarding Christianity; the greatness of Jesus Christ and thereby convert people to our Christian religion
Jagadguru: Well, could you kindly explain to me about your religion?
Missionary: With Pleasure Swamiji !!!. You may ask me specific questions. I will answer to them.
Jagadguru: How old is your religion ?
Missionary: It has been 1973 years since my religion was founded.
Jagadguru: Good. It means that there is a specific date for the beginning of your religion. But were there not people before your religion was born ? Were they not living happily ?
Missionary: If there were no people at all, for whom should we have preached our religion?
Before Christianity was born, people were very much there. Christianity began to show people the sure way to go to the Heaven.
Jagadguru: Ok !!! you mean to say that only those who follow your religion go to heavens and the rest fall into hell.
What happened to millions of people who lived (and died) before your Christianity was born ? Were they going to heavens or to hell after death ?
Missionary: They were all sinners since they didn’t follow Christianity and hence went to hell to suffer.
Jagadguru: That is highly unfair!!!. Even the most corrupt Government of the present age won’t follow such a foolish policy!!!. Is it justifiable to say that all those who didn’t follow the rules and regulations before it was formulated would go to hell?
Is it possible to know in advance the rules of Law that would be enacted sometime in distant future and follow it now? Hence it is not only unfair, but highly foolish to say that all those who didn’t embrace and follow Christianity before it was founded, were sinners and went to hell.
At this point, the Missionary was highly confused and embarrassed. His face turned pale. He had observed that the Mahaswamy was very cool and composed throughout the debate.
In contrast, the Missionary was breathing heavily due to anxiousness and showed signs of restlessness. Unable to look at the glittering persona of the Mahaswamy, the Missionary bent his head and said in a low voice
Missionary: True Swamiji. I agree to your words.
Those people (who lived before Christianity was born) would not have gone to hell. They would have only gone to the heavens.
Jagadguru: Even that would be highly unfair. Because according to you, every person who lived before the birth of Christianity would have gone to the Heaven. But according to the teachings of Christianity, only those who follow the Christ’s path would go to the Heaven and the rest would go to hell.
Therefore, it was better before Christianity was born, since everyone could go to heaven without discretion!!!. Your Christianity is indeed doing injustice to people.
Now the Missionary was highly disturbed. He had to eat his own words. He simply wished to somehow escape from that place; but could not do so
Missionary: Swamiji, please don’t ask me such questions. Please let me go!
Taking pity at the vulnerability of the Missionary, the Swamji continued:
Jagadguru: Ok, let us leave all those stuff for now. You see, people in this world are subject to different kinds of worries, sufferings and pleasures. What’s the reason for this?
Missionary: The almighty God Jesus is responsible for this.
Jagadguru: If your God is responsible for the pitiable condition of a beggar and the pleasures enjoyed by a wealthy man, then doesn’t it mean that your god likes some people and dislikes the rest ?
Missionary: That is God’s own wish. We are helpless. He can act according to his wishes.
Jagadguru: Ok then, He could have blessed everyone with only pleasures and happiness. Why did He then give sorrow and sufferings to some people ?
Missionary: Its all left to God’s wish. We never know why
Jagadguru: I find no logic or essence in your answer. By the way, one more question to you. Some people die while in childhood itself. Some others die in their old age. Where do the children go after death – to heaven or hell ?
Missionary: How can small children commit any mistake? they are flawless. Since they are too young, there is no question of sin or good deed.
Jagadguru: That’s why I asked you regarding children
Missionary: All children go to heaven only!
Jagadguru: Oh!!! Then our parents have done a great injustice to all of us. They should have killed us while we were small children so that we would have not committed any sin when we grew up. The heavens also would have been ours!!!
The Missionary was once again in trouble
Missionary: Swamiji, I am unable to say anything.
Jagadguru: Ok leave it. After death, all have to go either to the Heaven or hell. Can you tell me when this happens? Missionary: Whenever the God wishes to dispense justice, the fate of a soul is decided
Jagadguru: What a surprise!!! Is God so lunatic that he dispenses justice as and when he wishes?
Missionary: No not like that. There is a particular order
Jagadguru: Ok please explain to me that order explained in your Bible
[The Missionary started sweating and blabbering]
Jagadguru: OK, I will tell you what has been told in your Bible. Kindly correct me if I am wrong
Missionary: Sure Swamiji
Jagadguru: After the death of all people on this earth, on one fine day (known as “the Judgement day”), the God will dispense justice by sending some to heaven and the rest to hell.
Missionary: Yes Yes!!! your words are very much true Swamiji
Jagadguru: Look my dear, observe the happenings of our own world.
If a person is caught for committing a crime, he is housed in a jail for a couple of days, before conducting an inquiry. If it is required to keep him in jail for long, he has to be produced before the Magistrate and obtain his permission.
If the Magistrate doesn’t agree for that, the culprit has to be let free. According to your religion, after the death of a person, his soul has to wait for the death of all the rest of the people on this earth, even if it means billions of years,
to seek judgement from the God. People keep taking birth and dying. How unfair it is to say that one has to wait for the death of all the rest!!!. Even in man made courts, no Judge will ask an accused to wait for trial until all the rest commit some crime!!!
The Missionary was totally speechless and blank. He didn’t know what to do or how to react. He just sat like stone.
The Jagadguru continued:
Your religion is supreme to you alone. You should follow it with utmost faith and reverence.
But you have no right to question and destroy the faith of others, nor try to “convert” them. Also, it is not at all fair to preach that those who don’t follow your religion will go to hell.
It is nothing but ignorance to think that only your faith leads to God and that of others are useless. Stop preaching and start seeking the Truth. A realized person treats all equally.
As usual, the Jagadguru blessed the visitor (Missionary) and blessed him with fruits and “mantraAkshatha”.
The Missionary prostrated before the Jagadguru with utmost reverence and left the place.
Pic Courtesy: Sringeri Piitam Website
Dharmo Rakshathi Rakshitah!!!