Everyone Can See God
The Vedic literature is unique among all the world’s scriptures because it details a practical process by which anyone can purify his or her consciousness and see God face to face. In this lecture, delivered in Los Angeles on August 15, 1972, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, “One must actually be very eager to see God.… One must be very serious and think, ’Yes, I have been informed about God. So if there is a God, I must see Him.’ ”
tac chraddadhānā munayo
paśyanty ātmani cātmānaṁ
“The seriously inquisitive student or sage, well equipped with knowledge and detachment, realizes the Absolute Truth by rendering devotional service in terms of what he has heard from the Vedic literature, Vedānta-śruti.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.12]
People sometimes ask, “Have you seen God?” or “Can you show me God?” Sometimes we meet these questions. So the answer is “Yes, I am seeing God. You can also see God; everyone can see God. But you must have the qualification.” Suppose something is wrong with a motorcar; it is not running. Everyone is seeing it, but a mechanic sees it differently. He’s qualified to see it with greater understanding. So he replaces some missing part, and immediately the car runs. But although for seeing a machine we require so much qualification, we want to see God without any qualification. Just see the folly! People are such rascals, they are such fools, that they want to see God with their imagined qualifications.
Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ: “I am not exposed to everyone. My energy, yogamāyā, is covering Me from their vision.” So how can you see God? But this rascaldom is going on – this “Can you show me God?” “Have you seen God?” God has become just like a plaything, so that cheaters advertise some ordinary man by saying, “Here is God. Here is an incarnation of God.”
Na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ prapadyante narādhamāḥ. Sinful rascals, fools, the lowest of mankind – they inquire like that: “Can you show me God?” What qualification have you acquired by which you can see God? Here is the qualification: tac chraddadhānā munayaḥ. One must first of all be faithful (śraddadhāna). One must actually be very much eager to see God. Not that one takes it as a frivolous thing – “Can you show me God?” – or as some magic. They think God is magic. No. One must be very serious and think, “Yes, I have been informed about God. So if there is a God, I must see Him.”
There is a story in this connection. It is very instructive, so try to hear. One professional reciter was publicly reciting the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and he was describing that Kṛṣṇa is very highly decorated with all kinds of jewels when He goes to tend the cows in the forest. So, there was a thief in that meeting, and he thought, “Why not go to Vṛndāvana and plunder this boy? He’s in the forest with so many valuable jewels. I can go there and catch the child and take all the jewels.” This was his intention. So he was serious. “I must find that boy,” he thought. “Then in one night I shall become a millionaire.”
The thief’s qualification was his feeling: “I must see Kṛṣṇa! I must see Kṛṣṇa!” That anxiety, that eagerness, made it possible for him to actually see Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana. He saw Kṛṣṇa in just the same way as the Bhāgavatam reader had described. Then the thief said, “Oh, You are such a nice boy, Kṛṣṇa.” He began to flatter Him; he thought that by flattering Him he would easily take all the jewels. Then he proposed his real business: “May I take some of these ornaments? You are so rich.”
“No, no, no,” said Kṛṣṇa. “My mother will be angry! I cannot give them away.” Kṛṣṇa was playing just like a child.
So the thief became more and more eager for Kṛṣṇa to give Him the jewels, but by Kṛṣṇa’s association he was becoming purified. Then at last Kṛṣṇa said, “All right, you can take them.” Then the thief became a devotee immediately, because by Kṛṣṇa’s association he had been completely purified. So somehow or other you should come in contact with Kṛṣṇa. Then you’ll be purified.
The gopīs are another example of great eagerness to see Kṛṣṇa. The gopīs came to Kṛṣṇa, being captivated by His beautiful features. They were young girls, and Kṛṣṇa was so beautiful. Actually they were lusty when they came to Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is so pure that they became first-class devotees. There is no comparison to the gopīs’ devotion, because they loved Kṛṣṇa with heart and soul. That is the qualification. They loved Kṛṣṇa so much that they didn’t care for family or reputation when they went out in the dead of night. Kṛṣṇa’s flute was sounding, and they were all fleeing their homes. Their fathers, their brothers, their husbands all said, “Where are you going? Where are you going in this dead of night?” But the gopīs didn’t care. They neglected their children, their family, everything. Their only thought was, “We must go to Kṛṣṇa.”
This eagerness is required. We must be very, very eager to see Kṛṣṇa. Many gopīs who were forcibly stopped from going to Kṛṣṇa lost their lives because of their great feelings of separation. So this eagerness is wanted; then you can see God. Whether you are lusty or a thief or a murderer or whatever it may be – somehow or other you must develop this eagerness, this desire: “I must see Kṛṣṇa.” Then Kṛṣṇa will be seen.
The first thing Kṛṣṇa is looking for is how eager you are to see Him. Kṛṣṇa will respond. If you are actually eager to see Kṛṣṇa – whether you are lusty, or you want to steal His ornaments, or some way or other you have become attracted to Kṛṣṇa – then it is sure your efforts will be successful.
But you must desire Kṛṣṇa only. In this connection, Rūpa Gosvāmī has written a verse:
smerāṁ bhaṅgī-traya-paricitāṁ sāci-vistīrṇa-dṛṣṭiṁ
vaṁśī-nyastādhara-kiśalayām ujjvalāṁ candrakeṇa
govindākhyāṁ hari-tanum itaḥ keśi-tīrthopakaṇṭhe
mā prekṣiṣṭhās tava yadi sakhe bandhu-saṅge ’sti raṅgaḥ
The idea is that one gopī is advising another gopī, “My dear friend, there is one boy – His name is Govinda. He is standing on the bank of the Yamunā near the Keśī-ghāṭa, and He is playing on His flute. He is so beautiful, especially during this full-moon night. If you have any intentions to enjoy in this material world with your children, husband, or other family members, then please do not go there.” Bhaṅgī-traya: Kṛṣṇa always stands in a three-curved way with His flute. That is Kṛṣṇa’s tri-bhaṅga form, bending in three places. So the one gopī says to the other, “If you think that you’ll enjoy your life more in this material world, then do not go to see Kṛṣṇa. Do not go there.” The idea is that if you once see Kṛṣṇa, then you’ll forget all this nonsensical materialistic enjoyment. That is seeing Kṛṣṇa.
When Dhruva Mahārāja saw Kṛṣṇa, he said, svāmin kṛtārtho ’smi varaṁ na yāce: “My dear Lord, I don’t want anything else.” Dhruva Mahārāja went to see Kṛṣṇa to get the kingdom of his father, and when he saw Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa offered, “Now, whatever benediction you want, you take.” Dhruva said, “My dear Lord, I no longer have any desire.” That is seeing Kṛṣṇa.
So, if you’re eager to see Kṛṣṇa, regardless of whatever motive you have, somehow or other, due to your eagerness, you’ll see Kṛṣṇa. That is the only qualification.
In another verse, Rūpa Gosvāmī says, kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhāvitā matiḥ krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ’pi labhyate. (I have translated the words Kṛṣṇa consciousness from kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhāvitā.) So here Rūpa Gosvāmī advises, “If Kṛṣṇa consciousness is available, please purchase it immediately. Don’t delay. It is a very nice thing.”
Yes, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is available. You can purchase it from this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. But what is the price? It is such a nice thing, but you have to pay the price. What is that? Tatra laulyam अपि mūlyam ekalam: Simply your eagerness. That is the price. You have to pay this price. Then you get Kṛṣṇa, immediately. Kṛṣṇa is not poor, and the Kṛṣṇa-seller – the Kṛṣṇa devotee – he’s also not poor. He can distribute Kṛṣṇa free. And he’s doing that. You simply have to purchase Him by your eagerness.
Someone may say, “Oh, eagerness? I have eagerness.” Ah-h-h … but it is not so easy. Janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate: This eagerness cannot be achieved even by executing pious activities for millions of births. If you simply go on performing pious activities, still this eagerness is not available.
So, this eagerness is a very important thing, but it can be awakened only by the association of devotees. Therefore we are giving everyone a chance to invoke that eagerness; then you’ll see God, face to face.
This life is meant for seeing Kṛṣṇa. It is not meant for becoming dogs and hogs. Unfortunately, the whole modern civilization is training people to become dogs and hogs. It is only this institution – this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement – that is teaching people how to see Kṛṣṇa. It is so important.
Tac chraddadhānā munayo jñāna-vairāgya-yuktayā. By eagerness, you’ll automatically be enriched with knowledge and detachment. Knowledge does not mean “Now we have discovered this atomic bomb.” That is not knowledge. What knowledge is that? People are already dying, and you have discovered something that will accelerate death. But we are giving knowledge to stop death. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness; that is knowledge. Jñāna-vairāgya-yuktayā. And as soon as you get this knowledge, automatically you become detached from all this nonsensical materialistic happiness.
Thank you very much.
In June 1976, Śrīla Prabhupāda fields questions sent to him from the editors of Bhavan’s Journal, one of Bombay’s leading cultural and religious periodicals.
Devotee: Here is the first question: “It is said that the greatest strength of Hinduism is its catholicity, or breadth of outlook, but that this is also its greatest weakness in that there are very few religious observances that are obligatory for all, as in other religions. Is it necessary and possible to outline certain basic minimum observances for all Hindus?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: As far as Vedic religion is concerned, it is not for the Hindus; it is for all living entities. That is the first thing to be understood. Vedic religion is called sanātana-dharma, “the eternal occupation of the living entity.” The living entity is sanātana [eternal], God is sanātana, and there is sanātana-dharma. Sanātana-dharma is meant for all living entities, not just the so-called Hindus. Hinduism, this “ism,” that “ism” – these are all misconception. Historically, sanātana-dharma was followed regularly in India, and Indians were called “Hindus” by the Muslims. The Muslims saw that the Indians lived on the other side of the River Sind, and the Muslims pronounced Sind as Hind. Therefore they called India “Hindustan” and the people who lived there “Hindus.” But the word Hindu has no reference in the Vedic literature, nor does so-called Hindu dharma. Now that sanātana-dharma, or Vedic dharma, is being distorted, not being obeyed, not being carried out properly, it has come to be known as Hinduism. But that is a freak understanding; that is not a real understanding. We have to study sanātana-dharma as it is described in the Bhagavad-gītā and other Vedic literatures; then we’ll understand what Vedic religion is. [To a devotee:] Read from the eleventh chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, eighteenth verse.
tvam asya viśvasya paraṁ nidhānam
tvam avyayaḥ śāśvata-dharma-goptā
sanātanas tvaṁ puruṣo mato me
“O Lord Kṛṣṇa, You are the supreme primal objective. You are the ultimate resting place of all this universe. You are inexhaustible, and You are the oldest. You are the maintainer of the eternal religion, the Personality of Godhead. This is my opinion.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This understanding is wanted. Kṛṣṇa is eternal, we are eternal, and the place where we can live and exchange our feelings with Kṛṣṇa – that is eternal. And the system that teaches this eternal process of reciprocation – that is sanātana-dharma, which is meant for everyone.
Devotee: So what would be the daily prescribed religious observances followed by one who is aspiring for this sanātana-dharma? What would he do? The complaint is that within Hinduism – or, let’s say, sanātana-dharma – there is such a breadth, there is so much variegatedness in different types—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why do you go to variegatedness? Why don’t you take the real purpose of religion from Kṛṣṇa? Kṛṣṇa says [Bhagavad-gītā 18.66], sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Give up all other so-called dharmas and just surrender to Me.” Why don’t you take that? Why are you taking up variegated practices under the name of so-called Hinduism? Why don’t you take the advice of the sanātana, Kṛṣṇa? You refuse to accept sanātana-dharma – what the sanātana, God, says – but you say, “How can we avoid so many varieties and come to the right point?” Why accept varieties? Take to this one consciousness: sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja. Why don’t you do that?
Devotee: How can people do this practically, on a daily basis?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: How are we doing it? Is what we are doing not practical? People will manufacture their own impractical way of religion, but they won’t take our practical system. What is that? Man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru: Simply think of Kṛṣṇa, become His devotee, worship Him, and offer obeisances to Him. Where is the difficulty? Where is the impracticality? Kṛṣṇa says, “This is your duty. If you do this you will come to Me without any doubt.” Why don’t you do that? Why remain Hindu? Why remain Muslim? Why remain Christian? Give up all this nonsense. Just surrender to Kṛṣṇa and understand, “I am a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, a servant of Kṛṣṇa.” Then everything will immediately be resolved.
Devotee: But the Hindus would say, “There are so many other aspects to Hindu dharma.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Real dharma is defined in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam. “What God says – that is dharma.” Now, God says, “Give up all other dharmas and just surrender unto Me.” So take that dharma. Why do you want to remain a Hindu? And besides, what Hindu does not accept the authority of Kṛṣṇa? Even today, if any Hindu says, “I don’t care for Kṛṣṇa and Bhagavad-gītā,” he will immediately be rejected as a madman. Why don’t you take Kṛṣṇa’s instruction? Why go elsewhere? Your trouble is that you do not know what religion is, and you do not know what sanātana-dharma is. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness society there are many who were formerly so-called Hindus, so-called Muslims, and so-called Christians, but now they don’t care for “Hindu” or “Muslim” or “Christian.” They care only for Kṛṣṇa. That’s all. If you follow a false religious system, you suffer; but if you follow a real religious system, you’ll be happy.
Unfortunately, the Indian people gave up the real religious system – sanātana-dharma, or varṇāśrama-dharma – and accepted a hodgepodge thing called “Hinduism.” Therefore there is trouble. Vedic religion means varṇāśrama-dharma, the division of society into four social classes and four spiritual orders of life. The four social classes are the brāhmaṇas [priests and intellectuals], the kṣatriyas [political leaders and military men], the vaiśyas [merchants and farmers], and the śūdras [manual laborers]. The four spiritual orders are the brahmacārīs [celibate students], the gṛhasthas [householders], the vānaprasthas [retired persons], and the sannyāsīs [renunciants]. When all these classes and orders work harmoniously to satisfy the Lord, that is real religion, or dharma.
Devotee: The next question is this: “In the Kali-yuga, the present age of quarrel, bhakti [devotional service to God] has been described as the most suitable path for God realization. Yet how is it that Vedāntic teachings, which stress jñāna [knowledge, or intellectual speculation], are emphasized by noted savants?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The so-called Vedāntists are cheaters; they do not know what vedānta is. But people want to be cheated, and the cheaters are taking advantage of them. The word veda means “knowledge,” and anta means “end.” So the meaning of vedānta is “the ultimate knowledge,” and the Vedānta-sūtra teaches this. (A sūtra is an aphorism: in a few words, a big philosophy is given.) The first aphorism in the Vedānta-sūtra is athāto brahma-jijñāsā: “Now, in the human form of life, one should inquire about Brahman, the Absolute Truth.” So the study of the Vedānta-sūtra begins when one is inquisitive about the Absolute Truth. And what is that Absolute Truth? That is answered in a nutshell in the second aphorism. Janmādy asya yataḥ: “Brahman is the origin of everything.” So Brahman is God, the origin of everything. And all veda, or knowledge, culminates in Him. This is confirmed by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā [15.15]: vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyah. “The purpose of all the Vedas, all books of knowledge, is to search out Me.”
So the whole Vedānta-sūtra is a description of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But because in this Kali-yuga people will not be able to study Vedānta-sūtra nicely on account of a lack of education, Śrīla Vyāsadeva personally wrote a commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra. That commentary is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (bhāṣyāṁ brahma-sūtrāṇām). Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the real commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra, written by the same author, Vyāsadeva, under the instruction of Nārada, his spiritual master. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam begins with the same aphorism as the Vedānta-sūtra, janmādy asya yataḥ, and then continues, anvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ svarāṭ.
So, actually, in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam the Vedānta-sūtra is explained by the author of the Vedānta-sūtra. But some rascals, without understanding the Vedānta-sūtra, without reading the natural commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra, are posing themselves as Vedāntists and misguiding people. And because people are not educated, they’re accepting these rascals as Vedāntists. Actually, the so-called Vedāntists are bluffers; they are not Vedāntists. They do not know anything of the vedānta. The Vedānta-sūtra is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and if we take Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the real explanation of the Vedānta-sūtra we can understand what vedānta is. But if we take shelter of the bluffers, then we will not learn vedānta. People do not know anything, so they can be bluffed and cheated by anyone. But now they should learn from the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement what vedānta is and what the explanation of vedānta is. Then they will be benefited.
Devotee: Generally, those who follow the impersonalistic commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra are concerned with liberation from the miseries of the material world. Does Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also describe liberation?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Since Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the real commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra, we find this verse describing liberation in this age:
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
In this Kali-yuga, which is an ocean full of faults, there is one benediction. What is that? One can become liberated simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. This is real vedānta, and actually it is happening.
Devotee: Are you saying that the conclusion of the Vedānta-sūtra and the conclusion of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are one and the same – bhakti?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Devotee: But how does bhakti tie in to the conclusion of Vedāntic knowledge or wisdom? Here it says that bhakti is the most suitable and easiest path of God realization, but it also says that the Vedāntic teachings stress jñāna, or knowledge. Is that a fact?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: What is jñāna? That is explained by Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā [7.19]: bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate. “After many, many births, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me.” So unless one surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, there is no jñāna. This impersonalistic “jñāna” is all nonsense. The impersonalists are passing themselves off as jñānīs, but they have no knowledge at all. Vedānta means “the ultimate knowledge.” So the subject matter of ultimate knowledge is Kṛṣṇa, God. If one does not know who God is, who Kṛṣṇa is, then where is one’s knowledge? But if a rascal claims, “I am a man of knowledge,” then what can be done?
In the same verse we just mentioned, Kṛṣṇa concludes, vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ: “When one understands that Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa, is everything, one is in knowledge.” Before that, there is no knowledge. It is simply misunderstanding. Brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate. One may begin by searching out impersonal Brahman by the speculative method, and then one may progress to realization of Paramātmā, the localized aspect of the Supreme. That is the secondary stage of realization. But the final stage is understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. So if you do not understand Kṛṣṇa, where is your knowledge? Halfway knowledge is no knowledge. We want complete knowledge, and that complete knowledge is possible by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, through Bhagavad-gītā.
Devotee: Can I ask the next question, Śrīla Prabhupāda? “Is a guru essential for one to enter the spiritual path and attain the goal? And how does one recognize one’s guru?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, a guru is necessary. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. When Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna were talking as friends, there was no conclusion. Therefore Arjuna decided to accept Kṛṣṇa as his guru. [To a devotee:] find out this verse: kārpaṇya-doṣopahata-svabhāvaḥ—
pṛcchāmi tvāṁ dharma-sammūḍha-cetāḥ
yac chreyaḥ syān niścitaṁ brūhi tan me
śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” [Bhagavad-gītā 2.7]
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Not only Arjuna but everyone is perplexed about his duty. Nobody can decide for himself. When a physician is seriously sick, he does not prescribe his own treatment. He knows his brain is not in order, so he calls for another physician. Similarly, when we are perplexed, bewildered, when we cannot reach any solution – at that time the right person to search out is the guru. It is essential; you cannot avoid it.
So, in our present state of existence we are all perplexed. And under the circumstances, a guru is required to give us real direction. Arjuna represents the perplexed materialistic person who surrenders to a guru. And to set the example Arjuna decided on Kṛṣṇa as his guru. He did not go to anyone else. So the real guru is Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is guru not only for Arjuna but for everyone. If we take instruction from Kṛṣṇa and abide by that instruction, our life is successful. The mission of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is to get everyone to accept Kṛṣṇa as guru. That is our mission. We don’t say, “I am Kṛṣṇa.” We never say that. We simply ask people, “Please abide by the orders of Kṛṣṇa.”
Devotee: Some of these so-called gurus will say some things that Kṛṣṇa says, but they’ll give other instructions also. What is the position of such persons?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: They are most dangerous. Most dangerous. They are opportunists. According to the customer, they give some teachings so he will be pleased. Such a person is not a guru; he’s a servant. He wants to serve his so-called disciples so that they may be satisfied and pay him something. A real guru is not a servant of his disciples; he is their master. If one becomes a servant, if he wants to please the disciples by flattering them to get their money, then he is not a guru. A guru should also be a servant, yes – but a servant of the Supreme. The literal meaning of the word guru is “heavy” – heavy with knowledge and authority, because his knowledge and authority come from Kṛṣṇa. You cannot utilize the guru for satisfying your whims.
Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.” And we say the same thing: “Surrender to Kṛṣṇa. Give up all other ideas of so-called dharma, or religiosity.” We don’t say, “I am the authority.” No. We say, “Kṛṣṇa is the authority, and you should try to understand Kṛṣṇa.” This is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
The Unseen Controller
“Even the most complicated computers need trained men to handle them. Similarly, we should know that this great machine, which is known as the cosmic manifestation, is manipulated by a supreme spirit. That is Krsna.” In an excerpt from his book Kṛṣṇa Consciousness: The Matchless Gift, Śrīla Prabhupāda offers intriguing insights into how God creates and controls the universe.
The purpose of this Hare Kṛṣṇa movement is to bring man back to his original consciousness, which is Kṛṣṇa consciousness, clear consciousness. When water falls from the clouds, it is uncontaminated, like distilled water, but as soon as it touches the ground it becomes muddy and discolored. Similarly, we are originally pure spirit soul, part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, and therefore our original, constitutional position is as pure as God’s. In Bhagavad-gītā [15.7] Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”
Thus all living entities are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. It should always be remembered that when we speak of Kṛṣṇa we are speaking of God, because the name Kṛṣṇa denotes the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. As a fragment of gold is qualitatively the same as a gold reservoir, so the minute particles of Kṛṣṇa’s body are therefore qualitatively as good as Kṛṣṇa. The chemical composition of God’s body and the eternal spiritual body of the living entity is the same – spiritual. Thus originally, in our uncontaminated condition, we possessed a form as good as God’s, but just as rain falls to the ground, so we come in contact with this material world, which is manipulated by the external energy, or material nature.
When we speak of external energy or material nature, the questions may be raised, “Whose energy? Whose nature?” Material energy or nature is not active independently. Such a concept is foolish. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is clearly stated that material nature does not work independently. When a foolish man sees a machine he may think that it is working automatically, but actually it is not – there is a driver, someone in control, although we sometimes cannot see the controller behind the machine due to our defective vision. There are many electronic mechanisms which work very wonderfully, but behind these intricate systems is a scientist who pushes the button. This is very simple to understand: since a machine is matter, it cannot work on its own accord but must work under spiritual direction. A tape recorder works, but it works according to the plans and under the direction of a living entity, a human being. The machine is complete, but unless it is manipulated by a spirit soul, it cannot work. Similarly, we should understand that this cosmic manifestation which we call nature is a great machine, and that behind this machine there is God, Kṛṣṇa. This is also affirmed in Bhagavad-gītā, where Kṛṣṇa says,
“This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all the moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” [Bhagavad-gītā 9.10]
So Kṛṣṇa says that material nature is acting under His direction. Thus behind everything there is a supreme controller. Modern civilization does not understand this due to lack of knowledge. It is the purpose of this Society for Krishna Consciousness, therefore, to enlighten all people who have been maddened by the influence of the three modes of material nature. In other words, our aim is to awaken mankind to its normal condition.
There are many universities, especially in the United States, and many departments of knowledge, but they are not discussing these points. Where is the department for this knowledge that we find given by Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā? When I spoke before some students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first question I raised was: “Where is the technological department which is investigating the difference between a dead man and a living man?” When a man dies, something is lost. Where is the technology to replace it? Why don’t scientists try to solve this problem? Because this is a very difficult subject matter, they set it aside and busily engage in the technology of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. However, the Vedic literatures inform us that this is animal technology. Animals are also trying their best to eat well, to have an enjoyable sex life, to sleep peacefully, and to defend themselves. What, then, is the difference between man’s knowledge and the animals’ knowledge? The fact is that man’s knowledge should be developed to explore that difference between a living body and a dead body.
That spiritual knowledge was imparted by Kṛṣṇa to Arjuna in the beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā. Being a friend of Kṛṣṇa’s, Arjuna was a very intelligent man, but his knowledge, as all men’s, was limited. Kṛṣṇa spoke, however, of subject matters which were beyond Arjuna’s finite knowledge. These subjects are called adhokṣaja because our direct perception, by which we acquire material knowledge, fails to approach them. For example, we have many powerful microscopes to see what we cannot see with our limited vision, but there is no microscope that can show us the soul within the body. Nevertheless, the soul is there.
The Bhagavad-gītā informs us that in this body there is a proprietor – the spirit soul. I am the proprietor of my body, and other souls are the proprietors of their bodies. I say “my hand,” but not “I hand.” Since it is “my hand,” I am different from the hand, being its owner. Similarly, we speak of “my eye,” “my leg,” “my” this, “my” that. In the midst of all these objects which belong to me, where am I? The search for the answer to this question is the process of meditation. In real meditation, we ask, “Where am I? What am I?” We cannot find the answers to these questions by any material effort, and because of this all the universities are setting these questions aside. They say, “It is too difficult a subject.” Or they brush it aside: “It is irrelevant.”
Thus engineers direct their attention to creating and attempting to perfect the horseless carriage and the wingless bird. Formerly, horses were drawing carriages, and there was no air pollution, but now there are cars and airplanes, and the scientists are very proud. “We have invented horseless carriages and wingless birds,” they boast. Although they invent imitation wings for the airplane, they cannot invent a soulless body. When they are able to do this, they will deserve credit. But such an attempt would necessarily be frustrated, for we know that there is no machine that can work without a spirit soul behind it. Even the most complicated computers need trained men to handle them. Similarly, we should know that this great machine known as the cosmic manifestation is manipulated by a supreme spirit. That is Kṛṣṇa.
Scientists are searching for the ultimate cause or the ultimate controller of this material universe and are postulating different theories and proposals, but the real means for knowledge is very easy and perfect: we need only hear from the perfect person, Kṛṣṇa. By accepting the knowledge imparted in Bhagavad-gītā, anyone can immediately know that this great cosmic machine, of which the earth is a part, is working so wonderfully because there is a driver behind it – Kṛṣṇa.
Our process of knowledge is very easy. Kṛṣṇa’s instruction, Bhagavad-gītā, is the principal book of knowledge given by the ādi-puruṣa Himself, the Supreme Primeval Person, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is indeed the perfect person. It may be argued that although we have accepted Him as a perfect person, there are many others who do not. But one should not think that this acceptance is whimsical: He is accepted as the perfect person on the evidence of many authorities. We do not accept Kṛṣṇa as perfect simply on the basis of our whims or sentiments. No – Kṛṣṇa is accepted as God by many Vedic authorities like Vyāsadeva, the author of all Vedic literatures. The treasure house of knowledge is contained in the Vedas, and their author, Vyāsadeva, accepts Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Vyāsadeva’s spiritual master, Nārada, also accepts Kṛṣṇa as such. Nārada’s spiritual master, Brahmā, accepts Kṛṣṇa not only as the Supreme Person but the supreme controller as well – īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ: “The supreme controller is Kṛṣṇa.”
There is no one in the creation who can claim that he is not controlled. Everyone, regardless of how important or powerful, has a controller over his head. Kṛṣṇa, however, has no controller; therefore He is God. He is the controller of everyone, but there is no one superior to Him, no one to control Him; nor is there anyone equal to Him, no one to share His platform of absolute control. This may sound very strange, for there are many so-called Gods nowadays. Indeed, Gods have become very cheap, being especially imported from India. People in other countries are fortunate that Gods are not manufactured there, but in India Gods are manufactured practically every day. We often hear that God is coming to Los Angeles or New York and that people are gathering to receive Him, etc. But Kṛṣṇa is not the type of God who is created in a mystic factory. No. He was not made God: He is God.
We should know, then, on the basis of authority, that behind this gigantic material nature, the cosmic manifestation, there is God – Kṛṣṇa – and that He is accepted by all Vedic authorities. Acceptance of authority is not new for us; everyone accepts authority – in some form or another. For education we go to a teacher or to a school or simply learn from our father and mother. They are all authorities, and our nature is to learn from them. In our childhood we asked, “Father, what is this?” and Father would say, “This is a pen,” “These are spectacles,” or “This is a table.” In this way, from the very beginning of life a child learns from his father and mother. A good father and mother never cheat when their son inquires from them; they give exact and correct information. Similarly, if we get spiritual information from an authority, and if the authority is not a cheater, then our knowledge is perfect. However, if we attempt to reach conclusions by dint of our own speculative powers, we are subject to fall into error. The process of induction, by which one reasons from particular facts or individual cases and arrives at a general conclusion, is never a perfect process. Because we are limited and our experience is limited, the inductive process of acquiring knowledge will always remain imperfect.
But if we receive information from the perfect source, Kṛṣṇa, and if we repeat that information, then what we are speaking can also be accepted as perfect and authoritative. This process of paramparā, or disciplic succession, means hearing from Kṛṣṇa, or from authorities who have accepted Kṛṣṇa, and repeating exactly what they have said. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa recommends this process of knowledge: evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ. “This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way.” [Bhagavad-gītā 4.2]
Formerly, knowledge was passed down by great saintly kings, who were the authorities. In previous ages, however, these kings were ṛṣis – great learned scholars and devotees – and because they were not ordinary men, the government which they headed worked very nicely. There are many instances in Vedic civilization of kings who attained perfection as devotees of God. For example, Dhruva Mahārāja went to the forest to search out God, and by practice of severe penance and austerity he found God within six months.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness process is also based on austerity, but it is not very difficult. There are restrictions governing eating and sex life (only prasādam, food first offered to Kṛṣṇa, is taken, and sex is restricted to married life), and there are other regulations which facilitate and foster spiritual realization. It is not possible in these days to imitate Dhruva Mahārāja, but by following certain basic Vedic principles, we can make advancement in spiritual consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As we advance, we become perfect in knowledge. What is the use of becoming a scientist or a philosopher if we cannot say what our next life will be? A realized student of Kṛṣṇa consciousness can very easily say what his next life is, what God is, what the living entity is, and what his relationship with God is. His knowledge is perfect because it is coming from perfect books of knowledge, such as the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
This, then, is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is very easy, and anyone can adopt it and make his life perfect. If someone says, “I’m not educated at all, and I cannot read books,” he is still not disqualified. He can still perfect his life by simply chanting the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Kṛṣṇa has given us a tongue and two ears, and we may be surprised to know that Kṛṣṇa is realized through the ears and tongue, not through the eyes. By hearing His message, we learn to control the tongue, and after the tongue is controlled, the other senses follow. Of all the senses, the tongue is the most voracious and difficult to control, but it can be controlled simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and tasting kṛṣṇa-prasādam, food offered to Kṛṣṇa.
We cannot understand Kṛṣṇa by sensual perception or by speculation. It is not possible, for Kṛṣṇa is so great that He is beyond our sensual range. But He can be understood by surrender. Kṛṣṇa therefore recommends this process:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Give up all varieties of religiousness and just surrender unto Me; and in return I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore you have nothing to fear.” [Bhagavad-gītā 18.66]
Unfortunately, our disease is that we are rebellious – we automatically resist authority. Yet although we say that we don’t want authority, nature is so strong that it forces authority upon us. We are forced to accept the authority of nature. What can be more pathetic than a man who claims to answer to no authority but who follows his senses blindly wherever they lead him? Our false claim to independence is simply foolishness. We are all under authority, yet we say that we don’t want authority. This is called māyā, illusion. We do, however, have a certain independence – we can choose to be under the authority of our senses or the authority of Kṛṣṇa. The best and ultimate authority is Kṛṣṇa, for He is our eternal well-wisher, and He always speaks for our benefit. Since we have to accept some authority, why not accept His? Simply by hearing of His glories from the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and by chanting His names – Hare Kṛṣṇa – we can swiftly perfect our lives.
Who Is Kṛṣṇa?
August 1973, at Bhaktivedanta Manor, in the countryside near London. Several thousand guests (including the Indian High Commissioner) listen to Śrīla Prabhupāda speak about the confidential identity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is revealed in India’s timeless Vedic scriptures to be not an old man with a long white beard but a sublimely attractive and eternal youth.
Your Excellency the High Commissioner, ladies, and gentlemen, I thank you very much for your coming here and participating in this ceremony – Janmāṣṭamī, the advent of Lord Kṛṣṇa. In the Bhagavad-gītā [4.9] Kṛṣṇa says,
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यमेवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः । त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोSर्जुन ।।
“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.”
It is a fact that we can stop our repeated births and deaths and achieve the state of immortality. But the modern civilization – our great philosophers, great politicians, and great scientists – they have no idea that it is possible to attain the stage of amṛtatvam, immortality. We are all amṛta, deathless, immortal. In the Bhagavad-gītā [2.20] it is said, na jāyate mriyate vā kadācit: We living entities – we never die and never take birth. Ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre. Every one of us – we are primeval and eternal, without beginning and without end. And after the annihilation of this body, we do not die. But when the body is finished, we will have to accept another body:
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” [Bhagavad-gītā 2.13]
At the present moment, all over the world people are lacking knowledge of this simple thing: that all of us living entities are part and parcel of Lord Kṛṣṇa – that like Kṛṣṇa, we are eternal, we are blissful, and we are cognizant. Kṛṣṇa is described in the Vedic literatures:
अनादिरादिर्गोविन्दः सर्वकारणकारणम् ||
“Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all, but He has no origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes.” [Brahma-saṁhitā 5.1]
When I say Kṛṣṇa, that means “God.” It is sometimes said, “God has no name.” That’s a fact. But God’s name is given by His activities. For instance, Kṛṣṇa accepted sonship to Mahārāja Nanda and Yaśodāmāyī and also to Vasudeva and Devakī. Of course, no one is actually the father or mother of Kṛṣṇa, because Kṛṣṇa is the original father of everyone. But when Kṛṣṇa comes here, when He makes His advent, He accepts certain exalted devotees as His father, as His mother.
Still, Kṛṣṇa is ādi-puruṣam, the original person. Then must Kṛṣṇa be very old? No. Nava-yauvanaṁ ca: Always a fresh youth. That is Kṛṣṇa. When Kṛṣṇa was on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, He was just like a boy of twenty years or, at most, twenty-four years. But at that time He had great-grandchildren. So Kṛṣṇa is always a youth. These are the statements of the Vedic literatures.
But if we simply read the Vedic literatures as a formality, it will be very difficult to understand what Kṛṣṇa is – although all the Vedas are meant for understanding Kṛṣṇa. In the Bhagavad-gītā [15.15] Kṛṣṇa says, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ: “By all the Vedas it is I who am to be known.” What is the use of studying the Vedas if you do not understand Kṛṣṇa? The ultimate goal of education is to understand the Supreme Lord, the supreme father, the supreme cause. As it is said in the Vedānta-sūtra, athāto brahma-jijñāsā: “Now – in the human form of life – is the time to discuss the Supreme Absolute Truth, Brahman.”
And what is this Brahman? Janmādy asya yataḥ. Brahman is the one from whom everything emanates. So science and philosophy mean finding out the ultimate cause of everything. And this we are getting from the Vedic literature – that Kṛṣṇa is sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam, the cause of all causes.
Just try to understand. For instance, I am caused by my father; my father is caused by his father; he is caused by his father, who is caused by his father … In this way, if you go on searching, then you’ll ultimately come to someone who is the cause that has no cause. Anādir ādir govindaḥ: The cause that has no cause is Govinda – Kṛṣṇa. I may be the cause of my son, but at the same time I am the result of another cause (my father). But the Vedic literatures say that Kṛṣṇa is the original person; He has no cause. That is Kṛṣṇa.
Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, “Just try to learn about the transcendental nature of My advent and activities.” The advent of Kṛṣṇa – it is a very important thing. We should try to understand Kṛṣṇa, why He makes His advent, why He comes down to this material world, what His business is, what His activities are. If we simply try to understand Kṛṣṇa, then what will be the result? The result will be tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna: we will get immortality.
The aim of life is amṛtatvāya kalpate, to achieve immortality. So today, on the advent of Kṛṣṇa, we shall try to understand the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa.
His Excellency was speaking of peace. The peace formula is there in the Bhagavad-gītā – spoken by Kṛṣṇa. What is that?
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” [Bhagavad-gītā 5.29] The politicians and diplomats are trying to establish peace in the world. We have the United Nations and many other organizations. They are working to establish real peace and tranquillity, to eliminate misunderstanding between man and man and nation and nation. But that is not happening. The defect is that the root is wrong. Everyone is thinking, “It is my country,” “It is my family,” “It is my society,” “It is my property.” This “my” is illusion. In the Vedic literatures it is said, janasya moho ’yam ahaṁ mameti: This “I-and-my” philosophy is māyā – illusion.
So if you want to get out of this māyā, this illusion, then you have to accept Kṛṣṇa’s formula. Mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te: Whoever surrenders to Kṛṣṇa can easily cross beyond all illusion. Everything is there in the Bhagavad-gītā, for our guidance. If we accept the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gītā – as it is – everything is there. Peace is there, prosperity is there.
Unfortunately, we do not accept it, or we misinterpret it. This is our misfortune. In the Bhagavad-gītā [9.34] Kṛṣṇa says, man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru: “Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances unto Me.” Is it a very difficult task? Here is Kṛṣṇa’s Deity. If you think of this Deity, is it very difficult? You come into the temple, and just as a devotee would do, you offer your respect to the Deity. As far as possible, try to worship the Deity.
Kṛṣṇa does not want your property. Kṛṣṇa is open to the poorest man for being worshiped. What is He asking? He says, patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati: “With devotion, if a person offers Me a little leaf, a little fruit, a little water, I accept it.” [Bhagavad-gītā 9.26] Kṛṣṇa is not hungry, but Kṛṣṇa wants to make you a devotee. That is the main point. Yo me bhaktyā prayacchati: “Offer something to Me – with devotion.” That is the main principle. Offer Kṛṣṇa some little thing. Kṛṣṇa is not hungry; Kṛṣṇa is providing food for everyone. But Kṛṣṇa wants your love, your devotion. Therefore He is begging a little water or fruit or a flower. In this way, man-manā bhava mad-bhakta: you can think of Kṛṣṇa and become His devotee.
There is no difficulty in understanding Kṛṣṇa and accepting Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But we’ll not do it – that is our disease. Otherwise, it is not difficult at all. And as soon as we become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, we understand the whole universal situation. Our bhāgavata philosophy, our God conscious philosophy, is also a kind of spiritual communism, because we regard Kṛṣṇa as the supreme father and all living entities as sons of Kṛṣṇa. And Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-loka-maheśvaram: He is the proprietor of all planets. Therefore whatever there is, either in the sky or in the water or on the land, it is all Kṛṣṇa’s property. And because we are all sons of Kṛṣṇa, every one of us has the right to use our father’s property. But we should not encroach upon others. This is the formula for peace. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvaṁ … mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam: “Everything belongs to God, and since you are sons of God, you have the right to use your father’s property. But do not take more than you need. This is punishable.” [Īśopaniṣad 1] If anyone takes more than he needs, then he’s a thief. Yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ [Bhagavad-gītā 3.9]: Whatever we do, we should do it for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa. We should act for Kṛṣṇa; we should do everything for Kṛṣṇa.
That is what we are teaching here. In this temple we are all residing happily – Americans, Indians, Englishmen, Canadians, Africans – people from all different parts of the world. You know that. It is like that not only in this temple, but wherever people are Kṛṣṇa conscious, throughout the world. Kṛṣṇa makes His advent to teach this lesson.
When we forget this philosophy – that Kṛṣṇa is the supreme father, Kṛṣṇa is the supreme proprietor, Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer, and Kṛṣṇa is the supreme friend of everyone – when we forget this, then we come into this material world and struggle for existence, fight with one another. This is material life.
Nor can we get any relief through our politicians, diplomats, philosophers. They have tried so much, but actually nothing they have tried has become fruitful. Take the United Nations. It was organized after the second great war, and they wanted, “We shall now settle everything peacefully.” But there is no such thing. The fighting is going on, between Pakistan and India or between Vietnam and America or this and that. Mundane politics and diplomacy and philosophy – this is not the process. The process is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Everyone has to understand this point, that we are not proprietors. The actual proprietor is Kṛṣṇa. That’s a fact. Take America, for example. Say two hundred years ago, the European immigrants were not the proprietors. Somebody else was the proprietor, and before that somebody else was the proprietor, or it was vacant land. But the actual proprietor is Kṛṣṇa. Artificially we are claiming, “It is my property.” This is called māyā, illusion. So Kṛṣṇa makes His advent to give us this lesson. Kṛṣṇa says, yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata: “My dear Arjuna, I come when there are discrepancies in the process of religious life.” [Bhagavad-gītā 4.7]
And what is real dharma, real religious life? The simple definition of dharma is dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: “Real religious life is that which is enunciated directly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.3.19] For instance, what do you mean by “civil law”? Civil law means the word given by the state. You cannot make civil law at home. That is not possible. Whatever the government gives you – “You should act like this” – that is law. Similarly dharma, religious life, means the direction given by God. That is dharma. Simple definition. If you create some dharma or I create some dharma or another man creates another dharma, these are not dharma.
Therefore Kṛṣṇa ends the Bhagavad-gītā by saying, sarva-dharmān parityajya mam ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Just give up all your concocted ideas about dharma and surrender to Me.” [Bhagavad-gītā 18.66] This is dharma – surrender to Kṛṣṇa. Any other “dharma” is not dharma. Otherwise why does Kṛṣṇa ask, sarva-dharmān parityajya – “Give it all up”? He has already said, “In every age I make My advent to establish the principles of religion.” And at last He says that we should give up all the so-called religious principles that we have manufactured. All these man-made principles are not actually religious principles. Real dharma, real religious life, means what is given by God. But we have no understanding of what God is and what His word is. That is modern civilization’s defect.
But the order is there, God is there – it is simply that we won’t accept. So where is the possibility of peace? Everything is there, ready-made. But we won’t accept. So what is the remedy for our disease? We are searching after peace, but we won’t accept the very thing that will actually give us peace. This is our disease. Therefore, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to awaken the dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness in everyone’s heart. Just consider: four or five years ago, these Europeans and Americans had never even heard of Kṛṣṇa – so how are they now taking Kṛṣṇa consciousness so seriously? Kṛṣṇa consciousness is already there in everyone’s heart. It simply has to be awakened. And this awakening process is described in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta [Madhya 22.107]:
śravaṇādi-śuddha-citte karaye udaya
Love for Kṛṣṇa, devotion for Kṛṣṇa, is within everyone’s heart, but we have forgotten. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is simply meant for awakening that dormant love, by giving everyone the chance to hear about Kṛṣṇa. This is the process.
For instance, when you are sleeping, I have to call you loudly. “Mr. Such-and-such! Such-and-such! Get up! You have to tend to this business.” No other senses will act when you are sleeping. But the ear will act. Therefore in this age, when people are so fallen that they will not listen to anything, if we chant this Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra they’ll be awakened to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is practical. So if we are actually anxious for peace and tranquillity in society, then we must be very serious about understanding Kṛṣṇa. That is my request. Don’t take the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement lightly.
This movement can solve all the problems of life, all the problems in the world. Social, political, philosophical, religious, economic – everything can be solved by Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, we request those who are leaders – like His Excellency, who is present here – to try to understand this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. It is very scientific and authorized. It is not a mental concoction or a sentimental movement. It is a most scientific movement. So we are inviting all leaders from all countries to try to understand. If you are sober, if you are actually reasonable, you’ll understand that this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is the most sublime movement for the welfare of the whole human society.
Anyone may come – we are prepared to discuss this subject matter. The ultimate goal of human life is to achieve immortality. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti. This is our mission, but we have forgotten this. We are simply leading the life of cats and dogs, without any knowledge that we can achieve that perfection of life where there will be no more birth, no more death. We do not even understand that there is the possibility of amṛtatvam, immortality. But it is totally possible. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to become an old man. Nobody wants to become diseased. This is our natural inclination. Why? Because originally, in our spiritual form, there is no birth, no death, no old age, no disease. So after moving through the evolutionary process, up through the aquatics, plants, trees, birds, when at last we come to this human form of body – then we should know what the goal of life is. The goal of life is amṛtatvam, to become immortal.
Immortal you can become, simply by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious. Kṛṣṇa says it. It is a fact. We simply have to understand. Janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ. If you try to understand Kṛṣṇa in truth, then tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti: After giving up this body, you won’t have to accept any more material bodies. And as soon as you don’t accept any more material bodies, that means you have become immortal. The thing is, by nature we are immortal. And Kṛṣṇa comes here to teach us this lesson:
“You are immortal by nature. As spirit soul, you are part and parcel of Me. I am immortal, and so you are also immortal. Unnecessarily, you are trying to be happy in this material world.” [Bhagavad-gītā 15.7]
You have already tried and tried to find happiness in sensuous life, through so many bodies – as cats, as dogs, as demigods, as trees, as plants, as insects. So now that you have a human body, with its higher intelligence, don’t be captivated by sensuous life. Just try to understand Kṛṣṇa. That is the verdict of the Vedic literatures. Nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 5.5.1]: To work very hard like dogs and hogs for sense gratification is not the proper ambition of human life; human life is meant for a little austerity. Tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ śuddhyet: We have to purify our existence; that is the mission of human life. Why should we purify our existence? Brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam: Because then we will get spiritual realization, the unlimited, endless pleasure and happiness. That is real pleasure, real happiness:
“The mystics derive unlimited transcendental pleasures from the Absolute Truth, and therefore the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, is also known as Rāma.” [Padma Purāṇa]
All the great saintly persons of India have cultivated this spiritual knowledge so nicely and fully. Formerly, people used to go to India to find out about spiritual life. Even Jesus Christ went there. And yet we are not taking advantage of it. It is not that these literatures and directions are meant only for the Indians or for the Hindus or for the brāhmaṇas. No. They are meant for everyone, because Kṛṣṇa claims, ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā: “I am everyone’s father.” Therefore, He is very anxious to make us peaceful and happy. Just as an ordinary father wants to see that his son is well situated and happy, similarly Kṛṣṇa wants to see every one of us well situated and happy. Therefore He comes sometimes. This is the purpose of Kṛṣṇa’s advent. Thank you very much.
The Supreme Artist
In February 1973, Śrīla Prabhupāda was invited to speak at an art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand. There he invited his listeners to contemplate the works of the supreme artist – Lord Kṛṣṇa. “The rose is created out of the energies of the Supreme Lord, but these energies are so subtle and so artistic that a nice flower can bloom overnight. So, Krsna is the greatest artist.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for coming here and giving us a chance to speak about the supreme artist. The Vedas describe how great an artist Kṛṣṇa is: na tasya kāryaṁ karaṇaṁ ca vidyate na tat-samaś cābhyadhikaś ca dṛśyate. Nobody can be found who is greater than the Supreme Personality of Godhead or equal to Him, and although He is the greatest artist, He doesn’t have to do anything personally.
In this world everyone of us knows somebody lesser than us, somebody equal to us, and somebody greater than us. That is our experience. However great you may be, you will find somebody equal to you and somebody greater than you. But as far as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is concerned, great sages have concluded by research and experiment that nobody is equal to Him or greater than Him.
God is so great that He has nothing to do, no duties He must perform (न तस्य कार्यं करणं च विद्यते). Why? Parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate: His energies are multifarious, and they are working automatically, according to His desire (svābhāvikī jñāna-bala-kriyā ca). Suppose you are an artist. To paint a picture of a very nice rose, you have to take your brush, mix your colors on the palate, and tax your brain to make the picture beautiful. But in a garden you can see not only one rose but many thousands of roses blooming. They have been very artistically “painted” by nature.
But we should go deeper into the matter. What is nature? Nature is a working instrument, that’s all – an energy. Without some energy working, how could the rose bloom so beautifully from the bud? There must be some energy working, and that energy is Kṛṣṇa’s energy. But it acts so subtly and swiftly that we cannot understand how it is working.
The material energies seem to be working automatically, but actually there is a brain behind them. When you paint a picture, everyone can see that you are working. Similarly, the “painting” of the actual rose is also worked out by several energies. Don’t think that the rose has been created automatically. No. Nothing is created automatically. The rose is created out of the energies of the Supreme Lord, but these energies are so subtle and so artistic that a nice flower can bloom overnight.
So, Kṛṣṇa is the greatest artist. Nowadays, in the electronic age, a scientist just pushes a button and his machine works so perfectly. Or an airplane pilot simply pushes a button and a huge machine just like a small city flies in the sky. So if it is possible for ordinary men of this world to work so wonderfully simply by pushing some buttons, how much greater must be God’s ability to work. How much more fertile His brain must be than ordinary artists’ or scientists’ brains. Simply by His desire – “Let there be creation!” – everything is immediately manifest. So Kṛṣṇa is the greatest artist.
There is no limit to Kṛṣṇa’s artistic ability, because Kṛṣṇa is the seed of all creation (bījaṁ māṁ sarva-bhūtānām). You have all seen a banyan tree. It grows from a small seed. This small seed has so much potency that if you sow it in a fertile place and water it, one day it will become a big banyan tree. Now, what are the potencies, what are the artistic and scientific arrangements, within that small seed that allow it to grow into a big banyan tree? Also, on that banyan tree there are many thousands of fruits, and within each fruit there are thousands of seeds, and each seed contains the potency of another tree. So where is the scientist who can create in that way? Where is the artist within this material world who can create a work of art as pleasing as a banyan tree? These inquiries should be made.
The first aphorism of the Vedānta-sūtra is athāto brahma-jijñāsā: “In the human form of life one should inquire about the Absolute Truth.” So one should carefully study these questions. You cannot manufacture a machine that automatically grows into a big banyan tree. So don’t you think there must be a big artistic brain, a great scientific brain, behind nature? If you simply say, “Nature is working,” that is not a sufficient explanation.
The second aphorism of the Vedānta-sūtra is janmādy asya yataḥ: “The Absolute Truth is He from whom everything is generated.” We have to expand our vision from the small things to the great things. Now we become amazed when we see a small sputnik flying in the sky. It is flying toward the moon, and we are giving all credit to the scientists, and the scientists are challenging, “What is God? Science is everything.”
But if you are intelligent you will compare the sputnik to the millions and trillions of planets and stars. Just on this tiny earth planet there are so many oceans, so many mountains, so many skyscrapers. But if you go above this planet a few million miles, it will look just like a small spot. You will see it as just a spot in the sky. And there are millions of planets floating in the sky like swabs of cotton. So if we give so much credit to the scientists who have manufactured a sputnik, how much more credit we should give to the person who has manufactured this universal arrangement. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness – appreciating the greatest artist, the greatest scientist.
We may appreciate so many artists, but unless we appreciate the greatest artist, Kṛṣṇa, our life is wasted. We find that appreciation in the Brahma-saṁhitā, the prayers of Lord Brahmā, the creator of this universe. In appreciation of Govinda, Kṛṣṇa, he sings,
tad brahma niṣkalam anantam aśeṣa-bhūtaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam aham bhajāmi
Now we are trying to understand the planetary system by our scientific method. But we have not been able to finish studying even the nearest planet, the moon, what to speak of the millions and billions of other planets. But from the Brahma-saṁhitā we get this knowledge: yasya prabhā prabhavato jagad-aṇḍa-koṭi-koṭiṣu. By the glaring effulgence emanating from Kṛṣṇa’s body, innumerable universes are created. We cannot study even one universe, but from the Brahma-saṁhitā we get information that there are innumerable universes and that in each and every universe there are innumerable planets (jagad-aṇḍa-koṭi-koṭiṣu). (Jagad-aṇḍa means “universes,” and koṭi-koṭiṣu means “in innumerable.”) So there are innumerable universes with innumerable suns, innumerable moons, and innumerable planets.
All of this is made possible by Kṛṣṇa’s bodily effulgence, which is called the brahma-jyotir. The jñānīs, those who are trying to approach the Absolute Truth by mental speculation, by dint of their tiny brain power, can at most approach this brahma-jyotir. But that brahma-jyotir is only the illumination of Kṛṣṇa’s body. The best analogy is the sunshine. The sunshine is coming from the sun globe. The sun is localized, and the effulgence of the sun, the sunshine, is distributed all over the universe. Just as the moon reflects the sunshine, the sun also reflects the brahma-jyotir. And the brahma-jyotir is the bodily effulgence of Kṛṣṇa.
So the greatest art is to understand Kṛṣṇa. That is the greatest art. If we actually want to be an artist, we should try to understand, or try to be intimately associated with, the greatest artist, Kṛṣṇa. For this purpose we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The members of this society are trained to see in everything the display of Kṛṣṇa’s artistic sense. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness – to see the artistic hand of Kṛṣṇa everywhere.
In the Bhagavad-gītā [10.8] Kṛṣṇa says, ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate: “Whatever you see is an emanation from Me. Everything is created out of My energy.” One should understand this fact – that Kṛṣṇa is the origin of everything. Lord Brahmā confirms this in his Brahma-saṁhitā [5.1]: īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ. “Kṛṣṇa is the supreme controller.” Here in this material world we have experience of many controllers. Every one of us is a controller. You are a controller; I am a controller. But above you there is another controller, and above him there is another controller, and so on. You may go on searching out controller after controller, and when you come to the supreme controller – He who is not controlled by anyone but who controls everyone else – that is Kṛṣṇa. This is our definition of God: the supreme controller.
Nowadays it has become a cheap business to see many “Gods.” But you can test someone to see if he is God. If he is controlled by somebody else, he is not God. Only if he is the supreme controller should you accept him as God. That is the simple test for God.
Now, another quality of God is that He is full of pleasure (ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt). By nature the Supreme Absolute Person is ānanda-maya, full of pleasure. Suppose you are an artist. You engage in artistic work just to get some pleasure. By painting a picture you enjoy some rasa, some pleasurable mellow. Otherwise, why would you work so hard? There must be some pleasure in painting.
So, Kṛṣṇa is raso vai सः, the reservoir of all pleasurable mellows. He is sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ, full of eternity, knowledge, and pleasure. (Ānanda means “pleasure.”) His pleasure potency is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. You have seen pictures of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. So, Rādhārāṇī is the manifestation of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure potency. As I have already explained, Kṛṣṇa has innumerable energies, and one of these is His pleasure potency, Rādhārāṇī.
So those who have developed love of God are enjoying transcendental pleasure at every moment by seeing the artistic work of Kṛṣṇa everywhere. That is the position of a devotee. Therefore we request everyone to become a devotee, to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, so that you will see the artistic work of Kṛṣṇa everywhere.
Seeing Kṛṣṇa everywhere is not difficult. For example, suppose you are thirsty and you drink some water. When you drink you feel so much pleasure. And Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of all pleasure (raso vai सः). So, that pleasure you feel by drinking water – that is Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa states this in Bhagavad-gītā [7.8]: raso ’ham apsu kaunteya. “I am the taste of water.” For an ordinary person, who cannot fully appreciate Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa is giving the instruction that He is the taste of the water that quenches your thirst. If you simply try to understand that this taste is Kṛṣṇa, or God, you become God conscious.
So it is not very difficult to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. You simply require a little training. And if you read Bhagavad-gītā As It Is – understanding it the way it is stated by Kṛṣṇa Himself, without any rascaldom or false interpretation – you will become Kṛṣṇa conscious. And if you become Kṛṣṇa conscious, your life is successful. You will return to Kṛṣṇa (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti).
There is no loss in becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious, but the gain is very great. Therefore we request all of you to try to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. Read Bhagavad-gītā As It Is; you will find all the information you need to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. Or, if you don’t want to read Bhagavad-gītā, please chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. You will still become Kṛṣṇa conscious.
Thank you very much.
“Everyone is frustrated – husbands, wives, boys, girls. Everywhere there is frustration, because our loving propensity is not being utilized properly.” In this lecture given in Seattle, Washington, in October of 1968, Śrīla Prabhupāda reveals how we can achieve complete satisfaction by directing our love toward the Supreme Person.
चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरुवे नम : ।।
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge.”
Everyone in this material world is born into ignorance, or darkness. Actually, the nature of this material world is that it is dark. It may be lighted with sunlight, moonlight, fire, or electricity, but its nature is dark. That is a scientific fact. So everyone born in this material world – from Brahmā, the chief personality in the topmost planet of this universe, down to the ant – is born into the darkness of ignorance.
Now, the Vedic injunction is, tamasi mā jyotir gamaḥ: “Don’t remain in darkness; come to the light.” And for this, a spiritual master is needed. It is the duty of the spiritual master to open the eyes of the person in darkness with the torch of knowledge, and one should offer one’s respectful obeisances unto such a spiritual master.
People should not be kept in darkness; they should be brought into the light. Therefore, in every human society there is a religious institution of some sort. What is the purpose of Hinduism, Mohammedanism, Christianity, or Buddhism? The purpose is to bring people to the light. That is the purpose of religion.
And what is that light? That light is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states, dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: “The codes of religion are directly given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” In the state there are laws that you must follow. The head of the state gives some laws, and if you are a good citizen you obey those laws, and live peacefully. These laws may be different according to time, circumstances, or people – the state laws of India may not agree cent percent with the laws of the United States – but in every state there are laws that you must obey. One has to abide by the law. Otherwise one is considered the lowest in society, a criminal, and is subject to punishment. That is the general principle.
Similarly, religion means to obey the laws of God. That’s all. And if a human being does not obey the laws of God, he is no better than an animal. All scriptures, all religious principles, are meant to elevate man from the animal platform to the human platform. Therefore, a person without religious principles, without God consciousness, is no better than an animal. That is the verdict of the Vedic literature:
sāmānyam etat paśubhir narāṇām
dharmo hi teṣām adhiko viśeṣo
dharmeṇa hīnāḥ paśubhiḥ samānāḥ
Eating, sleeping, sex, and defense – these four principles are common to both human beings and animals. The distinction between human life and animal life is that a man can search after God but an animal cannot. That is the difference. Therefore a man without that urge for searching after God is no better than an animal.
Unfortunately, at the present moment in every state and every society people are trying to forget God. Some people publicly say there is no God; others say that if there is a God, He is dead; and so on. They have built such a so-called advanced civilization, with so many skyscraper buildings, but they are forgetting that all of their advancement is dependent on God, on Kṛṣṇa. This is a very precarious condition for the human society.
There is a very nice story that describes what happens to a society that forgets the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Once a rat was being troubled by a cat. So the rat went to a saintly person who had mystic powers and said, “My dear sir, I am very much troubled.”
“What is the difficulty?”
The rat said, “A cat always chases me, so I have no peace of mind.”
“Then what do you want?”
“Please make me into a cat.”
“All right, become a cat.”
After a few days, the cat came to the saintly person and said, “My dear sir, again I am in trouble.”
“What is that trouble?”
“The dogs are chasing me.”
“Then what do you want?”
“Make me a dog.”
“All right, become a dog.”
Then after a few days the dog came and said, “Sir, again I am in trouble.”
“What is the trouble?”
“The foxes are chasing me.”
“Then what do you want?”
“To become a fox.”
“All right, become a fox.”
Then the fox came and said, “Oh, tigers are chasing me.”
“Then what do you want?”
“I want to become a tiger.”
“All right, become a tiger.”
Now the tiger began to stare at the saintly person. “I shall eat you,” the tiger said.
“Oh, you shall eat me? I have made you a tiger, and you want to eat me!”
“Yes, I am a tiger, and now I shall eat you.”
Then the saintly person cursed him: “Again become a rat!”
And the tiger became a rat.
So, our human civilization is like this. The other day I was reading the World Almanac. It said that within the next hundred years people will be living underground – like rats. Scientific advancement has created the atomic bomb to kill men, and when it will be used people will have to go underground and become like rats. From tiger to rat. That is going to happen; it is nature’s law.
If you defy the laws of your state, you will be put into difficulty. Similarly, if you continue to defy the authority of the Supreme Lord, you will suffer. Again you will become rats. As soon as the atomic bombs explode, all civilization on the surface of the globe will be finished. You may not like to think about these things – you may regard them as very unpalatable – but these are the facts.
Satyaṁ gṛhyāt priyaṁ gṛhyān mā priyāḥ satyam apriyam. It is a social convention that if you want to speak the truth you should speak it very palatably. But we are not meant for social convention. We are preachers, servants of God, and we must speak the real truth, whether you like it or not.
A godless civilization cannot be happy. That is a fact. So we have started the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to awaken this godless civilization. Just try to love God; this is our simple request. You have love within you – you want to love somebody. A young boy tries to love a young girl; a young girl tries to love a young boy. This is natural, because the loving propensity is within everybody. But we have created circumstances in which our love is being frustrated. Everyone is frustrated – husbands, wives, boys, girls. Everywhere there is frustration, because our loving propensity is not being utilized properly. Why? Because we have forgotten to love the Supreme Person. That is our disease.
So the purpose of religion is to train people how to love God. That is the purpose of all religion. Whether your religion is Christianity or Hinduism or Mohammedanism, the purpose of your religion is to train you how to love God, because that is your constitutional position.
In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.2.6] it is said, sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje. Now, in English dictionaries this word dharma is generally translated as “religion,” a kind of faith, but the actual meaning of dharma is “essential characteristic.” For example, sugar’s dharma, or essential characteristic, is sweetness. If you are given some white powder and you find that it is not sweet, you will at once say, “Oh, this is not sugar; it is something else.” So sweetness is the dharma of sugar. Similarly, a salty taste is the dharma of salt, and pungency is the dharma of chili.
Now, what is your essential characteristic? You are a living entity, and you have to understand your essential characteristic. That characteristic is your dharma, or religion – not the Christian religion, the Hindu religion, this religion, that religion. Your eternal, essential characteristic – that is your religion.
And what is that characteristic? Your essential characteristic is that you want to love somebody, and therefore you want to serve him. That is your essential characteristic. You love your family, you love your society, you love your community, you love your country. And because you love them, you want to serve them. That tendency to engage in loving service is your essential characteristic, your dharma. Whether you are a Christian, a Mohammedan, or a Hindu, this characteristic will remain. Suppose today you are a Christian. Tomorrow you may become a Hindu, but your serving mood, that loving spirit, will stay with you. Therefore, the tendency to love and serve others is your dharma, or your religion. This is the universal form of religion.
Now, you have to apply your loving service in such a way that you will be completely satisfied. Because your loving spirit is now misplaced, you are not happy. You are frustrated and confused. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam tells us how to apply our spirit of loving devotion perfectly:
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
That religion is first class which trains you to love God. And by this religion you will become completely satisfied.
If you develop your love of God to the fullest extent, you will become a perfect person. You will feel perfection within yourself. You are hankering after satisfaction, full satisfaction, but that full satisfaction can be obtained only when you love God. Loving God is the natural function of every living entity. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian or a Hindu or a Muhammadan. Just try to develop your love of God. Then your religion is very nice. Otherwise it is simply a waste of time (śrama eva hi kevalam). If after executing rituals in a particular type of religion throughout your whole life you have no love for God, then you have simply wasted your time.
The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is the postgraduate movement of all kinds of religion. We are inviting all Christians, Muslims, and Hindus – everyone – to please come associate with us and try to love God. And the method is very simple: Just chant His holy names – Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
All my students are Americans, and they have come from either Christian or Jewish families. None of them have come from Hindu families. So the process I have given them – the process of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra – is universal. It is not Hindu or Indian.
The Sanskrit word mantra is a combination of two syllables, man and tra. Man means “mind,” and tra means “deliverance.” Therefore a mantra is that which delivers you from mental concoction, from hovering on the mental plane. So if you chant this mantra – Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare – very soon you’ll find that you are coming from the darkness to the light.
I do not wish to take much of your time, but I simply want to impress upon you the importance of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Try an experiment: Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa for one week, and see how much spiritual progress you make. We don’t charge anything, so there is no loss. But there is great profit; that is guaranteed. Therefore please chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
Thank you very much.
“Everything in the spiritual world is substantial and original. This material world is only an imitation. … It is just like a cinematographic picture, in which we see only the shadow of the real thing.” In this lecture, delivered in October 1966 in New York City, Śrīla Prabhupāda gives an amazing glimpse into the nature of the spiritual world and some positive instructions on how to arrive there at the end of life’s perilous journey.
“Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” [Bhagavad-gītā 8.20]
We cannot calculate the length and breadth of even this universe, yet there are millions and millions of universes like this one within the material sky. And above this material sky there is another sky, which is called the spiritual sky. In that sky all the planets are eternal, and life is eternal, also. We cannot know these things by our material calculations, so we must take this information from the Bhagavad-gītā.
This material manifestation is only one fourth of the whole manifestation, both spiritual and material. In other words, three fourths of the total manifestation is beyond the covered, material sky. The material covering is millions and millions of miles thick, and only after penetrating it can one enter the open, spiritual sky. Here Kṛṣṇa uses the words bhāvaḥ anyaḥ, which mean “another nature.” In other words, there is another, spiritual nature besides the material one we ordinarily experience.
But even now we are experiencing the spiritual as well as the material nature. How is that? Because we ourselves are a combination of matter and spirit. We are spirit, and only as long as we are within the material body does it move. As soon as we are out of the body, it is as good as stone. So, since we can all personally perceive that there is spirit as well as matter, we should also know that there is a spiritual world as well.
In the seventh chapter of Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa discusses the spiritual and material natures. The spiritual nature is superior, and the material nature is inferior. In this material world the material and spiritual natures are mixed, but if we go beyond this material nature altogether – if we go to the spiritual world – we will find only the superior, spiritual nature. This is the information we get in the eighth chapter.
It is not possible to understand these things by experimental knowledge. The scientists can see millions and millions of stars through their telescopes, but they cannot approach them. Their means are insufficient. What to speak of other planets, they cannot approach even the moon planet, which is the nearest. Therefore, we should try to realize how incapable we are of understanding God and God’s kingdom by experimental knowledge. And since getting understanding this way is not possible, it is foolishness to try. Rather, we have to understand God by hearing Bhagavad-gītā. There is no other way. No one can understand who his father is by experimental knowledge. One has to simply believe his mother when she says, “Here is your father.” Similarly, one has to believe Bhagavad-gītā; then one can get all the information.
Nonetheless, while there is no possibility of experimental knowledge about God, if one becomes advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness he will realize God directly. For example, through realization I am firmly convinced of whatever I am saying here about Kṛṣṇa. I am not speaking blindly. Similarly, anyone can realize God. Svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ: Direct knowledge of God will be revealed to anyone who sticks to the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such a person will actually understand, “Yes, there is a spiritual kingdom, where God resides, and I have to go there. I must prepare to go there.” Before going to another country, one may hear so much about it, but when he actually goes there he understands everything directly. Similarly, if one takes up the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one day he’ll understand God and the kingdom of God directly, and the whole problem of his life will be solved.
Here Kṛṣṇa uses the word sanātanaḥ to describe that spiritual kingdom. The material nature has a beginning and an end, but the spiritual nature has no beginning and no end. How is that? We can understand by a simple example: Sometimes, when there is a snowfall, we see that the whole sky is covered by a cloud. But actually that cloud is covering only an insignificant part of the whole sky. Because we are very minute, however, when a cloud covers a few hundred miles of the sky, to us the sky looks completely covered. Similarly, this entire material manifestation (called the mahat-tattva) is like a cloud covering an insignificant portion of the spiritual sky. And just as when the cloud clears we can see the bright, sunlit sky, so when we get clear of this covering of matter we can see the original, spiritual sky.
Furthermore, just as a cloud has a beginning and an end, the material nature also has a beginning and an end, and our material body also has a beginning and an end. Our body simply exists for some time. It takes birth, grows, stays for some time, gives off some by-products, dwindles, and then vanishes. These are the six transformations of the body. Similarly, every material manifestation undergoes these six transformations. Thus at the end this whole material world will be vanquished.
But Kṛṣṇa assures us, paras tasmāt tu bhāvo ’nyo ’vyakto ’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ: “Beyond this destructible, cloudlike material nature, there is another, superior nature, which is eternal. It has no beginning and no end.” Then He says, यः sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu naśyatsu na vinaśyati: “When this material manifestation is annihilated, that superior nature will remain.” When a cloud in the sky is annihilated, the sky remains. Similarly, when the cloudlike material manifestation is annihilated, the spiritual sky remains. This is called avyakto ’vyaktāt.
There are many volumes of Vedic literature containing information about the material sky and the spiritual sky. In the Second Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam we find a description of the spiritual sky: what its nature is, what kind of people live there, what their features are – everything. We even get information that in the spiritual sky there are spiritual airplanes. The living entities there are all liberated, and when they fly in their airplanes they look as beautiful as lightning.
So, everything in the spiritual world is substantial and original. This material world is only an imitation. Whatever we see in this material world is all imitation, shadow. It is just like a cinematographic picture, in which we see only the shadow of the real thing.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.1.1] it is said, yatra tri-sargo ’mṛṣā: “This material world is illusory.” We have all seen a pretty mannequin of a girl in a shopkeeper’s showcase. Every sane man knows that it is an imitation. But the so-called beautiful things in this material world are just like the beautiful “girl” in the shopkeeper’s window. Indeed, whatever beautiful thing we see here in this material world is simply an imitation of the real beauty in the spiritual world. As Śrīdhara Svāmī says, yat satyatayā mithyā sargo ’pi satyavat pratīyate: “The spiritual world is real, and the unreal, material manifestation only appears real.” Something is real only if it will exist eternally. Reality cannot be vanquished. Similarly, real pleasure must be eternal. Since material pleasure is temporary, it is not actual, and those who seek real pleasure don’t take part in this shadow pleasure. They strive for the real, eternal pleasure of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Here Kṛṣṇa says, यः sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu naśyatsu na vinaśyati: “When everything in the material world is annihilated, that spiritual nature will remain eternally.” The aim of human life is to reach that spiritual sky. But people do not know the reality of the spiritual sky. The Bhāgavatam says, na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum: “People do not know their self-interest. They do not know that human life is meant for understanding spiritual reality and preparing ourselves for being transferred to that reality. It is not meant for remaining here in the material world.” The whole of Vedic literature instructs us like this. Tamasi mā jyotir gamaḥ: “Don’t remain in the darkness; go to the light.” This material world is darkness. We are artificially illuminating it with electric lights and fires and so many other things, but its nature is dark. The spiritual world, however, is not dark; it is full of light. Just as on the sun planet there is no possibility of darkness, so there is no possibility of darkness in the spiritual nature, because every planet there is self-illuminated.
It is clearly stated in Bhagavad-gītā that the supreme destination, from which there is no return, is the abode of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person. The Brahma-saṁhitā describes this supreme abode as ānanda-cinmaya-rasa, a place where everything is full of spiritual bliss. Whatever variegatedness is manifest there is all of the quality of spiritual bliss – nothing there is material. That spiritual variegatedness is the spiritual expansion of the Supreme Godhead Himself, for the manifestation there is totally of the spiritual energy.
Although the Lord is always in His supreme abode, He is nonetheless all-pervading by His material energy. So by His spiritual and material energies, He is present everywhere – in both the material and the spiritual universes. In Bhagavad-gītā, the words yasyāntaḥ-sthāni bhūtāni indicate that everything is sustained by Him, whether it be spiritual or material energy.
It is clearly stated in Bhagavad-gītā that only by bhakti, or devotional service, can one enter into the Vaikuṇṭha (spiritual) planetary system. In all the Vaikuṇṭhas there is only one Supreme Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, who has expanded Himself into millions and millions of plenary portions. These plenary expansions are four-armed, and They preside over innumerable spiritual planets. They are known by a variety of names: Puruṣottama, Trivikrama, Keśava, Mādhava, Aniruddha, Hṛṣīkeśa, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, Śrīdhara, Vāsudeva, Dāmodara, Janārdana, Nārāyaṇa, Vāmana, Padmanābha, and so on. These plenary expansions are like the leaves of a tree, the main trunk of the tree being like Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa, dwelling in Goloka Vṛndāvana, His supreme abode, systematically and flawlessly conducts all affairs of both universes (material and spiritual) by the power of His all-pervasiveness.
Now, if we are at all interested in reaching Kṛṣṇa’s supreme abode, then we must practice bhakti-yoga. The word bhakti means “devotional service,” or, in other words, submission to the Supreme Lord. Kṛṣṇa clearly says, puruṣaḥ sa paraḥ pārtha bhaktyā labhyas tv ananyayā. The words tv ananyayā here mean “without any other engagement.” So, to reach the spiritual abode of the Lord, we must engage in pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.
One definition of bhakti is given in the authoritative book Nārada-pañcarātra:
sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
“Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. First, he is freed from all material designations, and second, his senses are purified simply by being employed in the service of the Lord.”
Now we are encumbered by so many bodily designations. “Indian,” “American,” “African,” “European” – these are all bodily designations. Our bodies are not we ourselves, yet we identify with these designations. Suppose one has received a university degree and identifies himself as an M.A. or a B.A. or a Ph.D. He is not that degree, but he has identified with that designation. So, bhakti means to free oneself from these designations (sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam). Upādhi means “designation.” If someone gets the title “Sir,” he becomes very happy: “Oh, I have this `Sir’ title.” He forgets that this title is only his designation – that it will exist only as long as he has his body. But the body is sure to be vanquished, along with all its designations. When one gets another body, he gets other designations. Suppose in the present lifetime one is an American. The next body he gets may be Chinese. Therefore, since we are always changing our bodily designations, we should stop identifying them as our self. When one is determined to free himself of all these nonsensical designations, then he can attain bhakti.
In the above verse from the Nārada-pañcarātra, the word nirmalam means “completely pure.” What is that purity? One should be convinced, “I am spirit (ahaṁ brahmāsmi). I am not this material body, which is simply my covering. I am an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa; that is my real identity.” One who is freed from false designations and fixed in his real constitutional position always renders service to Kṛṣṇa with his senses (hṛṣīkena hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate). The word hṛṣīka means “the senses.” Now our senses are designated, but when our senses are free from designations, and when with that freedom and in that purity we serve Kṛṣṇa – that is devotional service.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī explains pure devotional service in this verse from Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu [1.1.11]:
“When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, of knowledge tainted by monistic philosophy, and of fruitive action. A pure devotee must constantly serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, as Kṛṣṇa desires.” We have to serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, not unfavorably. Also, we should be free from material desires (anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam). Usually one wants to serve God for some material purpose. Of course, that is also good. If someone goes to God for some material gain, he’s far greater than the person who never goes to God. That is admitted in Bhagavad-gītā [7.16]:
janāḥ sukṛtino ’rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
“O best among the Bhāratas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me – the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” But it is best that we not go to God with some desire for material benefit. We should be free of this impurity (anyābhilāṣitā-śunyam).
The next words Rūpa Gosvāmī uses to describe pure bhakti are jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam. The word jñāna refers to the effort to understand Kṛṣṇa by mental speculation. Of course, we should try to understand Kṛṣṇa, but we should always remember that He is unlimited and that we can never fully understand Him. It is not possible for us to do this. Therefore, we have to accept whatever is presented to us in the revealed scriptures. The Bhagavad-gītā, for example, is presented by Kṛṣṇa for our understanding. We should try to understand Him simply by hearing from books like Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The word karma means “work with some fruitive result.” If we want to practice pure bhakti, we should work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness selflessly – not just to get some profit out of it.
Next Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that pure bhakti must be ānukūlyena, or favorable. We must culture Kṛṣṇa consciousness favorably. We should find out what will please Kṛṣṇa, and we should do that. How can we know what will please Kṛṣṇa? By hearing Bhagavad-gītā and taking the right interpretation from the right person. Then we’ll know what Kṛṣṇa wants, and we can act accordingly. At that time we will be elevated to first-class devotional service.
So, bhakti-yoga is a great science, and there is immense literature to help us understand it. We should utilize our time to understand this science and thus prepare ourselves to receive the supreme benefit at the time of our death – to attain to the spiritual planets, where the Supreme Personality of Godhead resides.
There are millions of planets and stars within this universe, yet this entire universe is only a small particle within the total creation. There are many universes like ours, and, as mentioned before, the spiritual sky is three times as large as the total material creation. In other words, three fourths of the total manifestation is in the spiritual sky.
We get information from Bhagavad-gītā that on every spiritual planet in the spiritual sky there is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. They are all puruṣa, or persons; they are not impersonal. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says, puruṣaḥ sa paraḥ pārtha bhaktyā labhyas tv ananyayā: One can approach the Supreme Person only by devotional service – not by challenge, not by philosophical speculation, and not by exercising in this yoga or that yoga. No. It is clearly stated that one can approach Kṛṣṇa only by surrender and devotional service. It is not stated that one can reach Him by philosophical speculation or mental concoction or some physical exercise. One can reach Kṛṣṇa only by practicing devotion, without deviating to fruitive activities, philosophical speculation, or physical exercise. Only by unalloyed devotional service, without any admixture, can we reach the spiritual world.
Now, Bhagavad-gītā further says, yasyāntaḥ-sthāni bhūtāni yena sarvam idaṁ tatam. Kṛṣṇa is such a great person that although situated in His own abode, He is still all-pervading, and everything is within Him. How can this be? The sun is located in one place, but the sun rays are distributed all over the universe. Similarly, although God is situated in His own abode in the spiritual sky, His energy is distributed everywhere. Also, He’s not different from His energy, just as the sun and the sunshine are not different, in the sense that they are composed of the same illuminating substance. So, Kṛṣṇa distributes Himself everywhere by His energies, and when we become advanced in devotional service we can see Him everywhere, just as one can light a lamp anywhere by plugging it into the electric circuit.
In his Brahma-saṁhitā, Lord Brahmā describes the qualifications we require to see God: premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti. Those who have developed love of God can constantly see God before them, twenty-four hours a day. The word sadaiva means “constantly, twenty-four hours a day.” If one is actually God-realized, he doesn’t say, “Oh, I saw God yesterday night, but now He’s not visible.” No, He’s always visible, because He’s everywhere.
Therefore, the conclusion is that we can see Kṛṣṇa everywhere, but we have to develop the eyes to see Him. We can do that by the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. When we see Kṛṣṇa, and when we approach Him in His spiritual abode, our life will be successful, our aims will be fulfilled, and we’ll be happy and prosperous eternally.
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