10. The Process Of Purification

Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, the next question somewhat echoes the previous one: “There are various saṁskāras, or purificatory ceremonies, prescribed for every civilized person, from birth to death. Many of these saṁskāras are not being observed today. Should they be revived?”

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The real aim of saṁskāras is to bring a rascal to the platform of knowledge. Janmanā jāyate śūdraḥ: by birth, everyone is the same – śūdra. In other words, one is without any knowledge. So the purpose of saṁskāras is to gradually bring a person who has no knowledge of spiritual life to the spiritual platform. As it is said, saṁskārād bhaved dvijaḥ: by the purificatory processes, one attains spiritual rebirth. That is essential.

Human life is the opportunity for understanding what one is and what the aim of one’s life is. The aim of life is to go back home, back to Godhead. After all, we are part and parcel of God. Somehow or other, we are now in this material existence. So the real aim of life is to return to the spiritual world, where there is no struggle for existence – blissful, happy life. We want unending blissful life, but it is not possible in the material world. That happiness is in the spiritual world. So our aim should be to go there, and every human being should be given the chance. That is real education. That is called saṁskāra, the process of purification.

Now, altogether there are daśa-vidha-saṁskāraḥ, ten kinds of purificatory processes. So, in this age it is very difficult to follow them. But if one chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra without any offense, under the guidance of a spiritual master, all these saṁskāras automatically become fulfilled, and one returns to his original, spiritual position.

Ahaṁ brahmāsmi – “I am a spirit soul.” So, we are Brahman, spirit, and Kṛṣṇa is Param Brahman, the Supreme Spirit. As Arjuna said, paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān: “You are the Supreme Spirit, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth.” Kṛṣṇa is Brahman, or spirit, and I am also Brahman, but He’s the Supreme Brahman, while I am minute Brahman. So my business is to serve Kṛṣṇa. That is the teaching of Lord Caitanya: jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’ – “The real identity of the living being is that he is the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa.” So if one engages himself in his original, spiritual business, acting as the servant of Kṛṣṇa, then all processes of purification and reformation are fulfilled.

And that advantage of re-engagement in our original, spiritual business is given freely in this age: kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet – “Simply by chanting the Lord’s holy name, one achieves spiritual liberation.” The reformatory processes, or saṁskāras, are meant for purifying a person so that he becomes mukta-saṅgaḥ, liberated from all the bad association of material existence and eligible to go back home, back to Godhead. So this is the special advantage of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.

The question was, “Should purificatory processes be revived?” They should be revived as far as necessary, but all of them cannot be revived in this age. So people should take to the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Then all reformation will be there, and people will come to the spiritual platform – brahma-bhūtaḥ, the realization of Brahman. Then prasannātmā: they’ll be happy. Na śocati na kāṅkṣati: there will be no lamentation or needless hankering. Samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu: they will see everyone on the spiritual platform. And finally, mad-bhaktiṁ labhate param. In this way they will come to the platform of devotional service, and then their life becomes successful. Is that question answered or not?

Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Yes. Just one question I have, Śrīla Prabhupāda. You said that the saṁskāras should be revived as far as necessary?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The essentials. For instance, to make one a brāhmaṇa, these four things are essential: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, no gambling. These essentials must be there; you cannot dispense with them. You must at least avoid sinful activities. Then one can practice Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā [7.28]:

yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
janānāṁ puṇya-karmaṇām
te dvandva-moha-nirmuktā
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ

“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose sinful actions are completely eradicated are freed from the dualities of delusion, and they engage themselves in My service with determination.”

You cannot become a devotee unless you give up sinful activity. Therefore you have to begin by following these four prohibitions. You have to avoid sinful activities like illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication, including tobacco, coffee, and tea. Then you’ll gradually become completely sinless. On one side you have to follow restrictions, and on the other side you have to engage yourself in devotional service. To engage oneself in devotional service under the order of the spiritual master and the śāstra is the way to remain on the transcendental platform.

The transcendental platform means there is no sinful activity. It is above any question of “sinful.” “Pious” and “sinful” activities are there only as long as you are on the material platform. “Good” and “bad,” “pious” and “sinful” – these are all considerations on the material platform. But when you are on the transcendental platform, you are automatically without sin. Kṛṣṇa confirms this in Bhagavad-gītā [14.26]:

māṁ ca yo’ vyabhicāreṇa
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
brahma-bhūyāya kalpate

The life of vice and the life of piety are within this material world, but when one is spiritually engaged, he is above the material plane, on the spiritual plane.

So the whole thing is that if you chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and give up these sinful activities, automatically you become reformed. You come to the spiritual platform. And in this way your life will become successful.

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