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When we see a book with a title like The Path of Perfection, we may react with a bit of common skepticism: “Oh, another book claiming to give all the answers. One more do-it-yourself enlightenment scheme.” And certainly it seems that such skepticism is justified nowadays. Our natural desire for ultimate meaning, happiness, enlightenment, liberation, and salvation has become the most exploited commodity of the twentieth century, creating what one contemporary theologian termed a disastrous “seduction of the spirit.” This seduction is, indeed, the most tragic kind of exploitation. And the unfortunate consequence of this exploitation is a kind of deadening cynicism that discourages our search for self-fulfillment and a means to attain it.
The contemporary, thoughtful reader, weary of the many speculative, simplistic books cluttering the bookstore shelves, offering instant formulas for psychological or spiritual salvation, will find The Path of Perfection a welcome relief. Herein one will find a clear, intriguing explanation of the philosophy and practice of mankind’s oldest system of spiritual development—yoga.
Now, the word yoga may conjure up an image of some skinny fakir contorted like a human pretzel, or perhaps a room full of corpulent matrons in black leotards struggling to stand on their heads in hope of improving their health, losing weight, or increasing their sexual powers. This is not what we mean by yoga. Here we are referring to an ancient philosophy and meditational system that has been practiced by millions throughout the ages. What has, in modern times, been reduced to a commercially exploited technique of bodily agility and pseudomeditation was once a comprehensive and easily applied form of self-realization.
The path of perfection consists of a historic series of talks—elaborations on a previously published commentary—by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda (1896–1977) on India’s greatest spiritual classic, the Bhagavad-gétä. In these absorbing talks, Çréla Prabhupäda explores deeply the philosophy of yoga as explained in the Sixth and Eighth Chapters of the Gétä, showing clearly how these timeless teachings apply to twentieth century mankind. Çréla Prabhupäda’s talks probe questions concerning the nature of consciousness, techniques of meditation, karma, death, reincarnation, and even spiritual ecstasy.
The Bhagavad-gétä, described by one contemporary psychologist as“a remarkable psychotherapeutic session,” appears to us in the form of an extraordinary dialogue between Lord Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His warrior disciple Arjuna. Perplexed and confused about his identity and purpose, Arjuna turns to Kåñëa, who reveals “the path of perfection” to His able student. The essence of Lord Kåñëa’s teachings is that one must become a yogé, that is, one whose life is centered on the practice of yoga. And what is yoga? The Sanskrit word yoga literally means “union,” and refers to the union, in love, between the individual consciousness and the Supreme Consciousness, the self and the Superself, the soul and God. Yoga is, indeed, “the path of perfection,” because it aims toward this most exalted human attainment.
In the Bhagavad-gétä, we discover four basic varieties of yoga described. Karma-yoga refers to the process whereby one performs his work for God, without the selfish desire for personal gain. Jïäna-yoga is the process of elevation to spiritual consciousness through the cultivation of philosophical knowledge. The añöäìga-yoga system, of which the modern “haöha-yoga” is a watered-down version, is a mechanical, meditative practice meant to control the mind and senses and focus one’s concentration on the Supreme. These three yoga systems culminate in bhakti-yoga, the yoga of selfless, ecstatic, devotional love of God, Kåñëa. Lord Kåñëa Himself states in the last verse of Chapter Six, “Of all yogés, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.”
In The Path of Perfection, Çréla Prabhupäda offers a brilliant summary of the methods of bhakti-yoga, revealing the universal applicability of this simple but all-inclusive form of yoga. He shows how even those who are entangled in the complexity and chaos of modern materialistic life can begin an uncomplicated practice which purifies the mind and puts one in touch with the Supreme Consciousness.
This, perhaps, was Çréla Prabhupäda’s greatest contribution to our age. Çréla Prabhupäda was an acknowledged master scholar of India’s ancient spiritual culture and of its linguistic foundation, the Sanskrit language. But he was not merely a textual scholar or a philosopher or theologian engaged in the manufacture of interesting philosophical or theological notions. He was a true spiritual genius who succeeded in bringing to life the essence of India’s universal spiritual wisdom in a form which is easy for twentieth century man to understand and practice. This was the unique genius which inspired the late prime minister of India, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri, to declare openly that the writings of Çréla Prabhupäda “are a significant contribution to the salvation of mankind.” The transforming quality of Çréla Prabhupäda’s writings was also appreciated by sociologist Elwin H. Powell, who commented on Çréla Prabhupäda’s best-selling edition of the Bhagavad-gétä: “This transcendental mysticism from the East is now taking root in the ‘countercultures’ of the West and providing for many a way out of the wilderness of a disintegrating civilization.... If truth is what works, there must be a kind of truth in the Bhagavad-gétä As It Is, since those who follow its teachings display a joyous serenity usually missing in the bleak and strident lives of contemporary people.”
PoP 1: Yoga as Action
In the Sixth and Eighth Chapters of Bhagavad-gétä, Lord Çré Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, explains that the eightfold yoga system is a means to control the mind and senses. This method, however, is very difficult for people to perform, especially in this age of Kali, an age characterized by ignorance and chaos.
Although this eightfold yoga system is particularly recommended in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, the Lord emphasizes that the process of karma-yoga, action in Kåñëa consciousness, is superior. In this world, everyone acts to maintain his family, and everyone is working with a view to some self-interest, or personal sense gratification, be it concentrated or extended. But to act perfectly is to act in Kåñëa consciousness, and this means acting detached from the fruits of labor.
It is our duty to act in Kåñëa consciousness because we are constitutionally parts and parcels of the Supreme. The parts of the body work for the satisfaction of the entire body, not for the individual parts. The goal is the satisfaction of the complete whole. Similarly, the living entity should act for the satisfaction of the supreme whole, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and not for his own personal satisfaction. One who can do this is the perfect sannyäsé and the perfect yogé. In the first verse of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, the chapter dealing with säìkhya-yoga, Bhagavän Çré Kåñëa states,
käryaà karma karoti yaù
sa sannyäsé ca yogé ca
na niragnir na cäkriyaù
“One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no work.”
Sometimes sannyäsés (renunciates) incorrectly think that they have become liberated from all material engagements and therefore no longer have to perform agni-hotra yajïas, or fire sacrifices. This is a mistake. Certain yajïas (sacrifices) have to be performed by everyone for purification. Since sannyäsés are not traditionally required to perform yajïas, they sometimes think that they can attain liberation by ceasing to perform the ritualistic yajïas, but actually, unless one comes to the platform of Kåñëa consciousness, there is no question of liberation. Those sannyäsés who cease to perform yajïas are in fact acting out of self-interest, because their goal is to become one with the impersonal Brahman. That is the ultimate goal of the impersonalists (Mäyävädés), who have one major goal or demand: to become one with the supreme impersonal Being. The devotees have no such demands. They are simply satisfied in serving Kåñëa for the satisfaction of Kåñëa. They do not want anything in return. That is the characteristic of pure devotion.
It was Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu who expressed this devotional attitude so succinctly:
na dhanaà na janaà na sundaréà
kavitäà vä jagad-éça kämaye
mama janmani janmanéçvare
bhavatäd bhaktir ahaituké tvayi
“O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women. Nor do I want any number of followers. What I want is only the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth.” (Çikñäñöaka 4) In essence, this is the bhakti-yoga system. There are many examples of the pure devotional attitude. Once Lord Nåsiàhadeva told Prahläda Mahäräja, “My dear boy, you have suffered so much for Me. Whatever you want, ask for it.” Being a pure devotee, Prahläda Mahäräja refused to ask for anything. He said, “My dear Master, I am not carrying out mercantile business with You. I will not accept any remuneration for my service.” This is the pure devotional attitude.
Yogés and jïänés are demanding to become one with the Supreme because they have such bitter experience suffering the material pangs. They want to become one with the Lord because they are suffering in separation. A pure devotee, however, does not experience this. Although separate from the Lord, he fully enjoys the service of the Lord in separation. The desire to become one with the impersonal Brahman, or to merge with God, is certainly greater than any material desire, but this is not without self-interest. Similarly, the mystic yogé who practices the yoga system with half-open eyes, ceasing all material activities, desires some satisfaction for his personal self. Such yogés are desirous of material power, and that is their conception of the perfection of yoga. Actually, this is not the perfection of yoga, but a materialistic process.
If one practices the regulative principles of yoga, he can attain eight kinds of perfection. He can become lighter than a cotton swab. He can become heavier than a great stone. He can immediately get whatever he likes. Sometimes he can even create a planet. Although rare, such powerful yogés actually exist. Viçvämitra Yogé wanted to beget a man from a palm tree. He was thinking, “Why should a man have to live so many months within the womb of his mother? Why can’t he be produced just like a fruit?” Thinking like this, Viçvämitra Yogé produced men like coconuts. Sometimes yogés are so powerful, they can perform such acts, but these are all material powers. Ultimately such yogés are vanquished, because they cannot retain these material powers indefinitely. Bhakti-yogés are not interested in such powers.
The bhakti-yogé, acting in Kåñëa consciousness, works for the satisfaction of the whole without self-interest. A Kåñëa conscious person does not desire self-satisfaction. Rather, his criterion of success is the satisfaction of Kåñëa; therefore he is considered the perfect sannyäsé and the perfect yogi.
A pure devotee does not even want salvation. The salvationists want to be saved from rebirth, and the voidists also want to put an end to all material life. Caitanya Mahäprabhu, however, requested only devotional service to Lord Kåñëa, birth after birth; in other words, Caitanya Mahäprabhu was prepared to endure material miseries in one body after another. What, then, was Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s desire? He wanted to engage in God’s service, and nothing more, for that is the real perfection of yoga.
Whether in the spiritual sky or the material sky, the individual spirit soul is constitutionally the same. It is said that he is one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair. This means that our position is that of a small particle. But spirit can expand. Just as we develop a material body in the material world, we develop a spiritual body in the spiritual world. In the material world, expansion takes place in contact with matter. In the spiritual world, this expansion is spiritual.
Actually, the first lesson of Bhagavad-gétä is, “I am spirit soul. I am different from this body.” I am a living force, but this material body is not a living force. It is dull matter, and it is activated only because spiritual force is present. In the spiritual world, everything is living force; there is no dead matter. There, the body is totally spiritual. One may compare the spirit soul with oil and the body with water. When oil is in water, there is a distinction, and that distinction always remains. In the spiritual sky, there is no question of oil being placed in water. There everything is spirit.
The impersonalists do not want to develop a body. They simply want to remain spiritual particles, and that is their idea of happiness. But we bhakti-yogés (Vaiñëavas) want to serve Kåñëa, and therefore we require hands, legs, and all the other bodily parts. Indeed, we are given these bodies in order to serve Kåñëa. Just as we develop a material body in our mother’s womb, we can similarly develop a spiritual body in the spiritual world.
The spiritual body is developed through the practice of Kåñëa consciousness. This material body is spiritualized by this bhakti-yoga process. If you place an iron within fire, the iron becomes so hot that it also becomes fiery. When the iron is red hot, it acquires all the qualities of fire. If you touch something with that iron, that iron will act as fire. Similarly, although this body is material, it can become spiritualized through Kåñëa consciousness and act as spirit. Although copper is just a metal, as soon as it comes in contact with electricity, it becomes electrified, and if you touch it, you will receive an electric shock.
As soon as your body is spiritualized, material activity ceases. Material activity means acting for sense gratification. As you become spiritualized, material demands dwindle until they become nil. How is this possible? In order for an iron to act as fire, it must remain constantly in contact with fire. In order for the material body to become spiritualized, one must remain constantly in Kåñëa consciousness. When this material body is fully engaged in spiritual activities, it becomes spiritual.
According to the Vedic system, the body of a high personality, a sannyäsé, is not burned but buried, because a sannyäsé’s body is considered spiritual, having ceased to engage in material activities. If everyone in this world engages fully in Kåñëa consciousness and ceases to work for sense gratification, this entire world will immediately become spiritual. Therefore it is necessary to learn how to work for the satisfaction of Kåñëa. This requires a little time to understand. If something is used for Kåñëa’s satisfaction, it is spiritual. Since we are using microphones, typewriters, etc., in order to talk and write about Kåñëa, they become spiritualized. What is the difference between prasäda and ordinary food? Some people may say, “What is this prasäda? We are eating the same food. Why do you call it prasäda?” It is prasäda because it has been offered for Kåñëa’s satisfaction and has thus become spiritualized.
In a higher sense, there is no matter at all. Everything is spiritual. Because Kåñëa is spiritual and matter is one of the energies of Kåñëa, matter is also spiritual. Kåñëa is totally spiritual, and spirit comes from spirit. However, because the living entities are misusing this energy—that is, using it for something other than Kåñëa’s purposes—it becomes materialized, and so we call it matter. The purpose of this Kåñëa consciousness movement is to respiritualize this energy. It is our purpose to respiritualize the whole world, socially and politically. Of course, this may not be possible, but it is our ideal. At least if we individually take up this respiritualization process, our lives become perfect.
In Bhagavad-gétä (9.22) Kåñëa says that He provides for His devotees by giving them what they lack and preserving what they have. People are very fond of saying that God helps those who help themselves, but they do not understand that helping yourself means putting yourself under Kåñëa’s protection. If one thinks, “Oh, I can help myself. I can protect myself,” one is thinking foolishly. As long as my finger is attached to my body, it is useful, and I may spend thousands of dollars to preserve it. But if this finger is cut off, it is useless and is thrown away. Similarly, we are part and parcel of Kåñëa, and helping ourselves means putting ourselves in our proper position as His parts and parcels. Otherwise we are only fit to be cast away. The finger can help itself only when situated properly on the hand and working on behalf of the entire body. If the finger thinks, “I will separate myself from this body and simply help myself,” that finger will be cast away and will die. As soon as we think, “I shall live independently of Kåñëa,” that is our spiritual death, and as soon as we engage in Kåñëa’s service, as His part and parcel, that is our spiritual life. Therefore, helping oneself means knowing one’s actual position and working accordingly. It is not possible to help oneself without knowing one’s position.
Service means activity, for when we serve someone, we are acting. When we serve Kåñëa, we are preaching Kåñëa consciousness, or cooking, or cleansing the temple, or distributing books about Kåñëa, or writing about Him, or shopping for foodstuff to offer Him. There are so many ways to serve. Helping Kåñëa means acting for Him, not sitting down in one place and artificially meditating. Kåñëa consciousness means activity. Whatever assets we have should be utilized for Kåñëa. That is the process of bhakti-yoga. Kåñëa has given us a mind, and we must utilize this mind to think of Kåñëa. We have been given these hands, and we must use them to wash the temple or cook for Kåñëa. We have been given these legs, and we should use them to go to the temple of Kåñëa. We have been given a nose, and we should use it to smell the flowers that have been offered to Kåñëa. Through the process of bhakti-yoga, we engage all these senses in the service of Kåñëa, and in this way the senses are spiritualized.
In Bhagavad-gétä, Arjuna was refusing to act, and Kåñëa was inspiring him to engage in activity. The entire Bhagavad-gétä is an inspiration to work, to engage in Kåñëa consciousness, to act on Kåñëa’s behalf. Kåñëa never tells Arjuna, “My dear friend Arjuna, don’t concern yourself with this war. Just sit down and meditate upon Me.” This is not the message of Bhagavad-gétä. We are not to refrain from all activity, but only from those activities that impede our consciousness of Kåñëa. Meditation means stopping all nonsensical activity. Those who are advanced in Kåñëa consciousness are constantly working for Kåñëa.
A mother tells only her bad child to sit down and do nothing. If a child can do nothing but disturb his mother, the mother says, “My dear child, just sit down here and keep quiet.” But if the child can work nicely, the mother says, “My dear child, will you please help me do this? Will you go over there and do that?” Sitting still in one place is just for those who do not know how to work sensibly. As long as the child sits in one place, he does not raise havoc. Sitting still means negating nonsense; it is not positive activity. In negation, there is no life. Positive activities constitute life, and positive activity is the message of Bhagavad-gétä. Spiritual life is not “Don’t do this.” Spiritual life is “Do this!” In order to act properly, there are certain things that one must know not to do; therefore certain activities are forbidden. The whole Bhagavad-gétä, however, is “do.” Kåñëa says, “Fight for Me.” At the beginning of Bhagavad-gétä, when Arjuna told Kåñëa, “I will not fight,” Çré Kåñëa said,
kutas tvä kaçmalam idaà
anärya juñöam asvargyaà
“My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They lead not to higher planets, but to infamy.” (Bg. 2.2) Kåñëa directly tells Arjuna that he is speaking like a non-Äryan—that is, like one who does not know the spiritual values of life. So Kåñëa consciousness does not mean sitting down idly.
Kåñëa Himself does not sit down idly. All His pastimes are filled with activity. When we go to the spiritual world, we will see that Kåñëa is always engaged in dancing, eating, and enjoying. He does not sit down to meditate. Is there any account of the gopés meditating? Did Caitanya Mahäprabhu sit down to meditate? No, He was always dancing and chanting Hare Kåñëa. The spirit soul is naturally active. How can we sit down silently and do nothing? It is not possible. Therefore, after Çré Kåñëa outlined the säìkhya-yoga system in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, Arjuna frankly said,
yo ’yaà yogas tvayä proktaù
etasyähaà na paçyämi
caïcalatvät sthitià sthiräm
“O Madhusüdana [Kåñëa], the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady.” (Bg. 6.33) Although Arjuna was highly elevated and was Kåñëa’s intimate friend, he immediately refused to take up this säìkhya-yoga system. In essence, he said, “It is not possible for me.” How could it have been possible? Arjuna was a warrior, a householder, and he wanted a kingdom. What time did he have for meditation? He flatly refused to practice this type of meditational yoga, saying that the mind is as difficult to control as the wind (Bg. 6.34). That is a fact. It is not possible to control the mind artificially; therefore we must engage the mind in Kåñëa consciousness. Then it is controlled. If Arjuna found this process more difficult than controlling the wind, then what of us? After all, Arjuna was not an ordinary man. He was personally talking with the Supreme Lord, Çré Kåñëa, and he proclaimed the mind to be like a great wind. How can we control the wind? We can control the mind only by fixing it on Kåñëa’s lotus feet. That is the perfection of meditation.
No one really wants to sit down and meditate. Why should we? We’re meant for positive activity, for recreation, for pleasure. In Kåñëa consciousness, our recreation is dancing and chanting, and when we get tired, we take prasäda. Is dancing difficult? Is chanting difficult? We don’t charge anything to dance in the temple. If you go to a ballroom, you have to pay to enter, but we do not charge. It is natural to enjoy music and dancing and palatable foods. These are our recreations, and this is our method of meditation. So this yoga system is not at all laborious. It is simply recreation, susukham. It is stated in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (9.2) that this yoga is susukham—very happy. “It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” It is natural, automatic, and spontaneous. It is our real life in the spiritual world.
In Vaikuëöha, the spiritual world, there is no anxiety. Vaikuëöha means “freedom from anxiety,” and in Vaikuëöha the liberated souls are always dancing, chanting, and taking prasäda. There are no factories, hard work, or technical institutions. There is no need for these artificial things. In Vedänta-sütra it is stated, änandamayo ’bhyäsät: God is änandamaya, full of bliss and pleasure. Since we are part and parcel of God, we also possess these same qualities. So the goal of our yoga process is to join with the supreme änandamaya, Çré Kåñëa, to join His dance party. Then we will be actually happy.
On this earth we are trying to be happy artificially and are therefore frustrated. Once we are situated in Kåñëa consciousness, we will revive our original position and become simply joyful. Since our actual nature is änandamaya, blissful, we are always searching for happiness. In the cities we are inundated with advertisements. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and dance halls are always announcing, “Come on, here is änanda. Here is pleasure.” That is because everyone is searching for änanda, pleasure. Our society for Kåñëa consciousness is also announcing, “Here is änanda,” but our standard of pleasure is very different. In any case, the goal—pleasure—is the same.
Most people are hunting for pleasure on the gross material platform. The more advanced search for pleasure in speculation, philosophy, poetry, or art. The bhakti-yogé, however, searches for pleasure on the transcendental platform, and that is his only business. Why are people working so hard all day? They are thinking, “Tonight I shall enjoy. Tonight I will associate with this girl or with my wife.” Thus people are going to so much trouble to acquire a little pleasure. Pleasure is the ultimate goal, but unfortunately, under illusion, people do not know where real pleasure is to be found. Real pleasure exists eternally in the transcendental form of Kåñëa.
Perhaps you have seen pictures of Kåñëa, and if so, you have noticed that Kåñëa is always jolly. If you join His society, you will also become jolly. Have you ever seen pictures of Kåñëa working with a machine? Have you ever seen pictures of Kåñëa smoking? No, He is by nature full of pleasure, and if you unfold yourself in that way, you will also find pleasure. Pleasure cannot be found artificially.
täbhir ya eva nija-rüpatayä kaläbhiù
goloka eva nivasaty akhilätma-bhüto
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, residing in His own realm, Goloka, with Rädhä, resembling His own spiritual figure, the embodiment of the ecstatic potency possessed of the sixty-four artistic activities, in the company of Her confidantes (sakhés), embodiments of the extensions of Her bodily form, permeated and vitalized by His ever-blissful spiritual rasa.” (Brahma-saàhitä 5.37)
The word rasa means “taste,” or “mellow.” We enjoy sweets or candy because of their taste. Everyone is trying to enjoy some taste, and we want to enjoy sex because there is some taste there. That is called ädi taste. Material tastes are different because they are tasted and quickly finished. Material tastes last only a few minutes. You may take a piece of candy, taste it, and say, “Oh, that is very nice,” but you have to taste another in order to continue the enjoyment. Material taste is not unlimited, but real taste is without end. Spiritual taste cannot be forgotten; it goes on increasing. Änandämbudhi-vardhanam. Caitanya Mahäprabhu says, “This taste is always increasing.” Spiritual taste is like the ocean in the sense that it is very great. The Pacific Ocean is always tossing, but it is not increasing. By God’s order, the ocean does not extend beyond its limit, and if it extends, there is havoc. Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu says that there is another ocean, an ocean of transcendental bliss, an ocean that is always increasing. Änandämbudhi-vardhanaà prati-padaà pürëämåtäsvädanaà/ sarvätma-snapanaà paraà vijayate çré-kåñëa-saìkértanam. By chanting Hare Kåñëa, our pleasure potency increases more and more.
One who has realized Çré Kåñëa is always living in Våndävana, Vaikuëöha. Although a devotee may seem to be living in some place far from Våndävana, he is always living in Våndävana, because he knows that Kåñëa is present everywhere, even within the atom. The Supreme Lord is bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. Once we are fully realized and established in Kåñëa consciousness, we never lose sight of Kåñëa, and our bliss is always increasing. This is the true yoga system, bhakti-yoga, as expounded by Lord Çré Kåñëa Himself in Bhagavad-gétä.
PoP 2: Mastering the Mind and Senses
yaà sannyäsam iti prähur
yogaà taà viddhi päëòava
na hy asannyasta-saìkalpo
yogé bhavati kaçcana
“What is called renunciation is the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, for no one can become a yogé unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification.” (Bg. 6.2)
This is the real purpose of the practice of yoga. The word yoga means “to join.” Although we are naturally part and parcel of the Supreme, in our conditioned state we are now separated. Because of our separation, we are reluctant to understand God and to speak of our relationship with Him and are even inclined to think of such discussion as a waste of time. In a church or in a Kåñëa consciousness temple, we speak of God, but people in general are not very interested. They think it is a waste of time, a kind of recreation in the name of spiritual advancement, and they believe that this time could be better used to earn money or enjoy themselves in a nightclub or restaurant.
Therefore, it is due to sense enjoyment that we are not attracted to God, and therefore it is said that those who are addicted to sense enjoyment cannot become yogés—that is, they are not eligible to participate in the yoga system. One cannot advance in any yoga system if he partakes in sense gratification and then sits down to try to meditate. This is just a colossal hoax. Such contradictory activity has no meaning. First of all, yoga means controlling the senses—yama-niyama. There are eight stages of yoga—yama, niyama, äsana, dhyäna, dhäraëä, präëäyäma, pratyähära, and samädhi.
In this Sixth Chapter, in which the Lord speaks of the säìkhya-yoga system, He states from the very beginning that one cannot become a yogé unless one renounces the desire for sense gratification. Therefore, if one indulges his senses, he cannot be accepted as a yogé. Yoga demands strict celibacy. In the yoga system, there is no sex life. If one indulges in sex, he cannot be a yogé. Many so-called yogés come from India to America and say, “Yes, you can do whatever you like. You can have as much sex as you like. Just meditate. I will give you some mantra, and you will give me some money.” This is all nonsense. According to the authoritative statements of Çré Kåñëa, one cannot become a yogé unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification. This is explicitly stated as the first condition for yoga practice.
ärurukñor muner yogaà
karma käraëam ucyate
çamaù käraëam ucyate
“For one who is a neophyte in the eightfold yoga system, work is said to be the means; and for one who has already attained to yoga, cessation of all material activities is said to be the means.” (Bg. 6.3) According to this verse, there are those who are attempting to reach the perfectional stage and those who have already attained that stage. As long as one is not situated on the perfectional platform, he must engage in so many works. In the West, there are many yoga societies attempting to practice the äsana system, and therefore they practice sitting in different postures. That may help, but it is only a process by which one can attain the real platform. The real yoga system, in its perfectional stage, is far different from these bodily gymnastics.
It is important to understand, however, that from the beginning, a Kåñëa conscious person is situated on the platform of meditation because he is always thinking of Kåñëa. Being constantly engaged in the service of Kåñëa, he is considered to have ceased all material activities.
yadä hi nendriyärtheñu
na karmasv anuñajjate
“A person is said to have attained to yoga when, having renounced all material desires, he neither acts for sense gratification nor engages in fruitive activities.” (Bg. 6.4)
This is actually the perfectional stage of yoga, and one who has attained this stage is said to have attained to yoga. This is to say that he has connected, joined, or linked himself with the supreme whole. If a part is disconnected from a machine, it serves no function, but as soon as it is properly attached to the machine, it works properly and carries out its different functions. That is the meaning of yoga—joining with the supreme whole, serving in conjunction with the total machine. Presently we are disconnected, and our material fruitive activities are simply a waste of time. One who engages in such activity is described in Bhagavad-gétä as a müòha—that is, a rascal. Although one may earn thousands of dollars daily and be an important businessman, he is described in Bhagavad-gétä as a müòha, rascal, because he is just wasting his time in eating, sleeping, defending, and mating.
People do not stop to consider that they are actually working very hard for nothing. One who earns millions of dollars cannot really eat much more than a man who makes ten dollars. A man who earns millions of dollars cannot mate with millions of women. That is not within his power. His mating power is the same as one who earns ten dollars, just as his power of eating is the same. This is to say that our power of enjoyment is limited. One should therefore think, “My enjoyment is the same as that of the man who is earning ten dollars daily. So why am I working so hard to earn millions of dollars? Why am I wasting my energy? I should engage my time and energy in understanding God. That is the purpose of life.” If one has no economic problems, he has sufficient time to understand Kåñëa consciousness. If he wastes this precious time, he is called a müòha, a rascal or an ass.
According to the preceding verse, a person is said to have attained yoga when he has renounced all material desires. Once we are situated perfectly in yoga, we are satisfied. We no longer experience material desires. We no longer act for sense gratification or engage in fruitive activity. When we speak of “fruitive activity,” we refer to activities carried out for the purpose of sense gratification. That is, we are earning money in order to gratify our senses. If one is virtuous, he engages in pious activities—he donates money to charities, opens hospitals, schools, etc. Although these are certainly virtuous activities, they are ultimately meant for sense gratification. How is this? If I donate to an educational institution, for instance, I will receive good educational facilities and will become highly educated in my next life. Being thus educated, I will attain a good position and will acquire a good amount of money. Then how will I utilize this money? For sense gratification. Thus these virtuous and fruitive activities form a kind of cycle.
We often hear the expression “a better standard of life,” but what does this mean? It is said that the standard of life in America is superior to that in India, but in both countries there is eating, sleeping, defending, and mating. Of course, in America the quality of food may be better, but the eating process is there. A superior standard of life does not mean superior spiritual realization. It just means better eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. This is called fruitive activity, and it is based on sense gratification.
Yoga has nothing to do with sense gratification or fruitive activity. Yoga means connecting with the Supreme. Dhruva Mahäräja underwent severe austerities in order to see God, and when he finally saw God, he said, svämin kåtärtho ’smi varaà na yäce.: “My dear Lord, I am now fully satisfied. I am not asking for anything more. I do not want any further benediction from You.” Why didn’t Dhruva Mahäräja ask for benedictions? What is a “benediction”? Generally, benediction means receiving a great kingdom, a beautiful wife, palatable food, and so forth, but when one is actually connected with God, he does not want such “benedictions.” He is fully satisfied. Svämin kåtärtho ’smi varaà na yäce.
Actually, Dhruva Mahäräja initially searched for God in order to attain his father’s kingdom. Dhruva Mahäräja’s mother was rejected by his father, and his stepmother resented his sitting on his father’s lap. Indeed, she forbade him to sit on his father’s lap because Dhruva Mahäräja was not born in her womb. Although only five years old, Dhruva Mahäräja was a kñatriya, and he took this as a great insult. Going to his own mother, he said, “Mother, my stepmother has insulted me by forbidding me to sit on my father’s lap.” Dhruva Mahäräja then started to cry, and his mother said, “My dear boy, what can I do? Your father loves your stepmother more than he loves me. I can do nothing.” Dhruva Mahäräja then said, “But I want my father’s kingdom. Tell me how I can get it.” “My dear boy,” his mother said, “if Kåñëa, God, blesses you, you can get it.” “Where is God?” Dhruva Mahäräja asked. “Oh, it is said that God is in the forest,” his mother said. “Great sages go to the forest to search for God.”
Hearing this, Dhruva Mahäräja went directly to the forest and began to perform severe penances. Finally he saw God, and when he saw Him, he no longer desired his father’s kingdom. Instead, he said, “My dear Lord, I was searching for some pebbles, but instead I have found valuable jewels. I no longer care for my father’s kingdom. Now I am fully satisfied.” When one is actually connected with God, he is totally satisfied. His satisfaction is infinitely greater than so-called enjoyment in this material world. That is the satisfaction resulting from God realization, and that is the perfection of yoga.
When a person is fully engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, he is pleased in himself, and thus he is no longer engaged in sense gratification or in fruitive activities. Otherwise, one must be engaged in sense gratification, since one cannot live without engagement. It is impossible to cease all activity. As stated before, it is our nature as living entities to act. It is said, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” If we have no Kåñëa conscious engagement, we will engage in sense gratification or fruitive activity. If a child is not trained or educated, he becomes spoiled. If one does not practice the yoga system, if he does not attempt to control his senses by the yoga process, he will engage his senses in their own gratification. When one is gratifying his senses, there is no question of practicing yoga.
Without Kåñëa consciousness, one must be always seeking self-centered or extended selfish activities. But a Kåñëa conscious person can do everything for the satisfaction of Kåñëa and thereby be perfectly detached from sense gratification. One who has not realized Kåñëa must mechanically try to escape material desires before being elevated to the top rung of the yoga ladder.
One may compare the yoga system to a stepladder. One yogé may be situated on the fifth step, another yogé may be on the fiftieth step and yet another on the five-hundredth step. The purpose, of course, is to reach the top. Although the entire ladder may be called the yoga system, one who is on the fifth step is not equal to one who is higher up. In Bhagavad-gétä, Çré Kåñëa delineates a number of yoga systems—karma-yoga, jïäna-yoga, dhyäna-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. All of these systems are connected with God, Kåñëa, just as the entire ladder is connected to the topmost floor. This is not to say that everyone practicing the yoga system is situated on the topmost floor; only he who is in full Kåñëa consciousness is so situated. Others are situated on different steps of the yogic ladder.
ätmaiva hy ätmano bandhur
ätmaiva ripur ätmanaù
“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Bg. 6.5) The word ätmä denotes body, mind, and soul—depending on different circumstances. In the yoga system, the mind and the conditioned soul are especially important. Since the mind is the central point of yoga practice, ätmä refers here to the mind. The purpose of the yoga system is to control the mind and to draw it away from attachment to sense objects. It is stressed herein that the mind must be so trained that it can deliver the conditioned soul from the mire of nescience.
In the añöäìga-yoga system, these eightfold yogas—dhyäna, dhäraëä, etc.—are meant to control the mind. Çré Kåñëa explicitly states that a man must utilize his mind to elevate himself. Unless one can control the mind, there is no question of elevation. The body is like a chariot, and the mind is the driver. If you tell your driver, “Please take me to the Kåñëa temple,” the driver will take you there, but if you tell him, “Please take me to that liquor house,” you will go there. It is the driver’s business to take you wherever you like. If you can control the driver, he will take you where you should go, but if not, he will ultimately take you wherever he likes. If you have no control over your driver, your driver is your enemy, but if he acts according to your orders, he is your friend.
The yoga system is meant to control the mind in such a way that the mind will act as your friend. Sometimes the mind acts as a friend and sometimes as an enemy. Because we are part and parcel of the Supreme, who has infinite independence, we have minute, or finite, independence. It is the mind that is controlling that independence, and therefore he may either take us to the Kåñëa temple or to some nightclub.
It is the purpose of this Kåñëa consciousness movement to fix the mind on Kåñëa. When the mind is so fixed, he cannot do anything but act as our friend. He has no scope to act any other way. As soon as Kåñëa is seated in the mind, there is light, just as when the sun is in the sky, darkness is vanquished. Kåñëa is just like the sun, and when He is present, there is no scope for darkness. If we keep Kåñëa on our mind, the darkness of mäyä will never be able to enter. Keeping the mind fixed on Kåñëa is the perfection of yoga. If the mind is strongly fixed on the Supreme, it will not allow any nonsense to enter, and there will be no falldown. If the mind is strong, the driver is strong, and we may go wherever we may desire. The entire yoga system is meant to make the mind strong, to make it incapable of deviating from the Supreme.
Sa vai manaù kåñëa-padäravindayoù. One should fix his mind on Kåñëa, just as Ambaréña Mahäräja did when he had a fight with a great añöäìga-yogé named Durväsä Muni. Since Ambaréña Mahäräja was a householder, he was a pounds-shillings man. This means that he had to take into account pounds, shillings, and sixpence, or dollars and cents. Apart from being a householder, Mahäräja Ambaréña was also a great king and devotee. Durväsä Muni was a great yogé who happened to be very envious of Mahäräja Ambaréña. Durväsä Muni was thinking, “I am a great yogé, and I can travel in space. This man is an ordinary king, and he does not possess such yogic powers. Still, people pay him more honor. Why is this? I will teach him a good lesson.” Durväsä Muni then proceeded to pick a quarrel with Mahäräja Ambaréña, but because the king was always thinking of Kåñëa, he managed to defeat this great yogé. Durväsä Muni was consequently directed by Näräyaëa to take shelter at the feet of Mahäräja Ambaréña. Durväsä Muni was such a perfect yogé that within a year he could travel throughout the material universe and also penetrate the spiritual universe. Indeed, he went directly to the abode of God, Vaikuëöha, and saw the Personality of Godhead Himself. Yet Durväsä Muni was so weak that he had to return to earth and fall at the feet of Mahäräja Ambaréña. Mahäräja Ambaréña was an ordinary king, but his one great qualification was that he was always thinking of Kåñëa. Thus his mind was always controlled, and he was situated at the highest perfectional level of yoga. We also can very easily control the mind by keeping it fixed on the lotus feet of Kåñëa within. Simply by thinking of Kåñëa, we become victorious conquerors, topmost yogés.
Yoga indriya-saàyamaù. The yoga system is meant to control the senses, and since the mind is above the senses, if we can control the mind, our senses are automatically controlled. The tongue may want to eat something improper, but if the mind is strong, it can say, “No. You cannot eat this. You can only eat kåñëa-prasäda.” In this way the tongue, as well as all the other senses, can be controlled by the mind. Indriyäëi paräëy ähur indriyebhyaù paraà manaù [Bg. 3.42]. The material body consists of the senses, and consequently the body’s activities are sensual activities. However, above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the spirit soul. If one is on the spiritual platform, his intelligence, mind, and senses are all spiritualized. The purpose of this Kåñëa consciousness process is to actualize the spiritualization of senses, mind, and intelligence. The spirit soul is superior to all, but because he is sleeping, he has given power of attorney to the fickle mind. However, when the soul is awakened, he is once again master, and the servile mind cannot act improperly. Once we are awakened in Kåñëa consciousness, the intelligence, mind, and senses cannot act nonsensically. They must act in accordance with the dictations of the spirit soul. That is spiritualization and purification. Håñékeëa håñékeça-sevanaà bhaktir ucyate [Cc. Madhya 19.170]. We must serve the master of the senses with the senses. The Supreme Lord is called Håñékeça, which means that He is the original controller of the senses, just as a king is the original controller of all the activities of a state, and the citizens are secondary controllers.
Bhakti means acting spiritually in accordance with the desires of Håñékeça. How can we act? Since we must act with our senses, we must spiritualize our senses in order to act properly. As stated before, sitting in silent meditation means stopping undesirable activity, but acting in Kåñëa consciousness is transcendental. The cessation of nonsensical action is not in itself perfection. We must act perfectly. Unless we train our senses to act in accordance with Håñékeça, the master of the senses, our senses will again engage in undesirable activities, and we will fall down. Therefore we must engage the senses in action for Kåñëa and in this way remain firmly fixed in Kåñëa consciousness.
In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and the senses. In fact, the pure soul is entangled in the material world because of the mind’s ego, which desires to lord it over material nature. Therefore the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature, and in this way the conditioned soul may be saved. One should not degrade oneself by attraction to sense objects. The more one is attracted by sense objects, the more one becomes entangled in material existence. The best way to disentangle oneself is to always engage the mind in Kåñëa consciousness. The word hi in verse 5, Chapter Six (Bhagavad-gétä), is used to emphasize this point—namely, that one must do this. It is also said,
mana eva manuñyäëäà
muktyai nirviñayaà manaù
“For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from the sense objects is the cause of liberation.” (Viñëu Puräëa 6.7.28) The mind which is always engaged in Kåñëa consciousness is the cause of supreme liberation. When the mind is thus engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, there is no chance of its being engaged in mäyä consciousness. In Kåñëa consciousness, we remain in the sunlight, and there is no chance of our being obscured by darkness.
Because we have freedom, or liberty, we can stay within a dark room or go out into the broad daylight. That is our choice. Darkness can be eradicated by light, but light cannot be covered by darkness. If we are in a dark room and someone brings in a lamp, the darkness is vanquished. But we cannot take darkness into the sunlight. It is not possible. The darkness will simply fade away. Kåñëa sürya-sama mäyä haya andhakära. Kåñëa is like sunlight, and mäyä is like darkness. So how can darkness exist in sunlight? If we always keep ourselves in the sunlight, darkness will fail to act upon us. This is the whole philosophy of Kåñëa consciousness: always engage in Kåñëa conscious activities, and mäyä will be dissipated, just as darkness is dissipated when there is light. This is stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.7.4):
samyak praëihite ’male
apaçyat puruñaà pürëaà
mäyäà ca tad-apäçrayam
“When the sage Vyäsadeva, under the instruction of his spiritual master, Närada, fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it by linking it in devotional service (bhakti-yoga) without any tinge of materialism, Vyäsadeva saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead, along with His external energy, which was under full control.”
The word manasi refers to the mind. When one is enlightened in bhakti-yoga, the mind becomes completely freed from all contamination (samyak praëihite ’male). When Vyäsa saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he saw mäyä in the background (mäyäà ca tad-apäçrayam). Whenever there is light, there is also the possibility of darkness being present. That is, darkness is the other side of light, or darkness is under the shelter of light, just as if I hold my hand up to the light, the top part of my hand will be in light, and the bottom part will be shaded. In other words, one side is light and the other darkness. When Vyäsadeva saw Kåñëa, the Supreme Lord, he also saw mäyä, darkness, under His shelter.
And what is this mäyä? This is explained in the next verse of Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.7.5):
yayä sammohito jéva
paro ’pi manute ’narthaà
“Due to the external energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.” Thus the illusory energy has temporarily covered the conditioned souls. And who are these conditioned souls? Although finite, the conditioned spirit souls are as full of light as Kåñëa. The problem is that the conditioned soul identifies himself with this material world. This is called illusion, false identification with matter. Although the individual spirit soul is transcendental, he engages in improper activities under the dictation of mäyä, and this brings about his conditioning or false identification. This is very elaborately explained in the Seventh Chapter, First Canto, of Çrémad-Bhägavatam.
In conclusion, our actual position is that of spiritual sparks, full of light. Now we are temporarily covered by this illusory energy, mäyä, which is dictating to us. Acting under the influence of mäyä, we are becoming more and more entangled in the material energy. The yoga system is meant to disentangle us, and the perfection of yoga is Kåñëa consciousness. Thus Kåñëa consciousness is the most effective means by which we can disentangle ourselves from the influence of the material energy.
PoP 3: Learning How to See God
bandhur ätmätmanas tasya
anätmanas tu çatrutve
“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” (Bg. 6.6)
The purpose of the yoga system is to make the mind into a friend instead of an enemy. In material contact, the mind is in a kind of drunken condition. As stated in Caitanya-caritämåta (Madhya 20.117),
kåñëa bhuli’ sei jéva—anädi-bahirmukha
ataeva mäyä täre deya saàsära-duùkha
“Forgetting Kåñëa, the living entity has been attracted by the Lord’s external feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy (mäyä) gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence.” The living entity is constitutionally spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. As soon as the mind is contaminated, the living entity, because he has a little independence, rebels. In this state, the mind dictates, “Why should I serve Kåñëa? I am God.” Thus one labors under a false impression, and his life is spoiled. We try to conquer many things—even empires—but if we fail to conquer the mind, we are failures even if we manage to conquer an empire. Even though emperors, we will have within us our greatest enemy—our own mind.
“For one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquillity. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same.” (Bg. 6.7)
Actually, every living entity is intended to abide by the dictation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated in everyone’s heart as Paramätmä. When the mind is misled by the external illusory energy, one becomes entangled in material activities. Therefore, as soon as one’s mind is controlled through one of the yoga systems, one is to be considered as having already reached the destination. One has to abide by superior dictation. When the mind is fixed on the superior nature, he has no alternative but to follow the dictation of the Supreme. The mind must admit some superior dictation and follow it. When the mind is controlled, one automatically follows the dictation of the Paramätmä, or Supersoul. Because this transcendental position is at once achieved by one who is in Kåñëa consciousness, the devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of material existence—distress and happiness, cold and heat, etc. This state is called samädhi, or absorption in the Supreme.
yukta ity ucyate yogé
“A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogé [or mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything—whether it be pebbles, stones, or gold—as the same.” (Bg. 6.8)
Book knowledge without realization of the Supreme Truth is useless. This is stated as follows:
na bhaved grähyam indriyaiù
sevonmukhe hi jihvädau
svayam eva sphuraty adaù
“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of Çré Kåñëa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Padma Puräëa)
There are men in the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, and to reclaim all these conditioned souls, there are eighteen Puräëas. Six Puräëas are meant for those in the mode of goodness, six for those in the mode of passion, and six for those in the mode of ignorance. The Padma Puräëa is written for those in the mode of goodness. Because there are many different types of men, there are many different Vedic rituals. In the Vedic literatures there are descriptions of rituals and ceremonies in which a goat may be sacrificed in the presence of the goddess Kälé. This is described in the Märkaëòeya Puräëa, but this Puräëa is meant for the instruction of those in the mode of ignorance.
It is very difficult for one to give up his attachments all at once. If one is addicted to meat-eating and is suddenly told that he must not eat meat, he cannot do so. If one is attached to drinking liquor and is suddenly told that liquor is no good, he cannot accept this advice. Therefore, in the Puräëas we find certain instructions that say in essence, “All right, if you want to eat meat, just worship the goddess Kälé and sacrifice a goat for her. Only then can you eat meat. You cannot eat meat just by purchasing it from the butcher shop. No, there must be sacrifice or restriction.” In order to sacrifice a goat to the goddess Kälé, one must make arrangements for a certain date and utilize certain paraphernalia. That type of püjä, or worship, is allowed on the night of the dark moon, which means once a month. There are also certain mantras to be chanted when the goat is sacrificed. The goat is told, “Your life is being sacrificed before the goddess Kälé; you will therefore be immediately promoted to the human form.” Generally, in order to attain the human form, a living entity has to pass through many species of life on the evolutionary scale, but if a goat is sacrificed to the goddess Kälé, he is immediately promoted to the human form. The mantra also says, “You have the right to kill this man who is sacrificing you.” The word mäàsa indicates that in his next birth, the goat will eat the flesh of the man who is presently sacrificing him. This in itself should bring the goat-eater to his senses. He should consider, “Why am I eating this flesh? Why am I doing this? I’ll have to repay with my own flesh in another life.” The whole idea is to discourage one from eating meat.
Thus, because there are different types of men, there are eighteen Puräëas to guide them. The Vedic literatures are meant to redeem all men, not just a few. It is not that those who are meat-eaters or drunkards are rejected. A doctor accepts all patients, and he prescribes different medicines according to the disease. It is not that he gives the same medicine for all diseases or that he treats just one disease. No, he offers a specific type of medicine to whomever comes, and the patient receives gradual treatment. However, the sattvic Puräëas like the Padma Puräëa are meant for those in the mode of goodness, for those who immediately are capable of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In Brahma-saàhitä it is stated, éçvaraù paramaù kåñëaù sac-cid-änanda-vigrahaù [Bs. 5.1]: “The supreme controller is Kåñëa, who has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body.” This is the Vedic pronouncement, and we thus accept Çré Kåñëa as the Supreme Lord. Those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance attempt to imagine the form of God, and when they are confused, they say, “Oh, there is no personal God. God is impersonal, or void.” This is just the result of frustration. Actually, God has His form. And why not? According to the Vedänta-sütra, janmädy asya yataù: [SB 1.1.1] “The Supreme Absolute Truth is He from whom everything emanates.” It is easy to see that we have different types of bodies, different types of forms. We must consider where these forms are coming from. Where have these forms originated? We have to use a little common sense. If God is not a person, how can His sons be persons? If your father is just a void, if he is not a person, how can you be a person? If your father has no form, how can you have form? This is not very difficult; it is just a common sense question. Unfortunately, because people are frustrated, they try to imagine some form, or they conclude that because this material form is temporary and troublesome, God must be formless. Indeed, because all forms in this material world must perish, God, of necessity, must be formless.
Brahma-saàhitä specifically states that this conception is a mistake. Éçvaraù paramaù kåñëaù sac-cid-änanda-vigrahaù [Bs. 5.1]. God has form, but His form is sac-cid-änanda-vigraha. Sat means “eternal,” cit means “knowledge,” and änanda means “pleasure.” God has form, but His form is eternal and is full of knowledge and pleasure. We cannot compare His form to our form. Our form is neither eternal, full of pleasure, nor full of knowledge; therefore God’s form is different.
As soon as we speak of form, we think that form must be like ours, and we therefore conclude that the eternal, all-knowing, and all-blissful God must be without form. This is not knowledge but the result of imperfect speculation. According to Padma Puräëa, ataù çré-kåñëa-nämädi na bhaved grähyam indriyaiù: [BRS. [ii]1.2.234] “One cannot understand the form, name, quality, or paraphernalia of God with one’s material senses.” Since our senses are imperfect, we cannot speculate on Him who is supremely perfect. That is not possible.
Then how is it possible to understand Him? Sevonmukhe hi jihvädau. By training and purifying our senses, we may come to understand and see God. Presently we are attempting to understand God with impure, imperfect senses. It is like someone with cataracts trying to see. Just because one has cataracts, he should not conclude that there is nothing to be seen. Similarly, we cannot presently conceive of God’s form, but once our cataracts are removed, we can see. According to Brahma-saàhitä, premäïjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaù sadaiva hådayeñu vilokayanti: [Bs. 5.38] “The devotees whose eyes are anointed with the ointment of love of God can see God within their hearts twenty-four hours a day.” Purification of the senses is what is required; then we can understand the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of God. Then we’ll be able to see God everywhere and in everything.
These matters are discussed thoroughly in the Vedic literatures. For instance, it is said that although God has no hands or legs, He can accept whatever we offer (apäëi-pädo javano gåhétä). It is also stated that although God has neither eyes nor ears, He can see and hear everything. These are apparent contradictions, but they are meant to teach us an important lesson. When we speak of seeing, we think of material vision. Due to our material conception, we think that the eyes of God must be like ours. Therefore, in order to remove these material conceptions, the Vedic literatures say that God has no hands, legs, eyes, ears, etc. God has eyes, but His vision is infinite. He can see in darkness, and He can see everywhere at once; therefore He has different eyes. Similarly, God has ears and can hear. He may be in His kingdom, millions and millions of miles away, but He can hear us whispering, because He is sitting within. We cannot avoid God’s seeing, hearing, or touching.
patraà puñpaà phalaà toyaà
yo me bhaktyä prayacchati
tad ahaà bhakty-upahåtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Bg. 9.26) If God does not have senses, how can He accept and eat the offerings that are presented to Him? According to ritual, we are offering Kåñëa food daily, and we can see that the taste of this food is immediately changed. This is a practical example. God eats, but because He is full, He does not eat like us. If I offer you a plate of food, you will eat it, and it will be finished. God is not hungry, but He eats, and at the same time, He leaves the food as it is, and thus it is transformed into prasäda, His mercy. Pürëasya pürëam ädäya pürëam evävaçiñyate. God is full, yet He accepts all the food that we offer. Still, the food remains as it is. He can eat with His eyes. As stated in Brahma-saàhitä, aìgäni yasya sakalendriya-våttimanti: “Every sense of the Lord’s body has all the potencies of the other senses.” Although we can see with our eyes, we cannot eat with our eyes. The senses of God, however, being infinite, are different. Simply by looking at the food that is offered to Him, He eats it.
This may not be understood at the present moment; therefore the Padma Puräëa states that when one becomes spiritually saturated by rendering transcendental service to the Lord, the transcendental name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord are revealed. We cannot understand God by our own endeavor, but out of mercy God reveals Himself to us. If it is night, and you want to see the sun, you will have to wait for the sun to appear in the morning. You cannot go outside with a big torch and say, “Come on, I will show you the sunlight.” In the morning, when the sun rises of its own will, we can see it. Because our senses are imperfect, we cannot see God by our own endeavor. We have to purify our senses and wait for the time when God will be pleased to reveal Himself to us. That is the process. We cannot challenge God. We cannot say, “O my dear God, my dear Kåñëa. Please come. I want to see You.” No, God is not our order supplier. He is not our servant. When He is pleased, we will see Him; therefore this Kåñëa consciousness is a process by which we can please God so that He will reveal Himself to us.
Because people cannot see God, they readily accept anyone who says, “I am God.” Because people have no conception of God, they are eager to accept any rascal who comes along and proclaims himself to be God. People are fond of saying, “I am searching after the truth,” but in order to search for the truth, we must know what the truth is. Otherwise, how can we search it out? If we want to purchase gold, we must at least theoretically know what gold is, otherwise we will be cheated. Consequently, having no conception of the truth or of God, people are being cheated by so many rascals who say, “I am God.” In a society of rascals, one rascal accepts another rascal as God, and this is all the result of rascaldom. But all this has nothing to do with God. One has to qualify himself to see and understand God, and that process of qualification is called Kåñëa consciousness. Sevonmukhe hi jihvädau svayam eva sphuraty adaù: by engaging ourselves in God’s service, we become qualified to see God. Otherwise it is not possible. We may be great scientists or scholars, but our mundane scholarship will not help us see God.
This Bhagavad-gétä is the science of Kåñëa consciousness, and in order to understand Kåñëa, we must be fortunate enough to associate with a person who is in pure Kåñëa consciousness. We cannot understand Bhagavad-gétä simply by acquiring an M.A., Ph.D., or whatever. Bhagavad-gétä is a transcendental science, and it requires different senses in order to be understood. Our senses must be purified by the rendering of service, not by the acquiring of academic degrees. There are many Ph. D.’s, many scholars, who cannot understand Kåñëa. Therefore Kåñëa appears in the material world. Although He is unborn (ajo ’pi sann avyayätmä), He comes to reveal Himself to us.
Thus Kåñëa is realized by the grace of Kåñëa or by the grace of a Kåñëa conscious person who has realized Kåñëa by the grace of Kåñëa. We cannot understand Him through academic knowledge. We can only understand Kåñëa by acquiring the grace of Kåñëa. Once we acquire His grace, we can see Him, talk with Him—do whatever we desire. It is not that Kåñëa is a void. He is a person, the Supreme Person, and we can have a relationship with Him. That is the Vedic injunction. Nityo nityänäà cetanaç cetanänäm: “We are all eternal persons, and God is the supreme eternal person.” We are all eternal, and God is the supreme eternal. Presently, because we are encaged within these bodies, we are experiencing birth and death, but actually we are beyond birth and death. We are eternal spirit souls, but according to our work and desires, we are transmigrating from one body to another. It is explained in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (2.20),
na jäyate mriyate vä kadäcin
näyaà bhütvä bhavitä vä na bhüyaù
ajo nityaù çäçvato ’yaà puräëo
na hanyate hanyamäne çarére
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”
Just as God is eternal, we are also eternal, and when we establish our eternal relationship with the supreme, complete eternal, we realize our eternality. Nityo nityänäà cetanaç cetanänäm. God is the supreme living entity among all living entities, the supreme eternal among all eternals. By Kåñëa consciousness, by purification of the senses, this knowledge will be realized, and we will come to see God.
A Kåñëa conscious person has realized knowledge, by the grace of Kåñëa, because he is satisfied with pure devotional service. By realized knowledge, one becomes perfect. By transcendental knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, but by mere academic knowledge one can be easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions. It is the realized soul who is actually self-controlled, because he is surrendered to Kåñëa. He is transcendental because he has nothing to do with mundane scholarship. For him, mundane scholarship and mental speculation, which may be as good as gold to others, are of no greater value than pebbles or stones.
Even if one is illiterate, he can realize God simply by engaging himself in submissive, transcendental loving service. God is not subjected to any material condition. He is supreme spirit, and the process of realizing Him is also beyond material considerations. Therefore, one may be a very learned scholar and still not be able to understand God. One should not think that because he is very poor he cannot realize God; nor should one think that he can realize God just because he is very rich. God may be understood by an uneducated person and misunderstood by one with great education. The understanding of God, like God Himself, is unconditional (apratihata).
In Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.6) it is stated,
sa vai puàsäà paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokñaje
“The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” Cultivation of love of God: that is the definition of first-class religion. Just as there are three guëas, or three qualities, in the material world, there are various religions, each situated in one of the three modes. We are not, however, concerned with analyzing these religious conceptions. For us, the purpose of religion is to understand God and to learn how to love God. That is the real purpose of any first-class religious system. If a religion does not teach love of God, it is useless. One may follow his religious principles very carefully, but if one does not possess love of God, his religion is null and void. According to Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.6) real religion must be ahaituké and apratihatä: without selfish motivation and without impediment. By practicing such a religion, we will become happy in all respects.
Sa vai puàsäà paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokñaje. Another name for God is adhokñaja, which means “one who cannot be seen by materialistic attempts.” That is to say that God conquers all our attempts to see Him materially. The word akñaja refers to experimental knowledge, and adhaù means “unreachable.” So God cannot be reached through experimental knowledge. We have to learn to contact Him in a different way: through submissive hearing and the rendering of transcendental loving service.
True religion teaches causeless love of God. It does not say, “I love God because He supplies me nice objects for my sense gratification.” That is not love. God is great, God is our eternal father, and it is our duty to love Him. There is no question of barter or exchange. We should not think, “Oh, God gives me my daily bread; therefore I love God.” God gives daily bread even to the cats and dogs. Since He is the father of everyone, He is supplying everyone food. So loving God for daily bread is not love. Love is without reason. Even if God does not supply us our daily bread, we should love Him. That is true love. As Caitanya Mahäprabhu said, äçliñya vä päda-ratäà pinañöu mäm adarçanän marma-hatäà karotu vä: “I know no one but Kåñëa as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.” That is the sentiment of one who is established in pure love of God. When we attain that stage of love of God, we will find that everything is full of pleasure; God is full of pleasure, and we also are full of pleasure.
sädhuñv api ca päpeñu
“A person is said to be still further advanced when he regards all—the honest well-wisher, friends and enemies, the envious, the pious, the sinner, and those who are indifferent and impartial—with an equal mind.” (Bg. 6.9) This is a sign of real spiritual advancement. In this material world we are considering people friends and enemies on the bodily platform—that is, on the basis of sense gratification. If one gratifies our senses, he is our friend, and if he doesn’t, he is our enemy. However, once we have realized God, or the Absolute Truth, there are no such material considerations.
In this material world, all conditioned souls are under illusion. A doctor treats all patients, and although a patient may be delirious and insult the doctor, the doctor does not refuse to treat him. He still administers the medicine that is required. As Lord Jesus Christ said, we should hate the sin, not the sinner. That is a very nice statement, because the sinner is under illusion. He is mad. If we hate him, how can we deliver him? Therefore, those who are advanced devotees, who are really servants of God, do not hate anyone. When Lord Jesus Christ was being crucified, he said, “My God, forgive them. They know not what they do.” This is the proper attitude of an advanced devotee. He understands that the conditioned souls cannot be hated, because they have become mad due to their materialistic way of thinking. In this Kåñëa consciousness movement, there is no question of hating anyone. Everyone is welcomed to come and chant Hare Kåñëa, take kåñëa-prasäda, listen to the philosophy of Bhagavad-gétä, and try to rectify material, conditioned life. This is the essential program of Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore, Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu said,
yäre dekha, täre kaha ‘kåñëa’-upadeça
ämära äjïäya guru haïä tära’ ei deça
“Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Çré Kåñëa as they are given in Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.” (Cc. Madhya 7.128)
yogi yuïjéta satatam
ätmänaà rahasi sthitaù
“A transcendentalist should always try to concentrate his mind on the Supreme Self; he should live alone in a secluded place and should always carefully control his mind. He should be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness.” (Bg. 6.10)
In this chapter, in which the Lord is teaching the principles of the yoga system, He here points out that a transcendentalist should always try to concentrate his mind on the Supreme Self. “The Supreme Self’ refers to Kåñëa, the Supreme Lord. As explained before (nityo nityänäà cetanaç cetanänäm), God is the supreme eternal, the supreme living entity, the Supreme Self. The purpose of the entire yoga system is to concentrate the mind on this Supreme Self. We are not the Supreme Self. That should be understood. The Supreme Self is God. This is dvaita-väda—duality. Duality means that God is different from me. He is supreme, and I am subordinate. He is great, and I am small. He is infinite, and I am infinitesimal. This is the relationship between ourselves and God as we should understand it. Because we are infinitesimal, we should concentrate our mind on the infinite Supreme Self. In order to do this, we should live alone, and “living alone” means that we should not live with those who are not Kåñëa conscious. Ideally, this means that one should live in a secluded place, like a forest or a jungle, but in this age such a secluded place is very difficult to find. Therefore “secluded place” refers to that place where God consciousness is taught.
The transcendentalist should also carefully control his mind, and this means fixing the mind on the Supreme Self, or Kåñëa. As explained before, Kåñëa is just like the sun, and if the mind is fixed on Him, there is no question of darkness. If Kåñëa is always on our minds, mäyä, or illusion, can never enter. This is the process of concentration.
The transcendentalist should also be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness. People are materially diseased because they desire things and want to possess them. We desire that which we do not have, and we lament for that which we have lost. Brahma-bhütaù prasannätmä [Bg. 18.54]. One who is actually God conscious does not desire material possessions. He has only one desire—to serve Kåñëa. It is not possible to give up desire, but it is possible to purify our desires. It is the nature of the living entity to have some desire, but in the conditioned state, one’s desire is contaminated. Conditioned, one thinks, “I desire to satisfy my senses by material possession.” Purified desire is desire for Kåñëa, and if we desire Kåñëa, desires for material possessions will automatically vanish.
çucau deçe pratiñöhäpya
sthiram äsanam ätmanaù
tatraikägraà manaù kåtvä
“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kuça grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogé should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart, and fixing the mind on one point.” (Bg. 6.11–12) In these verses it is emphasized how and where one should sit. In the United States and other Western countries, there are many so-called yoga societies, but they do not practice yoga according to these prescriptions. “A sacred place” refers to a place of pilgrimage. In India, the yogés, the transcendentalists, or devotees, all leave home and reside in sacred places such as Prayäga, Mathurä, Våndävana, Håñékeça, and Hardwar and in solitude practice yoga where the sacred rivers like the Yamunä and the Ganges flow. So how is this possible in this age? How many people are prepared to find such a sacred place? In order to earn one’s livelihood, one has to live in a congested city. There is no question of finding a sacred place, but for the practice of yoga, that is the first prerequisite.
Therefore in this bhakti-yoga system, the temple is considered the sacred place. The temple is nirguëa—transcendental. According to the Vedas, a city is in the mode of passion, and a forest is in the mode of goodness. The temple, however, is transcendental. If you live in a city or town, you live in a place where passion is predominant, and if you want to escape this, you may go to a forest, a place of goodness. God’s temple, however, is above passion and goodness; therefore the temple of Kåñëa is the only secluded place for this age. In this age, it is not possible to retreat to a forest; nor is it useful to make a show of practicing yoga in so-called yoga societies and at the same time engage in nonsense.
Therefore, in the Båhan-näradéya Puräëa it is said that in Kali-yuga, when people are generally short-lived slow in spiritual realization, and always disturbed by various anxieties, the best means of spiritual realization is chanting the holy names of the Lord.
harer näma harer näma
harer nämaiva kevalam
kalau nästy eva nästy eva
nästy eva gatir anyathä
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.”
This is the solution, the grand gift of Caitanya Mahäprabhu. In this age, other yoga practices are not feasible, but this practice is so simple and universal that even a child can take to it.
PoP 4: Moderation in Yoga
In this Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, the system of säìkhya-yoga, which is the meditational añöäìga-yoga system, is emphasized. Jïäna-yoga emphasizes the philosophical process of analysis by which we determine what is Brahman and what is not Brahman. This process is known as the neti neti process, or “not this, not that.” In the beginning of the Vedänta-sütra it is stated, janmädy asya yataù: [SB 1.1.1] “The Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Truth, is He from whom everything emanates.” This is a hint, and from this we must try to understand the nature of the Supreme Brahman, from whom everything is emanating. The nature of that Absolute Truth is explained in detail in Çrémad-Bhägavatam.
In the first verse of Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is stated,
oà namo bhagavate väsudeväya
janmädy asya yato ’nvayäd itarataç cärtheñv abhijïaù svaräö
tene brahma hådä ya ädi-kavaye muhyanti yat sürayaù
tejo-väri-mådäà yathä vinimayo yatra tri-sargo ’måñä
dhämnä svena sadä nirasta-kuhakaà satyaà paraà dhémahi
“O my Lord, Çré Kåñëa, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. I meditate upon Lord Çré Kåñëa because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmäjé, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in fire, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Çré Kåñëa, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode. which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth.”
Thus from the very beginning of Çrémad-Bhägavatam the Absolute Truth is proclaimed to be cognizant. He is not dead or void. And what is the nature of His cognizance? Anvayäd itarataç cärtheñu: “He is directly and indirectly cognizant of all manifestations.” To a limited degree, each and every living entity is cognizant, but we are not completely cognizant. I may claim, “This is my head,” but if someone asks me, “Do you know how many hairs are on your head?” I will not be able to reply. Of course, this kind of knowledge is not transcendental, but in Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is stated that the Supreme Absolute Truth knows everything, directly and indirectly. I may know that I am eating, but I do not know the intricacies of the eating process—how my body is exactly assimilating food, how the blood is passing through my veins, etc. I am cognizant that my body is functioning, but I do not know how these processes are working perfectly and all at once. This is because my knowledge is limited.
By definition, God is He who knows everything. He knows what is going on in every corner of His creation; therefore, from the very beginning, Çrémad-Bhägavatam explains that the Supreme Truth from whom everything is emanating is supremely cognizant (abhijïaù). One may ask, “If the Absolute Truth is so powerful, wise, and cognizant, He must have attained this knowledge from some similar being.” This is not the case. If He attains His knowledge from someone else, He is not God. Svaräö. He is independent, and His knowledge is automatically there.
Çrémad-Bhägavatam is the supreme combination of both the jïäna- and bhakti-yoga systems, because it analyzes in detail the nature of that Supreme Being from whom everything is emanating. By the jïäna-yoga system, one attempts to understand the nature of the Absolute Truth in a philosophical way. In the bhakti-yoga system, the target is the same. The methodology, however, is somewhat different. Whereas the jïäné attempts to concentrate his mind philosophically on the Supreme, the bhakta simply engages himself in the service of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord reveals Himself. The jïäna method is called the ascending process, and the bhakti method is called the descending process. If we are in the darkness of night, we may attempt to attain the sunlight by ascending in a powerful rocket. According to the descending process, however, we simply await the sunrise, and then we understand immediately.
Through the ascending process, we attempt to reach the Supreme through our own endeavor, through the process of induction. By induction, we may attempt to find out whether man is mortal by studying thousands of men, trying to see whether they are mortal or immortal. This, of course, will take a great deal of time. If, however, I accept from superior authority the fact that all men are mortal, my knowledge is complete and immediate. Thus it is stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (10.14.29), “My dear Lord, a person who has received a little favor from You can understand You very quickly. But those who are trying to understand You by the ascending process may go on speculating for millions of years and still never understand You.”
By mental speculation, one is more likely to simply reach a point of frustration and confusion and conclude, “Oh, God is zero.” But if God is zero, how are so many figures emanating from Him? As the Vedänta says (janmädy asya yataù [SB 1.1.1]), “Everything is generating from the Supreme.” Therefore the Supreme cannot be zero. We have to study how so many forms, so many infinite living entities, are being generated from the Supreme. This is also explained in the Vedänta-sütra, which is the study of ultimate knowledge. The word veda means “knowledge,” and anta means “ultimate.” Ultimate knowledge is knowledge of the Supreme Lord.
So how is it possible to understand the form of Kåñëa? If it is stated that God does not have eyes, limbs, and senses like ours, how are we to understand His transcendental senses, His transcendental form? This is not possible by mental speculation. We simply have to serve Him, and then He will reveal Himself to us. As Kåñëa Himself states in the Tenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (10.11),
aham ajïäna-jaà tamaù
“Out of compassion for them, l, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” Kåñëa is within us, and when we are sincerely searching for Him by the devotional process, He will reveal Himself.
Again, as stated in the Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (18.55),
bhaktyä mäm abhijänäti
yävän yaç cäsmi tattvataù
tato mäà tattvato jïätvä
“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.” Thus God has to be understood by this process of bhakti-yoga, which is the process of çravaëaà kértanaà viñëoù [SB 7.5.23]—hearing and chanting about Viñëu. This is the beginning of the bhakti-yoga process. If we but hear sincerely and submissively, we will understand. Kåñëa will reveal Himself. Çravaëaà kértanaà viñëoù smaraëaà päda-sevanam arcanaà vandanaà däsyam. There are nine different processes in the bhakti-yoga system. By vandanam, we offer prayers, and that is also bhakti. Çravaëam is hearing about Kåñëa fro m Bhagavad-gétä, Çrémad-Bhägavatam, and other çästras. Kértanam is chanting about His glories, chanting the Hare Kåñëa mantra. This is the beginning of the bhakti-yoga process. Çravaëam kértanaà viñëoù [SB 7.5.23]. Everything is Viñëu, and meditation is on Viñëu. It is not possible to have bhakti without Viñëu. Kåñëa is the original form of Viñëu (kåñëas tu bhagavän svayam: “Kåñëa is the original form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead”). If we but follow this bhakti-yoga process, we should be able to understand the Supreme, and all doubts should be removed.
The añöäìga-yoga process is outlined very specifically in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (6.13–14):
dhärayann acalaà sthiraù
samprekñya näsikägraà svaà
manaù saàyamya mac-citto
yukta äséta mat-paraù
“One should hold one’s body, neck, and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” Yoga does not mean going to some class, paying some money, engaging in gymnastics, and then returning home to drink, smoke, and engage in sex. Such yoga is practiced by societies of the cheaters and the cheated. The authoritative yoga system is here outlined by the supreme authority, Çré Kåñëa Himself. Is there a better yogi than Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead? First of all, one has to go alone to a holy place and sit in a straight line, holding one’s body, neck, and head erect, and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Why is this? This is a method to help concentrate one’s mind. That’s all. The real purpose of yoga, however, is to keep oneself always aware that Lord Kåñëa is within.
One of the dangers of sitting in meditation and staring at the tip of one’s nose is that one will fall asleep. I have seen many so-called meditators sitting like this and snoring. As soon as one closes his eyes, it is natural to feel sleepy; therefore it is recommended that the eyes are half closed. Thus it is said that one should look at the tip of his nose. With one’s sight thus concentrated, the mind should be subdued and unagitated. In India, the yogé often goes to a jungle to practice such meditation in solitude. But in a jungle, the yogé may think, “Maybe some tiger or snake is coming. What is that noise?” In this way, his mind may be agitated; therefore it is especially stated that the yogé must be “devoid of fear.” A deerskin is especially recommended as a yoga-äsana, because it contains a chemical property that repels snakes; thus the yogé will not be disturbed by serpents. Whatever the case—serpents, tigers, or lions—one can be truly fearless only when he is established in Kåñëa consciousness. Due to perverted memory, the conditioned soul is naturally fearful. Fear is due to forgetting one’s eternal relationship with Kåñëa. According to Çrémad-Bhägavatam (11.2.37): bhayaà dvitéyäbhiniveçataù syäd éçäd apetasya viparyayo ’småtiù. Kåñëa consciousness provides the only true basis for fearlessness; therefore perfect practice of yoga is not possible for one who is not Kåñëa conscious.
The yogé must also be “completely free from sex life.” If one indulges in sex, he cannot concentrate; therefore brahmacarya, complete celibacy, is recommended to make the mind steady. By practicing celibacy, one cultivates determination. One modern example of such determination is that of Mahatma Gandhi, who was determined to resist the powerful British empire by means of nonviolence. At this time, India was dependent on the British, and the people had no weapons. The Britishers, being more powerful, easily cut down whatever violent revolutions the people attempted. Therefore Gandhi resorted to nonviolence, noncooperation. “I shall not fight with the Britishers,” he declared, “and even if they react with violence, I shall remain nonviolent. In this way the world will sympathize with us.” Such a policy required a great amount of determination, and Gandhi’s determination was very strong because he was a brahmacäré. Although he had children and a wife, he renounced sex at the age of thirty-six. It was this sexual renunciation that enabled him to be so determined that he was able to lead his country and drive the British from India.
Thus, refraining from sex enables one to be very determined and powerful. It is not necessary to do anything else. This is a secret people are not aware of. If you want to do something with determination, you have to refrain from sex. Regardless of the process—be it haöha-yoga, bhakti-yoga, jïäna-yoga, or whatever—sex indulgence is not allowed. Sex is allowed only for householders who want to beget good children and raise them in Kåñëa consciousness. Sex is not meant for sense enjoyment, although enjoyment is there by nature. Unless there is some enjoyment, why should one assume the responsibility of begetting children? That is the secret of nature’s gift, but we should not take advantage of it. These are the secrets of life. By taking advantage and indulging in sex life, we are simply wasting our time. If one tells you that you can indulge in sex as much as you like and at the same time become a yogé, he is cheating you. If some so-called guru tells you to give him money in exchange for some mantra and that you can go on and engage in all kinds of nonsense, he is just cheating you. Because we want something sublime and yet want it cheaply, we put ourselves in a position to be cheated. This means that we actually want to be cheated. If we want something valuable, we must pay for it. We cannot expect to walk into a jewelry store and demand the most valuable jewel for a mere ten cents. No, we must pay a great deal. Similarly, if we want perfection in yoga, we have to pay by abstaining from sex. Perfection in yoga is not something childish, and Bhagavad-gétä instructs us that if we try to make yoga into something childish, we will be cheated. There are many cheaters awaiting us, waiting to take our money, giving us nothing, and then leaving. But according to Çré Kåñëa’s authoritative statement in Bhagavad-gétä, one must be “completely free from sex life.” Being free from sex, one should “meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” This is real meditation.
Kåñëa does not recommend meditation on the void. He specifically states, “meditate upon Me.” The viñëu-mürti is situated in one’s heart, and meditation upon Him is the object of yoga. This is the säìkhya-yoga system, as first practiced by Lord Kapiladeva, an incarnation of God. By sitting straight, staring steadily at the tip of one’s nose, subduing one’s mind, and abstaining from sex, one may be able to concentrate the mind on the viñëu-mürti situated within the heart. When we refer to the Viñëu form, or viñëu-mürti, we refer to Çré Kåñëa.
In this Kåñëa consciousness movement we are meditating directly on Çré Kåñëa. This is a process of practical meditation. The members of this movement are concentrating their minds on Kåñëa, regardless of their particular occupation. One may be working in the garden and digging in the earth, but he is thinking, “I am cultivating beautiful roses to offer to Kåñëa.” One may be cooking in the kitchen, but he is always thinking, “I am preparing palatable food to be offered to Kåñëa.” Similarly, chanting and dancing in the temple are forms of meditating on Kåñëa. Thus the boys and girls in this Society for Kåñëa consciousness are perfect yogés because they are meditating on Kåñëa twenty-four hours a day. We are teaching the perfect yoga system, not according to our personal whims but according to the authority of Bhagavad-gétä. Nothing is concocted or manufactured. The verses of Bhagavad-gétä are there for all to see. The activities of the bhakti-yogés in this movement are so molded that the practitioners cannot help but think of Kåñëa at all times. “Meditate upon Me within the heart, and make Me the ultimate goal of life,” Çré Kåñëa says. This is the perfect yoga system, and one who practices it prepares himself to be transferred to Kåñëaloka.
yuïjann evaà sadätmänaà
yogé niyata-mänasa h
“Thus practicing control of the body, mind, and activities, the mystic transcendentalist attains to the kingdom of God [or the abode of Kåñëa] by cessation of material existence.” (Bg. 6.15)
It is stated in Sanskrit in this verse, çäntià nirväëa-paramäm; that is, one attains peace through nirväëa-paramäm, or the cessation of material activities. Nirväëa does not refer to void, but to putting an end to materialistic activities. Unless one puts an end to them, there is no question of peace. When Hiraëyakaçipu asked his five-year-old son Prahläda Mahäräja, “My dear boy, what is the best thing you have thus far learned?” Prahläda immediately replied, tat sädhu manye ’sura-varya dehinäà sadä samudvigna-dhiyäm asad-grahät [SB 7.5.5]: “My dear father, O greatest of the demons, materialistic people are always full of anxiety because they have accepted as real that which is nonpermanent.” The word asad-grahät is important because it indicates that materialists are always hankering to capture or possess something that is nonpermanent. History affords us many examples. Mr. Kennedy was a very rich man who wanted to become President, and he spent a great deal of money to attain that elevated position. Yet although he had a nice wife, children, and the presidency, everything was finished within a second. In the material world, people are always trying to capture something that is nonpermanent. Unfortunately, people do not come to their senses and realize, “I am permanent. I am spirit soul. Why am I hankering after something that is nonpermanent?”
We are always busy acquiring comforts for this body without considering that today, tomorrow, or in a hundred years this body will be finished. As far as the real “I” is concerned, “I am spirit soul. I have no birth. I have no death. What, then, is my proper function?” When we act on the material platform, we are engaged in bodily functions; therefore Prahläda Mahäräja says that people are anxious because all their activities are targeted to capturing and possessing something nonpermanent. All living entities—men, beasts, birds, or whatever—are always full of anxiety, and this is the material disease. If we are always full of anxiety, how can we attain peace? People may live in a very nice house, but out front they place signs saying, “Beware of Dog,” or “No Trespassers.” This means that although they are living comfortably, they are anxious that someone will come and molest them. Sitting in an office and earning a very good salary, a man is always thinking, “Oh, I hope I don’t lose this position.” The American nation is very rich, but because of this, it has to maintain a great defense force. So who is free from anxiety? The conclusion is that if we want peace without anxiety, we have to come to Kåñëa consciousness. There is no alternative.
In order to attain peace, we must meditate on Kåñëa, and by meditating on Kåñëa, we can control the body. The first part of the body to control is the tongue, and the next part is the genital. When these are controlled, everything is controlled. The tongue is controlled by chanting and eating kåñëa-prasäda. As soon as the tongue is controlled, the stomach is controlled, and next the genitals are controlled. Actually, controlling the body and mind is a very simple process. When the mind is fixed on Kåñëa and has no other engagement, it is automatically controlled. Activities should always be centered on working for Kåñëa—gardening, typing, cooking, cleaning, whatever. By engaging the body, mind, and activities in the service of Kåñëa, one attains the supreme nirväëa, which abides in Kåñëa. Everything is in Kåñëa; therefore we cannot find peace outside Kåñëa conscious activities.
The ultimate goal of yoga is thus clearly explained. Yoga is not meant for attaining any kind of material facility; it is to enable the cessation of all material existence. As long as we require some material facilities, we will get them. But these facilities will not solve the problems of life. I have traveled throughout the world, and it is my opinion that American boys and girls have the best material facilities, but does this mean that they have attained peace? Can anyone say, “Yes, I am completely peaceful”? If this is so, why are American youngsters so frustrated and confused?
As long as we practice yoga in order to attain some material facility, there will be no question of peace. Yoga should only be practiced in order to understand Kåñëa. Yoga is meant for the reestablishment of our lost relationship with Kåñëa. Generally, one joins a yoga society in order to improve his health, to reduce fat. People in rich nations eat more, become fat, and then pay exorbitant prices to so-called yoga instructors in order to reduce. People try to reduce by all these artificial gymnastics; they do not understand that if they just eat vegetables or fruits and grains, they will never get fat. People get fat because they eat voraciously, because they eat meat. People who eat voraciously suffer from diabetes, overweight, heart attacks, etc., and those who eat insufficiently suffer from tuberculosis. Therefore moderation is required, and moderation in eating means that we eat only what is needed to keep body and soul together. If we eat more than we need or less, we will become diseased. All this is explained in the following verses:
näty-açnatas tu yogo ’sti
na caikäntam anaçnataù
jägrato naiva cärjuna
“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogé, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much, or does not sleep enough.” (Bg. 6.16)
yogo bhavati duùkha-hä
“He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working, and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Bg. 6.17) It is not that we are to starve ourselves. The body must be kept fit for any practice; therefore eating is required, and according to our program, we eat only kåñëa-prasäda. If you can comfortably eat ten pounds of food a day, then eat it, but if you try to eat ten pounds out of greed or avarice, you will suffer.
So in the practice of Kåñëa consciousness, all these activities are present, but they are spiritualized. The cessation of material existence does not mean entering into “the void,” which is only a myth. There is no void anywhere within the creation of the Lord. I am not void but spirit soul. If I were void, how would my bodily development take place? Where is this “void”? If we sow a seed in the ground, it grows into a plant or large tree. The father injects a seed into the womb of the mother, the body grows like a tree. Where is there void? In the Fourteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (14.4), Çré Kåñëa states,
mürtayaù sambhavanti yäù
täsäà brahma mahad yonir
ahaà béja-pradaù pitä
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunté, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” The seed is originally given by Kåñëa, placed in the womb of material nature, and thus many living entities are generated. How can one argue against this process? If the seed of existence is void, how has this body developed?
Nirväëa actually means not accepting another material body. It’s not that we attempt to make this body void. Nirväëa means making the miserable, material, conditional body void—that is, converting the material body into a spiritual body. This means entering into the kingdom of God, which is described in the Fifteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (15.6):
na tad bhäsayate süryo
sa çaçäìko na pävakaù
yad gatvä na nivartante
tad dhäma paramaà mama
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.”
So there is no void anywhere within the Lord’s creation. All the planets in the spiritual sky are self-illumined, like the sun. The kingdom of God is everywhere, but the spiritual sky and the planets thereof are all paraà dhäma, or superior abodes. As stated, sunlight, moonlight, or electricity are not required in the param-dhäma. We cannot find such an abode within this universe. We may travel as far as possible within our spaceships, but we will not find any place where there is no sunlight. The sunlight is so extensive that it pervades the universe. Therefore, that abode in which there is no sunlight, moonlight, or electricity is beyond this material sky. Beyond this material nature is a spiritual nature. Actually, we know nothing of this material nature; we do not even know how it was originally formed. So how can we know anything about the spiritual nature beyond? We have to learn from Kåñëa, who lives there; otherwise we remain in ignorance.
In this Bhagavad-gétä, information of the spiritual sky is given. How can we know anything about that which we cannot reach? Our senses are so imperfect, how can we attain knowledge? We just have to hear and accept. How will we ever know who our father is unless we accept the word of our mother? Our mother says, “Here is your father,” and we have to accept this. We cannot determine our father by making inquiries here and there or by attempting to experiment. This knowledge is beyond our means. Similarly, if we want to learn about the spiritual sky, God’s kingdom, we have to hear from the authority, mother Vedas. The Vedas are called veda-mätä, or mother Vedas, because the knowledge imparted therein is like that knowledge received from the mother. We have to believe in order to acquire knowledge. There is no possibility of acquiring this transcendental knowledge by experimenting with our imperfect senses.
A consummate yogé, who is perfect in understanding Lord Kåñëa, as is clearly stated herein (çäntià nirväëa-paramäà mat-saàsthäm adhigacchati) by the Lord Himself, can attain real peace and ultimately reach the supreme abode of the Lord. This abode is known as Kåñëaloka, or Goloka Våndävana. In the Brahma-saàhitä it is clearly stated (goloka eva nivasaty akhilätma-bhütaù [Bs. 5.37]) that the Lord, although residing always in His abode called Goloka, is the all-pervading Brahman and the localized Paramätmä as well, by dint of His superior spiritual energies. No one can reach the spiritual sky or enter into the eternal abode of the Lord (Vaikuëöha, Goloka Våndävana) without properly understanding Kåñëa and His plenary expansion Viñëu. And according to Brahma-saàhitä, it is necessary to learn from our authorized mother, veda-mätä. Brahma-saàhitä states that the Supreme Lord is living not only in His abode, Goloka Våndävana, but everywhere: goloka eva nivasaty akhilätma-bhütaù [Bs. 5.37]. He is like the sun, which is millions of miles away and yet is still present within this room.
In conclusion, the person who works in Kåñëa consciousness is the perfect yogé, because his mind is always absorbed in Kåñëa’s activities. Sa vai manaù kåñëa-padäravindayoù. In the Vedas we also learn, tam eva viditväti måtyum eti: “One can overcome the path of birth and death only by understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa.” Thus perfection of yoga is the attainment of freedom from material existence and not some magical jugglery or gymnastic feat to befool innocent people.
In this system of yoga, moderation is required; therefore it is stated that we should not eat too much or too little, sleep too much or too little, or work too much or too little. All these activities are there because we have to execute the yoga system with this material body. In other words, we have to make the best use of a bad bargain. The material body is a bad bargain in the sense that it is the source of all miseries. The spirit soul does not experience misery, and the normal condition of the living entity is his healthy, spiritual life. Misery and disease occur due to material contamination, disease, infection. So in a sense, material existence is a diseased condition of the soul. And what is that disease? The answer is not a great mystery. The disease is this body. This body is actually not meant for me. It may be “my” body, but it is a symptom of my diseased condition. In any case, I should identify with this body no more than I should identify with my clothes. In this world, we are all differently dressed. We are dressed as red men, brown men, white men, black men, yellow men, etc., or as Indians, Americans, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, etc. All these designations are not symptomatic of our actual position but of our diseased condition. The yoga system is meant to cure this disease by connecting us again with the Supreme.
We are meant to be connected with the Supreme just as our hand is meant to be connected to our body. We are part and parcel of the Supreme, just as the hand is part and parcel of the body. When the hand is severed from the body, it is valueless, but when it is joined to the body, it is invaluable. Similarly, in this material condition, we are disconnected from God. Actually, the word disconnected is not precise, because the connection is always there. God is always supplying all our necessities. Since nothing can exist without Kåñëa, we cannot be disconnected from Him. Rather, it is better to say that we have forgotten that we are connected to Kåñëa. Because of this forgetfulness, we have entered the criminal department of the universe. The government still takes care of its criminals, but they are legally disconnected from the civilian state. Our disconnection is a result of our engaging in so many nonsensical activities instead of utilizing our senses in the performance of our Kåñëa conscious duties.
Instead of thinking, “I am the eternal servant of God, or Kåñëa,” we are thinking, “I am the servant of my society, my country, my husband, my wife, my dog, or whatever.” This is called forgetfulness. How has this come about? All these misconceptions have arisen due to this body. Because I was born in America, I am thinking that I am an American. Each society teaches its citizens to think in this way. Because I am thinking that I am an American, the American government can tell me, “Come and fight. Give your life for your country.” This is all due to the bodily conception; therefore an intelligent person should know that he is suffering miseries due to his body and that he should not act in such a way that he will continue to be imprisoned within a material body birth after birth. According to Padma Puräëa, there are 8,400,000 species of life, and all are but different forms of contamination—whether one has an American body, an Indian body, a dog’s body, a hog’s body, or whatever. Therefore the first instruction in yoga is, “I am not this body.”
Attaining liberation from the contamination of the material body is the first teaching of Bhagavad-gétä. In the Second Chapter, after Arjuna told Çré Kåñëa, “I shall not fight,” the Lord said, “While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Bg. 2.11) In other words, Arjuna was thinking on the bodily platform. He wanted to leave the battlefield because he did not want to fight with his relatives. All his conceptions were within the bodily atmosphere; therefore after Arjuna accepted Çré Kåñëa as his spiritual master, the Lord immediately chastised him, just as a master chastises his disciple in order to teach him. Essentially, Çré Kåñëa told Arjuna, “You are talking very wisely, as if you know so many things, but actually you are speaking nonsense, because you are speaking from the bodily position.” Similarly, people throughout the world are posing themselves as highly advanced in education, science, philosophy, politics, etc., but their position is on the bodily platform.
A vulture may rise very high in the sky—seven or eight miles—and it is wonderful to see him fly in this way. He also has powerful eyes, for he can spot a carcass from a great distance. Yet what is the object of all these great qualifications? A dead body, a rotting carcass. His perfection is just to discover a dead piece of meat and eat it. That’s all. Similarly, we may have a very high education, but what is our objective? Sense enjoyment, the enjoyment of this material body. We may rise very high with our spaceships, but what is the purpose? Sense gratification, that’s all. This means that all the striving and all this high education are merely on the animal platform.
Therefore we should first of all know that our miserable material condition is due to this body. At the same time, we should know that this body is not permanent. Although I identify with my body, family, society, country, and so many other things, how long will these objects exist? They are not permanent. Asat is a word meaning that they will cease to exist. Asann api kleçada äsa dehaù: [SB 5.5.4] “The body is simply troublesome and impermanent.”
Many people come to us saying, “Swäméjé, my position is so troublesome,” but as soon as we suggest the medicine, they will not accept it. This means that people want to manufacture their own medicine. Why do we go to a physician if we want to treat ourselves? People want to accept only what they think is palatable.
Although we are suggesting that this body is useless and is a form of contamination, we are not recommending that it be abused. We may use a car to carry us to work, but this does not mean that we should not take care of the car. We should take care of the car for it to carry us to and fro, but we should not become so attached to it that we are polishing it every day. We must utilize this material body in order to execute Kåñëa consciousness, and to this end we should keep it fit and healthy, but we should not become too attached to it. That is called yukta-vairägya. The body should not be neglected. We should bathe regularly, eat regularly, sleep regularly in order to keep mind and body healthy. Some people say that the body should be renounced and that we should take some drugs and abandon ourselves to intoxication, but this is not a yoga process. Kåñëa has given us nice food—fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk—and we can prepare hundreds and thousands of nice preparations and offer them to the Lord. Our process is to eat kåñëa-prasäda and to satisfy the tongue in that way. But we should not be greedy and eat dozens of samosäs, sweetballs, and rasagulläs. No. We should eat and sleep just enough to keep the body fit, and no more. It is stated,
yogo bhavati duùkha-hä
“He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working, and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Bg. 6.17)
Although we should minimize our eating and sleeping, we should not attempt this too rapidly, at the risk of becoming sick. Because people are accustomed to eating voraciously, there are prescriptions for fasting. We can reduce our sleeping and eating, but we should remain in good health for spiritual purposes. We should not attempt to reduce eating and sleeping too rapidly or artificially; when we advance we will naturally not feel pain due to the reduction of these natural bodily processes. In this respect, Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé offers a good example. Although a very rich man’s son, Raghunätha däsa left his home to join Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Because he was the only son, Raghunätha däsa was very beloved by his father. Understanding that his son had gone to Jagannätha Puré to join Lord Caitanya, the father sent four servants with money to attend him. At first, Raghunätha accepted the money, thinking, “Oh, since my father has sent all this money, I will accept it and invite all the sannyäsés to feast.”
After some time, however, the feasts came to an end. Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu then inquired from His secretary, Svarüpa Dämodara, “Nowadays I don’t receive any invitations from Raghunätha. What has happened?”
“That is because Raghunätha has stopped accepting his father’s money.”
“Oh, that’s very nice,” Caitanya Mahäprabhu said.
“Raghunätha was thinking, ‘Although I have renounced everything, I am still enjoying my father’s money. This is hypocritical.’ Therefore he has told the servants to go home and has refused the money.”
“So how is he living?” Caitanya Mahäprabhu inquired.
“Oh, he’s standing on the steps of the Jagannätha temple, and when the priests pass him on their way home, they offer him some prasäda. In this way, he is satisfied.”
“This is very nice,” Caitanya Mahäprabhu commented.
Regularly going to the Jagannätha temple, Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu would see Raghunätha standing on the steps. After a few days, however, He no longer saw him there. Therefore the Lord commented to His secretary, “I no longer see Raghunätha standing on the temple steps.”
“He has given that up,” Svarüpa Dämodara explained. “He was thinking, ‘Oh, I am standing here just like a prostitute, waiting for someone to come and give me food. No. I don’t like this at all.’ ”
“That is very nice,” Caitanya Mahäprabhu said, “but how is he eating?”
“Every day he is collecting some rejected rice from the kitchen and is eating that.”
To encourage Raghunätha, Caitanya Mahäprabhu one day visited him. “Raghunätha,” the Lord said, “I hear that you are eating very palatable food. Why are you not inviting Me?”
Raghunätha did not reply, but the Lord quickly found the place where he kept the rice, and the Lord immediately took some and began to eat it.
“Dear Lord,” Raghunätha implored, “please do not eat this. It is not fit for You.”
“Oh, no? Why do you say it’s not fit for Me? It’s Lord Jagannätha’s prasäda!”
Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu enacted this pastime just to discourage Raghunätha from thinking, “I am eating this miserable, rejected rice.” Through the Lord’s encouragement, Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé reduced his daily quantity of food until he was finally eating only one pat of butter every other day. And every day he was also bowing down hundreds of times and constantly chanting the holy names. Saìkhyä-pürvaka-näma-gäna-natibhiù kälävasäné-kåtau.
Although this is an excellent example of minimizing all material necessities, we should not try to imitate it. It is not possible for an ordinary man to imitate Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé, who was one of the six Gosvämés, a highly elevated associate of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu Himself. Each one of the six Gosvämés displayed a unique example of how one can advance in Kåñëa consciousness, but it is not our duty to imitate them. We should just try to follow, as far as possible, in their footsteps. If we immediately try to become like Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé by imitating him, we are sure to fail, and whatever progress we have made will be defeated. Therefore the Lord says (Bg. 6.16) that there is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogé if one eats too much or too little.
The same moderation applies to sleep. Presently I may be sleeping ten hours a day, but if I can keep myself fit by sleeping five hours, why sleep ten? As far as the body is concerned, there are four demands—eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The problem with modern civilization is that it is trying to increase these demands, but they should be decreased instead. Eat what we need, and sleep when we need, and our health will be excellent. There is no question of artificial imitation.
And what is the result obtained by one who is temperate in his habits?
yadä viniyataà cittam
yukta ity ucyate tadä
“When the yogé, by practice of yoga, disciplines his mental activities and becomes situated in Transcendence—devoid of all material desires—he is said to have attained yoga.” (Bg. 6.18)
The perfection of yoga means keeping the mind in a state of equilibrium. Materially speaking, this is impossible. After reading a mundane novel once, you will not want to read it again, but you can read Bhagavad-gétä four times a day and still not tire of it. You may chant someone’s name a half an hour, or sing a mundane song three or four times, but before long this becomes tiresome. Hare Kåñëa, however, can be chanted day and night, and one will never tire of it. Therefore it is only through transcendental vibration that the mind can be kept in a state of equilibrium. When one’s mental activities are thus stabilized, one is said to have attained yoga.
The perfectional stage of yoga was exhibited by King Ambaréña, who utilized all his senses in the service of the Lord. As stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (9.4.18–20),
sa vai manaù kåñëa-padäravindayor
karau harer mandira-märjanädiñu
ghräëaà ca tat-päda-saroja-saurabhe
çrémat-tulasyä rasanaà tad-arpite
pädau hareù kñetra-padänusarpaëe
kämaà ca däsye na tu käma-kämyayä
“King Ambaréña first of all engaged his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Kåñëa; then, one after another, he engaged his words in describing the transcendental qualities of the Lord, his hands in mopping the temple of the Lord, his ears in hearing of the activities of the Lord, his eyes in seeing the transcendental forms of the Lord, his body in touching the bodies of the devotees, his sense of smell in smelling the scents of the lotus flowers offered to the Lord, his tongue in tasting the tulasé leaf offered at the temple of the Lord, his head in offering obeisances unto the Lord, and his desires in executing the mission of the Lord. All these transcendental activities are quite befitting a pure devotee.”
This, then, is the perfection of yoga devoid of all material desire. If all our desires are for Kåñëa, there is no scope for material desire. All material desire is automatically finished. We don’t have to try to concentrate artificially. All perfection is there in Kåñëa consciousness because it is on the spiritual platform. Being on the spiritual platform, this supreme yoga is eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge. Therefore there are no misgivings or material impediments.
PoP 5: Determination and Steadiness in Yoga
yathä dépo niväta-stho
neìgate sopamä småtä
yuïjato yogam ätmanaù
“As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self.” (Bg. 6.19)
If the mind is absorbed in Kåñëa consciousness, it will remain as steady as the flame of a candle that is in a room where there is no wind. Therefore it is said that a truly Kåñëa conscious person always absorbed in transcendence, in constant undisturbed meditation on his worshipable Lord, is as steady as a lamp or candle in a windless place. Just as the flame is not agitated, the mind is not agitated, and that steadiness is the perfection of yoga.
The state of one thus steadily situated in meditation on the transcendent Self, or the Supreme Lord, is described by Çré Kåñëa in the following verses of Bhagavad-gétä (6.20–23):
paçyann ätmani tuñyati
sukham ätyantikaà yat tad
vetti yatra na caiväyaà
sthitaç calati tattvataù
yaà labdhvä cäparaà läbhaà
manyate nädhikaà tataù
yasmin sthito na duùkhena
taà vidyäd duùkha-saàyoga-
“The stage of perfection is called trance, or samädhi, when one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This is characterized by one’s ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”
Samädhi does not mean making oneself void or merging into the void. That is impossible. Kleço ’dhikataras teñäm avyaktäsakta-cetasäm [Bg. 12.5]. Some yogés say that one has to put an end to all activities and make himself motionless, but how is this possible? By nature, the living entity is a moving, acting spirit. “Motionless” means putting an end to material motion and being fixed in Kåñëa consciousness. In such a state, one is no longer disturbed by material propensities. As one becomes materially motionless, one’s motions in Kåñëa consciousness increase. As one becomes active in Kåñëa consciousness, one becomes automatically motionless in respect to material activities.
I have often used the example of a restless child. Since it is impossible to make such a child motionless, it is necessary to give him some playthings or some pictures to look at. In this way, he will be engaged, or motionless in the sense that he will not be committing some mischief. But if one really wants to make him motionless, one must give him some engagement in Kåñëa consciousness. Then there will be no scope for mischievous activities, due to realization in Kåñëa consciousness. To be engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, one should first realize, “I am Kåñëa’s. I am not this matter. I am not of this nation or of this society. I do not belong to this rascal or that rascal. I am simply Kåñëa’s.” This is motionless; this is full knowledge, realizing our actual position as part and parcel of Kåñëa. As stated in the Fifteenth Chapter (Bg. 15.7), mamaiväàço jéva-loke: “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts.” As soon as we understand this, we immediately cease our material activities, and this is what is meant by being motionless. In this state, one sees the Self by the pure mind and relishes and rejoices in the Self. “Pure mind” means understanding, “I belong to Kåñëa.” At the present moment, the mind is contaminated because we are thinking, “I belong to this; I belong to that.” The mind is pure when it understands, “I belong to Kåñëa.”
Rejoicing in the Self means rejoicing with Kåñëa. Kåñëa is the Supersoul, or the Superself. I am the individual soul, or the individual self. The Superself and the self enjoy together. Enjoyment cannot be alone; there must be two. What experience do we have of solitary enjoyment? Solitary enjoyment is not possible. Enjoyment means two: Kåñëa, who is the Supersoul, and the individual soul.
If one is convinced that “I am part and parcel of Kåñëa,” one is not disturbed even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, because one knows that Kåñëa will give protection. That is surrender. To attain this position, one must try his best, use his intelligence, and believe in Kåñëa. Bälasya neha çaraëaà pitarau nåsiàha (Bhäg. 7.9.19). If Kåñëa does not protect us, nothing can save us. If Kåñëa neglects us, there is no remedy, and whatever measures we take to try to protect ourselves will be ultimately defeated. There may be many expert physicians treating a diseased man, but that is no guarantee that he will live. If Kåñëa so wills, a person will die despite the best physicians and medicines. On the other hand, if Kåñëa is protecting us, we will survive even without medical treatment. When one is fully surrendered to Kåñëa, he becomes happy, knowing that regardless of the situation, Kåñëa will protect him. He is just like a child who is fully surrendered to his parents, confident that they are there to protect him. As stated by Yämunäcärya in his Stotra-ratna (43), kadäham aikäntika-nitya-kiìkaraù praharñayiñyämi sanätha jévitam: “O Lord, when shall I engage as Your permanent, eternal servant and always feel joyful to have such a perfect master?” If we know that there is someone very powerful who is our patron and savior, aren’t we happy? But if we try to act on our own and at our own risk, how can we be happy? Happiness means being in Kåñëa consciousness and being convinced that “Kåñëa will give me protection,” and being true to Kåñëa. It is not possible to be happy otherwise.
Of course, Kåñëa is giving all living entities protection, even in their rebellious condition (eko bahünäà yo vidadhäti kämän). Without Kåñëa’s protection, we cannot live for a second. When we admit and recognize Kåñëa’s kindness, we become happy. Kåñëa is protecting us at every moment, but we do not realize this, because we have taken life at our own risk. Kåñëa gives us a certain amount of freedom, saying, “All right, do whatever you like. As far as possible, I will give you protection.” However, when the living entity is fully surrendered to Kåñëa, Kåñëa takes total charge and gives special protection. If a child grows up and doesn’t care for his father and acts freely, what can his father do? He can only say, “Do whatever you like.” But when a son puts himself fully under his father’s protection, he receives more care. As Kåñëa states in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (9.29),
samo ’haà sarva-bhüteñu
na me dveñyo ’sti na priyaù
ye bhajanti tu mäà bhaktyä
mayi te teñu cäpy aham
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”
How can Kåñëa be envious of anyone? Everyone is Kåñëa’s son. Similarly, how can Kåñëa be an enemy toward anyone? Since all living entities are Kåñëa’s sons, He is everyone’s friend. Unfortunately, we are not taking advantage of His friendship, and that is our disease. Once we recognize Kåñëa as our eternal father and friend, we can understand that He is always protecting us, and in this way we can be happy.
sa niçcayena yoktavyo
tyaktvä sarvän açeñataù
“One should engage oneself in the practice of yoga with undeviating determination and faith. One should abandon, without exception, all material desires born of false ego and thus control all the senses on all sides by the mind.” (Bg. 6.24)
As stated before, this determination can be attained only by one who does not indulge in sex. Celibacy makes one’s determination strong; therefore, from the very beginning Kåñëa states that the yogé does not engage in sex. If one indulges in sex, one’s determination will be flickering. Therefore sex life should be controlled according to the rules and regulations governing the gåhastha-äçrama, or sex should be given up altogether. Actually, it should be given up altogether, but if this is not possible, it should be controlled. Then determination will come because, after all, determination is a bodily affair. Determination means continuing to practice Kåñëa consciousness with patience and perseverance. If one does not immediately attain the desired results, one should not think, “Oh, what is this Kåñëa consciousness? I will give it up.” No, we must have determination and faith in Kåñëa’s words.
In this regard, there is a mundane example. When a young girl gets married, she immediately hankers for a child. She thinks, “Now I am married. I must have a child immediately.” But how is this possible? The girl must have patience, become a faithful wife, serve her husband, and let her love grow. Eventually, because she is married, it is certain that she will have a child. Similarly, when we are in Kåñëa consciousness, our perfection is guaranteed, but we must have patience and determination. We should think, “I must execute my duties and should not be impatient.” Impatience is due to loss of determination, and loss of determination is due to excessive sex.
The yogé should be determined and should patiently prosecute Kåñëa consciousness without deviation. One should be sure of success at the end and pursue this course with great perseverance, not becoming discouraged if there is any delay in the attainment of success. Success is sure for the rigid practitioner. Regarding bhakti-yoga, Rüpa Gosvämé says,
utsähän niçcayäd dhairyät
saìga-tyägät sato våtteù
ñaòbhir bhaktiù prasidhyati
“The process of bhakti-yoga can be executed successfully with full-hearted enthusiasm, perseverance, and determination by following the prescribed duties in the association of devotees and by engaging completely in activities of goodness.” (Upadeçämåta 3)
As for determination, one should follow the example of the sparrow who lost her eggs in the waves of the ocean. A sparrow laid her eggs on the shore of the ocean, but the big ocean carried away the eggs on its waves. The sparrow became very upset and asked the ocean to return her eggs. The ocean did not even consider her appeal. So the sparrow decided to dry up the ocean. She began to pick out the water in her small beak, and everyone laughed at her for her impossible determination. The news of her activity spread, and when at last Garuòa, the gigantic bird carrier of Lord Viñëu, heard it, he became compassionate toward his small sister bird, and so he came to see her. Garuòa was very pleased by the determination of the small sparrow, and he promised to help. Thus Garuòa at once asked the ocean to return her eggs lest he himself take up the work of the sparrow. The ocean was frightened by this, and returned the eggs. Thus the sparrow became happy by the grace of Garuòa.
Similarly, the practice of yoga, especially bhakti-yoga in Kåñëa consciousness, may appear to be a very difficult job. But if anyone follows the principles with great determination, the Lord will surely help, for God helps those who help themselves,
çanaiù çanair uparamed
ätma-saàsthaà manaù kåtvä
na kiïcid api cintayet
“Gradually, step by step, with full conviction, one should become situated in trance by means of intelligence, and thus the mind should be fixed on the Self alone and should think of nothing else.” (Bg. 6.25)
We are the self, and Kåñëa is also the Self. When there is sunlight, we can see the sun and ourselves also. However, when there is dense darkness, we sometimes cannot even see our own body. Although the body is there, the darkness is so dense that I cannot see myself. But when the sunshine is present, I can see myself as well as the sun. Similarly, seeing the self means first of all seeing the Supreme Self, Kåñëa. In the Kaöha Upaniñad it is stated, nityo nityänäà cetanaç cetanänäm: “The Supreme Self is the chief eternal of all eternals, and He is the chief living being of all living beings.” Kåñëa consciousness means fixing the mind on Kåñëa, and when the mind is thus fixed, it is fixed on the complete whole. If the stomach is cared for and supplied nutritious food, all the bodily limbs are nourished, and we are in good health. Similarly, if we water the root of a tree, all the branches, leaves, flowers, and twigs are automatically taken care of. By rendering service to Kåñëa, we automatically render the best service to all others.
As stated before, a Kåñëa conscious person does not sit down idly. He knows that Kåñëa consciousness is such an important philosophy that it should be distributed. Therefore the members of this Kåñëa consciousness society are not just sitting in the temple but are going out on saìkértana parties, preaching and distributing this supreme philosophy. That is the mission of Çré Kåñëa Caitanya Mahäprabhu and His disciples. Other yogés may be satisfied with their own elevation and sit in secluded places, practicing yoga. For them, yoga is nothing more than their personal concern. A devotee, however, is not satisfied just in elevating his personal self.
kåpä-sindhubhya eva ca
vaiñëavebhyo namo namaù
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaiñëava devotees of the Lord, who can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and who are full of compassion for the fallen souls.” A devotee displays great compassion toward conditioned souls. The word kåpä means “mercy,” and sindhu means “ocean.” A devotee is an ocean of mercy, and he naturally wants to distribute this mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, for instance, was God conscious, Kåñëa conscious, but he was not satisfied in keeping this knowledge within himself. Had he continued to live alone in God consciousness, he would not have met crucifixion. But no. Being a devotee and naturally compassionate, he also wanted to take care of others by making them God conscious. Although he was forbidden to preach God consciousness, he continued to do so at the risk of his own life. This is the nature of a devotee.
It is therefore stated in Bhagavad-gétä (18.68–69) that the devotee who preaches is most dear to the Lord.
ya idaà paramaà guhyaà
bhaktià mayi paräà kåtvä
mäm evaiñyaty asaàçayaù
“For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.”
na ca tasmän manuñyeñu
kaçcin me priya-kåttamaù
bhavitä na ca me tasmäd
anyaù priyataro bhuvi
“There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” Therefore the devotees go out to preach, and going forth, they sometimes meet opposing elements. Sometimes they are defeated, sometimes disappointed, sometimes able to convince, sometimes unable. It is not that every devotee is well equipped to preach. Just as there are different types of people, there are three classes of devotees. In the third class are those who have no faith. If they are engaged in devotional service officially, for some ulterior purpose, they cannot achieve the highest perfectional stage. Most probably they will slip, after some time. They may become engaged, but because they haven’t complete conviction and faith, it is very difficult for them to continue in Kåñëa consciousness. We have practical experience in discharging our missionary activity that some people come and apply themselves to Kåñëa consciousness with some hidden motive, and as soon as they are economically a little well situated, they give up this process and take to their old ways again. It is only by faith that one can advance in Kåñëa consciousness. As far as the development of faith is concerned, one who is well versed in the literatures of devotional service and has attained the stage of firm faith is called a first-class person in Kåñëa consciousness. And in the second class are those who are not very advanced in understanding the devotional scriptures but who automatically have firm faith that kåñëa-bhakti, or service to Kåñëa, is the best course and so in good faith have taken it up. Thus they are superior to the third class, who have neither perfect knowledge of the scriptures nor good faith but by association and simplicity are trying to follow. The third-class person in Kåñëa consciousness may fall down, but when one is in the second class or first class, he does not fall down. One in the first class will surely make progress and achieve the result at the end. As far as the third-class person in Kåñëa consciousness is concerned, although he has faith in the conviction that devotional service to Kåñëa is very good, he has no knowledge of Kåñëa through the scriptures like the Çrémad-Bhägavatam and Bhagavad-gétä. Sometimes these third-class persons in Kåñëa consciousness have some tendency toward karma-yoga and jïäna-yoga, and sometimes they are disturbed, but as soon as the infection of karma-yoga or jïäna-yoga is vanquished, they become second-class or first-class persons in Kåñëa consciousness. Faith in Kåñëa is also divided into three stages and described in Çrémad-Bhägavatam. First-class attachment, second-class attachment, and third-class attachment are also explained in Çrémad-Bhägavatam, in the Eleventh Canto.
However one is situated, one should have the determination to go out and preach Kåñëa consciousness. That endeavor should at least be there, and one who so attempts to preach renders the best service to the Lord. Despite opposition, one should attempt to elevate people to the highest standard of self-realization. One who has actually seen the truth, who is in the trance of self-realization, cannot just sit idly. He must come out. Rämänujäcärya, for instance, declared the Hare Kåñëa mantra publicly. He did not distribute it secretly for some fee. Recently, an Indian yogé came to America to give some “private mantra.” But if a mantra has any power, why should it be private? If a mantra is powerful, why should it not be publicly declared so that everyone can take advantage of it? We are saying that this Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra can save everyone, and we are therefore distributing it publicly, free of charge. But in this age, people are so foolish that they are not prepared to accept it. Rather, they hanker after some secret mantra and therefore pay some “yogé” thirty-five dollars or whatever for some “private mantra.” This is because people want to be cheated. But the devotees are preaching without charge, declaring in the streets, parks, and everywhere, “Here! Here is the Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra. Come on, take it!” But under the spell of mäyä, illusion, people are thinking, “Oh, this is not good.” But if you charge something and bluff and cheat people, they will follow you.
In this regard, there is a Hindi verse stating that Kali-yuga is such an abominable age that if one speaks the truth, people will come and beat him. But if one cheats, bluffs, and lies, people will be bewildered, will like it, and will accept it. If I say, “I am God,” people will say, “Oh, here is Swäméjé. Here is God.” In this age, people don’t have sufficient brain power to inquire, “How have you become God? What are the symptoms of God? Do you have all these symptoms?” Because people do not make such inquiries, they are cheated. Therefore it is necessary to be fixed in consciousness of the Self. Unless one knows and understands the real self and the Superself, one will be cheated. Real yoga means understanding this process of self-realization.
yato yato niçcalati
manaç caïcalam asthiram
tatas tato niyamyaitad
ätmany eva vaçaà nayet
“From whatever and wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self.” (Bg. 6.26) This is the real yogic process. If you are trying to concentrate your mind on Kåñëa, and the mind is diverted—wandering to some cinema or wherever—you should withdraw the mind, thinking, “Not there, please. Here.” This is yoga: not allowing the mind to wander from Kåñëa.
Very intense training is required to keep the mind fixed on Kåñëa while sitting in one place. That is very hard work indeed. If one is not so practiced and tries to imitate this process, he will surely be confused. Instead, we always have to engage ourselves in Kåñëa consciousness, dovetailing everything we do to Kåñëa. Our usual activities should be so molded that they are rendered for Kåñëa’s sake. In this way the mind will remain fixed on Kåñëa. As stated before, we should not try to sit down and stare at the tip of our nose. At the present moment, attempts to engage in that type of yoga are artificial. Rather, the recommended method is chanting loudly and hearing Hare Kåñëa. Then, even if the mind is diverted, it will be forced to concentrate on the sound vibration “Kåñëa.” It isn’t necessary to withdraw the mind from everything; it will automatically be withdrawn, because it will be concentrated on the sound vibration. If we hear an automobile pass, our attention is automatically diverted. Similarly, if we constantly chant Hare Kåñëa, our mind will automatically be fixed on Kåñëa, although we are accustomed to think of so many other things.
The nature of the mind is flickering and unsteady. But a self-realized yogé has to control the mind; the mind should not control him. At the present moment, the mind is controlling us (go-däsa). The mind is telling us, “Please, why not look at that beautiful girl?” and so we look. It says, “Why not drink that nice liquor?” and we say, “Yes.” It says, “Why not smoke this cigarette?” “Yes,” we say. “Why not go to this restaurant for such palatable food? Why not do this? Why not do that?” In this way, the mind is dictating, and we are following. Material life means being controlled by the senses, or the mind, which is the center of all the senses. Being controlled by the mind means being controlled by the senses, because the senses are the mind’s assistants. The master mind dictates, “Go see that,” and the eyes, following the directions of the mind, look at the sense object. The mind tells us to go to a certain place, and the legs, under the mind’s directions, carry us there. Thus, being under the direction of the mind means coming under the control of the senses. If we can control the mind, we will not be under the control of the senses. One who is under the control of the senses is known as go-däsa. The word go means “senses,” and däsa means “servant.” One who is master of the senses is called gosvämé, because svämé means “master.” Therefore, one who has the title gosvämé is one who has mastered the senses. As long as one is servant of the senses, he cannot be called a gosvämé or svämé. Unless one masters the senses, his acceptance of the title svämé or gosvämé is just a form of cheating. It was Rüpa Gosvämé who thus defined the meaning of the word gosvämé. Originally, Sanätana Gosvämé and Rüpa Gosvämé were not gosvämés but were government ministers. It was only when they became disciples of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu that they became gosvämés. So gosvämé is not a hereditary title but a qualification. One becomes so qualified under the directions of a bona fide spiritual master. Only when one has attained perfection in sense control can he be called a gosvämé and become a spiritual master in his turn. Unless one can master the senses, he will simply be a bogus spiritual master.
This is explained by Rüpa Gosvämé in his Upadeçämåta (1):
väco vegaà manasaù krodha-vegaà
etän vegän yo viñaheta dhéraù
sarväm apémäà påthivéà sa çiñyät
“A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.” In this verse Rüpa Gosvämé mentions six “pushings” (vegam). This pushing is a kind of impetus. For instance, when nature calls, we have to go to the toilet, and we cannot check this urge. So this urge is called vegam, a kind of pushing. According to Rüpa Gosvämé, there are six vegams. Väco vegam is the urge to talk unnecessarily. That is a kind of pushing of the tongue. Then there is krodha-vegam, the urge to become angry. When we are pushed to anger, we cannot check ourselves, and sometimes men become so angry that they commit murder. Similarly, the mind is pushing, dictating, “You must go there at once,” and we immediately go where we are told. The word jihvä-vegam refers to the tongue’s being urged to taste palatable foods. Udara-vegam refers to the urges of the belly. Although the belly is full, it still wants more food, and that is a kind of pushing of the belly. And when we yield to the pushings of the tongue and the belly, the urges of the genitals become very strong, and sex is required. If one does not control his mind or his tongue, how can he control his genitals? In this way, there are so many pushings, so much so that the body is a kind of pushing machine. Rüpa Gosvämé therefore tells us that one can become a spiritual master only when he can control all these urges.
Etän vegän yo viñaheta dhéraù sarväm apémäà påthivéà sa çiñyät: “One who can control the pushings and remain steady can make disciples all over the world.” The word dhéra means “steady, sober.” Only one who is a dhéra is qualified to make disciples. This all depends on one’s training. Indeed, yoga means training the mind and the senses to be fixed on the Self. This is not possible by meditating only fifteen minutes a day and then going out and doing whatever the senses dictate. How can the problems of life be solved so cheaply? If we want something precious, we have to pay for it. By the grace of Lord Caitanya, this payment has been made very easy—just chant Hare Kåñëa. By our chanting, this system of control, this yoga system, becomes perfected. Ihä haite sarva siddhi haibe tomära. Thus Lord Caitanya has blessed us. Simply by chanting Hare Kåñëa, we will achieve the perfection of self-realization. In this age of Kali-yuga, when people are so fallen, other processes will not be successful. This is the only process, and it is easy, sublime, effective, and practical. By it, one can realize oneself.
According to Kåñëa in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (9.2), this process is the most sublime.
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukhaà kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.”
After eating, a man can understand that his hunger has been satisfied; similarly, by following the principles of Kåñëa consciousness, one can understand that he has advanced in self-realization.
PoP 6: Perception of the Supersoul
praçänta-manasaà hy enaà
yoginaà sukham uttamam
“The yogé whose mind is fixed on Me verily attains the highest happiness. By virtue of his identity with Brahman, he is liberated; his mind is peaceful, his passions are quieted, and he is freed from sin.” (Bg. 6.27)
yuïjann evaà sadätmänaà
atyantaà sukham açnute
“Steady in the Self, being freed from all material contamination, the yogé achieves the highest perfectional stage of happiness in touch with the Supreme Consciousness.” (Bg. 6.28)
So here is the perfection: “The yogé whose mind is fixed on Me.” Since Kåñëa is speaking, the “Me” refers to Kåñëa. If I am speaking and saying, “Give me a glass of water,” I do not intend that the water be supplied to someone else. We must therefore clearly understand that, since Bhagavad-gétä is being spoken by Çré Kåñëa, when He says “unto Me,” He means unto Kåñëa. Unfortunately, there are many commentators who deviate from these clear instructions. I do not know why; their motives are no doubt nefarious.
“A true yogé observes Me in all beings, and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized man sees Me everywhere.” (Bg. 6.29) Sarva-bhüta-stham ätmänam: “A true yogé observes Me in all beings.” How is this possible? Some people say that all beings are Kåñëa and that therefore there is no point in worshiping Kåñëa separately. Consequently, such people take to humanitarian activities, claiming that such work is better. They say, “Why should Kåñëa be worshiped? Kåñëa says that one should see Kåñëa in every being. Therefore let us serve daridra-näräyaëa, the man in the street.” Such misinterpreters do not know the proper techniques, which have to be learned under a bona fide spiritual master.
A true yogé, as explained before, is the devotee of Kåñëa, and the most advanced devotee goes forth to preach Kåñëa consciousness. Why? Because he sees Kåñëa in all beings. How is this? Because he sees that all beings are part and parcel of Kåñëa. He also understands that since these beings have forgotten Kåñëa, it is his duty to awaken them to Kåñëa consciousness. Sometimes missionaries go forth to educate primitive, uneducated people just because they see that they are human beings and so deserve to be educated in order to understand the value of life. This is due to the missionary’s sympathy. The devotee is similarly motivated. He understands that everyone should know himself to be part and parcel of Kåñëa. The devotee understands that people are suffering due to their forgetfulness of Kåñëa.
Thus the devotee sees Kåñëa in everything. He is not under the illusion that everything has become Kåñëa. Rather, he sees every living being as the son of God. If I say that this boy is the son of Mr. Johnson, do I mean that this boy is Mr. Johnson himself? I may see Mr. Johnson in this boy because this boy is his son, but the distinction remains. If I see every living being as the son of Kåñëa, I see Kåñëa in every being. This should not be difficult to understand. It is neither an association nor a vision but a fact.
When a devotee sees a cat or a dog, he sees Kåñëa in him. He knows that a cat, for instance, is a living being, and that due to his past deeds he has received the body of a cat. This is due to his forgetfulness. The devotee helps the cat by giving it some kåñëa-prasäda so that someday the cat will come to Kåñëa consciousness. This is seeing Kåñëa in the cat. The devotee does not think, “Oh, here is Kåñëa. Let me embrace this cat and serve this cat as God.” Such thinking is nonsensical. If one sees a tiger, he does not say, “Oh, here is Kåñëa. Come one, please eat me.” The devotee does not embrace all beings as Kåñëa but rather sympathizes with every living being because he sees all beings as part and parcel of Kåñëa. In this way, “the true yogé observes Me in all beings.” This is real vision.
Whatever is done in Kåñëa consciousness, knowingly or unknowingly, will have its effect. Children who bow down or try to vibrate Kåñëa’s names or clap during kértana are actually accumulating so much in their bank account of Kåñëa consciousness. Fire will act, whether one is a child or an adult. If a child touches fire, the fire will burn. The fire does not say, “Oh, I will not burn him. He is a child and does not know.” No, the fire will always act as fire. Similarly, Kåñëa is the supreme spirit, and if a child partakes in Kåñëa consciousness, he will be affected. Kåñëa will act, whether the child knows or does not know. Every living being should be given a chance to partake of Kåñëa consciousness because Kåñëa is there and will act. Therefore everyone is being invited to come and take prasäda, because this prasäda will someday take effect.
We should be careful not to make the mistake of thinking that everyone is Kåñëa; rather, we should see Kåñëa in everyone. Kåñëa is all-pervading. Why is He to be seen only in human beings? As stated in Brahma-saàhitä, He is also present within the atom: aëòäntara-stha-paramäëu-cayäntara-stham. [Bs 5.35] The word paramäëu means “atom,” and we should understand that Kåñëa is present within every atom. “A true yogé observes Me in all beings and also sees every being in Me.” How does the yogé see every being “in Me”? This is possible because the true yogé knows that everything that we see is Kåñëa. We are sitting on this floor or on this carpet, but in actuality we are sitting on Kåñëa. We should know this to be a fact. How is this carpet Kåñëa? It is Kåñëa because it is made of Kåñëa’s energy. The Supreme Lord has various energies, of which there are three primary divisions—material energy, spiritual energy, and marginal energy. Paräsya çaktir vividhaiva çrüyate. We living entities are marginal energy, the material world is material energy, and the spiritual world is spiritual energy. We are marginal energy in the sense that we can be either spiritually or materially situated. There is no third alternative; either we become materialistic or spiritualistic.
As long as we are in the material world, we are seated on the material energy, and therefore we are situated in Kåñëa, because Kåñëa’s energy is not separate from Kåñëa. A flame contains both heat and illumination, two energies. Neither the heat nor the illumination are separate from the flame; therefore in one sense heat is fire, and illumination is fire, but they can be distinguished. Similarly, this material energy is also Kåñëa, and although we are thinking that we are sitting on this floor, we are actually sitting on Kåñëa. Therefore it is stated, “The self-realized man sees Me everywhere.” Seeing Kåñëa everywhere means seeing every living being as well as everything else in relationship to Kåñëa. In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (7.8), Lord Kåñëa tells Arjuna how He can be seen in various manifestations.
raso ’ham apsu kaunteya
çabdaù khe pauruñaà nåñu
“O son of Kunté [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable oà in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.”
Water is drunk by all living entities, and is needed by birds, beasts, and man. It is not only used for drinking, but for washing and for cultivating plants as well. A soldier on the battlefield can understand how important water is. When fighting, soldiers become thirsty, and if they have no water, they die. Once a person has learned the philosophy of Bhagavad-gétä, whenever he drinks water, he sees Kåñëa. And when does a day pass when we do not drink water? This is the way of Kåñëa consciousness. “I am the light of the sun and the moon.” So whether in the day or the night, we see either sunshine or moonshine. How, then, can we forget Kåñëa? This, then, is the way of perfect yoga. We have to see Kåñëa everywhere and at all times.
yo mäà paçyati sarvatra
sarvaà ca mayi paçyati
tasyähaà na praëaçyämi
sa ca me na praëaçyati
“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Bg. 6.30) This is sadä tad-bhäva-bhävitaù: [Bg. 8.6] always remembering Kåñëa. If we practice living in this way, we never lose Kåñëa and are never lost to Kåñëa, and at the time of death we are therefore sure to go to Kåñëa. If we are not lost to Kåñëa, where can we go but to Kåñëa? In the Ninth Chapter, Kåñëa tells Arjuna, kaunteya pratijänéhi na me bhaktaù praëaçyati (Bg. 9.31): “O son of Kunté, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.”
Simply don’t lose sight of Kåñëa. That is the perfection of life. We can forget everything else, but we should never forget Kåñëa. If we can remember Kåñëa, we are the richest of men, even though people may see us as very poor. Although Rüpa Gosvämé and Sanätana Gosvämé were learned scholars and very opulent ministers, they adopted the poor life of mendicants. In his Çré Sad-gosvämy-añöaka (verse 4), Çréniväsa Äcärya thus describes the six Gosvämés:
tyaktvä türëam açeña-maëòala-pati-çreëéà sadä tuccha vat
bhütvä déna-gaëeçakau karuëayä kaupéna-kanthäçritau
vande rüpa-sanätanau raghu-yugau çré-jéva-gopälakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvämés—Çré Rüpa Gosvämé, Çré Sanätana Gosvämé, Çré Raghunätha Bhaööa Gosvämé, Çré Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé, Çré Jéva Gosvämé, and Çré Gopäla Bhaööa Gosvämé—who cast off all aristocratic association as insignificant. To deliver poor, conditioned souls, they accepted loincloths and became mendicants, but they were always merged in the ecstatic ocean of the gopés’ love for Kåñëa, and they were always bathing repeatedly in the waves of that ocean.”
The words kaupéna-kanthäçritau indicate that the Gosvämés were simply wearing underwear and a loincloth and nothing else. In other words, they accepted the poorest way of life as mendicants. Generally, if one is habituated to living according to a high standard, he cannot immediately lower his standard. If a rich man accepts such a poor condition, he cannot live, but the Gosvämés lived very happily. How was this possible? Gopé-bhäva-rasämåtäbdhi-laharé-kallola-magnau muhur/ vande rüpa-sanätanau raghu-yugau çré-jéva-gopälakau. They were actually rich because they were constantly dipping themselves in the ocean of the loving affairs of the gopés. If one simply thinks of the gopés’ love for Kåñëa, one is not lost. There are many ways not to lose sight of Kåñëa. If we do not lose sight of Kåñëa, then we will not be lost.
A person in Kåñëa consciousness certainly sees Lord Kåñëa everywhere, and he sees everything in Kåñëa. Such a person may appear to see all separate manifestations of the material nature, but in each and every instance he is conscious of Kåñëa, knowing that everything is the manifestation of Kåñëa’s energy. Nothing can exist without Kåñëa, and Kåñëa is the Lord of everything—this is the basic principle of Kåñëa consciousness. How does the devotee know that everything is the manifestation of Kåñëa’s energy? First of all, a Kåñëa conscious person is a philosopher. If he sees a tree, he thinks, “What is this tree?” He then sees that the tree has a material body—just as he has a material body—and that the tree is also a living entity, but due to the tree’s past misdeeds, he has obtained such an abominable body that he cannot even move. The tree’s body is material, material energy, and the devotee automatically questions, “Whose energy? Kåñëa’s energy. Therefore the tree is connected to Kåñëa. Being a living entity, the tree is part and parcel of Kåñëa.” In this way, the Kåñëa conscious person does not see the tree, but sees Kåñëa present. That is Kåñëa consciousness: you don’t see the tree. You see Kåñëa. That is the perfection of yoga, and that is also samädhi.
Kåñëa consciousness is the development of love of Kåñëa—a position transcendental even to material liberation. Why does the Kåñëa conscious person take such an account of the tree? Because he has love for Kåñëa. If you love your child and your child is away, you think of him when you see his shoes. You think, “Oh, this is my dear child’s shoe.” It is not that you love the shoe, but the child. The shoe, however, evokes that love. Similarly, as soon as we see Kåñëa’s energy manifested in a living entity, we love that entity because we love Kåñëa. Therefore, if we love Kåñëa, universal love is accounted for. Otherwise “universal love” is nonsensical, because it is not possible to love everybody without loving Kåñëa. If we love Kåñëa, universal love is automatically there. Without being Kåñëa conscious, a person may say, “Here is my American brother, and here is my Indian brother. Now let us eat this cow.” Such a person may look on other humans as brothers, but he looks on the cow as food. Is this universal love? A Kåñëa conscious person, however, thinks, “Oh, here is a cow. Here is a dog. They are part and parcel of Kåñëa, but somehow or other they have acquired different bodies. This does not mean that they are not my brothers. How can I kill and eat my brothers?” That is true universal love—rooted in love for Kåñëa. Without such Kåñëa consciousness, there is no question of love at all.
Kåñëa consciousness is the stage beyond self-realization in which the devotee becomes one with Kåñëa in the sense that Kåñëa becomes everything for the devotee, and the devotee becomes full in loving Kåñëa. An intimate relationship between the Lord and the devotee then exists. In that stage, the living entity attains his immortality. Nor is the Personality of Godhead ever out of sight of the devotee. To merge in Kåñëa is spiritual annihilation. A devotee takes no such risk. It is stated in the Brahma-saàhitä (5.38),
santaù sadaiva hådayeñu vilokayanti
yaà çyämasundaram acintya-guëa-svarüpaà
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
“I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Çyämasundara, situated within the heart of the devotee.” One who has developed such a love for Kåñëa sees Çyämasundara, Kartämeçäna, always within his heart. At this stage, Lord Kåñëa never disappears from the sight of the devotee, nor does the devotee ever lose sight of the Lord. In the case of a yogé who sees the Lord as Paramätmä within the heart, the same applies. Such a yogé turns into a pure devotee and cannot bear to live for a moment without seeing the Lord within himself.
This is the real process by which we can see God. God is not our order supplier. We cannot demand, “Come and show Yourself.” No, we first have to qualify ourselves. Then we can see God at every moment and everywhere.
sarva-bhüta-sthitaà yo mäà
bhajaty ekatvam ästhitaù
sarvathä vartamäno ’pi
sa yogé mayi vartate
“The yogé who knows that I and the Supersoul within all creatures are one worships Me and remains always in Me in all circumstances.” (Bg. 6.31)
A yogé who is practicing meditation on the Supersoul sees within himself the plenary portion of Kåñëa as Viñëu—with four hands, holding conchshell, wheel, club, and lotus flower. This manifestation of Viñëu, which is the yogé’s object of concentration, is Kåñëa’s plenary portion. As stated in Brahma-saàhitä (5.48),
jévanti loma-vilajä jagad-aëòa-näthäù
viñëur mahän sa iha yasya kalä-viçeño
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
“The Brahmäs and other lords of the mundane worlds appear from the pores of Mahä-Viñëu and remain alive for the duration of His one exhalation. I adore the primeval Lord, Govinda, for Mahä-Viñëu is a portion of His plenary portion.” The words govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi ** (“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord”) are most important. The word ädi means “original,” and puruñam means “the Lord as the original male, the original enjoyer.” And who is this Govinda whose plenary portion is the Mahä-Viñëu? And what is the function of the Mahä-Viñëu?
In every universe there is a primary, original living entity known as Brahmä. The life of Brahmä is the life of the universe, and this life exists during only one breathing period (exhalation and inhalation) of the Mahä-Viñëu. The Mahä-Viñëu lies on the Causal Ocean, and when He exhales, millions of universes issue from His body as bubbles and then develop. When the Mahä-Viñëu inhales, these millions of universes return within Him, and this is called the process of annihilation. That, in essence, is the position of these material universes: they come out from the body of the Mahä-Viñëu and then again return. In the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (9.7) it is also indicated that these material universes are manifest at a certain period and are then annihilated.
prakåtià yänti mämikäm
kalpa-kñaye punas täni
kalpädau visåjämy aham
“O son of Kunté, at the end of the millennium, every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency I again create.” The creation, maintenance, and annihilation of this material cosmic manifestation are completely dependent on the supreme will of the Personality of Godhead. “At the end of the millennium” means at the death of Brahmä. Brahmä lives for one hundred years, and his one day is calculated at 4,300,000,000 of our earthly years. His night is of the same duration. His month consists of thirty such days and nights, and his year of twelve months. After one hundred such years, when Brahmä dies, the devastation or annihilation takes place; this means that the energy manifested by the Supreme Lord is again wound up in Himself. That is, the Mahä-Viñëu inhales. Then again, when there is need to manifest the cosmic world, it is done by His will: “Although I am one, I shall become many.” This is the Vedic aphorism. He expands Himself in this material energy, and the whole cosmic manifestation again takes place.
Since the entire creation and annihilation of the material universes depend on the exhaling and inhaling of the Mahä-Viñëu, we can hardly imagine the magnitude of that Mahä-Viñëu. And yet it is said here that this Mahä-Viñëu is but a plenary portion of the plenary portion of Kåñëa, who is the original Govinda. The Mahä-Viñëu enters into each universe as Garbhodakaçäyé Viñëu, and Garbhodakaçäyé Viñëu further expands as Kñérodakaçäyé Viñëu, and it is this Viñëu form that enters into the heart of every living entity. In this way, Viñëu is manifest throughout the creation. Thus the yogés concentrate their minds on the Kñérodakaçäyé Viñëu form within the heart. As stated in the last chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (18.61),
håd-deçe ’rjuna tiñöhati
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”
Thus, according to the yogic process, the yogé finds out where the Kñérodakaçäyé Viñëu is seated within the heart, and when he finds this form there, he concentrates on Him. The yogé should know that this Viñëu is not different from Kåñëa. Kåñëa in this form of Supersoul is situated in everyone’s heart. Furthermore, there is no difference between the innumerable Supersouls present in the innumerable hearts of living entities. For example, there is only one sun in the sky, but this sun may be reflected in millions of buckets of water. Or, one may ask millions and trillions of people, “Where is the sun?” And each will say, “Over my head.” The sun is one, but it is reflected countless times. According to the Vedas, the living entities are innumerable; there is no possibility of counting them. Just as the sun can be reflected in countless buckets of water, Viñëu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can live in each and everyone’s heart. It is this form that is Kåñëa’s plenary portion, and it is this form on which the yogé concentrates.
One who is engaged in Kåñëa consciousness is already a perfect yogé. In fact, there is no difference between a Kåñëa conscious devotee always engaged in the transcendental loving service of Kåñëa and a perfect yogé engaged in meditation on the Supersoul. There is no difference between a yogé in samädhi (in a trance meditating on the Viñëu form) and a Kåñëa conscious person engaged in different activities. The devotee—even though engaged in various activities while in material existence—remains always situated in Kåñëa. This is confirmed in the Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu of Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé: nikhiläsv apy avasthäsu/ jévan-muktaù sa ucyate. A devotee of the Lord, always acting in Kåñëa consciousness, is automatically liberated. This is also confirmed in the Fourteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (14.26):
mäà ca yo ’vyabhicäreëa
sa guëän samatétyaitän
“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”
Thus the devotee engaged in unalloyed devotional service has already transcended the material modes of nature. Being situated on the Brahman platform means being liberated. There are three platforms: the bodily, or sensual; the mental; and the spiritual. The spiritual platform is called the Brahman platform, and liberation means being situated on that platform. Being conditioned souls, we are presently situated on the bodily, or sensual, platform. Those who are a little advanced—speculators, philosophers—are situated on the mental platform. Above this is the platform of liberation, of Brahman realization.
That the devotee, always acting in Kåñëa consciousness, is automatically situated on the liberated platform of Brahman is also confirmed in the Närada-païcarätra.:
kåñëe ceto vidhäya ca
tan-mayo bhavati kñipraà
jévo brahmaëi yojayet
“By concentrating one’s attention on the transcendental form of Kåñëa, who is all-pervading and beyond time and space, one becomes absorbed in thinking of Kåñëa and then attains the happy state of transcendental association with Him.”
Kåñëa consciousness is the highest stage of trance in yoga practice. This very understanding that Kåñëa is present as Paramätmä in everyone’s heart makes the yogé faultless. The Vedas confirm this inconceivable potency of the Lord as follows:
eko ’pi san bahudhä yo ’vabhäti
aiçvaryäd rüpaà ekaà ca sürya vad bahudheyate
“Viñëu is one, and yet He is certainly all-pervading. By His inconceivable potency, in spite of His one form, He is present everywhere. As the sun, He appears in many places at once.”
samaà paçyati yo ’rjuna
sukhaà vä yadi vä duùkhaà
sa yogé paramo mataù
“He is a perfect yogé who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, both in their happiness and distress, O Arjuna!” (Bg. 6.32) This is true universal vision. It is not that God is sitting in my heart and not in the heart of a dog, cat, or cow. Sarva-bhütänäm means that He is sitting in the hearts of all living entities, in the human heart and in the ant’s heart. The only difference is that cats and dogs cannot realize this. A human being, if he tries to follow the säìkhya-yoga or bhakti-yoga system, is able to understand, and this is the prerogative of human life. If we miss this opportunity, we suffer a great loss, for we have undergone the evolutionary process and have passed through more than eight million species of life in order to get this human form. We should therefore be conscious of this and careful not to miss this opportunity. We have a good body, the human form, and intelligence and civilization. We should not live like animals and struggle hard for existence but should utilize our time thinking peacefully and understanding our relationship with the Supreme Lord. This is the instruction of Bhagavad-gétä: Don’t lose this opportunity; utilize it properly.
PoP 7: Yoga for the Modern Age
yo ’yaà yogas tvayä proktaù
etasyähaà na paçyämi
caïcalatvät sthitià sthiräm
“Arjuna said: O Madhusüdana, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady.” (Bg. 6.33)
This is the crucial test of the eightfold añöäìga-yoga system expounded herein by Lord Çré Kåñëa. It has already been explained that one must sit in a certain way and concentrate the mind on the form of Viñëu seated within the heart. According to the añöäìga-yoga system, first of all one has to control the senses, follow all the rules and regulations, practice the sitting posture and the breathing process, concentrate the mind on the form of Viñëu within the heart, and then become absorbed in that form. There are eight processes in this añöäìga-yoga system, but herein Arjuna says quite frankly that this añöäìga-yoga system is very difficult. Indeed, he says that it “appears impractical and unendurable to me.”
Actually, the añöäìga-yoga system is not impractical, for were it impractical, Lord Kåñëa would not have taken so much trouble to describe it. It is not impractical, but it appears impractical. What may be impractical for one man may be practical for another. Arjuna is representative of the common man in the sense that he is not a mendicant or a sannyäsé or a scholar. He is on the battlefield fighting for his kingdom, and in this sense he is an ordinary man engaged in a worldly activity. He is concerned with earning a livelihood, supporting his family, and so on. Arjuna has many problems, just as the common man, and generally this system of añöäìga-yoga is impractical for the ordinary common man. That is the point being made. It is practical for one who has already completely renounced everything and can sit in a secluded, sacred place on the side of a hill or in a cave. But who can do this in this age? Although Arjuna was a great warrior, a member of the royal family, and a very advanced person, he proclaims this yoga system impractical. And what are we in comparison to Arjuna? If we attempt this system, failure is certain.
Therefore this system of mysticism described by Lord Kåñëa to Arjuna beginning with the words çucau deçe and ending with yogé paramaù is here rejected by Arjuna out of a feeling of inability. As stated before, it is not possible for an ordinary man to leave home and go to a secluded place in the mountains or jungles to practice yoga in this age of Kali. The present age is characterized by a bitter struggle for a life of short duration. As Kali-yuga progresses, our life span gets shorter and shorter. Our forefathers lived for a hundred years or more, but now people are dying at the age of sixty or seventy. Gradually the life span will decrease even further. Memory, mercy, and other good qualities will also decrease in this age.
In Kali-yuga, people are not serious about self-realization even by simple, practical means, and what to speak of this difficult yoga system, which regulates the mode of living, the manner of sitting, selection of place, and detachment of the mind from material engagements. As a practical man, Arjuna thought it was impossible to follow this system of yoga, even though he was favorably endowed in many ways. He was not prepared to become a pseudo yogé and practice some gymnastic feats. He was not a pretender but a soldier and a family man. Therefore he frankly admitted that for him this system of yoga would be a waste of time. Arjuna belonged to the royal family and was highly elevated in terms of numerous qualities; he was a great warrior, he had great longevity, and, above all, he was the most intimate friend of Lord Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Five thousand years ago, when Arjuna was living, the life span was very long. At that time, people used to live up to one thousand years. In the present age of Kali-yuga, the life span is limited to a hundred years; in Dväpara-yuga, the life span was a thousand years; in Tretä-yuga, the life span was ten thousand years; and in Satya-yuga, the life span was one hundred thousand years. Thus as the yugas degenerate, the life span decreases. Even though Arjuna was living at a time when one would live and practice meditation for a thousand years, he still considered this system impossible.
Five thousand years ago, Arjuna had much better facilities than we do now, yet he refused to accept this system of yoga. In fact, we do not find any record in history of his practicing it at any time. Therefore, this system must be considered generally impossible in this age of Kali. Of course, it may be possible for some very few, rare men, but for the people in general it is an impossible proposal. If this were so five thousand years ago, what of the present day? Those who are imitating this yoga system in different so-called schools and societies, although complacent, are certainly wasting their time. They are completely ignorant of the desired goal.
Since this añöäìga-yoga system is considered impossible, the bhakti-yoga system is recommended for everyone. Without training or education, one can automatically participate in bhakti-yoga. Even a small child can clap at kértana. Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu has proclaimed bhakti-yoga the only system practical for this age.
harer näma harer näma
harer nämaiva kevalam
kalau nästy eva nästy eva
nästy eva gatir anyathä
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” Chanting is very simple, and one will feel the results immediately. Pratyakñävagamaà dharmyam. If we attempt to practice other yoga systems, we will remain in darkness; we will not know whether or not we are making progress. In bhakti-yoga, one can understand, “Yes, now I am making progress.” This is the only yoga system by which one can quickly attain self-realization and liberation in this life. One doesn’t have to wait for another lifetime.
caïcalaà hi manaù kåñëa
pramäthi balavad dåòham
tasyähaà nigrahaà manye
väyor iva suduñkaram
“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate, and very strong, O Kåñëa, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Bg. 6.34) By chanting Hare Kåñëa, one captures the mind immediately. Just by saying the name Kåñëa and hearing it, the mind is automatically fixed on Kåñëa. This means that the yoga system is immediately attained. The entire yoga system aims at concentration on the form of Viñëu, and Kåñëa is the original personality from whom all these Viñëu forms are expanded. Kåñëa is like the original candle from which all other candles are lit. If one candle is lit, one can light any number of candles, and there is no doubt that each candle is as powerful as the original candle. Nonetheless, one has to recognize the original candle as the original. Similarly, from Kåñëa millions of Viñëu forms expand, and each Viñëu form is as good as Kåñëa, but Kåñëa remains the original. Thus one who concentrates his mind on Lord Çré Kåñëa, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, immediately attains the perfection of yoga.
mano durnigrahaà calam
abhyäsena tu kaunteya
vairägyeëa ca gåhyate
“The Blessed Lord said: O mighty-armed son of Kunté, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and by detachment.” (Bg. 6.35) Kåñëa does not say that it is not difficult. Rather, He admits that it is difficult, but possible by means of constant practice. Constant practice means engaging ourselves in some activities that remind us of Kåñëa. In this Society for Kåñëa consciousness we therefore have many activities—kértana, temple activities, prasäda, publications, and so on. Everyone is engaged in some activity with Kåñëa at the center. Therefore whether one is typing for Kåñëa, cooking for Kåñëa, chanting for Kåñëa, or distributing literature for Kåñëa, he is in the yoga system, and he is also in Kåñëa. We engage in activities just as in material life, but these activities are molded in such a way that they are directly connected with Kåñëa. Thus through every activity, Kåñëa consciousness is possible, and perfection in yoga follows automatically.
duñpräpa iti me matiù
vaçyätmanä tu yatatä
çakyo ’väptum upäyataù
“For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by right means is assured of success. That is My opinion.” (Bg. 6.36) The Supreme Personality of Godhead declares that one who does not accept the proper treatment to detach the mind from material engagement can hardly achieve success in self-realization. Trying to practice yoga while engaging the mind in material enjoyment is like trying to ignite a fire while pouring water on it. Similarly, yoga practice without mental control is a waste of time. I may sit down to meditate and focus my mind on Kåñëa, and that is very commendable, but there are many yoga societies that teach their students to concentrate on the void or on some color. That is, they do not recommend concentration on the form of Viñëu. Trying to concentrate the mind on the impersonal or the void is very difficult and troublesome. It is stated by Çré Kåñëa in the Twelfth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (12.5),
kleço ’dhikataras teñäm
avyaktä hi gatir duùkhaà
“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.”
In the temple, the devotee tries to concentrate on the form of Kåñëa. Concentrating on nothingness, on void, is very difficult, and naturally the mind is very flickering. Therefore instead of concentrating on the void, the mind searches out something else. The mind must be engaged in thinking of something, and if it is not thinking of Kåñëa, it must be thinking of mäyä. Therefore, pseudomeditation on the impersonal void is simply a waste of time. Such a show of yoga practice may be materially lucrative, but useless as far as spiritual realization is concerned. I may open a class in yogic meditation and charge people money for sitting down and pressing their nose this way and that, but if my students do not attain the real goal of yoga practice, they have wasted their time and money, and I have cheated them.
Therefore one has to concentrate his mind steadily and constantly on the form of Viñëu, and that is called samädhi. In Kåñëa consciousness, the mind is controlled by engaging it constantly in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Unless one is engaged in Kåñëa consciousness, he cannot steadily control the mind. A Kåñëa conscious person easily achieves the result of yoga practice without separate endeavor, but a yoga practitioner cannot achieve success without becoming Kåñëa conscious.
PoP 8: Failure and Success in Yoga
Suppose I give up my business, my ordinary occupation, and begin to practice yoga, real yoga, as explained herein by Lord Çré Kåñëa. Suppose I practice, and somehow or other I fail; I cannot properly complete the process. What, then, is the result? This is Arjuna’s very next question.
käà gatià kåñëa gacchati
“Arjuna said: What is the destination of the man of faith who does not persevere, who in the beginning takes to the process of self-realization but who later desists due to worldly-mindedness and thus does not attain perfection in mysticism?” (Bg. 6.37)
The path of self-realization, of mysticism, is described in the Bhagavad-gétä. The basic principle of self-realization is knowing that “I am not this material body but am different from it, and my happiness is in eternal life, bliss, and knowledge.” Before arriving at the point of self-realization, one must take it for granted that he is not this body. That lesson is taught in the very beginning of Bhagavad-gétä: the living entity is not this material body but something different, and his happiness is in eternal life.
Clearly, this life is not eternal. The perfection of yoga means attaining a blissful, eternal life full of knowledge. All yoga systems should be executed with that goal in mind. It is not that one attends yoga classes to reduce fat or to keep the body fit for sense gratification. This is not the goal of yoga, but people are taught this way because they want to be cheated. Actually, if you undergo any exercise program, your body will be kept fit. There are many systems of bodily exercise—weight lifting and other sports—and they help keep the body fit, reduce fat, and help the digestive system. Therefore there is no need to practice yoga for these purposes. The real purpose for practicing yoga is to realize that I am not this body. I want eternal happiness, complete knowledge, and eternal life—that is the ultimate end of the true yoga system.
The goal of yoga is transcendental, beyond both body and mind. Self-realization is sought by three methods: (1) the path of knowledge (jïäna); (2) the path of the eightfold system; or (3) the path of bhakti-yoga. In each of these processes, one has to realize the constitutional position of the living entity, his relationship with God, and the activities whereby he can reestablish the lost link and achieve the highest perfectional stage of Kåñëa consciousness. Following any of the above-mentioned three methods, one is sure to reach the supreme goal sooner or later. This was asserted by the Lord in the Second Chapter: even a little endeavor on the transcendental path offers a great hope for deliverance.
Of these three methods, the path of bhakti-yoga is especially suitable for this age, because it is the most direct method of God realization. To be doubly assured, Arjuna is asking Lord Kåñëa to confirm His former statement. One may sincerely accept the path of self-realization, but the process of cultivation of knowledge (jïäna) and the practice of the eightfold yoga system are generally very difficult for this age. Therefore, despite constant endeavor, one may fail for many reasons. First of all, one may not be actually following the process, the rules and regulations. To pursue the transcendental path is more or less to declare war on the illusory energy. When we accept any process of self-realization, we are actually declaring war against mäyä, illusion, and mäyä is certain to place many difficulties before us. Therefore, there is a chance of failure, but one has to become very steady. Whenever a person tries to escape the clutches of the illusory energy, she tries to defeat the practitioner by various allurements. A conditioned soul is already allured by the modes of material energy, and there is every chance of being allured again, even while performing transcendental disciplines. This is called yogäc calita-mänasaù: deviation from the transcendental path. Arjuna is inquisitive to know the results of deviation from the path of self-realization.
As stated in Bhagavad-gétä (6.37), quoted above, yogät means “from the practice of yoga,” calita means “diversion,” and mänasaù means “mind.” So there is every chance for the mind to be diverted from yoga practice. We all have some experience of trying to concentrate by reading a book, and our mind is so disturbed that it does not allow us to concentrate on the book.
Actually, Arjuna is asking a very important question, for one is subject to failure in all types of yoga—be it the eightfold yoga system, the jïäna-yoga system of speculative philosophy, or the bhakti-yoga system of devotional service. Failure is possible on any of these paths, and the results of failure are clearly explained by Çré Kåñëa Himself in the following dialogue with Arjuna (Bg. 6.38–44). Arjuna, continuing his inquiry, asks,
chinnäbhram iva naçyati
vimüòho brahmaëaù pathi
“O mighty-armed Kåñëa, does not such a man, being deviated from the path of Transcendence, perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?”
etan me saàçayaà kåñëa
chettum arhasy açeñataù
chettä na hy upapadyate
“This is my doubt, O Kåñëa, and I ask You to dispel it completely. But for Yourself, no one is to be found who can destroy this doubt.”
çré-bhaga vän uväca
pärtha naiveha nämutra
vinäças tasya vidyate
na hi kalyäëa-kåt kaçcid
durgatià täta gacchati
“The Blessed Lord said: Son of Påthä, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.”
präpya puëya-kåtäà lokän
uñitvä çäçvatéù samäù
çucénäà çrématäà gehe
“The unsuccessful yogé, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.”
atha vä yoginäm eva
kule bhavati dhématäm
etad dhi durlabhataraà
loke janma yad édåçam
“Or he takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom. Verily, such a birth is rare in this world.”
tatra taà buddhi-saàyogaà
yatate ca tato bhüyaù
“On taking such a birth, he again revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.”
hriyate hy avaço ’pi saù
jijïäsur api yogasya
“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles—even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist, striving for yoga, stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.”
Purification of consciousness is the purpose of this Kåñëa consciousness movement. Presently we are preparing this divine consciousness, for our consciousness goes with us at the time of death. Consciousness is carried from the body just as the aroma of a flower is carried by the air. When we die, this material body composed of five elements—earth, water, air, fire, and ether—decomposes, and the gross materials return to the elements. Or, as the Christian Bible says, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” In some societies the body is burned, in others it is buried, and in others it is thrown to animals. In India, the Hindus burn the body, and thus the body is transformed into ashes. Ash is simply another form of earth. Christians bury the body, and after some time in the grave, the body eventually turns to dust, which again, like ash, is another form of earth. There are other societies—like the Parsee community in India—that neither burn nor bury the body but throw it to the vultures, and the vultures immediately come to eat the body, and then the body is eventually transformed into stool. So in any case, this beautiful body, which we are soaping and caring for so nicely, will eventually turn into either stool, ashes, or dust.
At death, the finer elements (mind, intelligence, and ego), which, combined, are called consciousness, carry the small particle of spirit soul to another body to suffer or enjoy, according to one’s work. Our consciousness is molded by our work. If we associate with stool, our consciousness, which is like the air, will carry the aroma of stool, and thus at the time of death will transport us to an undesirable body. Or, if the consciousness passes over roses, it carries the aroma of roses, and thus we are transported to a body wherein we can enjoy the results of our previous work. If we train ourselves to work in Kåñëa consciousness, our consciousness will carry us to Kåñëa. Different types of body are developed according to consciousness; therefore, if we train our consciousness according to the yogic principles, we will attain a body wherein we can practice yoga. We will get good parents and a chance to practice the yoga system, and automatically we will be able to revive the Kåñëa consciousness practiced in our previous body. Therefore it is stated in this last verse, “By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles—even without seeking them.” Therefore, our present duty is to cultivate divine consciousness. If we want divine life, spiritual elevation, and eternal, blissful life, full of knowledge—in other words, if we want to go back home, back to Godhead—we have to train ourselves in divine consciousness, or Kåñëa consciousness.
This can be easily done through association (saìgät saïjäyate kämaù). Through divine association, our consciousness is made divine, and through demoniac association, our consciousness is made demoniac. Therefore, our consciousness must be trained to be divine through the proper association of those in Kåñëa consciousness. That is the duty of one in this human form, a form that gives us a chance to make our next life completely divine. To attain this end, we should try to contact those who are developing divine consciousness.
prayatnäd yatamänas tu
tato yäti paräà gatim
“But when the yogé engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.” (Bg. 6.45) As indicated in this verse, making progress is a question of practice. When a child is born, he neither knows how to smoke nor how to drink, but through association he becomes a drunkard or a smoker. Association is the most important factor. Saìgät saïjäyate kämaù. For instance, there are many business associations, and by becoming a member of certain associations, one’s business flourishes. In any endeavor, association is very important. For the development of divine consciousness, we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in which the methods of attaining divine consciousness are taught. In this society we invite everyone to come and chant Hare Kåñëa. This process is not difficult, and even children can participate. No previous qualifications are necessary; one doesn’t need a master’s degree or doctorate. Our invitation to everyone is to join this association and become Kåñëa conscious.
The Supreme Lord, God, is pure, and His kingdom is also pure. If one wants to enter His kingdom, he must also be pure. This is very natural; if we want to enter a particular society, we must meet certain qualifications. If we want to return home, back to Godhead, there is a qualification we must meet—we must not be materially contaminated. And what is this contamination? Unrestricted sense gratification. If we can free ourselves from the material contamination of sense gratification, we can become eligible to enter the kingdom of God. That process of freeing ourselves, of washing ourselves of this contamination, is called the yoga system. As stated before, yoga does not mean sitting down for fifteen minutes, meditating, and then continuing with sense gratification. To be cured of a certain disease, we must follow the prescriptions of a physician. In this Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, the process of yoga is recommended, and we have to follow the prescribed methods in order to be freed from material contamination. If we succeed in doing so, we can link up, or connect, with the Supreme.
Kåñëa consciousness is a method for connecting directly with the Supreme. This is the special gift of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Not only is this method direct and immediate, but it is also practical. Although many people entering this Society have no qualifications, they have become highly advanced in Kåñëa consciousness simply by coming in contact with the Society. In this age, life is very short, and a yoga process that takes a long time will not help the general populace. In Kali-yuga, people are all so unfortunate, and association is very bad. Therefore, this process of directly contacting the Supreme is recommended—hari-näma. Kåñëa is present in the form of His transcendental name, and we can contact Him immediately by hearing His name. Simply by hearing the name Kåñëa we immediately become freed from material contamination.
As stated in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (7.28),
yeñäà tv anta-gataà päpaà
bhajante mäà dåòha-vratäù
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated, and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” It is herein stressed that one must be completely fixed in Kåñëa consciousness, devoid of duality, and must execute only pious activities. Because the mind is flickering, dualities will always come. One is always wondering, “Shall I become Kåñëa conscious, or should I engage in another consciousness?” These problems are always there, but if one is advanced by virtue of pious activities executed in a previous life, his consciousness will be steadily fixed, and he will resolve, “I will be Kåñëa conscious.”
Whether we acted piously in this life or a previous life really doesn’t matter. This chanting of Hare Kåñëa is so potent that through it we will immediately be purified. We should have the determination, however, not to become implicated in further impious activities. Therefore, for those who want to be initiated in this Society for Kåñëa consciousness, there are four principles: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no gambling. We don’t say, “No sex.” But we do say, “No illicit sex.” If you want sex, get married and have Kåñëa conscious children. “No intoxication” means not even taking tea or coffee—to say nothing of other intoxicants. And there is no gambling and no meat-eating (including fish and eggs). Simply by following these four basic rules and regulations, one becomes immediately uncontaminated. No further endeavor is necessary. As soon as one joins this Kåñëa consciousness movement and follows these rules and regulations, material contamination is immediately removed, but one must be careful not to be contaminated again. Therefore these rules and regulations should be followed carefully.
Material contamination begins with these four bad habits, and if we manage to check them, there is no question of contamination. Therefore, as soon as we take to Kåñëa consciousness, we become free. However, we should not think that because Kåñëa consciousness makes us free, we can again indulge in these four bad habits and get free by chanting. That is cheating, and that will not be allowed. Once we are freed, we should not allow ourselves to become contaminated again. One should not think, “I shall drink or have illicit sex and then chant and make myself free.” According to some religious processes, it is said that one can commit all kinds of sin and then go to church, confess to a priest, and be freed of all sin. Therefore people are sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing over and over again. But this is not the process of Kåñëa consciousness. If you are freed, that’s all right, but don’t do it again. After all, what is the purpose of confession? If you confess, “I have committed these sinful activities,” why should you commit them again? If a thief confesses that he has been pickpocketing, he is freed of his sin by virtue of his confession, but does this mean that he should go out again and pick pockets? This requires a little intelligence. One should not think that because by confessing one becomes freed, he should continue to commit sinful activities, confess again, and again become freed. That is not the purpose of confession.
We should therefore understand that if we indulge in unrestricted sinful activities, we become contaminated. We should be careful to have sex only according to the rules and regulations, to eat only food that has been prescribed and properly offered, to defend as Kåñëa advised Arjuna—for the right cause. In this way we can avoid contamination and purify our life. If we can continue to live a pure life until the time of death, we will surely be transferred to the kingdom of God. When one is fully in Kåñëa consciousness, he does not return to this material world when he gives up his body. This is stated in the Fourth Chapter (Bg. 4.9).
janma karma ca me divyam
evaà yo vetti tattvataù
tyaktvä dehaà punar janma
naiti mäm eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
The unsuccessful yogé returns to a good family or to a righteous, rich, or aristocratic family, but if one is situated in perfect Kåñëa consciousness, he does not return again. He attains Goloka Våndävana in the eternal spiritual sky. We should be determined not to come back to this material world again, because even if we attain a good birth in a rich or aristocratic family, we can degrade ourselves again by improperly utilizing our good chance. Why take this risk? It is better to complete the process of Kåñëa consciousness in this life. It is very simple and not at all difficult. We only have to keep thinking of Kåñëa; then we will be assured that our next birth will be in the spiritual sky, in Goloka Våndävana, in the kingdom of God.
tapasvibhyo ’dhiko yogé
jïänibhyo ’pi mato ’dhikaù
karmibhyaç cädhiko yogé
tasmäd yogé bhavärjuna
“A yogé is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogé.” (Bg. 6.46) There are different gradations of life within this material world, but if one lives according to the yogic principle, especially the principles of bhakti-yoga, one is living the most perfect life possible. Therefore Kåñëa is telling Arjuna, “My dear friend Arjuna, in all circumstances be a yogé and remain a yogi.”
yoginäm api sarveñäà
çraddhävän bhajate yo mäà
sa me yuktatamo mataù
“And of all yogés, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.” (Bg. 6.47) Here it is clearly stated that there are many types of yogés—añöäìga-yogés, haöha-yogés, jïäna-yogés, karma-yogés, and bhakti-yogés—and that of all the yogés, “he who always abides in Me” is said to be the greatest of all. “In Me” means in Kåñëa; that is, the greatest yogé is always in Kåñëa consciousness. Such a yogé “abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga, and is the highest of all.” This is the prime instruction of this Sixth Chapter on säìkhya-yoga: if one wants to attain the highest platform of yoga, one must remain in Kåñëa consciousness.
In Sanskrit, the word bhajate, with its root bhaj (bhaj-dhätu) means “to render service.” But who renders service to Kåñëa unless he is a devotee of Kåñëa? In this Society of Kåñëa consciousness, devotees are rendering service without payment, out of love for Kåñëa. They can render service elsewhere and get paid hundreds of dollars a month, but this service rendered here is loving service (bhaj), based on love of Godhead. Devotees render service in many ways—gardening, typing, cooking, cleaning, etc. All activities are connected with Kåñëa, and therefore Kåñëa consciousness is prevailing twenty-four hours a day. That is the highest type of yoga. That is “worshiping Me in transcendental loving service.” As stated before, the perfection of yoga is keeping one’s consciousness in contact with Viñëu, or Kåñëa, the Supreme Lord. We are not simply boasting that even a child can be the highest yogé simply by participating in Kåñëa consciousness; no, this is the verdict of authorized scripture—Bhagavad-gétä. These words are not our creation but are specifically stated by Lord Çré Kåñëa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
Actually, worship and service are somewhat different. Worship implies some motive. I worship a friend or an important man because if I can please that person, I may derive some profit. Those who worship the demigods worship for some ulterior purpose, and that is condemned in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (7.20):
kämais tais tair håta-jïänäù
taà taà niyamam ästhäya
prakåtyä niyatäù svayä
“Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” Those who are bewildered by lust worship the demigods with a motive; therefore, when we speak of worship, some motive is implied. Service, however, is different, for in service there is no motive. Service is rendered out of love, just as a mother renders service to her child out of love only. Everyone can neglect that child, but the mother cannot, because love is present. Bhaj-dhätu is similar in that there is no question of motive, but service is rendered out of pure love. That is the perfection of Kåñëa consciousness.
This is also the recommendation of Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.6):
sa vai puàsäà paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokñaje
“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” Yato bhaktir adhokñaje. The word bhakti comes from the same root as bhaj. The test of a first-class religion is whether or not we are developing our love for God. If we practice religion with some ulterior motive, hoping to fulfill our material necessities, our religion is not first class but third class. It must be understood that first-class religion is that by which we can develop our love of Godhead. Ahaituky apratihatä. This perfect religion should be executed without ulterior motive or impediment. That is the yoga system recommended in Çrémad-Bhägavatam and in this Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä. That is the system of Kåñëa consciousness.
Kåñëa consciousness is not rendered with some motive in mind. The devotees are not serving Kåñëa in order that He supply them this or that. For a devotee there is no scarcity. One should not think that by becoming Kåñëa conscious, one becomes poor. No. If Kåñëa is there, everything is there, because Kåñëa is everything. But this does not mean that we should try to conduct business with Kåñëa, demanding, “Kåñëa give me this. Give me that.” Kåñëa knows better than we do, and He knows our motives. A child does not make demands of his parents, saying, “Dear father, give me this. Give me that.” Since the father knows his child’s necessities, there is no need for the child to ask. Similarly, it is not a very good idea to ask God to give us this or that. Why should we ask? If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He knows our wants, our necessities, and can supply them. This is confirmed in the Vedas. Eko bahünäà yo vidadhäti kämän: “The single one almighty God is supplying all necessities to millions and trillions of living entities.” Therefore, we should not demand anything of God, because our demands are already met. The supplies are already there. We should simply try to love God. Even cats and dogs are receiving their necessities without going to church and petitioning God. If a cat or dog receives its necessities without making demands, why should the devotee not receive what he needs? Therefore we should not demand anything from God but should simply try to love Him. Then everything will be fulfilled, and we will have attained the highest platform of yoga.
We can actually see how the various parts of the body serve the body. If I have an itch, the fingers immediately scratch. If I want to see something, the eyes immediately look. If I want to go somewhere, the legs immediately take me. As I receive service from the different parts of my body, God receives service from all parts of His creation. God is not meant to serve. If the limbs of the body serve the entire body, the parts of the body automatically receive energy. Similarly, if we serve Kåñëa, we automatically receive all necessities, all energy.
Çrémad-Bhägavatam confirms that we are all parts and parcels of the Supreme. If a part of the body cannot regularly render service, it gives pain to the body, and if a person does not render service to the Supreme Lord, he is simply giving pain and trouble to the Supreme Lord. Therefore such a person has to suffer, just as a criminal has to suffer when he does not abide by the laws of the state. Such a criminal may think, “I’m a very good man,” but because he is violating the laws of the state, he is giving the government trouble, and consequently the government puts him in prison. When living entities give the Supreme Lord trouble, the Lord comes, collects them together, and puts them in this material world. In essence, He says, “You live here. You are all disturbing the creation; therefore you are criminals and have to live in this material world.” Sthänäd bhrañöäù patanty adhaù: “One falls down from his constitutional position.” If a finger is diseased, it has to be amputated lest it pollute the entire body. Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we are cut off from our original position. We have fallen. In order to regain our original position, we must resume rendering service unto the Supreme Lord. That is the perfect cure. Otherwise we will continue to suffer pain, and God will suffer pain because of us. If I am a father, and my son is not good, I suffer, and my son suffers also. Similarly, we are all sons of God, and when we cause God pain, we are also pained. The best course is to revive our original Kåñëa consciousness and engage in the Lord’s service. That is our natural life, and that is possible in the spiritual sky, Goloka Våndävana.
The word avajänanti actually means “to neglect.” This means thinking, “What is God? I am God. Why should I serve God?” This is just like a criminal thinking, “What is this government? I can manage my own affairs. I don’t care for the government.” This is called avajänanti. We may speak in this way, but the police department is there to punish us. Similarly, material nature is here to punish us with the threefold miseries. These miseries are meant for those rascals who avajänanti, who don’t care for God or who take the meaning of God cheaply, saying, “I am God. You are God.”
Thus the general progress of yoga is gradual. First one practices karma-yoga, which refers to ordinary, fruitive activity. Ordinary activities include sinful activities, but karma-yoga excludes such activities. Karma-yoga refers only to good, pious activities, or those actions which are prescribed. After performing karma-yoga, one comes to the platform of jïäna-yoga, knowledge. From the platform of knowledge, one attains to this añöäìga-yoga, the eightfold yoga system—dhyäna, dhäraëä, präëäyäma, äsana, etc.—and from añöäìga-yoga, as one concentrates on Viñëu, one comes to the point of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is the perfectional stage, and if one practices Kåñëa consciousness, one attains this stage from the very beginning. That is the direct route.
If one practices jïäna-yoga and thinks that he has attained the ultimate, he is mistaken. He has to make further progress. If we are on a staircase and have to reach the top floor, which is the hundredth floor, we are mistaken if we think we have arrived when we are on the thirtieth floor. As stated before, the whole yoga system may be likened to a staircase, connecting or linking us to God. In order to attain the ultimate, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we must go to the highest platform, and that is bhakti-yoga.
But why walk up all these steps if we have a chance to take an elevator? By means of an elevator, we can reach the top in a matter of seconds. Bhakti-yoga is this elevator, the direct process by which we can reach the top in a matter of seconds. We can go step by step, following all the other yoga systems, or we can go directly. Since in this age of Kali-yuga people have short life spans and are always disturbed and anxious, Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu, by His causeless mercy, has given us the elevator by which we can come immediately to the platform of bhakti-yoga. That direct means is the chanting of Hare Kåñëa, and that is the special gift of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Therefore Rüpa Gosvämé offers respects to Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu, namo mahä-vadänyäya kåñëa-prema-pradäya te: [Madhya 19.53] “Oh, You are the most munificent incarnation because You are directly giving love of Kåñëa. To attain pure love of Kåñëa, one has to pass through so many stages of yoga, but You are giving this love directly. Therefore You are the most munificent.”
As stated in the Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (18.55),
bhaktyä mäm abhijänäti
yävän yaç cäsmi tattvataù
tato mäà tattvato jïätvä
“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.” In the other yoga systems, there must be a mixture of bhakti, but bhakti-yoga is unadulterated devotion. It is service without a motive. Generally people pray with some motive in mind, but we should pray only for further engagement in devotional service. Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu has taught us that when we pray we should not pray for anything material. In the beginning, we cited Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s perfect prayer.:
na dhanaà na janaà na sundaréà
kavitäà vä jagad-éça kämaye
mama janmani janmanéçvare
bhavatäd bhaktir ahaituké tvayi
“O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women. Nor do I want any number of followers. What I want only is the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth.” (Çikñäñöaka 4) In this verse, Caitanya Mahäprabhu addresses the Supreme Lord as Jagadéça. Jagat means “universe,” and éça means “controller.” The Supreme Lord is the controller of the universe, and this can be understood by anyone; therefore Caitanya Mahäprabhu addresses the Supreme Lord as Jagadéça instead of Kåñëa or Räma. In the material world we find many controllers, so it is logical that there is a controller of the entire universe. Caitanya Mahäprabhu does not pray for wealth, followers, or beautiful women, because these are material requests. Usually, people want to be very great leaders within this material world. Someone tries to become a very rich man like Ford or Rockefeller, or someone else tries to become president or some great leader that many thousands of people will follow. These are all material demands: “Give me money. Give me followers. Give me a nice wife.” Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu refuses to make such materialistic requests. He frankly says, “I don’t want any of these things.” He even says, mama janmani janmanéçvare. That is, He’s not even asking for liberation. Just as the materialists have their demands, the yogés demand liberation. But Caitanya Mahäprabhu does not want anything of this nature. Then why is He a devotee? Why is He worshiping Kåñëa? “I simply want to engage in Your service birth after birth.” He does not even pray for an end to birth, old age, disease, and death. There are no demands whatsoever, for this is the highest platform, the stage of bhakti-yoga.
Chanting Hare Kåñëa is also asking the Lord, “Please engage me in Your service.” This is the mantra taught by Caitanya Mahäprabhu Himself. Hare refers to the energy of the Lord, and Kåñëa and Räma are names for the Lord Himself. When we chant Hare Kåñëa, we are asking Kåñëa to please engage us in His service. This is because our entire material disease is due to our having forgotten to serve God. In illusion, we are thinking, “I am God. What is the other God that I have to serve? I myself am God.” Ultimately, that is the only disease, the last snare of illusion. First of all, a person tries to be prime minister, president, Rockefeller, Ford, this and that, and when one fails or attains such a post and is still unhappy, he wants to become God. That is like becoming an even higher president. When I understand that the presidency does not afford me eternal bliss and knowledge, I demand the highest presidency. I demand to become God. In any case, the demand is there, and this demand is our disease. In illusion, we are demanding to be the highest, but the process of bhakti-yoga is just the opposite. We want to become servants, servants of the servants of the Lord. There is no question of demanding to become the Lord; we just want to serve. That’s all.
Our original nature is rooted in service, and wanting to serve is the crucial test for the devotee. We may not realize it, but in this material world we are also serving. If we want to become president, we have to make so many promises to the voters. In other words, the president has to say, “I’ll give the people my service.” Unless he promises to serve his country, there is no question of his becoming president. So even if one is the most exalted leader, his position is to render service. This is very difficult for people to understand. Despite becoming the highest executive in the land, one has to give service to the people. If that service is not given, one is likely to be usurped, fired, or killed. In the material world, service is very dangerous. If there is a little discrepancy in one’s service, one is immediately fired. When the people did not like the service that President Nixon was rendering, they forced him to resign. Some people disagreed with President Kennedy, and he was killed. Similarly, in India, Gandhi was also killed because some people did not like the way he was rendering service. This is always the position in the material world; therefore one should be intelligent enough to decide to cease rendering service for material motives. We must render service to the Supreme Lord, and that rendering of service is our perfection.
We have formed this International Society for Krishna Consciousness in order to teach people what they have forgotten. In this material world, we have forgotten the service of Rädhä-Kåñëa; therefore we have become servants of mäyä, the senses. Therefore, in this Society we are saying, “You are serving your senses. Now just turn your service to Rädhä and Kåñëa, and you will be happy. You have to render service—either to mäyä [illusion], the senses, or to Çré Çré Rädhä-Kåñëa.”
In this world, everyone is serving the senses, but people are not satisfied. No one can be satisfied, because the senses are always demanding more gratification, and this means that we are constantly having to serve the senses. In any case, our position as servant remains the same. It is a question of whether we want to be happy in our service. It is the verdict of Bhagavad-gétä and the other Vedic scriptures that we will never be happy trying to serve our senses, for they are only sources of misery. Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu prays to be situated in Kåñëa’s service. He also prays,
ayi nanda-tanuja kiìkaraà
patitaà mäà viñame bhavämbudhau
kåpayä tava päda-paìkaja-
“O son of Mahäräja Nanda [Kåñëa], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.” (Çikñäñöaka 5) This is another way of asking Kåñëa to engage us in His service.
Loving devotional service can only be rendered to the personal form of Kåñëa, Çyämasundara. The impersonalists emphasize the viräö-rüpa, the universal form exhibited in the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, but it is stated therein (11.21) that the demigods are very much afraid of this form, and Arjuna says,
adåñöa-pürvaà håñito ’smi dåñövä
bhayena ca pravyathitaà mano me
tad eva me darçaya deva rüpaà
praséda deveça jagan-niväsa
“After seeing this universal form, which I have never seen before, I am gladdened, but at the same time my mind is disturbed with fear. Therefore please bestow Your grace upon me and reveal again Your form as the Personality of Godhead [Kåñëa, or Çyämasundara], O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.” (Bg. 11.45) There is no question of loving the viräö-rüpa. If Kåñëa comes before you in the viräö-rüpa form, you will be so filled with fear that you will forget your love. So don’t be eager like the impersonalists to see the viräö-rüpa form; just render loving service to Çyämasundara, Kåñëa.
We have more or less seen Kåñëa as the viçva-rüpa during wartime in Calcutta in 1942. There was a siren, and we ran into a shelter, and the bombing began. In this way, we were seeing that viçva-rüpa, and I was thinking, “Of course, this is also just another form of Kåñëa. But this is not a very lovable form.” A devotee wants to love Kåñëa in His original form, and this viçva-rüpa is not His original form. Being omnipotent, Kåñëa can appear in any form, but His lovable form is that of Kåñëa, Çyämasundara. Although a man may be a police officer, when he is at home he is a beloved father to his son. But if he comes home firing his revolver, the son will be so frightened that he will forget that he is his beloved father. Naturally, the child loves his father when he’s at home like a father, and similarly we love Kåñëa as He is in His eternal abode, in the form of Çyämasundara.
The viçva-rüpa was shown to Arjuna to warn those rascals who claim, “I am God.” Arjuna asked to see the viçva-rüpa so that in the future we may have some criterion by which to test rascals who claim to be God. In other words, if someone says, “I am God,” we can simply reply, “If you are God, please show me your viçva-rüpa.” And we can rest assured that such rascals cannot display this form.
Of course, Arjuna was offering all respects to the viçva-rüpa form. That is a natural quality of a devotee. A devotee even respects Durgä, Mäyä, because Mäyä is Kåñëa’s energy. If we respect Kåñëa, we respect everyone, even an ant. Therefore Brahmä prays,
chäyeva yasya bhuvanäni bibharti durgä
icchänurüpam api yasya ca ceñöate sä
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
“The external potency, Mäyä, who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit [spiritual] potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgä, the creating, preserving, and destroying agency of this mundane world. I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, in accordance with whose will Durgä conducts herself.” (Brahma-saàhitä 5.44) Thus when we pray to Kåñëa, we pray to Durgä immediately, because Durgä is His energy. And when we pray to Durgä, we are actually praying to Kåñëa, because she is working under the direction of Kåñëa. When the devotee sees the activities of Mäyä, he sees Kåñëa immediately, thinking, “Oh, Mäyä is acting so nicely under the direction of Kåñëa.” When one offers respect to a policeman, he is actually offering respect to the government. Durgä, the material energy, is so powerful that she can create, annihilate, and maintain, but in all cases she is acting under Kåñëa’s directions.
Through bhakti, pure devotion to Kåñëa, we can leave the association of Mäyä and be promoted to the eternal association of Kåñëa. Some of the gopas, Kåñëa’s friends, are eternal associates, and others are promoted to that eternal position. If only the eternal associates of Kåñëa can play with Him and others cannot, then what is the meaning of becoming Kåñëa conscious? We can also become eternal associates of Kåñëa through pious deeds executed in many, many lives. Actually, in the Våndävana manifest in this material world, the associates of Kåñëa are mainly conditioned living entities who have been promoted to the perfect stage of Kåñëa consciousness. Thus promoted, they are first of all allowed to see Kåñëa on the planet where Kåñëa’s pastimes are being enacted. After this, they are promoted to the transcendental Goloka Våndävana in the spiritual sky. Therefore it is stated in the Bhägavata (10.12.11), kåta-puëya-puïjäù.
Bhakti-yoga means connecting ourselves with Kåñëa, God, and becoming His eternal associates. Bhakti-yoga cannot be applied to any other objective; therefore in Buddhism, for instance, there is no bhakti-yoga, because they do not recognize the Supreme Lord existing as the supreme objective. Christians, however, practice bhakti-yoga when they worship Jesus Christ, because they are accepting him as the son of God and are therefore accepting God. Unless one accepts God, there is no question of bhakti-yoga. Christianity, therefore, is also a form of Vaiñëavism, because God is recognized. Nonetheless, there are different stages of God realization. Mainly, Christianity says, “God is great,” and that is a very good assertion, but the actual greatness of God can be understood from Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam. Accepting the greatness of God is the beginning of bhakti. Bhakti-yoga also exists among the Muhammadans, because God is the target in the Muslim religion. However, where there is no recognition of a personal God—in other words, where there is only impersonalism—there is no question of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga must include three items: the servitor, the served, and service. One must be present to accept service, and one must be present to render service. The via media is the process of service itself, bhakti-yoga. Now, if there is no one to accept that service, how is bhakti-yoga possible? Therefore, if a philosophy or religion does not accept God as the Supreme Person, there is no possibility of bhakti-yoga being applied.
In the bhakti-yoga process, the role of the spiritual master is most important and essential. Although the spiritual master will always come back until his devotees have achieved God realization, one should not try to take advantage of this. We should not trouble our spiritual master but should complete the bhakti-yoga process in this life. The disciple should be serious in his service to the spiritual master, and if the devotee is intelligent, he should think, “Why should I act in such a way that my spiritual master has to take the trouble to reclaim me again? Let me realize Kåñëa in this life.” That is the proper way of thinking. We should not think, “Oh, I am sure that my spiritual master will come and save me. Therefore I will do as I please.” If we have any affection for our spiritual master, we should complete the process in this life, so that he does not have to return to reclaim us.
In this regard, there is the example of Bilvamaìgala Öhäkura, who, in his previous life, was elevated almost to prema-bhakti, the highest platform of devotional service. However, since there is always a chance for a falldown, somehow or other he fell down. In his next life, he was born in a very rich brähmaëa family, in accordance with the principle enunciated in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (6.41): çucénäà çrématäà gehe. Unfortunately, as is often the case with rich boys, he became a prostitute hunter. Yet it is said that his spiritual master instructed him through his prostitute, saying, “Oh, you are so attached to this mere flesh and bones. If you were this much attached to Kåñëa, how much good you might achieve!” Immediately Bilvamaìgala Öhäkura resumed his devotional service.
Although the spiritual master assumes responsibility for his disciple, we should not take advantage of this. Rather, we should try to please the spiritual master (yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädaù **). We should not put our spiritual master in such a position that he has to reclaim us from a house of prostitution. But even if he has to do so, he will do it, because he assumes this responsibility when he accepts his disciple.
The bhakti-yoga process should be completed in this life, because in this life we have all the instruments necessary to become fully Kåñëa conscious. We have mådaìgas and cymbals and tongues with which to chant Hare Kåñëa. Even if we don’t have mådaìgas and cymbals, we have a tongue. No one has to purchase a tongue. We also have ears with which to hear the sound that the tongue vibrates. Therefore we have all the instruments we need with us—a tongue and ears. We have only to chant Hare Kåñëa and use our ears to hear this vibration, and all perfection will be there. We don’t have to become highly educated scientists or philosophers. We have only to chant and hear.
Thus we have everything complete. Pürëam adaù pürëam idam [Éçopaniñad, Invocation]: everything created by God is complete. This aggregate earth, for instance, is complete. There is sufficient water in the oceans, and the sun acts to evaporate this water, turn it into clouds, and drop rain on the land to produce plants. And from the mountains, pure rivers are flowing to supply water throughout the year. If we want to evaporate a few hundred gallons of water, we have to make many arrangements, but the creation is so complete that millions of tons of water are being drawn from the ocean, turned into clouds, and then sprayed all over the land and reserved on the peaks of mountains so that water will be present for the production of grains and vegetables. Thus the creation is complete because it comes from the complete, and similarly our bodies are also complete for spiritual realization. The complete machine is already with us. We have only to utilize it to vibrate the transcendental sound (çabda) of Hare Kåñëa, and we will attain complete liberation from all material pangs.
PoP 9: Destination After Death
mano hådi nirudhya ca
mürdhny ädhäyätmanaù präëam
“The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.” (Bg. 8.12)
One translation of the word yoga is “plus”—that is, just the opposite of minus. At the present moment, due to our materially contaminated consciousness, we are minus God. When we add God to our lives, when we connect with Him, life is perfected. This process has to be finished at the time of death; therefore as long as we are alive, we have to practice approaching that point of perfection so that at the time of death, when we give up this material body, we can realize the Supreme.
bhaktyä yukto yoga-balena caiva
bhruvor madhye präëam äveçya samyak
sa taà paraà puruñam upaiti divyam
“One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bg. 8.10) The words prayäëa-käle mean “at the time of death.” Life is kind of a preparation for the final examination, which is death. If we pass that examination, we are transferred to the spiritual world. According to a very common Bengali proverb, “Whatever you do for perfection will be tested at the time of your death.”
This process by which the yogé closes the doors of the senses is technically called pratyähära, meaning “just the opposite.” Presently, our senses are engaged in seeing worldly beauty. “Just the opposite” means retracting the senses from that beauty and seeing the beauty inside. Hearing is concentrated on the oàkära sound that is within. Similarly, all the other senses are withdrawn from external activity. The mind is then concentrated on the viñëu-mürti within the heart (manaù hådi nirudhya). The word nirudhya means “confining” the mind within the heart. When the yogé has thus withdrawn his senses and concentrated his mind, he transfers the life air to the top of the head and decides where he should go. There are innumerable planets, and beyond these planets is the spiritual world. The yogés obtain information of these planets from the Vedic literatures, just as, before coming to the United States, I obtained information about this country from books. Since all the higher planets in the spiritual world are described in the Vedic literatures, the yogé knows everything and can transfer himself to any planet he likes. He does not need a material spaceship.
Scientists have been trying for many years to reach other planets with spaceships, but this is not the process. Maybe by this means one or two men can reach a planet, but that is not the general process. It is not possible for everyone. Generally, if one wants to transfer himself to a higher planet, he practices this jïäna-yoga system. Not the bhakti-yoga system. The system of bhakti-yoga is not used for attaining any material planet.
The devotees of Kåñëa are not interested in any planet within this material universe, because they know that on all planets the four basic miseries exist—birth, old age, disease, and death. In the higher planets, one’s life span may be much greater than on this earth, but death is ultimately there. Therefore those who are in Kåñëa consciousness are not interested in material life but spiritual life, which means relief from these fourfold miseries. Those who are intelligent do not try to elevate themselves to any planet within this material world. To attain a higher planet, one has to prepare a particular type of body to enable one to live on that planet. We cannot attain these planets by artificial, materialistic means, because a suitable body is necessary to live there. We can stay within water only a short while, but fish are living there their entire lives. But the fish does not have a body suitable for living on the land. Similarly, to enter a higher planet, one has to prepare a suitable body.
In the higher planets, six of our months are equal to one of their days, and the inhabitants of these planets live ten thousand years. This is all described in the Vedic literatures. Although the life span on these planets is very long, there is ultimately death. After ten thousand years, twenty thousand years, or millions of years—it doesn’t matter—death is ultimately there.
In the very beginning of Bhagavad-gétä, however, we learn that we are not subject to death.
na jäyate mriyate vä kadäcin
näyaà bhütvä bhavitä vä na bhüyaù
ajo nityaù çäçvato ’yaà puräëo
na hanyate hanyamäne çarére
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bg. 2.20) Kåñëa thus instructs us that we are spirit soul and eternal; therefore why should we subject ourselves to birth and death? One who utilizes his intelligence can understand this. One who is situated in Kåñëa consciousness is not interested in promotion to any planet where death exists; rather, being promoted to the spiritual sky, he receives a body just like God’s. Éçvaraù paramaù kåñëaù sac-cid-änanda-vigrahaù [Bs. 5.1]. God’s body is sac-cid-änanda—eternal, full of knowledge, and full of pleasure. Therefore Kåñëa is called the reservoir of all pleasure. If, upon leaving this body, we transfer ourselves to the spiritual world—to Kåñëa’s planet or any other spiritual planet—we attain a similar body full of sac-cid-änanda.
The spirit soul is a very minute particle within the body. It cannot be seen like the external body, but it is sustaining the external body. The object of the ñaö-cakra system is to locate the soul at the topmost part of the head. From there, one who is perfect in dhyäna-yoga can transfer himself to a higher planet at will. That is the perfection of this type of yoga. The dhyäna-yogé is somewhat like a traveler who thinks, “Oh, let me see what the moon is like, then I will transfer myself to higher planets.” He goes from here to there in the universe, just as on earth travelers go from New York to California or Canada. But a Kåñëa conscious person is not interested in such interplanetary travel within the material universe. His goal is service to Kåñëa and transferral to the spiritual sky.
oà ity ekäkñaraà brahma
vyäharan mäm anusmaran
yaù prayäti tyajan dehaà
sa yäti paramäà gatim
“After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable oà, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.” (Bg. 8.13) Oà, or oàkära, is the concise form, or impersonal form, of the transcendental vibration. The dhyäna-yogé should vibrate oà while remembering Kåñëa, or Viñëu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonal sound of Kåñëa is oà, but the sound Hare Kåñëa contains oà. Whatever the case, the entire yoga system aims at concentration on Viñëu. Impersonalists may imagine a form of Viñëu, but the personalists do not imagine; they actually see the form of the Supreme Lord. Whether one imagines or factually sees, one has to concentrate his mind on the Viñëu form. Here the word mäm means “unto the Supreme Lord, Viñëu.” If one can remember Viñëu upon quitting this body, he can enter into the spiritual kingdom.
One who is intelligent naturally thinks, “I am permanent and eternal. Why should I be interested in things that are not permanent?” Actually, no one wants an existence that is temporary. If we are living in an apartment and the landlord asks us to vacate, we have to do so, whether we want to leave or not. However, if we move to a better apartment, we are not sorry. It is our nature, however, to want to remain wherever we live. That is because we are permanent and want a permanent residence. Our inclination is to remain. Therefore we don’t want to die. We don’t want the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. These are external miseries inflicted by material nature, and they attack us like some fever. In order to extricate ourselves, we have to take certain precautions. To get rid of these miseries, it is necessary to get rid of the material body, because these miseries are inherent in material existence.
Thus by vibrating oà and leaving the material body thinking of the Supreme Lord, the yogé is transferred to the spiritual world. Those who are not personalists, however, cannot enter into the spiritual planet of Lord Çré Kåñëa. They remain outside, in the brahmajyoti effulgence. Just as the sunshine is not different from the sun globe, the brahmajyoti effulgence of the Supreme Lord is not different from the Supreme Lord. The impersonalists are placed in that brahmajyoti as minute particles. We are all spiritual sparks, and the brahmajyoti is full of these spiritual sparks. In this way, the impersonalists merge into the spiritual existence; however, individuality is retained, because the spirit soul is constitutionally an individual. Because the impersonalists don’t want a personal form, they are placed and held in the impersonal brahmajyoti. There they exist just as atoms exist within the sunshine. The individual spiritual spark remains within the brahmajyoti as if homogeneous.
As living entities, we all want enjoyment. We do not simply want existence. We are constitutionally sac-cid-änanda—eternal (sat), full of knowledge (cit), and full of bliss (änanda). Those who enter the impersonal brahmajyoti cannot remain there eternally with the knowledge that “Now I am merged. I am now one with Brahman.” Although there is eternality and knowledge, bliss (änanda) is lacking. Who can remain alone in a room year after year reading some book and trying to enjoy himself? We cannot remain alone forever. Eventually we will leave that room and look for some association. It is our nature to want some recreation with others. The impersonalists, dissatisfied with the loneliness of their position in the impersonal effulgence of the Lord, therefore return again to this material world. This is stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (10.2.32):
ye ’nye ’ravindäkña vimukta-mäninas
tvayy asta-bhäväd a viçuddha-buddhayaù
äruhya kåcchreëa paraà padaà tataù
patanty adho ’nädåta-yuñmad-aìghrayaù
“O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.”
The impersonalists are like astronauts in search of a planet. If they cannot rest in some planet, they have to return to earth. It is herein stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (anädåta-yuñmad-aìghrayaù) that the impersonalist must return to the material world because he has neglected to serve the Supreme Lord with love and devotion. As long as we are on this earth, we should practice to love and serve Kåñëa, the Supreme Lord; then we can enter His spiritual planet. If we are not trained up in this way, we can enter the brahmajyoti as an impersonalist, but there is every risk that we will again fall down into material existence. Out of loneliness, we will search out some association and therefore return to the material world. What we actually want is the eternal association of the Supreme Lord. This is our constitutional position of eternality, knowledge, and pleasure. If we are alone, if we do not associate with the Supreme Lord, that pleasure is lacking. For want of pleasure, we feel uncomfortable. For want of pleasure, we will accept any kind of association, any kind of pleasure. Therefore, out of a kind of desperation, we will say, “All right, then let me have material pleasure again.” That is the risk the impersonalists take.
In the material world, the highest pleasure is found in sex. That is but a perverted reflection of the pleasure experienced with Kåñëa in the spiritual world. Unless there is sex present in the spiritual world, it cannot be reflected here. However, we should understand that here the reflection is perverted. Actual life is there in Kåñëa. Kåñëa is full of pleasure, and if we train ourselves to serve Him in Kåñëa consciousness, it will be possible at the time of death to transfer ourselves to the spiritual world and enter into Kåñëaloka, Kåñëa’s planet, and enjoy ourselves in the association of Kåñëa, the reservoir of all pleasure.
Kåñëa’s planet is described in Brahma-saàhitä (5.29) in this way:
lakñävåteñu surabhér abhipälayantam
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the surabhi cows that fulfill all desires, who is surrounded by millions of purpose (wish-fulfilling) trees and abodes built with spiritual gems, and who is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune.” In this way Kåñëaloka is described. There the houses are made of touchstone (cintämaëi). If a small particle of touchstone touches an iron rod, that rod will immediately turn to gold. Of course, in this material world we have no experience with such a thing as touchstone, but according to Brahma-saàhitä all the abodes in Kåñëaloka are composed of touchstone. Similarly, the trees there are called desire trees (kalpa-våkña) because one can get whatever he desires from them. Here we can get only mangoes from a mango tree, but in Kåñëaloka we can get whatever we desire from any tree because the trees are kalpa-våkña. This is just a partial description of Kåñëaloka, Kåñëa’s eternal abode in the spiritual sky.
The conclusion, therefore, is not to try to elevate ourselves to any material planet, because the same miserable conditions of birth, old age, disease, and death exist in all of them. Scientists are very proud of “scientific” advancement, but they have not been able to check old age, disease, and death. They can manufacture something to accelerate death, but nothing that can stop death. That is not within their power.
Those who are intelligent are interested in putting an end to birth, old age, disease, and death and entering into a spiritual life full of eternality, bliss, and knowledge. The bhakti-yogé knows that such a life is possible through practice of Kåñëa consciousness and remembrance of Kåñëa at the time of death.
yo mäà smarati nityaçaù
tasyähaà sulabhaù pärtha
“For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Påthä, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.” (Bg. 8.14) In this verse, the word nitya-yukta means “continuously in trance.” Such a person who is continuously thinking of Kåñëa and always engaged in Kåñëa consciousness is the highest yogé. His attention is not diverted to jïäna-yoga, dhyäna-yoga, or any other system. For him, there is only one system—Kåñëa. Ananya-cetäù means “without deviation.” A Kåñëa conscious devotee is not disturbed by anything, because his mind is always concentrated on Kåñëa. The word satatam means that he is thinking of Kåñëa at all places and at all times. When Kåñëa descended onto this earth, He appeared in Våndävana. Although I am presently living in America, my residence is in Våndävana because I am always thinking of Kåñëa. Although I may be in a New York apartment, my consciousness is there, and this is as good as being there.
Kåñëa consciousness means always living with Kåñëa in His spiritual planet. Because we are conscious of Kåñëa, we are already living with Him. We simply have to wait to give up this material body to go there. For one who remembers Kåñëa without deviation, He is easy to obtain. Tasyähaà sulabhaù pärtha.: “I become very cheap for them.” For one who takes to Kåñëa consciousness, the most valuable thing becomes very easy to obtain. Because one is engaged in bhakti-yoga, Kåñëa becomes easily available. Why should we try so hard to attain Kåñëa, when Kåñëa Himself says, “I am easy to obtain”? We have only to chant Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare twenty-four hours daily. There is no fast rule and regulation. We can chant in the street or on the subway, in our home or in our office. There is neither expenditure nor tax.
Actually Kåñëa, being omnipotent, is unconquerable, but it is said that He is not only obtained but conquered through pure devotional service. As stated before, it is generally very difficult to realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore one of His names is Ajita, meaning, “He whom no one can conquer.” In Çrémad-Bhägavatam (10.14.3), Lord Brahmä prays to Ajita,
jïäne prayäsam udapäsya namanta eva
jévanti san-mukharitäà bhavadéya-värtäm
sthäne sthitäù çruti-gatäà tanu-väì-manobhir
ye präyaço ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyäm
“O my dear Lord Ajita, those devotees who have thrown away the impersonal conceptions of the Absolute Truth and have therefore abandoned discussing empiric philosophical truths should hear from self-realized devotees about Your holy name, form, pastimes, and qualities. They should completely follow the principles of devotional service and remain free from illicit sex, gambling, intoxication, and animal slaughter. Surrendering themselves fully with body, words, and mind, they can live in any äçrama or social status. Indeed, You are conquered by such persons, although You are always unconquerable.”
In this verse, the words jïäne prayäsam refer to theosophists and philosophers who are trying year after year and life after life to understand God, or the Absolute Truth. Their attempts are like those of the frog in a well trying to comprehend the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Even our attempts to measure outer space are futile, to say nothing of the attempt to measure God. Such attempts are doomed to failure; therefore Çrémad-Bhägavatam recommends that we abandon all attempts to measure the Supreme. It is completely useless to try to understand God by our limited knowledge, and an intelligent man understands this. We should become submissive and try to understand that our position is that of a very insignificant segment in this creation. The words namanta eva indicate that we are just to become submissive in order to understand the Supreme from a reliable source. And what is that source? San-mukharitäm: from the lips of realized souls. Arjuna is understanding God directly from the lips of Kåñëa, and we have to understand God through the lips of Arjuna or his bona fide representative. We can understand the transcendental nature of God only from a reliable source. That source may be Indian, European, American, Japanese, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever. The circumstances are not important. We just have to try to understand by hearing and then try to put the process to practice in our daily lives. By becoming submissive, hearing from the right source, and trying to apply the teachings in our daily lives, we can become conquerors of the Supreme. For one who does this, Lord Kåñëa becomes easily available. Ordinarily, God realization is very difficult, but it is very easy for one who submissively hears (çruti-gatäm).
There are two processes by which we can acquire knowledge: one is the ascending process (äroha-panthä), and the other is the descending process (avaroha-panthä). By the ascending process, one attempts to understand God by his own efforts—by philosophizing, meditating, or speculating. According to the descending process, one acquires knowledge simply by hearing from an authority, from the bona fide spiritual master and the scriptures. As far as the ascending process is concerned, it is stated in Brahma-saàhitä (5.34),
panthäs tu koöi-çata-vatsara-sampragamyo
väyor athäpi manaso muni-puìgavänäm
so ’py asti yat-prapada-sémny a vicintya-tattve
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, only the tips of the toes of whose lotus feet are approached by the yogés and jïänés, who travel for billions of years at the speed of the wind or mind.” We can all understand how great the speed of mind is. Although sitting in New York City, I can immediately think of India, which is thousands and thousands of miles away. It is herein stated that even if one travels at this speed for billions of years, Kåñëa will still remain inconceivable. The word muni-puìgavänäm refers to a great thinker, not an ordinary man. Even if such a great thinker travels for millions of years at the speed of mind, he will still find the Supreme Person unknowable. Yet for one who takes undeviatingly to this path of Kåñëa consciousness, Kåñëa is easy to obtain. Why is this? Nitya-yuktasya yoginaù: “Because such a person is constantly engaged in My devotional service, and I cannot forget him.” So this is the process. We have only to become submissive to attract the attention of God. My Guru Mahäräja used to say, “Don’t try to see God, but work in such a way that God will see you. God will take care of you. You don’t have to try to see Him.”
This should be our attitude. We should not think, “I want to see God. O God, please come and stand before me. Be like my servant.” But since God is no one’s servant, we have to oblige Him by our love and service. We all know how difficult it is to see the king or president of a country. It is practically impossible for an ordinary man to get an interview with such an important person, to say nothing of having this important person come and stand before him. Yet people are demanding that the Supreme Personality of Godhead come and stand before them. It is our nature to hanker after Kåñëa, because He is the most attractive, most beautiful, most opulent, most powerful, most learned, and most famous person in the universe. Everyone hankers after these qualities, and Kåñëa is the reservoir of all these qualities, and He possesses them in full. Kåñëa is the reservoir of everything (raso vai saù); therefore when we hanker after beauty or power or knowledge or fame, we should just turn our attention to Kåñëa. Then we will automatically get whatever our hearts desire.
PoP 10: The Path of Perfection
mäm upetya punar janma
saàsiddhià paramäà gatäù
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogés in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Bg. 8.15)
This material world is certified by its very creator, the Supreme Lord, as duùkhälayam, which means “the place of miseries.” Since this is the case, how can we possibly make it comfortable by so-called scientific advancement? Duùkha means “misery” or “suffering,” and real suffering is birth, old age, disease, and death. We have set these problems aside because we cannot solve them; therefore scientists concentrate on atomic bombs and spaceships. Why can’t they solve these important problems that are always causing us to suffer? Obviously, they haven’t the power to do so.
But in this verse, Çré Kåñëa gives the solution: mäm upetya punar janma [Bg. 8.15]. That is, “If one attains My platform, he does not come back again to this place of misery.” Unfortunately, in the mode of ignorance, people cannot understand that they are in a miserable situation. Animals cannot understand their miserable situations because they haven’t the reason. Man possesses reason whereby he can understand this, but in this age people are using their reasoning power in order to gratify their animal propensities. Reason should be used in getting liberated from this miserable condition. However, if we engage in Kåñëa consciousness twenty-four hours a day without deviation, we will go to Kåñëa and not be reborn in this miserable world. Mahätmänaù saàsiddhià paramäà gatäù: those great souls who have attained the highest perfection, Kåñëa consciousness, are forever freed from misery. In this verse, the word mahätmä refers to a Kåñëa conscious man eligible to enter the abode of Kåñëa. The word mahätmä does not refer to a political leader like Mahatma Gandhi but to a great soul, a pure devotee of Kåñëa.
When Kåñëa says that the mahätmä enters His abode, He is referring to His transcendental kingdom, Goloka Våndävana. The Våndävana from which I have come is called Bhauma Våndävana, which means it is the same Våndävana descended on this earth. Just as Kåñëa descended on this earth through His own internal potency, similarly His dhäma, His abode, also descends. In other words, when Kåñëa descends on this earth, He manifests Himself in that particular land, Våndävana, and therefore that land is also sacred. Apart from this, Kåñëa has His own abode in the spiritual sky, and this is called Goloka Våndävana.
The mahätmä prepares in this life to enter that transcendental abode. The human form of life can utilize nature to its best interest. Animals cannot. These facilities should be utilized in striving to become a mahätmä and putting an end to birth in this material world, which is characterized by threefold miseries. The threefold miseries are those that pertain to the mind or the body, natural disturbances, and miseries caused by other living entities. Whatever our position in this material world, there is always some kind of misery being inflicted upon us. Çré Kåñëa frankly says that it is not possible to avoid misery in this material world, because this world is meant for misery. Unless miseries are present, we cannot come to Kåñëa consciousness. Misery serves as an impetus to help elevate us to Kåñëa consciousness. An intelligent person understands that although he does not want misery, miseries are being inflicted upon him by force. No one wants misery, but a person should be intelligent enough to question, “Why are these miseries being forced upon me?” Unfortunately, in modern civilization, people try to set miseries aside, thinking, “Oh, why suffer? Let me cover my miseries with some intoxication.” However, the miseries of life cannot be solved by artificial intoxication. As soon as the intoxication is over, one returns to the same point. The miseries of material existence can be solved only by Kåñëa consciousness. If we always remain in Kåñëa consciousness, we’ll be transferred to Kåñëa’s planet upon leaving this material body. That is called the highest perfection.
People may inquire, “Well, you say that entering Kåñëa’s planet constitutes the highest perfection, but we are interested in going to the moon. Is this not a kind of perfection?” Well, the desire to enter the higher planets is always there in the human mind. In fact, another name for the living entity is sarva-gata, which means that he wants to travel everywhere. That is the nature of the living entity. Americans who have money often go to India, Europe, or some other country, because they do not like to stagnate in one place. That is our nature, and therefore we are interested in going to the moon or wherever. But according to Kåñëa, even if we attain the higher planets, we are still subject to the material miseries.
punar ävartino ’rjuna
mäm upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunté, never takes birth again.” (Bg. 8.16)
The universe is divided into fourteen planetary systems (caturdaça-bhuvana)—seven lower and seven higher. The earth is situated in the middle. In this verse, Çré Kåñëa says, äbrahma-bhuvanäl lokäù: even if one enters the highest planet, Brahmaloka, there is still birth and death. The words punar ävartinaù mean “returning again,” or “repetition of birth and death.” We are changing bodies just as we change clothes, leaving one body and entering another. All planets are filled with living entities. We shouldn’t think that only the earth is inhabited. There are living entities on the higher planets and lower planets as well. From our experience, we can see that no place on earth is vacant of living entities. If we dig into the earth, we find some worms, and if we go into the water we find many aquatics. The air is filled with birds, and if we analyze outer space, we will find many living entities. It is illogical to conclude that there are no living entities on the other planets. To the contrary, they are full of living entities.
In any case, Kåñëa says that from the highest planet to the lowest planet, there is repetition of birth and death. Yet again, as in the former verse, He says, mäm upetya: “If you reach My planet, you don’t have to return to this miserable material world.” To stress this point, Çré Kåñëa repeats that upon reaching Goloka Våndävana, His eternal abode, one is liberated from the cycle of birth and death and attains eternal life. It is the duty of human life to understand these problems and attain a blissful, eternal life that is full of knowledge. Unfortunately, people in this age have forgotten the aim of life. Why? Duräçayä ye bahir-artha-mäninaù (Bhäg. 7.5.31). People have been trapped by the material glitter—by skyscrapers, big factories, and political activities. People do not stop to consider that however big the skyscraper may be, they will not be allowed to live there indefinitely. We should not spoil our energy, therefore, in building great cities but should employ our energy to elevate ourselves to Kåñëa consciousness. Kåñëa consciousness is not a religious formula or some spiritual recreation but is the most important factor in our lives.
People are interested in attaining higher planets because there one’s enjoyment is a thousand times greater and the duration of life much longer.
ahar yad brahmaëo viduù
te ’ho-rätra-vido janäù
The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahmä, and one day of Brahmä consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas, or ages: Satya, Tretä, Dväpara, and Kali. The cycle of Satya is characterized by virtue, wisdom, and religion, there being practically no ignorance and vice, and the yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. In the Tretä-yuga vice is introduced, and this yuga lasts 1,296,000 years. In the Dväpara-yuga there is an even greater decline in virtue and religion, vice increasing, and this yuga lasts 564,000 years. And finally, in Kali-yuga (the yuga we have now been experiencing over the past 5,000 years), there is an abundance of strife, ignorance, irreligion, and vice, true virtue being practically nonexistent, and this yuga lasts 432,000 years. In Kali-yuga vice increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga, the Supreme Lord Himself appears as the Kalki-avatära, vanquishes the demons, saves His devotees, and commences another Satya-yuga. Then the process is set rolling again. These four yugas rotating a thousand times comprise one day of Brahmä, the creator god, and the same number comprise one night. Brahmä lives one hundred of such “years” and then dies. These “hundred years” by earth calculations total 31 I trillion and 40 million earth years. By these calculations, the life of Brahmä seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity, it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the Causal Ocean there are innumerable Brahmäs rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. Brahmä and his creation are all part of the material universe, and therefore they are in constant flux.
In the material universe, not even Brahmä is free from the process of birth, old age, disease, and death. Brahmä, however, is directly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord in the management of this universe; therefore he at once attains liberation. Elevated sannyäsés are promoted to Brahmä’s particular planet, Brahmaloka, which is the highest planet in the material universe and which survives all the heavenly planets in the upper strata of the planetary system, but in due course Brahmä and all inhabitants of Brahmaloka are subject to death, according to the law of material nature. So even if we live millions and trillions of years, we have to die. Death cannot be avoided. Throughout the entire universe the process of creation and annihilation is taking place, as described in the next verse:
avyaktäd vyaktayaù sarväù
“When Brahmä’s day is manifest, this multitude of living entities comes into being, and at the arrival of Brahmä’s night they are all annihilated.” (Bg. 8.18)
Unless we go to the spiritual sky, there is no escaping this process of birth and death, creation and annihilation. When Brahmä’s days are finished, all these planetary systems are covered by water, and when Brahmä rises again, creation takes place. The word ahar means “in the daytime,” which is twelve hours of Brahmä’s life. During this time this material manifestation—all these planets—are seen, but when night comes they are all merged in water. That is, they are annihilated. The word rätry-ägame means “at the fall of night.” During this time, all these planets are invisible because they are inundated with water. This flux is the nature of the material world.
bhüta-grämaù sa eväyaà
bhütvä bhütvä praléyate
rätry-ägame ’vaçaù pärtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Pärtha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Bg. 8.19) Although we do not want devastation, devastation is inevitable. At night, everything is flooded, and when day appears, gradually the waters disappear. For instance, on this one planet, the surface is three-fourths covered with water. Gradually, land is emerging, and the day will come when there will no longer be water but simply land. That is nature’s process.
paras tasmät tu bhävo ’nyo
’vyakto ’vyaktät sanätanaù
yaù sa sarveñu bhüteñu
naçyatsu na vinaçyati
“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and nonmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Bg. 8.20)
We cannot calculate the length and breadth of this universe. There are millions and millions of universes like this within this material world, and above this material world is the spiritual sky, where the planets are all eternal. Life on those planets is also eternal. This material manifestation comprises only one fourth of the entire creation. Ekäàçena sthito jagat. Ekäàçena means “one fourth.” Three fourths of the creation is beyond this material sky, which is covered like a ball. This covering extends millions and millions of miles, and only after penetrating that covering can one enter the spiritual sky. That is open sky, eternal sky. In this verse it is stated, paras tasmät tu bhävo ’nyaù: [Bg. 8.20] “Yet there is another nature.” The word bhäva means another “nature.” We have experience only with this material nature, but from Bhagavad-gétä we understand that there is a spiritual nature that is transcendental and eternal. We actually belong to that spiritual nature, because we are spirit, but presently we are covered by this material body, and therefore we are a combination of the material and spiritual. Just as we can understand that we are a combination of both natures, we should understand also that there is a spiritual world beyond this material universe. Spiritual nature is called superior, and material nature is called inferior, because without spirit, matter cannot move.
This cannot be understood by experimental knowledge. We may look at millions and millions of stars through telescopes, but we cannot approach what we are seeing. Similarly, our senses are so insufficient that we cannot approach an understanding of the spiritual nature. Being incapable, we should not try to understand God and His kingdom by experimental knowledge. Rather, we have to understand by hearing Bhagavad-gétä. There is no other way. If we want to know who our father is, we simply have to believe our mother. We have no other way of knowing except by her. Similarly, in order to understand who God is and what His nature is, we have to accept the information given in Bhagavad-gétä. There is no question of experimenting. Once we become advanced in Kåñëa consciousness, we will realize God and His nature. We can come to understand, “Yes, there is God and a spiritual kingdom, and I have to go there. Indeed, I must prepare myself to go there.”
The word vyakta means “manifest.” This material universe that we are seeing (or partially seeing) before us is manifest. At least at night we can see that stars are twinkling and that there are innumerable planets. But beyond this vyakta is another nature, called avyakta, which is unmanifest. That is the spiritual nature, which is sanätana, eternal. This material nature has a beginning and an end, but that spiritual nature has neither beginning nor end. This material sky is within the covering of the mahat-tattva, matter. This matter is like a cloud. When there is a storm, it appears that the entire sky is covered with clouds, but actually only an insignificant part of the sky is covered. Because we are very minute, if just a few hundred miles are covered, it appears that the entire sky is covered. As soon as a wind comes and blows the clouds away, we can see the sky once again. Like the clouds, this mahat-tattva covering has a beginning and an end. Similarly, the material body, being a part of material nature, has a beginning and an end. The body is born, grows, stays for some time, leaves some by-products, dwindles, and then vanishes. Whatever material manifestation we see undergoes these six basic transformations. Whatever exists within material nature will ultimately be vanquished. But herein Kåñëa is telling us that beyond this vanishing, cloudlike material nature, there is a superior nature, which is sanätana, eternal. Yaù sa sarveñu bhüteñu naçyatsu na vinaçyati. When this material manifestation is annihilated, that spiritual sky remains. This is called avyakto ’vyaktät.
In the Second Canto of Çrémad-Bhägavatam, we find a description of the spiritual sky and the people who live there. Its nature and features are also discussed. From this Second Canto we understand that there are spiritual airplanes in the spiritual sky, and that the living entities there—who are all liberated—travel like lightning on those planes throughout the spiritual sky. This material world is simply an imitation; whatever we see here is simply a shadow of what exists there. The material world is like a cinema, wherein we see but an imitation or a shadow of the real thing that is existing. This material world is only a shadow. As stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.1.1), yatra tri-sargo ’måñä: “This illusory material world is a combination of matter.” In store windows we often see mannequins, but no sane man thinks that these mannequins are real. He can see that they are imitations. Similarly, whatever we see here may be beautiful, just as a mannequin may be beautiful, but it is simply an imitation of the real beauty found in the spiritual world. As Çrédhara Svämé says, yat satyatayä mithya-sargo ’pi satyavat pratiyate: the spiritual world is real, and this unreal material manifestation only appears to be real. We must understand that reality will never be vanquished and that in essence reality means eternality. Therefore material pleasure, which is temporary, is not actual; real pleasure exists in Kåñëa. Consequently, those who are after the reality don’t participate in this shadow pleasure.
Thus when everything in the material world is annihilated, that spiritual nature remains eternally, and it is the purpose of human life to reach that spiritual sky. Unfortunately, people are not aware of the reality of the spiritual sky. According to Çrémad-Bhägavatam (7.5.31), na te viduù svärtha-gatià hi viñëum: people do not know their self-interest. They do not know that human life is meant for understanding spiritual reality and preparing oneself to be transferred to that reality. No one can remain here in this material world. All Vedic literatures instruct us in this way. Tamasi mä jyotir gama: “Don’t remain in this darkness. Go to the light.” According to the Fifteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (15.6),
na tad bhäsayate süryo
na çaçäìko na pävakaù
yad gatvä na nivartante
tad dhäma paramaà mama
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” This material world is dark by nature, and we are artificially illuminating it with electric lights, fire, and so on. In any case, its nature is dark, but the spiritual nature is full of light. When the sun is present, there is no darkness; similarly, every planet in the spiritual sky is self-luminous. Therefore there is no darkness, nor is there need of sun, moon, or electricity. The word süryo means “sun,” çaçäìko means “moon,” and pävakaù means “fire” or “electricity.” So these are not required in the spiritual sky for illumination. And again, Kåñëa herein says, yad gatvä na nivartante tad dhäma paramaà mama: “That is My supreme abode, and one who reaches it never returns to this material world.” This is stated throughout Bhagavad-gétä. Again, in this Eighth Chapter (Bg. 8.21),
avyakto ’kñara ity uktas
tam ähuù paramäà gatim
yaà präpya na nivartante
tad dhäma paramaà mama
“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” Again, the word avyakta, meaning “unmanifest,” is used. The word akñara means “that which is never annihilated,” or “that which is infallible.” This means that since the supreme abode is eternal, it is not subject to the six transformations mentioned previously.
Because we are presently covered by a dress of material senses, we cannot see the spiritual world, and the spiritual nature is inconceivable for us. Yet we can feel that there is something spiritual present. Even a man completely ignorant of the spiritual nature can somehow feel its presence. One need only analyze his body silently: “What am I? Am I this finger? Am I this body? Am I this hair? No, I am not this, and I am not that. I am something other than this body. I am something beyond this body. What is that? That is the spiritual.” In this way, we can feel or sense the presence of spirituality within this matter. We can sense the absence of spirit when a body is dead. If we witness someone dying, we can sense that something is leaving the body. Although we do not have the eyes to see it, that something is spirit. Its presence in the body is explained in the very beginning of Bhagavad-gétä (2.17):
avinäçi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idaà tatam
na kaçcit kartum arhati
“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.”
Spiritual existence is eternal, whereas the body is not. It is said that the spiritual atmosphere is avyakta, unmanifest. How, then, can it be manifest for us? Making the unmanifest manifest is this very process of Kåñëa consciousness. According to Padma Puräëa,
na bhaved grähyam indriyaiù
sevonmukhe hi jihvädau
svayam eva sphuraty adaù
“No one can understand Kåñëa as He is by the blunt material senses. But He reveals Himself to the devotees, being pleased with them for their transcendental loving service unto Him.” In this verse, the word indriyaiù means “the senses.” We have five senses for gathering knowledge (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin), and five senses for working (voice, hands, legs, genitals, and anus). These ten senses are under the control of the mind. It is stated in this verse that with these dull material senses, we cannot understand Kåñëa’s name, form, and so forth. Why is this? Kåñëa is completely spiritual, and He is also absolute. Therefore His name, form, qualities, and paraphernalia are also spiritual. Due to material conditioning, or material bondage, we cannot presently understand what is spiritual, but this ignorance can be removed by chanting Hare Kåñëa. If a man is sleeping, he can be awakened by sound vibration. You can call him, “Come on, it’s time to get up!” Although the person is unconscious, hearing is so prominent that even a sleeping man can be awakened by sound vibration. Similarly, overpowered by this material conditioning, our spiritual consciousness is presently sleeping, but it can be revived by this transcendental vibration of Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. As stated before, Hare refers to the energy of the Lord, and Kåñëa and Räma refer to the Lord Himself. Therefore, when we chant Hare Kåñëa, we are praying, “O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please accept me.” We have no other prayer than “Please accept me.” Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu taught us that we should simply cry and pray that the Lord accept us. As Caitanya Mahäprabhu Himself prayed,
ayi nanda-tanuja kiìkaraà
patitaà mäà viñame bhavämbudhau
kåpayä tava päda-paìkaja-
“O Kåñëa, son of Nanda, somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of nescience and ignorance. Please pick me up and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.” If a man has fallen into the ocean, his only hope for survival is that someone comes to pick him up. He only has to be lifted one inch above the water in order to feel immediate relief. Similarly, as soon as we take to Kåñëa consciousness, we are lifted up, and we feel immediate relief.
We cannot doubt that the transcendental is there. Bhagavad-gétä is being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself; therefore we should not doubt His word. The only problem is feeling and understanding what He is telling us. That understanding must be developed gradually, and that knowledge will be revealed by the chanting of Hare Kåñëa. By this simple process, we can come to understand the spiritual kingdom, the self, the material world, God, the nature of our conditioning, liberation from material bondage, and everything else. This is called ceto-darpaëa-märjanam [Cc. Antya 20.12], cleaning the dusty mirror of the impure mind.
Whatever the case, we must have faith in the word of Kåñëa. When we purchase a ticket on Pan American or Air India, we have faith that that company will take us to our destination. Faith is created because the company is authorized. Our faith should not be blind; therefore we should accept that which is recognized. Bhagavad-gétä has been recognized as authorized scripture in India for thousands of years, and even outside India there are many scholars, religionists, and philosophers who have accepted Bhagavad-gétä as authoritative. It is said that even such a great scientist as Albert Einstein was reading Bhagavad-gétä regularly. So we should not doubt Bhagavad-gétä’s authenticity.
Therefore when Lord Kåñëa says that there is a supreme abode and that we can go there, we should have faith that such an abode exists. Many philosophers think that the spiritual abode is impersonal or void. Impersonalists like the Çaìkarites and Buddhists generally speak of the void or emptiness, but Bhagavad-gétä does not disappoint us in this way. The philosophy of voidism has simply created atheism, because it is the nature of the living entity to want enjoyment. As soon as he thinks that his future is void, he will try to enjoy the variegatedness of this material life. Thus impersonalism leads to armchair philosophical discussions and attachment to material enjoyment. We may enjoy speculating, but no real spiritual benefit can be derived from such speculation.
Bhaktiù pareçänubhavo viraktir anyatra ca (Bhäg. 11.2.42). Once we have developed the devotional spirit, we will become immediately detached from all kinds of material enjoyment. As soon as a hungry man eats, he feels immediate satisfaction and says, “No, I don’t want any more. I am satisfied.” This satisfaction is a characteristic of the Kåñëa conscious man.
na çocati na käìkñati
samaù sarveñu bhüteñu
mad-bhaktià labhate paräm
“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 entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg. 18.54)
As soon as one is spiritually realized, he feels full satisfaction and no longer hankers after flickering material enjoyment. As stated in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gétä (2.59),
rasa-varjaà raso ’py asya
paraà dåñövä nivartate
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” A doctor may tell a diseased man, “Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that. Don’t have sex. Don’t. Don’t.” In this way, a diseased man is forced to accept so many “don’ts,” but inside he is thinking, “Oh, if I can just get these things, I’ll be happy.” The desires remain inside. However, when one is established in Kåñëa consciousness, he is so strong inside that he doesn’t experience the desire. Although he’s not impotent, he doesn’t want sex. He can marry thrice, but still be detached. Paraà dåñövä nivartate. When something superior is acquired, one naturally gives up all inferior things. That which is superior is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and atheism and impersonalism cannot give us this. He is attained only by unalloyed devotion.
puruñaù sa paraù pärtha
bhaktyä labhyas tv ananyayä
yena sarvam idaà tatam
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is greater than all, is attained by unalloyed devotion. Although He is present in His abode, He is all-pervading, and everything is situated within Him.” (Bg. 8.22) The words puruñaù sa paraù indicate the supreme person who is greater than all others. This is not a void speaking, but a person who has all the characteristics of personality in full. Just as we are talking face to face, when we reach the supreme abode we can talk to God face to face. We can play with Him, eat with Him, and everything else. This state is not acquired by mental speculation but by transcendental loving service (bhaktyä labhyaù). The words tv ananyayä indicate that this bhakti must be without adulteration. It must be unalloyed.
Although the Supreme Personality is a person and is present in His abode in the spiritual sky, He is so widespread that everything is within Him. He is both inside and outside. Although God is everywhere, He still has His kingdom, His abode. The sun may pervade the universe with its sunshine, yet the sun itself is a separate entity.
In His supreme abode, the Supreme Lord has no rival. Wherever we may be, we find a predominating personality. In the United States, the predominating personality is the President. However, when the next election comes, the President will have so many rivals, but in the spiritual sky the Supreme Lord has no rival. Those who want to become rivals are placed in this material world, under the conditions of material nature. In the spiritual sky there is no rivalry, and all the inhabitants therein are liberated souls. From Çrémad-Bhägavatam we receive information that their bodily features resemble gods. In some of the spiritual planets, God manifests a two-armed form, and in others He manifests a four-armed form. The living entities of those planets have corresponding features, and one cannot distinguish who is God and who is not. This is called särüpya-mukti liberation, wherein one has the same features as the Lord. There are five kinds of liberation: säyujya, särüpya, sälokya, särñöi, and sämépya. Säyujya-mukti means merging into God’s impersonal effulgence, the brahmajyoti. We have discussed this, and have concluded that the attempt to merge and lose individuality is not desirable and is very risky. Särüpya-mukti means attaining a body exactly like God’s. Sälokya-mukti means living on the same planet with God. Särñöi-mukti means having the opulence of God. For instance, God is very powerful, and we can become powerful like Him. That is called särñöi. Sämépya-mukti means always remaining with God as one of His associates. For instance, Arjuna is always with Kåñëa as His friend, and this is called sämépya-mukti. We can attain any one of these five types of liberation, but out of these five, säyujya-mukti, merging into the brahmajyoti, is rejected by Vaiñëava philosophy. According to the Vaiñëava philosophy, we worship God as He is and retain our separate identity eternally in order to serve Him. According to the Mäyäväda philosophy, impersonalism, one tries to lose his individual identity and merge into the existence of the Supreme. That, however, is a suicidal policy and is not recommended by Kåñëa in Bhagavad-gétä.
This has also been rejected by Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu, who advocated worship in separation. As stated before, the pure devotee does not even want liberation; he simply asks to remain Kåñëa’s devotee birth after birth. This is Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s prayer, and the words “birth after birth” indicate that there is no liberation. This means that the devotee doesn’t care whether he is liberated or not. He simply wants to engage in Kåñëa consciousness, to serve the Supreme Lord. Always wanting to engage in God’s transcendental loving service is the symptom of pure devotion. Of course, wherever a devotee is, he remains in the spiritual kingdom, even though in the material body. On his part, he does not demand any of the five types of liberation, nor anything for his personal superiority or comfort. But in order to associate with God in the spiritual planets, one must become His pure devotee.
For those who are not pure devotees, Lord Kåñëa explains at what times one should leave the body in order to attain liberation.
yatra käle tv anävåttim
ävåttià caiva yoginaù
prayätä yänti taà kälaà
“O best of the Bhäratas, I shall now explain to you the different times at which, passing away from this world, one does or does not come back.” (Bg. 8.23) In India, unlike in the West, it is common for astrologers to make minute calculations of the astronomical situation at the moment of one’s birth. Indeed, a person’s horoscope is read not only when he is born but also when he dies, in order to determine what his situation will be in the next life. All this can be determined by astrological calculation. In this verse, Lord Kåñëa is accepting those astrological principles, confirming that if one leaves his body at a particular time, he may attain liberation. If one dies at one moment, he may be liberated, or if he dies at another moment, he may have to return to the material world. It is all a question of “chance,” but that chance someway or other is what one has. For the devotee, however, there is no question of chance. Whatever the astrological situation, the devotee in Kåñëa consciousness is guaranteed liberation. For others, there are chances that if they leave their body at a particular moment, they may attain liberation and enter the spiritual kingdom, or they may be reborn.
agnir jyotir ahaù çuklaù
tatra prayätä gacchanti
brahma brahma-vido janäù
“Those who know the Supreme Brahman pass away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment, during the fortnight of the moon and the six months when the sun travels in the north.” (Bg. 8.24) As we all know, the sun’s movements are different: six months it is north of the equator, and six months it is south. The sun is also moving, according to Vedic calculations, and from Çrémad-Bhägavatam we are informed that the sun is situated at the center of the universe. Just as all the planets are moving, the sun is also moving at a speed calculated to be sixteen thousand miles per second. If a person dies when the sun is in the northern hemisphere, he can attain liberation. That is not only the verdict of Bhagavad-gétä, but also of other scriptures.
dhümo rätris tathä kåñëaù
tatra cändramasaà jyotir
yogé präpya nivartate
“The mystic who passes away from this world during the smoke, the night, the moonless fortnight, or in the six months when the sun passes to the south, or who reaches the moon planet, again comes back.” (Bg. 8.25) No one can say when he is going to die, and in that sense the moment of one’s death is accidental. However, for a devotee in Kåñëa consciousness, there is no question of “accidents.”
çukla-kåñëe gaté hy ete
jagataù çäçvate mate
ekayä yäty anävåttim
“According to the Vedas, there are two ways of passing from this world—one in light and one in darkness. When one passes in light, he does not come back; but when one passes in darkness, he returns.” (Bg. 8.26) The same description of departure and return is quoted by Äcärya Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa from the Chändogya Upaniñad. In such a way, those who are fruitive laborers and philosophical speculators from time immemorial are constantly going and coming. Actually they do not attain ultimate salvation, for they do not surrender to Kåñëa.
naite såté pärtha jänan
yogé muhyati kaçcana
tasmät sarveñu käleñu
“The devotees who know these two paths, O Arjuna, are never bewildered. Therefore be always fixed in devotion.” (Bg. 8.27) Herein the Lord confirms that there is no “chance” for one who practices bhakti-yoga. His destination is certain. Whether he dies when the sun is in the northern or southern hemisphere is of no importance. As we have already stated, if one thinks of Kåñëa at the time of death, he will at once be transferred to Kåñëa’s abode. Therefore Kåñëa tells Arjuna to always remain in Kåñëa consciousness. This is possible through the chanting of Hare Kåñëa. Since Kåñëa and His spiritual kingdom are nondifferent, being absolute, Kåñëa and His sound vibration are the same. Simply by vibrating Kåñëa’s name, we can enjoy Kåñëa’s association. If we are walking down the street chanting Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa is also going with us. If we walk down the street and look up at the sky, we may see that the sun or the moon is accompanying us. I can recall about fifty years ago, when I was a householder, my second son, who was about four years old at the time, was walking with me down the street, and he suddenly asked me, “Father, why is the moon going with us?”
If a material object like the moon has the power to accompany us, we can surely understand that the Supreme Lord, who is all-powerful, can always remain with us. Being omnipotent, He can always keep us company, provided that we are also qualified to keep His company. Pure devotees are always merged in the thought of Kåñëa and are always remembering that Kåñëa is with them. Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu has confirmed the absolute nature of Kåñëa in His Çikñäñöaka (verse 2):
nämnäm akäri bahudhä nija-sarva-çaktis
taträrpitä niyamitaù smaraëe na kälaù
etädåçé tava kåpä bhagavan mamäpi
durdaivam édåçam ihäjani nänurägaù
“My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as Kåñëa and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard-and-fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.”
We may take the effort to spend a great deal of money and attempt to build or establish a temple for Kåñëa, but if we do so we must observe many rules and regulations and see properly to the temple’s management. But herein it is confirmed that simply by chanting, any man can have the benefit of keeping company with Kåñëa. Just as Arjuna is deriving benefit by being in the same chariot with Lord Çré Kåñëa, we can also benefit by associating with Kåñëa through the chanting of His holy names—Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. This mahä-mantra is not my personal concoction but is authorized by Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu, who is considered to be not only an authority but the incarnation of Lord Çré Kåñëa Himself. It was Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu who said, “O Lord, You are so kind to the people of this material world that You expand Yourself in Your holy name so that they can associate with You.”
Although the mahä-mantra is in the Sanskrit language and many people do not know its meaning, it is still so attractive that people participate when it is chanted publicly. When chanting the mahä-mantra, we are completely safe, even in this most dangerous position. We should always be aware that in this material world, we are always in a dangerous position. Çrémad-Bhägavatam confirms: padaà padaà yad vipadäà na teñäm. In this world, there is danger at every step. The devotees of the Lord, however, are not meant to remain in this miserable, dangerous place. Therefore we should take care to advance in Kåñëa consciousness while in this human form. Then our happiness is assured.
Man prides himself on being a creature of reason, above the lowly beasts. Yet it seems that when he applies his reason to unlocking the secrets of nature for his benefit, he sinks deeper and deeper into a quagmire of intractable problems. The internal combustion engine gets us where we’re going faster, but also results in choking air pollution, the greenhouse effect, and a dangerous dependence on oil. Harnessing the atom gives us cheap energy, but also leads to weapons of mass destruction, Chernobyl, and a rising tide of dangerous radioactive waste. Modern agribusiness produces a dizzying variety and abundance of food at the supermarket, but also results in the death of the family farm, the pollution of ground water, the loss of precious topsoil, and many other problems.
It’s clear we’re missing something in our attempts to harness the laws of nature for our own purposes. What is that “something”? We find out in the very first mantra of the Éçopaniñad, the foremost of ancient India’s books of wisdom known as the Upaniñads: “Everything in this creation is owned and controlled by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.’’
In nature we see this principle at work. Nature’s arrangement, set up by the Lord, maintains the birds and beasts: the elephant eats his fifty kilos per day, the ant his few grains. If man doesn’t interfere, the natural balance sustains all creatures.
Any agriculturalist will tell you the earth can produce enough food to feed ten times the present human population. Yet political intrigues and wars, unfair distribution of land, the production of cash crops like tobacco, tea, and coffee instead of food, and erosion due to misuse ensure that millions go hungry, even in wealthy countries like the United States.
We must understand the laws of nature from the viewpoint of the Supreme Lord, who has created these laws. In His eyes all the earth’s inhabitants—whether creatures of the land, water, or air—are His sons and daughters. Yet we, the human inhabitants, the “most advanced’’ of His creatures, treat these sons and daughters with great cruelty, from the practice of animal slaughter to destruction of the rain forests. Is it any wonder that we suffer an unending series of natural disasters, wars, epidemics, famines, and the like?
The source of our problem is the desire for sense gratification beyond the consideration of anyone else’s rights. These rights are the rights of the child in relation to the father. Every child has the right to share the wealth of his father. So creating a brotherhood of all creatures on earth depends on understanding the universal fatherhood of God.
As we have seen, the Vedic literature declares that the Supreme Lord owns and controls the entire creation. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. He is the complete whole. Then what is our position? Just as a king is no king without subjects, God is no God without His servants. He is the supreme enjoyer, and we are meant to take part in His enjoyment through service to Him, not by trying to enjoy separately. He is omnipotent and thus completely independent. Our minute independence is a tiny reflection of His total independence. It is our misuse of that minute independence and our attempt to enjoy separate from Him that have resulted in our current predicament.
Why do we misuse our independence? Because we are ignorant of our real nature. The first lesson of the Vedic wisdom is that we are not bodies but rather spirit souls—minute particles of consciousness dwelling within the body and animating it. Just as a car is a machine that allows a driver to travel from point A to point B, the body is a machine that allows the spirit soul to act and to experience sensations and thoughts within the Lord’s material nature. When we understand our true identity as spiritual beings, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, God, we understand that we are meant to serve Him just as the hand or foot serves the whole body.
Our problem, however, is that we forget our identity separate from the body and instead misidentify ourselves with it. If a person happens to be born in America he considers himself an American, if he is born in France he considers himself a Frenchman, and so on. We also identify ourselves according to our sex, race, creed, social status, etc. But all these qualities apply only to the body, not the soul. Therefore embracing them as our true identity causes us to forget the Lord and our relationship with Him, and to see ourselves as independent enjoyers of His material nature.
The Vedic literature explains that human activity, when devoid of service to the Lord, is governed by a subtle law known as the law of karma. This is the familiar law of action and reaction as it pertains to what we do in this world and the enjoyment or suffering we experience as a result. If I cause pain to another living being, then as surely as the wheel of life turns, I will be forced to suffer similar pain. And if I bring happiness to another, a like pleasure awaits me. At every second, with every breath, our activities in this material world cause enjoyment and suffering. To facilitate these endless actions and reactions, there has to be more than just one life. There has to be reincarnation.
Until recently the idea of reincarnation, while universally accepted in India and other Eastern countries, had found few adherents in the West. The Church banned the philosophy of reincarnation centuries ago. This is a long story dating as far back as the history of the early Christian Church between 300 A.D. and 600 A.D. Recounting this controversy is not within the scope of this book, but the denial of this important concept has left a void in the world view of the Western peoples.
However, in the last decade or so many thinkers in the West have begun to take the idea of reincarnation seriously. For example, Dr. Michael Sabom of Emory University Medical School has written a book entitled Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation (1982), which details his studies confirming the out-of-body experiences reported by cardiac arrest patients. Sabom writes, “Could the mind which splits apart from the physical brain be, in essence, the soul, which continues to exist after the final bodily death, according to some religious doctrines?’’
And Dr. Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia, in his book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1966), has documented and verified past-life memories in young children. Other studies using such methods as hypnotic regression indicate that the idea of reincarnation may soon gain acceptance among mainstream scientists in the West.
The Vedic literature makes reincarnation of the soul a central feature in its explanation of human destiny. And the logic is obvious when we consider a simple question like the following: Why is one child born to wealthy parents in the United States, while another is born to starving peasants in Ethiopia? Only the doctrine of karma and reincarnation—reward and punishment carried over many lifetimes—answers this question easily.
The Laws of Nature: An Infallible Justice has been compiled primarily from two sources. The first is a series of talks given on the Çré Éçopaniñad by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda (see “The Author,” p. 84). Delivered in Los Angeles in the spring of 1970, these talks provide an illuminating account of how the universe really operates. The second source is Çréla Prabhupäda’s commentated translation of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam. From the Third Canto of this monumental work we here reproduce Chapter Thirty, titled “Description by Lord Kapila of Adverse Fruitive Activities.” In this section we learn the fate of the sinful soul who transgresses the laws of God’s nature and incurs punishment according to the law of karma.
In one of his Éçopaniñad talks, Çréla Prabhupäda says, “If you do good work, you will have so-called enjoyment in your next life—but you will remain bound up in the cycle of birth and death. And if you do bad work, then you will have to suffer the sinful reactions and also remain bound up in birth and death. But if you work for Kåñëa, there are no such reactions, good or bad, and at the time of death you will return to Kåñëa. This is the only way to break the bonds of karma.”
And this is the only way for society as a whole to mitigate the sufferings mentioned earlier. While we are in this world there is no getting rid of suffering al-together, for, as the Vedic teachings recognize, this material world is by nature a place of suffering. Ultimately we are powerless in the midst of a vast array of natural forces. The hope, therefore, is to know and follow the will of the Supreme Lord, the master of nature. Only in this way can we transcend the laws of nature, end the cycle of reincarnation, and attain the perfection of life—love of God and a place in His kingdom.
LON 1: God and The Law of Karma
Among the vast ancient Sanskrit writings known as the Vedas, the 108 Upaniñads contain the philosophical essence. And among all the Upaniñads, the Éçopaniñad is considered the foremost. In the following essay, based on talks Çréla Prabhupäda gave on the Éçopaniñad in 1968, we learn the truth about the Supreme Lord, the laws governing His material and spiritual energies, and how to break free of the bondage of karma.
The Éçopaniñad states that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is “perfect and complete.” Part of the Lord’s complete arrangement for this material world is his process of creation, maintenance, and destruction. Every living being in this material world has a fixed schedule of six changes: birth, growth, maintenance, the production of by-products, diminution, and destruction. This is the law of material nature. A flower is born as a bud. It grows, remains fresh for two or three days, produces a seed, gradually withers, and then is finished. You cannot stop this by your so-called material science. To try to do so is avidyä, ignorance.
Sometimes people foolishly think that by scientific advancement man will become immortal. This is nonsense. You cannot stop the material laws. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gétä (7.14) Lord Kåñëa says that the material energy is duratyayä, impossible to overcome by material means.
Material nature consists of three modes, or guëas: sattva-guëa, rajo-guëa, and tamo-guëa, or the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Another meaning of guëa is “rope.” Rope is made by twisting fiber in a threefold process. First the fiber is twisted in three small strands, then three of them are twisted together, then again three of those are twisted together. In this way the rope becomes very strong. Similarly, the three modes of nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance—are mixed, after which they produce some by-product. Then they are mixed again, and then again. Thus they are “twisted together” innumerable times.
In this way the material energy binds you more and more. By your own efforts you cannot get out of this bondage, which is known as pavarga. Pa-varga is the fifth set of letters in the Sanskrit Devanägaré alphabet. It contains the letters pa, pha, ba, bha, and ma. Pa stands for pariçrama, “hard labor.” Every living entity in this world is struggling very hard to maintain himself and survive. This is called the hard struggle for existence. Pha stands for phena, “foam.” When a horse works very hard, foam comes out of its mouth. Similarly, when we are tired from working very hard, our tongue may become dry and some foam forms in our mouth. Everyone is working very hard for sense gratification—so much so that foam is coming from their mouth. Ba represents bandha, “bondage.” In spite of all our efforts, we remain bound up by the ropes of the material modes of nature. Bha stands for bhaya, “fear.” In material life, one is always in a blazing fire of fear, since no one knows what will happen next. And ma represents måtyu, “death.” All our hopes and plans for happiness and security in this world are ended by death.
So, Kåñëa consciousness nullifies this pavarga process. In other words, by taking to Kåñëa consciousness one attains apavarga, where there is no hard struggle for existence and no material bondage, fear, or death. Pavarga symptomizes this material world, but when you add the prefix “a” to pavarga, that means it is nullified. Our Kåñëa consciousness movement is the path of apavarga.
Unfortunately, people do not know of these things, and therefore they are wasting their lives. This modern civilization is a soul-killing civilization; people are killing themselves because they do not know what real life is. They are simply living like animals. The animal does not know what life is, so he simply works under the laws of nature, undergoing gradual evolution. But when you get this human form of life, you have a responsibility to live in a different way. Here is a chance for you to become Kåñëa conscious and solve all problems. But if you don’t—if you continue to act like animals—you will again have to enter the cycle of birth and death and transmigrate through 8,400,000 species of life. It will take many, many millions of years to come back to the human form of life. For example, the sunshine you are seeing now you will not see again until after twenty-four hours. Everything in nature moves in a cycle. So if you lose this opportunity of elevating yourself, then again you must enter the cycle of transmigration. Nature’s law is very strong. Therefore we are opening so many centers so that people may take advantage of this International Society for Krishna Consciousness and elevate themselves.
It is important to take to Kåñëa consciousness immediately, because we do not know how much time is left before death. When your time in this body expires, no one can stop your death. The arrangement of material nature is so strong. You cannot say, “Let me remain.” Actually, people sometimes request like that. When I was in Allahabad, an old friend who was very rich was dying. At that time he begged the doctor, “Can’t you give me at least four more years to live? I have some plans which I could not finish.” You see. This is foolishness. Everyone thinks, “Oh, I have to do this. I have to do that.” No. Neither the doctors nor the scientists can check death: “Oh, no, sir. Not four years, not even four minutes. You have to go immediately.” This is the law. So before that moment comes, one should be very careful to become realized in Kåñëa consciousness. You should realize Kåñëa consciousness very quickly. Before your next death comes, you must finish your business. That is intelligence. Otherwise you will suffer defeat.
The Éçopaniñad states that whatever emanates from the complete whole—the Supreme Lord—is also complete in itself. Therefore if you want to take advantage of your life and become Kåñëa conscious, there is complete facility. But you have to come to the point of taking up the practice. Kåñëa consciousness is not theoretical; it is practical. All experiments have already been performed. So, as indicated in the Éçopaniñad, there is a complete facility for the small complete units—ourselves—to realize the supreme complete, Kåñëa. We are complete units, but we are small. For example, in a big machine there is a small screw, and the perfection of that small screw is to be fitted in its proper place. Then it has value. But if it becomes unscrewed from the machine and falls down on the floor, it has no value. Similarly, we are perfect as long as we are attached to Kåñëa; otherwise we are useless.
To realize the complete means to realize what our relationship with the complete is. And all forms of incompleteness are experienced only on account of incomplete knowledge of the complete. We are thinking, “I am equal to God. I am God.” This is incomplete knowledge. But if you know, “I am part and parcel of God, and therefore I am equal to God in quality,” that is complete knowledge. The human form of life is a chance to revive the complete manifestation of the consciousness of the living being. You can revive this complete consciousness by the process of Kåñëa consciousness. But if you don’t take advantage of this complete facility, you are killing yourself, committing suicide. As it is said in the Éçopaniñad, “The killer of the soul, whoever he may be, must enter into the planets known as the worlds of the faithless, full of darkness and ignorance. ” So don’t be the killer of your soul. Utilize the complete facility of your human life to become Kåñëa conscious. That is your only business.
In conditioned life we are committing sins at every step, even without knowing it. The reason we are sinning unknowingly is that we have been in ignorance from our very birth. This ignorance is prominent despite so many educational institutions. Why? Because despite so many big, big universities, none of them is teaching ätma-tattva, the science of the soul. Therefore people remain in ignorance, and they continue to sin and suffer the reactions. That is stated in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam (5.5.3): paräbhavas tävad abodha-jäto yävan na jijïäsata ätma-tattvam. This foolishness will continue until one comes to the platform of understanding self-realization. Otherwise, all these universities and institutions for imparting knowledge are a continuation of that same ignorance and foolishness. Unless one comes to the point of asking “What am I? What is God? What is this world? What is my relationship with God and this world?” and finds proper answers, one continues to be foolish like an animal and is subjected to transmigration from one body to another in different species of life. This is the result of ignorance.
So, the modern civilization is very risky. One may feel comfortable as a successful businessman or politician, or one may think oneself comfortable because of being born in a rich nation like America, but these statuses of life are temporary. They will have to change, and we do not know what kind of miseries we will have to suffer in our next life because of our sinful activities. So if one does not begin cultivating transcendental knowledge, then one’s life is very risky. Suppose a healthy man is living in a contaminated place. Is his life not at risk? He may become infected by disease at any moment. Therefore we should work to dissipate our ignorance through cultivation of transcendental knowledge.
A good example of how we commit sins unknowingly is cooking. In the Bhagavad-gétä (3.13) Kåñëa says that His devotees are freed from sin because they eat only the remnants of food that has been offered to Him. But, He says, those who cook for themselves eat only sin. The difference between cooking here in this temple and cooking in some ordinary house is that our cooking and eating are relieving us from sin, while the cooking and eating of a nondevotee are simply entangling him more and more in sin. The cooking appears to be the same, but this cooking and that cooking are different. Here there is no sin because the food is being cooked for Kåñëa.
Anything you do outside the field of Kåñëa conscious activities entangles you in the modes of nature. Generally, you are being implicated in sinful activities. Those who are a little more cautious avoid sinful activities and perform pious activities. But one who performs pious activities is also entangled. If a man is pious, he may take birth in a family that is very rich or aristocratic, or he may be very beautiful or get the opportunity to become very learned. These are the results of pious activities. But whether you are pious or impious, you have to enter into the womb of some mother. And that tribulation is very severe. That we have forgotten. Whether you take birth in a very rich and aristocratic family or from an animal womb, the pangs of birth, old age, disease, and death continue.
The Kåñëa consciousness movement is meant to give you an opportunity to solve these four problems—birth, old age, disease, and death. But if you continue to act sinfully and eat sinfully, then these miseries will continue. Otherwise, you can nullify your sinful reactions by surrendering to Kåñëa, as He states in the Bhagavad-gétä (18.66): “Just give up all your so-called religious practices and surrender unto Me. I shall protect you from all your sinful reactions.” Part of surrendering to Kåñëa is being careful not to eat anything that has not been offered to Him. That should be our determination. Even if we have committed some sin, by eating prasädam, food offered to Kåñëa, we will counteract it. If we surrender to Kåñëa in this way, He will protect us from sinful reactions. That is His promise.
And where does a surrendered devotee go at the time of death? Is he finished, as the voidists say? No. Kåñëa says, mäm eti: “He comes to Me.” And what is the benefit of going there? Mäm upetya punar janma duùkhälayam açäçvatam näpnuvanti: [Bg. 8.15] “One who comes back to Me does not have to return to this miserable material world.” That is the highest perfection.
The Éçopaniñad states, “The killer of the soul, whoever he may be, must enter into the planets known as the worlds of the faithless, full of darkness and ignorance.” Kåñëa is a lion to the demons and a lamb to the devotees. The atheists say, “We have not seen Kåñëa.” Yes, you will see Kåñëa—you will see Him as the lion of death when He ultimately comes to capture you: “Ow!” The atheist sees Kåñëa as death. And the theist, or devotee, sees Kåñëa as his lover, as gentle as a lamb.
Actually, everyone is engaged in Kåñëa’s service, either out of love or by force. One who is entangled in material life is engaged in Kåñëa’s service because he is forced to serve Kåñëa’s external, material energy. It is just like what we see with the citizens of the state: whether one is a law-abiding citizen or a criminal, one is subservient to the state. The criminal may say he doesn’t care for the state, but then the police will force him to accept the authority of the state by putting him in prison.
Therefore, whether one accepts or rejects Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s philosophy that every living entity is eternally the servant of Kåñëa, one remains His servant. The only difference is that the atheist is being forced to accept Kåñëa as his master, and the devotee is voluntarily offering Him service. This Kåñëa consciousness movement is teaching people that they are eternal servants of God and should voluntarily offer Him service: “Don’t falsely claim that you are God. Oh, you don’t care for God? You have to care.” The great demon Hiraëya-kaçipu also didn’t care for God, and so God came and killed him. God is seen by the atheist as death, but by the theist as a lover. That is the difference.
If you are a devotee and understand this philosophy of spiritual life, you can live for a moment or you can live for a hundred years—it doesn’t matter. Otherwise, what is the use of living? Some trees live for five hundred or five thousand years, but what is the use of such a life, devoid of higher consciousness?
If you know that you are Kåñëa’s servant and that everything belongs to Kåñëa, you can live for hundreds of years doing your duties and there will be no karmic reaction. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gétä (3.9): yajïärthät karmaëo ’nyatra loko ’yaà karma-bandhanaù. “Except work for Kåñëa, any work, whether good or bad, will bind you to this material world.” If you do good work, you will have so-called enjoyment in your next life—but you will still remain bound up in the cycle of birth and death. And if you do bad work, then you will have to suffer the sinful reactions and also remain bound up in birth and death. But if you work for Kåñëa, there are no such reactions, good or bad, and at the time of death you will return to Kåñëa. This is the only way to break the bonds of karma.
In the Éçopaniñad, the word éça is used to describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Éça means “controller.” Do you think you are controlled or not? Is there any person anywhere within this universe who is not controlled? Can anyone say, “I am not controlled”? Nobody can say that. So if you are controlled, then why do you declare, “I am not controlled, I am independent, I am God”? Why this nonsense? Mäyävädé impersonalists claim, “I am God, you are God, everyone is God.” But if they are controlled, how can they be God? Does this make any sense? God is never controlled; He is the supreme controller. So if somebody is controlled, immediately we should know that he is not God.
Of course, some rascals claim that they are not controlled. I know one such rascal who has a society and is preaching, “I am God.” But one day I saw him with a toothache; he was moaning, “Ohhh!” So I asked him, “You claim that you are God, the supreme controller, but now you are under the control of a toothache. What kind of God are you?” So if you see someone who claims that he is God or that everyone is God, you should immediately know such a person is a number-one rascal.
Now, this is not to say that the living entities are not controllers to some extent. In the Bhagavad-gétä Lord Kåñëa says that the living entities are His superior energy. Why are the living entities superior energy? Because they are conscious, whereas the material energy is not. Therefore the living entities can control the material energy to some extent. For example, all the paraphernalia in this temple has been made from matter: earth, water, fire, and air. But it was a living entity who molded the material energy into this paraphernalia for the purpose of worshiping Kåñëa. Another example: before people came from Europe, this land of America was mostly vacant. The people who lived here before that did not fully exploit it. But the Europeans came and developed it into a country with great industries and roads.
So the superior energy, the living entities, can have some control over the material energy. That Kåñëa explains in the Bhagavad-gétä (7.5): yayedaà dhäryate jagat. The importance of this material world is due to the living entities. A big city like Los Angeles, New York, or London is valuable as long as the living entities are there. Similarly, the body is valuable as long as the living entity—the soul—is there. Therefore the soul is superior to matter. But that superiority is being misused to exploit matter for sense gratification. That is conditioned life. We have forgotten that, although we are superior to matter, we are still subordinate to God.
The people of the modern civilization do not care for God because they are intoxicated with their superiority over matter. They are simply trying to exploit matter in different ways. But they are forgetting that all people—American, Russian, Chinese, Indian—are subordinate to God. They have forgotten Kåñëa and want to enjoy this material world. That is their disease.
So, the duty of the devotee of the Lord is to invoke the people’s Kåñëa consciousness. The devotee explains to them: “You are superior to matter, but you are subordinate to Kåñëa. Therefore you should not try to enjoy matter but rather use it for His enjoyment.” For example, we have decorated this temple not for our sense gratification but for Kåñëa’s pleasure. What is the difference between us and ordinary people? They are decorating their apartment very nicely, and we are decorating our place very nicely—but the purpose is different. We are doing it for Kåñëa, and they are doing it for themselves. Whether you decorate your personal apartment or Kåñëa’s temple, your superiority over matter remains, since you are utilizing matter for your purposes. But when you apply your intelligence toward utilizing matter for Kåñëa’s pleasure, your life is successful, whereas when you apply the same intelligence for your sense gratification, you become entangled in material nature and feel anxiety. Then you have to change bodies, one after another.
Kåñëa is the supreme controller of both the inferior energy, matter, and the superior energy, the jévätmä—ourselves. We are Kåñëa’s superior energy because we can control the material world, but that control is also conditional. We have only limited control over this material world. But Kåñëa has control over us; therefore, whatever control we have, He has sanctioned. For example, a human being has manufactured this nice microphone using his intelligence. That means he has been able to control matter to a certain degree to fulfill his desires. But where has his intelligence come from? Kåñëa has given man his superior intelligence. In the Bhagavad-gétä (15.15) Kåñëa says, sarvasya cähaà hådi sanniviñöo mattaù småtir jïänam apohanaà ca: “I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness.” Therefore the supreme controller is giving intelligence to the superior energy in the human form of body: “Do this. Now do that...” This direction is not whimsical. The person wanted to do something in his past life, but in his present life he forgets, and so Kåñëa reminds him: “You wanted to do this. Here is an opportunity.” So although you have superior intelligence, that is also controlled by Kåñëa. If Kåñëa gives you the intelligence, you can manufacture this nice microphone. Otherwise, you cannot. Therefore in every sphere of life we are controlled by Kåñëa.
We can also see Kåñëa’s control on the universal level. For example, there are so many huge planets; this earth planet is only a small one. Still, on this planet there are big oceans like the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as big mountains and skyscraper buildings. Yet despite all this load, the earth is floating in the air just like a swab of cotton. Who is floating it? Can you float even a grain of sand in the air? You may talk about the law of gravity and so many other things, but you cannot control it. Your airplane is flying in the air, but as soon as the petrol is finished, it will immediately fall. So if it takes so many scientists to build an airplane that can float only temporarily in the air, is it possible that this huge earth is floating of its own accord? No. Lord Kåñëa declares in the Bhagavad-gétä (15.13), “I enter into the material planets and keep them aloft.” Just as to keep an airplane aloft a pilot has to enter it, so to keep this earth aloft Kåñëa has entered it. This is the simple truth.
We have to take knowledge from Kåñëa. We shouldn’t accept any process of gaining knowledge except hearing from Kåñëa or His representative. Then we will have first-class knowledge. If you find an authority who is representing Kåñëa and who can speak on the subject matter, and if you accept the knowledge he gives, then your knowledge is perfect. Of all the processes for receiving knowledge, the least reliable is direct sense perception. Suppose someone asks, “Can you show me God?” That means he wants to experience everything directly. But this is a second-class process for gaining knowledge, because our senses are imperfect and we are prone to make mistakes. Suppose you need some gold but you don’t know where to purchase it. So you go to a proprietor of a hardware store and ask, “Do you have any gold in stock?” He will immediately understand that you are a first-class fool because you have come to purchase gold in a hardware store. Therefore he will try to cheat you. He will give you a piece of iron and say, “Here is gold.” Then what will you say? Will you accept that iron as gold? Because you do not know what gold is and have gone to a hardware store to purchase it, you will get a piece of iron and be cheated. Similarly, rascals who demand that they be shown God do not know what God is, and therefore they are being cheated by so many bogus spiritual leaders who claim that they are God. That is happening.
If you want to purchase gold, you must have at least some preliminary knowledge of what gold is. Similarly, if you want to see God, the first requirement is that you must know some of the basic characteristics of God. Otherwise, if you go to some rascal and he claims to be God and you accept him as God, you will be cheated.
Another question we should ask when someone says “I want to see God” is, “What qualification do you have to see God?” God is not so cheap that He can be seen by anybody and everybody. No, the Kåñëa consciousness movement does not present any nonsense or cheap thing. If you want to see God face to face, then you must follow the rules and regulations. You must chant Hare Kåñëa and purify yourself. Then gradually the time will come when you are purified and you will see God.
Still, even though in your present contaminated condition you are not qualified to see God, He is so kind that He allows you to see Him in His Deity form in the temple. In that form He agrees to be seen by everyone, whether or not one knows He is God. The Deity is not an idol; it is not imagination. The knowledge of how to construct the Deity and install Him on the altar is received from the scripture and the superior äcäryas, or spiritual masters. Therefore the authorized Deity in the temple is Kåñëa Himself and can fully reciprocate your love and service.
With your present blunt material senses, however, you cannot immediately perceive God’s spiritual form, name, qualities, pastimes, and paraphernalia. And because people in the present civilization have no power to understand God, nor are they guided by some person who can help them understand God, they have become godless. But if you read Vedic scriptures like the Éçopaniñad and Bhagavad-gétä under superior guidance and follow the rules and regulations, eventually God will be revealed to you. You cannot see God or understand God by your own endeavor. You have to surrender to the process by which God can be known. Then He will reveal Himself. He is the supreme controller; you are being controlled. So how can you control God? “O God, come here. I want to see You.” God is not so cheap that by your order He will come and be seen by you. No, that is not possible. You must always remember, “God is the supreme controller and I am controlled. So if I can please God by my service, then He will reveal Himself to me.” That is the process of knowing God.
Ultimately, this process leads to love of God. That is real religion. It doesn’t matter whether you follow the Hindu, Muslim, or Christian religion: if you are developing love of God, then you are perfect in your religion. And what kind of love should we develop for God? It must be without any selfish motivation—“O Lord, I love you because You supply me so many nice things. You are my order supplier.” No, we should not have this sort of love for God. It should not depend on any exchange.
Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu taught, “O Lord! Whether You trample me under Your feet or embrace me or leave me brokenhearted by not being present before me, that does not matter. You are completely free to do anything, for You are my worshipable Lord unconditionally.” That is love. We should think, “God may do whatever He likes, yet I will still love Him. I don’t want anything in exchange.” That is the sort of love Kåñëa wants. That is why He is so fond of the gopés. In the gopés’ love there is no question of business ex-changes—“Give me this, then I will love You.” Their love was pure, unalloyed, without any impediment. If you try to love God in this way, nothing in the whole world can check you. You only have to develop your eagerness—“Kåñëa! I want You.” That’s all. Then there is no question of being stopped. In any condition your love will increase. If you attain that state, you will feel fully satisfied. It is not that God wants you to love Him for His benefit. It is for your benefit. If you do otherwise, you will never be happy.
The Éçopaniñad explains that whatever we see, whether animate or inanimate, is controlled by the Supreme Lord. Lord Kåñëa says the same thing in the Bhagavad-gétä (9.10)—that His energies are managing everything. And the Viñëu Puräëa confirms, eka-deça-sthitasyägner jyotsnä vistäriné yathä: “As heat and light are distributed all around by a fire situated in one place, so the whole creation is a manifestation of energies expanded from the Supreme Lord.” For example, the sun is in one place, but it is distributing its heat and light all over the universe. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is distributing His material and spiritual energies all over the creation.
The spiritual energy is present in this temporary material world, but it is covered by the material energy. For example, the sun is always shining in the sky—no one can stop the sun from shining—but it is sometimes covered by a cloud. When this happens, the sunshine on the ground is dim. The more the sun is covered, the dimmer the sunlight. But this covering of the sun is partial. All the sunshine cannot be covered; that is not possible. An insignificant portion of the sunshine may be covered by a cloud. Similarly, this material world is an insignificant portion of the spiritual world that is covered by the material energy.
And what is the material energy? The material energy is just another form of the spiritual energy. It manifests when there is an absence of spiritual activity. Again the analogy of the sun and the cloud: What is a cloud? It is an effect of the sunshine. The sunshine evaporates water from the sea, and a cloud is formed. So the sun is the cause of the cloud. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the cause of this material energy, which covers our vision of Him.
In this way, two energies are working in this material world: the spiritual energy and the material energy. The material energy consists of eight material elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego. These are arranged from the grosser to the finer. Water is finer than earth, fire is finer than water, etc.
So, the finer the element, the more powerful it is. For example, at the speed of the mind you can go many thousands of miles within a second. But even more powerful than the mind is the intelligence, and even more powerful than the intelligence is spiritual energy. What is spiritual energy? That is stated by Kåñëa in the Bhagavad-gétä (7.5): apareyam itas tv anyäà prakåtià viddhi me paräm jéva-bhütäm. “Beyond My inferior, material energy is another energy, which is spiritual. It comprises the living entities.”
We living entities are also energy, but superior energy. How are we superior? Because we can control the inferior energy, matter. Matter has no power to act on its own. The big airplane can fly so nicely in the sky, but unless the spiritual energy—the pilot—is there, it is useless. The jet plane will sit in the airport for thousands of years; it will not fly unless the small particle of spiritual energy, the pilot, comes and touches it. So what is the difficulty in understanding God? If there are so many huge machines that cannot move without the touch of the spiritual energy, a living being, then how can you argue that this whole material energy works automatically, without any control? Who would put forward such a foolish argument? Therefore, those who cannot understand how this material energy is being controlled by the Supreme Lord are less intelligent. The godless men who believe that this material energy is working automatically are fools.
The statement of the Éçopaniñad is that “Everything animate or inanimate is controlled and owned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Because He is the supreme controller, He is also the supreme proprietor. In our practical experience we see that the man who controls a business establishment is the proprietor. Similarly, since God is the controller of this material world, He is also its proprietor. This means that as far as possible we should engage everything in the Lord’s service.
Then what about our own needs? That is explained in the Éçopaniñad: “One should accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” Kåñëa consciousness means to understand things as they are. So if we simply understand these principles, we will be well situated in Kåñëa consciousness.
The Éçopaniñad states, “Although fixed in His abode, the Personality of Godhead is swifter than the mind and can overcome all others running. The powerful demigods cannot approach Him. Although in one place, He controls those who supply the air and rain. He surpasses all in excellence.” The Brahma-saàhitä says something similar: goloka eva nivasaty akhilätma-bhütaù [Bs. 5.37]. Although Kåñëa is always in Goloka Våndävana, He is simultaneously in the hearts of all living beings.
Kåñëa has no duties to perform in Goloka. He is simply enjoying in the company of His associates—the gopés, the cowherd boys, His mother and father, His cows and calves, etc. He is completely free. And His associates are even freer than He is, because when they seem to be in danger, Kåñëa feels some anxiety about how to save them. But His associates feel no anxiety. They simply think, “Oh, Kåñëa is here. He will protect us.” When Kåñëa enacted His pastimes five thousand years ago in Våndävana, India, He would go every day with His cowherd boyfriends and their calves and cows to play in the forest on the bank of the Yamunä River. And often Kaàsa would send some demon to try to kill Kåñëa and His friends. Yet the cowherd boys would continue enjoying their pastimes without anxiety because they were so confident of Kåñëa’s protection. That is spiritual life, which begins with surrendering to Kåñëa.
Surrendering to Kåñëa means having the strong faith that Kåñëa will save us in any dangerous condition. The first step in surrendering is that we should accept whatever is favorable for devotional service. Then we should reject anything that is unfavorable for devotional service. The next stage is the confidence that in any situation Kåñëa will protect us and maintain us. Actually, He is already giving protection and maintenance to everyone. That is a fact. But in mäyä (illusion) we think that we are protecting ourselves, or that we are feeding ourselves.
For the devotees, Kåñëa personally takes charge of their protection and maintenance. And for the ordinary living entities, Mäyä-devé—Kåñëa’s external energy—takes charge. Mäyä-devé is Kåñëa’s agent for punishing the conditioned souls. The situation is like what we see in the state: good citizens are taken care of by the government directly, while criminals are taken care of by the government through the prison department. In the prison house the government takes care that the prisoners get sufficient food, and that they get hospital treatment if they become diseased. The government cares for them—but under punishment.
Similarly, in this material world Kåñëa has certainly arranged for our care, but also for our punishment. If you commit this sin, then slap. If you commit that sin, then kick. This is going on under the heading of the threefold miseries—those caused by our own body and mind, those caused by other living entities, and those caused by natural calamities under the supervision of the demigods. Unfortunately, instead of understanding that we are being punished for sinful activities, under the spell of mäyä we are thinking that this kicking, slapping, and thrashing are accidental. This is illusion.
As soon as you take up Kåñëa consciousness, Kåñëa begins personally taking care of you. As He promises in the Bhagavad-gétä (18.66), “I will take care of you. I will save you from all sinful reactions. Do not worry.” Because we have had so many lives in this material world, we are suffering under heaps of sinful reactions. But as soon as you surrender to Kåñëa, He immediately takes care of you and nullifies all your sinful reactions. Kåñëa says, “Don’t hesitate.” Don’t think, “Oh, I have committed so many sins. How can Kåñëa save me?” No. Kåñëa is all-powerful. He can save you. Your duty is to surrender to Him and without any reservation dedicate your life to His service. Then Kåñëa will save you without a doubt.
The Éçopaniñad states, “The Supreme Lord walks and does not walk. He is far away, but He is very near as well. He is within everything, and yet He is outside of everything.” How can Kåñëa walk and also not walk? As a crude example, consider how the sun at noontime shines on your head. Now, if you begin walking, you will see that the sun is accompanying you. About forty years ago, when I was a householder, I was once walking with my second son in the evening. He was four years old. All of a sudden he said, “O father, why is the moon following us?” You see? The moon and the sun are fixed in the sky, yet they seem to be moving with us. Similarly, if you are going on an airplane or a train, you will see that the moon or the sun is going with you. So if this is possible for the sun and the moon, why can’t Kåñëa also walk with you? “Although He is situated far away, He is very near as well.” In other words, although Kåñëa is in Goloka Våndävana enjoying pastimes with His associates, He is simultaneously everywhere in this material world. In this way the Supreme Lord “walks and does not walk.”
If Kåñëa were not present here as well as in Goloka, how could He accept the food the devotees offer Him? Don’t think that Kåñëa does not accept the devotees’ offerings. He can stretch His hand immediately if one offers Him something with devotion. In the Bhagavad-gétä (9.26) Kåñëa says, tad ahaà bhakty-upahåtam açnämi: “Whenever someone offers Me something with faith and love, I accept it.” People may ask, “Oh, Kåñëa is far away in Goloka Våndävana. How can He eat your offering?” Yes, He accepts it. Yes, He eats it—provided it is offered with love.
So, Kåñëa is present everywhere, and He can manifest Himself anywhere immediately, but you must have the qualification to call Him. If you are actually a devotee, Kåñëa will immediately come to protect you. The demon Hiraëyakaçipu challenged his son, the devotee Prahläda: “Where is your God? You say He is everywhere. Then is He in this column of my palace? You think your God is there? All right. Then I will kill Him.” Hiraëyakaçipu immediately broke the column. Then Kåñëa came out of the column in His form as Nåsiàhadeva—half man and half lion—and killed the demon. That is Kåñëa.
So Kåñëa can manifest Himself anywhere because He is present everywhere. That is explained in the Éçopaniñad: tad antarasya sarvasya tad u sarvasyäsya bähyataù. “The Supreme Lord is within everything, and yet He is outside of everything as well.” This Vedic mantra is proof that the Lord is everywhere. Whatever is said in the Vedas is a fact. Unless you accept the Vedas as axiomatic truth, you cannot make progress in Kåñëa consciousness. In mathematics there are also many axiomatic truths—a point has no length or breadth, things equal to the same thing are equal to one another, etc. These are axiomatic truths, and we have to accept them if we want to learn mathematics. Similarly, the Vedas contain axiomatic truths, and we have to accept the Vedas as axiomatic if we want to make spiritual progress.
Sometimes the Vedas seem to contradict themselves, but still we have to accept all the Vedic injunctions. For example, according to Vedic injunction, if you touch the bone of an animal you immediately become impure and must take a bath. Now, a conchshell is the bone of an animal, but the conchshell is used in the Deity room, where everything must be spotlessly pure. You cannot argue, “Oh, you said that a bone is impure, and that as soon as you touch it you become impure. Still you are putting a conchshell in the Deity room?” No. There is no room for such an argument. You have to accept that while bones are impure, the conchshell is so pure that it can be used in the Deity room.
Similarly, you have to accept the spiritual master’s order as axiomatic. There can be no argument. In this way you can make progress. You cannot argue about things that are inconceivable to you. You will only fail. You have to accept the Vedic injunctions and the orders of the spiritual master as axiomatic truth. This is not dogmatic, because our predecessor spiritual masters accepted this principle. If you argue with your spiritual master, you will never reach a conclusion. The argument will go on perpetually: you put some argument, I put some argument... That is not the process.
As the Mahäbhärata says, tarko ’pratiñöhaù çrutayo vibhinnä: Mere logic and argument can never come to a firm conclusion, and due to different countries and different circumstances, one scripture is different from another. Then näsäv åñir yasya mataà na bhinnam: As far as philosophical speculation is concerned, one philosopher puts forward some theory, then another philosopher puts forward another theory, and the theories always contradict each other. Unless you defeat another philosopher, you cannot be a famous philosopher. That is the way of philosophy. Then how can one learn the conclusive philosophical truth? That is stated: dharmasya tattvaà nihitaà guhäyäm. The secret of the religious process is lying within the hearts of the self-realized souls. Then how do you realize it? Mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù: You have to follow in the footsteps of great spiritual personalities. Therefore we are trying to follow Lord Kåñëa and Lord Caitanya. That is perfection. You have to accept the injunctions of the Vedas, and you have to follow the instructions of the bona fide spiritual master. Then success is sure.
The Éçopaniñad states, “One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can cause him illusion or anxiety?” This realization is Kåñëa consciousness. There are different kinds of realization, but the devotee of Kåñëa realizes the truth—that we are qualitatively one with the Lord but quantitatively different from Him. The impersonalists think that we are a hundred percent one with the Lord, or the Supreme Absolute Truth. But that is not a fact. If we were a hundred percent one with the Supreme Lord, then how have we come under the control of mäyä (illusion)? The impersonalists cannot answer this question.
The real nature of our identity with the Supreme is described in the Vedic literature with the analogy of the sparks and the fire. The sparks of a fire have the same quality as the fire, yet they are different in quantity. But when the small spark leaves the fire and falls down in water, its fiery quality is lost. Similarly, when the infinitesimal soul leaves the association of the Lord and contacts the mode of ignorance, his spiritual quality becomes almost extinct. When a spark falls on the land instead of in the water, then the spark retains some heat. Similarly, when the living entity is in the quality of passion, there is some hope that he can revive his Kåñëa consciousness. And if the spark drops onto dry grass, it can ignite another fire and regain all its fiery qualities. Similarly, a person who is in the mode of goodness can take full advantage of spiritual association and easily revive his Kåñëa consciousness. Therefore one has to come to the platform of goodness in this material world.
Again, the analogy of the fire can help us understand the simultaneous oneness and difference of the Lord and His diverse energies. Fire has two main energies, heat and light. Wherever there is fire, there is heat and light. Now, the heat is not different from the fire, nor is the light—but still, heat and light are not fire. Similarly, the whole universe can be understood in this way. The universe is simply made up of Kåñëa’s energies, and therefore nothing is different from Kåñëa. But still, Kåñëa is separate from everything in the material universe.
So, whatever we see within the material or spiritual worlds is but an expansion of Kåñëa’s multifarious energies. This material world is an expansion of Kåñëa’s external energy (bahiraìgä çakti), the spiritual world is an expansion of His internal energy (antaraìgä çakti), and we living entities are an expansion of His marginal energy (taöasthä çakti). We are çakti, energy. We are not the energetic.
The Mäyävädé philosophers say that because the energies are not outside of Brahman, the energetic, they are all identical with Brahman. This is monism. Our Vaiñëava philosophy is that the energy is simultaneously one with and different from the energetic. Again the analogy of the heat and fire: When you perceive heat, you understand that there is fire nearby. But this does not mean that because you feel some heat, you are in the fire. So the heat and the fire, the energy and the energetic, are one yet different.
So the Mäyäväda philosophy of oneness and our Vaiñëava philosophy of oneness are different. The Mäyä-vädés say Brahman is real but that the energy emanating from Brahman is false. We say that because Brahman is real, His energy must also be real. That is the difference between Mäyäväda philosophy and Vaiñëava philosophy. One cannot claim that this material energy is false, although it is certainly temporary. Suppose we have some trouble. There are so many kinds of trouble pertaining to the body and mind and external affairs. That trouble comes and goes, but when we are undergoing it, it is certainly real. We feel the consequence. We cannot say it is false. The Mäyävädé philosophers say that it is false. But then why do they become so disturbed when they have some trouble? No, none of Kåñëa’s energies is false.
The Éçopaniñad uses the word vijänataù—“one who knows”—to describe a person who understands the oneness and difference of the Lord and His energies. If one is not vijänataù, one will remain in illusion and suffer. But for one who knows, there is no illusion, no lamentation. When you are perfectly convinced that there is nothing except Kåñëa and Kåñëa’s energies, then there is no illusion or lamentation for you. This is known as the brahma-bhüta stage, as explained in the Bhagavad-gétä (18.54): brahma-bhütaù prasannätmä na çocati na käìkñati. “One who is transcendentally situated in Brahman realization becomes fully joyful, and he never laments or desires to have anything.”
For our sense gratification we are very eager to get things we do not have. That is hankering. And when we lose something, we lament. But if we know that Kåñëa is the source and proprietor of the entire material energy, we understand that everything belongs to Him and that anything gained is given by Him for His service. Thus we do not hanker for the things of this world. Furthermore, if something is taken away by Kåñëa, then what is the need for lamentation? We should think, “Kåñëa wanted to take it away from me. Therefore, why should I lament? The Supreme Lord is the cause of all causes. He takes away, He also gives.” When one is thus in full knowledge, there is no more lamentation and no more hankering. That is the spiritual platform. Then you can see everyone as a spiritual spark, as part and parcel of Kåñëa, and as His eternal servant.
The Éçopaniñad states that the Lord is “the greatest of all, unembodied, omniscient, beyond reproach, without veins, pure and uncontaminated.” No sin can pollute Kåñëa. Sometimes less intelligent persons criticize Kåñëa: “Why did Kåñëa engage in the räsa dance, enjoying with other men’s wives in the middle of the night?” Kåñëa is God. He can do whatever He likes. Your laws cannot restrict Kåñëa. For you there are so many restrictive laws, but for Kåñëa there is no restrictive law. He can surpass all regulations.
Parékñit Mahäräja asked this same question of Çukadeva Gosvämé: “Kåñëa came to establish the principles of morality and religion. Then why did He enjoy the company of so many young girls who were the wives of others? This seems to be very sinful.” Çukadeva Gosvämé answered that Kåñëa cannot be contaminated by sin; rather, whoever comes in contact with Kåñëa, even with a contaminated mind, becomes purified. The sun is a good analogy: the sun cannot be contaminated; rather, if something contaminated is placed in the sunshine, it becomes purified. Similarly, you may approach Kåñëa with any material desire and you will become purified. Of course, the gopés’ feelings toward Kåñëa are not at all material. Still, as young girls they were captivated by His beauty. They approached Kåñëa with the desire to have Him as their paramour. But actually, they became purified. Even demons can become purified by coming in contact with Kåñëa. The demon Kaàsa, for example, thought of Kåñëa as his enemy. But he was also Kåñëa conscious, always thinking, “Oh, how will I find Kåñëa? I will kill Him.” That was his demoniac mentality. But he also became purified. He got salvation.
The conclusion is that if we can somehow or other develop our Kåñëa consciousness, we will immediately become purified of all sinful desires. Kåñëa gives this chance to everyone.
When the Éçopaniñad describes the Supreme Lord as “He who is the greatest of all, who is unembodied and omniscient,” this shows the distinction between God and ourselves. We are embodied. Therefore my body is different from me. When I leave this body, it becomes dust. As the Bible says, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” But I am not dust; I am a spirit soul. Therefore thou means “the body.”
Kåñëa, however, is not embodied. This means there is no difference between His body and His soul. In other words, His body is pure spirit. Therefore He does not change His body. And because He does not change His body, He is omniscient—He remembers everything. Because we do change our material bodies, however, we forget what happened in our last birth. We have forgotten who we were, just as when we sleep we forget our body and our surroundings. The body becomes tired and rests; it becomes inactive. In contrast, in a dreamland I work, I go somewhere, I fly, I create another body, another environment. This we experience every night. It is not difficult to understand.
Similarly, in every life we create a different environment. In this life I may think I am an Indian. In my next life, however, I may not be an Indian—I may be an American. But even if I become an American, I may not be a man. I may be a cow or a bull. Then I would be sent to the slaughterhouse. Do you see the difficulty?
The problem is that we are always changing bodies, life after life. It is a serious problem. We have no fixed position; we do not know where we will be placed within the 8,400,000 species of life. But there is a solution: If somehow or other a person develops pure Kåñëa consciousness, he will go to Kåñëa at the time of death, and then he does not have to accept a material body again. He gets a spiritual body similar to Kåñëa’s, full of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
Therefore we should take up the practice of Kåñëa consciousness and execute it very seriously, without any deviation. We should not think that Kåñëa consciousness is some kind of fashion. No, it is the most important function of every human being. Human life is simply meant for developing Kåñëa consciousness. One has no other business.
Unfortunately, the people of the modern civilization have created so many other engagements that they are forgetting Kåñëa consciousness. This is called mäyä, or illusion. They are forgetting their real business. And the rascal, blind leaders are leading everyone to hell. They are simply misleaders. People do not like to accept any authority. Still, they have accepted these rascals as leaders and are being misled. In this way both the rascal leaders and their unfortunate followers remain bound up by the stringent laws of material nature.
So, if somehow or other one comes in contact with Kåñëa, one should seriously take up the process of Kåñëa consciousness and catch hold of His lotus feet very tightly. If you hold on to Kåñëa’s lotus feet very tightly, mäyä will not be able to harm you.
The Éçopaniñad states, “Those who are engaged in the culture of nescience shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ” There are two kinds of education, material and spiritual. Material education is called jaòa-vidyä. Jaòa means “that which cannot move,” or matter. Spirit can move. Our body is a combination of spirit and matter. As long as the spirit is there, the body is moving. For example, a man’s coat and pants move as long as the man wears them. It appears that the coat and pants are moving on their own, but actually it is the body that is moving them. Similarly, this body is moving because the spirit soul is moving it. Another example is the motorcar. The motorcar is moving because the driver is moving it. Only a fool thinks the motorcar is moving on its own. In spite of a wonderful mechanical arrangement, the motorcar cannot move on its own.
Since they are given only jaòa-vidyä, a materialistic education, people think that this material nature is working, moving, and manifesting so many wonderful things automatically. When we are at the seaside, we see the waves moving. But the waves are not moving automatically. The air is moving them. And something else is moving the air. In this way, if you go all the way back to the ultimate cause, you will find Kåñëa, the cause of all causes. That is real education, to search out the ultimate cause.
So the Éçopaniñad says that those who are captivated by the external movements of the material energy are worshiping nescience. In the modern civilization there are big, big institutions for understanding technology, how a motorcar or an airplane moves. They are studying how to manufacture so much machinery. But there is no educational institution for investigating how the spirit soul is moving. The actual mover is not being studied. Instead they are studying the external movements of matter.
When I lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I asked the students, “Where is the technology to study the soul, the mover of the body?” They had no such technology. They could not answer satisfactorily because their education was simply jaòa-vidyä. The Éçopaniñad says that those who engage in the advancement of such materialistic education will go to the darkest region of existence. Therefore the present civilization is in a very dangerous position because there is no arrangement anywhere in the world for genuine spiritual education. In this way human society is being pushed to the darkest region of existence.
In a song, Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura has declared that materialistic education is simply an expansion of mäyä. The more we advance in this materialistic education, the more our ability to understand God will be hampered. And at last we will declare, “God is dead.” This is all ignorance and darkness.
So, the materialists are certainly being pushed into darkness. But there is another class—the so-called philosophers, mental speculators, religionists, and yogés—who are going into still greater darkness because they are defying Kåñëa. They are pretending to cultivate spiritual knowledge, but because they have no information of Kåñëa, or God, their teachings are even more dangerous than those of the outright materialists. Why? Because they are misleading people into thinking they are giving real spiritual knowledge. The so-called yoga system they are teaching is misleading people: “Simply meditate, and you will understand that you are God.” Kåñëa never meditated to become God. He was God from His very birth. When He was a three-month-old baby, the Pütanä demon attacked Him—and Kåñëa sucked out her life air along with her breast milk. So Kåñëa was God from the very beginning. That is God.
The nonsense so-called yogés teach, “You become still and silent, and you will become God.” How can I become silent? Is there any possibility of becoming silent? No, there is no such possibility. “Become desireless and you will become God.” How can I become desireless? These are all bluffs. We cannot be desireless. We cannot be silent. But our desires and our activities can be purified. That is real knowledge. We should desire only to serve Kåñëa. That is purification of desire. Instead of trying to be still and silent, we should dovetail our activities in Kåñëa’s service. As living entities, we have activities, desires, and a loving propensity, but they are being misdirected. If we direct them into Kåñëa’s service, that is the perfection of education.
We don’t say that you should not become advanced in material education. You may, but at the same time you should become Kåñëa conscious. That is our message. We don’t say that you shouldn’t manufacture motorcars. No. We say, “All right, you have manufactured these motorcars. Now employ them in Kåñëa’s service.” That is our proposal.
So education is required, but if it is simply materialistic—if it is devoid of Kåñëa consciousness—it is very, very dangerous. That is the teaching of the Éçopaniñad.
The Éçopaniñad says, “The wise have explained that one result is derived from the culture of knowledge and that a different result is obtained from the culture of nescience.” As explained above, the real culture of knowledge is the advancement of spiritual knowledge. And advancement of knowledge in the matter of bodily comforts or to protect the body is the culture of nescience, because however you may try to protect this body, it will follow its natural course. What is that? Repeated birth and death, and while the body is manifested, disease and old age. People are very busy cultivating knowledge of this body, although they see that at every moment the body is decaying. The death of the body was fixed when it was born. That is a fact. So you cannot stop the natural course of this body—namely birth, old age, disease, and death.
The Çrémad-Bhägavatam (10.84.13) says that this body is nothing but a bag containing three primary elements—mucus, bile, and air—and that one who accepts this combination of mucus, bile, and air as himself is an ass. Even great philosophers and scientists take themselves to be this combination of mucus, bile, and air. This is their mistake. Actually, the philosophers and scientists are spirit souls, and according to their karma they are exhibiting their talent. They do not understand the law of karma.
Why do we find so many different personalities? If human beings are nothing but combinations of mucus, bile, and air, why are they not identical? One man is born a millionaire; another is unable to have two full meals a day, despite struggling very hard. Why this difference? Because of the law of karma, action and reaction. One who understands this mystery is in knowledge.
Human life is meant for understanding the mystery of life. And one who fails to utilize this human form for this purpose is a kåpaëa, a miser. This is stated in the Garga Upaniñad. If you get one million dollars and do not use it, thinking, “Oh, I will simply keep this bank balance of one million dollars,” you are a kåpaëa. You do not know how to use your money. On the other hand, one who uses his million dollars to make another million dollars is intelligent. Similarly, this human body is invaluable. One who uses it for cultivating spiritual knowledge is a brähmaëa, a wise man, and one who cultivates materialistic knowledge is a kåpaëa, a miser. That is the difference between brähmaëa and kåpaëa.
One who uses this body the way cats and dogs do—for sense gratification—is a miser. He does not know how to use his “million dollars.” Therefore it is the duty of the father, the mother, the state, and the teachers to provide spiritual education for their dependents from the very beginning of their lives. Indeed, the Çrémad-Bhägavatam says that one should not become a father, a mother, a teacher, or a governmental head unless one is able to elevate one’s dependents to the platform of spiritual knowledge, which can save them from repeated birth and death.
In the Vedic disciplic succession, the spiritual masters always base their statements on what they have heard from authoritative sources, never on personal experience. Trying to understand things by one’s own direct experience is the material process of gaining knowledge, technically called pratyakña. The Vedic method is different. It is called çruti, which means “to hear from authoritative sources.” That is the secret of Vedic understanding.
With your imperfect senses you should not try to understand things that are beyond your experimental powers. That is not possible. Suppose you want to know who your father is. Can you find out by experimenting? Is it possible? No. Then how can you know who your father is? By hearing from the proper authority, your mother. This is common sense. And if you cannot know your material father by the experimental process, how can you know the Supreme Father by the experimental process? Kåñëa is the original father. He is the father of the father of the father, all the way down to you. So if you cannot understand your immediate father, the previous generation, by the experimental process, how can you know God, or Kåñëa, in this way?
People search for God by the experimental process, but after much searching they fail. Then they say, “Oh, there is no God. I am God.” But the Éçopaniñad says that one should try to learn about God not by the experimental process but by hearing. From whom should one hear? From a shopkeeper? From fanatics? No. One should hear from those who are dhéra. Dhéra means “one whose senses are not agitated by material influence.”
There are different kinds of agitation—agitations of the mind, the power of speech, and anger, and agitations of the tongue, belly, and genitals. When we become angry, we forget everything and can do any nonsense and speak so much nonsense. For the agitation of the tongue there are so many advertisements: “Here is liquor, here is chicken, here is beef.” Will we die without liquor, chicken, or beef? No. For the human beings Kåñëa has given so many nice things to eat—grains, fruits, milk, and so on.
The cow produces milk abundantly, not for herself but for human beings. That is proper human food. God says, “Mrs. Cow, although you are producing milk, you cannot drink it. It is for the human beings, who are more advanced than animals.” Of course, in the infant stage animals live off their mother’s milk, so the calves drink some of the cow’s milk. But the cow gives excess milk, and that excess is specifically meant for us.
We should accept whatever God has ordained as our proper food. But no, because of the agitation of the tongue, we think, “Why should I be satisfied eating grains, milk products, vegetables, and fruits? Let me maintain a slaughterhouse and kill these cows. After drinking their milk, just as I drank my mother’s milk, let me kill them to satisfy my tongue.” You shouldn’t think such nonsense but should hear from the dhéras, or svämés, who have controlled their senses. A svämé, or gosvämé, is one who has control over the six agitations: the speech, the mind, anger, the tongue, the belly, and the genitals.
There is a nice poem by Kälidäsa called Kumära-sambhava describing how Lord Çiva is dhéra. When Lord Çiva’s wife, Saté, heard Çiva being blasphemed at a sacrifice performed by her father, she committed suicide. Upon hearing about his wife’s suicide, Lord Çiva became very angry and left this planet to meditate elsewhere. During that time there was a war between the demons and the demigods. The demigods needed a good general. They concluded that if Lord Çiva were to beget a son, the son would be able to lead them in the fight against the demons. Lord Çiva was completely naked while meditating. So Pärvaté, the reincarnation of Saté, was sent to agitate his genitals for sex. But he was not agitated. He remained silent. At this point Kälidäsa remarks, “Here is a dhéra. He is naked, and a young girl is touching his genitals, but still he is not agitated.”
Dhéra means that even if there is some cause for agitation, one will not be agitated. If there is some very nice food, my tongue should not be agitated to taste it. If there is a very nice girl or boy, still I should not be agitated sexually. In this way one who is dhéra is able to control the six agitating forces mentioned above. It is not that Lord Çiva was impotent: he was dhéra. Similarly, Kåñëa danced with so many girls, but there was no sex appetite.
So, you have to hear from a person who is dhéra. If you hear from the adhéra, from those who are not self-controlled, then whatever knowledge you learn will be useless. In the Éçopaniñad, a student has approached his spiritual master to inquire from him, and the spiritual master is saying, “This is what I have heard from authoritative sources.” The spiritual master is not inventing something from his own experience. He is presenting exactly what he has heard.
So we have nothing to research. Everything is there. We simply have to hear from a person who is dhéra, who is not agitated by the six urges. That is the Vedic process of gaining knowledge. And if we try to use some other process, we will remain covered by nescience.
The Éçopaniñad states, “Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.” People do not understand what immortality is. They think it is a mythological idea. They are proud of their advancement of knowledge, but there are many things they do not know, nor can they ever know them by their modern system of experimentation.
So if you want real knowledge, you should take knowledge from the literature known as the Vedas. (The word veda means “knowledge.”) Part of the Vedas are the 108 Upaniñads, out of which eleven are very important. Of those eleven, the Éçopaniñad stands first. In the word upaniñad, upa means “near.” So the knowledge in the Éçopaniñad will take you nearer to Kåñëa.
In learned society the Vedas are accepted as çruti, or primary evidence. The Vedas are not knowledge established by the research work of contaminated, conditioned souls. Such people have imperfect senses, and so they cannot see things as they are. They simply theorize, “It may be like this. It may be like that.” That is not knowledge. Knowledge is definite, without any doubt or mistake. Conditioned souls commit mistakes, become illusioned, and cheat. How do they cheat? When one who does not understand the Bhagavad-gétä writes a commentary on it, he is cheating the innocent public. Someone has a title as a scholar, so he takes advantage of the popularity of the Bhagavad-gétä and writes a commentary. Such so-called scholars claim that anyone can give his own opinion. But in the Bhagavad-gétä Kåñëa says that only His devotee can understand the Gétä. So these so-called scholars are cheating.
The conclusion is that if you want genuine spiritual knowledge you have to approach a bona fide spiritual master who has realized the Absolute Truth. Otherwise you will remain in darkness. You cannot think, “Oh, I may or may not accept a spiritual master. In any case, there are books that I can learn from.” No, the Vedic injunction is tad-vijïänärthaà sa gurum eväbhigacchet [MU [iv]1.2.12]. The word gacchet means “one must go,” not that one may or may not go. To understand transcendental knowledge, one must go to a spiritual master. That is the Vedic injunction.
You must know two things: what is mäyä (illusion) and what is Kåñëa. Then your knowledge is perfect. Of course, Kåñëa is so nice that if you somehow or other fully surrender to Him, all your searching for knowledge will be finished: not only will you know what Kåñëa is, but you will automatically learn what mäyä is. Kåñëa will give you intelligence from within.
So, by the mercy of both the spiritual master and Kåñëa, one takes up devotional service. How is that? Their mercy runs on parallel lines. If you have not yet found a spiritual master but are sincere, Kåñëa will direct you to a bona fide spiritual master. And if you get a bona fide spiritual master, he will take you to Kåñëa. Kåñëa is always sitting in your heart as the caitya-guru, the spiritual master within. It is that caitya-guru who manifests Himself externally as the spiritual master. Therefore the spiritual master is the direct representative of Kåñëa.
The Éçopaniñad says we should learn what vidyä and avidyä are. Avidyä is ignorance under the guise of materialistic knowledge. Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura writes in one of his songs that “advancement of material knowledge is simply the advancement of mäyä’s jurisdiction.” The more you become implicated in material knowledge, the less you can understand Kåñëa consciousness. Those who are advanced in material knowledge think, “What use is this Kåñëa consciousness movement?” They have no attraction for spiritual knowledge; they are too absorbed in avidyä.
Some Indian boys reject the spiritual culture of India and come to the West to learn technology. When they see that I have introduced in the West the things they rejected in India, they are surprised. One reason I came to the West is that modern India has rejected spiritual knowledge. Today Indians think that if they can imitate Western technology, they will be happy. This is mäyä. They do not see that those who are three hundred times more technologically advanced than the Indians are not happy. India will not be able to equal American or European technology for at least three hundred years because the Western countries have been developing technology for a very long time. But since the time of creation Indian culture has been a spiritual culture.
Vidyä, or genuine spiritual knowledge, does not depend on technology. Çréla Vyäsadeva is the original guru of Vedic knowledge. How was he living? In a cottage in Baòarikäçrama. But just see his knowledge! He wrote so many Puräëas, including the Çrémad-Bhägavatam. He also wrote the Vedänta-sütra and the Mahäbhärata. If you studied every single verse written by Vyäsadeva, it would take your whole life. The Çrémad-Bhägavatam alone has no less than eighteen thousand verses. And each verse is so full of meaning that it would take a whole lifetime to fully understand it. This is Vedic culture.
There is no knowledge comparable to that contained in the Vedic literature—not only spiritual knowledge, but material knowledge also. The Vedas discuss astronomy, mathematics, and many other subjects. It is not that in ancient times there were no airplanes. They are mentioned in the Puräëas. These airplanes were so strong and swift that they could easily reach other planets. It is not that there was no advancement of material knowledge in the Vedic age. It was there. But the people then did not consider it so important. They were interested in spiritual knowledge.
So, one should know what knowledge is, and what nescience is. If we advance in nescience, or material knowledge, we will have to undergo repeated birth and death. Moreover, there is no guarantee what your next birth will be. That is not in your hands. Now you are happy being an American, but after quitting this body you cannot dictate, “Please give me an American body again.” Yes, you may get an American body, but it may be an American cow’s body. Then you are destined for the slaughterhouse.
So, cultivating material knowledge—nationalism, socialism, this “ism,” that “ism”—is simply a dangerous waste of time. Better to cultivate real knowledge, Vedic knowledge, which leads one to surrender to Kåñëa. As Kåñëa says in the Bhagavad-gétä (7.19), bahünäà janmanäm ante jïänavän mäà prapadyate. After many, many births, one who is in genuine knowledge comes to Kåñëa and surrenders to Him, realizing, “O Kåñëa, You are everything.” This is the culmination of all cultivation of knowledge.
The Éçopaniñad states, “One should know perfectly the Personality of Godhead and His transcendental name, as well as the temporary material creation with its temporary demigods, men, and animals. When one knows these, he surpasses death and the ephemeral cosmic manifestation with it, and in the eternal kingdom of God he enjoys his eternal life of bliss and knowledge. O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee.”
Here the Éçopaniñad mentions the kingdom of God. Every planet, both spiritual and material, has a predominating deity. In the sun, for example, the predominating deity is Vivasvän. We get this information from the Bhagavad-gétä. So, there are millions and trillions of universes within the material sky, and within each universe are millions and trillions of planets, and in every planet there is a predominating deity.
Beyond the material sky is the brahmajyoti, or spiritual sky, where there are innumerable Vaikuëöha planets. Each Vaikuëöha planet is predominated by the Supreme Lord in His Näräyaëa form, and each Näräyaëa has a different name—Pradyumna, Ani-ruddha, Saìkarñaëa, etc. One cannot see these planets because they are covered by the spiritual brahmajyoti effulgence, just as one cannot see the sun globe on account of the dazzling sunshine. The effulgence in the spiritual sky is coming out of Kåñëa’s planet, Goloka Våndävana, which is above even Vaikuëöha and where Kåñëa alone is the predominator.
The planet of the Absolute Truth, Kåñëa, is covered by the Brahman effulgence. One has to penetrate that effulgence in order to see the Lord. Therefore in the Éçopaniñad the devotee prays, “Kindly remove Your effulgence so I can see You.” The Mäyävädé philosophers do not know that there is something beyond the brahmajyoti. But here in the Éçopaniñad is the Vedic evidence that the brahmajyoti is simply a golden effulgence covering the real face of the Supreme Lord.
The idea is that Kåñëa’s planet and the Vaikuëöha planets are beyond the Brahman effulgence and that only devotees can enter those spiritual planets. The jïänés, the mental speculators, practice severe austerities to enter the Brahman effulgence. But the demons who are killed by Kåñëa are immediately transferred to that Brahman effulgence. So just consider: Is the place that is given to the enemies of Kåñëa very covetable? If my enemy comes to my house, I may give him some place to stay, but if my intimate friend comes, I give him a much nicer place to stay. So this Brahman effulgence is not at all covetable.
Çréla Prabodhänanda Sarasvaté has composed a nice verse in which he says that for the devotee, for one who has attained the mercy of the Lord, the Brahman effulgence is just like hell. Then what about heaven? The karmés, or fruitive workers, are very eager to go to the heavenly planets, where the demigods reside. But for the devotees heaven is just a will-o’-the-wisp. They are not at all attracted to go there. And then there are the mystic yogés, who try very strenuously to control the senses in order to attain special powers. The senses are like venomous serpents because as soon as you indulge in sense gratification—as soon as the senses “bite” you—you become degraded. But the devotee says, “I do not fear the poisonous serpents of the senses.” Why? “Because I have extracted their fangs.” In other words, by engaging his senses in Kåñëa’s service, the devotee is no longer tempted to indulge in sense gratification, and thus his senses cannot drag him down to a hellish condition of life.
In this way, the devotees are above the karmés, jïänés, and yogés. The devotees’ place is the highest because only by devotion can one understand God. Kåñëa does not say you can understand Him by fruitive work. He does not say you can understand Him by speculation. He does not say you can understand Him by mystic yoga. He clearly says (Bg. 18.55), bhaktyä mäm abhi-jänäti yävän yaç cäsmi tattvataù: “Only by devotional service can one truly understand Me as I am.”
Except for devotional service, there is no possibility of understanding the Absolute Truth. Any other process is imperfect because it is based on speculation. For example, the scientists may speculate on what the sun planet is, but because they have no access there, they cannot actually know what the sun planet is. They can only speculate. That’s all. Once three blind men came upon an elephant. They began feeling the elephant and speculating on what it was. One felt its big legs and concluded, “Oh, the elephant is just like a pillar.” The second man felt the trunk and concluded, “Oh, this elephant is just like a snake.” And the third man felt the belly of the elephant and concluded, “This elephant is like a big boat.” But actually, the blind men did not know what the elephant really was.
If you have no ability to see something, you can only speculate about it. Therefore the Éçopaniñad says, “Please remove this brilliant effulgence covering Your face so I can see You.” That seeing power is bestowed upon the devotee by Kåñëa when He sees the devotee’s love for Him. As the Brahma-saàhitä says, premäïjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena: [Bs. 5.38] The devotees anoint their eyes with the salve of love of God, and therefore they can see the Lord’s beautiful form within their hearts. In India there is a special eye ointment. If you apply it you can immediately see clearly. Similarly, if you smear your eyes with the ointment of love of Godhead, you will see God always. This is the way of understanding God—by service and by enhancing your love for Him. This love can be developed only by devotional service; otherwise there is no possibility of achieving it. So the more you increase your spirit of service to God, the more you increase your dormant love for God. And as soon as you are in the perfectional stage of love of God, you will see God always, at every moment.
LON 2: Bad Karma
The Çrémad-Bhägavatam is an ancient Sanskrit scripture that contains the essence of all Vedic wisdom, recording the teachings of the Lord’s devotees, as well as those of the Lord in many of His incarnations. In this Thirtieth Chapter of the Third Canto, an incarnation of Kåñëa’s named Kapiladeva graphically describes the results of sin. Çréla Prabhupäda explains the texts in his purports.
TEXT 1: The Personality of Godhead said, “As a mass of clouds does not know the powerful influence of the wind, a person engaged in material consciousness does not know the powerful strength of the time factor, by which he is being carried.”
PURPORT: The great politician-paëòita named Cäëakya said that even one moment of time cannot be returned, even if one is prepared to pay millions of dollars. One cannot calculate the amount of loss there is in wasting valuable time. Whether materially or spiritually, one should be very alert in utilizing the time which he has at his disposal. A conditioned soul lives in a particular body for a fixed measurement of time, and it is recommended in the scriptures that within that small measurement of time one has to finish Kåñëa consciousness and thus gain release from the influence of the time factor. But, unfortunately, those who are not in Kåñëa consciousness are carried away by the strong power of time without their knowledge, as clouds are carried by the wind.
TEXT 2: “Whatever is produced by the materialist with great pain and labor for so-called happiness, the Supreme Personality, as the time factor, destroys, and for this reason the conditioned soul laments.”
PURPORT: The main function of the time factor, which is a representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is to destroy everything. The materialists, in material consciousness, are engaged in producing so many things in the name of economic development. They think that by advancing in satisfying the material needs of man they will be happy, but they forget that everything they have produced will be destroyed in due course of time. From history we can see that there were many powerful empires on the surface of the globe that were constructed with great pain and great perseverance, but in due course of time they have all been destroyed. Still the foolish materialists cannot understand that they are simply wasting time in producing so-called material necessities, which are destined to be vanquished in due course of time. This waste of energy is due to the ignorance of the mass of people, who do not know that they are eternal and that they have an eternal engagement also. They do not know that this span of life in a particular type of body is but a flash in the eternal journey. Not knowing this fact, they take the small flash of their present life to be everything, and they waste time in improving economic conditions.
TEXT 3: “The misguided materialist does not know that his very body is impermanent and that the attractions of home, land, and wealth, which are in relationship to that body, are also temporary. Out of ignorance only, he thinks that everything is permanent.”
PURPORT: The materialist thinks that persons engaged in Kåñëa consciousness are crazy fellows wasting time by chanting Hare Kåñëa, but actually he does not know that he himself is in the darkest region of craziness because of accepting his body as permanent. And in relation to his body he accepts his home, his country, his society, and all other paraphernalia as permanent. This materialistic acceptance of the permanence of home, land, etc. is called the illusion of mäyä. This is clearly mentioned here. Mohäd gåha-kñetra-vasüni: out of illusion only does the materialist accept his home, his land, and his money as permanent. Out of this illusion have grown family life, national life, and economic development, which are very important factors in modern civilization. A Kåñëa conscious person knows that this economic development of human society is but temporary illusion.
In another part of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, the acceptance of the body as oneself, the acceptance of others as kinsmen in relationship to one’s body, and the acceptance of the land of one’s birth as worshipable are declared to be the products of an animal civilization. When, however, one is enlightened in Kåñëa consciousness, one can use these for the service of the Lord. That is a very suitable proposition. Everything has a relationship with Kåñëa. When all economic development and material advancement are utilized to advance the cause of Kåñëa consciousness, a new phase of progressive life arises.
TEXT 4: “In whatever species of life the living entity appears, he finds a particular type of satisfaction in that species, and he is never averse to being situated in such a condition.”
PURPORT: The satisfaction of the living entity in a particular type of body, even if it is most abominable, is called illusion. A man in a higher position may feel dissatisfaction with the standard of life of a lower-grade man, but the lower-grade man is satisfied in that position because of the spell of mäyä, the external energy. Mäyä has two phases of activity. One is called prakñepätmikä, and the other is called ävaraëätmikä. Ävaraëätmikä means “covering,” and prakñepätmikä means “pulling down.” In any condition of life, the materialistic person or animal will be satisfied because his knowledge is covered by the influence of mäyä. In the lower grade or lower species of life, the development of consciousness is so poor that one cannot understand whether one is happy or distressed. This is called ävaraëätmikä. Even a hog, who lives by eating stool, thinks himself happy, although a person in a higher mode of life sees how abominable that life is.
TEXT 5: “While deluded by the covering influence of the illusory energy, the living entity feels little inclined to cast off his body, even when in hell, for he takes delight in hellish enjoyment.”
PURPORT: It is said that once Indra, the king of heaven, was cursed by his spiritual master, Båhaspati, on account of his misbehavior, and he became a hog on this planet. After many days, when Brahmä wanted to recall him to his heavenly kingdom, Indra, in the form of a hog, forgot everything of his royal position in the heavenly kingdom, and he refused to go back. This is the spell of mäyä. Even Indra forgets his heavenly standard of life and is satisfied with the standard of a hog’s life.
By the influence of mäyä the conditioned soul becomes so affectionate toward his particular type of body that even if someone says to him, “Give up this body, and immediately you will have a king’s body,” he will not agree. This attachment strongly affects all conditioned living entities. Lord Kåñëa personally
canvasses, “Give up everything in this material world. Come to Me, and I shall give you all protection,” but we are not agreeable. We think, “We are quite all right. Why should we surrender unto Kåñëa and go back to His kingdom?” This is called illusion, or mäyä. Everyone is satisfied with his standard of living, however abominable it may be.
TEXT 6: “Such satisfaction with one’s standard of living is due to deep-rooted attraction for body, wife, home, children, animals, wealth, and friends. In such association, the conditioned soul thinks himself quite perfect.”
PURPORT: This so-called perfection of human life is a concoction. Therefore it is said that however materially qualified a person may be, if he is not a devotee of the Lord he has no good qualities because he is hovering on the mental plane, which will drag him again to the material existence of temporary life. One who acts on the mental plane cannot get promotion to the spiritual plane. Such a person is always sure to glide down again to material life. Still, in the association of so-called society, friendship, and love, the conditioned soul feels completely satisfied.
TEXT 7: “Although he is always burning with anxiety, such a fool always performs all kinds of mischievous activities with the unfulfillable hope of maintaining his so-called family and society.”
PURPORT: It is said that it is easier to maintain a great empire than a small family, especially in these days, when the influence of Kali-yuga is so strong that everyone is harassed and full of anxieties because of accepting the false presentation of mäyä’s family. The family we maintain is created by mäyä; it is the perverted reflection of the family in Kåñëaloka. In Kåñëaloka there are also family, friends, society, father, and mother; everything is there, but they are eternal. Here, as we change bodies our family relationships also change. Sometimes we are in a family of human beings, sometimes in a family of demigods, sometimes a family of cats or dogs.
Family, society, and friendship are flickering, and so they are called asat. It is said that as long as we are attached to this asat—this temporary, nonexistent society and family—we are always full of anxieties. The materialists do not know that the family, society, and friendship here in this material world are only shadows, and thus they become attached. Naturally their hearts are always burning, but in spite of all inconvenience, they still work to maintain such false families because they have no information of the real family association with Kåñëa.
TEXT 8: “He gives heart and senses to a woman, who falsely charms him with mäyä. He enjoys solitary embraces and talking with her, and he is enchanted by the sweet words of the small children.”
PURPORT: Family life within the kingdom of the illusory energy, mäyä, is just like a prison for the eternal living entity. In prison a prisoner is shackled by iron chains and iron bars. Similarly, a conditioned soul is shackled by the charming beauty of a woman, by her solitary embraces and talks of so-called love, and by the sweet words of his small children. Thus he forgets his real identity.
In this verse the words stréëäm asaténäm indicate that womanly love exists just to agitate the mind of man. Actually, in the material world there is no love. Both the woman and the man are interested in their sense gratification. For sense gratification a woman creates an illusory love, and the man becomes enchanted by such false love and forgets his real duty. When there are children as the result of such a combination, the next attraction is to the sweet words of the children. The love of the woman at home and the talk of the children make one a secure prisoner, and thus he cannot leave his home. Such a person is termed, in Vedic language, a gåhamedhé, which means “one whose center of attraction is home.” The word gåhastha refers to one who lives with family, wife, and children but whose real purpose of living is to develop Kåñëa consciousness. One is therefore advised to become a gåhastha, not a gåhamedhé. The gåhastha’s concern is to get out of the family life created by illusion and enter into real family life with Kåñëa, whereas the gåhamedhé’s business is to repeatedly chain himself to so-called family life, in one life after another, and perpetually remain in the darkness of mäyä.
TEXT 9: “The attached householder remains in his family life, which is full of diplomacy and politics. Always spreading miseries and controlled by acts of sense gratification, he acts just to counteract the reactions of all his miseries, and if he can successfully counteract such miseries, he thinks he is happy.”
PURPORT: In the Bhagavad-gétä the Personality of Godhead Himself certifies the material world as an impermanent place that is full of miseries. There is no question of happiness in this material world, either individually or in terms of family, society, or country. If something is going on in the name of happiness, that is illusion. Here in this material world, happiness means successful counteraction of distress. The material world is so made that unless one becomes a clever diplomat, his life will be a failure. What to speak of human society, even in the society of lower animals, the birds and beasts cleverly manage their bodily demands of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Human society competes nationally or individually, and in the attempt to be successful the entire human society becomes full of diplomacy. We should always remember that in spite of all diplomacy and all intelligence in the struggle for existence, everything will end in a second by the supreme will. Therefore, all our attempts to become happy in this material world are simply a delusion offered by mäyä.
TEXT 10: “He secures money by committing violence here and there, and although he employs it in the service of his family, he himself eats only a little portion of the food thus purchased, and he goes to hell for those for whom he earned the money in such an irregular way.”
PURPORT: There is a Bengali proverb: “The person for whom I have stolen accuses me of being a thief.” The family members for whom an attached person acts in so many criminal ways are never satisfied. In illusion an attached person serves such family members, and by serving them he is destined to enter into a hellish condition of life. For example, a thief steals something to maintain his family, and he is caught and imprisoned. This is the sum and substance of material existence and attachment to material society, friendship, and love. Although an attached family man is always engaged in getting money by hook or by crook for the maintenance of his family, he cannot enjoy more than what he could consume even without such criminal activities. A man who eats eight ounces of food may have to maintain a big family and earn money by any means to support that family, but he himself is not offered more than what he can eat, and sometimes he eats the remnants that are left after his family members are fed. Even by earning money by unfair means, he cannot enjoy life for himself. That is called the covering illusion of mäyä.
The process of illusory service to society, country, and community is exactly the same everywhere; the same principle is applicable even to big national leaders. A national leader who is very great in serving his country is sometimes killed by his countrymen because of irregular service. In other words, one cannot satisfy his dependents by this illusory service, although one cannot get out of the service because being a servant is his constitutional position.
A living entity is constitutionally part and parcel of the Supreme Being, but he forgets that he has to render service to the Supreme Being and diverts his attention to serving others; this is called mäyä. By serving others he falsely thinks that he is master. The head of a family thinks of himself as the master of the family, or the leader of a nation thinks of himself as the master of the nation, whereas actually he is serving, and by serving mäyä he is gradually going to hell. Therefore a sane man should come to the point of Kåñëa consciousness and engage in the service of the Supreme Lord, applying his whole life, all of his wealth, his entire intelligence, and his full power of speaking.
TEXTS 11–13: “When he suffers reverses in his occupation, he tries again and again to improve himself, but when he is baffled in all attempts and is ruined, he accepts money from others because of excessive greed. Thus the unfortunate man, unsuccessful in maintaining his family members, is bereft of all beauty. He always thinks of his failure, grieving very deeply. Seeing him unable to support them, his wife and others do not treat him with the same respect as before, even as miserly farmers do not accord the same treatment to their old and worn-out oxen.”
PURPORT: Not only in the present age but from time immemorial no one has liked an old man who is unable to earn in the family. Even in the modern age, in some communities or states, the old men are given poison so that they will die as soon as possible. In some cannibalistic communities, the old grandfather is sportingly killed, and a feast is held in which his body is eaten. Here the example is given that a farmer does not like an old ox who has ceased to work. Similarly, when an attached person in family life becomes old and is unable to earn, he is no longer liked by his wife, sons, daughters, and other kinsmen, and he is consequently neglected, what to speak of not being given respect. It is judicious, therefore, to give up family attachment before one attains old age and take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A person should employ himself in the Lord’s service so that the Supreme Lord can take charge of him and he will not be neglected by his so-called kinsmen.
TEXT 14: “The foolish family man does not become averse to family life although he is maintained by those whom he once maintained. Deformed by the influence of old age, he prepares himself to meet ultimate death.”
PURPORT: Family attraction is so strong that even if a person is neglected by family members in his old age, he cannot give up family affection, and he remains at home just like a dog. In the Vedic way of life, it is advised that before getting too weak and being baffled in material activities, and before becoming diseased, one should give up family life and engage oneself completely in the service of the Lord for the remaining days of his life.
Therefore the Vedic scriptures enjoin that as soon as one passes fifty years of age, he must give up family life and live alone in the forest. After preparing himself fully, he should become a sannyäsé, travel widely, and distribute the knowledge of spiritual life to each and every home.
TEXT 15: “Thus he remains at home just like a pet dog and eats whatever is so negligently given to him. Afflicted with many illnesses, such as dyspepsia and loss of appetite, he eats only very small morsels of food, and he becomes an invalid, who cannot work any more.”
PURPORT: Before meeting death a man is sure to become a diseased invalid, and when he is neglected by his family members, his life becomes less than a dog’s because he is put into so many miserable conditions. Vedic literatures enjoin, therefore, that before the arrival of such miserable conditions, a man should leave home and die without the knowledge of his family members. If a man leaves home and dies without his family’s knowing, that is considered a glorious death. But an attached family man wants his family members to carry him in a great procession even after his death, and although he will not be able to see how the procession goes, he still desires that his body be taken gorgeously in procession. Thus he is happy without even knowing where he has to go when he leaves his body for the next life.
TEXTS 16–17: “In that diseased condition, a man’s eyes bulge due to the pressure of air from within, and his glands become congested with mucus. He has difficulty breathing, and upon exhaling and inhaling he produces a sound like ghura-ghura, a rattling within the throat. In this way he comes under the clutches of death and lies down, surrounded by lamenting friends and relatives, and although he wants to speak with them, he no longer can because he is under the control of time.”
PURPORT: For formality’s sake, when a man is lying on his deathbed, his relatives come to him, and sometimes they cry very loudly, addressing the dying man: “O my father!” “O my friend!” or “O my husband!” In that pitiable condition the dying man wants to speak with them and instruct them of his desires, but because he is fully under the control of the time factor, death, he cannot express himself, and that causes him in-conceivable pain. He is already in a painful condition because of disease, and his glands and throat are choked up with mucus. He is already in a very difficult position, and when he is addressed by his relatives in that way, his grief increases.
TEXT 18: “Thus the man who engaged with uncontrolled senses in maintaining his family dies in great grief, seeing his relatives crying. He dies most pathetically, in great pain and without consciousness.”
PURPORT: In the Bhagavad-gétä it is said that at the time of death one will be absorbed in the thoughts he cultivated during his lifetime. A person who had no idea other than to properly maintain his family members must have family affairs in his last thoughts. That is the natural sequence for a common man. The common man does not know the destiny of his life; he is simply busy in this present flash of life, maintaining his family. At the last stage, no one is satisfied with how he has improved the family economic condition; everyone thinks that he could not provide sufficiently. Because of his deep family affection, he forgets his main duty of controlling his senses and improving his spiritual consciousness. Sometimes a dying man entrusts the family affairs to either his son or some relative, saying, “I am going. Please look after the family.” He does not know where he is going, but even at the time of death he is anxious about how his family will be maintained. Sometimes it is seen that a dying man requests the physician to increase his life at least for a few years so that the family maintenance plan which he has begun can be completed. These are the material diseases of the conditioned soul. He completely forgets his real engagement—to become Kåñëa conscious—and is always serious about planning to maintain his family, although he changes families one after another.
TEXT 19: “At death, he sees the messengers of the lord of death come before him, their eyes full of wrath, and in great fear he passes stool and urine.”
PURPORT: There are two kinds of transmigration of a living entity after passing away from the present body. One kind of transmigration is to go to the controller of sinful activities, who is known as Yamaräja, and the other is to go to the higher planets, up to Vaikuëöha. Here Lord Kapila describes how persons engaged in activities of sense gratification to maintain a family are treated by the messengers of Yamaräja, called Yamadütas. At the time of death the Yamadütas become the custodians of those persons who have strongly gratified their senses. They take charge of the dying man and take him to the planet where Yamaräja resides. The conditions there are described in the following verses.
TEXT 20: “As a criminal is arrested for punishment by the constables of the state, a person engaged in criminal sense gratification is similarly arrested by the Yamadütas, who bind him by the neck with strong rope and cover his subtle body so that he may undergo severe punishment.”
PURPORT: Every living entity is covered by a subtle body and a gross body. The subtle body is the covering of mind, ego, intelligence, and consciousness. It is said in the scriptures that the constables of Yamaräja cover the subtle body of the culprit and take him to the abode of Yamaräja to be punished in a way that he is able to tolerate. He does not die from this punishment because if he died, then who would suffer the punishment? It is not the business of the constables of Yamaräja to put one to death. In fact, it is not possible to kill a living entity because factually he is eternal; he simply has to suffer the consequences of his activities of sense gratification.
The process of punishment is explained in the Caitanya-caritämåta. Formerly the king’s men would take a criminal in a boat in the middle of the river. They would dunk him by grasping a bunch of his hair and thrusting him completely under water, and when he was almost suffocated, the king’s constables would take him out of the water and allow him to breathe for some time, and then they would again dunk him in the water to suffocate. This sort of punishment is inflicted upon the forgotten soul by Yamaräja, as will be described in the following verses.
TEXT 21: “While carried by the constables of Yamaräja, he is overwhelmed and trembles in their hands. While passing on the road he is bitten by dogs, and he can remember the sinful activities of his life. He is thus terribly distressed.”
PURPORT: It appears from this verse that while passing from this planet to the planet of Yamaräja, the culprit arrested by Yamaräja’s constables meets many dogs, which bark and bite just to remind him of his criminal activities of sense gratification. It is said in the Bhagavad-gétä that one becomes almost blind and is bereft of all sense when he is infuriated by the desire for sense gratification. He forgets everything. A man is bereft of all intelligence when he is too attracted by sense gratification, and he forgets that he has to suffer the consequences also. Here the chance for recounting his activities of sense gratification is given by the dogs engaged by Yamaräja. While we live in the gross body, such activities of sense gratification are encouraged, even by modern governments. In many states all over the world, the government encourages such activities by pushing birth control. Women are supplied pills, and they are allowed to go to a clinical laboratory to get assistance for abortions. This is going on as a result of sense gratification. Actually sex is meant for begetting a good child, but because people have no control over the senses and there is no institution to train them to control the senses, the poor people fall victim to the criminal offenses of sense gratification, and they are punished after death as described in these passages of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam.
TEXTS 22–24: “Under the scorching sun, the criminal has to pass through roads of hot sand with forest fires on both sides. He is whipped on the back by the constables because of his inability to walk, and he is afflicted by hunger and thirst. But unfortunately there is no drinking water, no shelter, and no place for rest on the road. While passing on that road to the abode of Yamaräja, he falls down in fatigue, and sometimes he becomes unconscious, but he is forced to rise again.
“In this way he is very quickly brought to the presence of Yamaräja. Thus he has to pass ninety-nine thousand yojanas within two or three moments, and then he is at once engaged in the torturous punishment he is destined to suffer.”
PURPORT: One yojana is eight miles, and thus he has to pass along a road that is as much as 792,000 miles long. Such a long distance is passed over within a few moments only. The subtle body is covered by the constables so that the living entity can travel such a long distance quickly and at the same time tolerate the suffering. This covering, although material, is of such fine elements that material scientists cannot discover what the coverings are made of. To pass 792,000 miles within a few moments seems wonderful to the modern space travelers. They have so far traveled at a speed of 18,000 miles per hour, but here we see that a criminal passes 792,000 miles within a few seconds only, although the process is not spiritual but material.
TEXT 25: “He is placed in the midst of burning pieces of wood, and his limbs are set on fire. In some cases he is made to eat his own flesh or have it eaten by others.”
PURPORT: This verse and the next three verses describe the sinful living entity’s punishment. The first description is that the criminal has to eat his own flesh, burning with fire, or allow others like himself who are present there to eat it. In the last great war, people in concentration camps sometimes ate their own stool, so there is no wonder that in Yamasädana, the abode of Yamaräja, a meat-eater who had a very enjoyable life eating others’ flesh has to eat his own flesh.
TEXTS 26–28: “His entrails are pulled out by the hounds and vultures of hell, even though he is still alive to see it, and he is subjected to torment by serpents, scorpions, gnats, and other creatures that bite him. Next his limbs are lopped off and torn asunder by elephants. He is hurled down from hilltops, and he is also held captive either in water or in a cave.
“Men and women whose lives were built upon indulgence in illicit sex are put into many kinds of miserable conditions in the hells known as Tämisra, Andha-tämisra, and Raurava.”
PURPORT: The lives of all materialistic people, who are undergoing severe tribulation in the struggle for existence, are based on sex. Therefore, in the Vedic civilization sex is allowed only in a restricted way; it is for the married couple, and only for begetting children. But when sex is indulged in for sense gratification illegally and illicitly, both the man and the woman await severe punishment in this world or after death. In this world they are punished by virulent diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea, and in the next life, as we see in this passage of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, they are put into various kinds of hellish conditions to suffer.
In the Bhagavad-gétä, First Chapter, illicit sex is also very much condemned, and it is said that one who produces children by illicit sex is sent to hell. It is confirmed here in the Bhägavatam that such offenders are put into hellish conditions of life in Tämisra, Andha-tämisra, and Raurava.
TEXT 29: Lord Kapila continued, “My dear mother, it is sometimes said that we experience hell or heaven on this planet, for hellish punishments are sometimes visible on this planet also.”
PURPORT: Sometimes unbelievers do not accept these statements of scripture regarding hell. Lord Kapila therefore confirms them by saying that these hellish conditions are also visible on this planet. It is not that they are only on the planet where Yamaräja lives. On the planet of Yamaräja, the sinful man is given the chance to practice living in the hellish conditions that he will have to endure in the next life, and then he is given a chance to take birth on another planet to continue his hellish life.
For example, if a man is to be punished to remain in hell and eat stool and urine, then first of all he practices such habits on the planet of Yamaräja, and then he is given a particular type of body, that of a hog, so that he can eat stool and think he is enjoying life. It is stated previously that in any hellish condition, the conditioned soul thinks he is happy. Otherwise, it would not be possible for him to suffer hellish life.
TEXT 30: “After leaving this body, the man who maintained himself and his family members by sinful activities suffers a hellish life, and his relatives suffer also.”
PURPORT: The mistake of modern civilization is that man does not believe in the next life. But whether he believes or not, the next life is there, and one has to suffer if one does not lead a responsible life in terms of the injunctions of authoritative scriptures like the Vedas and Puräëas. Species lower than human beings are not responsible for their actions because they are made to act in a certain way, but in the developed life of human consciousness, one who does not act responsibly is sure to get a hellish life, as described herein.
TEXT 31: “He goes alone to the darkest regions of hell after quitting the present body, and the money he acquired by envying other living entities is the passage money with which he leaves this world.”
PURPORT: When a man earns money by unfair means and maintains his family and himself with that money, the money is enjoyed by many members of the family, but he alone goes to hell and suffers the resultant sinful reactions accrued from such a violent and illicit life. For example, if a man secures some money by killing someone and with that money maintains his family, those who enjoy the black money earned by him are also partially responsible and are also sent to hell, but he who is the leader is especially punished. The money he earned is left in this world, and he takes only the sinful reaction.
In this world also, if a person acquires some money by murdering someone, the family is not hanged, although its members are sinfully contaminated. But the man who commits the murder and maintains his family is himself hanged as a murderer. The direct offender is more responsible for sinful activities than the indirect enjoyer. The great learned scholar Cäëakya Paëòita says, therefore, that whatever one has in his possession had better be spent for the cause of sat, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because one cannot take his possessions with him. They remain here, and they will be lost. Either we leave the money or the money leaves us, but we will be separated. The best use of money as long as it is within our possession is to spend it to acquire and propagate Kåñëa consciousness.
TEXT 32: “Thus, by the arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the maintainer of kinsmen is put into a hellish condition to suffer for his sinful activities, like a man who has lost his wealth.”
PURPORT: The example set herein is that the sinful person suffers just like a man who has lost his wealth. The human form of body is achieved by the conditioned soul after many, many births and is a very valuable asset. Instead of utilizing this life to get liberation, if one uses it simply for the purpose of maintaining his so-called family and therefore performs foolish and unauthorized action, he is compared to a man who has lost his wealth and who, upon losing it, laments. When wealth is lost, there is no use lamenting, but as long as there is wealth, one has to utilize it properly and thereby gain eternal profit. It may be argued that when a man leaves his money earned by sinful activities, he also leaves his sinful activities here with his money. But it is especially mentioned herein that by superior arrangement, although the man leaves behind his sinfully earned money, he carries the effect of it.
When a man steals some money, if he is caught and agrees to return it, he is not freed from the criminal punishment. By the law of the state, even though he returns the money, he has to undergo the punishment. Similarly, the money earned by a criminal process may be left by the man when dying, but by superior arrangement he carries with him the effect, and therefore he has to suffer hellish life.
TEXT 33: “Therefore a person who is very eager to maintain his family and kinsmen simply by black methods certainly goes to the darkest region of hell, which is known as Andha-tämisra.”
PURPORT: Three words in this verse are very significant. Kevalena means “only by black methods,” adharmeëa means “unrighteous” or “irreligious,” and kuöumba-bharaëa means “family maintenance.” Maintaining one’s family is certainly the duty of a householder, but one should be eager to earn his livelihood by the prescribed method, as stated in the scriptures. In the Bhagavad-gétä it is described that the Lord has divided the social system into four classifications of castes, or varëas, according to quality and work. Apart from the Bhagavad-gétä, in every society a man is known according to his quality and work. For example, when a man earns his livelihood constructing wooden furniture, he is called a carpenter, and a man who works with an anvil and iron is called a blacksmith. Similarly, a man who is engaged in the medical or engineering fields has a particular duty and designation. All these human activities have been divided by the Supreme Lord into four varëas, namely the brähmaëas (intellectuals and priests), the kñatriyas (warriors and administrators), the vaiçyas (merchants and farmers), and çüdras (manual laborers). In the Bhagavad-gétä and other Vedic scriptures, the specific duties of the brähmaëas, kñatriyas, vaiçyas, and çüdras are mentioned.
One should work honestly according to his qualification. He should not earn his livelihood unfairly or in a way for which he is not qualified. If someone claims to be a brähmaëa and works as a priest, attracting people who expect to be enlightened about the spiritual way of life, but he is not qualified as a priest, then he is cheating the public. One should not earn one’s livelihood by such unfair means. The same is applicable to a kñatriya and a vaiçya. It is especially mentioned that the means of livelihood of those who are trying to advance in Kåñëa consciousness must be very fair and uncomplicated. Here it is mentioned that he who earns his livelihood by unfair means (kevalena) is sent to the darkest hellish region. Otherwise, if one maintains his family by prescribed methods and honest means, there is no objection to one’s being a family man.
TEXT 34: “Having gone through all the miserable, hellish conditions and having passed in a regular order through the lowest forms of animal life prior to human birth, and having thus been purged of one’s sins, one is reborn again as a human being on this earth.”
PURPORT: Just as a prisoner who has undergone troublesome prison life is set free again, the person who has always engaged in impious and mischievous activities is put into hellish conditions, and when he has undergone different hellish lives, namely those of lower animals like cats, dogs, and hogs, by the gradual process of evolution he again comes back as a human being. In the Bhagavad-gétä it is stated that even though a person engaged in the practice of the yoga system may not finish perfectly and may fall down for some reason or other, his next life as a human being is guaranteed. It is stated that such a person, who has fallen from the path of yoga practice, is given a chance in his next life to take birth in a very rich family or in a very pious family. It is interpreted that “rich family” refers to a big mercantile family because generally people who engage in business are very rich. One who engaged in the process of self-realization, or connecting with the Supreme Absolute Truth, but fell short is allowed to take birth in such a rich family, or he is allowed to take birth in the family of pious brähmaëas; either way, he is guaranteed to appear in human society in his next life.
It can be concluded that if someone is not willing to enter into hellish life, as in Tämisra or Andha-tämisra, then he must take to the process of Kåñëa consciousness, which is the first-class yoga system, because even if one is unable to attain complete Kåñëa consciousness in this life, he is guaranteed at least to take his next birth in a human family. He cannot be sent into a hellish condition. Kåñëa consciousness is the purest life, and it protects all human beings from gliding down to hell to take birth in a family of dogs or hogs.
LON 3: The Peace Formula
The laws of nature work collectively, as well as individually. In the following brief but cogent statement, Çréla Prabhupäda explains that if we want to break out of the tangled web of collective karma that is wreaking havoc in present-day society—if we want peace both collectively and individually—we need to take to Kåñëa consciousness seriously.
The great mistake of modern civilization is to encroach upon others’ property as though it were one’s own and thereby create an unnecessary disturbance of the laws of nature. These laws are very strong. No living entity can violate them. Only one who is Kåñëa conscious can easily overcome the stringent laws of nature and thus become happy and peaceful in the world.
As a state is protected by the department of law and order, so the state of the universe, of which this earth is only an insignificant fragment, is protected by the laws of nature. This material nature is one of the different potencies of God, who is the ultimate proprietor of everything that be. This earth is, therefore, the property of God, but we, the living entities, especially the so-called civilized human beings, are claiming God’s property as our own under both an individual and collective false conception. If you want peace, you have to remove this false conception from your mind and from the world. This false claim of proprietorship by the human race on earth is partly or wholly the cause of all disturbances of peace on earth.
Foolish so-called civilized men are claiming proprietary rights on the property of God because they have now become godless. You cannot be happy and peaceful in a godless society. In the Bhagavad-gétä Lord Kåñëa says that He is the factual enjoyer of all activities of the living entities, that He is the Supreme Lord of all universes, and that He is the well-wishing friend of all beings. When the people of the world know this as the formula for peace, it is then and there that peace will prevail.
Therefore, if you want peace at all, you will have to change your consciousness into Kåñëa consciousness, both individually and collectively, by the simple process of chanting the holy name of God. This is the standard and recognized process for achieving peace in the world. We therefore recommend that everyone become Kåñëa conscious by chanting Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare.
This is practical, simple, and sublime. Five hundred years ago this formula was introduced in India by Lord Çré Caitanya, and now it is available throughout the world. Take to this simple process of chanting as above mentioned, realize your factual position by reading the Bhagavad-gétä As It Is, and reestablish your lost relationship with Kåñëa, God. Peace and prosperity will be the immediate worldwide result.
na bhaved grähyam indriyaiù
sevonmukhe hi jihvädau
svayam eva sphuraty adaù
“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Çré Kåñëa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu 1.2.234)
na bhaved grähyam indriyaiù
sevonmukhe hi jihvädau
svayam eva sphuraty adaù
“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Çré Kåñëa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu 1.2.234)
na bhaved grähyam indriyaiù
sevonmukhe hi jihvädau
svayam eva sphuraty adaù
“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Çré Kåñëa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu 1.2.234)
sa gurum eväbhigacchet
samit-päëiù çrotriyaà brahma-niñöham
“To understand these things properly, one must humbly approach,
with firewood in hand, a spiritual master who is learned in the Vedas
and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth.”
[Muëòaka Upaniñad 1.2.12]