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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the golden avatara, appeared in India nearly 500 years ago. It is the custom in India that when a child is born, an astrologer is called for. When Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared 5,000 years ago, Gargamuni was called by His father, and he said, "This child formerly incarnated in five complexions, such as red and golden, and now He has appeared in blackish color." Krsna's color is described in the scriptures as blackish, just like a cloud. Lord Caitanya is understood to be Krsna appearing in golden complexion.
There are many evidences in Vedic literature that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is an incarnation of Krsna, and this is confirmed by scholars and devotees. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is confirmed that the incarnation of Krsna or God in this present age, Kali-yuga, will always engage in describing Krsna. He is Krsna, but as a devotee of Krsna He describes Himself. And in this age His bodily complexion will not be blackish. This means that it may be white, it may be red, or it may be yellow because these four colors—white, red, yellow and black—are the colors assumed by the incarnations for the different ages. Therefore, since the red, white and blackish colors were already taken by former incarnations, the remaining color, golden, is assumed by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His complexion is not blackish, but He is Krsna.
Another feature of this avatara is that He is always accompanied by His associates. In the picture of Caitanya Mahaprabhu one will find that He is always followed by many devotees chanting. Whenever God incarnates He has two missions, as stated in Bhagavad-gita. There Krsna says, "Whenever I appear, My mission is to deliver the pious devotees and to annihilate the demons." When Krsna appeared, He had to kill many demons. If we see a picture of Visnu we will notice that He has a conchshell, lotus flower, club and disc. These last two items are meant for killing demons. Within this world there are two classes of men—the demons and the devotees. The devotees are called demigods; they are almost like God because they have godly qualities. Those who are devotees are called godly persons, and those who are nondevotees, atheists, are called demons. So Krsna, or God, comes with two missions: to give protection to the devotees and to destroy the demons. In this age Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission is also like that: to deliver the devotees and to annihilate the nondevotees, the demons. But in this age He has a different weapon. That weapon is not a club or disc or lethal weapon—His weapon is the sankirtana movement. He killed the demonic mentality of the people by introducing thc sankirtana movement. That is the specific significance of Lord Caitanya. In this age people are already killing themselves. They have discovered atomic weapons with which to kill themselves, so there is no need for God to kill them. But He appeared to kill their demonic mentality. That is possible by this Krsna consciousness movement.
Therefore, in Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that this is the incarnation of God in this age. And who worships Him? The process is very simple. Just keep a picture of Lord Caitanya with His associates. [See picture on this page.] Lord Caitanya is in the middle, accompanied by His principal associates—Nityananda, Advaita, Gadadhara and Srivasa. One simply has to keep this picture. One can keep it anywhere. It is not that one has to come to us to see this picture. Anyone can have this picture in his home, chant this Hare Krsna mantra, and thus worship Lord Caitanya. That is the simple method. But who will capture this simple method? Those who have good brains. Without much bother, if one simply keeps a picture of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at home and chants Hare Krsna, then one will realize God. Anyone can adopt this simple method. There is no expenditure, there is no tax, nor is there any need to build a very big church or temple. Anyone, anywhere, can sit down on the road or beneath a tree and chant the Hare Krsna mantra and worship God. Therefore it is a great opportunity. For example, in business or political life one sometimes finds a great opportunity. Those who are intelligent politicians take a good opportunity and make a success of it the first time it comes. Similarly, in this age, those who have sufficient intelligence take to this sankirtana movement, and they advance very quickly.
Krsna As He Is
Lord Caitanya is called the golden avatara. Avatara means descending, coming down. Just as one may come down from the fifth story or the one hundredth story of a building, similarly, an avatara comes down from the spiritual planets in the spiritual sky. The sky we see with our naked eyes or with a telescope is only the material sky. But beyond this there is another sky, which is not possible to see with our eyes or instruments. That information is in Bhagavad-gita; it is not imagination. Krsna says that beyond this material sky there is another sky, the spiritual sky.
We have to take Krsna's word as it is. For example, we teach small children that beyond England there are other places called Germany and India, and the child has to learn about these places from the version of the teacher because they are beyond his sphere. Similarly, beyond this material sky there is another sky. One cannot experiment to find it, any more than a small child can experiment to find England or India. That is not possible. If we want to get knowledge, then we have to accept authority. Similarly, if we want to know what is beyond the material world, then we have to accept the Vedic authority, otherwise there is no possibility of knowing. It is beyond material knowledge. One cannot go to the far planets in this universe, and what to speak of going beyond this universe. The estimation is that in order to go to the highest planet of this universe with modern machinery one has to travel for 40,000 years. So we cannot even travel within this material sky. Our lifetime and means are so limited that we cannot have proper knowledge of even this material world.
In Bhagavad-gita, when Arjuna asked Krsna, "Will You kindly explain the extent to which Your energies are working?" the Supreme Lord gave him so many instances, and at the end He finally said, "My dear Arjuna, what shall I explain about My energies? It is not actually possible for you to understand. But you can just imagine the expansion of My energies: this material world, which consists of millions of universes, is a display of only one-fourth of My creation." We cannot estimate the position of even one universe, and there are millions of universes. Then beyond that there is the spiritual sky, and there are millions of spiritual planets. All this information is available from the Vedic literature. If one accepts Vedic literature, then he can get this knowledge. If one doesn't accept it, there is no other means. That is our choice. Therefore, according to Vedic civilization, whenever an acarya speaks he immediately gives references from the Vedic literature. Then others will accept it: "Yes, it is correct." In a law court the lawyer gives references from past judgements of the court, and if his case is tight, the judge accepts. Similarly, if one can give evidence from the Vedas, then it is understood that his position is factual.
The avatara for this age, Lord Caitanya, is described in Vedic literature. We cannot accept anyone as an avatara unless he has the symptoms described in the scriptures. We do not whimsically accept Lord Caitanya as an avatara on the basis of votes. Nowadays it has become a fashion that any man can come and say that he is God or an incarnation of God, and some fools and rascals will accept it: "Oh, he is God." We do not accept an avatara like that. We take evidence from the Vedas.
An avatara must conform to descriptions in the Vedas. Then we accept him, otherwise no. For each avatara there is a description in the Vedas: He will appear at such and such a place, in such and such a form, and He will act like this. That is the nature of Vedic evidence.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a list of the avataras, and there is mention of Lord Buddha's name. This Srimad-Bhagavatam was written 5,000 years ago, and it mentions different names for future times. It says that in the future the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, His mother's name will be Anjana, and he will appear in Gaya. So Buddha appeared 2,600 years ago, and Srimad-Bhagavatam, which was written 5,000 years ago, mentioned that in the future he would appear. Similarly, there is mention of Lord Caitanya, and similarly the last avatara of this Kali-yuga is also mentioned in the Bhagavatam. It is mentioned that the last incarnation in this age is Kalki. He will appear as the son of a brahmana whose name is Visnu-yasa in a place called Sambhala. There is a place in India with that name, so perhaps it is there that the Lord will appear.
So an avatara must conform to the descriptions in the Upanisads, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and other Vedic literatures. And on the authority of Vedic literature and the commentary of great stalwart gosvamis like Jiva Gosvami, who was the greatest scholar and philosopher in the world, we can accept Lord Caitanya as an incarnation of Krsna.
Why did Lord Caitanya appear? In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says, "Give up all other engagements and simply engage in My service. I will give you protection from all results of sinful actions." In this material world, in conditional life, we are simply creating sinful reactions. That's all. And because of sinful reactions we have received this body. If our sinful reactions stopped we would not have to take a material body: we should get a spiritual body.
What is a spiritual body? A spiritual body is a body which is free from death, birth, disease and old age. It is an eternal body, full of knowledge and bliss. Different bodies are created by different desires. As long as we have desires for different kinds of enjoyment, we have ot accept different kinds of material bodies. Krsna, God, is so kind that He awards whatever we want. If we want a tiger's body with tiger-like strength and teeth with which to capture animals and suck fresh blood, then Krsna will give us the opportunity. And if we want the body of a saintly person, a devotee engaged only in the service of the Lord, then He will give us that body. This is stated in Bhagavad-gita.
There Is No Loss
If a person engaged in yoga, the process of self-realization, somehow or other fails to complete the process, he is given another chance; he is given birth in a family of a pure brahmana or a rich man. If one is fortunate enough to take birth in such a family, he gets all facilities to understand the importance of self-realization. From the very beginning of life our Krsna conscious children are getting the opportunity to learn how to chant and dance, so when they are grown up they cannot change that. They will not change, but instead will automatically make progress. They are very fortunate. Regardless of whether he is born in America or Europe, a child will advance if his father and mother are devotees. He gets this opportunity. If a child takes birth in a family of devotees, this means that in his last life he had already taken to the yoga process, but somehow or other he could not finish it. Therefore the child is given another opportunity to make progress under the care of a good father and mother so that he will again advance. In this way, as soon as one completes his development of God consciousness, then he no longer has to take birth in this material world, but returns to the spiritual world.
Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita: "My dear Arjuna, if one understands My appearance, disappearance and activities, simply because of this understanding he is given the opportunity to take birth in the spiritual world after giving up this body." One has to give up this body—today, tomorrow or maybe the day after that. One has to. But a person who has understood Krsna will not have to take another material body. He goes directly to the spiritual world and takes birth in one of the spiritual planets. So Krsna says that as soon as one gets this body—it doesn't matter if it is from India or the moon or the sun or Brahmaloka or anywhere within this material world—one should know that it is due to his sinful activities. There are degrees of sinful activities, so according to the degree of sinfulness, one takes a material body. Therefore our real problem is not how to eat, sleep, mate and defend—our real problem is how to get another body which is not material but spiritual. That is the ultimate solution to all problems. So Krsna guarantees that if one surrenders unto Him, if one becomes fully Krsna conscious, then He will give him protection from all reactions to sinful life.
There Is Only One Teaching
This assurance was given by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, but there were many fools who could not understand Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita they are described as mudhas. Mudha means rascal, and Krsna says in the Gita, "They do not know what I actually am." So many people misunderstood Krsna. Although Krsna gave us this message of Bhagavad-gita so that we could understand Him, many people missed the opportunity. Therefore Krsna, out of His compassion, came again as a devotee and showed us how to surrender unto Krsna. Krsna Himself came to teach us how to surrender. His last instruction in Bhagavad-gita is surrender, but people—mudhas, rascals—said, "Why should I surrender?" Therefore, although Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself, this time He teaches us practically how to execute the mission of Bhagavad-gita. That's all. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is teaching nothing extraordinary, nothing beyond the process of surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead which was already taught in Bhagavad-gita. There is no other teaching, but the same teaching is presented in different ways so that different kinds of people may take it and take the opportunity to approach God.
Caitanya Is Krsna
Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives us the opportunity to reach God directly. When Rupa Gosvami, the principal disciple of Lord Caitanya, first saw Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he was a minister in the government of Bengal but wanted to join Caitanya Mahaprabhu's movement. So he gave up his position as a minister, and after joining, when he surrendered, he offered a nice prayer to Lord Caitanya. This prayer says, namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te/ krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah. "My dear Lord, You are the most munificent of all the incarnations." Why? Krsna-prema-pradaya te: "You are directly giving love of God. You have no other purpose. Your process is so nice that one can immediately learn to love God. Therefore You are the most munificent of all incarnations. And it is not possible for any personality other than Krsna Himself to deliver this benediction; therefore I say that You are Krsna." Krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne: "You are Krsna, but You have assumed the name Krsna Caitanya. I surrender unto You."
So this is the process. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself, and He is teaching how to develop love of God by a very simple method. He says simply to chant Hare Krsna. Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. In this age, simply go on chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. There is no other alternative. People are embarrassed by so many methods of realization. They cannot take to the actual ritualistic processes of meditation or yoga; it is not possible. Therefore Lord Caitanya says that if one takes up this process of chanting, then immediately he can reach the platform of realization.
The chanting process offered by Lord Caitanya for achieving love of God is called sankirtana. Sankirtana is a Sanskrit word. Sam means samyak—complete. And kirtana means glorifying or describing. So complete description means complete glorification of the Supreme, or the Supreme Complete Whole. It is not that one can describe anything or glorify anything and that will be kirtana. From the grammatical point of view that may be kirtana but according to the Vedic system, kirtana means describing the supreme authority the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is called kirtana.
This devotional service begins with the method of sravanam. Sravanam means hearing, and kirtana means describing. One should describe, and another should hear. Or the same man himself can both describe and hear. He does not need anyone else's help. Just as, when we chant Hare Krsna, we chant and hear. This is complete.
This is a complete method. But what is that chanting and hearing? One must chant and hear about Visnu, Krsna. Not of anything else. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh: One can understand Visnu, the all-pervading Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by the method of hearing.
We have to hear; if one simply hears, that is the beginning. One does not need any education or development of material knowledge. Just like a child: as soon as he hears, immediately he can respond and dance. So by nature God has given us these nice instruments—ears—so that we can hear. But we must hear from the right source. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. One must hear from those who are devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are called satam. If one hears from the right source, from a realized soul, then it will act. And these words of God, or Krsna, are very relishable. If one is intelligent enough, he will listen to what is spoken by the realized soul. Then very soon he will be released from material entanglements.
This human life is meant for advancing on the path of liberation. That is called apavarga, freedom from entanglement. We are all entangled. Our acceptance of this material body means that we are already entangled. But we should not progress in the process of entanglement. That process is called karma. As long as the mind is absorbed in karma, we will have to accept a material body. At the time of death, our mind may be thinking, "Oh, I could not complete this work. Oh, I am dying! I have to do this. I have to do that." That means that Krsna will give us another chance to do it, and so we will have to accept another body. He will give us the chance: "All right. You could not do it. Now do it. Take this body." Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam says, "These rascals have become madly intoxicated; because of intoxication they are doing something which they should not have done." What are they doing? Maharaja Dhrtarastra is a very good example. Maharaja Dhrtarastra was cunningly planning to kill the Pandavas in order to favor his own sons, so Krsna sent His uncle, Akrura, to advise him not to do that. Dhrtarastra understood Akrura's instructions, but he said, "My dear Akrura, what you are saying is quite right, but it does not stand in my heart, so I cannot change my policy. I have to follow this policy and let whatever happens take place."
So when men want to satisfy their senses, they become mad, and in this madness they'll do anything and everything. For example, there have been many instances in material life where someone has become mad after something and has committed a criminal action such as murder. He could not check himself. Similarly, we are accustomed to sense gratification. We are mad, and therefore our mind is fully absorbed in karma. This is very unfortunate because our body, although temporary, is the reservoir of all misfortunes and miseries; it is always giving us trouble. These matters are to be studied. We should not be mad. Human life is not meant for that. The defect of the present civilization is that people are mad after sense gratification. That is all. They do not know the real value of life, and therefore they are neglecting the most valuable form of life, this human form.
When this body is finished there is no guarantee what kind of body one will take next. Suppose in my next life I by chance get the life of a tree. For thousands of years I will have to stand up. But people are not very serious. They even say, "What is that? Even if I have to stand up, I shall forget." The lower species of life are situated in forgetfulness. If a tree were not forgetful it would be impossible for it to live. Suppose we were told, "You stand up for three days here!" Because we are not forgetful, we would become mad. So, by nature's law, all these lower species of life are forgetful. Their consciousness is not developed. A tree has life, but even if someone cuts it, because its consciousness is not developed, it does not respond. So we should be very careful to properly utilize this human form of life. This Krsna consciousness movement is meant for achieving perfection in life. It is not a bluff or exploitation, but unfortunately people are accustomed to being bluffed. There is a verse by an Indian poet: "If one speaks nice things, people will quarrel with him: 'Oh, what nonsense you are speaking.' But if he bluffs them and cheats them, they will be very glad." So if a bluffer says, "Just do this, give me my fee, and within six months you will become God," then they will agree: "Yes, take this fee, and I shall become God within six months." No. These cheating processes will not solve our problem. If one actually wants to solve the problems of life in this age, then he has to take to this process of kirtana. That is the recommended process. Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha: In this age, Kali-yuga, one cannot execute any process of self-realization or perfection of life other than kirtana. Kirtana is essential in this age.
In all Vedic literatures it is confirmed that one must meditate on the Supreme Absolute Truth, Visnu, not on anything else. But there are different processes of meditation recommended for different ages. The process of mystic yogic meditation was possible in Satya-yuga, when men lived for many thousands of years. Now people will not believe this, but in a previous age there were people who lived for 100,000 years. That age was called Satya-yuga, and the meditation of mystic yoga was possible at that time. In that age the great yogi Valmiki Muni meditated for 60,000 years. So that is a long-term process which is not possible to execute in this age. If one wishes to conduct a farce, that is another matter. But if one actually wants to practice such meditation, it takes an extremely long time to perfect. In the next age, Treta-yuga, the process of realization was to perform the various ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas. In the next age, Dvapara-yuga, the process was temple worship. In this present age the same result can be achieved by the process of Hari-kirtana, glorification of Hari, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
No other kirtana is recommended. This Hari-kirtana was started 500 years ago in Bengal by Lord Caitanya. So in Bengal there is competition between the Vaisnavas and the Saktas. The Saktas introduced a certain type of kirtana which is called Kali-kirtana But in the Vedic scriptures there is no recommendation of Kali-kirtana. Kirtana means Hari-kirtana One cannot say, "Oh, You are Vaisnava. You can perform Hari-kirtana. I shall perform Siva-kirtana or Devi-kirtana, or Ganesa-kirtana " No. The Vedic scriptures do not authorize any kirtana other than Hari-kirtana Kirtana means Hari-kirtana, the glorification of Krsna.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
So this process of Hari-kirtana is very simple: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare. Actually there are only three words: Hare, Krsna and Rama. But they are very nicely arranged for chanting so that everyone can take it and chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Since we have started this movement in the Western countries, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Egyptians and Japanese are all chanting. There is no difficulty. They are chanting very gladly, and they are getting the results. What is the difficulty? We are distributing this chanting free of charge, and it is very simple. Simply by chanting, one can have self-realization, God realization, and when there is God realization, then nature realization is included also. For example if one learns one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and zero, then he has studied the entirety of mathematics because mathematics means simply changing the places of these ten figures. That's all. Similarly, if one simply studies Krsna, then all his knowledge is perfect. And Krsna is easily understood simply by chanting this mantra, Hare Krsna. So why not take this opportunity?
Take this opportunity that is being offered to human society. It is very ancient and scientific. It is not that it is a concoction that will last for only three or four years. No. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna Himself says, "This philosophy is inexhaustible and indestructible. It is never lost or destroyed." It may be covered for the time being, but it is never destroyed. Therefore it is called avyayam. Vyaya means exhaustion. For example one may have a hundred dollars, and if they are spent one after another, the next day it will come to zero. That is vyaya, exhaustible. But Krsna consciousness is not like that. If you cultivate this knowledge of Krsna consciousness, then it will increase. That is certified by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Anandambudhi-vardhanam. Ananda means pleasure, transcendental bliss, and ambudhi means ocean. In the material world we see that the ocean does not increase. But if one cultivates Krsna consciousness, then his transcendental bliss will simply increase. Anandambudhi-vardanam. And I shall always remind everyone that the process is very simple. Anyone can chant, anywhere, without taxation or loss, but the gain is very great.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has explained this kirtana movement in His Siksastakam Siksa means instruction, and astaka means eight. He has given us eight verses to help us understand this Krsna consciousness movement, and I shall explain the first of these instructions. The Lord says, ceto-darpana-marjanam. I have explained this several times, but it does not become monotonous. It is just like the chanting of Hare Krsna; it does not become tiresome. Our students can chant the Hare Krsna mantra twenty-four hours a day, and they will never get tired. They will continue to dance and chant. And anyone can try it; because it is not material, one will never get tired of chanting Hare Krsna. In the material world, if one chants anything, any favorite name, for three, four, or ten times, he will get tired of it. That is a fact. But because Hare Krsna is not material, if one chants this mantra, he will never get tired. The more one chants, the more his heart will be cleansed of material dirt and the more the problems of his life within this material world will be solved.
What Is The Problem?
What is the problem of our lives? That we do not know. Modern education never gives enlightenment about the real problem of life. That is indicated in Bhagavad-gita. Those who are educated and are advancing in knowledge should know what is the problem of life. This problem is stated in Bhagavad-gita: One should always see the inconveniences of birth, death, old age and disease. Unfortunately no one pays attention to these problems. When a man is diseased he thinks, "All right. Let me go to the doctor. He will give me some medicine, and I will be cured." But he does not consider the problem very seriously. "I did not want this disease. Why is there disease? Is it not possible to become free from disease?" He never thinks that way. This is because his intelligence is very low grade, just like that of an animal. An animal suffers, but it has no sense. If an animal is brought to a slaughterhouse and sees that the animal before him is being slaughtered, he will still stand there contentedly eating the grass. This is animal life. He does not know that next time it will be his turn and he will be slaughtered. I have seen it. In a Kali temple I have seen that a goat was standing there ready to be sacrificed and another goat was very happily eating the grass.
Similarly, Maharaja Yudhisthira was asked by Yamaraja, "What is the most wonderful thing in this world? Can you explain?" So Maharaja Yudhisthira answered, "Yes. The most wonderful thing is that at every moment one can see that his friends, his fathers and his relatives have died, but he is thinking, 'I shall live forever.' " He never thinks that he will die, just as an animal never thinks that at the next moment he may be slaughtered. He is satisfied with the grass, that's all. He is satisfied with the sense gratification. He does not know that he is also going to die.
Everyone Has Died
My father has died, my mother has died, he has died, she has died. So I will also have to die. Then what is after death? I do not know. This is the problem. People do not take this problem seriously, but Bhagavad-gita indicates that that is real education. Real education is to inquire why, although we do not want to die, death comes. That is real inquiry. We do not want to become old men. Why does old age come upon us? We have many problems, but this is the sum and substance of all of them.
In order to solve this problem, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu prescribes the chanting of Hare Krsna. As soon as our heart is cleansed by chanting this Hare Krsna mantra, the blazing fire of our problematic material existence is extinguished. How is it extinguished? When we cleanse our heart we will realize that we do not belong to this material world. Because people are identifying with this material world, they are thinking, "I am an Indian, I am an Englishman, I am this, I am that." But if one chants the Hare Krsna mantra, he will realize that he is not this material body. "I do not belong to this material body or this material world. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme. I am eternally related with Him, and I have nothing to do with the material world." This is called liberation, knowledge. If I don't have anything to do with this material world, that is called liberation. And that knowledge is called brahma-bhuta.
A person with this realization has no duty to perform. Because we are now identifying our existence with this material world, we therefore have so many duties. Srimad-Bhagavatam says that as long as there is no self-realization, we have so many duties and debts. We are indebted to the demigods. The demigods are not merely fictitious. They are real. There are demigods controlling the sun, the moon and the air. Just as there are directors of government departments, so for the heating department there is the sun-god, for the air department there is Varuna, and similarly there are other departmental demigods. In the Vedas they are described as controlling deities, so we cannot neglect them. Also, there are great sages and philosophers who have given us knowledge, and we are indebted to them. So as soon as we take birth we are indebted to so many living entities, but it is impossible to liquidate all these debts. Therefore the Vedic literature recommends that one take shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna. And Krsna says, "If one takes shelter of Me, then he doesn't have to take shelter of anyone else."
Therefore those who are Krsna conscious devotees have taken shelter of Krsna, and the beginning is hearing and chanting. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh. So our fervent, humble request to everyone is to please accept this chanting. This movement of Krsna consciousness was introduced by Lord Caitanya 500 years ago in Bengal, and now all over India and especially in Bengal there are millions of followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Now this movement is starting in the Western countries, so just be very serious in understanding it. We do not criticize any other religion. Don't take it in that way. We have no business criticizing any other process of religion. Krsna consciousness is giving people the most sublime religion—love of God. That's all. We are teaching to love God. Everyone is already loving, but that love is misplaced. We love this boy or this girl or this country or that society or even the cats and dogs, but we are not satisfied. So we must place our love in God. If one places one's love in God, he will be happy.
Don't think that this Krsna consciousness movement is a new type of religion. Where is the religion which does not recognize God? One may call God Allah or Krsna or something else, but where is that religion which does not recognize God? We are teaching that one should simply try to love God. We are attracted by so many things, but if our love is reposed in God, then we will be happy. We don't have to learn to love anything else; everything else is automatically included. Just try to love God. Don't try to love just trees or plants or insects. This will never satisfy. Learn to love God. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission; that is our mission.
by Hayagriva dasa Adhikari
"The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be moistened by the water, nor withered by the wind." (Bhagavad-gita, 2.23) Here Lord Krsna begins to describe the properties of the spirit soul. These properties are antipodal to the properties of the body. We all know that the body can be cut to pieces, burned up, wetted, and so on, and because of this it is subject to pain and death. We are so certain of the killing abilities of fire that we use it to sterilize so that things will be germless. But we have information from Vedic literatures that there are living entities also in the fire. "This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can neither be burned nor dried." (Bg. 2.24) Here Lord Krsna is stressing the point that fire cannot kill the soul. All material attempts to annihilate the soul are futile. It is not possible to kill the soul by making a hotter fire, by using a sharper weapon, or by drowning it with any amount of water. The individual soul is sanatana, eternally situated.
Because it is not possible to cut the soul, it is not possible to sever the individual soul from the Supersoul. Consequently the jiva, or individual soul, has always been individual because if it had ever been homogeneously one with the Supersoul, it would never have been possible to break it or cut it away. Therefore, Lord Krsna speaks of the jivas as "eternal fragments of Myself." "The living entities in this conditional world are My fragmental parts, and they are eternal. But due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind." (Bg. 15.7)
Because the soul can live under any material means, it can go anywhere and live anywhere. And we have practical experience that living entities are everywhere and that they acquire suitable bodies for their particular environments. If we dig deep into the earth, for instance, we will find so many worms, and of course on the earth's surface there are so many entities, and also in the air, and, of course, there are infinite creatures in the water.
And from Vedic sources we understand that even in fire there are many living entities that have particular bodies which are adaptable to living in fire, just as some souls can acquire bodies for living on a planet with no atmosphere. However, these bodies are more subtle and are difficult to perceive by the gross senses.
Life Is Everywhere
Because the soul is not influenced by material condition and because it can grow in fire, water, air or earth, we can conclude that on all other planets there are also living entities because every material planet is made up of at least one of these five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. Some of the planets are principally composed of water and earth, like our planet, or of fire like the sun, or of air, ether and gases like Jupiter. Due to a poor fund of knowledge about the constitution of the soul, material scientists doubt that life can exist on any other planet in our solar system. They argue that there is no life on Mercury and Venus because Mercury is so close to the sun that the temperature on its sunlit side reaches as high as 700 degrees F, and that Venus, although almost twice as far from the sun as Mercury, has an even higher surface temperature of 800 degrees F, which is distributed uniformly by strong winds. They fail to understand the relativity of heat and the ability of organisms to adjust to any circumstance. Our mean earth temperature of 57 degrees F may be astoundingly hot or cold to other living entities who may argue that life is not possible on earth due to intense heat or cold. Man has landed on the moon, which has a temperature of 215 degrees F on its sunny side and minus 250 degrees on its dark side, and seeing no living entities he concludes that there is no life there. "A magnificent desolation," he calls it upon landing, and from the gross material point of view he is right, but we should not conclude that there are no living entities on the moon because the soul can inhabit various subtle bodies which can endure lack of atmosphere and extreme temperatures. Similarly there is no scientist who would argue on behalf of life existing on the sun. The surface temperature of the sun is 10,000 degrees F, and its average interior temperature is 25,000,000 degrees F, a temperature inconceivable from the material point of view, and yet we have information from Bhagavad-gita that the sun-god Vivasvan is residing there, presiding over his entourage of sun dwellers. It is also stated in Vedic literatures that Vivasvan drives a chariot with horses which obviously must be able to withstand such heats. These bodies, then, are subtle in order not to be consumed, and, being subtle, they're practically imperceptible to mundane vision.
Why Only The Earth?
On the side of the earth away from the sun, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are, according to scientists, too cold to sustain life, and their surfaces are reportedly enveloped by layers of methane and ammonia, which are poisonous gases. Again using the earth conditions as a criterion for life possibilities, scientists speculate as to whether life exists on Mars, the planet most similar to earth. They have perceived seasonal color changes that appear to be some kind of vegetation, but they have discarded the idea that the Martian canals were dug by intelligent beings. Hence they conclude that in our solar system only the planet earth provides the proper condition for life. It does not follow logically that living entities can exist in the elements earth and water and not in the other elements. Most major scientists agree, however, that earth is not the only planet in the entire universe containing life. They claim that there are other innumerable solar systems with planets that duplicate the earth. No doubt there are, but their insistence that life can exist only on this particular type of planet is a conjecture ethno-, geo-, and egocentrically based.
Here we are reminded of the example of Dr. Frog, Ph.D, an eminent scholar who lives in a well. One day a fellow frog went down to see the Doctor and inform him that there is such a thing as the Atlantic Ocean. Upon hearing about this ocean, Dr. Frog enquired, "Tell me, how big would you say it is compared to this well? Is it as big or twice as big?" "No, much, much bigger," said the visitor. "Oh, much bigger then?" asked the Doctor. "Then tell me, is it five times as big, ten times as big?" "Oh, no, much vaster." "Vaster? How is that? Maybe a hundred times or a thousand—how can it be so much bigger?" In this way Dr. Frog goes on speculating about the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean, but it is obvious that he will never comprehend its vastness because it is totally outside his experience. It is natural to compare that which is unknown to that which is known, but it is narrow-minded to insist that the unknown must correspond with the known.
So from Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures we can understand that in every planet and in every atmosphere there are living entities. All these living beings are numberless; the various species alone number over 8,000,000. These countless entities are being maintained by the singular entity, Krsna or God. It is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that this is the major difference between the Supersoul and the individual jiva: the jiva is maintaining itself in its own body, but the Supersoul is maintaining infinite jivas in infinite bodies all over the universe. It is illogical and contrary to experience to state that life is supported in one part of the universe and not in another.
We Are Always Persons
The parts of the Supreme Soul are thus scattered throughout the universe, and they remain parts eternally, taking on and shuffling off bodies. Even after being separated from the illusory identification with matter, the jiva remains a separate identity. After liberation from material contamination, the atomic soul may prefer to remain a spiritual spark in the effulgent rays of the Supreme Lord, and this stage is called Brahman realization. However, the more intelligent soul enters into the planets of the spiritual sky to associate with God's person, and this is one step beyond liberation.
Lord Krsna further characterizes the soul in this way: "He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same." (Bg. 2.24) Here the word sarva-gata (all-pervading) is significant. This gives additional evidence that there are jivas, individual souls, pervading the entire creation, on land, on water, in air, in the earth, even within fire. Because it is stated that the soul cannot even be burned by fire, it is a misconception that fire can kill all living entities.
As mentioned before, Gita gives evidence that there are inhabitants of the sun. If the sun is uninhabited, then the word sarva-gata—living everywhere—is meaningless.
The Existence Of The Soul
Lord Krsna also gives more information about the soul's constitution. "It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body." (Bg. 2.25) The soul, being spiritual, cannot be perceived by material eyes. Even the most powerful microscope cannot see the spirit soul. It is experimentally impossible to establish the existence of the soul, and therefore sruti, or Vedic wisdom, must be accepted as proof. We do, however, perceive symptoms of the soul as life symptoms. We understand that when the soul has left the body, the body is dead. These are symptoms of the soul which can be perceived materially. Beyond this we have to accept the existence of the soul on the grounds of Vedic authority. Here the supreme authority Lord Krsna states that the soul is beyond human conception, immutable and unchangeable. The body is everlasting and is always the same, although it may inhabit countless bodies.
Compared to the infinite Supreme Soul, the individual soul or jiva is atomic or finite. It is not possible for this infinitesimal soul to become equal to the infinite soul because it is stated here that it is unchangeable. Being unchangeable, it cannot expand to include everything. Therefore the theory of the Mayavadi impersonalists that at death the individual soul leaves the body and merges into the great all-pervading spirit to become one with that spirit contradicts the Gita. The totality of the jivas is all-pervading, but the individual jiva is infinitesimal and remains so eternally. It partakes of the total ocean by swimming about. In the very beginning of the Gita, Lord Krsna asserts the eternal individuality of the soul: "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (Bg. 2.12) It is not that at a certain point the individual soul cuts itself off from the Supreme Soul and merges into matter, or that at another point it will leave its association with matter and merge once again into the Supreme Soul. Such a process of amalgamation is not possible. Even after liberation the individuality remains. The oneness mentioned here refers to oneness of interest. The common interest of all liberated individual souls is the Supersoul, Lord Krsna. When the jivas are in total agreement with Krsna, then there is oneness. Oneness is therefore experienced when the jiva surrenders unto Krsna, and diversity is experienced when the jiva rebels. When he surrenders, the jiva associates with Krsna in the spiritual world, but when he revolts he is placed in the material world amidst diversity. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita: "After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes, and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." (Bg. 7.19) Attaining this knowledge may take time, but this is the ultimate Vedanta. Vedanta means to know that Lord Krsna is everything.
"I Am Not Matter, I Am Spirit"
This eternality of the soul apart from the body is the basis for Lord Krsna's urging Arjuna to fight in the battle. "For the soul there is neither birth nor death, nor having once been does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." (Bg. 2.20) The consciousness that pervades the entire body is the consciousness of the soul that inhabits the body. When the soul is not in the body he cannot perceive bodily pleasures and pains. Because the soul may be addicted to the pleasures of the body, he may take on another body after leaving his present body. Lord Krsna likens this struggling off and taking on of bodies unto changes of dress (Bg. 2.13). This constant change is senseless and very painful. Eventually, after so many changes, the conditioned soul becomes materially exhausted and so seeks a spiritual master who can teach him how to liberate himself from the constant repetition of birth and death (samsara). It is at this point that the jiva decides to revive his ever dormant Krsna consciousness in order to escape the miseries of reincarnation. Upon reestablishing his relationship with the Supersoul, the jiva attains the state of brahma-bhuta, realizing aham brahmasmi: "I am not this material body. I am not matter, but spirit." The first symptom of brahma-bhuta realization is joyfulness. Perceiving its eternality, seeing that it can never be cut to pieces, burned, moistened, broken, dissolved or dried, the soul becomes instantly joyful. It at last identifies with its true essence. As long as it is in identity with matter, it will hanker and lament, as Arjuna was hankering and lamenting on the battlefield. The message of Bhagavad-gita, then, is one of joy, for the lesson taught Arjuna provokes the conditioned soul to seek its eternal happy position.
In the material position, entangled in birth and death, the jiva tries to lord it over matter, and in his attempt becomes adverse to Krsna. The conditioned soul, forgetful of his spiritual nature, engages in a hard struggle in the ocean of material existence, but all this time the love of Krsna is dormant within him. This love is awakened by the spiritual master who engages the jiva in devotional service and so opens the way for liberation.
Wonderful Beyond Conception
Concluding his initial statements on the soul in the Second Chapter of Gita, Lord Krsna tells Arjuna that "some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all." (Bg. 2.29) It is not often that one finds a man who can understand the nature of the soul. However, we should take the statements of Krsna in Bhagavad-gita as authoritative and so learn of the constitution of the soul through Him. It is certainly wonderful that a minute particle smaller than an atom can sustain life in a body; without this atomic particle the body dies. It is also wonderful that this minute particle is eternal and that the totality of souls pervade the entire creation. Because this is beyond human conception, one should accept the authoritative statements of Krsna.
Lord Krsna tells His friend Arjuna that even if he thinks that the soul itself is perpetually being born and dying, still there is no need for his lamentation. "For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore in the unavoidable discharge of your duty you should not lament." (Bg. 2.27) Certainly no one laments when he sees a skyscraper being erected. Nor does he lament when he sees it being dismantled. The dismantling is inevitable. In either case, even from the material point of view, one does not grieve over what is perfectly natural. "All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?" (Bg. 2.28)
Vedic wisdom encourages self-realization based on the nonexistence of the material body. As far as the eternal spirit soul is concerned. the material body has no factual existence. One may dream of becoming a great king or a great general or even a pauper, but when one awakes, the body in his dream no longer has substantiality. Nor did it ever have substantiality. So identification with the material body is a sort of dream for the spirit soul.
The process of the awakening of the soul is joyful, and the dream of entanglement is painful. Just as one is awakened from sleep by sounds, the sleeping soul is awakened by the sabda, or sound incarnation, of the Lord imparted to the soul by the spiritual master. The sabdas which the spiritual master uses to awaken the sleeping souls are the sounds of Bhagavad-gita and the holy names of Krsna. Since it is inevitable that one who is sleeping will awake, one should not become disheartened if it seems that he continues to lounge even after hearing the call to arise. Eventually the sabda will enact, and the drowsy soul will enter into his blissful position.
According to the Vedic scriptures no one should become a mother or father unless he can free his children from the clutches of death. This is real family planning: one should have sex life in marriage only for the purpose of producing nice children to be raised in God consciousness. It is a great service to God and to humanity if one can raise a child according to spiritual principles from the very start of his life, and that is the practice of the married disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
As for the children themselves, they are fully participating in Krsna conscious activities, as shown here. Any child can chant Hare Krsna and dance and feel transcendental ecstasy. That is the special facility of Krsna consciousness—even a child can perform it. We are all naturally part and parcel of God; we have simply forgotten this due to misuse of our free will. But by purifying his consciousness by chanting God's names and following regulative devotional principles under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, anyone can gain spiritual enlightenment and relish the taste of spiritual bliss. Any child who is chanting Hare Krsna on sankirtana in the streets, or attending ISKCON school and learning that God is the source of all material and spiritual knowledge, is certainly a wise person. Indeed age in years is not in itself the measure of wisdom. Certain trees, although obviously at a very low point of consciousness, have been growing for hundreds of years, whereas the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja, when he was only five years old, was preaching the sublime teachings of Krsna consciousness which he had heard while still in the womb of his mother. Prahlada heard from the sage Narada, and similarly Sukadeva Gosvami, the great reciter of Srimad-Bhagavatam, also heard of the pastimes of Krsna from his father while Sukadeva was still in the womb. If age were measured in knowledge, then Krsna conscious children would have to be considered already mature because they are Vaisnavas, worshipers of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. The Vedic scriptures confirm that love of Krsna is the ultimate goal of all knowledge.
Our spiritual master has said that a child's naughtiness is his beauty and is even a sign of intelligence. Lord Krsna displayed unparalleled naughtiness when He was here on earth 5,000 years ago performing His childhood pastimes. But in ISKCON all a child's playful tendencies are dovetailed in dancing, singing the Lord's names and taking part in transcendental plays which please even the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One two-year-old girl, the daughter of married disciples of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, was playing childishly with Srila Prabhupada by handing him a flower, and His Divine Grace said to the parents, "She is doing as much service as you."
That these children have been born into Krsna conscious families indicates that they are not ordinary but have seriously strived for spiritual perfection in their past lives. According to Bhagavad-gita, if one was a yogi in his past life but did not perfect his devotion up to the point of liberation, then in his next life he may "take birth in the family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom. Verily, such a birth is rare in this world ... By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles—even without seeking them." (Bg. 6.42, 44) So these children have in the past practiced the principles of devotional service to the Supreme Lord, and now, having taken birth in the families of practicing devotees, they are being given the chance to become free from all material contamination and become eligible in this very life for eternal existence in the kingdom of God.
How is it that we can claim such children to be rare and wise? It is simply because they are following the sankirtana practice of glorifying God introduced by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is a pure devotee coming strictly in the disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya, the incarnation of Krsna for this age. The Vedic scriptures prescribe that in this present age of quarrel those people with sufficient brain substance should worship the Lord in exactly this easy manner, which even their children can fully perform—to sing the holy names of the Lord, to dance before the Deity of the Lord, to hear authorized readings about the pastimes of the Lord, and to take nourishing prasadam (foodstuffs offered to the Lord). It is easy and sublime, and the children in Krsna consciousness can feel it and teach others how to perfect life by this natural Krsna conscious method.
by Satsvarupa dasa Adhikari (ISKCON-Boston)
First let me offer my humble obeisances to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the pure servant of God and thus the knower of the scripture. All transcendental knowledge contained in this essay emanates from his teachings, which are exactly in line with the disciplic succession going back to Lord Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead and original source of this narration of Kardama Muni. The disciple of Srila Prabhupada has simply to present the teachings of the spiritual master intact; then there will be good benefit for the reader seeking self-realization and spiritual happiness.
In the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna teaches the mystic yoga process complete with sitting postures and the method of meditation under strict regulations. At the conclusion of the chapter, in the last verse, the Lord describes the topmost yogi: "He who, full of faith, offers everything to Me and worships Me, is the most united with Me in yoga." Nowadays the yoga system, as taught authoritatively in Bhagavad-gita and the Patanjali-yoga-sutra, is not being followed. Instead, false teachers are allowing their students to engage in all kinds of material sense gratification whiled collecting a fee from them and inducing them to think in their meditation that they are one with God. Such students of false cheaters cannot actually be making spiritual progress in yoga.
The Vedic literature contains histories, however, of many great yogis who were accomplished in full mystic perfection. But even these yogic perfections, such as to be able to influence anyone; to be able to attain whatever one desires from any place in the universe, to fly in space, etc., are all material perfections, and they are ultimately exhausted. Yoga ultimately means to find Krsna, the Supreme Lord, in His localized aspect seated in the heart and to engage in eternal loving union with Him through devotional service. Yogis who are distracted from this path by material perfections have to return to the earth after death and again take another material birth and engage in devotional service before reaching the perfection of liberation, completely spiritual devotional service.
The following narration is an incident from the life of a great devotee yogi, Kardama Muni, who was not only a yogi but a perfect yogi, a devotee of the Lord. The narration of his activities appears in the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the most mature and spotless scripture of the entire Vedic literature. Kardama lived long, long ago, in the Satya-yuga, just after the dawn of the creation of the universe.
His Meditation On The Lord
At that time, Lord Brahma, the original creator empowered by Krsna, was ordering His sons to marry and beget children so that the universe might be populated with worthy offspring. Commanded by Lord Brahma, Kardama practiced meditative penances on the bank of the Sarasvati River for a period of 10,000 years. It is understood that the yoga system, in order to be rightly practiced, must be performed by persons who possess a very long duration of life; otherwise, there is no possibility of attaining real perfection. There is no point in attempting the preliminary practices of yoga, such as the different postures of sitting, unless one is able to practice until perfection. Kardama Muni was not one of the so-called yogis of the present age of Kali (age of quarrel and bluffing) who sit for a paltry fifteen minutes a day in yoga postures and claim spiritual advancement. It may be noted here that in the age in which Kardama lived, yoga meditation was the process recommended by the Vedic literature, whereas today the Vedic literature clearly states that there is no alternative to the chanting of the holy name: harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha (Brhan-Naradiya Purana).
Why did Kardama practice meditation? It is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam: "During that period of penance the sage Kardama devotedly waited upon the Personality of Godhead." In other words, he practiced mystic yoga for 10,000 years just to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therefore He is the first-class yogi. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes in his commentary to the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam: "One has to surrender unto the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, in order to achieve real success. To attain perfection of the yoga practice or meditation, one must act in devotional service, namely hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. Certainly remembering is also meditation, but upon whom must one meditate? The Supreme Personality of Godhead. He must not only be remembered, but one must hear about the activities of the Lord, and chant His glories." After engaging himself in different types of devotional service, Kardama Muni attained the perfection of meditation, which is attained only by those who are surrendered souls. Srila
Prabhupada writes: "Where there is no mention of the Personality of Godhead, then where is there yoga and surrender? And where there is no meditation upon the Personality of Godhead, then where is there any question of yoga practice?"
The Eternal Form Of The Personality Of Godhead
Perfection means that Kardama actually saw the Personality of Godhead. The form he saw was not imaginary. It is not that one can concentrate his mind on some arbitrary form of the imagination in meditation. It is clearly stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam: "The form which the Lord showed to Kardama was consistent with Vedic principles and can be understood through the study of the Vedas from authoritative sources." The eternal blissful form of the Lord is described in the Bhagavatam: "Kardama Muni saw tht Supreme Personality of Godhead in His eternal form, effulgent like the sun. The Lord was wearing a garland of white lotuses and water lilies. He was clad in spotless yellow silk, His lotus face fringed with slick dark locks of curly hair; adorned with a crown of earrings, He held His characteristic conch and disc and mace in three of His hands and played with a white lily while smiling. His smiling captivates the hearts of all devotees. Having set His lotus feet on the shoulders of Garuda, He stood in the air with a golden streak on His breast and the famous Kaustubha gem suspended from His neck." The descriptions given in Srimad-Bhagavatam are not products of the material energy. Kardama did not meditate for 10,000 years simply in order to see an imaginary vision concocted by his own brain. Rather, he attained a level of perfection by which the Lord was pleased with Him and revealed His transcendental form, which is never revealed to impersonalists. Perfection of yoga does not end with voidness; on the contrary, perfection of yoga is attained one sees the Personality of Godhead as He is in His eternal form.
When Kardama Muni saw the Lord, his transcendental desires were fulfilled, and he fell to the ground with head bowed and offered obeisances. He addressed the Supreme Personality of Godhead as follows: "O supreme worshipable Lord, You are the reservoir of all pleasure, and those who are advanced yogis aspire, through many, many births of performance of deep meditation, to see Your transcendental form." Again it is seen that Kardama reached the ultimate in yoga and acknowledged the goal to which yogis aspire after many lives of yoga practice. The point is not to see void but to see the spiritual form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Clearly, then, Kardama was in the most advanced stage. His next words spoken unto the Lord are therefore difficult at first to understand: "Desirous of marrying a girl of like disposition who may prove a veritable cow of plenty in my married life, I too sought the center of Your lotus feet to satisfy my lustful desire."
It is startling to hear a yogi, who is supposed to be freed from all attachment to material life by meditating in solitary celibate penance for many thousands of years and attaining sight of the Personality of Godhead, only asking for a nice wife. But explanation reveals to us that Kardama was even more exalted than we have so far understood. Not only did Kardama Muni not actually seek marriage out of lustful desire, but his desire was the desire of Krsna. As stated in the Bhagavatam, "I shall accept this nice chaste girl as my wife until she bears a child born out of the ray of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then I shall accept the life of devotional service which is practiced by the most perfect human beings. I know that this is the desire of Lord Visnu and that it is a process free from envy."
It was the practice in former ages that great sages and saintly persons, after making their lives perfect, would beget children in order to serve the Lord in that way, and but for engaging in sex life to produce exceptional progeny, they strictly observed the laws of celibacy. As for Kardama's statement about producing a child who would be a "ray of Visnu," it may be told that Kardama Muni is the father of the incarnation of Godhead Lord Kapila, who is Visnu Himself. Lord Kapila appeared as the son of Kardama Muni and Devahuti for the purpose of preaching the godly Sankhya philosophy, which is a combination of mysticism and devotional service. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes in this connection, "One should beget a child who can perform the duties of Visnu, or else there is no need to produce children. There are two kinds of children born of good fathers. One is the child who is educated in Krsna consciousness so that he can be delivered from the clutches of maya in that very life, and the other is the child who brings forth the ray of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and who teaches the highest goal of life. Great householders pray to God to send His representative so that there may be an auspicious movement in human society, or they pray to the Lord for an opportunity to train a child in Krsna consciousness so that he won't have to come back again to this miserable world. Parents should see to it that the child born of them must not enter again into the womb of a mother."
Instructions On Marriage
Kardama prayed to the Lord as if he were under the grip of lust and desired the Lord's mercy in the form of an ordinary marriage. By speaking in this way, Kardama, who was actually a liberated soul, brought out for all the future readers or hearers of Srimad-Bhagavatam many significant clarifications of marriage and married life. At his request, the Lord was able to show that a man should pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead for whatever he wants, whether it be liberation, devotional service or the fulfillment of material desires. Material desires should be satisfied in accordance with the will of the Supreme Lord or the Vedas wherein there are prescriptions for a married life of regulated sense gratification. Even if one has lustful desires, if he takes his desires to the Supreme Lord and abides by His will, he will get far more than he could imagine, and he will eventually gain spiritual purification and association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ultimately it is God who awards. Man proposes and God disposes. If one can accept what the Lord offers as his share, then he will find it a richer share than he had ever dreamed of attaining by his own endeavors. But if he strains to exploit under the illusion of winning by his own endeavor, he will lose on all counts. For example, Kardama was an austere penniless yogi with no facilities for gaining a beautiful wife, yet since he prayed to the Lord for a wife, he was granted the most beautiful and highborn princess in the world.
Lord Visnu, who shone on the shoulders of Garuda, spoke to Kardama with transcendental words in accents as sweet as nectar. His eyebrows moved gracefully as He regarded the sage with a smile full of affection: "Having come to know what was in your mind, I have already arranged for that for which you have worshiped Me through the discipline of the mind and senses. My dear rsi, O leader of the living entities, for anyone who serves Me in devotional service by worshiping Me, especially persons like you who have given up everything unto Me, there is no question of frustration." It is stated here that the Lord gives His devotees all pleasures and that He answers all their desires, although He never awards anything which might be detrimental to their devotional service. Even if the devotees approach the Personality of Godhead with material desires, there is no question of frustration in those desires.
The Lord Disposes
The Lord then outlined His plan of benedicting His devotee Kardama with a perfect wife: "Svayambhuva Manu is well known for his righteous acts. That celebrated emperor, who is head of religious activities, will come to see you with his wife Satarupa the day after tomorrow. His daughter, who is grown up and ready for marriage, has all good qualities; she is also searching for a good husband, and her eyes are black, My dear sir. Her parents will come to see you just to deliver their daughter as your wife." In his purports, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada writes of the proper selection of a husband for a girl: "Girls are never thrown into the public street to search out their husband. When girls are grown up and are searching after a boy, they forget whether the boy they select is actually suitable for them. Out of the urge of sex desire a girl may accept anyone, but if the husband is chosen by the parents, they can consider who is to be selected and who is not to be selected." For example, within the family of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a husband or wife is selected by the spiritual master or by his representative, the temple president, and so it is by the proper sanction.
The Lord predicted that nine daughters would come from the union of the marriage and that through the daughters great sages would duly beget future children. Finally the Lord said to His devotee Kardama, "With your heart cleansed by properly carrying out My command and having resigned to Me the fruit of all your acts, you will finally attain to Me." Thus the Lord disclosed to Kardama that if he only acted under the direction of the Lord then all his acts, even in married life, would be completely sanctioned, and he would finally attain the supreme abode. The Lord finally requested Kardama to be compassionate to all living entities. He asked him to please give assurance to all that the universe is identified in Krsna and that Krsna is in everyone.
Kardama Attained Real Oneness
The Lord referred to Kardama's upcoming householder life as well as to the last days of his life, when Kardama would again take up the renounced order. He was not simply to receive the potency of the Lord's mercy and keep it for himself, but he was to distribute the knowledge of devotional service to everyone. By following the order of Visnu, Kardama Muni attained real oneness with God because the Lord wants His devotee to always think of Him and worship Him. It is not that the Lord wants the transcendentalist to try to usurp His position and become God Himself, but to always offer obeisances to Him and offer Him unlimited service. The Lord wishes to reciprocate with His devotees and supply the fulfillment of their desires. The Lord revealed to Kardama that he would be the father of an avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. "Manifesting a part of My divine being through your wife Devahuti, O great sage, I shall instruct her in the philosophy which deals with the ultimate principles or categories." This is the first reference to Kapiladeva, the first propounder of Sankhya philosophy. This Sankhya philosophy is not to be confused with the Sankhya philosophy propagated later by an atheistic godless imposter who was also named Kapila.
Having spoken to His devotee, the Lord left the Bindusarovara Lake, on a pathway leading to Vaikuntha. The sage stood below looking up, and he listened to the hymns which emanated from the flapping of the wings of the Lord's carrier. Thc sage Kardama then waited for the time spoken of by the Lord, and he prayed.
As predicted, the great worldly leader Svayambhuva and his wife Satarupa journeyed on a chariot all over the globe and reached the hermitage where the sage Kardama was completing his long vows of austerity. Srimad-Bhagavatam states that the holy lake Bindusarovara was filled with "the drops of tears fallen from the eyes of the Lord, who was overwhelmed by extreme compassion for the sage who had sought His protection." The lake area is described as resounding with the notes of overjoyed birds who were all pious, as were the fruit-bearing trees and the flowers. Svayambhuva Manu and Satarupa entered the hermitage and found Kardama sitting before a sacred fire into which he was offering oblations. Clad in rags, of high stature, and his eyes as big as the petals of a lotus, he looked like an unpolished gem. In these Bhagavatam descriptions of the brahmacari-yogi, it is stated that usually a yogi is skinny on account of his austerities and lack of comforts, but Kardama Muni had seen the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face, and he looked healthy due to having received the nectar-like sound vibration.
The King And The Yogi
"Seeing that the monarch had come to his hermitage and bowing before him, the sage greeted him with benediction and received him with due honor." The yogi then addressed the King with words of praise because he understood that unless a pious king is ruling, the wicked elements in society can overthrow the whole aim of the society, which is to help the citizens go back home, back to Godhead. He addressed the King as the protecting energy of Sri Hari (Krsna). After offering obeisances, the yogi then asked the King why he had come with a glad heart and how he, the yogi, could meet his wishes. The royal order formerly gave all protection to the brahmanas so that they could advance the society in terms of spiritual culture, and the brahmanas would give their valuable instructions to the royal order so that every citizen could become elevated to spiritual perfection.
Svayambhuva said that he was most fortunate to be able to touch his head to the dust from the feet of the sage, and he thanked him for his words of instruction. "We are seeking a worthy match for our daughter in terms of age, character and good qualities." The father, Svayambhuva Manu, confided to Kardama that "the moment she heard from the sage Narada of your noble character, learning, beautiful appearance, youth and other virtues, she fixed her mind on you." So although Devahuti had not seen Kardama Muni, she had fixed her heart upon him after hearing of him from Narada, and on the basis of that hearing she had decided to marry him. Svayambhuva offered his daughter with all reverence as a worthy match for taking charge of household duties. By household duties he did not mean sense gratification but mutual execution of Krsna consciousness, which is called, in Sanskrit, grhastha. There are two words in Sanskrit to describe married life. One, grhamedhi, means to accept a wife for sense gratification and to make one's apartment a center for executing the same propensities as the animals, whereas the other, grhastha, means to gain a helper in Krsna consciousness. Devahuti was eligible to offer such help, for she was equal in age, character and quality to the sage.
Kardama Accepts Devahuti
Kardama at once agreed. "Certainly I have a desire to marry, and your daughter too has not yet married or given her word to anyone; therefore our marriage according to the Vedic system can take place." Kardama expressed appreciation of Devahuti's beauty. He too had heard of her, for she had attracted even the denizens of the heavenly planets by her personal beauty. Kardama had been ordered by his father Brahma to produce progeny, but actually the goal of his life was Visnu, in whom even Brahma originates, as do all living entities in all the worlds. Therefore, since it was the desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kardama would marry and father children in the spirit of devotional service. This story in the Bhagavatam is related by the sage Maitreya to Vidura, and it continues. "The sage Kardama thus spoke very nicely regarding Devahuti. Then he became silent, thinking of his worshipable Lord Visnu, who has a lotus on His navel. When he was silent and smiling, his face attracted Devahuti, and she began to think within herself of the great sage." As soon as Kardama Muni stopped talking and became silent, he at once began to think of Lord Visnu. The devotee may seem to be engaged in things other than Visnu, dealing and talking about other matters, but actually he is always thinking of Krsna, and thus his smile is so attractive as to win many admirers and followers.
Transcendental Married Life
After their marriage and the departure of her parents, Devahuti began to serve her husband with great love. She pleased him by giving up all sorts of lust, pride, envy, greed, sinful activities and vanity by fidelity and purity of mind. These are some of the qualities of a great husband's great wife. Both were great by spiritual qualification. Devahuti was not proud because of her high birth. As can be seen from this narration, the union of Kardama and Devahuti is filled with pertinent instructions regarding how to live in transcendental married life with the goal of life, the center, being Krsna. Householders wishing to benefit from their union may listen with an aim to raising their married life to the transcendental stage. Devotion of the wife to the husband is recommended. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The wife is expected to be of the same category as the husband. She must be prepared to follow the principles of the husband; then there will be happy life. If the husband is a devotee and the wife is materialistic, then there cannot be any peace in the home." In the case of Devahuti, by following the strict vows of a chaste woman she became very skinny, and therefore her husband became compassionate. She had formerly been the daughter of a great king and was now serving him just like an ordinary woman. She had become reduced in health, and her service was so selfless that she did not demand sense gratification even with her husband. She was simply acting to facilitate Kardama Muni's engagement in spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada writes, "It is the duty of a faithful and chaste wife to help her husband in every respect, especially in Krsna consciousness."
In the case of Devahuti, her husband rewarded her amply. Kardarma told her, "My dear Devahuti, I have achieved the grace of the Lord in my discharging of my own religious life of austerity, meditation and Krsna consciousness. I shall offer you all these achievements, which are free from lamentation, because you are engaged in my service, although you have not yet experienced these things. Now I am giving you transcendental vision to see how nice they are." By her husband's grace, Devahuti was able to feel practical realization simply by serving a great personality. Similarly, any sincere disciple of a bona fide spiritual master can achieve spiritual life simply by service.
Devahuti Desired Offspring
Coming from a great royal family, Devahuti had much aristocracy and wealth, but the greatest treasure, love of God, she had been unable to fully appreciate. She therefore expressed her full satisfaction to her great husband, who was under the protection of the spiritual energy. But she reminded him, "One thing you promised may be fulfilled now by our bodily union, because for a chaste woman it is very glorious to have children of the same quality." Kardama Muni had certainly promised to her parents that he would stay with her until they had children. Since both were spiritually enlightened, a child was very desirable as an expansion of their qualities. Devahuti then asked her husband what arrangement should be made and what was required according to the scriptures in terms of conditions, time and place for the most suitable sex life. Sex life is meant for having good children. One must arrange everything so that the husband may be attracted by the beauty of the wife and a favorable mental situation may be created so that at the time of sex life the mental state may be transferred into the womb of the wife and nice children will come out of that marriage. Thus we see that the Vedic scriptures provide not only spiritual instructions but instructions on how to prosecute material existence nicely with the ultimate aim of spiritual perfection. It is mentioned in the Ayur-veda that when the passion of a man is greater than that of a woman, then there will be a greater chance of a boy being born. And if the passion of the woman is greater, then there will be more chance of a girl being born. Devahuti wanted her husband to instruct her according to scripture so that his passion might be increased. She also requested a suitable house because the hermitage in which Kardama was living was very simple and completely in the modes of goodness, with little possibility of passion.
The Aerial Mansion
Srimad-Bhagavatam then describes the miraculous accomplishments effected by the yogic power of Kardama Muni. Since he was completely perfected in yoga practice and sought to please his beloved wife, Kardama exercised his yogic power and instantly produced an aerial mansion which was fully arranged according to his will. It was a huge and wonderful structure filled with opulent pleasurable rooms and decorated with rubies, furniture and all kinds of attractive wealth. It was such a magnificent castle that the yogi himself was astonished at what he had created. Devahuti, however, because she was so niggardly in her appearance, with matted locks and a dirty dress, seemed afraid of the marvelous castle in the air. Kardama Muni knew her mind, and with further yogic powers he requested that she simply step into the Bindusarovara Lake, where he had arranged for hundreds of beautiful female maidservants to attend her and beautify her with ointments, scents, beautiful silks, etc. They offered her foods and drinks to improve her bodily condition, and they held a mirror for her, cleansed her, adorned her with garlands and marks of tilaka, and in general made much of her so that she finally emerged from the lake looking very beautiful with a smiling face and nice figure. She could understand that all this was taking place due to the yogic prowess of her husband and that nothing was impossible for such a yogi.
Husband and wife then traveled in the aerial mansion to the pleasure valleys of Mount Meru, which is frequented by the demigods. They traveled all over the universe and enjoyed pleasures together. Although yogis are known to display such wonderful powers, Kardama was more than a yogi, and his life is more praiseworthy than that of ordinary yogis. Even in his travelling through the universe for pleasure with his wife, his actual motivation was to produce good progeny in the service of Lord Visnu. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita (6.47), "Out of many yogis, he who is a devotee of the Lord is a first-class yogi." Kardama Muni is therefore understood to be an already liberated soul, better than the conditioned demigods, who also can travel in space. So although he was enjoying with his wife, he was above material conditional life and transcendental to all material limitations. That is the verdict of the Bhagavatam.
He Returned To His Hermitage
After showing his wife the different arrangements throughout the entire extent of the universe, Kardama Muni returned to his own hermitage. Despite having such immense powers to travel all over the universe, Kardama did not claim that he was equal to God or comparable with the inconceivable energy of the Supreme Lord, as do some bogus yogis, who cannot travel in outer space but who simply instruct sitting postures and take fees from students. Kardama Muni remained a devotee of the Lord, and that is the real position of every living entity. Finally by his yogic powers he at once produced nine daughters through the womb of Devahuti. Devahuti, the sage devotee, bore all these children on one day, and all were charming in every limb and breathed the fragrance of red lotus flowers. Having begotten children through his wife, Kardama then prepared to leave household life, home and his beautiful wife to prosecute Krsna conscious life, as he had promised. His real business was always spiritual realization, and he did not forget this, even while travelling in the mansion.
It is described that Devahuti, seeing Kardama Muni about to leave, was smiling externally, but she was at heart very afflicted. The stories in the Bhagavatam, such as this narration, are not told for entertainment's sake but are filled with instructions pertinent for spiritual advancement of life, even while one is within household life. In the Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada writes in a purport (p. 257): "As for detachment from children, wife and house, it is not meant that one should have no feeling for these. They are natural objects of affection. But when they are not favorable to spiritual progress, then we should not be attached to them. The best process for making the home nice is to live in Krsna consciousness. If one is in full Krsna consciousness, he can make his home very happy because this process of Krsna consciousness is very easy. It is just to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and to take and accept the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Krsna, and have some discussion on books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and engage oneself in Deity worship. These four things will make one happy, and one should train the members of his family in this way. The family members can sit down morning and evening very nicely and chant together Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama; Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If we can mold our family life in such a nice way for developing Krsna consciousness by following these four principles, then there is no need to change from family life to renounced life. But if it is not congenial nor favorable for spiritual advancement, then family life should be abandoned. In all cases, one should be detached from the happiness and distress of family life because this world can never be fully happy or fully miserable. Happiness and distress are concomitant factors of material life." Devahuti asked her husband to wait before going out alone and entering the order of sannyasa or renounced life. "My dear brahmana, as far as your daughters are concerned, they will find suitable husbands and go away to their respective places. But who will give me solace after your departure as a sannyasi?" Devahuti began to lament that she did not know that her husband was so advanced in spiritual realization, and she had been, as a less intelligent woman, mostly prone to sense enjoyment in his association. She pleaded to him, however, that even though she did not appreciate his glories, because she had taken shelter of him he must therefore deliver her from material entanglement. It is a known fact that association with a great personality is most important and by that means alone one can make great advancement in spiritual life. Devahuti finally realized with whom she was associating, and she wanted to utilize the advantage.
Devahuti pleaded so feelingly that Kardama recalled the words of Visnu to be compassionate to all, and so he replied, "Do not be disappointed, O princess, and just take heart. You are praiseworthy, and I tell you that the infallible Supreme Personality of Godhead will come out from the womb of your body as your son." Kardama Muni advised his wife to just engage in devotional service. "The Personality of Godhead, being worshiped by you, will disseminate our name and fame. He shall be the vanquisher of the knot of your heart by becoming your son and spreading spiritual knowledge." Having received instruction from her husband, the bona fide spiritual master, Devahuti began to worship the master of the universe, the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is situated in everyone's heart. Concerning the appearance of the Personality of Godhead as the son of a couple of devotees, Srila Prabhupada writes: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the father of everyone. No one, therefore, is His father, but by His inconceivable energy He accepts some of the devotees as His parents and descendants. The devotee may ask the Lord to appear as his son. The Lord is already sitting within the heart of everyone, and if He comes out from the body of a devotee it does not mean that the particular woman becomes His mother in the material sense. He is always there. But in order to please His devotee He appears as her son. In this way the Supreme Personality of Godhead Madhusudana, the killer of the demon Madhu, after many, many years of worship by Devahuti, appeared as the son of Kardama Muni, just as fire comes out from wood in sacrifice." At the time of the appearance of the Lord, the demigods who fly freely in the sky dropped showers of flowers out of their good will, and everyone smiled and became very satisfied.
Description Of Kapiladeva
Lord Brahma, chief engineer of the universe and the father of Kardama, then appeared to the sage, and after praising his obedience and instructing him about the marriage of his nine daughters to nine great sages, he described the incarnation of God who had been born as the son of Kardama and Devahuti. "Your son, Kapila Muni, will be characterized by His golden hair and His eyes just like lotus petals.
Sitting in the yogic asana called padmamudra, His feet resembling lotus flowers, this incarnation of Godhead, by practical application of knowledge from the scriptures, will uproot the deep-rooted desire for work in this material world." Kapiladeva's conclusion, after exhaustive analysis of the material elements, is the same conclusion arrived at in Bhagavad-gita: devotional service. "Just become Krsna conscious. Just worship Krsna and become a devotee of Krsna. That is real knowledge, and anyone who follows that system becomes perfect without doubt."
Prayer To Kapiladeva
Kardama approached the Lord, who was Lord Visnu Himself and had descended into his home, and he offered Him obeisances. Kardama said, "The householders are generally negligent, but in spite of that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has taken His appearance in their home, just to support His devotees." Devotional service to the Lord is so sublime that even a householder can have the Supreme Personality of Godhead as one of the members of his household, as his son, as Kardama experienced. This is due to the fact that the Lord is called bhakta-vatsala; He is inclined to His devotees. Kardama paid obeisances to the innumerable forms of the Lord, none of which are material. His prayer to Kapiladeva is here stated: "I surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead who has descended in the form of Kapila and who is independently powerful and transcendental, who is the Supreme Person and the Lord of the sum total of matter and the time element, who is fully cognizant and who is the maintainer of all the universe via the three modes of material nature, and who absorbs the material manifestation after dissolution. Now I am liberated from the debts of my father, and all my desires are fulfilled. Now I wish to accept the order of a mendicant. Renouncing this family life, I shall always think of You, and thus I shall remain free from lamentation."
God Entered His Home
It is described by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that there are two kinds of devotees of the Lord. One is called gostyanandi, which means those preachers who have many followers for preaching the glories of the Lord and who live amongst those many followers just to organize missionary activities. The other devotees are atmanandi, or self-satisfied, and do not take the risk of preaching work. In this class was Kardama Muni. He remained alone, free from all anxieties, always moving from door to door to enlighten people about Krsna consciousness. The wonderful thing about Kardama Muni is that the Lord Himself, as Kapiladeva, had taken birth in his home as his own son, and yet he was preparing to leave that home to search out self-realization. God was present in his own home, so why should he leave? The answer is that Kardama was living an exemplary life just in accordance with the Vedic authority, which says that one who is a householder must leave home after his fiftieth year. Kardama had very rigidly practiced yoga before his marriage; then Lord Brahma had ordered him to marry and beget children as a householder. Kardama did that also. He begot nine good daughters and one son, Kapila, so his householder duty was performed, and now his duty was to leave. Even though he had the Supreme Personality of Godhead as his son, he had to respect the authority of the Vedas. He would travel all over the world as a mendicant and always remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart and thereby be freed from all anxieties of material existence.
Kardama Muni was anxious about his good wife Devahuti, and so his worthy son promised that not only would Kardama be freed but Devahuti would also be freed by receiving instruction from Him. "My incarnation in this form is especially meant for persons who aspire to get free from the entanglement of this material body, and I mean to explain the philosophy of Sankhya in order to disseminate the knowledge of self-realization to interested people. I shall also instruct this sublime knowledge to My mother so that she also can attain the stage of perfection and self-realization, ending all kinds of reactions of fruitive activities. Thus she also will become free from all fear."
After the departure of Kardama Muni, Kapiladeva extensively explained the principles of Sankhya philosophy to His mother. The Bhagavatam states, "By following the principles instructed by Kapila, Devahuti soon became liberated from material bondage, and she achieved the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as Supersoul, without difficulty." There is a Vaikuntha planet known as Kapila Vaikuntha where Devahuti was promoted to meet Kapila and reside eternally, enjoying the company of her transcendental son.
The Eternal Abode
The sage Vidura concludes the story of Kardama, Devahuti and Kapila by describing the pastimes of the incarnation of Kapila. "Kapila, the great sage and Personality of Godhead, later went out from His father's hermitage with the permission of His mother and went toward the northern side. Even now Kapila is residing there in trance, and all great teachers of Sankhya philosophy are worshiping Him. He is staying in that position for the deliverance of the conditioned souls of the three worlds." It is stated that these descriptions are the purest of all things, and whoever hears or reads these narrations will become a devotee of the Lord and enter the supreme abode.
One of the basic principles of Krsna consciousness is that one may utilize whatever talent he has in the service of the Supreme Lord. And it is a symptom of a bona fide spiritual master that he is expert in engaging everyone in practical transcendental devotional service. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has thus engaged a number of very talented artists in the service of the Lord by asking them to use their natural artistic inclination in painting pictures of the Supreme Godhead. According to all the revealed Vedic scriptures, God is not formless or void, but on the contrary He has the most attractive personal form. In fact He has many transcendental forms. Krsna appears and expands Himself in multi expansions and incarnations, and these are described in Vedic literatures such as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has written many books and continues to translate authoritative books about Krsna for the benefit of all mankind, and he has requested that this transcendental literature be profusely decorated with illustrations. His Divine Grace has also founded many temples of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and these are transcendental centers where men and women may come and engage in spiritual life by seeing the form of the Lord. Therefore paintings are needed in all the temples, as well as for illustrations in books. For these two reasons an art department has been set up in ISKCON for production of Krsna-katha art (art based on the pastimes of Krsna).
If a painting is done according to authoritative descriptions, it has the same potency as the Deity. According to the Srimad-Bhagavatam such paintings, when painted under authorized direction, in devotional service, are also considered incarnations of the Lord. In other words, Krsna is personally present in a picture of Krsna.
His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada first came to this country in 1965, and he began at once to engage young artists in painting pictures to be hung in Krsna conscious temples. Many of the artists began painting only in Krsna consciousness, with no previous formal training. Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter in April, 1968, to one such artist, Jadurani Devi, who was feeling misgivings because she was not a highly developed artist. Srila Prabhupada wrote as follows: "I know that pictures in this country are sold not on the merit of the pictures but on the reputation of the artists. That system is also current in India. But to come to the point of being a reputed artist will require a long duration of time, and our time is very short. We have to finish our Krsna consciousness during our lifetime, and we should not waste a single moment for anything else. According to Caitanya-caritamrta a man is famous who is known as a great devotee of Krsna.
"Continue trying your best to make your pictures as nice looking as possible, but not to satisfy the senses of the rascal public. Yesterday I was in a Unitarian Church, and I saw there two pictures of logs and bamboos, and then it was explained to me by our artist Govinda dasi that these are modern art abstract paintings. Anyway I couldn't see in them anything but a combination of logs and bamboos. There was nothing to impel my Krsna consciousness. If you want to be a great artist in that way, I will pray to Krsna to save you. If the public doesn't buy, we don't mind. Why are you anxious to sell? We shall distribute them to devotees without any price.
"In the beginning I was seriously corresponding with some Indian friends to get some good mrdanga players for our sankirtana street chanting, but when I found it too difficult to get a man from India, some of my students were given the rudimentary lessons in playing, and simply by practice they are now pulling on with sankirtana parties everywhere. My Guru Maharaja used to say that in a foreign land where one cannot speak the language with the natives very nicely, what does he do to get help when there is a fire in his house? In such an emergency one must express himself somehow or other to his foreign friends and get their help to extinguish the fire. But if he wants to learn the language first and then talk with the foreign friends to get help, then everything in the meantime will be finished. Similarly, if we have to learn and then paint, it will be a long-term affair. But we want so many pictures immediately for all of our books. So all the artists may always engage in painting works, and that painting itself will gradually teach them how to make things nice. Regarding organization of the artists, there is no need to waste time learning art from studying texts. We should always remember that our time is very short. I think that our artists should be satisfied with whatever they have learned already—that is sufficient. They should simply engage in painting pictures always, and that will sufficiently teach them the art.
"In this connection I may remark that you have sent one picture of Narada Muni which I understand was copied from a so-called great artist, but Narada Muni's body appears to be very sensuous. But he was a first-class brahmacari. He cannot have such a sensuous body. So you will do well not to work from the so-called well-known artists, but you should follow exactly the descriptions in the scriptures. The picture of Narada Muni which you painted in my presence was very nice and good-looking, but this picture here doesn't appeal to me. Better not to worry about this sort of technique and style now."
Srila Prabhupada has guided his artists to the transcendental level in art. It is only by the blessings of the spiritual master that one achieves any success in spiritual life. It is said in Bhagavad-gita that the perfection of any prescribed duty is to please Krsna, and one can please Krsna by pleasing the spiritual master or the pure devotee of Krsna. Therefore the artists who are pleasing the spiritual master are using their talent for liberation. Moreover, the paintings shown on these pages, which can be seen in the various publications of ISKCON Press and in the temples of ISKCON, not only liberate the artists, but they also attract other people to the transcendental form of Krsna. Up to date the most notable effort of the art department has been the production of the fifty-five illustrations of Srila Prabhupada's book, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada wrote that people are attracted to the book simply on the basis of the pictures, which very nicely explain the scriptural narrations.
Krsna consciousness is a personal philosophy, and the spiritual master is always personally thinking of his artists. Someone recently complimented Srila Prabhupada on the fine artwork in his book Krsna, and he said, "But the persons who painted these are even more beautiful shall the pictures." In another letter to one of his art students, Srila Prabhupada wrote, "You may inform the artists that I am always satisfied by their work. I am satisfied only to see that everyone is always engaged in his respective duties. The teacher wants to see that the students are engaged in their handwriting work. As to who is writing with a nice hand, that is the secondary question. The teacher's first duty is to see that everyone is engaged in handwriting. So if all the artists are always engaged in painting, that will satisfy me, and that will gradually make them experienced in making good paintings."
While Krsna was being painted, Srila Prabhupada was sent samples of paintings, and he commented in a letter to one of his artists: "The art department is doing very nicely, and surely the production will improve even more by the grace of Krsna. You are all being inspired by Krsna how to portray the Lord and His associates for the devotees' eyes, so everyone who sees these transcendental pictures will turn to become a devotee, and that is our aim." Srila Prabhupada has seen from the beginning that Krsna conscious art is a strong and convincing means to engage people in Krsna consciousness. He has described the paintings as shutters which open the spiritual world for view, and he has requested the artists to flood the world with their paintings.
The authenticity of the paintings depends on the devotees' scrupulously following the scriptures. Descriptions of the Supreme Lord are given throughout the Vedic literature, where His beautiful form is described in detail. For instance, in a purport of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, offering information from the Brahma-samhita, says, "The ideal yogi concentrates his attention on Krsna, who is called Syamasundara. He is as beautifully colored as a cloud, and His lotus face is as effulgent as the sun. His dress is brilliant, He is decorated with earrings, and His body is flower-garlanded. Illuminating all sides is His gorgeous luster, which is called the brahmajyoti. He incarnates in different forms like Rama, Nrsimha, Varaha and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He descends like a human being as the son of mother Yasoda. He is known as Krsna, Govinda and Vasudeva. He is the perfect child, husband, friend and master, and He is full with all opulences and transcendental qualities. If one remains fully conscious of these features of the Lord, he is called the highest yogi."
Srila Prabhupada has encouraged the artists to work nicely together. He has said that by painting together and discussing the subject matter of their work they will remain in samadhi, or absorption in constant thought of the Personality of Godhead. One cannot imagine how fortunate one must be to meet a bona fide spiritual master, for it is only with the guidance of such a spiritual master that one can perfect one's life. The Krsna conscious art students always scrupulously follow the descriptions in the scriptures. Also, the spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, has often given them additional descriptions. A team of four artists—Devahuti Devi, Jadurani Devi, Muralidhara Das, and Bharadraja Das—painted the illustrations for Krsna, and they received many specific instructions. For example in the second volume of Krsna there is a description in the text of prayers offered unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the personified Vedas, but there is not much reference to their appearance. So the artists asked Srila Prabhupada, and in a letter of May, 1970, he replied: "The personified Vedas are just like great sages in appearance. Some of them may look like Vvasadeva, Valmiki, Narada, etc. Some of them are older, some of them are younger, some of them have full hair like Vyasa because they are householders, and others are brahmacaris, with shaved heads, but they are all great souls, paramahamsas, highly elevated in the transcendental science. As you suggest, these pictures will be needed for illustrating a long portion of text describing the prayers It is a very important chapter, and it should be appropriately illustrated. You are very able to choose suitable subject matter for the pictures, so please execute them carefully for Krsna's satisfaction. If you need any other information, please write your inquiry to me, and I shall be glad to give you the proper direction." On occasion the spiritual master has corrected the artists, as in a letter of 20 August 1970 regarding a picture showing the great sage Sukadeva reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam to the renowned King Maharaja Pariksit: "This picture is not to the point. Sukadeva Gosvami should be offered a nice raised throne, and King Pariksit should be sitting along with the sages on the floor on the bank of the Ganges. King Pariksit has no beard. His face should be very nice looking. He is a young king, between thirty and forty years of age." Srila Prabhupada, however, has also told the artists to work on their own: "The best thing will be that you paint pictures to your best discretion. The controversial points you can send to me, and I will send instructions. All of you are expert painters, so your mutual decision for painting a picture is more valuable than my suggestion. The descriptions are already given in the books, so it should not be difficult to take out the points and prepare a sketch." Such instructions from the spiritual master, although seemingly dealing with artistic techniques, reveal something of the extent of his philosophical realization. One can acquire transcendental knowledge after thousands of years of yogic meditation, or one can receive it in a minute by submissively accepting the word of the self-realized spiritual master. For example a letter of June 22, 1970, describes how to paint Lord Visnu, the form of the Absolute Truth who is seen by a yogi at the very culmination of his meditation. "Regarding the cover for The Lord in the Heart, Lord Visnu should be distinguished by Srivatsa on His chest. The Kaustubha jewel should be painted to look like a very precious jewel. Lord Visnu should be surrounded by an effulgence emanating from His person. The first concentration should be on the lotus feet of the Lord. They should be very distinct and very nicely decorated with jewels, sandalwood and tulasi."
Transcendental art as shown on these pages easily attracts one to the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and this is the perfection of human life. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Twelve, verses 1-2: "Arjuna inquired: 'Of those who are properly engaged in Your devotional service, and those who are engaged by the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested—which is considered to be the more perfect?' The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 'He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be most perfect.' " Out of His infinite mercy, the Supreme Lord descends to this material world for the pleasure of His devotees and to rescue all living entities who are dragging on in this temporary world of miseries.
There is no one as successful as a disciple who uses his talent to serve Krsna under the expert guidance of his bona fide spiritual master. A sincere seeker of God consciousness will never minimize the importance of the spiritual master. But someone may ask, "If God is everywhere, then what is the need of the spiritual master?" The answer is contained in a comparison of the spiritual master to an electrician. Electricity is everywhere, but it is necessary for an electrician to come and make a connection before one can tap the electric flow for one's telephone or radio. In the same way, God is present in His multi energies, but the pure devotee of God knows just how to use these energies of the Lord in His service. Particularly, the pure devotee spiritual master can show transcendental artists how to paint the personal form of the Personality of Godhead. Because he is completely conversant with the scriptures and is realized in love of Krsna, the spiritual master knows all the intricacies of the appearance of Krsna. He can authorize an artist's work so that it becomes transcendentally worshipable as an arca incarnation, or incarnation of the Lord in material elements, such as in the form of statuary or oil on canvas. As for the artists who accept such eternal employment, their world becomes transformed from aimless vanity or from a simple labor of love into the perfection of human existence—glorification of God through one's occupation. Therefore we offer our respectful obeisances unto the spiritual master who is coming in disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya.
by Damodara dasa Adhikari
I offer my most respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my spiritual master and the spiritual master of the universe, from whose lotus lips has sprung the eternal message of the Vedas in the purest line of disciplic succession from Sri Krsna, the Absolute Truth, through Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja. He is spreading the teachings of Krsna consciousness around the planet for the benefit of all living entities, and just by his kindness so many of his faithful disciples are being delivered from the clutches of impending death. Please allow me to address myself to this subject. The death of the body is an inevitable fact for each one of us, so let us find out what the Vedic literature says about this.
The final purport of the Vedas is stated by the Supreme Lord Krsna in Bhagavad-gita: "Just surrender unto Me." (Bg. 18.66) But surrender is made difficult by our attachment to the gross and subtle bodily coverings of the soul. We must control the various senses and gradually extract ourselves from the predicament of material life. In Bhagavad-gita the Lord states: "O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and detachment." (Bg. 6.35) For the yogi this practice is most severely tested at the time of death. The Supreme Personality of Godhead says, "Anyone who quits his body, at the end of life, remembering Me, attains immediately to My nature; and there is no doubt of this." (Bg. 8.5)
For example, the Vedic literature cites the case of Ajamila. Ajamila, who had been born into a good brahmana family, fell into bad association after having seen a man and a woman embracing on a public road. His lust drew him into worse and worse circumstances, and finally, sick and wretched, he found himself dying and went to the house of the prostitute he was currently favoring. She threw him out mercilessly, seeing his abject state. He had no one present to help him, and so his thoughts turned to his son, and as he fell down to die, he called out his son's name, Narayana. Now, it so happens that Narayana is a name of God, indicating Krsna's four-armed form. So just by the potency of the sound vibration of the name of God, uttered even in this indirect manner by the dying Ajamila, he was not taken away by the constables of the lord of death, Yamaraja, who were waiting for him, but instead was transported to the realm of Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Narayana. On the other hand, Bharata Maharaja, although advanced in spiritual understanding, thought of a stag at the time of his sudden death, and he became a stag in his next birth (although an extraordinary stag who could remember his previous life's activities).
Everyone, from the smallest germ, known as indra-gopa, up to Lord Indra, the King of heaven, is subject to the stringent laws of material nature. We are attempting to win over these laws, but in fact we are simply becoming more and more entangled in illusion's complexities. Even Lord Indra himself was once subject to the influence of the deluding potency. Indra once became captivated by the superior facilities for sense gratification available on his heavenly planet, and therefore when his spiritual master, Brhaspati, the guru of the demigods, scolded him, Indra acted offensively toward him. Brhaspati then decided to teach his student a lesson. He cursed him to take birth on a lower planet as a pig. Sloshing around in mud and stool, Lord Indra as a pig felt that he was enjoying life very much. He thought to himself, "I am very fortunate. Here I have my nice sow for sex life, so many nice piglets, and the farmer serves me daily with a nice big bucket of stools to eat. How lucky I am!" Meanwhile the upper planets fell into confusion in Lord Indra's absence, and Lord Brahma flew down to Indra's farmyard on his swan to bring the King of heaven back to his post. But Indra would not leave: "I am very happy here, thank you." So, with controlled intelligence, Lord Brahma took his sword end killed the sow and piglets. "No! No! What are you doing?" cried Indra. "My beautiful wife and children! You have mercilessly killed them!" Brahma then reminded Lord Indra that his death was going to come next anyway; at that very moment the farmer was sharpening his knife for the kill. The king of heaven was shocked into awareness, and he gladly returned to his duty as administrative head of the demigods.
The death of the body is approaching for all of us. But Lord Krsna begins Bhagavad-gita by teaching that we are not the material body, but pure spirit soul. After confirming the eternal character of the individual soul (Bg. 2.12), the Lord says: "As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth and then to old age, similarly the soul also passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change." (Bg. 2.13)
Later in the Gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead elaborates on this: ''From the highest planet in the material world, down to the lowest, all are places of misery where repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again." (Bg. 8.16)
Why should we go to Krsna's abode? We should go there because that is our natural home. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, this material world is a foreign place for us, for the soul is made of the same spiritual energy as Krsna is, and he belongs in the spiritual sky. Therefore, in order to enter into the abode of Sri Krsna, we must be delivered from the womb of material nature. We have been impregnated into this womb by Krsna because we desire to lord it over dead matter. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita: "The total material substance, called Brahma, is the source of birth, and in that Brahma do I create pregnancy. Thus come the possibilities for the births of all living beings. It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father." (Bg. 14.3-4) After the living entities, or jivas, are injected into maya, they lie dormant for some time. Since the living entities come into material existence due to envy of Krsna, it can be said that they are in a state of spiritual death. Spiritual death means to forget that one is spirit. The conditioned living entities come into the material world due to a desire to identify with the deluding energy. Therefore they lie dormant in this state of spiritual death. Then, after some time, "those jivas who had lain dormant during the cataclysm are awakened." (Brahma-samhita 5.20)
But it must be admitted that this awakening is itself illusory, since we are still within the womb; we have not actually been born yet. Nor are we awake. Sukadeva Gosvami says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, "The conditioned souls hover in a dream of heavenly illusory pleasures, but actually they do not relish any tangible happiness in this way." (Bhag. 2.2.2)
What is needed is known as dvija, or second birth. This second birth occurs when we are initiated by a bona fide spiritual master. He can deliver us from illusion just by his causeless mercy. After this kind of birth, there is no death any more just eternal, blissful life in Krsna consciousness.
The great saints and spiritual masters can give us advice on the proper method of passing out of this present body. One illustrative account is found in Srimad-Bhagavatam First Canto, Thirteenth Chapter. The gist of the narrative is as follows.
In the course of losing the Battle of Kuruksetra, King Dhrtarastra's one hundred sons, led by Duryodhana, had all been killed and so the aged father was living in the palace of the victor, king Yudhisthira. Yudhisthira was very kind to his former enemy, and, according to the Vedic custom, he allowed him all the privileges of a member of his family, regularly paying his respects to the elderly king every morning. Dhrtarastra, who had been blind throughout his life, was thus living in Yudhisthira's palace in peace and friendliness, along with his wife Gandhari.
This placid domestic scene was not to continue for long, however. Dhrtarastra's brother Vidura, who had left Duryodhana's palace just before the great battle, now at last returned from a long pilgrimage to holy cities and temples. He had sat at the feet of his spiritual master, Maitreya Muni, and thereby received the gracious gift of absolute knowledge. Vidura was not an ordinary human being. Actually he was a demigod, Yamaraja, the lord of death, who had taken birth on this planet as the result of being cursed by the sage Mandavya Muni. So Vidura was particularly qualified to ascertain the flaws in his aged brother's present way of life.
Vidura's arrival at the court of Yudhistthira was filled with gaiety. For the members of the royal family, it was like regaining consciousness after a long period. They had been distressed by Vidura's absence, and now they all offered their most respectful obeisances to the great saint and embraced him heartily, crying affectionately due to their long separation. King Yudhisthira arranged for a nice place for Vidura to sit, and a festive reception was offered, with sumptuous foodstuffs for the brother of Dhrtarastra. After taking sufficient rest, Vidura was given a comfortable seat, and, after paying his respects, King Yudhisthira asked him about Lord Krsna and the Lord's immediate relatives, the Yadus.
Now, it so happened that the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna had brought His earthly pastimes to a close, and He and His relatives had departed for the spiritual sky. But Vidura did not disclose this unbearable news to the assembled devotees. They were to find out soon enough just by the laws of nature, and Vidura did not want to hasten their inevitable distress. Instead he turned to Dhrtarastra and addressed his remarks to him directly:
"My dear King, please get out of here immediately. Do not delay. Just see how fear has overtaken you. This frightful situation cannot be remedied by any person in this material world. My lord, it is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as eternal time that has approached us all. Whoever is under the influence of supreme eternal time must surrender his most dear life, and what to speak of other things, such as wealth, honor, children, land, home, etc.
"Your father, brother, well-wishers and sons are all dead and passed away. You yourself have expended the major portion of your life. Your body is now overtaken by invalidity, and you are living in the home of another. You have been blind from your very birth, and recently you have become hard of hearing. Your memory is shortened, and your intelligence is disturbed. Your teeth are loose, your liver is defective, and you are coughing up mucus.
"Alas, how powerful are the hopes of a living being to continue his life. Verily, you are living just like a household dog and are eating the remnants of food given by Bhima. There is no need to live a degraded life and subsist on the charity of those whom you tried to kill by arson and poisoning. You also insulted one of their wives and usurped their kingdom and wealth. Despite your unwillingness to die and your desire to live even at the cost of honor and prestige, your miserly body will certainly dwindle and deteriorate like an old garment.
"He is called undisturbed who goes to an unknown, remote place, and freed from all obligations, quits his material body when it has become useless. He is certainly a first-class man who awakens and understands, either by himself or from others, the falsity and misery of this material world and thus leaves home and depends fully on the Supreme Personality of Godhead residing within his heart.
"Please, therefore, leave for the North immediately, without letting your relatives know, for soon that time will approach which will diminish the good qualities of men." (Bhag. 1.13.18-28)
Because Vidura spoke the truth from the platform of direct realization, Dhrtarastra followed his brother's advice, and he and his wife both left at once for the Himalayas and took up yoga practice under Vidura's guidance in order to purify their consciousness so that they could be liberated from the attachments of material life. After perfecting their austerities, they voluntarily accepted death in the fire of mystic yoga. The yoga which they performed, however, was not sufficient for attaining the highest knowledge. Mere liberation is not sought after by pure devotees of Krsna. It is not such a great achievement. Even the most demonic of all living entities, Hiranyakasipu, was also liberated at his death, simply because he was killed by the Personality of Godhead in His form as Nrsimhadeva. Such is the grace of Krsna that He awards salvation even to the lowest of the low, if, through their atheistic activities, they are so corrupt as to necessitate their being annihilated by God Himself.
Mere impersonal salvation is not considered worthwhile because it is temporary. Thus it is on the same level as religion, economic development and sense gratification. Only pure devotional service of God can render the living entity completely free from birth, death, disease and old age. Sukadeva Gosvami says in Srimad-Bhagavatam, "For those who are wandering in the material universe, there is no more auspicious means of deliverance than what is aimed at in the direct devotional service of Lord Krsna." (Bhag. 2.2.33) His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes in his purport to this verse, "Srila Sridhara Svami and all other acaryas, like Jiva Gosvami, etc., agree that bhakti-yoga is not only easy, simple, natural and free from trouble, but that it is the only source of happiness for the human being."
Commenting on the kind of yoga practiced by Dhrtarastra, His Divine Grace writes: "In olden days such practice was very common for the transcendentalist for the mode of life and character in those days were favorable. But in modern days, when the influence of the age of Kali is so disturbing, practically everyone is untrained in this art of bodily exercise. Concentration of the mind is more easily attained in these days by the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The results are more effective than those derived from the inner exercise of the life air." (Bhag. 2.2.19, purport)
So here is a hint for all of us not to be dissuaded from attempting for spiritual emancipation. The human form of life is given to us as a chance to surpass the hurdle of birth and death. How, then, can we transcend the material nature at the time of death? Let us take the example of King Pariksit.
King Pariksit had offended a sage, Samika Muni, and the son of that holy man had subsequently cursed the King to be killed in seven days by the bite of a snake-bird. Having been informed of this by the Muni, the King was in the unique position of knowing exactly when he would die, and therefore he immediately prepared for death. He accepted the news of his death as "well and good for its being the cause of his indifference toward worldly attachments." (Bhag. 1.19.4) He left his palace and sat down tightly on the bank of the most holy Yamuna River, observed fasting, and simply depended on Lord Krsna. As he sat there, the most auspicious saints and mystics arrived on the scene; they could foretell what was going to happen. The demigods, seeing the great assemblage, scattered flowers over the earth. Then at last, Sukadeva Gosvami arrived, and he took the most exalted seat as the chief guest of Pariksit. He is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam as "surrounded by saintly sages, demigods, and kings, just as the moon is surrounded by stars, heavenly bodies, and planets in the sky. He was gorgeously represented in that manner, and factually he was also respected by all of them." (Bhag. 1.19.31)
The King then put a question to Sukadeva Gosvami: "You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I therefore beg to inquire from you the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is just about to die." (Bhag. 1.19.37)
Sukadeva answered: "The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life." (Bhag. 2.1.6) "Those who drink through aural reception, fully filled with the nectarean message of Lord Krsna, the beloved of the devotees, purify the polluted aim of life known as material enjoyment and thus go back to Godhead, to the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead." (Bhag. 2.2.37) In the remainder of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sukadeva Gosvami tells the King about Sri Krsna, His energies, His opulences and His activities; and just by hearing this transcendental sound vibration, the King was transferred to the spiritual sky at his death.
Here is the conclusion of the Vedas. The first principle of spiritual life is hearing, and Sukadeva Gosvami assures that this is the most important factor at death. The hearing must be submissive. One should not hear in a challenging spirit. In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna tells Arjuna: "Because you are never envious of Me, O Arjuna, I shall give you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you will be relieved from the miseries of material existence." (Bg. 9.1) Elsewhere the Lord says, "That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore, you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science." (Bg. 4.3)
Our attitude towards Krsna and the spiritual master must not be envious, but favorable and devotional. Lord Caitanya prays, "In such a humble state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly." (Siksastakam 3) In the Gita the Lord tells us how to act in relationship with the spiritual master: "inquire from him submissively and render service unto him." (Bg. 4.34)
So, with this in mind, let US hear something of that supreme destination, the goal of the bhakti-yogis, described nicely by Srila Prabhupada in Bhagavad-gita:
"The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is described in the Brahma-samhita as the cintamani dhama. That abode of Lord Krsna, known as Goloka Vrndavana, is full of palaces made of touchstone. There the trees are called desire trees, and the cows are called surabhi, and the Lord is served by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune. He is Govinda, the primal Lord and the cause of all causes. There the Lord plays His flute; His eyes are like lotus petals, and the color of llis body is like a beautiful cloud. On His head is a peacock feather. So attractive is He that He excels thousands of Cupids." (Bg. 8.21, purport)
The real meaning of eternal deathlessness is to perform devotional service for the eternal Supreme Lord, and therefore pure devotees do not even desire to attain to the Lord's eternal abode, Krsnaloka, as just described. Lord Caitanya prays, "O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor have I any desire to enjoy beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. What I want only is that I may have Your causeless devotional service in my life birth after birth." (Siksastakam 4) Similarly the great acarya of modern times Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, offering a poem on the death of a great devotee, says:
He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die
Devotional service to Krsna is eternal and cannot die. So the devotees pray, "Whether I attain to Vaikuntha, the spiritual sky, or whether You wish to send me to hell, whatever You desire is all right. I simply pray to always remember You." Therefore when the Lord grants devotional service, it means that deathlessness is assured. When a devotee takes up Krsna consciousness seriously he becomes very dear to Krsna, and although the devotee may not desire it, his going back to Krsnaloka is assured.
We urge our readers to consider these topics seriously and with all reason and cool logic. Srila Prabhupada has said that actually our desire to live eternally is indirect evidence that we are actually eternal by nature. These propositions on how one can go beyond death by performance of devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead are not mere word jugglery. Death is not the most wonderful thing; it is life that is most wonderful, and Krsna consciousness is real life. Death can be conquered. Krsna promises that this freedom from death can most assuredly be attained by His devotees. By becoming purified through hearing of the Lord from the spiritual master and by chanting the holy name of God, the devotees learn to take everything as the mercy of God, and thus they become eager to serve Him. That change from material consciousness to God consciousness makes one eligible to enter the kingdom of God for eternal blissful life.